Chunal Fell race

Chunal, another Des classic. 4miles and 950ft of ascent. Someone on the FRA forum mentioned it was basically a cross between Wormstones and Herod Farm, both of which I have had the dubious pleasure of running.

When someone says ‘its a cross between…’ especially when talking about a fell race, assume they mean the hardest and nastiest bits of the race. That was certainly the case of this one.

The weather had been unsure of what to do in Glossop all day. The clouds had been out in force, it had been sunny to a point, but never actually nice. Although it didn’t rain through the day, it was always a possibility.
Lynne and I walked over to o sole mio where registration was, with an ever darkening sky above. Ah, it can’t be that bad. Surely if it was going to rain, it would have started by now…

We got over there, paid the fee and got my number, Lynne went off up the hill to find a decent place to take photos while I pinned on my number said hi to a couple of people and wandered around looking for the start, and exactly where the finish was – important considering that apparently last year it finished nigh on the road.

Found the start finish and jogged up the hill to see the actual hill we’re going to climb. Yep. It still looks as big as when I ran Herod Farm. Saw Lynne, went back to the start. And waited. There were a good number of us who knew about the 7pm start, and it would seem a few who didn’t. So we were waiting around for a good 15mins, some of the faster runners, who had obviously warmed up to ‘just the right temperature’ were getting cold. It didn’t help that the weather chose the 15 mins around that time to start raining…

Andy Howie even had a vest top on at that point, so it must have been pretty chilly! The Glossop contingent was a little diminished, but we had a couple back from Sedbugh at the weekend- John arrived late, but better late than never…
The rain started, stopped, drizzled, turned to mist, rained again, and eventually Des rocked up under a HUGE umbrella to give us a pep talk.
The start was given by a kid whose “onyourmarksgetsetgo!” Caught a couple of people by surprise… But we surged up the hill.

Top of the road, on, to the hill!

The field was small, but select, so it wasn’t like we had to battle hundreds of people up the hill, but it was still a little crowded up the first track. A hard right, Lynne taking photos, and onto a slippery grassy cambered footpath. Nice. I’m already at least 20th or so, not being so close to the front at the beginning, but the hill is going to happen soon.
Someone overtakes me, then John, who promptly puts his foot in a rabbit hole, slips, swears and carries on running. Nice. Over a stile – where there is an inexplicable queue – next field, through an open gate, hang a left and there is the hill. I can see Stevie from Pennine in front by a few places… So he doesn’t always teleport then…

Shoot down through the gears and start climbing. Small steps, concentrate on breathing. Overtake one. And another. And then john. Nice. Now keep it going. The hill gets steeper. Overtaken by 2 Dark Peakers, but I keep in touch with them. Up and through the gate and then we hit the bit everyone walks. I look up to the top and not even the front runners have made it up yet – wow, I’m in the same 200 yards as the front runners! Not for long.

Going up the steep section I walk and keep close to the Dark Peakers, but I hear heavy breathing behind me. Keep the pace up all the way, don’t let up, this is the first hill after all. We keep the pace up to the top section, staying in order, and remembering Julien’s sage advice… the first one to start running near the top of the hill generally gets to the top first, I started running early, just as the hill began to not be quite as steep – and I heard a voice – “looking well Tim”- oh – its John S from the club, out on the hill taking photos. I managed to get off a quip about doing my hair, which may have come out as mumbled rubbish, but I overtook the 2 Dark Peakers on the final part of the ascent.
Which didn’t last long, as one of them took me back about 30 seconds later as it properly flattened out.

So. That was the hard bit of Herod Farm out of the way, now we just have to get the hard bit from Wormstones over and done with. That’s going to be fun. Instead of starting out runnable and ending up steep, like the hill we have just run, it starts out ridiculously steep and then turns into something horribly runnable.
We have to get there first though.

