A strong Westies contingent (and me) made their way to the Lake District for the annual Hodgsons Brothers Mountain Relays last Sunday. This is a four-leg race on the hills around Patterdale; a stunning course and, thanks to a strictly limited number of competitors, one that always offers some seriously competitive racing.

Everyone was out on the fells on Saturday reccying their respective routes – corners would be cut, lines would be optimal and there would be no f**k-ups come race day. It was a glorious Autumnal blue-sky day – the Lakes at its best. The only thing that marred Saturday was some poor service in the local pub that evening – two hours wait for a veggie curry and they’d ran out of beer?! At least two hangry/thirsty team-members stormed out before their food arrived.

Come Sunday and I was on Leg 2 with new member Kris Blake. We jogged up to Hartsop from Patterdale for a warm-up to join Alex & Sarah at the hand-over. Lots of serious, athletic-looking people were mooching about, along with a smattering of famous faces. I went over to chat to the Carnethy guys, but only managed two sentences before I heard my name being yelled – Niall & Gwynn had ran a belter and stormed in at 5th place.

Immediately the pressure was on and me and Kris set off at a strong pace. Aside from my inability to work a latch on a gate (5s wasted), we were going well; flying along High Street, inching up on Helm Hill in front and doing enough to maintain a decent gap on Borrowdale behind. The clag was down on the tops, but we found the first check-point and turn-offs no problem. It all went wrong when we missed our ‘optimal line’ for checkpoint two and spent about three minutes running around in circles looking for a small tarn in the mist. We eventually found it by tagging along behind some other teams; I was furious at myself, we’d been stupid and thrown away a top-5 place. I shouted to Westies-groupie Alan Smith who was pottering around on the route: “We’ve f**ked it Alan!” “No you haven’t!” he laughed. Yeah right.

We kicked it up a gear for the final 2 miles to try and salvage some pride and eventually crashed in to the handover in 7th-place. Not a bad position to be in and we ran a good race for the most part, but it took me a couple of hours to see anything positive about it.

Luckily Manny & Brian ran a solid Leg 3 to maintain our position and then Sam & Iain were fired out of a rocket to run the 3rd-fastest time on Leg 4; watching them fly down St Sunday crag was quite something. The lads took nearly 90s out of Borrowdale in front but were just 9s shy of passing them on the course and we finished 7th overall, our best ever placing at this event.

The Westies Wimmin had a strong day too, finishing as 10th ladies team; Claire & Ellie had a solid run, Alex & Sarah utilised impeccable route choice to finish 20 mins faster than their target, Outi & Mhari beasted the main Leg 3 descent from Dove Crag and Ruth & Megan took them home in fine style. It’s great to see Westies showing off strength and depth these days!


1 reply
  1. Captain Niall
    Captain Niall says:

    16 westies in the lakes for one weekend must be breaking some sort of law…

    We had a glorious run on Saturday recceing legs 1 and 2, great view and great company. A particularly interesting conversation was about race pacing. Apparently after a few miles when you’ve settled into a race you should ask yourself “can I sustain this pace for the rest of the race?” If the answer is yes, you’ve started too slow. If the answer is no, you’ve started to fast. What you’re striving for is “maybes aye maybes naw”.

    On to race day and Gwyn and I were running leg one. We positioned ourselves right behind Keswick, because you know… tactics. Gun sounded and it was a mad dash out of the field. I went to the left to get a “racing” line round the first corner. Gwyn risked going down the inside. Onto the road. People shouting to stay left. Nobody stayed left total chaos. Yet… somehow I was right behind Gwyn when we hit the start of the climb, probably 7th team. I tried to shout to let him know I was there but all that came out was a load of spittle. It didn’t matter Gwyn was motoring up the hill trusting that I wasn’t far behind. Our recce paid off and we overtook 4 teams on the climb. However, I was really panicking, I had asked myself “the question” and the answer was a definitive NO!!! Getting to the first control my legs were already failing but Gwyn kept pushing the pace. Cresting the hill was a relief but Calder valley had just passed us and Borrowdale were hot on our heels. I pushed as much as I could down the hill using the James Callender bum slide technique to complement my terrible downhill running but Borrowdale got passed. Hitting the final road my legs were jelly but Gwyn was still full of energy. I gave it everything to keep up and we just hung onto 5th place.

    The rest of the day was spent drinking tea and eating cake while others worked there asses off to give the club its highest place finish at the Hodgson’s… Bring on the FRAs

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