Friday 14th saw another year of the Newburn Goof Friday relays. For me this was my first one. As a fairly new member to Saltwell Harriers I am just starting to get in to taking part in events and representing the club as part of the team. This was my second relays race and It was a great feeling to be part of it.
I woke up on the morning a little nervous but managed to still have some breakfast. The weather seemed pleasant, not to hot, not too cold. I headed over early and spotted some of the club already there also nice an early. We chatted, discussed the route and I funnily almost lost track that I had to get ready for the first leg while chatting about tattoos with Mark Shaverin. This did help block out the nerves. The nerves however vanished as soon as the starting whistle was blown.
The Newburn relays are located at the Newburn Riverside Business Park, Lemington. The route is 2.2 miles running 2 different loops at the back of the business park buildings including flat road and pavement surfaces. As a club we had 6 teams of 3 ladies group and 4 teams of 4 in the men’s group. Each of us where allocated our running leg position for the race. I was running the first leg in my team. Having practised running the 2.2 miles as fast I could I was expecting about 17 min 30 on the day but managed to get just over a minute faster. The adrenaline on the day and the buzz and support during the race will have played part in this faster than expected time.
After I finished running my leg I headed over to where the team where standing which was an ideal spot centre of the route Here we could cheer for the runners at their half way point and at their finish point as the route as the route drew back on itself for the finish line. The atmosphere was positive and supportive. Everyone ran their best and it was great to hear of some PB times achieved amongst the team. The hard work that everyone had put in was rewarded by some delicious cake that Linda Gerute baked and very well deserved.
8.5 miles. 3000+ft ascent. Starting point: Braithwaite Lodge
So this was the second race of the fell race series and it was the complete opposite of the first in many ways. The most obvious being the weather. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky, definitely too hot for running over the fells! Again i travelled down with the lads who were faster than me, after a few attempts at avoiding it. I arrived at the race knowing i’d fuelled and hydrated well which is half the battle for me.
The race started in a field just next to Braithwaite Lodge and we could get a clear view of where the race was going to take us. Navigation wasn’t anything to worry about personally, I’d came prepared with a waterproof map this time! From the start line, the race took us down into the village and up a bank to wooden steeps which lead onto the long climb up Grizedale Pike. I was forewarned that there is a bottleneck at the bottom of the steps. Some runners choosing to blast it to get up them first and runners like me that got stuck in the thick of it for a few minutes. The field began to open up when crossing a stile to begin the climb.
The climb up to Grizedale Pike felt like a never ending slog. It was a hands on knees and push through situation for me. A slight level out in the middle provided a little relief on my heavy legs and sore knees. This climb covered over 2000ft itself within about 2.5 miles (guesstimate) Up Grizedale Pike
A welcome descent down to Coledale Hause from Grizedale Pike left us with a cracking view of the next climb up Eel Crag.
This is where the race came to life for me. It was hands and knees, pulling yourself up through the rocky screes. My legs lost their heavy feeling and i got up the crag in no time, overtaking a fair few people in the process. Arriving on the featureless summit i felt that my legs had finally turned up to the race and the race was on.
There is a bit of a scrambly section from Crag Hill to Sail which then leads us on a grassy ridge to skim around the side of Outerside. This left us with the final climb of the race, Barrow. A rocky and rather painful path lead us to the summit, careful foot placement was difficult when the exhaustion and heat were starting to become more of an issue. A welcome view of the finish line from the top gave me the last push i needed. A nice, dryish, grassy descent finished off a cracking race.
Coledale Horseshoe – 0
Fell race series points – 2
So it’s now the beginning of April which means the start of spring which should mean better weather. I think that message has been lost somewhere along the way or I’ve just been unlucky in the times I’ve been out as its mostly been horrendous.
Looking on the bright side I guess its good mental preparation which is going to be a massive part of my round – hopefully I won’t have to cling to any fence posts to prevent myself being blown over or wade through waist deep snow on it.
So onto Dark Skies.
I’ve always fancied doing this event in the 3 years that it’s been running – I’ve done the daytime Kielder Marathon 3 times and always enjoyed the route.
This year the event filled up really quickly so I put myself on the waiting list and thought no more about it. Then around 3 weeks before the event I received an invite to enter.
