Saturday 3 March 2012: Black Combe Fell Race
Worth a look in large to see the offshore wind farm
I travelled up to the Lakes this morning for a weekend away with Ilkley Harriers, the local running club. It was an opportunity to catch up with old friends I'd not seen in possibly more than ten years, some good friends I just don't see often enough, plus some new friends I only before knew through their virtual presence on the web site and on Facebook.
The focal point today was the Black Combe Fell Race in the far south west corner of the Lakes. This fell is a bit of an outlier from the rest of the Cumbrian Fells, but although it doesn't match the more well known tops for height, the fact that it rises straight from the coast gives it a grandeur all of its own. Quite a few of us, me included, were a little unsure as to whether to race or spectate, but as soon as we arrived, the heavy rain showers we'd encountered on the journey up had relented, the sun was out and it felt quite warm. The sight of a hundred or so runners all warming up, with the hills clearing of clag and highlighted gold against a blue sky, simply proved irresistible.
Having raced hard last Sunday, and also having knocked out around 120 hilly miles commuting on the bike during the week, my legs were not exactly feeling frisky. I decided to enjoy the company and take some pictures en route. This was actually quite a novel experience, but one I really enjoyed. It felt good to remove the pressure of wanting to get around in the fastest time possible and have the focus more on simply enjoying the fells and the experience of the event.
Black Combe this year turned out to be a real classic and I think the first-timers in our group will likely be back for more. And that is despite being tortured on the high traverse from Black Combe to White Combe by a lacerating hail storm. I've not actually experienced anything quite like this before in the hills. I was running along the high ridge where there was scarcely a breeze. I could see some hostile looking weather building to the east and was about to get the camera out when I started to feel rain in the air and abandoned the idea. I could then hear this amazing sound which I really couldn't place. My only thought was that it had to be a raging waterfall, but I soon discovered that it was the wind funnelling up the valley. Within seconds it was driving pellets of ice into my arms and legs. The transformation from summer to winter was extraordinarily sudden. After the race we found that we were all covered in pock marks. It looked like there had been a outbreak of chicken pox!
It's been hard to choose my blip because I had several good ones from the race. If you're interested in seeing what fell running is all about and care to return here I will post a link to a blog entry with some photos and a bit of a description. Here you can see runners on the final descent to the finish. For the front runners it is exceedingly fast. One of the younger members of our group tried for the prize for the fastest time from the final check-point and was nursing very sore quads in the evening!