Off we go, down and through a gate (which we had to jump over in Wormstones, I’m a bit put out by the fact its open this time!) and some more Glossopdalers are there, Ian taking photos… best look like I’m enjoying it then.
Through the gate and up the minor incline. (I can’t really justify calling it a hill after what we just came up). I have no idea if I was overtaken here or not), someone else at the top with a camera (Baba, was that you?) and then the beginning of a plunge down the other side of the hill. I catch up with another Dark Peaker who wasn’t wearing a Dark Peak shirt, we get into the next field neck and neck, and I ease away down the hill. I can see someone in the distance jump and go squelch. Oh this looks fun.
I see a fence barring the way and a big muddy bog patch of a puddle. Nothing for it but a leap into it, and then out and over the fence.
I got caught on one of the Barbs from the barbed wire on top, ah well, tis but a minor scratch. (as a short aside, no-one else got caught on that damn fence. Was I the only one who went over the bit with barbed wire? or was it all barbed and everyone else was a lot more careful going over? when I spoke with a couple of other racers at the end they swear they don’t remember the fence… I have the rather exciting cut to prove that I did indeed jump over a fence with Barbed Wire…hmmmm the mind boggles).

Anyhow, on with the race.
It got ridiculously steep at this point, I slipped, other people slipped, the floor was rock solid, but wet from the rain. I had a minor dilemma before running today whether to wear roclites or Baregrips. Had it been raining solidly for the past 2 weeks, the baregrips would have been the best shoe out there… however, with the ground that hard, I needed the extra cushioning of the roclites… the extra grip on the Baregrips wouldn’t have served me any better I think.

Down, down, down the hill, slip and slide. Imagine a hill that tips away from you at a ridiculous gradient, like steeper than 1 in 2, then imagine it covered in grass and mud. Then make it slidy, and then put it at a ridiculous camber. With ruts. That’s what we were going down. Half way down and there is a guy in a Pennine top sitting by the side of the “track”. Its Dan Chan, who is normally somewhere so far ahead of me its really quite ridiculous. He’s not screaming, and appears to be fully coherent as I ask him if he is ok. He waves me on, and I figure that if he wanted or needed help, Pennine Stevie would have been stopped as well, so he can’t be in all that bad a shape.

Down the horrific descent, and at the bottom, a sharp left turn, and straight back up.
Not quite the same way, but it is this ascent that forms the character forming part of Wormstones. I was behind a guy all the way down, and now I struggle to keep tabs on him on the way up. This is nigh on a scramble, hands and knees job, but I keep upright, gulping in air and forcing my legs to keep moving. I can hear people catching me. It sounds like John. (not that I actually know what John sounds like, but when I’m in front of him, EVERYONE sounds like John). The hill steepens and we get to the nightmarish haul yourself over a wall, and then a fence 2 foot away while going uphill, and then onto a “flat” bit where you have to run or risk being overtaken.

I jump over the obstacle like an arthritic spaniel and force my legs into something resembling a run. Yep, make it look easy, you’re bound to fool everyone. I keep running, remembering this hill goes on for a long long time, it goes up, cambers to the right, continues up to a false top, and then there is a kicker at the end. All you need to do is keep running.

I hear a rasping breath behind me, but stay calm and think like a metronome. I was doing some piano practice earlier and have Dvorak’s 8th Slavonic Dance going through my head. Usefully, it turns out that this is quite a good running rhythm for this race, and as I keep my legs turning over the rasping slowly fades away, I’m losing him, whoever it is. Great.

But he is replaced by another one who soon overtakes me.

Coming to the top, I didnt realise John was THAT close

It’s not John. Better. I tag onto his heels and try to keep him in touch. If he can run up this hill, I can too. Up over the false top and my lungs are fit to burst. Legs aching and really feeling it now, but there really isn’t far to go now. We overtake someone who has clearly given too much on the climbs. We see the photographer coming down the hill – (yes, it was Nick) and I enquire as to whether he knows about Dan… he does and is on his way down, excellent. Onto the top and then there is that long decline that we ran up earlier, down toward Ian. By this time my lower leg is awash with blood and I at least LOOK like I’ve been having some fun.
The guy in the blue top stretches away on this slight downhill bit, but that doesn’t worry me too much, there is a much more technical one to follow.

