Race report continued…
I stopped at the Wythburn checkpoint for maybe 10 minutes, in hindsight it was a bit too long, but I put that down to being cold and wet. Changing clothes is hard enough in a race. Throw in being soaked through and covered in mud and see how long it takes! Nonetheless Ian Mulvey was on hand to remind me this was a race and to crack-on!
I headed off straight into the climb up Helvellyn, firstly through the forest and then out on to the open mountain. Ian Coreless of Talk Ultra was on this trail taking photographs. I must have been motoring at this point, as he never got time to snap me!
I was climbing well. Not fast, but consistent and I knew there was a good chance I would be able to keep this pace through the rest of the race. The cloud was blowing in and again and it was pretty cold up at altitude, so even though it wasn’t raining I just kept my hood up for the extra heat. Perhaps that’s why Ian didn’t take my photo!
My pace was pretty good. I was able to hold my own on the ascent and make good time on the descent and less so the flats. This was working OK as I made my way across the range, rgradually catching those in front. That was until Clough Head at the end of the range. My left knee was starting to stiffen, so I wasn’t able to push this steep grassy descent. Instead I opted to take a few ibuprofen and a bite of a flap-jack. Unfortunately I dropped my car key at this point too, and had to track back on hands and knees searching. Found it!
Now two of the ‘3000s’ completed and over a mental hurdle. Only one more to go! Off I ran for Latrigg. It was at this point I started to think more about my finish time, and suddenly under 12 hours looked like a distinct possibility. Oh no! This very thought would remain for the rest of the race. Just like a devil on my shoulder whispering into my ear when I’m not running hard-enough. It worked well! I ran the flat section along the river towards the Latrigg climb at around 8-9 min mile pace. Quite happy with that given this was now 55Km into the race. I arrived at Latrigg with no intention of stopping, although I did ask the chap from Petzel ‘How long would it take to hike his loop?’. He said ‘2-2.5 hours easy’. OK so now I knew the worst case scenario. If I blew up I would still be back in 2.5 hours! Oh how he was so wrong.
I set off running hard and in good form down towards the river and hairpin turn before the climb around the rear of Skiddaw. My hiking was as quick as this morning, and when the trail was runnable I ran. I had 3 runners in the distance and I wanted to catch them by Skiddaw House. Not long into the chase I passed a few guys from the recce coming the other way. They weren’t racing today, but Emre Tok cheered me on when passing. Cheers guys.
I arrived at Skiddaw House having now passed 1 of the 3 runners, the other two ahead had been looking back, so I knew they had were using me to help push them on. That’s fine. They were 500 metres ahead as we ran towards the next checkpoint at Dash Falls; the last before the Skiddaw trig point. The gap stayed the same, but after crossing the foot bridge they slowed to a hike up the next incline. I kept running and caught them by the crest. ‘Hi guys, all well?’ while I passed by. I kept running and passed another before Dash Falls. The marshall at this point was very cheery as she reminded me that I only had Skiddaw to climb. Gulp!
I set off steady keeping a decent pace, slowed a bit in the very steep section and then got back into a march. The three runners were closing, and two passed before the final scree like climb to the summit. That’s fine! I was doing all I could at this point, and I knew there was a lovely fast descent coming up soon.
As I dibbed in at the checkpoint I heard a voice ‘Alright Aaron, doing well lad‘ to my right. It was Simon Banks again. This time marshalling another peak, and well disguised under a waterproof sheet. The first thing that came to mind was Little Red Riding Hood, so I thanked Mrs Simon Banks and moved swiftly on! I told you Simon’s good for a laugh. Fair play to him for marshalling two peaks this day too.
All I had to do now was descend Skiddaw back to Latrigg and then run an unknown 5km route back to the finish. I was watching my time and this 2-2.5 hour time was rubbish from what I could see. It took me just over 2 hours and I ran most of this section.
I descended well, passing both runners again, pulling clear by Latrigg. Again I didn’t stop, as I knew a sub-12 was firmly on the cards. I shouted ahead to two runners just in front ‘A sub-12 time is on, let’s go‘. We all ran well. They actually pulled away from me but this didn’t matter. I was racing the clock now. I arrived into the town and saw Ian Mulvey and another marshall up ahead. Ian spurred me on and gave some directions. All was looking good. I ran as hard as I could and when the finish was in sight a massive uncontrollable smile appeared across my face. I had been chasing this bloody sub-12 hour time for 40Km, and finally I had done it. 11 hours 49 minutes, and to top it all off I came within 30 seconds of a 5Km personal best over the last 5Km. Result. Matthew was at the finish and it was good to see a friendly face.
All in all this was a great race. I would highly recommend it, both for the location, organisation, and the friends you will meet. The 3×3 Ultra Trail is a race I will return to. For more information check the High Terrain Events website. Thank you to the organisers and volunteers.