2016 Wasdale Fell Race
I was reading all the posts about the conditions on the race yesterday and realized that one comment "and I saw on Facebook that one legend of fell running merely described it as 'wet and windy'...." probably referred to me as that is how I had described the conditions!! I thought I would write a piece about what I did throughout the race to look after myself and finish in reasonable condition. The weather during the race or rather the wind, was worse than I anticipated but overall I think I coped well and hope this helps other runners do the same.
On race morning I couldn't decide what to wear. This is because during the week I had been looking at the weather forecasts for Saturday and they changed back and forth from just showers to heavy rain and high winds; but always with temperatures around 15C. I personally hate running too hot but as like everybody do not want to get hypothermia.
Arriving at Wasdale on Saturday morning the conditions were 16C, breezy, light rain with heavy clag. So it was warm enough for shorts and only minutes before the start I decided to wear my Dark Peak vest with a short sleeved merino over the top. Although it was raining I packed my waterproof away. My thinking was that if I wore my waterproof and packed an extra top (I always carry "spare" top so if I was wearing my waterproof I would pack something else) then a) the waterproof would get wet and if I took it off I would have to carry a wet waterproof b) the top would get wet in the pack anyway c) it was highly unlikely that I would make myself stop to take the waterproof off, put the wet top on and then put the waterproof back on; all too much faff when racing.
The first hill; Whin Rigg was a good test - it was raining quite hard and windy but I felt warm. The rain got in my eyes so I used my buff as a hat. Dropping to the valley it was very warm and it stopped raining so everybody else took their waterproofs off. The climb up Seatallen was also warm but very slow as the ground was waterlogged. I had packed more food knowing I would be out for longer and probably use more energy running in the conditions. I had 6 gels, 1 shot blocs and 2 money bags full of jelly babies. I ate the jelly babies first as they don't cope well when wet, then the shot blocs. I stuck close to Lee Warburton as I have never been that confident across the Pots of Ashes. But when we arrived at the wall below Scoat Fell I was very cross at myself because I have navigated that loads of times and should have had more confidence in myself. I ran off on my own line contouring Scoat Fell. When on the ridge it was windy so the lower line was more sheltered. Most people had put their waterproofs back on but I felt warm enough. I was conscious though that I was finding taking compass bearings difficult so my hands must be getting cold. I knew I would have to do something about this quite soon. The choice was either put my waterproof on or my gloves on.
Finding all the lines to and from Pillar was a confidence boost. I ran off Pillar knowing that it would be sheltered on the contour path round Kirkfell and I would sort myself out there before climbing higher to Scafell although I was hoping that the valley later to Esk Hause would be sheltered. I needed food, to change my map, to get some more clothes on and I also knew that I hadn't drunk enough as I'd only had water at Greendale.
I got on the contour path below Kirkfell and filled up with water at the first stream but it was about 1/4 km further on that I made myself stop to get the waterproof out. I have a "Rule of 3" which means that if I think I have thought of something 3 times; in this case it was "I should get my waterproof on" then I probably have thought of it 5 to 10 times. And I need to do it. And that means do it now = not at the next CP, or at the next road crossing, or the next whatever. There is no putting it off - it means now! Right now. And so I did - I stopped and my hands were useless, I got myself into a right tangle because I got both hands stuck halfway up the sleeves, then couldn't pull either one back out so I really struggled. It seemed like ages before I had got the waterproof on. As soon as it was on I felt snug but pulled the hood up and tightened the cords so it wouldn't flap about. Pulling my hands up into the sleeves I set off again. Now I knew I needed to run to warm up. Then I needed to have another gel.
It was a good decision to stop and one made just at the right time. I felt happier and warmed up. As I climbed Great Gable I took a bearing off the map and set my compass for the descent off to Styhead. From the top I followed the bearing and stayed on the path. I was conscious that I could get blown over at any time and wanted to be near the path if I fell so that I would get found by the rescue services.
The track / path along the valley to Esk Hause was so windy that it was impossible to run when I would usually be running. I thought it would only get worse as I climbed higher to Scafell so I did everything now in preparation; I drank more water, I searched my pack for gels and finished them off, I swopped my maps over, I studied the route to and off Scafell. I took a bearing from the top of Scafell to Lingmell as I know there are lots of paths that all look the same off Scafell. And then I ran what I could to warm my hands up and just to keep going. I was sort of enjoying it but looking forward to finishing.
By Scafell summit I was totally warm and just had the final descent to Lingmell CP to worry about. I used my compass to descend the right path and all was good until a runner on my right caught my eye and I tweaked my left ankle which was very annoying. But I left the tourist path in the right place, crossed the plateau, hit the wall below Lingmell, turned left and found the path. It was a great feeling descending. Probably the best descent I have ever had on a Wasdale race. I just lifted my legs and the wind blew me along. I really enjoyed it. On the ridge I stayed on the right of the path out of the full force of the wind and dropped to the stile. I finished in 5.10 hours about 15 minutes slower than usual. I was glad to get out the weather but never once really thinking it was too extreme or that I should have worn more, carried more or eaten more.
I wish to thank the organisors and the CP marshalls again; I did as I passed them on the hill but they all did a fantastic job and the race wouldn't run without them. I also love the catering tent and thanked the lovely ladies and gents making tea, sandwiches and cakes. All in all I love the race; it's one of the best in the calendar and just once in a while reminds me that it also needs to be respected!
Photos - http://www.Grand Day Out Photography.co.uk (Thanks Stephen! Photos of me battling the winds on the Styhead path)
Full Results - Wasdale 2016.pdf
Andrew Britton race report - http://www.idleac.co.uk/wasdale/