People who know me will be aware that I like planning. In-depth, meticulous, well-in-advance planning. But sometimes life throws the best days at you with very little notice.
I gave short notice to Greg, Ben and Jonny about the Gritstone Series race at the Longshaw Sheep Dog Trials last weekend, but pleasingly they could all make it. Greg and Ben knew what to expect, but it was Jonny's first fell race. With an advertised start of 11:00 I decided to take a relaxed approach to timings for a change, and we arrived at 10:35. The nice people at the registration tent promptly informed us that it was supposed to be a 10:30 start but had been delayed. My subsequent panic attack only slightly delayed the process of getting changed, and we were soon off on a loop around Burbage, Higgar Tor, and the top of Padley Gorge.
I got stuck in the pack on the way up to the quarry at Burbage South to begin with, and then over-compensated once free and shot off too quickly for a few minutes. I calmed down along Burbage North, and held a reasonable pace for the rest of the way. I usually lose places on the downhills, and make them up on ascents, but even managed to fend off challengers on the few proper descents. The final 400m field started with some horrible tussocks that almost finished me off, but a chap from Steel City Striders saw I was flagging and kindly encouraged me to the finish line. It was hot, and hard work, but I felt reasonably strong (which was surprising, given my lethargy the weekend before).
This was my first race in a Barrow vest, and thankfully it seems I managed to avoid bringing shame upon the club! With the results now out, I got 20th position out of 143 runners (14% by my usual rating system). I was also very pleased to beat first lady, as I've never done that before and have been trying for a while!
With the race over, and sterling performances by the other three guys too, we spent a bit of time variously eating ice cream (Ben), drinking beer (Jonny and Greg) and being incredibly impressed by the discipline of the sheep dogs (me). We were then back in the car and off to Curbar, where we'd arranged to meet Brannock and Robby for some climbing. I'd also hastily texted professional photographer Alex the night before, to let him know that he might be able to get some climbing shots he wanted.
Post-race lethargy set in soon enough, so bouldering was the order of the day. We started at Trackside, and I slowly began to remember how to climb, and we then made our way up to find Robby in-situ seconding Peapod. After some up-and-downing one member of the team eventually managed to second it (well done Greg!) and we finished the afternoon with a bit more bouldering at the Mini Walls area.
As the sun began to dip, Alex bade us farewell, and we lit a barbecue to finish off an excellent day in style. We were treated to a stunning sunset, providing a fitting end to a day which crammed in everything that this year's wet summer should have been.