Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Lads Leap Fell Race

A long break from fell racing is finally over. Sunday was the local Lads Leap Fell race, advertised distance being 9.5km with 518m of ascent. I recced the route with a few other Glossopdale Harriers last weekend, and therefore appreciated it was going to be a tough one. I logged the same distance, but with 511m ascent.

Lads Leap on the recce a week before the race
The forecast for Sunday looked to be horrendously heavy rain right during the race. It turned out to be a bit rainy, a bit breezy and not claggy. Super, no compass needed to get us across the moor...not that it would have been needed anyway as the race organiser, Des, had done a super job of flagging the route. Conditions under foot were very different to a week ago. There was no going round innumerable bogs, wet patches and gushing streams in the race. It was shoe-suckingly-difficult to pick your feet up for some long stretches. I certainly went in to knee depth in one bog!

I didn't really have any time in mind for how long the race would take me. I just wanted to get round and enjoy myself. An odd thing to say about a race, some would comment. But my attitude to racing isn't like most. I'm not especially competitive. It's just me, my legs and lungs, and doing my best on the day.

Lining up at the start I was pretty much in the middle of the pack, not by design, just where I ended up standing after having been pulled randomly for kit check. The race sets off from just by Crowden campsite and goes down past the hostel, then up-up-up. Very soon after the hostel is a stile, which causes a queue of runners patiently waiting their turn. I knew this, so did my best to set off fast and push all the way past as many runners as possible to get over the stile early. I knew many of the runners would come past me anyway, at some point later on, but at least I wouldn't have been 2-5mins slower on my overall time.

The first uphill section is steep and over a kilometer long so my tactic was to walk at a pace I could sustain without stopping. I knew if I did a run/walk/run effort I'd be slower, as I know from experience this pushes me too much, too soon. Sure enough I got to the top of the first bit, clinging on to the heals of John S and with Nev McGraw snapping at my heels. I think he got past me somewhere on that climb. John pulled away though I kept him in sight for a fair way as the hill continues up; Nev's heels stayed close, my target if there was to be one in the race was him. But he's strong.

The hill actually continues to climb until about 2.7km into the race, and then there's a lovely little trod across the moorland. Lovely and boggy on race day. Absolutely nothing to do but bash across the sometimes knee deep bogs. Boy that sucks the energy out of you!

Quarry path on recce day
Still with Nev, and now with Rachel W behind us we ran steadily across the moor to the first descent. we had a bit of a natter as we ran, clearly I wasn't trying hard enough! Horrible burnt heather, slippy routes and a rutted track really slowed me down, then the really really steep descent down to uphill track through Tintwistle Knarr quarry. Nev had pulled away somewhere and I never saw him again, maybe well in the distance. Rachel slowly edged away from me but I really didn't want to go over on my ankle descending so was so cautious.

Over the stile and onto the uphill track to the quarry I adopted a more positive walk a bit-run a bit strategy that actually had me ever so slowly making ground on Rachel. A few guys behind weren't catching me. Finally the stile at the top and back onto boggy soggy shoe sucking territory climbing up the moor. The final kicker steep bit really took it out of me. Rachel now pulled away and I was being hounded by two guys. The three of us were close together and they helped to keep momentum going. I took a slightly better line near to the river crossing at Lads Leap and popped out in front of one of the guys who'd just gone passed me.

About to pass the hostel, 300m to go
Then the final level section and somewhere in the rocks I felt my ankle tweak (the one I sprained at end of Jan) as my foot was forced slightly over by a rock underfoot. Ouch!! I may have sworn. This really slowed me down but I'd been watching the time and wondering if a sub 1:30 was possible. About 2km to go and 20mins, which should have been plenty with about 300m of descent to come but I just could not let go. I really want to protect my ankle and not fall. The steep final descent was painfully slow. Embarrassingly. But actually I felt really happy and was smiling.

As I approached the final stile just before the hostel I sort of knew I probably could do a sub 1:30. Super. My mini-target-set-mid-race would be secured. Then, a guy who'd been about 100m back from me a few minutes before was suddenly right there on my shoulder. No way was he going to get the stile before me so I pushed myself, got over it, he was right there....but I was determined he wasn't going to pass me. I reckoned I was fairly near the back of the race but it's super to have a mini-battle with an unknown racer. I really thought he was going to pass me, so the final 300m down the track, over the slippy bridge and to the finish line had me running fast, almost 4min/km pace! I got there before him, then turned to thank him for pushing me on!

Lins at left, me chatting with Rachel at the finish
Thanks to Tim for his support, especially near the end by the hostel, and taking the picture of me smiling as I passed. Thanks also to all the other racers, Glossopdale Harriers, Des for organising a super race, and all his marshals and gang out on a damp chilly day.

I finished the race with my goal complete, finishing happy and pleased to have run on a day that would have been easy to stay indoors. I was 101 out of 111 runners in a time of 1:29:05. Full results are here. As a bonus, the Glossopdale Ladies won the team prize, so Lins, Rachel and me all won a beer and a t-shirt. Super!!

Tim's post about this race is over on his TestedToDestruction blog.

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