I signed up for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks fell race back in January as soon as the entries opened. I knew it was a popular race, and had heard how prestigious it was and wanted to experience it for myself. The one downside planning to do this race, was that it was only 6 days after the London Marathon. I therefore knew that my performance in this race would dependant on how I recovered after the marathon.
In the week following the marathon, I rested, running once, but made sure I went on the foam roller twice a day. I certainly feel this helped, and after a short run on the Tuesday, I finally felt that my body was mine again by Thursday. However, based on the fact that I knew I would still be tired come race day, I decided to run this race to enjoy it, and not worry about finishing position or time.
I arrived in Horton in Ribblesdale at 8:30am, and with the race starting at 10:30, this gave me plenty of time to register, have a bowl of porridge (as it was an early start, leaving home at 6:00, I was beginning to feel hungry again by this point), and do a short warm-up.
I knew it was a popular race, with over 1000 people registered – I’m not sure how many actually started, but it was certainly close to this number. After the kit check, which was very strict, and the race briefing, we made our way out of the big marquee to the start. The weather at this point was pleasant, a little bit of sun with a cool breeze, but looking towards Pen-Y-Ghent, you could see a considerable amount of snow on the top 200m. The organisers had warned us about up-coming showers, and a wind-chill of -4/5 on the summits, so we knew it would be a tough day out!
Thankfully, having run the route before (but not the race), I knew where I was going, and settled into a steady, confortable pace, letting the guys who I would normally be competing against pull away. As we made our way towards the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent (698m), the first peak, I saw the first 3 (Marc Lauenstein, Ricky Lightfoot and Tom Owens) coming back down towards me – they were certainly going well, and already 15 minutes ahead of me after about 4 miles! At the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent, we did a loop along the ridge through the ankle deep snow and bogs before descending. I was wearing my Salomon S Lab Sense Ultras, and I was very happy with this decision – the grip didn’t fail me once in the very treacherous conditions underfoot, whilst people around me were going to ground quite regularly on the descents, and these were also the same choice of show for Ricky Lighfoot and Mira Rai.
By the time we arrived at the 3rd checkpoint at Ribblehead (about half way), another hail shower was starting, and looking up towards Whernside (736m), it looked like the weather was really turning, with the summit now hidden in the angry clouds. The climb up Whernside was different to the route the 3 Peaks walk goes, with the race going straight up to the summit, initially crossing a river, and good few rather deep bogs before the gradient ramps up, with the last mile to the top averaging 21%, climbing 1,177ft. After a hands on knees climb, I summited, directly into another vicious hail storm and strong winds. Visibility was severely reduced, and after dibbing in I made my way as quickly as I could off the summit – bearing in mind this was also covered in about 6 inches of snow, this was easier said than done! As I reached the bottom of Whernside, 3 mountains rescue vehicles came flying past me with their lights on, so it looks I like I got off that peak better than someone else!
Looking back on Strava, the leaders (Marc Lauenstein and Ricky Lightfoot) were finishing the race as I was in the valley between the 2nd and 3rd peaks!. I ploughed on and made my way towards Ingleborough (724m), and really pleased with my climbing, I made up a few places, but as we reached the really steep section, running ground to halt.
You may think that once you reach the top of Ingleborough that that’s it, but in fact there’s still about 4.5 miles to go back to Horton. This is where my body started to give up on me, and tiredness in the legs really hit. I trudged down, losing the places I’d made on the climb, but thankfully I wasn’t too worried about that. Seeing the finish below was a welcoming site which lured me forward.
I finished in 4:11:46, in 247th place. All things considered, I was quite pleased to come in the top 250, but feel that if I really was racing properly, I could be about 20 minutes faster. All in all, a great race and great day. Superbly organised, and it was a privilege to take part in such a prestigious race. Here’s to many more!