Monday, 31 August 2015

Moel Famau Fell Race 2015

Second last counter in the NWFRA series. A short hard blast that takes in a few paths, a steep bit, the observatory at the top, and then a decent downhill bit. And a really horrid uphill finish.

The weather dawned pretty horribly and it looked like we were in for the first wet race of the year within these champs. Despite the drive down through the clag and rain, by the time we were going through Mold and Loggerheads, the roads were drying and there was little enough precipitation to be considered a nice day in Wales.

Moel Famau has a reputation for getting a lot of entries - and some pretty decent runners as well (Morgan Donnelly crushed the record last year, and Lloyd was there the year before), and with a field of somewhere over 200 runners - on a course that is little more than 8km long, and its a recipe for a fast one.
My suspicions were confirmed when I chatted with Jez Brown from Buckley - hard, fast and horribly runnable. He was of the opinion that it might well end up being a roadie that won, considering that there were a few very fast guys lining up at the start.

After perusing the fayre, and having a bit of a look at the first and last few km of the race route, we warmed up, got our race numbers (laminated, AND with ready attached pins) and spent some time chatting with the various characters that were racing today.
There was no kit requirement for the race, so there was pretty much no-one with any gear at all. I had a pair of gloves on, and that was pretty much the extent of safety gear.

Lining up at the start I was (for a change) pretty close to the front, next to Rob Grantham - who beat both me and Jez at Tal-y-fan. There was no small talk before the race. No "watch out for this or that", nothing at all - just a countdown and go. Proper welsh race style. Beeps of watches, and a fast, fast start. I managed to stay with the top 5 as we head out past the church and down the hill, a couple of people fell behind, and I managed to stretch into the lead for about 400m as we reached the steep downhill. Then as the track flattened, Clive Fitzpatrick (darling of the FRA - or maybe not) wearing roadshoes on his feet and fell shoes on his hands came past, along with
a fast bloke in red. They stretched ahead a little way, and then as the hill kicked up, Jez came past me. We juggled positions for a while, 3rd and 4th, and the hill steepened, and his home knowledge really began to show. I was running this for the first time - and it should be no excuse, but he was very much on local turf,
knowing when to push and when to hold off a little.

I tried to keep with Jez for the whole of the climb, and it was about half way up that we closed in on and passed the guy in red. Clive was way out in front, and going ridiculously fast. Jez never once broke his stride, and although in hill reps - the idea is never to walk so that in a race you never walk, I ended up with legs so heavy that I ended up walking.
At times like this I end up wondering what the hell I'm doing. The raffle has more prizes than the fell race, costs less to enter, and you get pretty much as good a chance of winning some pretty decent prizes, and here I am, hammering up a hill in the red zone with my lungs in tatters, legs pumping battery acid, wishing I could stop. But no.

If I stopped, I'd be like everyone else.

Keep moving.
For the short sections that I walked, to begin with I was keeping up with Jez who was running, however, inbetween the run/walk/run/walk sections that I was doing, time was still being lost, and by the time we hit the top of the climb (which seemed a looooong time in coming) there was a 15 second gap between us.
Clive had managed to get to the top, change his shoes and start running down before we got there. Tapped? Showing off? Who knows.
Apparently there was a quadcopter buzzing around at the top, but I had no idea that was there, all I could see was the ground in front of me. Round the top and down - Jez was a good distance in front of me- thats what 15 seconds affords you, and there was only so much I was going to be able to do to catch him.
On the top section where it was a little rougher I sensed that I was closing him down a little. Whether there was someone doing the same to me - no clue. Although it was downhill now, there was still that little matter of the 500m flat section followed by about 800m of road climb at the end. Go too hard now, and maybe you'll get overtaken at the end. Don't go hard enough, and maybe give someone the opportunity to catch you up, and then overtake you at the end... time it just right, and stay in 3rd.

Down across the moors, legs really getting pounded by the descent, especially after emptying them on the uphill section. Jez and Clive were a way in front of me, and seemingly uncatchable. Past the marshals and continuing down, through a field, where I was momentarily thinking about stumbling and cracking my knee, because that would probably be marginally less painful that what I was feeling as my lungs burnt trying to get
enough oxygen in.
a hard left and onto the same track as we had come up - Jez was pretty much out of sight now, its just a case of consolidating 3rd. Not going so slow that I get caught, but not going so fast that I blow up. Down the horrible tracky path thing, and a hard right. Flat for 400 metres or so. Stride out, and hope that the guys behind aren't road specialists. Never looking behind, because if I have enough energy to look behind, I'm not going hard enough, and now we have the final ascent -
Me, Caity, Chris and Al. Pre race.
40 paces up the steep part, breathing like a steam train, try to gauge if there is anyone close behind by the amount of clapping that is going on, the road flattens, and go hard, knowing that the final section is yet to come. Legs on fire, lungs on fire, final 300metres, and then the kicker at 200 to go.
Is there someone coming for a sprint finish? I have no idea, and give it all I've got. Even if this isn't a sprint contest, its good practice for the day that it happens.

People line the sides of the route as I empty the rest of my energy into my legs and hammer for the line - which is literally a table right across the road, so no running through it, just a sudden stop at the end, and sweet, sweet relief that I've stopped running.
Bottle of water, and then a wait for the next guy, a good 20 seconds behind me.... so no need for a heroic last dash, but good practice anyway. Walking around at the end, its like I'm already getting DOMS and every muscle in my legs begins to hurt and mildly cramp.
Short. Hard. Horribly runnable.

Thanks to the guys who organised it - I did hear a couple of people wondering about the prizes only for 1st male and 1st female, no age group prizes, nothing. Thats pretty rare for a fell race, and when you have 160+ people paying a fiver for a race, you'd think there might be a few more bottles of beer being dished out. Still, each to their own.
Thanks also to the MR team that marshaled, and to the people out shouting at us all along the course.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Dammit - I was replying to your comment and the flippin system went and deleted your comment. Sorry about that Math. If you want to re-comment, please do, its always nice when people have something to say.

    In response to your (now unfortunately lost) comments, yes its a weird one about mr fitzpatrick - banned for a year by the FRA, but pretty much unpoliceable - that being said, does it cover WFRA races? How about SHR? who knows?!
    and yes, getting nigh on £800 from runners, it might be nice to distrubute a couple of bottles of ale to a couple of the winners beyond the 1st bloke and lady, but there we go.

  3. Ok - second thought, just been told by Caity that first lady didn't get anything either. Or the first 16-18 girl, despite beating the first 16-18 boy (who did get a prize).
    Thats just a bit screwy.

  4. Cheers for your reply Tim. Wow, that really is terrible, not even a ladies prize....cryptic but also morally totally wrong. But that does what tends to happen when the organiser is not a runner, there's a long list of races I could reel off where organisers are not runners and as a result the situation is a bit weird.

    Hmmh - aye, interesting one regards that Clive...he shot off in some champs race this year, can't remember which one?.....Flower Scar perhaps?

  5. great blog tim, it was another great battle. looking forward to breidden hills and the last one in the series.

  6. Thanks Jez. You've been getting faster and faster all year. Breidden hills should be a good one - assuming I can find the place! Al and I have already been talking about the series for next year as well.... Hopefully we'll get a few more from Glossop to come with us and share the petrol costs!

  7. There are trophies for winners in all categories (mens & ladies). I believe one of the trophies has 'gone missing' or not returned - this maybe the first ladies. Very little the organisers can do about trophies not being returned. Looking at the results it would appear that the 16-18 trophy went to wrong person as you state. I will discuss with the race organiser along with a few more prizes for next year.