Tour of Pendle / Saturday 15 November ’14
AL – 27km (16.8m)/1473m (4833ft)
Report by Scott Hitchen
A great deal of trepidation was met on the morning of the race as every excuse known to man had been used by myself, to avoid it for the last two years.
This eased with the banter on the journey over, car-sharing with Max Cole, Jon Tinman and Davina Raidy. With what looked to be a strong expected turn-out for Rossendale’s Team Racing, an anticipated fifteen members on the entry list, spirits were high.
Going through the usual OCD race prep on arrival, Davina kept us entertained with anecdotes from the previous weeks trip to Coniston. Far from me to say she’s an open book, it was just what was needed, calming any pre-race nerves. Met Ritchie Campbell looking like he was dealing organic race nutrition from his boot with enough provision for the entire field and singlehandedly responsible for a sudden stock rush at Wing Yip’s. Jason Craven and William Lowe later joined the chat whilst milling around the bustling village hall and car park. This would be Will’s first tour and a precursor in his preparation for his debut Three Peaks attempt next year – good luck with that.
Testament to the efficiency of the race organisers, registration was slick and without hiccup with a cracking t-shirt to boot and having barely chance to pass on nav pointers to our very own England international orienteer (a pointless exercise that was lost on me at the time but didn’t go unnoticed) we headed to the start. Joining the huddle, stalwart Allan Yeomans completed the Rossy contingent and with a to-the-point briefing from Kieran it was game-on!
Fuelled by Chia and Goji Ritchie made a break up the Tarmac track that was difficult to close at such an early stage. Jon the tactful took a more relaxed approach with time to chat; learning when unsure of someone’s age guessing their vet category, better to give the benefit of the doubt aiming ten years younger rather than older in future, as it doesn’t bode well for cheery banter!
Richard Campbell in about 12th at this point. No really. (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)
The field begins to spread out on reaching the fell and the slog up to the trig point. It was obvious the clag wasn’t shifting which could only add to the fun. The climb felt steady and on pulling alongside Max I tapped him on the shoulder for luck – schoolboy error, triggering a hidden ‘beast’ mode switch which saw him immediately bounding off. I wouldn’t see him again till checkpoint 5 (the point I told him the race really starts) defying all logical laws of smaller steps/steeper inclines, picking his way past the field and well on his way up Mearley Moor – aren’t hills great!
Don’t worry Max. Yes there is lots more big hills. Yes Max, I promise. (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)
A surprisingly good line off Geronimo through the mist to checkpoint 4, only found me going back to retrieve someone’s lost tag I’d passed floating in the stream, on the off-chance it went unnoticed by the marshals. It’d be hard to stomach disqualification for anyone and didn’t want the outcome of someone’s efforts playing on my conscience for the rest of the race.
Jason Craven had an audition for Bacup Coconutters after the race. Hope it went well JC. (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)
Geronimo! How steep does that look? (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)
The race began to take its toll climbing from Mearley Clough to checkpoint 8 and the ‘big end’ was and always will be the ‘big end’ but on reaching the trig for the second time the clag, as anticipated, added that ‘spot the checkpoint’ fun element. I’d done reccies but could only go off instinct and a bearing that wasn’t concrete so was reluctant to commit to the descent, until being passed that is by first lady Caitlyn Rice (enjoying an excellent season) and in a curious case of mistaken identity thought I was Jon Tinman, whom she had earlier mistook for Patrick Brennan; from behind! Obviously the legendary Irish craic but more to point, who’ll be the more offended?
Scott Hitchen? No. Pat Brennan? No. Dog whisperer Jon Tinman. Yes! (Photo by Andrew Mattison, Andyspixels)
This was to be the crux for many (the clag not Jon’s craic), with stories of runners veering too far left down onto the concrete track and having to double-back to checkpoint 11, or too far right and having to follow the path along Ogden Clough. With luck we nailed it and thankfully tossed our bread tags to the ever patient marshals holding out their bags like buskers.
Davina Raidy enjoying herself (Photo by Steve Bateson RunningPix)
William Lowe also enjoying himself (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)
Thats a bit more like it from Alan Yeomans (Photo by Steve Bateson, RunningPix)
It was nearly over, one final push on the road took back some lost places and then there was Kieron, standing in the middle of the finish tunnel, his arms waving, shouting “it’s over” bringing each racer round from out of their trance. Finish time 2:49:29, shortly followed by Jon in 2:52:08 and a commendable performance from Jason, considering his struggle with injury (see earlier blog entry), in a time of 2:56:44. Max finished as first Rossy with an excellent debut time of 2:39:50 and let it be recorded that it took all of 9 minutes 40 seconds for him to get from the finish all the way down the road to his car; wash; wash the car; change into clothing and get back to the finish to meet his team mates – like we needed the finishing margin making any clearer. A superb effort from Ritchie saw him smash his PB by an incredible 30 mins from the previous year with a time of 2:58:20 – samples of his coconut water have been submitted to WADA for testing. Shout-outs also to Will, Allan and Davina finishing in 3:35:02, 3:47:24 and 3:57:22 respectively.
Enjoying some excellent hospitality and refreshments at the village hall, a quick change, then it was off to the pub to exchange stories, oblivious to Rossendale’s third team placement and unassumingly missing the presentation; that’ll teach us!
Of the fifteen potential Rossy entries only eight completed the race. Racing legend Michael Toman was dearly missed being on sabbatical writing his gourmet’s guide to fell running ‘The race’s I’ve run and the cake’s I’ve loved’. Putting his encyclopaedic knowledge of catering offered at various races throughout the UK to good use and following the success of his recent bestseller ‘My Story – The truth about David Bradley; what really happened at The Ben’.
This is a tough, demanding race and with more oldies in the top 10 placings than a Tony Blackburn playlist, requiring a certain level of maturity and respect to get the better of. Saying that, it seemed to be over in no time, with something for everyone it’s one of the more enjoyable races of the year. We all go through a phase of putting races off through for one reason or another but ultimately we only end up missing out. I certainly won’t be waiting another two years to revisit this gem.
Many thanks to Steve Bateson (Running Pix) and Andrew Mattison (Andy’s Pixels), for the kind permission to use their cracking photos. Please do not reproduce these images, but do check out their websites with the above links.