I’ve done the Frostbite 30 the 2 previous years, and although the course changes each year I was familiar with parts of the route and knew we were in for mud and lots of it!
This years course was 34 miles and at 1600m ascent involved more climbing than previously, that would suit me nicely.
There was torrential rain throughout the night but fortunately it had eased by race morning. We did set off in a heavy shower but after that first 30 minutes we were in for a dry day , well, apart from our feet! The first loop was 11 miles, after leaving the scout hut at Pateley Bridge we followed the river to Glasshouses in a fast, frantic start. The fun started after this though when we started to climb. The route through Parker Wood to High Hood Gap was great fun, we followed mountain bike trails up muddy banks, ducking under tree branches and jumping tree routes. It was a lovely run along the tops to Yorke Folly, but the head wind was noticeable, here and for the next 20 odd miles! The descent to Middle Tongue was slippy underfoot, paths were streams, but nothing on the scale of further round the course. The climb to The Coldstones Cut in the strong wind was just about runable, with a fast descent aided by the tailwind. When I reached the road I met the 2nd and 3rd placed women on their way up, I thought I had a 4-5 minute lead at most at this point so realised I needed to keep up the pace to stay in front. As we dropped into the quarry we had the first stream crossing of the day but as it was a ford it was solid and predictable under foot, and only about knee deep at worst! The rest of this loop was pretty uneventful back to the scout hut for a quick water top up then back out onto the second loop.
We followed the river to Wath where the puddles were thigh deep in several places. Gouthwaite Reservoir could be heard from several hundred meters back, such was the force of the water over the dam. I quite enjoyed the next section as we contoured below the tree line, across several muddy fields, appealing to the fell runner in me. By the time we got to 20 miles I wasn’t expecting what was waiting for us. I was with a couple of other guys and we looked in disbelief at the stream we were due to cross – it may have only been 5-6 meters wide but was going to be waist deep or more. The guys crossed and after a bit of faffing I decided there was no better route I was just going to have to go for it. Fortunately the water wasn’t too cold, I was glad I opted for my Montane Rapide Soft Shell jacket though to keep my core warm and dry. It was pretty scary trying to keep balance in the water with nothing to hold on to, looking back at my data after my heart rate rose from 131 to 151 bpm despite me being stood still! As I climbed towards the farm house after the crossing I met Rob, the race director. The front runners had got to the next checkpoint and told the marshals a rope was needed on the crossing, Rob seemed surprised when I said I had done the crossing on my own, but had almost been swimming at times. The runners behind fortunately had a rope and people to help, still I bet it wasn’t easy. Just when my heart rate began to settle I met the second crossing. Luckily there was a boulder in the middle, I got to that, held on and walked my way round it to the bank. For the runner’s after me, a rope arrived to assist this crossing too.
We had some nice climbs and descents, mostly ankle deep in water though, to eventually work our way to Scar House Reservoir and the second checkpoint. After 24 miles on Tailwind, a Gu gel and a coupe of Shot Blocs I was craving some proper food, a Chia Charge flatjack and Caramel Frodo did just the trick here! For the first time in several hours there was also a bit of assistance from the wind. It was a great, rocky trail up to Rain Stang before the muddy, rocky descent to Middlesmore, spoilt only by the 12 or so 4×4’s testing out the track. The miles seemed to tick by really quickly here, down to How Stean and a short road section before the last significant climb where the 2 guys I had been around since checkpoint 1 dropped off. I was running strong, with only 5 or so miles to go I wondered if 5 and a half hours was possible? I had thought it would be nearer 6 hours earlier on with the streams and headwind. It might have been possible if it wasn’t for the wading that still needed to be done, again thigh deep as we retraced our steps back from Bouthwaite to the finish.
I finished in 1st F and 11th overall in 5:36:49, 10 minutes slower than last year but on a hillier course, in far more testing conditions! This goes down as my favorite Frostbite course though, even with the stream crossings. Thanks to Rob and his team for putting on a great event.
Thanks to Montane for the gear and pack, Injinji for the socks. After 6 ultra’s and numerous fell races this year, it’s time for a couple of weeks rest now!