The email arrived at 4.12 the day before the race with the following message :
Urgent & Important News to all Teams
The weather forecast tomorrow is extremely bad with periods of heavy rain and up to gale force winds. We have taken the decision to run the race but with a significantly changed route, this is for the protection & safety of runners and Marshalls. And additional compulsory kit requirement – a long sleeved thermal top.
Could/should we still get a ladies team out? I had already made a couple of late team changes to cover last minute drop outs, switching people, away from what they had recced, to ensure safe running pairs. Could the team cope with this last minute change safely? I studied the changes and maps – a shorter ‘easier’ race with less high level exposure but another change. Some with plenty of experience would manage while others may be less comfortable. I had to make sure everyone would be OK. Onto the phone to check up.
No change for Leg 1 from Patterdale to Hartsop Sheep Fold via Angle Tarn. Denise Wright, only recently switched to run L1 with Vicki Merrick, had a good memory of Leg 1 from a previous year recce and Leg 1 is the ‘race’ leg with the field less spread out – Denise was happy and Vicki comfortable to use her junior fell experience to good effect.
Ellie Kitchen & Ruth Thackray on Leg 2 – the new shorter route was to be flagged until securely on the path up Pasture Bottom to Threshthwaite Mouth and from there the route was the original route to Kirkstone Pass. I talked through the route changes, and while it ran the pre-race nerves up a good notch, they were still good to go.
Kate Farley & Sally Parkin on Leg 3 (which was now the reverse of Leg 2) would have to ‘navigate’. Kate’s ultra distance mountain experience kicked in here and she also remembered a recent walk up Pasture Bottom to Thresthwaite Mouth so had some knowledge of part of the route. Sally was on a new venture but had good mountain preparation over the last year and solid family advice. I and they were comfortable they would be safe.
Myself, Becky Weight, and Marisol del Carrera Vivar were on Leg 4 (the reverse of Leg 1). Marisol had recced the original Leg 4 – a tough leg on the other side of the valley over Fairfield and St Sunday’s Crag – longer, higher, and more technical than Leg 1 (either direction), and I knew Leg 1 well and was confident of the route even back to front. We would be OK.
So, all good to go and a lot of time already invested, let’s go – with a strong line on get round, stay safe, and no heroics! As Ladies Fell Team Manager I have targeted maintaining and developing our ability to be able to get a fell team out over the last couple of years. The conditions were bad but that happens sometimes in fell races and this would be great experience in a paired event for everyone, especially Vicky, Sally & Marisol who were new to the Hodgson Brothers Relay. Sometimes we haven’t got a fast team but I want to make sure that when we want to put a team out we have enough experienced fell runners to do so – fell running needs more than just running.
Patterdale was cloudy, windy, and wet. I drove carefully onto the sports ground keeping my fingers crossed that I would be able to get the car off. There were frequent blustery showers as I registered the team and we gathered for the start. The usual nervous excitement was heightened by the challenge of the late route changes but Denise & Vicki were in good spirits for the start. Support team Simon & Izzy gave Ellie a lift to the start of Leg 2, and I ran Kate & Sally up to Kirkstone Pass for Leg 3. Their key challenge was keeping warm while they waited for Ruth & Ellie to come in – difficult in a gale and sideways rain. Marisol & I jogged the couple of miles to the start of Leg 4 – having got the car onto some hard standing at the side of the sports field I didn’t want to risk having to park on a waterlogged field. With the difficulties of estimating times for the revised routes we had some long wait times – most people had their full waterproof kit on to try & keep warm – but not easy when you only have running gear on underneath – even with the long sleeved thermal.
Result? Everyone round safely on a challenging day with stiff Lakeland ascents, being buffeted by strong wind, running into driving rain, wet slippy footing on rocky descents, new route finding, and making sure you find those check points in the clouds. A great team effort. 69 teams made the day (the race limit is 70 and it is always over subscribed – so if you have a place you try and keep it) and we were one of only 8 clubs to get a ladies team out so a fantastic result. And 3 more ladies experienced the HBMR and what it can throw at you and said they would come back for more. What more could I ask ;-).
Andy (‘I’ll be pleased if we can get in the top 10’) Jebb held the men’s (Open) team together too – with Matt Merrick & Tom Gomersal on L1, Andy Peace & Vic Wilkinson on L2, Ian Holmes & Andy Brown on L3 and Andy Jebb & Ged Callan on L4. Lots of experience and strong runners brought them home in a great 9th place.
A few photos of the day – I didn’t get many!
Gathering at the start – Vicki, Ellie, Denise, Izzy, Jasper and Simon. Still smiling.
Staying covered up until we were ready to run – Becky, Kate, Sally and Marisol – with the ascent for Leg 1 disappearing into the clouds in the background.
Ready to go on Leg 1 – the long & short of it – Tom, Denise, Vicki & Matt. It wasn’t raining too much at this point!
And they’re off. The start of the HBMR 2017.
Kate & Sally taking shelter in the pub porch at Kirkstone Pass – still happy! Thanks for the photo Sally.
Vic & Andy Peace in the clouds on Leg 2 (Photo by Ambleside AC)
And I just love this ‘After the Event’ photo (by Chris Hodgson) of John, Scoffer & Chris the guys who make this fantastic event happen. As you can see the weather didn’t really improve!