Friday, 20 April 2012

Herod Farm Fell Race

Well that was exciting for my lungs and legs!! Oh, and a tad damp and muddy underfoot. But then it was a fell race and just about what I'd expected it to be like. This was technically my first fell race since moving to Glossop a year ago. I've done four orienteering fell races since the end of December (Peak O Trial, Kinder Trial, and two Dark & White Mini Mountain Marathons in Macclesfield and the Hope Valley), but I've not done an out and out fell race. I've stood at the start and finish lines of many races, cheering on Tim and other Glossopdale Harriers, so I knew exactly what to expect - all except how my legs and lungs would cope.

I've rather enjoyed the orienteering side of those races. While you are technically competing against other people you can't judge how well you're doing until the final results are in. It's just you, one foot in front of the other, and the clock.

As the day of this local midweek race drew closer I found myself getting nervous. I'm not really sure why, I've run lots, and I've run with other people - just never in a straight up fell race. Perhaps it was because of the elevation profile of this one that got my heart racing?


Perhaps it was because quite a few folk from our own running club choose not to run this race. I kept hearing comments about how tough this race was and things like 'oooh, that one's a killer, I'm not doing it'. I'll let them off for not running - as this is a Glossopdale Harriers organised race many of our own we're out braving the wind and rain on marshaling and organising duties. Thanks to everyone for their encouragement and if you had put on your running shoes then I would have certainly been a few places lower down the results!!

So, the race - advertised on the FRA as 4.8km race with 335m ascent it's basically an uphill, across a bit, downhill, across a bit, then up up and steeper up, then the final descent. Lining up in the start huddle I was next to fellow club runner Becky - we've been out on club runs together and I know she's about my pace, if not a bit faster. My aim therefore was to stick to her heals as long as possible. She did know my intentions of course!!

Before I knew it we were off and plodding up the lane. The fast guys had gone before the first corner, not to be seen again by me until after the finish line. It wasn't long, and still on the tarmac section, before I was having to tell my inner voice that was calling for me to walk to quieten down (though not so politely). As runners came past me it amazed that anyone can run so fast uphill. Yet they do, and clearly I need more practice.

I don't recall which marshals were at the various junctions, but each one got a thank you. Having friendly faces dotted around the hillside was a real bonus. I was really impressed by how well the route was flagged as well - it was good to keep looking forward seeing the next flag and just aiming for it. At the top of the first climb I forced myself to start running again and switch my legs into downhill mode. There was a clear distinction in how my muscles felt between the ups and downs, and the transition felt quite brutal, almost not enough time to compute what was happening. Me and Becky had had fellow Glossopdale runner Lindsay also keeping us company on the first ascent, but somewhere in my daze of climbing the first hill I never saw her again!

I'm not the best at descending. The phrase quoted by many fell runners "brain off, brakes off" is firmly implanted in my head, it's just a difficult one to actually put into practice (for me). Somewhere along the way I've developed an irrational fear of falling - not the best thing for a fell runner eh! So, my descending skills are tentative at the best. I'm still with Becky on the muddy path through the heather, pushing myself to just get on with it. Having a runner so close behind me was also motivation to just keep going...

Running on the mud trampled path through the heather on the first descent. Photo thanks to ShaunP.
As we hit the grass Becky started to open a slight gap, and the stiles at the bottom of the hill give me time to catch up a little.

Bottom of the first descent. Photo thanks to IanO.

We're not that far from each other as we run along soggy fields to the bottom of climb number two. We're also in touch with another Glossopdale runner, and while he's much faster descending than me I'm able to stay with him on the slippy steep climb back up to the Nab. I even manage to dig deep and pull away from him slightly towards the top - with lots of encouragement from him that I should not let Becky get away. The thing was, I just knew if I pushed to stay with her I wouldn't get to the top!! Finally the top does come into view, and some lovely words of encouragement from Beryl and Carl.

Top of the second ascent...and yes, the sky really did look that horrible and yes, it was raining!! Photo thanks to ShaunP

Now came the final transition from the lung busting ascent which required hands on the deck in places, back to running on grass and descent. It was certainly a mind game as the ground levelled out. Legs wanting to stop, brain've a lead on Neil, can you keep it? Within not many seconds he's charging past me. I'm annoyed I can't just let go and fly down the hillside like other runners. I vow to get out there and practice more!

I'm still close to Neil as we pass over a couple of walls but on the final heather section before hitting tarmac he just edges away. Fear of twisting an ankle overtakes the brakes off approach once more. The final marshal  cheers me on and then its just me and tarmac. I hear footsteps behind; a quick glance and there's about 10m separation to the next runner behind. I'm now really determined he is not going to catch me as I push on down the lane. Which, I might add, seemed to go on for ages. It is about 500m to the end once you get on the tarmac, and while I knew this, I hadn't really appreciated how long that would feel.

My legs keep moving and moving, you could even say I was sprinting. I wanted to look back but had Tim's words running through my head....'you don't look back, just keep going'. Finally the finish line comes into view and before I know it Neil and Becky are there congratulating me. Thanks for pushing me to run harder guys, appreciate the help. The guy that was behind me runs in 17 seconds later - well done mate, but you weren't having my place.

It's over. My first fell race. Jogging back to the registration tent confirms that my legs are quite tired. I slow to a walk and after a chat with a few other runners, and changing into dry clothes it's time for the prize giving. Well done to the Pennine ladies on the team prize. Shame it wasn't Glossopdale - we must do better next year. Does that mean I'll be running it again? Probably. I have a time to beat now, and the 40 minute barrier to break. I'd set off thinking it would be good to come in under 50 minutes, so being just over 40 was brilliant. A massive thanks to Tim for all his encouragement. He had a brilliant race too, beating his time from last year - read all about his race on his blog, testedtodestruction.

Full results are now up on the Glossopdale Harriers website. My final thanks go to Joe Barber Plumbers Merchants for their generous sponsoring of this race.

And my final comment is to all you out there who would like to have a go at fell running and possibly racing - just give it a go, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson "Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow."

1 comment:

  1. Well done. Great blog, I really felt like I was there with you every step of the way.