Anniversary Waltz April 2012 – Report by Phil Gillard

The Anniversary Waltz is a classic Lakeland fell race instigated to celebrate Wynn and Steve’s wedding at Newlands church in 1996, it is 11.5 miles long and 3,600 feet of climb. 2011 was my first experience of the event so having entered again this year; I guess this was my Anniversary Waltz anniversary.

Last year the race was a ‘warm up’ for the Scottish Islands race; as a result I felt I was in reasonable shape and came home in 247th position with a time of 2:42:40, however no amount of training on our Cheshire hills can set you up for the Lakeland terrain and I struggled on the last part of the race. This year I was determined to improve my race management even though my fitness level was probably lower.

An early start from Helsby allowed for a coffee stop on the way up, arriving at the village of Stair two hours before the start, time to watch the start of the longer “Teenager” race, recover from the journey and catch up with some fellow runners from Macclesfield, Spectrum etc. The weather was forecast to be close to freezing on the tops with the threat of sleet and hail, so long sleeved top as minimum.

My warm up consisted of a 20 minute climb up and down the lower levels of Cat Bells and some stretching, with fifteen minutes to go, it was time to get onto the start field and the obligatory kit check – well done to the organisers, absolutely essential given the forecast conditions.

In terms of race management, the first part of the course consists of a 3 mile flattish run down the Newlands valley taking us onto a track underneath High Snab and then a very rough hands on knees climb up onto High Snab ridge thereafter taking the ridge line up onto the top of Robinson, my plan was to make the Robinson summit in 70 minutes. My route choice up onto the ridge last year was very direct, taking in a fair amount of scree but avoiding a bit of a scramble on the ridge itself, this year I opted to get onto the ridge earlier and do the scramble and it seemed to work and was pleased to get to the checkpoint on top of Robinson in about 65 minutes.

So, where was the weather, no wind reasonable temperature and fantastic visibility, along with the flattish run off Robinson the lack of clag allowed me to have a cheeky view of the next two peaks – Hindscarth and Dale Head. This is probably the most enjoyable part of the race grassy descents, (nearly) runnable climbs and the feeling you are bagging the peaks quite quickly, I timed myself taking 15 minutes going from peak to peak – Robinson to Hindscarth and Hindscarth to Dale Head.

So far, so good but now the descent from Dalehead to the tarn, I have made this descent many times and have never felt I have done it justice, however speaking to others; this seems to be a pretty common view. The terrain is quite steep, tufts of grass and intermittent groups of boulders; if you get in amongst the boulders you end up looking at the next couple of meters rather than looking 20 meters ahead to pick the best line. I chose a line to the right of the tarn to pick up the walkers path up to High Spy, despite the fact that this ascent is runnable I made the decision to take it easy and save something in the tank for the section across Maiden Moor. The choice of line also worked well in that nestled behind a rock just beyond the stream crossing (eating his lunch) was Joss (Naylor), a knowing nod was exchanged and off I went energised by a blessing from the fell runners Pope.

Maiden Moor – what a pleasure; a flattish / slightly downhill cruise on softish ground with views of Derwentwater on your right, this is where I struggled last year, what a contrast to my recollection of this year – a testament to another year of experience and better race management. Soon the summit of Catbells comes into sight, a welcome site, not quite home yet, keep the concentration make sure you take the runners line on the penultimate descent, make sure you keep your arms pumping on the short ascent to the summit, remember to take a left down the rocks just after the summit, remember to relax on the grassy descent along the contour, set yourself up for the last section of road and the descent on the finish field and then check your watch – an 8 minute improvement on last year and that warm fuzzy feeling you get when a plan comes together.

Phil

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