Then it dawns on me- the final downhill ISN’T the final downhill. We have to run UP that horrid little footpath that is overgrown with grass and bits. Slippy and with the long grass, strength and will sapping. Only after that do we head downhill for the end. I’m really going to have to do something special on the final downhill to make sure I’m not caught.

Over to the top. You can’t see my leg though…

Past Ian, and now John is with him, (they failed abysmally in getting a picture of my heroically bloody leg), and I’m chasing 2 people to the top of Herod Farm hill.
One I overtake easily as we go to the top, and the other I follow over the crest, keeping him easily just in front of me as we plunge down the hill.
Only one track on this bit, anywhere else and you probably wouldn’t be on your feet for too long. Tricky and technical, lovely. I’m on his heels as we hit the bottom, he runs to the gate and pushes it.
“uh… Pull?” I say helpfully.

He does and we are through and on to the runnable part of the hill. Horrid to climb, a delight to run down. Still, a bit slippy, what I would have given for it to be a mud fest, and wearing Baregrips – I’d have been twice as fast! As it was, hard pack and slippy grass, he matched me for 4 or 5 strides and then I was off, lost him effortlessly, and it was a great descent. Getting to the bottom, the gate that WAS open when we went up was closed. I didn’t see the runner before us so had no idea what was going on. There was a lady shouting something at us – but I didn’t really catch it. Caught somewhat off guard I ran to the lower end of the gate where the latch would be. It’s chained and locked. Right. Over. By now I’m being caught again. Argh. Vault and run and do not look back. I can hear people on the gate behind me, and its just this crazily overgrown path to run along.

My legs are fading, my veins are pumping acid, my lungs are breathing brimstone. I wish this guy would just pass me and get it over with. There is no one that I can see in front of me to try to catch, but there are people behind me with only one thing on their mind… overtaking me. This place is mine to lose now. Up the… well, I can again, barely call it a hill…. feet of clay flailing around in the undergrowth, and still no-one overtakes me. That path must have gone on for … ooooh…. miles and miles, at least 20, maybe more, but suddenly we were out, round the corner – there is Sandra and a daughter saying well done, its around the corner to the left, and the final downhill.
If he hasn’t got me now, he never will.

Coming into the finish

Striding out, I know this road. It’s 150 metres of all out sprint. Twisty and turny right the way down, see the finish line, keep the same speed, don’t slow down – that’s when you get taken, the same speed through the line and then hope that your fellow racers who have already finished have the sense to not be in your way as you try to stop. Its a marvellous run out and you can slow down for a good 200 metres before you hit a road.

Nice. What a finish. I couldn’t see the guy in front of me, so could never have caught him, and by the end, I was quite a way in front of the next runner. Dried blood caked down my leg, mud splattered, (though not as much as one bloke who appeared to have gone in head first), I was pretty pleased with myself. Couldn’t really have gone too much faster, and in the end I was 11th in a time of 31:31.

Post race, you can JUST see the blood. (Im quite proud of that)

Nay bad at all. The sun was vaguely out when I finished, and it was also vaguely raining, pretty much what you tend to get in Glossop. But there was a very vivid rainbow as well, which must have looked tremendous from the top of the hill. Though those running were probably concentrating on more pressing matters.

Well done again to Jack Ross for winning – now he is a fast young chap, Gwyn for his 2nd (though as you can see from the picture, the Jack decided to make off with the wine, and Gwyn was very happy with the chocolate prize instead), and to John H for the V45 prize.
Dan it seems is ok, though not quite sure what is going on with his legs… he has booked in for a treatment next week though, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Twas great to adjourn to the pub afterward for a swift pint in the Star with the guys from the club as well, and Charlie also came out to join us which was an added bonus.

Gwyn with his chocolate bottle of Champagne. And a pint

A well run race, a brilliant, if somewhat tough route, and superb company. What more could you ask for on a Summers evening?

The geeky bit- Garmin Track for the race

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