This was my 3rd Fellsman. The route doesn’t really suit me. I plod up and down the big hills at the start, and by the time I get to the runnable stuff later on it’s dark and grouping keeps the speed down to a plod. My original plan was to go as hard as I could to Fleet Moss, hopefully get into a fast(er) moving group and see if I could round in closer to 20 hours (2009: 23.23, 2010: 21.47). My injured calf put pay to that, and I downgraded my goal to ‘get around in one piece’.
20 minutes in, as I struggled up Ingleborough with both calves screaming, I downgraded further to ‘get to Hill Inn in one piece and DNF’. My calves loosened off on the descent though and I decided to aim for Dent (and at least get a half-way decent training run in). Ascending Whernside was a bit easier and by Gragareth my calves were no more sore than any other bit of my legs.
The last 2 years I snuck through Redshaw with 5-10 minutes to spare before the grouping cut-off. I thought I was on course to do the same this year, but the cut-off was 30 minutes sooner than I thought and I missed it by 10 minutes.
I quickly found myself 3 fellow run/walkers and we set off (at a steady walk) for Dodd Fell. Two of the group were first timers (one a fast-ish runner who’d lost time due to dodgy navigation). The 3rd, a very fast walker, was also on his 3rd Fellsman and knew a more direct (but not I’m convinced faster) route to Dodd Fell than I’d taken before.
We reached Fleet moss just as it got dark. From this point the navigation was my responsibility. The last minute route change throwing a boggy spanner in the works... I took us on a fairly conservative route, using fences as hand-rails (and a couple of groups of head-torches gained on us with more direct routes..). We were lucky to latch onto a group of old-timers for the final stretch to the new Middle Tongue checkpoint and over to Hell Gap. With the navigation responsibility gone I was feeling a bit rough and struggling to keep up at the back. I even briefly considered dropping out when we got to Cray to avoid slowing the rest of the group down. But when we got there the tent was full of people in a far worse state than me, so I popped a couple of pro plus and we quickly headed out again. Normally when grouped I get frustrated at having to sit at checkpoints, getting cold, but these guys were even less fond of dallying than me.
We were moving a fair bit slower than the group I was in last year, but the short stops were going a long way to compensating for this. En route we’d be overtaken by several groups (one of which was being ‘driven’ by a woman who seemed hell-bent on burning her companions out one by one...) but we’d then catch and repass them at the checkpoints.
Come Yarnbury and de-grouping I briefly considered trying to run. Last year we’d had a crazy run-out and I was out-kicked by a 3.15 marathon runner. This year the rest of the group clearly weren’t up for it, and I didn’t want to risk trying to run, pulling something and looking like a prat. We finally finished in 22.31, which in the circumstances I was reasonably satisfied with. But I’ll be back, with some more hills in my legs, to try and get closer to 20 hours.