Both races were part of the Gritstone series (www.gritstoneseries.co.uk), a series of seven short races around the Peak. The first race this weekend was Castleton on Friday night, then a day to recover before Edale country day on Sunday.
The weather was fantastic for both, and pretty warm when I arrived in Castleton at about 7pm on Friday. Soon I was vested up, registered and ready to go... And we did GO! The route goes straight up Lose Hill, then along the ridge to Hollins Cross, Mam Tor, back to Hollins Cross and down to the village. As we ran out on the road I had a familiar feeling of despair at the pace, but having reached the bottom of the climb in about 20th I realised I was climbing pretty well and by the top I somehow ended up 3rd! One of the Uni guys was pretty close behind me though, and Stu Bond and Kristian Jones were miles out in front.
Well that was it really - I managed to hang on through Hollins Cross the first time, then up and back down Mam Tor where I tried to work out what gap I had. The masses were climbing as I was descending which made things interesting for all of us but we all survived and soon enough I was back at HC, though I was now feeling a bit rubbish. So rubbish in fact that I tried to descend into the wrong valley! With some navigational assistance from Stu and Debs I set off the right way, down the rocky descent and rejoined my arch-nemesis... Tarmac. He battered my legs for the last little bit and I could feel people catching me (Adam Taylor, a fellow Dark Peaker), but I held on and finished 3rd! I was surprised and pleased at this, and even won a meal out as a prize!
Castleton Fell Race - spot the man who crashed
So, fast forwards to Sunday and I was on another startline... This time with more Accelerate-supported guys - in addition to myself and Stu B, Tom Saville and Chris Shelton were also in attendance. Rob Little and Rhys Findlay-Robinson were also over for the weekend, and with John Hennighan there as well it was going to be fast! And it was fast... After the first climb Stu, John, and another guy were away at the front, followed by Rob and Rhys, then myself and Chris Shelton. Along the ridge it stayed pretty much like that, though out of sight in front of us Mr. Bond took the lead which he would hold to the finish. I struggled along the ridge and could hear Chris getting closer, I held on for a while but shortly before the descent he passed me. We grunted encouragement at each other and I tried to stay with him, which just about worked. Then we dropped off the steep descent and I was able to get in front again. The bottom part of the descent was the steep bit known as "The Plummet", after which we had to run through the village to finish at the Country Fair. Glancing back I could now see Chris and Adam Taylor and I knew the road run was going to hurt, if nothing else this weekend has highlighted a definite weakness!
I knew it wasn't far and I tried desperately to run hard, but there was nothing in my legs. I was disappointed to be passed by both of them within about 200m of the finish, and finished 8th in the end. So after an unexpectedly successful run on Friday perhaps I didn't recover quite as well as I could have and ended up slightly disappointed with Sunday (not necessarily the position, but the last half mile!).
That said though, it was a brilliant fun weekend! Congratulations to Kristian and Stu on their wins, and Helen Elmore who dominated the ladies races, winning both. Another person who can clearly recover well. Thanks as ever to Accelerate for their continued support, and in this case for organising the races!