Ennerdale Horseshoe 2014


Photo taken by Paul Dobson

Photo by Paul Dobson

I was ready for this race, I had done some good training followed by a decent taper and I was happy with the route. I came to this event mentally prepared and with the forecast I was hoping for a repeat of the Great Lakes. Arriving early, I registered,talked and went through race preparations but then it was announced the route will be changed due to the weather. The altered route was long but far from having the climb or the rough nature of the actual route and largely consisted of trail. The organiser made the only decision he could with the threat of thunderstorms to avoid the skyline. I was sad initially as I had built up to this race but happy the organiser made this decision to safeguard us and more importantly the marshals who would of been at risk. My chances of a good result had been reduced but as my friend Andy asked “are you going to race this?” I answered “of course”. The course was going to favour the runners with greater flat speed with the long flat run in. This was not going to deter me, I was in good form so I would start with a determined positive mindset to give it my best. At least it wasn’t a scorcher!

On the line, their was clearly some negative vibes around, I took up prime position next to Daz K and followed him across the rough stuff to the track. I was happy at the front setting the pace with a clear view ahead. We turned up the climb onto the fell, I tuck in behind Rhys expecting a rush from behind, it does not really come except for Morgz. Many are playing a patient game, saving energy and following from a safe distance to minimise navigation issues, in retrospect this was probably where I could have saved some energy.

On the other hand I wanted to be in the heat of the battle gaining in confidence from the fact I was near the front. Hitting the track along Buttermere valley floor there was a group of at least ten including all the favourites. I was keeping near the front ready to respond the best I could to any attack over Scarth Gap and not to lose too much ground. The attack came from Rob Jebb as he pushed the pace and I could not live with this burst of speed so settled into a pace I could cope with. This lost its venom as Rob slipped over on the wet slabs and the moment was gone. I recovered half way up and followed Rhys over the hause missing the checkpoint which was not on the revised map as we had taken a more direct line over a shoulder. There was still 8 pretty much all together coming over the saddle. It seemed Joe and I were happy to push on down the hill to Black Sail YHA, so I took on the reins of leading. I saw the line up the river to the checkpoint on Moses trod below Green Gable so I was happy leading setting a rhythm up the hill then onto Beck head. I had not been overtaken I was surprised with all this climbing talent behind me, so I continued around the traverse path to Black Sail pass leading the group.

With a ten metre gap coming to the checkpoint I thought I have to go for this down the hill. So I just ran the descent fairly hard opening a small gap on Joe by the Hut checkpoint and a little more to the rest. I did not need to look behind as I knew what would be coming so I made hay while the sun shined. I concentrated on my form and running hard. It happened about a third of the way along the track, Joe caught me but did not move away. Then a little further came the Karl and Rob Hope train and I could not live with their speed but I kept with Morgz and Joe to the field centre. This was good I had survived the track fairly well, one final gel and onto the rough stuff. I felt Morgz suffering through the forest so I went for it again in Rob and Karl barely 15 seconds in front with a bit of navigational hesitation which also allowed Oli and Rhys to catch. I put my head down and pushed over the rocky stuff Oli came past a little stronger but I kept my head up and even though I was losing ground to the front three I had put a gap on those behind. Nearly there, the rocky bit, I can feel the gasket going. It really is not too far, just keep it ticking over, someone is closing me down, over the river along the trail and through the gate. I have done it, I allow myself a happy punch in the air and cross the line in fourth place just ahead of Andrew Fallas, Rhys & Morgz and behind the quick finishing Rob Hope, Karl & Oli.

I would put this as one of my best performances. I am stoked today, the result helps me keep dreaming with more hard work needed.


“Not sure purple suits him really”

Descending off Latrigg -www.athleteinaction.com

Earlier this year I decided to leave my local club Eden runners after several years in order to join a more fell focused club with the hope my runs could help a club win medals and ultimatly myself. I could of joined Keswick AC with a great team of runners or Helm hill with a great team of young talented fell runners but there could of only been one choice really. This was to join the purple vests of Borrowdale Fell runners. This comes from my first memories of fell running watching my old man on one of our holidays from Tring, Hertfordshire to the Lakes running the Borrowdale fell race. I can remember watching and waiting for dad at the river crossing just before the finish and of seeing those purple vests of the men at the front and sub consiously being inspired. One day I hoped I might be good enough to join and be at the sharp end of races. So In 2014 I thought I better get on with it and join. Now just need to be at the sharp end of a few races! The real first memory of fell running was of the Latrigg Fell race and being amazed by the speed the runners hurtled down the hill. So when I saw I had the evening off on the Wednesday of the Latrigg fell race even though I was fatigued from the tough Transvulcania Ultra I had to go race and re trace my dads footprints, only a little quicker. With two personal ambitions achieved I now hope to do the purple vest proud and then maybe it will suit me better!!