I deliberated for quite a while on whether to enter or not. I hadn’t done any of the type of training I would normally do for a marathon (tempo runs, intervals, long runs with sections at marathon pace) and I wasn’t going to get marathon fit in 3 weeks and I didn’t want to sacrifice any training by tapering. I’ve been doing around 40-50 miles a week but a large part of this has been in the fells and at a significantly slower pace than my usual marathon pace and other than that it’s been very easy running.
It’s a lovely route though with a good few hills so I thought it would be good training. That’s it then, I’ll do it as a training run.
Race day arrived and weather was fantastic – brilliant clear blue sky, warm, sunny and not a breath of wind. I was staying overnight in the scout huts so after I parked the car and registered I made my way over to the dorm. Rob Masson, Kirsty West, Deb Tait and Dominic Martin were also doing the race and I caught up with them for a bit banter beforehand.
After registering I had about an hour to go before the start of the race so I took the opportunity of getting a bit rest in my dorm. There’s not many races where you can be lying in bed 5 minutes before a race starts (and lying back in it 5 minutes after it ends)!
5-30 and the race start arrived so we all made our way over to the start line and the race was off. I got a little carried away and immediately found myself in the lead pack running at a pace which felt very comfortable (around 7 minute mileing).
After a few miles the pack thinned out the lead pack was down to 3 of us. One of the lads then dropped his water bottle so he stopped to pick it up, leaving just 2 of us.
This was now around 6 miles into the race and the pace was still comfortable – we reached the first checkpoint and drinks station and the other lad stopped to take a cup of water.
I went past him and took the lead, but seconds later the Marshalls were shouting me back – I had went right instead of left – schoolboy error.
I raced back to get back into position and during this spurt I now found myself at the front of the race with a small gap. I didn’t really want to take the lead this early but now that I had it was time to take a chance. I upped the pace and in the next mile I had opened up a gap of around 10 seconds.
All sorts of things were going through my head now – could I hold on and win the race? It was too early to tell so I just kept on going and sustain my pace.
Then at 14 miles the tiredness started to kick in. I took a gel but my body didn’t like it and responded with some nasty stomach cramps. The balls of my feet were really sore too having been hurting since around mile 3 – an ongoing problem I still have.
I sensed that I was slowing and was caught by 2nd place. I knew by the way I was feeling that I wouldn’t be able to catch him so resigned myself that I wasn’t going to win the race. Could I hold on for 2nd though?
By the time I had reached the Dam at mile 16 things had deteriorated. My feet were screaming now, the stomach cramps were becoming more frequent, my legs were sore and my energy levels were shot.
It was now dark and looking back I could see 2 headtorches behind me – 3rd and 4th place around a minute behind.
My frame of mind had now totally shifted. I still had around 8 miles to go and I felt terrible. I’ve been in this position before in a number of marathons and there is absolutely no worse feeling in the world. Pushing through those final miles when your whole body is screaming at you to stop is a world of pain I really didn’t want to be in considering this was just supposed to be a training run.
I had a big decision to make – so what were my options?
I could push on and try to defend my position – I’ve done this before in the past but I was worried about how much it would take out of me and how long it would take to recover. I also didn’t feel confident that I would be able to hang on to 2nd place.
I had to think of the big picture and my BGR training – I had planned to go to the Lakes on both Wednesday and Friday and I didn’t want to compromise this. If the race had been an A goal for me then it would have been a different story but it wasn’t and I needed to be sensible.
Next option – retire. But where and how? I didn’t know how far to the next checkpoint was but I suspected it was at Leaplish which is only a few miles from the finish. There’s no way I was going to run 24.5 miles and then retire.
Next option – reduce my pace, forget about times and positions and just finish the race. This seemed like a better option and I slowed down. Although this helped a bit I was still getting bad stomach cramps and it was still a massive effort to keep moving.
At this point 3rd and 4th place passed me, asking how far ahead the leader was. I had no idea but it must have been quite a way by now – bar a disaster on par to mine they weren’t going to catch him.
Another option then presented itself – if I’m not concerned about times or positions then why not stop running and walk it in. Yeah, that option seemed very appealing so I finally gave up any semblance of running and began the long death march back to Hawkhirst.
