As a brief intro for this one- Pendle is the first of the English Championship races this year. There are 2 at each distance, Short, Medium and Long. The first 50 places get championship points, ranging from 50 points for 1st, to 1 point for 50th. The rest. Nothing.
My aim for this year, having never done an English Champs race before, is to accumulate 10 points over the entire season. No idea if it is possible, but it is certainly a challenge. The main reason for that is that I would imagine that each and every race is going to be populated by a large proportion of Englands best Fellrunners, so there won't be a soft race in which to try and grab a load of points. The focus is entirely on me getting better, rather than getting lucky in a race.
|Map- and instructions|
With that in mind, I've been doing a decent load of training in the weeks and months leading up to this one. Pendle being the first one of the season, I knew was going to be Ultra competitive. Lots of fast people turn up, and as its only about 5 miles long, it was going to be eyeballs out racing all the way around.
I got a lift up with some lads from Pennine, and we got to the race start just after the ladies race had gone off. It being an AS and championship race, men and women raced separately. Stevie K and I got changed and took a bit of a jog around the start and finish of the race. I knew most of the race route, having done the Full Tour of Pendle last November, but the finish was a little bit different, and definitely needed to be recced. We had a quick blast around it, and it was certainly a good thing that we did - as it was not as straight forward as blasting down the road. We reached the end just in time to see the first of the ladies coming in - and saw Glossopdales Caity coming in 5th, with a superb effort of a run.
Deciding we should probably get warmed up, we headed down to the hall, and I went off to warm up.
40 mins later, we were at the start. There were 320 or so of us, and I heard one spectator saying "crikey, you can smell the testostorone".
Not sure that you could... but the front of the pack edged further and further forward up the road away from the starting line as the beginning speech was being made. There was no ready steady go, just a siren, and the pack of us was off, nearly tripping over one another as a parked car made a pinch point. So much so that it pretty much became a mass conga.
|All kitted out and ready to go|
As we crested the rise, a break between the good and the not so good was forming, so I took the opportunity to dart past the last few people in front of me in order to tag onto the back of the disappearing
crowd, finding myself keeping pace with Nic Barber. Which was a surprise.
Along the track and then the kicker up onto the hill was where I lost a few places. An internal dialogue was already logging how I felt- and realised that my hills still need a load of work. I managed to keep a running pace up the grass, though with only x-talons on, and with 80+ women already having done this route, and 80+ men just in front of me, it was getting pretty churned up. Mudclaws may have been a better shoe for this race, but I was just going to have to do with what was on my feet.
I managed to keep Nic in sight for most of the climb, and at one point, Jack Ross was only just in front of me. Though to be honest, I kept my head down and concentrated on where my feet were going for the most part, not actually caring who was around me.
After a significant, but horribly runnable hill, we topped out, and blasted down a footpath. A bit too lumpy for running down with complete abandon, but easily runnable enough to really not get your breath back. I felt like I really wasn't going as hard as I could down there, and only overtook 1 person. The over-riding though was "am I losing my descending mojo"? Disaster! I might be...
Still, I kept it together, and hit the bottom of the steep climb hard. A couple of people overtook me at the bottom of the climb, but there was a very obvious and well used trod going all the way up. I chose not to get into that, and scrambled my way up ever so slightly to the left, and gained a fair few places on the way up. Not something I've ever been strong enough to do before, so that was really encouraging. Not getting stuck into the same pace as the guy in front... that's a way to kill your race. I concentrated on how I felt, and just how many bursts of hard speed I could get out of my legs on the way up, without ruining myself for the descent.
I have no idea how long the climb took. One moment I was looking up at a huge climb, the next, I was at the trig. There was just quite a long time in the middle when my entire focus was on the 3 foot in front of my nose. Round the trig, and a long descent. Someone overtook me immediately.
Damn. I MUST be losing it. Nevermind. Just keep the faith and head on down as fast as you can.
There were 5 runners in front of me, that, in my head, and by rights, I should have been able to catch and zoom past, but today, my legs and my head just were not playing ball. Down and down, for what seemed like an age, and I just couldn't get to them. The ground underfoot was slippy as a very very slippy thing, and even with x-talons on, I wasn't 100% sure of my grip. I took a wide line down onto the concrete path that lead back to the finish, and a Calder Valley runner came past. No way I was going to keep his pace.
With only a mile to the finish I was really starting to feel it. Thoughts in my head turned to just stopping. Does it really matter? I could just sit down here really. It's not all that important really.
But the guy in front of me was behind me just now. I think I can beat him. Though it might be hard. Don't think about the pounding feet on the concrete behind you. They don't matter. Don't look back. Concentrate on the ones in front.
Final pull up the hill, the one so recently recced, and I pulled in front of the runner just in front, I could dimly hear Caity, Zoe and Linds shouting encouragement at me. A sharp right turn through a gate, and into a field that was so grim and muddy that it reminded me for all the world of school cross country. Muddy gloop, sucking at your feet as you struggle to maintain any semblance of running form. If I'm having trouble, everyone must be having trouble.
I kept my head up, kept the legs going, and chased the people in front of me. I felt so slow, not managing to gain any ground at all, on someone who was only 4 seconds ahead. But I was beating the chap who was challenging me just now.
Last 500 yards, and I managed to hold him off, coming in at 38:59. 69th. The winner was Tom Addison in 32:55.
No Championship points gained this time, but always good experience.
What was even better was heading back, slightly before the finish, to join with Carl and Beryl who were cheering in the runners, so I added my voice to theirs, and was astonished to be encouraging runners to the line who normally trounce me in races.
The training certainly seems to have been paying off, though this is no time to be complacent.
Coniston is in a month. I'd best be looking at the route and working out a bit of a strategy.
I might even get around to writing a couple of blogs inbetween times.... (as ever, if I find a photo of me running, I'll try and get permission to post it up here... might take a while though).