Monday, 21 July 2014

Kentmere Fell race 2014 - English Champs AM

This was a race that I did last year for the Glossopdale Champs and it was a race to be remembered for the fact it was horrendously hot and I felt like I wanted to stop and sit down for the vast majority of the race. With a bit more training under my belt, I was hoping that it might not be quite as bad as then.
However, with 600 people having entered themselves for the race, (there were only about 350 last year), it promised to be a very busy day, and a bit of a sweat-fest.
It was always going to be hard.

We arrived early, and it was already sweltering, after registering, I went off for a quick recce of the finish, to try and remember the nuances of the run in from about 2k out, and ended up pretty warm... yes, it might well be a race in which to carry a bit of water. The fact that it started at 1pm also made it a bit interesting in terms of eating... you can't just have breakfast, but having lunch as well wouldn't work either. So I opted for the occasional snacking technique instead, trying to keep myself fueled up for the race without eating too much, that would slow me down.

More people flooded in, and it being a Pennine championship race, a good number of our local friends and rivals arrived on the scene as well, to good natured banter. A short warm up run later- which ended up as a run up the first bit of hill- and a walk down as it was just too damn hot for anymore unnecessary exertion, and we gathered for the start. It certainly didn't look like there was the advertised 650 people at the beginning, but I was a fair way down the pecking order at the line, so when the shout "go" happened I was still actually only just getting onto the road from the field entrance, about halfway down the mass of people.

The heaving mass of people surged off the line, and up the sharp road ascent, with people dodging and weaving through the crowd as slower runners who started close to the front began to fall back. I made my way passed a load of people, and then we hit the broken rocky path on the way up to the hard part of the ascent. I had already been sweating heavily since the beginning, and looked at my Heart Rate.

(I've been trying to train to HR recently, and thought this might be an interesting way to gauge just how hard I'm actually trying. In normal training I can keep going for an hour at 168bpm, but take me to 170 and I'll need to slow down after a minute of effort).

I'd already hit 172, and it was staying there. Great.
Along the path, and a right into the bracken field. The line, already stretched out hugely slowed to a walk. Great. I looked up, and a massive amount of people were in front of me. Single file, at this pace, and in this heat- top 50 was already looking like a difficult proposition. Just run as hard as you can.
I paced it out up the hill, and went faster when I could. HR still at 172. Crikey.
The sun was coming out my shoulders were burning, temperature was somewhere around the high 20's and it was really close. Proper nastily humid and along with everyone else, I just couldn't sweat enough.

Up the steep part, and Wardy from Pennine stretched out a lead over me- with Dan somewhere in front. Over the lump, the breeze came back a little, and the oppressive heat lifted a bit, Stevie K came past me, and I looked at my watch again. Still 172. Jeez. I literally can't go any faster as we hit the next steep hill towards Ill Bell - the first Checkpoint. Some one comes past me and says something... is he asking my name or my club? No idea.... and get a little worried that I can't find the right words to say what my club is.

The Pennine guys drift into the distance as we get to Ill Bell, and the gradient eases off some as we take the line along before rising again to High Street. Despite the breeze, the heat is still horrendous, and I find myself alone as the pack of runners I was with pulled away from me, and the runners behind stayed behind. No battling people for places now. I'm going at the fastest pace I can manage. Even if a pack of baying hounds approached me now there would be no speeding up. This race is against myself and no external input will
Nearing the top of High Street
make any difference to the effort I'm putting in. Still 172.

Finally I approach the top, as another couple of people overtake me. My legs are burning and lungs are hoarse. Lynne and Alice are shouting me on, and Lynne runs with me to the trig point. I'm going as hard as I possibly can, and she easily keeps pace with me, while keeping up a very one sided conversation. Thats a new one on me... normally its the otherway around. I must seriously be going slowly, and I can't even speak to her, take a final swig of my water bottle, and as I won't need it on the way down, give it to her.

Dib the dibber and set off down the hill as hard as possible to catch the guys that overtook me at the last part of the climb. The Pennine boys are pretty much out of sight now, but it's downhill now, and I know I can do that without overegging the effort. I also hear Lynne shouting well done to Daz Fishwick - so he is pretty close behind... I need to start pulling it out a but now.
2 runners passed in the first km, down easy grass and mud, then across a path and contour. The weather is getting cooler now, and we could have done with that about an hour ago. Around the contours, and I manage to catch another and we climb over a grassy knoll, and suddenly I remember, as Mardale Ill Bell looms ahead of us... it really isn't all downhill from now. Should have read last years blog... that would have reminded me.

Andy Gibbons coming into dib at High Street
I stretch to breaking point on the way up the hill, and I'm running out of energy. Legs heavy, no strength left, and my HR isn't managing to go above 167. Fatigue has really crept in now, and I'm suffering more than ever. A couple more people pass me, and then, although it looks relatively flat on the map, my legs certainly felt the down and up to Kentmere Pike. Just had to keep the legs turning over, despite feeling wobbly legs
and a bit staggery.
Cresting the top on my own, and dibbing, all that is left now is the downhill. Not sure if there is anything left in my legs, but it is about time to just let go an see what happens. Grassy and boggy, perfect - though grip has been an issue right the way around- it was that kind of slightly damp ground that nothing grips properly, but sometimes you just have to go.
2 people taken in the first extended field, and another two in my sights as we crossed the style, feeling it a bit sick. Actually, feeling really sick... am I going to have to stop to throw up? That's be a new one on a race. Then, just as we got to the slightly more technical part, stitch.

Into the distance, and a cooler descent. 
Breathing curtailed, stride curtailed. Speed massively slowed and still about 2 miles to go. Not good. A couple of runners seemed to know a pretty good way down - or at least, a way down through the heather, and we ended up on a pretty horrible path, which was good for me as it made them slow down to a pace I could easily handle, even with a stitch, but as we hit the track section, they pulled away easily as I had to stick to my slowed pace.
Down to the final path, where my recce had ended, and I was in a bit of trouble, strides not flowing, and pace lacking massively. Along the path, and 2 more sets of feet pattered up behind me, very close as we hung a right into the descent to the bridge and the stream, about a km from home.

They passed me as we crossed the bridge and hit the track, as did another runner that I passed on the final descent. 3 more places gone in the last 800m.

As the finishing field came into view I pushed back, taking the first of the 3, holding him off till the very end of the track and the final road descent - in those 20 metres I just let go and passed the second, though the third guy was just that little bit too far ahead that in the final sprint for the line I just couldn't catch him.
As we finished, the rain begin to fall, and I sat around in a daze trying to work out what hurt the most. Legs are minced, lungs hurt, thirsty, sweating like a stuck pig, and generally not feeling amazing. However, that will all pass.

The quest for a top 50 result continues. Considering in the past 6 months I've run further and climbed more than in the whole of 2012, this looks like more of a daunting challenge than I originally thought.

Well done to all that ran, especially those that did Snowdon the day before (and huge props to Morgan Donnelly who came 5th there, cycled to the race, and then came 8th in Kentmere. Insane).

And a final thankyou to Rich and Tim also of Glossopdale harriers, and Ann-Marie from Altrincham who helped push cars out of the field once it had become a bit of a quagmire. You'd think that 400 like minded people who had just run a race together, who all owned waterproofs and grippy shoes
might been a bit more community minded and got together to help..... Well. I think in all there might have been 8 people helping others. The rest sat in their cars and waited in something that resembled rats trying to get off a sinking ship rather than a queue. Yes, the drivers have to sit and wait. But really, it seems that there were a good number of thoroughly selfish people in the field, which really put a bit of a dampener on what was a thoroughly good, hard race.

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