British Championships 1999: Graythwaite

Two-week debate at home about whether to go up Friday evening or Saturday morning. We eventually settled for Saturday morning leaving home at 6.00 a.m., since James has been waking up at 5.30 every day anyway. Helen and I are both totally knackered after 10 weeks of problems with Peter, plus moving house three weeks ago. We’re also both seriously unfit, but what the hell.

Spent a couple of hours wandering around the car park and taking the boys round the string course while Helen ran first. She took a bit longer than expected and I ended up having to rush to the start, which luckily was closer than expected.

S-1: Nice gentle downhill trot, and not really paying much attention. Ended up in wet re-entrant below marsh, and had to cut back left. Not a major disaster but a very messy first control. Felt like about a 1 minute error. Finally punched control with Alex Ross (M40L) who had started at the same time. At this point it was apparent that I wasn’t concentrating quite as much as I might need to.

1-2: Still not thinking straight. Ended up going north of two lakes (90 degree error!) and then dropped down the stream. Another messy control.

2-3: Started to concentrate a bit more. Climbed hill early and then up broad re-entrant. Heather Monro overtook me going quite fast I thought. She led a couple of people off to the left of the pond and I nearly followed them, but corrected and dropped left to the control.

3-4: Easy straight leg. Saw the control from a long way away.

4-5: Kept left of hill, picked up ride (but still quite difficult to run on it) and straight in. Spent the whole leg thinking that the track route to the right would have been quicker. Then decided that since I trusted the planner the straight route would be faster. Then convinced myself that if the planner was any good the two choices would be about the same. I’m quite surprised I found the control at all after that lot.

5-6 Slightly right of straight trying to find some good running. Spotted the knoll in the marsh from miles away, and convinced myself that the control was on this and that the overprint was off. Staggered through knee-deep water to reach knoll, and then saw control thirty metres away on the edge of the marsh, just like the control descriptions said it would be.

6-7 Kept trying to stay right of straight to avoid the fence: no idea why. Got a bit confused by the open areas, which don’t show up very well. Did a bit of practice climbing on the hill just before the control. By this stage I was trying to sort out 8 to 9, and I should have been concentrating on 6-7 instead.

7-8: Painfully slow through the mud and up the hill. Sorted out 8-9 and started to look at 16-17.

8-9: Quick drink at the road crossing and then up the path. Contoured through the open area to pick up the next path. Got confused by the large open marsh: I never seem to spot the rough open yellow under large areas of marsh. I’ve made mistakes in Scotland and the Lakes before because of this. Perhaps I should get the IOF to change the symbols. Anyway, didn’t lose any time here. Still looking at 16-17 as I ran up the path. It feels like the best way in is from the left from the path in the big re-entrant. I’d probably take the road to get there if it wasn’t out of bounds, and I just can’t see a sensible way to get there on the various small rides and tracks. Over the top looks possible, but it’s quite a climb and would need a bit of luck in some small bits of fight. Only feasible route is therefore to go right of the green patch.

By now I was in the white again, and had to concentrate. Dropped into the flat marsh, picked up the stream bend and ran straight into the re-entrant. Perfect. 806, wrong control code! Then I spot that 806 is our control 11. Have I copied the descriptions down wrong? Has the planner mucked up? Spend at least 10 seconds looking at the map and control card before realising I have navigated perfectly to 11, but should have been going to 9. Not a huge disaster, but another few minutes gone. 11-9 is through the best bit of wood, and is a pleasant contour leg. Pick up 9 with no trouble.

9-10: Steady round big spur and below crag. Suddenly there are people all over the place. Heather Monro overtakes me again.

10-11: Easy leg back to where I was 5 minutes ago.

11-12: Seem to have got into a pack of three or four others. Pick up a strip of white through the green, and find the control. Why are there two control flags at it?

12-13: Finally getting it together. Running OK and reading things as I go. Cross wall, check on knoll and marsh and drop down past large crag. The pack is with me and stops in confusion, but I keep going to the small crag and get ahead.

13-14: Hard work trying to contour out, and then a slog up a gentle hill. Still going OK, and lead three people into the control.

14-15: Out onto road, but then decide to cut into the white to take the straight route. This is a stupid idea, and gets worse when I end up swinging too far left and starting to climb the wrong hill. Sort it out, but it’s another couple of minutes gone. Climb uncrossable crag and attack control along elephant track formed by people leaving it.

15-16: 200 metres back along the way I have just come, and then another climb in some fairly rough white. Easy control, but we know what’s coming next. Dave Harrison appears on my shoulder as I punch.

16-17: A mere two kilometres. Not the longest leg I’ve ever run, but bloody close as they say. Stumble uphill through brashings and marsh to get to track. Break into a jog, and spot cunning route across marsh near the track junction to save climb and distance. Emerge two minutes later having saved 10 metres climb, 50 metres distance and lost at least a minute on the people on the path route. Dave has now disappeared. Pick up wall along edge of fight, and keep going as fast as possible: it’s very rocky and slippery. Emerge into large white area, and notice that I can contour to the track and don’t need to climb yet. Finally reach track to discover it is knee-deep in mud, and the wood is faster. One of the previous pack appears with the encouraging thought that he had been lost but now he’d seen me again he was OK. Pick up ride through green, which is very busy, and then emerge into a wonderful runnable area. Alan Leakey cruises past to show me how slow I’m going. Start the slog up the final climb in light green, minor deviation up the wrong hill but correct on the rough open area, and then pick up ride to control. Hit control perfectly: 26 minutes for the leg. Set off towards 18, not having bothered to look at the map beforehand. Stop after 5 seconds to retrace steps and go around large area of fight. Dave Harrison appears as if by magic. He is not amused. I think I actually laughed out loud at this point: sorry Dave.

17-18: The ride route is correct. Dave goes straight through the green and I get ahead of him again. Easy attack from road end, and we punch the control together.

18-19: Gentle downhill easy leg. Dave begins to pull away but drops into the re-entrant too early. I stay on the spur, and we punch together again.

19-20: Huge climb into what turns out to be very badly brashed and unrunnable white. Feeling totally gone up the steep bit, but nearly catch Dave again as he has a bit of trouble climbing the ruined wall. He contours low, and I keep climbing. Through the elite control on the crag, but it then seems an awful long way up to the boulder. Dave crashes past me going downhill and it’s another minute before I reach the control.

20-21: All downhill from here. Pass Charles Bromley-Gardner going up as I go down the slope and wonder how long it will be before he catches me. White is still very rough, but the contours fit OK even if the control does seem a long way right when I get to the re-entrant.

21-22: Safe path route and down through the small open area. Control is visible from a long way.

22-23: Route seems to lead straight over uncrossable cliff, so I cut right. Left was probably quicker.

23-F: Downhill and I can still run. CBG hasn’t caught me so I guess that means he’s made a mistake.

Total time: 119:17. This is the product of a complete and utter lack of fitness, combined with a fairly awful mental state. The course was certainly interesting, and the route choice legs were good. Overall I was a bit disappointed with the area. There was just too much grot to make it pleasant, and the nice areas were too small and broken up.