Sunday, 12 September 2010

Peris Horseshoe Slain by Leg of Lamb

Last week I ran the Ben Nevis race, saying in my write-up: I can honestly say it was one of the toughest mountain races up I have ever done...

If I am not careful, I may get a reputation for exaggeration: one week later I am compelled to make the same declaration once again.

Fortunately, there's little chance I will be saying it yet again anytime soon, because the combined effect of Nevis and the Peris have left me feeling like I've been hung upside down by a Bond villain and my feet pounded by a meat tenderiser. I will not be tackling something like that again for a little while.

Yesterday's race, the Peris Horseshoe, is 8500 feet of ascent over nearly 18 miles. Here are a couple of select quotes from a forum thread:

"Tough? Very tough. Serious terrain too, few races go through such serious terrain. "

"...this is in the top handful of hard fell races in the UK."

Here is what happened.

The Leg of Lamb

The day before the race I roasted a 2 and a half pound leg of organic lamb. This was to fuel the race. I also roasted some organic gourd-like vegetables. Breakfast was the vegetables plus about a pound of meat, and post-race I had another pound. Half a pound was my mid-race treat.

The Cut-Off Threat

Last year, Lightning and I did the Half Peris (my write-up is here) - and I remember thinking, at the finish for us, but the mid-point for the 'fullers' - "Jeez, I am glad I am not doing the Full Peris."

After the Borrowdale failure in August, Lightning and I had been quietly brooding about our fell running credentials, so I think we were both determined to get round the Full Peris without being timed out.

There is a small turnout for this race. As we were briefed by the organiser, up ahead we could see the zigzag path we'd be taking up the side of the quarry (yellow arrow on second photo.)

Last year I did the half in around 2:45 (Lightning was 2:40), so our prediction was for 6 hours this year on the full - but with the halfway cut-off being 2:45, it was by no means secure.

As it turned out, we nailed the first half in 2:36. This was a 9-minute gain for me, but one that could be explained by 1) not getting lost this time, and 2) not wearing smooth-soled Vibram Five Fingers. Then again.... last year, I was knackered and the race ended there. This year I felt fresh and ready for the second half. So my maths tells me this is and improvement.

Razor Sharp Granite

Don't get me wrong, the first half is tough. There were rock-fields to cross consisting of sometimes-loose, razor-sharp granite, utterly impervious to the supposed grip of our studded shoes, and no shortage of tough climbs to be had; but we'd done it before, and somehow the knowledge of what is coming makes a difference.

At the halfway point, Pen y Pass, we consumed our respective treats. My cold lamb versus Lightning's Snickers and caffeineated energy drink. As we set off, he emptied the dregs at the side of the path. Even he was alarmed by it's appearance - a kind of nuclear yellow. I half expected a Simpsons-esque scene whereby the surrounding widlife began to die before our eyes.

Cruel Second Half

The second half was cruel. Lighting had repeatedly warned me about this, but it still took me by surprise. These photos show the first ascent, with an arrow on the first one indicating where we would go

At times, we were virtually climbing. Snowdon's acscent felt like the North Face of the Eiger, a relentless, barely walkable steepness that anihilated our already wasted quads. And by the time we descended from her, my legs could scarely tolerate the twisting and turning of another steep, rocky descent. My IT bands were tightening up and it felt like someone had a fish hook embedded in my right knee.

So the final ascent of an apparently benign peak actually felt disproportionately tough, as did the equally grassy descent to the final set of marshals. The look on Lightning's face in the second photo says it all.

By now my feet and legs were unravelling by the second, but Lightning looked stronger, and he pulled away, calling back "we can crack the 6-hours if we crank it up." To this I replied something along the lines of "I no longer have a crank." The magnification in the first photo shows how we could just see the final checkpoint in the distance as we started descending.

The photos at the final checkpoint are a fair reflection of our respective conditions (thanks to Alistair for taking them.)

The Beast was Slain

In the end, he clocked up 5:56 and I clocked up 5:58. The beast was slain. The ghost of Borrowdale, exorcised.

Our navigation had been largely spot on in spite of poor visibility at times, thanks to Lightning having come down a couple of times to scope it out. I was able to correct a potential error in the first half so I felt I had contributed at least something to our navigation.

We chinked our award mugs, glad it was over, then headed out the lake for some leg-cooling action.

In the evening, we were joined my Mrs L and Mrs M to celebrate. A few glasses of wine and body crazed with desire for food led me astray from the Paleo path, as the photos show. This I can live with. I will fast today and allow my body to recover from these dual assaults with some dignity.

Now You're Just Showing Off

One amusing story to add. As we were descending to the mid point on the grassy slopes, I was following Lightning, who was following another runner. The other runner suddenly lost his feet and slid down a bank on his behind.

"Now you're just showing off," shouted Lightning.

The words had scarcely escaped his mouth when he executed an exact copy of the fall himself, to join his fellow runner at the bottom of the slope on his backside. How I laughed.


Steve said...

Hats off to you both for the heroic effort! I'll be back next year to see if I can make it more than half way round...

Chris said...

brilliant! well done

Methuselah said...

Thanks Guys. Steve, it was good to see you there. We 'enjoyed' it so much we might just be there ourselves. Lightning will be there for sure, just for the mug.

Drs. Cynthia and David said...

Excellent report! Way to slay the beast! I can see why you need to take it easy for a while.


Methuselah said...

Thanks Cynthia. Amazing how hard it is to take it easy once the initial stiffness has worn off. So far have resisted the temptation to do anything.

Jim Tinnion said...

Nutters. Nice write up though, and good pics, Methusalah. What camera / phone are you using?

Methuselah said...

Thanks Jim - it's a Kodak EasyShare M340. £80. Does the job and I don't worry about breaking it or losing it because it was relatively cheap. Video is a bit crap because if you turn on autofocus you get this infernal clicking noise on the video - but I just keep it turned off and avoid doing videos that need autofocus to be working...