Last weekend was the Ian Hodgson Mountain Relays, one of my favourite events of the year. After a good streak in the mixed category from 2009-2011, the pennine men and women decided to branch off into having mens and womens teams for the last three years. With good results at the FRA relays, this seemed like a sensible thing to do, however there always seems to be something stopping the women at the hodgsons.....This time it was my turn to experience the curse of leg 3....
Two years ago, I'm not sure it's fair to blame leg 3 for anything, however last year for a whole host of reasons, it started developing a rep - resulting in us finishing at the bottom of the womens table. Most recently I've been a leg 2 specialist, however I specifically asked for a change this year as I fancied running a little bit shorter after dental surgery that left me looking a bit like a chipmunk (and also a bit uncoordinated downhill) the previous Tuesday. This landed me with leg 3, which I duly reccied well in advance (on Saturday) and was confident of the lines and landmarks to hit even in the mist.
I was racing with Naomi which was great as she had been in pennine pretty much from when I started fell running but I hadn't seen her in ages! At changeover, Noel started the 'time to dark peak' timer as DPFR ladies ran through Kirkstone and we were pleased to be setting off 2minutes down. A blast up red screes and we were gaining well on them. We nailed the line down the other side of red screes and were soon heading over towards my next landmark, a large cairn. We passed Calder Valley who were looking bemused about where to go (but not bothering to get a map out) and soon disappeared into the mist (so I assume they had to resign themselves to the map at that point). I was pleased to hit the reccied line across to just below Dove Crag. Keeping slightly higher than on the Saturday in a bid to get it right, we skirted around Dove Crag. I glanced at my watch, excellent, 47minutes gone and we were almost at the second checkpoint.
I should have known we were jinxed from the off,Claire had assured Naomi that my nav was ace and I'd never get her lost....She'd also reassured me the previous evening that no matter how slow I ran after the dental surgery, there was no way we'd beat their effort of 1:39:11 from the previous year. Well that was a gauntlet laid down!
Geoff had mentioned that last year he had found some leg 3 runners half way up Hart Crag (you only go up here on leg 4) and couldn't understand how on earth they'd done it! Well, it's quite easy really. What you do is skirt most of the way around Dove Crag in the mist, fail to see the col because the clag is so close, continue running, hit some unfamilier, steep rocky ground, convince yourself you're too high, drop down a bit, notice the rocks aren't going away, decide your best bet is to climb to the ridge and hey presto! You're half way up Hart Crag!
So, I added on 1mile with 150m of ascent which took us as additional 24minutes (including some head scratching). Finally we arrived at checkpoint 2 after 1hr16. Heading in from the wrong direction we were met by Geoff saying 'where on earth have you been, Helm Hill ladies were overjoyed you hadn't been through'. Needless to say it was now looking likely we were going to take the pennine women's 'worst leg 3' award! We tore down the hill and thankfully scraped in in 1:37, phew, narrowly avoided that one!
The other three pairings had storming runs, but the curse of leg three (now established) once again skewed the result. I suppose I'm allowed a nav error after 13 relays for pennine without, but it was an inconvenient year to have one given how well the others ran.....maybe next year.....