Monday, 14 May 2012

British Champs Fell Race - Ireland

Dockray Hartside

Over the last few weeks I've run a couple of races with the main aim of testing out running to decide whether to make the trip over to Ireland for Slieve Bearnargh British Champs Fell Race. First came Dockray Hartside - my first attempt at some rougher terrain. Interestingly I found the road comfortable and pretty easy going, leading the womens race onto the fell (shows where most of my recent running has been!)...I was alright with the ups, feeling pretty strong, but wobbled my way down the hills, losing places and eventually finishing 4th I think... Still - with 2 weeks to Ireland I thought it was a possibility.

I then ran the Trunce, finishing with my second fastest time ever despite high rivers making for a bit of a swim! My hip/back was still getting very tight post runs which wasn't ideal but I was still running fairly well.

The final test came at the Burbage Skyline and it wasn't good. My hip was very uncomfortable the whole way round, I didn't move very fast and I came in around 2mins slower than last year. I struggled to push myself having completely lost my 'race head' but had a lovely pootle around the peaks! I almost gave my entry to Ireland away there and then! I expected to be right back to square 1 with the hip the next morning!
Burbage Skyline - enough time for a quick Irish Jig!

However, when I woke up I couldn't feel even a niggle (weird) so decided to go for it :-)!

Slieve Bearnagh is a short counter in the British Champs, however anybody thinking they'll be fine as its 'only short' would be in for a shock. The 5mile race has over 800m climb in it...and its not smooth running.

Saturday maintained my impression of the Mourne Mountains as having beautiful weather. The race started with the steep climb onto the ridge of Slieve Meelbeg which summits at 708m. The climb becomes steadily more runnable, over wet boggy ground becoming more and more rocky as you reach the summit.
I set off and was surprised to find myself running alongside Helen Fines. This lasted a until we hit the ridge, but the more runnable it got, the more she pulled away until by the top I was following Helen Elmore, with Helen Fines about 150m ahead (the last I saw of her as she moved her way up to finish 2nd!).
The race then has its first descent down to the Happy Valley Col, technical by many races standards but not a patch on that to come. I reached the col having caught up to the three women who had pulled away right at the summit and passed them heading for the main peak of the race, Slieve Bearnagh which is 727m at the summit. This climb is steep!! Hands on knees to begin with followed by climbing with hands pulling on the heather by the top! The descent follows the same side of the hill as the ascent however over rockier ground, a minefield of potential injury!
At the base I was less than a minute behind Helen Elmore, by the top the gap was less than 30s, however I just couldn't catch her on the descent (I had no intention of crippling myself here), remaining 30s behind.
The final climb of the race was Slieve Meelmore, at 687m its a walk in the park ;-).
This was where I first really felt my back tighten up. I couldn't stride properly uphill anymore so the group ahead pulled away slightly and Helen Elmore was storming up the hill. By the top she probably had well over a minute on me!
Thankfully I took a great line off the hill, catching back up to the group ahead, passing through the old finish line about 40s behind Helen, 4 women between us. I was happy to glance down at my watch and note the time - 59:01. over 5mins faster than 3 years ago.

The finsh has now changed. Instead of the lovely descent to the finish that suits me down to the ground there was now another 1.5miles of traversing along relatively easy running before a sprint down (and up argh!) a track to the finish. I lost about 2mins to those ahead of me here, traversing to the right was just not what my hip wanted. Thankfully we had a big enough gap for this not to really matter. Our group was 8-12th at the old finish and I finished still in 12th, in 70:25, with another 2mins before the next woman appeared. It would have been nice to race the last mile or so but never mind!I had raced properly (my mind can still do it :-)) and had come away without aggrivating things too much (my hip can still do it :-)).

I'm not sure if the Great Lakes race will happen just yet, but fingers crossed! Saturday was the second longest I've run for since Feb (and the other run was very low intensity. I upped the longest to 2hrs on Sunday (a quick saunter up a very blustery Slieve Donard with Helen and a superb descent!) and although I can still feel my hip and back, its no worse than it was. Just have to work on not feeling it at all before running Great Lakes I think!