I did Holme Moss fell race for the first time last year, and although a very tough race, thoroughly enjoyed it and was keen to do it again. It has been an English Championship race numerous times, and carries a bit of reputation for being hard, and I thought it would be great training for Borrowdale in 2 weeks, and also for the 3 x 3000’s in September. The route is 18 miles long, with 3,500ft of elevation gain. It is a proper fell race, going across open moorland on really rough, boggy terrain, steep descents, steep climbs, exposed summits, and with very little flat! It’s a great race.
The race is predominantly as follows:
An out section for about 4.5 miles across trackless, boggy moor, with some steep climbs and one noticeably very steep descent. The final climb in this section takes you up to the top at Holme Moss and the road crossing.
After the checkpoint here, you descend steeply down, then immediately climb steeply up again to Tooleyshaw Moor, followed by another moorland section, with groughs and bogs throughout – last year I went into a bog up to my waist on this section! You then take a long, and at times fairly technical, descent down to Crowden where there is another checkpoint and water station. It feels like halfway at this point as you start to turn back, but the hardest section of the race is still to come.
There is a steep hands on knees climb up to Bareholme Moss, followed immediately by a steep, rough, trackless descent down to Crowden Great Brook at the bottom of Laddow Rocks. The climb up to the top of Laddow Rocks is again, trackless, steep, very rocky in places and seem to go on forever – it is only 0.3 miles, but you climb over 500ft. You end up passing climbers with ropes yet you’re clambering up beside them!
The Penine Way is at the top, and after a short steady down, the climbing continues, up a flagstone path towards Black Hill. More trackless peaty bog follows back to the Holme Moss summit, with the first section repeated in reverse back to the start/finish.
It’s a gruelling race, but great fun, and I tried to make sure I learnt my lessons from last year. Previously I cramped up severely on the return boggy moorland section, and I think I put this down to going off too hard, not fuelling properly (taking on enough electrolyte), and not having enough long runs in my legs. This year, I thought I paced the race much better, and provided Lily with electrolyte drink to give me at Holme Moss (both times) and at Crowden. I’ve noticed in previous long runs/races, that electrolyte definitely helps keep the cramp away.
I was hoping to go under 3 hours (last year I did 3.01). I wasn’t too fussed about position but beating last years 14th would have been nice. In the end, I came 17th with a time of 3.02. I was please with my time but a bit confused as I felt I approached the race better than before, and that I executed my plans/tactics a lot better too. The only thing I could put it down to was the heat.
Either way, another great race and great prep for the 3x3000s, and for my next big race, the Borrowdale fell race! Bring it on!