Time trials abound in these lockdown days! Nicky’s Summer Series, Jim Paxman’s Sprunces, Andy Harmer’s Crookestone Crashout, Lewis Ashton’s Triple Crossing, James Lowe’s Upper Derwent Stones, The Ashop Round, to name a few, all making for a busy schedule. Having sort of recovered from a bruised rib, I decided to try another of the Summer Series, the Rowlee Zig Zag from Fairholmes so Andy H and I arrived in separate cars to start and run the time trial, at a distance. And what a distance it turned out to be!
Who would have thought that one word could have such an effect on a race result? That word was knarly!
Discussing the route before we set off, Andy mentioned that there was a good direct line through the wood from near Lockerbrook Farm to the first checkpoint, except it was knarly. Now, Andy’s “knarly” is probably my impossible so at the decision point after the climb from Fairholmes, I decided to take the traditional route up through a fire break to the open moor rather than Andy’s line. I duly arrived at the moor enjoying my own dose of forest knarliness. A quick descent to the check point, the gate, but no sign of Andy. His line must have been too knarly even for him. Feeling rather pleased with myself, I took a high line before descending steeply to a gate (CP 2) above Rowlee Farm. Still no sign of Andy, in front or behind; was he injured, had he retired or what? A bit of a climb was needed to return to the moor for a tussocky descent to CP3 in Alport Grain. From here I had a direct bearing for a climb to the start of the descent to CP4, a cairn. But, climbing out of Alport Grain through the bracken I could see a silhouetted figure descending to CP3, ah, a decent distance in front of Andy but must push on. Across the flagstones on the ridge to overlook the Alport valley where there was a need to adjust the navigation, i.e. I was off line, to the right to get the best descent to the cairn. But what’s this? A runner heading back up from the cairn, oh no, it’s Andy, at least 10 to 15 minutes ahead! How did that happen? My pride was now well and truly deflated, I was still only just beginning the descent to the cairn! Hey ho, must carry on. The cairn, whilst tall enough, is in a hollow scooped out of the hillside (a landslide?) and is therefore not in a prominent and not in an easily visible, position so why put one there?
Leaving the cairn, there was some compensation in that there was a figure on the skyline at the edge of the “scoop” seemingly searching for a good descent line. Now, all I could do was to try and catch up some time on Andy by hurrying, if I could rise to a hurry, to the finish. Avoiding the flagstones by using a quad track, I think good progress was made to reach the gate at CP1. Since I wasn’t sure where Andy’s first short cut was, I ran all the way round the woods and past Lockerbrook Farm to the finish. Andy, now fully changed, was there to greet me, having finished 15 minutes ahead in 1 hr 32 mins.
So, what was Andy’s route? His cut through mid-wood behind Lockerbrook Farm saved 6 or 7 mins and the direct descent from CP1 to CP 2 on a green sward (a Tim Hawley tip) saved yet more time. Climbing out from CP3 through the rapidly developing bracken, as I did, was not the best option. Instead Jim Paxman had recommended to Andy following the Alport Grain which is not on the direct line, and then turning right along a drainage channel before crossing the flagstones and over to CP4. More time saved! On the return, of course, the cut through the Lockerbrook wood, which I didn’t take, gave Andy more advantage. All this gave him 15 minutes overall advantage. As is obvious, the post time trial analysis was very detailed and the puzzle of the other runner was solved during our analysis when she appeared at the car park, it was Sarah from Penistone.
I suppose the lesson to be learned is to do your homework on the route thoroughly before racing (?) but, I guess, we all know that anyway!
© Dark Peak Fell Runners 2020
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