Sedbergh Hills

For the first time in ages I’ve felt recently that I had some sort of form returning. Perhaps it was time to try an ‘AL’. Haven’t done one for years. Find out what sort of shape I’m in. Well, now I know. Still, at least you get a prize for being last.

Download file for GPS

Two Breweries

Having got round the LDMT I had little worries about the Two Breweries. A mere 5000 feet and 16 miles, or 18, or thereabouts. Once again the devil was in the detail. The Checkpoints. But I was sure I’d be fine.

This is a race I’ve wanted to do for some time but it’s usually clashed with something or other. But this year it was going to happen. An elegant principle where you run from Traquair House Brewery to Broughton Brewery taking a fairly direct and exceedingly scenic if somewhat lumpy route. A nice start in cool sunshine saw as speed away from the front of Traquair House up the long drive towards the road. It had only occurred to me the night before that I had no idea which way to go and had luckily found a blog from last year’s with a route map. I’d hastily studied this but was still relying the runner in front knowing where they were going and not getting too far ahead.

I hit the Split button my Garmin at the second checkpoint as the marshall informed me I was “just inside” the cutoff. She wasn’t kidding. My Garmin can’t lie, and it said 1hr 49min 37.3 seconds. Full marks if you guessed that the cutoff for checkpoint two was 1hr 50 minutes! “You’ll have to keep moving!” she added, helpfully, as I struggled on through the heather.

The race crosses a couple of valleys where Retirement Points, drinks and Jelly Babies were on offer. Each time I was cheerfully told to help myself to Jelly Babies as there were plenty. I know this is just marshall-speak for “there’s practically no one else behind you so we don’t need to save them for anyone else”, but I was happy to grab a handful nonetheless. I hadn’t expected so much sugar and water to be on offer so frequently throughout the race and after last week’s unassisted LDMT I almost, bizarrely, resented it. Almost. But not quite.

Into the last 3rd of the race and something completely unexpected happened. I started catching people. Not, I should say, an experience I am familiar with in fell races but certainly a pleasant surprise. I stopped worrying about time-checking myself at the checkpoints, I was heading all the way to the brewery now. At some checkpoints I may even have had several minutes to spare! As the miles and hills counted down I perked up and started looking forward to the final challenge.

My anthropomorphism of hills continues apace. For many years the most malevolent hill of the year award was easily won by Grisedale Brow as you hit it towards the end of the Grisedale Horseshoe. However this year it had met its match. I caught up with Norham’s William Pikett who was zigzagging up Trahenna Hill using the same tactic as I was. As he paused for a bit of a stretch I offered the view that this was “a bit of a bastard”, an opinion that was met with pretty broad agreement. He warned me that there was usually a photographer at the top so I got my happy face ready was we crested a series of false summits before finally toppling over the top.

The final descent was a really annoying gradient – not steep enough for an efficient bum-slide, but a bit too steep to skelp down without braking. It was a relief to finally hit the road for a last, slightly incongruous, mile on roads before getting to the front door of the Broughton Brewery. Roberta, with touching optimism and a far greater opinion of my abilities than I have had been waiting for well over an hour for me to appear over the horizon.

Next year is the 30th running of this event so if you fancy it it’s probably a good one to go for. I’d finished in 4:51:59 – my first “AL” and a massive 8 minutes to spare before the final cutoff! If I’m going to hit the checkpoints with more than 20 seconds to spare I’d better do a bit more training. It’s no different in many ways to the Saltwell Harriers Fell Race in many ways; everyone runs over a few boggy hills and rivers and everyone who finishes gets a bottle of beer. It’s just a bit longer. And steeper.

Download file for GPS