The 3 Peaks. A fell race? A trail race? a bit of both? Well the weather certainly seemed not to be able to make up its mind today. The forecast was always a bit unsure of itself. Could be rain, could be sleet, could be sun, could be snow... so the order of the day was take as many pairs of shoes as you can and decide in the final run up to the start as to which pair you're going to wear.
I did this one last year, and wanted to get some kind of idea where my fitness was at in comparison. Well. Some good news and some not so, but more of that later.
Essentially there was all the pre-race faff, looking around at the tops, which had snow on them, and then around us where it was sunny (for the moment). I decided to go with a race vest, as opposed to a bumbag for the first time in my competitive running career, to see how it (and I) fared.
From the off the pace was pretty fierce. Mark and I had been talking about not going out too hard at the beginning, and that got thrown out fairly quickly. I was enjoying myself, and jostled my way up the hill. Victoria Wilkinson was in close attendance and was getting lots of encouragement from everyone on the hill. I was thinking I was doing pretty well being at about the same speed as her (til I found out she's coming back from injury).
On up Pen-y-gent, which was a lot more pleasant than the last time I was up there. Despite being overtaken by Victoria and others, I still managed to keep my legs moving at a decent pace. However, there was a twinge of a pain in my right side- the potential of impending stitch- which is never a good thing, especially this early in a pretty long race.
Not a lot to do about it, other than carry on and see what happens.
Across the top of P-Y-G and down through ankle deep snow. A fabulous run off where I caught up and passed a good few people. My speed was pretty good, and no-where near reckless, but by the time we hit the track I had closed down on 3 more and passed them in good order. Now along the track with a bit of a headwind. I kept my head down and ploughed into it as fast as I thought I could manage for a good long run.
By the time we hit the official 10k sign the feelings of stitch were well and truely apparent, though not incapacitiating by any means. I carried on with a slightly shorter stride and fairly soon gave away a place.
Continuing along, food was consumed and by the time we hit 15k, crossing the river I had to pull up short, the constant low level stitch pain had suddenly turned into a wrenching, searing agony in my right side. Slow up, breathe, plunge fingers into abdominals and torso and try to stretch it out. So sudden was my decrease in speed the guy behind me had to check I was ok... I was, vaguely, and the treatment managed to last me along the road to just before we hit Ribble viaduct where I was brought to a struggling halt in view of the checkpoint. Victoria went past, as did Mark and about 5 others as I moved uncomfortably up to the checkpoint.
Time was taken as I stretched out and breathed for a short while, losing another couple of places, before I figured I might be ready to see what happened next.
The next stage from the viaduct is best described as interesting. There is a fair amount of path, followed by a river crossing, followed by a Bog and then an ever steepening hill to the top of Wherneside. I was a good minute or 2 back on Mark leaving the checkpoint, but as we made our way up, through the hail and wind, I slowly inched back some distance. I was climbing well and made some decent inroads into the lead his group had on me, until 3/4 of the way up Wherneside I overtook him and came out on top, within about 20 metres of Victoria. Quite a comeback from Ribblehead, I think.
My Hamstrings were screaming a bit then, as we splashed down through the snowy slush off the top, and I overtook Victoria on the steep section down onto the path, enjoying every bit of the descent that I could. Then, again onto more of a flat section, down a gently sloping path, and Boom - back it came with a vengeance, stitch. Again. my pace slowed, Victoria went off down the road and I had to stop to stretch and try and sort myself out.
Once done, I set off again, just as Mark caught me up again. We exchanged some words, and he easily outdistanced me leading into the next checkpoint at the Inn, as again I doubled over with stitch coming into the area.
The pace was really suffering from now on. I couldn't breathe deeply enough to get oxygen to my already knackered muscles, I couldn't stretch out, because as soon as that happened the stitch came back. I managed to run some of the way up Ingleborough, but the group that I was a part of were swiftly becoming dots in the distance as I slowed some more. The steepness of the ascent played a little into my hands as I climbed the side, overtaking a couple of people, but by the time I hit the top, it was a replay of last year - Mark just coming off the top, having been out and back, about 5 minutes ahead of me.
Out to the Checkpoint, and then back for the torturous descent. Normally it would have been fine. Normally I'd have skipped down the hill. Even with a sugar bonk I would have been ok, but from that point on I could barely run. I could just about manage a jog without feeling like someone was stabbing me through the abdomen and into the diaphragm. The lads who ran past saying I should just "run it off" nearly got a lesson in swearing, but by that stage I couldn't actually talk.
I lost places hand over fist, and there was little I could do about it. My legs were in pretty good shape, I had enough food in me and still in my bag, but the pain in my torso was stopping me dead.
Eventually I managed to limp in at just over 3:30, 5 mins down on last year.
