This year my aim has been to 'do' the local races about the area. Having previously raced all over the UK and paid fortunes in race entry, airfares, fuel, hotels and family time, I decided to ditch travelling and see what local races were on at appropriate times.
Coincidentally, a friend had arranged a night out on the 8th June, so a quick check on the PBGP calendar for 9th June showed a gap in the series, no race Sunday - brilliant count me in! Whilst checking the TAC website I noticed there was a 'short' race in Barlick at 2pm on the Saturday. Super, I could do parkrun in the morning and then leisurely get ready for another local race just after dinner, only 5 miles, doddle, it'll just set me up for the night out too.
Off I went to the race on a side of Barnoldswick I had never been to before, Letcliffe Park. Well I’d never heard of it any way, driving cluelessly through and out of town, I saw a few Barlick Fell Runner vests walking up the hill. I decided that with over 30 minutes before start time I could park here, outside the Greyhound pub, get changed ready with easy parking, and it must be close to the start and registration. This was my first error.
i casually walked up the steep hill wondering where on earth this park could be? I eventually find it and see a tent with a number of TAC stood about chatting and looking relaxed in tiptop condition - I felt knackered already but put on a brave face as it was only 5 miles - registered and exchanged a few pleasantries, pinned on my number 66 upside down making a perfect 99…swiftly rectified with no one noticing :o) The TAC mob all then jogged from registration up to the start where all the other mountain goats were waiting.
It was a glorious day, the sun was shining, there quite a few spectators, and I was glad I’d put my shades on. Then I realised in my haste to park up I’d forgotten to put on some sun cream and 'Vaseline' up. No problem it’s only 5 miles, I'll be reight…famous last words.
Big ex-marine Ryan Belshaw comes over and says “It's a tough un is this ya know.” Really? It’s only 5 miles, it can’t be that bad, but if Ryan says it’s a tough one then it is, right!
I look around for the usual back of the pack crew, Ron Chappell , Jean Rawlinson and a couple of others I see at races, and mentally say to myself keep with them for the early bit of the race, they know what they're doing, etc.
Whilst thinking about tactics the whistle goes and we're off. Bit of a bottleneck at the back as we jockey for position - all the TAC team shoot off, I slot in a couple of places behind Steve Cowley though I can’t remember how fast he is 'normally'. We trot off up the hill which he seems to glide up easily and I start to struggle after about half a mile. I edge back and run alongside Jean, just ahead of Ron who is also struggling and starts to walk. Good, I think, I'll try to push ahead of him as he always seems to pass me near the end of the race, most annoying.
The hill continues to rise and I craftily catch my breath whilst assessing how hard I’m trying - my Garmin heart monitor says I’m at 186 bpm - I think to myself I'll try keep it under 180 on the uphill and recover when the hill peaks and we go down…
There was a bit of a downhill track and I let gravity guide me down the hill whilst chasing Clayton Jean - she can fairly move - I thinkIi ran too fast down after her because as soon as we jumped over the stile I realised we had to run back up the hill I’d just sprinted down. Bugger! Ah well, I could see a few people walking ahead and thought I could make up a few places - no chance, the hill was sapping my legs with each step.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so I run-walked a bit then noticed a cameraman hidden like a sniper in the long grass next to the wall. I thought it was a still photo camera though it turned out to be video and the camera never lies…powering through up the hill I go, the trig point appears in the distance overlooking the valley with the Big End of Pendle right behind…it looked pretty cool.
Run-walking and struggling to keep my HRM under 190, I slow to a walk and get caught by my wife's colleague Juliet Horrocks who's on a bike vaulting the wall stile shouting encouragement “Come on Simon, you can do it! Are you alright?” I admit shamefully that I’m struggling and run as fast as I can, which wasn't very fast, till I was out of her sight.
I reach the trig point - fantastic, what a view - get offered some water but think no, I’m racing - I never drink during a race as it makes me sickly and I felt bad enough as it was. The marshal points down the hill and says “Well done! Nice bit of downhill for you now.” WTF?! It was almost a sheer face, a proper leg shredder! I tippy-toe down the hill grumbling, slipping , trying to catch the Skipton runner with the fluro vest on, who I was about 10 yards behind at the top of the hill, only to see him shrink to a dot in the distance.
I’m now 'running' down the hill in a very haphazard way - my knees and quads groaning with each step. Baddumpf, I get to bottom and see a marshal, or hear him actually, as he was clapping well done. He's just over the brow of a little hill at the bottom of the big hill where the river would be, but it was dry today. Up i go and he tells me to follow the marker to my right.
As almost all the other runners had ascended and crested the hill I didn't realise I was going back up. There wasn't the usual snake of runners to follow. I look right and could just see the fluro Skipton vest half way up the hill, and Clayton Jean had already got to the top. It was soul destroying, my legs and ankles were aching and the thought of going back up was a killer.
Becoming a sweaty mess by now, the clouds came over and I got a five-minute sun shade which was good and it allowed me to scale part of the hill in a zag-zag fashion. I stopped to catch my breath again and so I didn't fall back I turned around to take in the view – beautiful, a spectator agrees it’s a great day out.
I spot another camera man or woman this time and say to her “Don't catch me walking!” and scramble around looking like I was running. It was torture but I eventually reach the top with Big Ron about 50 yards behind. At the top of the hill the ground was hard and I began to pick up speed and start a 'proper' run down the way we had come. All I could think was don't let Ron catch up!
Top speed now to the wall stile and the marshal points the way. “Left? I ask (downhill). “No,” he says, “Go right! Back up the road.” I'd made them same mistake in reverse that I had earlier when I was racing Jean. Totally spent I walk up the hill alone, no runner in front or behind, I honestly thought I had gone the wrong way. Surely this track wasn't this long on the way down?
I reach the top finally, Ron still behind, and cheered on by a marshal I head homeward bound to the finish, climbing a few stiles and steps and stairs, etc, but it feels really good to run downhill on a normal slope not a sheer one.
Recovering with each step I reach the finish to be greeted by the TAC team who had finished at the very least 10 mins before. Thank you TAC people - nice touch - I check my watch and 66 minutes had elapsed matching my start number…
What a leg shredder that was and I’m then told “Yeah, it was a tough un that, 1800 feet ascent,” which before today meant nothing. Lesson learned. My debacle didn't end there as I’d parked further away than I thought and had to run back to the Greyhound pub to collect my car.
Great race, I will do it again next year for sure, parking nearer the start next time and also putting sun cream on my face and shoulders to prevent the comedy tan I now have of 'panda eyes', an invisible white vest and red shoulders. It’s the hardest 5 mile run I’ve done to date, how Tony does his 110 miles I’ve no idea.
The day ended with a night out in Barrowford with big Ryan and co for a few Kronenbergs to ease the legs - still sore today. Roll on Hendon Brook, it can’t be that hard can it, it’s only Nelson?