Bottoms up

August 7, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

With go-faster hanky attached

I’ve always liked to sit and listen to the rain pattering on the roof. The closeness of all that wet, somehow makes you feel extra dry. Unless, that is, you are listening to the rain’s hurried drumming while sat in the portaloo just before the start of the Borrowdale fell race… 17 miles, 7,000 feet, and some sharp stones.

What a long time since I’ve written. Last time, someone emailed me to comment that my sledge-jump looked like “a real coccyx-banger”, and we’ll come back to that one. The whooshing sledge wasn’t the cause of my re-slipped disc though, which happened two days later. The cause of that was using an unaccustomed range of motion. Hoovering, specifically.

Anyway, despite and because of a short period of needing help putting my socks on, I’m back plodding along with hills and words. I’ll do some catching up over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime there is a wet field to make a start in.

The forecast had said there might be some showers a bit later and east-er, but the rain hadn’t seen that, and it joined us in the here-and-now. I’d been nicely chilled in a relaxed sort of way that morning, reading my book on the bus down the valley, but nicely chilled was now turning into mildly cold and mostly wet. Jacket on at the start then, although that did mean one less thing to carry in a bumbag full of jelly babies.

I was irked by the number of people passing me on the early section (I’ve never been one for track-and-field), but I did manage to climb a few places back on the assault of (or by) Bessyboot. A slight struggle from there to Allen Crags, with the elastic stretching and snapping as I tried to hold on to a group going faster than I should have been. I felt a bit short on confidence there, as one of the faster huddle was saying that they probably wouldn’t make the cut-off at Honister on time.

A bit of context here is that I haven’t had the time (or the body?) for proper running over the last few months. I’ve done some long slow distance training, but that has only been turning me into a long slow distance runner, and now I was losing confidence that my lurching plod would be quick enough to get me to the mine on time.

Another fretting runner asked me if I’d done the race before (yes, but long enough ago to have forgotten about the training thing), and when would be a good time for aiming to get to Scafell Pike (my advice is not on an August Saturday, much too crowded).

On to weaving between Ill Crag and Broad Crag though, and I was happily skipping over the shattered piles of three-foot-gravel (it was dry now) and picking up places again. I can (sometimes) do the fiddly stuff and the hands-on-knees stuff much better than I can do the runnable bits. I’m not sure how much of that is in my head.

Scafell Pike was Scafell Pike, and I turned back down to the scree run that the official advice tells you is a Bad Thing, but that experience tells you is Not To Be Missed.

All the lemming-rocks from the top of the pike have been spent some years carefully gravitating all their sharp edges to plummet down a bangy stonefall that clatters down to Piers Gill.  Let go and off you go, remember to breathe and don’t stick your tongue out, Tom.

Tip. There are some marvellous descents you can almost comfortably do sliding on your bum, but this isn’t one of them. As I launched downwards, my feet somehow shot upwards, and I did a cartoon-style fall backwards in a very on-my-arse sort of way. Cartoon falls are slo-mo and funny though, but this was fast and a bit nasty, and very, very sweary. How can I put it? Let’s call it a real coccyx-banger…

Once I’d stopped the creative language, I decided not to check for blood. For one thing, I now had muddy-bloody hands from unsuccessfully breaking my fall, for another thing, based on the pain, I reckoned that if I rummaged around too much behind me, my bottom might fall off.

Onwards and downwards then, and along to Styhead, but with my feet (or my head or my behind) no longer having that bit of zip that you need if you are going to lean forward and tell the downhill where you are going, and let it catch up if it likes. Another slide and a scrape later, and I’m in the world of the much-too-cautious for the rest of the race.

Cropped a bit

But, I did get slowly round, and I’m pleased with that.

Encouragement from the great man sent me up Gable, and in the clouds a compass got me to Windy Gap (happy place), even though I was initially rude enough to ignore what the needle was telling me.

Habit took me to Honister half an hour before the cut-off, and the absence of choices got me over Dale Head. Gravity then brought me as far as Dalehead Tarn.

I did a fairy-like tiptoe through the slippery slate slopes in the quarry, and the pull of tea and sandwiches reeled me back through the fields in a shuffle that could barely be called running but which never did become a walk (there was definitely a walk inside me, trying to get out).

Ouch.

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