A photoshop mock up thanks to Phil Winskill and body double Lee

My Transvulcania Experience

Tazacorte Sunset

Welcome to La Palma

My Transvulcania experience began the Friday after jointly winning the 61 mile Fellsman when we flew out to La Palma for Ally and I to have some holiday in the sun and a chance to recce the course. Luckily I was feeling pretty good after the Fellsman and keen to get out. The next three days were spent on the course twice visiting Roque Muchachos and the long descent to Tazacorte. The Monday before the race was to be my last long run, although only 42 km it perhaps wasn’t ideal preparation in terms of tapering but  well worth running the caldera and the descent to Tazacorte. It was fantastic to be able to appreciate the views and get a picture of what to expect on race day. What was I going to expect? A very tough day 🙂 over technical terrain at an altitude I’m not too use to and a very long descent with some technical sections.

A view from the top when I could appreciate it.

A view from the top when I could appreciate it.

The rest of the week was spent enjoying the beauty of the island with time spent on Tazacorte beach, hiking, including the first 7km from the lighthouse to Los Canarios and into the caldera, and enjoying the view from our balcony in Tazacorte.


The view of Tazacorte and mountain from our balcony.

Race day  finally came around and like everyone else I was excited to be racing Transvulcania 2014, however  I was not to know how great an event it really was until the day was done.  Start morning meant a 1.30 am alarm, a 50 min walk uphill to the bus station, 70 min bus journey to the lighthouse and a shiver behind a rock for an hour. They then started letting people into the start, although dashing to get as close to the front as possible I was too late! I wish I had an elite start as I was in with the masses starting back about five deep with a twenty wide start line; then the elite to join the front too. I tried not to panic as it is a long way and  I know I tend to get carried away early. It was a chaotic start with a 300m dash before the sandy single track up the hill.  I spent a lot of energy weaving and dodging as I tried to work my way up the field including taking a tumble and bashing my knee.

The start chaos!

The start chaos!

We were soon on our way and I was running well, if not a little to well, passing Anna Frost on the long climb (I would not be feeling so great when she came past strongly later in the day). Arriving at the first aid station was an incredible experience with the number of people out cheering; something towards what a Tour de France rider must feel when approaching a col. This was just a taster of what to come with a big carnival type atmosphere along the course, with pockets of support and you certainly knew when you where approaching the aid stations. The aid station staff were great, they soon had your water bottle full and a banana in your mouth before sending you on your way as quickly as possible with plenty of encouragement.

Leaving Los Canarios I found my way into a small group, together we worked our way up the forest trails and sandy paths towards the top of the first volcano, at about 1800m, before dropping into El Pillar aid station. At this point I was only about 15 mins off the lead, had I gone out a little too quick too early? I had recced from this point onwards, knowing what was to come, and knowing it was going to be tough. From El Pillar there was around 10km of undulating fire roads, before starting the next climb towards the crater rim, it was here I started to falter. I was struggling to maintain a descent pace losing touch with a couple of Italians before being caught at El Revention by a couple of Spanish including Javier Dominguez and another young lad. I could not keep up with Javier but fell into the rhythm of the other lad as we walked and jogged our way on towards Roque Muchachos 2435m. Days earlier I had been able to run all this but now I felt I was crawling, but I was still moving forward. We were caught and overtaken by several runners who had paced it better, but we also caught a few who had blown. The run around the caldera is stunning and technical, and by this point the day was getting hot.  About 5km from the top at Roque Muchachos Anna Frost comes gliding past, a true inspiration and worthy champion, and then was gone.

Approaching the top. 2435m

Approaching the top. 2435m

I had made Roque Muchachos aid station  in six hours from the start; it was hot and I was wasted. I took the time to take plenty of fluids and fruit in the air conditioned tent. On leaving something amazing happened, cold water, which brought my temperature down dramatically and reinvigorated me. I shot off with renewed enthusiasm down the long decent to the sea; this got a loud cheer which helped to buoy me even more. It lasted for about one third of the descent before the energy ran out and I found I was lacking gels for the final push.  Trying to keep my attitude positive and keep on moving onward and downwards, momentum was certainly lost by the top of Tazacorte zig zags as I was caught by the second lady but I was in touching distance and I would finish this journey.

On my way

On my way

The last six km were tough legs where wobbly and it felts like a sauna, creating a fuzzy head, but I knew I could doit and the feeling of joy starts to fill your body. I managed to do something of a jog up the river bed before the last 400m of ascent into Los Llanos, which was certainly a walk. The last km along the main highway was a pure joy, I was able to run again driven on by the crowds of locals cheering me on, soaking up the atmosphere, high fiving as many people as possible as I could and before knew it the red carpet on the way to the finish in 8 hours 25 mins 28th place. Happy, yes for sure! Perfect race, no way near! Can I do better? I will be back to try.

Happy days

Happy days

Thanks Transvulcania and La Palma. Thank you Ally for putting up with me pre race.