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Posts Tagged ‘dovestones’

It’s all coming back to me now. This time last year I’d done a considerable amount of running in preparation for the New Chew 2012 before falling down a hole in the paving slabs on the Pennine Way on Black Hill. This year I did little. I’d done a fair bit over Christmas in preparation for the Trigger (Marsden to Edale Fell Race) on January 13th but since then had only run twice and one of them was along Blackpool prom – hardly a fell.

It wasn’t until I was driving to the race with my good pal and team mate Dr Ali that I began to think about the facts – we’ll be out running on t’moor for four and a half hours that’s  30 minutes less than it took us to do the Trigger… erm…oh ‘eck I hadn’t thought of that. To be honest I hadn’t thought about anything since booking us on the race – well I don’t do I?  “Never mind I was OK last year” I told myself as I tried to plant a false memory of effortlessly gliding across hill and dale 12 months earlier.

We were soon parked and heading for kit check and registration at Dovestones Sailing Club. One of the things I find quite wonderful about fell races is the genuine joy, energy and helpfulness of the people on the organising teams.  The Saddleworth Runners are no exception. I have never before been greeted by so many friendly smiling faces on such a cold, wintry morning – and can’t imagine Simon Pymm on kit check being happier if he’d run and won the race.

With kit checked and numbers pinned to clothing we waited in line to start. We got our maps and start time at 9:52am and we were off. Dr Ali was quickly at work studying the map and planning a route – he’s bloody good at this and quick. After some discussion we had a strategy. We decided to head up the Chew Valley and out towards Holme Moss and Crowden where the big points were – doing the Trigger a month earlier had given us a good indication of the ground we could cover and how long it would take. We could then head round to Black Hill and head back over Saddleworth Moor. It was a good plan and gave us room for manoeuvre should we need to make adjustments.

Eh? So how does it work?

This kind of race has no fixed course or route and is as much about navigation as speed. At the start of the race your are given a map of the area covered and a control card. Dotted around the area are control points each with a unique number or stamp with which you mark your control card. Each control is worth a number of points dependent on the relative difficulty of getting to it. The location of the controls are shown on the map. The idea is to get as many points as you can within the given time – in this case 4 hours 30 minutes. For each minute late you lose 3 points.

So how did it go?

It was cold. The run up Chew Road got us into a good rhythm and quickly warmed us up. Our first control (5 points) was just off the track on the top of a knoll. We bagged this and carried on up to Chew reservoir where we found the second control and a photographer. We got another 10 points for the control but nothing for the photographer. Here the weather turned almost arctic so we kept moving. We set a good pace heading east to find the Pennine Way where we descended into a glorious spring morning. Our third control was a bit trickier to find being located at the bottom of a crag (Rakes Rocks) which we couldn’t see because we were running in a trough. Rising onto higher ground we were soon able to find it for 20 more points.

From here we planned to head up the Pennine way, about a mile past Laddow for the next control. We decided to miss this one and instead head straight down into Crowden Great Brook (15 points) then back up into the arctic winter, across Bareholme Moss to the grouse butts in Wiggin Clough. This control was labeled as a sheep fold but turned out to be a grouse butt. No matter, we found it easily (30 points) and made jokes about small sheep whilst looking at a group of people scratching their heads at the sheepfold near the grouse butts about 200 metres further north.

Another change of plan at this point. We decided to cross Crowden Little Brook and head south to pick up a 35 point control on a slag heap in a disused quarry just above Crowden before heading back north to Stonefold Grough on Westend Moss for another 30 points. Somewhere along this route we had to ditch our plan for getting to the control on Holme Moss calculating that the descent to Heyden Brook and up the other side would take us too long. We headed straight up to Black Hill making good time on decent terrain.

Dr Ali’s expert navigation and route finding saw us arriving at the A635 – Isle of Skye Road – in Peak Bog Men record breaking time. We crossed the road to the layby and located our next 20 points. With about 50 minutes remaining it felt like we  were cutting it fine but should get back in time… so, perfect then. We crossed the road and soon found the next control at a stream junction (15 points) before following the stream to Rimmen Cottage – the old shooting lodge for our final 10 points.

Points in the bag all that was left was a long slog back to the finish at Dovestones Sailing Club. We took the direct route across moorland to Greenfield reservoir- where the steep decent of Ox Rake Brow just about saw off the rest of my legs with about 3 miles of flat trail to go. Dr Ali set the pace so I locked into a rhythm, switched of my head and followed.  We made it back with 4 minutes to spare. Job well done.

We did about 16.5 miles and over 3000 feet of climb – pleased with that.
We came 7th out of 36 in our race (long score) – well chuffed, I think that’s our best yet.
We had a fantastic day – the most important thing.

The Food

The post race food of the New Chew is about as good as it gets. Veg and cheese bake or meat and potato pie – the proper, home made stuff with lashings of  beetroot and red cabbage, none of your nonsense. A variety of expertly made cakes and gallons of tea finishes off a remarkable race with a warm cozy glow.

The New Chew has got to be one of the best races on the calendar. It’s got the lot: great organisation; challenging and varied terrain; weather conditions that vary minute to minute from spring running in t-shirt and shorts to arctic survival in full winter kit; breath-taking scenery;  the spread and variation of controls means that you’re not following crowds around – you hardly know you’re on a race;  and and the food… mmmmm the food. With numbers limited to protect the moorland restoration work I’ll be looking out for registration early next year to make sure I don’t miss out.

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