Last year I wrote a few tips to consider when competing at the Three Peaks. One of them was to never feel like you are over exerting yourself before you’ve reached Ingleborough – otherwise you risk a world of pain at the hands of Whernside.
However, this year I had to ignore my own advice if I wanted any chance at the targeted goal of a sub 3 hour Three Peaks result. With it being an unusually dry day for the area, I knew there’d be no better time to achieve it!
From the beginning I had intentions of keeping on the back of the leading 5 or so runners. The legs were feeling particularly fresh and I soon found myself jostling for 2nd and 3rd place on the way up to Pen Y Ghent. Near the summit I could see Ricky Lightfoot was looking to be struggling. Once we descended off Pen Y Ghent I decided to just sit on the back of Ricky and move past when the pace he was setting dropped below the pace I was feeling comfortable at. Half way to Ribblehead I moved ahead and made good progress to the checkpoint.
Once at the bottom of Whernside, I was still feeling very energetic. Steady away I climbed up the tough fell keeping race Leader Tom Owens in my sight. A third of the way up is a very boggy section, to which both legs were sucked in knee deep. Pulling them out gave me cramp in both calves – this then pulsated the entire rest of the climb in waves, especially on the gnarlier sections. With a quarter of the climb to go, just before the steepest section to the summit, eventual race winner Murray Strain sailed past me – clearly this was his his strong suit! and I was missing the runnable trail of Pen Y Ghent…
Reaching the summit, the cramps were still going strong and were joined by a cramping up back from the tired jolts running down the flag steps. Unable to breathe or control my legs, I held on knowing Ilkley’s Jack Woods wasn’t far behind. I knew I had to just get back to the road section where I could get back to some quicker running, regain my form and shake the cramps.
The smile I had for most of the run was fading, and was in need of some fuel to see me through to the climb up Ingleborough. Reaching Hill Inn I was able to pick up my Mountain Fuel infused water and took on as much as I could. It allowed me to run the whole way up to Ingleborough. Sadly, like rot, the cramp had set in and my calves were tiring on the steep boulders just before running to Ingleborough summit checkpoint. I had 30 seconds or so on the tailing runners, Jack Woods and a Salomon runner I thought to be Ricky Lightfoot with a second wind, but they soon made that up and passed me on the tougher sections down off the top. I could only delicately descend off Ingleborough and hoped to make up the time on the less technical section.
Really unfortunately, Jack Woods took a tumble which allowed me to move back ahead to chase down the Salomon runner. At this point my feet were in bits, the nuts and bolts were loosening and I could feel the body crying out for the finish. All I had to do was keep the Salomon runner in view, hang on and reach the finish to place 4th and Sub 3 hours.
Turning down into the finish straight, I could see I was coming in under the 2H55 mark if I could put a sprint on. The roar of the crowd cheering me down the finish spiked the adrenaline and I was able to come in at 2:54:49 – goal achieved!
It wasn’t until a few minutes after that I realised it wasn’t Ricky coming past me, but Tom Owens who had gotten lost after Whernside, meaning I had actually finished in 3rd place and 100 quid richer!
I was incredibly pleased to finish where I did, and felt I couldn’t have raced any better than I did on the day, but there’s still room for improvement yet. The support around the course was the best I’ve ever experienced, and the amount of people sending me messages of congratulations has been overwhelming and is really appreciated.
There were great performances on the day from every Clayton-le-Moors member, and you can tell that this race is special to the club. I can’t wait to do it all again next year!