Although this seemed an easy option it was far from it – it took about 2 hours to walk those last miles and I started to get very cold because of the drop in pace. It was also still quite an effort to keep moving and the pain in my feet wasn’t getting any better. I did stop a few times, switched off my headtorch and looked around to take in the fantastic views of the stars in the night sky and streams of headtorches alongside the lake.
When I did finally get to the end there was a good throng of people in the finish hall (yes you finish inside a hall!) and I had a hot cup of tea to try and warm up (something I didn’t achieve until the next day). I would have liked to stay up and party but I was so exhausted and cold I just couldn’t face it so I retired to my bed.
So quite a frustrating experience for me and a bit of a wake up call. When you are running well it’s easy to think that you are invincible and you can take on anything. This clearly isn’t the case and the next injury is just round the corner – I need to keep reminding myself this and keep myself right in the next 11 weeks. I know one thing for certain though – I’ll be back next year but this time I’ll train for it properly.
Since the race I’ve managed to get over to the Lakes and do Leg 1 on both Wednesday and Friday evening. I felt tired on Wednesday, but then a lot better on Friday so I’m confident I made the right decision. I’ll write about these and the other training I’ve done in my next post.
5.9 miles. 1640ft of ascent. Start point: Calebreck
Carrock fell is situated in the Northern Fells and on its summit sits an ancient hill-fort, though not many details are known about this. The fell itself consists of bouldery slopes surrounded by smooth grass and artificial mounds.
Sounds delightful doesn’t it?.. Well lets see how delightful it is when you get up on a Sunday morning, travel down to the start of the race and get told to run up it with poor visibility, sideways rain and gale force winds that are capable of pushing me backwards off the damn thing. Oh and don’t forget to run over and say hi to its wee neighbour High Pike whilst you’re at it ey! Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good fell race, but these conditions are something I have never had to cope with whilst being way too far out of my comfort zone.
The first climb up the side of Carrock Fell was enough to put me off for life. In fact I nearly turned around 5 times to go back down and say never again. My lack of ability, experience and fitness dawned on me within the first few hundred metres of climbing and I found myself near the back of the pack fairly quickly. Reaching the summit gave no let off from the strong head winds and heavy rain, though there were some spirit lifting and extremely dedicated/bonkers marshals standing up there giving me a sense of hope. The race became easier from this point in. I knew once we were up there then the hardest part had been completed. I managed to stay with 2 girls who had a lot more local knowledge than me, this turned out to be a somewhat crucial part of finishing the race in one piece and with no major dramas.
From the summit of Carrock Fell we needed to make our way across the ridge to High Pike. Sounds fairly simple really unless there’s bog, more bog and even more bog. Anything that once resembled a path now resembled a stream and don’t even bother trying to work out where the hell you are by looking around you because you can’t see anything but fog. This is where the girls come in useful. It became clear that we had made something of an unspoken pact to stick together and continuously get lost just to make ourselves that bit more miserable. Had we not stuck together at least one of us would be still sat on the top of that fell wondering when some hot man in a helicopter would be coming to save us.
One of the girls carried a geet fancy GPS handheld thingy with the pre-loaded route on. Though that just seemed to show us that we were not where we were supposed to be. I had a damp paper map, a slight bit of common sense and managed to get a vague sense of direction after a man popped out of nowhere and told us where the summit of High Pike was. Of course, it took another two whole minutes to get lost again when we saw two marshals jumping up and down in the distance. I can only assume they were thinking ‘Hurry up’ whilst shouting ‘yeyyy, well done ladies’. The wind was now almost behind us and the rain subsided allowing me to find a few moments of peace on the fells, a feeling you cannot find elsewhere. From the summit of High Pike there was a lovely fast descent towards the finish line, the first time the wind had actually came in useful. Though it was far from drama free, as I decided to go diagonally across marshland, stopping inches from taking part in my very own duathlon. Finally at the finish, with some very patient Saltwell Harriers waiting for me, it was time to head straight back home with some of Paul Richardson’s dad jokes to keep us only slightly entertained ?
Overall a challenging race with shit weather and shit jokes. Finished off with a shit time and finding out Iain went and got cake at the end and didnt bring me any.. nasty! ha!
Fell race series points-1