Some positives- I'm climbing like I've never been able to climb before- so a lot of improvement there. My descending is still like it always has been- so lost nothing there either.
The main negative- stitch. Its come back, and with a vengeance. It is the main thing that has slowed me down in 2 races already this season, and I need to get it nailed and sorted. I reckon I'd have been on for about 3:20 without that... Still. Its bio-physical, and there is an answer.
I just need to answer it.
Saturday, 16 April 2016
****apologies for lack of photos**** you'll just have to pretend you're doing a text adventure or something.
I've had my eye on this race for a couple of years, but it always seems to crop up on a weekend when I'm doing something else. So with the whole pre-entry thing (for a max of 75 people) I thought I'd get my entry in early on in the year, fix it in my diary and get myself to the race.
Luckily a few other Glossopdalers were doing it as well, Matt H, Carl B, Tim C and Alice. There was some plan to head up for a recce a couple of weeks prior, but that never came off, so I entered the race pretty much blind, except for the map that I currently have in front of me.
After a slightly close call in not quite getting there in time (but in fact getting there at the same time as EVERYONE else), we registered and headed over to the start - about a 10 min walk away from registration in Stair Village Hall. Lots of t-shirts and mugs and food and drink were on sale there, but we did not partake, as outside the sun was shining, and you could see the top of Causey Pike, the first peak, rearing away up into the distance. It didn't make for a great sight.
(ok - no pictures, but here is a pic of my strava thing)
There was a compulsory kit check before the start, which was great, and we sat around in the sun chatting to Spyke and Judith and a couple of others as the crowd gathered around the starting tape. A short dedication of the race to absent friends, a few words of encouragement and we were off, up the hill. Nothing but uphill for about a mile or so as we carved our way up the "directissima" (as the Pete Bland map calls it) up Causey Pike.
I may have ended up being a bit enthusiastic here, and noted that thought as I cruised past Adam Perry in the first few hundred yards. For once my legs were feeling pretty strong, so I went with it. Half a km later, Adam or course came past at a decent clip and seemed content to power his way through the group I was in, rather than chase Rhys and the other 2 leaders who were, by this stage, a considerable distance out in front.
Despite hill reps and attempts to get faster at going up hills, this was to be an interesting day in terms of going up. There is a lot of it, and while I would love to be one of those that never actually stops to walk, that just wasn't going to happen. By the top of Causey Pike I was at the back of the group that runs most of the way up the hills, but walks occasionally- a satisfactory place to be - especially as on the descent I enjoyed running through some of the rougher stuff by the path and overtook a good number of those who had recently overtaken me - starting off a bit of a trend.
Up onto Outerside, the guys that I had overtaken on the way down began to cruise past me again, and by the time we hit the top, I was at the back again, struggling not to choke on half a chocolate bar.
The bash over to Coledale hause was interesting with a number of different lines being taken. I took a low line, closely following a Borrowdale vest, with a Bowland in close attendence. All was going well, and I reckon we were making pretty decent time on the rough ground when I slipped slightly and smacked my left knee on a stone. The bit that feels like the funnybone in your knee.
I pretty much dropped to the ground swearing and grabbed onto the grass trying to squeeze blood from it. The harder I squeezed, the less my knee hurt.
The Bowland guy checked I was ok before heading off, and I knelt there for a minute or so, composing myself and considering what shape I was in. Would I have to retire? Was I able to go on?
A couple of tentative steps and I could tell I was limping quite considerably. That being said, it felt a bit like I had clonked a nerve and it would probably be ok in a minute.
So I limped on, watching all those hard fought places pass above me and down to the track, ascending to the Hause in front of me.
I limped a little up the track and got overtaken, and thought - I'm not having that, and started running again. The knee seemed ok, so I continued and through sheer bloody-minded-ness began to catch the group in front of me again. Constantly trying to work out if taking the winding path or taking the direct line up the hill was better.
Once we hit the Hause there was a massive split in front of me, one lot of runners headed slightly up the beck before hanging a right and up the broad grassy swathe, while the others took the line up the crag. I took the former, and maybe would have had better luck taking the latter. Im not entirely sure. Whatever it was, I was a long way behind both groups on the way to the top of Grasmoor, but once we had turned I put my descending legs to good use and picked off a few people on the way down and across to Whiteless Pike - really enjoying the downhills and the slightly technical ground which seemed to be holding others up.
From Whiteless Pike we hung a left, down Bleak Rigg into Newlands Hause. I could see the group I had been a part of, spread out across the hill taking a variety of different lines, so I dropped. Knees were hurting a bit by now. Fatigue was beginning to set in, but I was still able to descend competently and by the time I hit the bottom of the hill I was back in the middle of the group again - to my huge surprise.
