Stadium Blog

Three Rings of Shap

The Three Rings of Shap or (The tortoise and the hare!) There was some debate about the 5th race of the ultra championship and after Bill sent out an email poll to select the final race the Three Rings of Shap emerged as the favourite. The event involves running/walking three circular loops from the town hall located centrally in Shap.

Considering we were training for the Lakeland 100 it appeared to be ideal preparation falling 6 weeks before the big event. Myself and Kevin had already completed the Fellsman earlier in the year with improved times from our first attempt and were not unduly daunted by the distance, however I was seriously only considering entering two of the rings to limit the distance to approximately 40 odd miles and to preserve my legs a little. However Kevin told me that 2 rings would not really cut it and it should be the full distance or nothing!

On undertaking any long run for the first time the ritual of figuring out the route and marking up the maps is usually undertaken a week or so before the event. This involves translating the organisers written instructions onto an OS map. The difficulty is that the usual verbose instructions often don’t make a great deal of sense until you are actually on the course and identifying the features. As usual I left my maps until the last minute and had to call a crisis meeting in a pub to iron out a few route choices with my fellow competitors Michael and Kevin.

My pre-race mega portion of spaghetti bolognaise was devoured and a goody bag containing gels (3no.), shot bloks (5no.), Snickers (3no.), Bananas (4no.), Muller Rice Puddings (3no.), Crisps (6 packets beef), nunn tablets, Breakaways (16no.) – I know sounds a lot but it is 64 miles and I wanted to ensure I was fully covered for all eventualities! I also assembled a bit of kit and had a further quick check over my maps and instructions.

So a 4:30 alarm call followed by my usual pre-race breakfast of frosties, and off to pick up Kevin and Michael. We arrived at race HQ in Shap in good time and registered for the race, followed by a second breakfast! Ian Symington was already there and we enjoyed a bit of pre event banter. The race rules stated that competitors could start at any time between 8 and 9am. This resulted in us deciding that an 8:30 start would suit us and allow the first check point to open before Kevin and Ian went wizzing through. The additional 30mins fiddling with your kit soon passed and we started together at 8:35am, immediately going the wrong way around the library opposite the start and becoming trapped in a rear courtyard. A few choice remarks regarding map reading were aired and I thought it could be a long 60 miles if these route choices were maintained.

Kevin and Ian soon left myself and Michael, as we all slowly caught and passed the early starter hikers. The first 18 mile loop took in the wainwright summits of Branstree and Selside Pike. I had the normal bit of fun, sliding on my rear, on the descent of Selside in my Hokas. I cursed my lack of forethought as I could of run the first loop in my mudclaws and changed to my comfort shoes at race HQ at the end of the first loop. How many races allow you to change kit and shoes as you go along?? The navigating was working reasonably well with Michael on the written instructions and myself on the map, and the attractive route passed at a fairly lesuirely pace as we both new we still had a further 40 odd miles to go. We arrived back at the start again after 3hrs 17min race and spotted on the results that we were already 20mins behind Ian and Kevin.

A few egg butties and cups of tea were consumed, water bottles re-filled and we headed out again on the second loop. This was based to the north of Shap and was a primarily low level route following the banks of the Lyvennet, Leith and Lowther with only a small amount of climb. The route meandered through numerous rolling fields and crossed multiple stiles and gates. In addition we were both convinced that the route was approximately 2 miles longer than the printed millage resulting in 25.5 tough miles. Energy levels were distinctly dropping as we struggled through the last 5 miles back to Shap, in an overall time of 8hrs 15mins.

As we entered the Hall we were surprised to see Kevin and Ian both changed and sat relaxing at a table. I immediately thought that one or both had suffered an injury, Michael thought that they had already finished the third loop! It finally transpired that they were both suffering a bit from two loops at full speed (they were over an hour ahead of us at this point!) and had made a joint decision to retire!

They tried to seduce us to call it a day also with thoughts of a quick pint and a curry over the road. However our resolve held strong (just!), and we headed out into the early evening after 15mins refuelling. Leaving Kevin with a few hours to kill in Shap!

The running and route were far better on this final third loop out to the east of Shap, initially running along Wainwrights coast to coast route and then exploring the National Nature Reserve at Great Asby Scar. The last loop involved 20 miles and we were pleased to note that the millage was accurate to the route navigation. We were still catching an occasional early starter and this kept our spirits up as the miles ticked by. We eventually turned for home with the last 10miles still to complete. It is strange how your mind starts to view distance, at one stage when I first started running 10 miles appeared to be a massive distance now after already running 53 miles the last 10 miles seemed a relatively short distance with only injury between us and a DNF. The clouds were building at the halfway point and the downpour eventually arrived making the last hour very wet, and with a slight climb 5 miles from the end energy and pace fell through the floor and a good bit of walking ensued. However with 2 miles to go and re-joining our outward route energy levels returned from somewhere and we managed a fairly respectable pace to the finish, just about avoiding having to get the head torches out! The last leg had taken 4hrs 30mins giving a cumulative time of 12hrs 45mins since we had headed out in the morning.

We saw a number of fellow competitors just heading out on the last loop as we were nearing the cover of the finish. Much respect to these competitors as they were in for a long and wet night, some would not finish until after 9am the next morning!

On finishing Kevin thought that we had won the event, and the race organisers commented that we had run well, which was enough for us. There is very little fan-fare on these LDWA events!

I was suffering a little at the finish and struggled to eat for a while eventually forcing down a slice of hot chicken pie with copious cups of tea. After inspecting the floor of the hall and the surrounding commotion we decided to keep the sleeping bags in the car and opt for a steady drive home. The Best of Paul Weller kept us going all the way back to Yorkshire, at last hitting the pillow at 2am, making it a very full day out.

I would recommend this event to anyone with a number of varied options available to all entrants, and would like to thank the organisers and marshals for manning the check points to the early hours. Oh and by the way Kevin I did check and my badge does have three gold rings, you might have to make a return journey to complete yours!

Written by:Martin Huddleston
On: 25th September 2013

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