Saturday, 20 April 2013

Herod Farm Fell Race 2013

Wednesday evening found me helping out on the registration desk for the Glossopdale Harriers club race, Herod Farm. The wind was ever present, insistently threatening to blow forms and bank notes away (I think the gazebo did lose out to the wind later on). We held on to the papers tightly and with 93 runners registered, at the start line we (yes, I ran as well as helped out) were given the race organisers speech....and we're off...

I'd kind-of-reluctantly run this race last year for the first time. Having a couple of steep climbs in it makes it something of a challenge, and for me something to dread. Not only do I not ascend very quickly, but my downhill technique could be improved. So using last year's time as a benchmark I'd added this race to my list of aspirations for this year - I wanted to improve, even if by a few seconds. I wanted to show that all the hours of training, all the hill reps, all the turbo sessions, had all been for something. And this was the race to test myself. At only 5km it might seem like a nice short race to start the midweek races off. But then there's the 335m of ascent. That's going to hurt.

From the start: I'm No.3. Winning lady is Zoe, No.2.
Back to the race...I've been doing some of my hill reps on the first ascent so know the track well. I know where the steeper bits are, the bits where I might potentially recover a little, push a little. All the training definitely helped. I paced the first part of the first climb much better. I didn't have to walk until the farm. Great. Going well. So what if lots of people passed me. I'm out, racing and only have another 4.25km to go.

Onto the grass I'm walking...but not stopping as I did last year. The terrain levels out towards the top then the wind kicked into my lungs like daggers. I can't recover my breath across the top and am still panting like a steam train as I round the top-most marshall and head down the first descent. There's no Glossopdalers or runners I know around me. I'm running my own race, against the clock. Stealing a glance at the time I'm more or less the same as last year as I reach the bottom of the first descent. I feel stronger, if only that wind would bugger off and let my breathing calm down a bit (is that possible in a race anyway?!).

The second climb...before the really steep bit.
Across the fields, I'm so focused on foot placement on the narrow track I nearly embed myself into a thorny bush. A lucky dodge to the left and I avoid it...onwards and towards the nursing home. A sense of dread enters knowing the steepness of the second climb. I walk a bit, run a bit, keep up with a couple of runners close by. Looking up the hill I see the horses are behaving, neatly tucking themselves in to the side of the field, and beyond a string of runners stretched out, marking the route I'm about to take.

Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Don't stop. Up up up. Still with the chap in a blue top. Up up up. Breathe. Up up up. Where's that gate. 1...2...3..4..5......  .......98...99...100.... Up up up. This pattern continues. I reach the gate and haven't stopped. Good. Up up up. Don't stop. The blue top guy is still there. Good. Keep going. Up up up. Steeper now. Keep counting. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. Up up up. It's levelling out....oh my word I have to run now. And the wind hits me again. Breathing struggling.

Now I know it's all down hill. I open up and stretch my legs as much as I dare. My in-built fear of falling is still a stronger pull than that to let go. But I feel strong. There's someone behind me and I'm determined to reach the stile first. I get there....and beat him to the second. I made up ground on the chap in front and have to shout "I'm right behind you mate" as it looked like he was about to stall at the stile. I would have piled into him had he not moved, the momentum wasn't being totally controlled.

In to the heather I pick out the line on the right to avoid some of the ruts. Onto the tarmac. I open up, but the chap behind me goes off faster....then slows by the farm and I catch him, overtake, but he retakes me as he turns on the gas again. Tim and someone else are encouraging me on in the final 100m....and there's the finishing funnel. I can stop. And breathe.

I had glanced at my watch just after reaching the tarmac and saw the time was quicker than last year. I stopped my watch at the end and it was around a minute less. Brilliant. I've done it!!  That's goal #3 for the year ticked off. Looking at the stats at home I can see I made up most of the minute in the final descent. So it's my ascending I need to get quicker at!! Or maybe running on calm, wind-less days would help.

The full results can be found on the Glossopdale Harriers website. My time this year is 39:17 (last year it was  40:12). And here's a video from just after the start...I feature in the group that passes after 1 minute...I'm in the middle of that group with a blue buff on my head.

Thanks to Ian, Tom, Gordon for the video and photos.

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