By Rick Ansell
Two minutes into the Nicholls Torture Session on Wednesday evening my hamstring started to niggle. Next day, while mowing the lawn my back went and on top of that the blister rubbed into my heel during the Greensand has still not healed properly. Things weren’t looking good for the Kong on Sunday. I tried to go for a run on Friday but only got 50m beyond the end of my road before everything seized up and hurt.
It seemed a bit pointless to drive all the way to the Howgills not to be able to run, and so I told myself but despite this, I found I was rushing round packing up on Saturday morning. “What are you doing you idiot?” asked my head. “We’re going to go, if you can’t run you can walk. Need to get some hills in if you are going to do the Joss Naylor” Answered the rest of me. Maybe I’m weird (alright..) but sometimes I find that my body just takes over and gets on with something or makes a decision while my head is still wondering what to do. It’s quite handy sometimes when I can’t decide; I just wait to see what the body will do.
The setting sun bathed the hills in a pale yellowy autumnal light as I came up the last bit of the M6 to Tebay. “I really fancy a run on those hills tomorrow” I thought to myself. “What a bummer it’ll have to be just a walk.” “Ah just wait and see,” Came the rejoinder.
I spent most of the night lying awake thinking about the Joss Naylor run and not really focusing on the event at hand at all. In the morning I dosed myself up with ibuprofen, taped up my blister with pads, tried not to enquire too acutely about the hamstring, picked up my number and made my way to the start.
A glance at the map showed there was an obvious first and last control so I was able to amble off up the track and wonder about where else I could go between them. A sheepfold was the obvious second and then a stream/path crossing followed by a summit. That settled I tried a slow jog. 100m and everything was holding together, 500m; I pushed on a bit and felt the hamstring tighten. I eased back and it relaxed. I dibbed at the first control: 10 points, and set off to cross a low ridge. I saw the sheep fold below me and headed for it. Then I saw another one with loads of people milling about so headed for that. “No, you numpty, can’t you see that the sheepfold you want is after that stream junction up there? Look, there’s that one on the map, clearly below the junction” I retraced my steps, annoyed with myself for being influenced by the others and tried to concentrate on going the right way and not on whether my back was sore.
There was a long climb and I chatted to an acquaintance and stopped looking at the map. It stopped me thinking about my ailments and as we crested the rise I let him go and started to concentrate again. Where to after the summit control? There was a tempting cluster of four controls the other side of a deep valley: 130 points for the taking there. It was a big climb and would leave me the wrong side of the valley from the finish. It looked like the obvious thing to do but just didn’t quite feel right, somehow, too committing. I looked for alternatives. To the east there was a 40 pointer and then a 30 in the valley below. “Down that valley then back over those two ridges: much safer”. Everybody else peeled off down to cross the valley. “Am I being too cautious?” It was my head this time that made the decision.
“Go for the 40, leave them to it. Let’s see how many get back in time”. I did the sums again. “Just as many points this way and 3km shorter”
“What if you are back really early?”
“Well maybe you can get one on the ridge on the other side of that valley.”
“Look, there are three controls up there: 100 points then drop back down to the 30 at the end of the valley, then you can do those two ridges. Lots of climbing: good Joss training.”
“OK let’s do the 40 then down to that 30 at the stream unction, that’s just where we camped last summer with Max and Paulette. We’ve done 6k in the first hour including the climb. If you have more than two hours left then you can go up the other side and along the ridge. Deal?”
I emerged onto a ridge and looked about. With all the discussion about where to go I had stopped concentrating on the immediate and nothing fitted with what the map said. I realized I had crossed the ridge at a lower point than intended, saved some climb but added some distance. OK. Now I knew where I was and where I was going. It felt good and right.
A lucky trod led me gently angling into the top of the valley for the big climb to the 40. Suddenly my legs started to flow. Not the usual hobbling stumble but something almost like a proper run. I got stuck into the steep climb, dibbed the 40 and tipped down towards the valley. I passed a guy descending painfully: “Brutal on the knees these hills,” I said. “Bloody right” he returned. “Actually, my knees aren’t hurting here”, I thought. “Must be all that Nurofen.”
I could see the kite below me. Dib and straight through and up the other side. There were people above me struggling up and I found myself catching them. One guy was obviously trying to zig zag up to make the climb less steep but was actually just going back and forth across the hillside and not ascending at all. He looked at me for help. His legs just wouldn’t carry him up. There was nothing I could offer and he knew it.
I was aware of someone else climbing strongly to my left. I glanced across and realized it was Neil Talbot. I decided to try and keep pace for a bit. By the top he had only pulled about 50 m but then he was away like Road Runner disappearing into the distance. “Ok, you don’t have to be that good…” An easy path led along the grassy ridge. Once again, I felt the joy of moving fast(ish) and free through the hills. 15 mins to the next 40 then just six minutes down to a stream source. A young guy dibbed just in front of me but I beat him on the steep descent to the valley.
“Am I having a flyer here? Wonder what everyone else is doing. I bet a few have gone south; bet a few will be late back.”
“90 minutes left: two big climbs and some easy running not more than 8k. Could be really early”
“Don’t ease off. Come on try and chase down those two on the hill. We did this climb last summer. It’s a pig.”
Legs were tiring now but I did close the gap on the woman in front of me. We took different lines to the next control, mine was more direct and steeper, hers longer with more of a traverse. We arrived at the pond we were heading for together.
“Mmmm maybe this isn’t such a great run. She can’t be much younger and is going just as fast”.
A lovely trod led down the ridge from the pond. I could feel the day’s hills in the legs now, that delicious tired feeling when you know you can keep pushing on: “Good hurting” as my mate Andy calls it. I crossed the stream at the bottom, the water low, tepid, sluggish and climbed up to get a 20 on a knoll. Home now but all around the out of bounds. I got the line wrong and hit the fence too low having to thrash through the reeds to get round it. Suddenly there were just 20 minutes and 3km to go. Round the end of the fence and onto a track; horrible and stony. Don’t miss that last 10 pointer. It’s going to be tight but should be just OK.
1 Philip Rutter 680
(4 Kim Collison 520)
21 Rick Ansell 360 (1 V60)
The next event has been cancelled so now the series is just best of two so with a win in the V60 category here and an equal first last time I don’t really need to do the final event…but of course I will. Beers tonight, though.