A bus trip to Wales to pick up some silver

FRA RELAYOn Sunday, one of the marquee events of the fell calendar, the British Fell Running Relay Championships was held at Llanberis, north Wales. The event was staged at the foot of Moel Eilio, one of Snowdon’s less famed peaks, but at 726m high, a formidable foe nonetheless. One hundred and eighty fell clubs from around the UK made the trip and were superbly hosted by the local club Snowdon/Eryri who put on a mightily impressive event, full of variety, intense challenges and creative routes.

Overall, Calder Valley fielded an impressive eight teams, expertly captained and organised by Ben Mounsey, with the group meeting bright and early at 6am in Mytholmroyd. The journey down was enlivened by Rob Paradise’s renowned Yorkshire Ferret Show, which kept young and old amused, but the serious business was to begin in earnest at 10:00am, with the first of the four legs that began with a mass start.

But it was agony and despair for Calder’s Men’s Vet 40 team who missed out on a gold medal by a mere 24 seconds, after nearly four and a half hours of ding dong running. A herculean effort by maestro Karl Gray on the last leg nearly did the trick as he ran the fastest V40 time of the day by over 3 minutes; but alas agonisingly failed to haul in Borrowodale Vets, who grimly hung on for gold. Shuan Godsman had set the tone for the vets with a blistering 6th place on leg one and Irish duo, James Logue and Gav Mulholland had kept the pedal down on leg two. Despite crucial time lost on leg three, the paired navigation leg, the Vets were still in the hunt on the final leg, but it was just too much for King Karl to reel in.

Elsewhere it is difficult to know where to begin as there were umpteen heroic runs throughout the day, not just from the silver medal vets. With the weather ranging from A to B – atrocious to biblical – some of the performances, either as singles or in pairs will live long in the memory. The weather was truly awful at times but mention must go to the following who put in memorable runs. Calder C team, who finished 38th overall, can thank the sheer doggedness of Ben Frechette and Mark O’Connor who upstaged the B team to finish ahead of them on leg 2. Then the navigational brilliance of Ian Glendinning and Lee Beardy Shimwell who made mincemeat of the paired leg 3, waltzing round in 30th place, just two places behind the equally impressive B team comprising ultra fiend Ian Symington and the old pro himself, Bill Johnson.

The ladies were also flooring it in in fifth gear with England stars Jo Buckley and British Champ Helen Fines teaching the men a thing or two with a rapido 68th place on leg 2, which was all the more impressive as the weather by now was akin to being sat in a washing machine. On leg 3, the teak-tough pairing of Barbara Lonsdale and Sally Newman made short work of the map and compass and rubbed shoulders with the men in a fantastic 88th place.

Back to the men and on leg two, captain Ben Mounsey and Alex Whittem (pictured) strained every sinew to stay with the heavyweight names such as Rob Jebb and Ian Holmes and can be mightily pleased with their superb 7th place. But perhaps the pick of the bunch and was on nav leg three where Tim Ellis and Heptonstall’s Graeme Brown embarrassed a raft of big names to come in a quite brilliant 6th. Visibly spent as they both finished, Graeme was to end up in A&E later on with torn ankle ligaments. That, as Roy Castle once said, is dedication.

All in all, a brilliant effort from all in the CVFR squad who made the trip, with the women’s B, the men’s V50 and the men’s All Stars also putting in some amazing runs. Culpan, Whitehead, Davy, Wisbey & Murgatroyd et al. Rather like the Ryder Cup in golf, the event draws the very best out of people, amateur sports men and women at that too. A day to remembered indeed.

Ellis up there in Lakeland Classic and good club results in popular Skyline

its all go at Withens Skyline www.woodentops.org.uk

its all go at Withens Skyline

Calder Valley’s Tim Ellis continued his excellent summer of Lakeland fell races with an outstanding third place at Saturday’s Langdale Horseshoe race. This marvellous race is rightly regarded as one of the best in the calendar, taking in 16.5 miles and 1450m climb of arguably England’s finest scenery. A race for novices, it is not.

Decent weather prevailed, albeit quite windy and fresh up on the tops and the clear skies proved a godsend for many runners as low cloud and mist can often play havoc navigationally. Instead, runners were left to wrestle with nothing more than shin splitting descents and thigh burning climbs as they weaved their way up and over most of the main peaks of the Langdale Valley. The race was won by local star Ben Abdelnoor in an impressive 2hrs 7 mins, with Tim helping Calder into second place overall in the men’s team event, James Logue (13th) and rising star Joe Crossfield (18th).

Newly crowned British champ Helen Fines was second overall in the Ladies’ race with a splendid 55th place and Barbara Lonsdale 14th in a super time just over the three hour mark.

At the ever popular Withins Skyline race at Howarth on Sunday many Calder runners made the short trip over Cock Hill for the 7mile/1000ft mud splash across Bronte Country. Cader’s Graeme Brown, still in search of a pair of shorts, finished in a superb 6th place behind winner and new course record holder Tom Adams of Ilkley. Tom broke Olympic Gold medallist Ally Brownlee’s record from 2006, admittedly set when Alistair was a mere slip of a lad. Mark O’Connor, after a blistering start, faded somewhat to be next Calder man home in 34th.

