Team A and B leg 5-ers
As the race date of December 13 approached, I felt fairly confident I'd done as much training as I could have in the time available. I'd come a long way since the recce and I was beginning to feel fit again. I'd cut a bit off my October 10k time (it is now 47.17) and shaved a bit off my 5 mile time too (now 36.34 - getting closer to my PB of 35.17). Although my hill training hadn't been great, I'd done at least some, hard, off-road hill running with my team-mate, Leah, and made a couple of the MKAC sessions where I had done comparatively OK. I'd also been keeping up the OURC Fartleks on Tuesday lunchtimes and had even done two sessions of the relentless 800 m efforts around Woughton field (excellent training for the body, as the recoveries are brutally short, and for the mind, as there's nothing but pain to experience)!
I went up a couple of days beforehand to stay with Gary's parents and had a wonderful time being generally fed and cared for. We had a lovely drive out to the Dales, and I bought some last-minute essentials (compass and whistle, which you must have or your whole team may face disqualification)!
On Saturday, Glyn and Janette dropped me off at the team hostel, which was a far cry from the cosiness of Nelmes Towers. After a long trip down a precipitous and snaking mud track, the hostel was found to be a breeze block building with no-one there apart from some grumpy teenagers and a surly youth leader. Eventually we located the key, and opened up the building to find a barren interior. But the place was wonderfully warm, so G and J felt happier leaving me there. Five minutes passed, and Andy, Annick and Julie arrived, muddy and fresh from their recce. They seemed exhilarated and keen for the race the following day. Soon everyone else arrived, and after tea and cake and a little physics we headed off, with torches, to the pub. Dinner took ages but was tasty. Everyone was very sensible and headed back early to bed - but we waited up to cheer Jim Miller in for our team photo.
I slept well, surprisingly (only a baby, regular snuffle-snore from one of my room-mates threatened to disturb me). When Leah and I got up, most people had already set off for the start of their leg ... so we lounged (as far as it was possible) and ate breakfast. We then set off, and parked up at Whinstalls for registration. We knew we were going to have to start with the 'masses' as the MKAC B Team were never going to be fast enough to make the leg 5 cut-off time. Unfortunately, this meant one hour hanging about in an exposed area in the bleak cold. This had its interest, however, as there was plenty to look at and race atmosphere to soak up. Fell runners look amazing. They are really wiry but muscular at the same time, and I was reminded of deers rutting as the men and women whipped off their over-trousers to reveal threateningly muscular, lean legs. I looked a fool in a clown-like hat and brand-new, entirely untested off-road shoes, which, to add insult to injury, were LUMINOUS yellow. There was lots of pre-race chat, which was actually very friendly, despite the threat of clashing antlers.
Anyway, our A team just met the cut-off, which was exciting, and then we, the leg 5 B team, set off with the masses. The rhythm was halting to begin with, as there were probably about 100 starting. The first mile or so was spent running slowly and queuing at stiles (of which there are, apparently, 40 on this 7.5 mile leg)! After that, things spread out quickly and there were few in front and behind. The race is a bit of a blur. I remember some brilliantly fun downhill leaping a couple of miles in, bright sunlight against short green grass and white, dried grass tops, blue-black reflections from the scant road sections and then lots and lots of very deep mud (which absorbs leg energy at every step). I tackled the cobbled hill part of the race heroically, and was proud to run the whole thing - even overtaking a few. However, perhaps it was this immense energy expenditure that led me, about 5 miles in, to rapidly fade. I had also definitely made some serious errors.
- First, I had inadequate hill training.
- Second, I had underestimated how much energy is needed to climb 1500 m. Normally I wouldn't bring food on a short race like this (I only use energy drinks or jelly babies for half marathon and above) but breakfast at 8 and no lunch with a race start at 1 pm meant that I was totally drained at 5 miles.
We put on as many layers as we could and drove to the leg 6 (and race) finish to find most of the rest of our team. We were covered in mud, hungry and exhausted, but the challenge was exhilarating, new, and finished. I felt so pleased to have been part of such an exciting event.