Monday 1 May 2017

Peaks of achievement......

      Not wishing to shake all those triamcinalone crystals around in my errant Rt eye I'll admit to having had a rather inactive week, a week of watching others exert themselves rather than doing anything remotely physical myself.
      But we stormed up Penyghent on Saturday, a 3½ mile climb up the 2,278ft hill that sits like a crouched lion guarding Horton in Ribblesdale.  We were there to encourage runners in the annual Three Peaks race, a 24 mile circuit with 4,500ft of ascent that attracts the cream of British and an increasing number of foreign fell runners.
Storming up Penyghent (!) on race day  (Click pictures to enlarge)
      It was a delectable day for runners, dry with cool breezes, sunny spells and perfect underfoot conditions conducive to fast times.   Curlews called, lark-song tumbled from the air and a lone swallow zig-zagged back and forth over the heathery slopes in search of sustenance. The stage was set.
Tom Owens arriving on Penyghent....
      Tom Owens of Team Salomon was first onto the summit in 28:04, 20 seconds ahead of the Scottish  runner, Murray Strain of Hunters Bog Trotters. 
....ahead of Scottish runner Murray Strain
      Tom maintained his lead all the way to the Whernside check point where he was a minute up on Murray.   But, horror of horrors, he took a wrong turning on the descent that dropped him back to 4th allowing Murray to snatch the lead and hang on to it to finish 1st in 2:49:38.  Tom fought back to finish 2nd in 2:54:00 with a Clayto-le-Moors Harrier, Chris Holdsworth, 3rd in 2:54:49.
The delightful trail up Penyghent
      But men's performances were well and truly eclipsed by the three time winner of the ladies race, the incredible Victoria Wilkinson of Bingley Harriers.  She was an easy winner last year, battling through the snow to beat a top class field that included the highly rated Nepalese runner, Mira Rai, who'd triumphed in prestigious International races.  But snow and slippery conditions were not conducive to fast times.  This year things were better and Victoria took full advantage.
Victoria - leaving Penyghent check point
 In a field of around 760 runners I didn't even have my camera ready when she emerged on Penyghent's summit in an amazing 31st position, so failed to get a decent shot of her.
She was far too fast for me!
Runners dropping off Penyghent, bound for Whernside
      By the time she reached the next summit, Whernside, she'd picked up 6 places to arrive in 25th.  On Ingleborough she'd battled her way up to 16th, then ran the final five miles to the Finish in an incredible 29:21 to finish 13th overall.  Her time, 3:09:19, annihilated the previous ladies course record of 3:14:43 set by the Czech Republic runner, Anna Pichrtova when the race hosted a World Long Distance Mountain Challenge back in 2008.
Record breaker
      "Here's Victoria" someone shouted, and again I didn't have my camera ready as she came hurtling down the finishing field, all smiles and arm waving to the cheering crowd.  She never looked so happy.  Not only had she set a new course record but her 13th position overall was the highest ever recorded in the race by a woman, ahead of Sarah Rowell's 15th position in 1996.
Winning smile
      I'd a wee tear in my eye as I went to congratulate her.  As a neighbour in Hebden village we'd watched her athletic development from early teens, marvelled at her achievements throughout her 20's and into her 30's both in running and cyclo-cross, seen her recover from soul destroying injuries to rise like a phoenix and become a shining star on the International stage.  Now, at 38, she put it all together in a performance that will forever remain in the memories of all who witnessed it.
Well done Victoria, you did us all proud....again.
Congratulations from an emotional Dave Hodgson, a Three Peaks race official
      By comparison Sunday's 3rd stage of the Tour de Yorkshire was a damp squib.  We'd trudged across the fields from Hebden to watch riders leaving Burnsall to ascend the hill up to the Thorpe turn-off.  We deliberately avoided Burnsall, where we believed the street would be crowded, to position ourselves on a quiet bit of road a mile or so beyond.
They're here
      Huh, after fighting off a herd of bullocks clustered in a gateway we arrived at the road to discover an awful lot of other people, walkers and cyclists, had seemingly had the same idea.  We waited, and waited, as countless police motor cyclists sped past at great speed, sometimes dangerously close to us on the narrow road, blaring their horns and generally annoying people.
The lycra brigade just after leaving Burnsall.  Don't blink!
      A gentleman with one of those clever smart phones was watching the race progress on its tiny screen. "They're here" he said, as the lycra clad hoard rounded a bend and hurtled towards us.  Seconds later they were gone.  And that was it.  Unless anyone could derive interest from the endless stream of back-up vehicles and ambulances that trailed along behind.
      To be honest, I got far more pleasure chatting to a couple of delightful lady spectators, one of them the daughter of a chap called Malcolm Seward, a runner I'd battled with in the Peaks and other fell races.  
      Roll on next years Peaks race.  


  1. That's lovely.....and I'm still laughing at your (earlier) closing Stick is still serving me well!

  2. So exciting! Well done, Victoria!

    1. Yeah, she's had 20 amazing years. We're all very proud of her...

  3. Nice race report, Victoria looks 'a goodun' take your point about TDY, best watching on TV! Glad you made it to see the race, must have brought back a few memories?

    1. Nowadays Ian, I walk up Penyghent and wonder however I used to run it, all the way. And that's the smallest of the Three Peaks! So yes, it brings back almost unbelievable memories.

    2. But you were quite good at running it!!!!

    3. Aye, on a couple of occasions I ran all three in under 4 hours - and got beat both times! But won the other three (M60's). It seems a long time ago now.

  4. Also love watching races I'm not running, so having run that race is years gone by: how would you have done in 2017?

    I like to know if I could have done as well as 20 years ago!

    1. There's no way I could complete it now Coach. Taking all the climbs and undulations into consideration there's well over 5,000ft of ascent stretching 24 miles. Three M60 wins were the highlights of my racing career - and still beggar belief!

  5. Lovely to read your post.
    Well done to Victoria ...

    All the best Jan

  6. I watched the bike race at the weekend and I did think of you. The TV coverage will have peaked the public's interest in the Dales (which looked lovely as ever), for better or worse!