However the "traverse" (more like a climb and a bit of a traverse) to the Hause took its toll and I lost a couple of places in the toil up to there - the only water stop on the race.
Hang a right and the steep side of the wonderfully named High Snockrigg comes into view. The front runners of my little group shoot off up the hill and my legs begin to complain. It's turning into hard going, but I can't really give up. No idea if I had a gel here, I probably did - the main thing was it was a proper slog to get to the top and I lost another couple of places on the way up.
From the top we could see across to Robinson and again, there were 2 distinct lines of people going up it. I chose the one with the Borrowdale runner in it. I chose wrong. My race trace shows a shocking line to and around the top losing another couple of places. Perhaps my worst line in a race so far, and one which I could have avoided by reccying. Ah well - at least I know for the future.
(I thought I was doing pretty damn well with my ascending on that section as well... just shows how wrong you can be).
Coming off Robinson my legs were dead. I was descending like a roadrunner - though thankfully that was all that the other people around me seemed able to do as well. By this time we had been joined by the racers doing the Anniversary Waltz, and it was difficult to tell who I was racing against, and who was in the other race. Still, route finding was going to be easier.
We made our way up Hindscarth, walking and running, and at the top were a few marshals and an open packet of Tangfantastics - Bonus. I grabbed a couple and scarfed them, happy that they had such good taste at that checkpoint. Had they been jellybabies I wouldnt have touched them.
Again off Hindscarth I wasn't descending well and was anxious to get to the end - though this wasn't going to happen particularly quickly if I ended up walking. I tried to keep up with the people around me, still not entirely aware of who was in which race. Bashing up to Dale head was a challenge, but not so much as the descent off. I was fully aware of just how badly I was going downhill, but was still overtaking other people, which was a complete surprise. Perhaps I was caught up in a pack of runners in the Waltz who I wouldn't normally be running against? I also took a shocking line off Dale Head and will certainly need to recce that should I ever run this again.
Up to High Spy, and an Ambleside runner bolts left down the hill into a ditch having been caught short.
I trade places with a couple of other guys, finding that my walking is keeping pace with their running, and when I have the energy to run, I can put a goodly distance into them with a short burst of running. I try to keep this up over to Malden moor - mistakenly thinking it was Catbells and all I had was a short drop off.
The Ambleside runner catches up with me, I see the down and up to Catbells in front of me And then White Stuff started to drop from the sky.... not a lot, but enough to notice. Nice.
I've taken all my gels, (I've even picked up other gel wrappers that others have dropped), and my legs are feeling tired. Really tired... but what is that up ahead? A Carnethy runner.... walking? I remember seeing him run past me a long time ago... sometime in the first part of the race and I haven't seen him since then. He sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the Anniversary Waltzers. "keep walking" I silently urge him, and run past him on the way up to Catbells.
With renewed vigour I plunge off Catbells, its only a descent now and although my legs are on the verge of cramp, the faster I can make them go the less likely it is that is going to happen. Passing a few runners on the way down I really enjoy this section, down along the ridge and then following the flagged path (National trust asked that runners not take the direct line this year). Stretching out, and at the bottom of the path as we joined the road, another 2 runners appeared, one with a distinctive bumbag that, again, I hadn't seen since the first half of the race. Moving fast, I overtook and maintained my pace. Down onto the road and round corners...
how long is this road section? I have no idea. I didn't even do the whole "recce the end before you start the race" thing as I didn't really have time.
Stretch the legs, ignore everything else, and hope you haven't gone too early. I could see a couple of runners in front of me, but wasn't able to close them down any - but those behind me didn't close me down either. Eventually I came to the final turn and the last few metres into the funnel.
14th. About 3:10 and a bit. The guy in front of me (Ross Litherland) was actually 2 mins ahead, the runners I was chasing were all Waltzers. Brill.
Not only that, but coming in a minute or so behind me are Spyke, swiftly followed by Wardy. I don't think Ive ever beaten Spyke before, so I was pretty made up about that.
Well done to Rhys F-R for winning today in about 2:39. Excellent piece of running. How Ben Mounsey beat him in an English Champs I just can't imagine.
A great day out, thanks to the organisers and the marshals. I hope you didn't get too cold up on the tops, especially when it really began to sleet later. Matt (finished in 3:33) and I made good our escape after it appeared that the field we were parked in may well have turned into a quagmire. It was also fantastic to catch up with an old friends who I had no idea would be there (Phil, Im looking at you), it was also interesting to see a good number of Teenager with Altitude finishers coming down the final track in a fair amount of pain through cramp and blisters.... not something you see very often in fellracing.
Apologies for the complete lack of photos but I didn't actually take any, I was too busy trying not to fall over.
Oh, and the knee is fine, thanks. As ever, I still need to get better at uphills....