First Calder lady home was Graeme’s other half Kate Mansell in a solid 158th place. The event is another of the Woodentops Fell races laid on by the irrepressible Dave Woodhead, who must be commended for his sheer enthusiasm and passion for the sport. Even more so for his endless prizes that he merrily dishes out afterwards in The Sun Inn where the majority of runners convened to partake in the fun afterwards.

Ian Hodgson – Captain’s log: star date 6/10/13

I suppose the writing was on the wall for a disappointing performance the moment that Karl Gray text me on Saturday morning to say he was pulling out of the relays….
and it didn’t fill me with much hope when Tod fatty no.2 A.K.A Goldie turned up to the start field eating a bacon and egg butty as big as his head just before his leg (breakfast of champions ay Mark)

But despite not having our finest day, the lads and Jo B still did the club proud, even if there were a litter of navigational errors 😉
So how did it all go wrong I hear you ask? Well hopefully this will help explain…

The day started brilliantly. Everyone turned up on time, Goldie and Shaun were well fed and after leg 1 the A team were in 3rd place just behind 2nd place favourites Borrowdale and leaders Dark Peak. It was this leg we were most concerned about, worrying perhaps the lads had a chance of getting lost or taking a bad line. But ironically this was the only leg that our runners didn’t get lost! Our young superstar Max ‘Power’ Wharton dragged Joe Washington round the leg in an excellent time of 35 mins and set up the A team with a superb start. Arguably Joe had the run of the day by hanging on to Max and really did himself and the team proud! 
Equally impressive was our heroine Jo Buckley and local hardman Roberto Pazzolini. Paz told me afterwards that Jo ‘destroyed herself for the team’ by running extremely hard throughout the leg and they flew round within the top 20 and sub 40 mins !

Leg 2 was full of promise. BOFRA boy Godsman and ‘the flying postman’ Alex Whittem were hopeful of running one of the fastest legs, especially as Shaun had reccied the route a number of times and in his words ‘knew all the best lines’. The thing is I’m not sure Shaun’s best lines were the fastest ones because 30 mins into the leg they had gone horribly wrong and lost around 15 mins and 20 places. Alex told me afterwards he knew they’d gone wrong when checkpoint 2 turned out to be the McDonald’s drive through in Kendal, Shaun however said ‘it’s the way he always goes!’ Oddly enough Alex also said the big man had exactly the right amount of change for a supersize Big Mac meal and an XL Cadbury’s Mcflurry AND it was ready for them as soon as they arrived! Weird. Maximum points earned for Tod’s finest in the navigational cock up of the year competition. 
In comparison navigational cock up 2013 pre race favourite Steve Smithies had a much better day than everyone else! This was mainly due to being partnered with top nav man Bill Johnson who made sure that Steve got safely round without being *’Smithied’. Well done lads!!!
* definition of ‘Smithied’: being utterly and hopelessly lost, usually in familiar territory and mainly in the Calder Valley area (but pretty much anyway to be honest).

 So if leg 2 was a navigational nightmare, thank god I’d played a master stroke by putting James ‘Mr Dependable’ Logue on leg 3 to save the day and pull back a ton of places and avoid any further embarrassment.
 So picture the scene…Timbo Baggins and I were waiting patiently at the start of leg 4, freezing our b******s off in the driving wind and rain, hungry and cold but safe in the knowledge that Britain’s greatest orienteer was about to work his magic like Harry Potter and his wand. 
1 hour later than schedule … feeling like Scott of the Antarctic and wondering where my next meal might come from and dreaming of a time when I could actually feel my arms and legs, I was delighted to see Logie and Joe Crossfield emerge from the mist having been horrendously lost and 110% Smithied. Unfortunately no one has seen James since he wandered into the woods above Patterdale after the race carrying a large amount of rope. 
It’s probably also worth noting that Goldie and Lee Shimwell DIDN’T get lost on leg 3 and beat Logie and Joe’s time by quite a number of minutes 😉 cue Goldie taking the p*ss for at least the next 5-10 years. Don’t worry James I’m sure we won’t rub it in….much 😉 did I mention you’re sat next to Goldie on the coach to Llanberis?

Needless to say by the time we set off on leg 4 it was almost getting dark and I was 10 minutes away from my trademark visit to the back of a St John’s Ambulance. However, true leader and inspirational captain that I am I soldiered on to set the early pace for Timbo. 
Things were going swimmingly, I was picking up all the best lines, climbing well (for a fat lad) and Timbo was looking equally strong! But then part of me started feeling a bit sorry for Godsman and Logue… so just to make them feel a bit better a took a really bad line on the way up to Fairfield and we also got a wee bit Smithied. Also I thought Timbo really needed to sharpen up his nav skills in preparation for the British relays so I let him take over to stop me running us off the edge of a cliff. Thankfully he sorted it and we finished the leg in a respectable time. Shame really cos if we hadn’t have gone wrong we’d have been very close to the fastest leg!!!
 The final pairing on the B team, ‘housewives favourite’ Johny Helliwell and ‘ultra man’ Ian Symington had no such navigational worries and finished the day as it started…by showing the A team how to use a compass! Well done lads!

 So all in all it was a day of mixed emotions. Not quite the result we were hoping for (14th for the A, 29th for the B) but team spirit was once again the real winner. This was just a bad dress rehearsal for the Brits…roll on 2 weeks! 

Over and out,

 El Capitano xx

P.S. Shaun/Logie: don’t worry about what happened today, no one really reads my emails anyway so perhaps no one will ever find out ? 😉