Firstly huge thanks to Chris and Becky Prall, and the rest of the team at Erme Valley Harriers for putting on the Ivybridge Three Tops. Setting up fell races requires a lot of paperwork and diplomacy, especially when it comes to land permissions, and Chris and team had done an excellent job. Plus a personal thanks for timing it themselves, which meant I could run.
A tight start diagonally on the lower slopes of Western Beacon meant a bit of jostling for position on the start line in case overtaking opportunities were limited later on, however the track is easily wide enough that such worries were unfounded. The climb up to the top of Western Beacon is best viewed as a taste of things to come, however I quite enjoyed pushing myself up it (whilst occasionally hanging back to do the sensible thing and save a bit of energy). I can do uphills, but I am pants at descending and knew as soon as we got over the top of Western Beacon the majority of those behind me would fly past.
The descent off Western Beacon was quick, marked well but loose enough to allow some self selection of lines across the moor. The terrain suitably varied with a combination of smooth grass, rocks and gorse / bracken making line choice more important. Straight over the rocks or round to the side on the grass?
Another control point followed by a climb back up Weatherdon Hill leading to the Puffing Billy track – normally a point of drudgery to me when I am out by myself. However, in this case myself and another runner had been switching position back and forth for a while (I would pull ahead going uphill, and he would shoot past me downhill) so that kept things interesting. It was also the only chance I had to maintain my position before the inevitable downhill just South of Glasscombe Ball.
This descent is fast paced, again well marked but with a choice of lines with three runners overtaking me and jostling for position between themselves, and me clinging on to the back of the group as best I could. I briefly got ahead by picking a slightly different line which afforded easier running and then, with a quick “thankyou marshal” at Owley Corner it was back up to Ugborough Beacon. I would love to say I ran all the way up, but I didn’t.
The ascent varies in steepness, but is mostly on steep grass with the occasional bit of rock poking through. We were treated to decent weather and view across the South Hams, and the mist could be seen rolling into the valleys near the coast.
After passing the marshal atop Ugborough Beacon, the route continues in an almost direct line across to Western Beacon. This is a quick line, almost entirely smooth grass, minus a stream crossing. Really enjoyable running, and I even managed to overtake someone, an unexpected bonus.
After the final summit at Western Beacon (second visit) the route is all downhill, or is supposed to be. A quick descent, coupled with me being entirely in my own head meant I shot past a marshal and had to climb back up to make the turn – my error corrected by an extra uphill to put me back on track. Through the gate and onto a stoney track, the sudden change in terrain requires a bit of concentration before the tarmac run in to the running club for water and flapjack.
Thankyou again to Chris and the team. Especially to all the marshals who stood out on the moor providing invaluable directions.