Monday, 30 May 2016

Jura Fell Race 2016

I had 2 main aims for this year. Finish the Spine Challenger, and then get a Sub-4 hour Glass at Jura. Coming off the back of 3 hard races last weekend, I thought I'd be recovered and fit, however, I think I underestimated just how hard the races were, and how much effort I put in. A short run up to James Thorn on Tuesday ended up with me getting about 2km along the trail, sitting on a rock, looking at the view and then trotting back home.
Nothing in my legs at all. Nothing.

Roll on Friday morning and a phantom ache had appeared in my lower right back/glute. Psychosomatic. It has to be. I haven't done ANYTHING to make it ache. Nothing that sitting in a car for 7 hours can't fix.

Description of ground (I think you can blow that up enough to read)
Across to Islay on the Calmac ferry, then to Jura, and across the way we could see the top of the Paps shrouded in cloud. Nothing too horrendous, but enough to make me a little nervous. Yes, I've run the race before, but as for knowing the lines off the hill... no, not a chance. I vaguely know where I'm meant to be going (down), but the specifics.... not so much. Not to worry, the race isn't until tomorrow, so it was time to think about other things like renew old acquaintances, and pass the evening in the company of friends.

Looking back on the way to Pip2
Race day dawned pleasantly and the somewhat crowded house gradually came to life. We all got registered and kitchecked, and hung around chatting about lines on and off the Paps, timings, hopes and concerns. My lower back niggle had all but disappeared, the sun was out, and things were beginning to warm up, some cloud still clung to the tops though.
Soon enough we were in the start pen and then in a stampede of mudclaws and walshes, we headed off up the path and onto the fell. Well, bog.

Through the bog, which was mostly spend following other people, assessing whether they were going upto or beyond their knees in various places. Ahead of me the field was stretching out a little, this being a Scottish Champs race, a fair few decent names had turned up, and the guys at the sharp end were making their speed known. I fell in at about the same speed as Jasmin and we slowly worked our way up through a few of the guys that had started off a bit too hastily and weren't able to sustain the speed.
Up onto the first Pip, I checked my watch, about 36 minutes. Pretty much on schedule for a sub4, which was good. Jasmin had shot off ahead and I was chasing Konrad down the hill, whilst looking across the the Paps, which still had a bit of cloud encircling the tops. Not too much to be worried about, I hoped.

Down and up onto the second Pip, I grabbed a quick swig of water from Gwyn who was walking the route and had set off an hour or so prior to the start. Jim Mann came floating past, setting a decent pace up the hill, catching up and overtaking Jasmin. At the top he began to head north until Jasmin mentioned to him that it might be a slightly more cunning idea to head west along the ridge, unless he wanted a really long day out... 
I passed Konrad before the top, and then a fairly speedy run off with Jasmin and Jim helped with putting some distance into the guys that were now behind us. The 3rd Pip passed without too much bother, but with a variety of lines being taken onto it from the ridge, and then a lovely downhill section to the gap between Pip3 and Pap1, which is mostly a fairly decent trod with a bit of bog.
One of the few times Jasmin was behind me going uphill

Onto the first Pap of the day, up the "green line" of the stream where a lot of people were getting water. I wasn't entirely thirsty at this point, but had a swig of my bottle anyway, and thought that as the race was an hour old I should probably have something to eat, so worked my way through a fake Mars bar while turning my legs over up the hill. Despite all the hill reps I have been doing, this was still hard. The Pips do a great job of softening up your legs, and by the time you get here, a fair amount of climb, certainly a lot more than most Peak district races, has already been done.
The climb, as ever, went on for a very long time, and I managed to keep in touch with most of the people that had been around me at the bottom. We each dropped a tag off at the top with the marshals who recorded our numbers before heading a little along the ridge and then dropping off down the scree path. My legs were pretty tired by now, and I was beginning to get a bit of knee pain - mainly from muscular effort rather than from anything particularly sinister. A stitch was also beginning to develop, which might end up being a bit of a problem.
2 Paps, from, oh, I have no idea where.

I kept the speed down on the descent, figuring that to overdo it now might mean a slightly faster descent, but would certainly mean paying for it in a big way later. If the beginnings of the stitch were showing now, then the run down the road at the end was already promising to be uncomfortable...

The loose scree was particularly fun as it cushioned my feet as I cruised down taking a few places. Jasmin had gone off ahead, evidently feeling a lot better than she had done earlier in the race. I'd like to say that it was my photography-ing that meant she pulled out the lead on me, but I don't think that's really the case.
The trod off Pap1. or Pap2. Not entirely sure as I wasn't looking back
There was a gaggle of runners just up ahead of me on the climb of Pap2, but I could feel myself losing ground to them. The guys behind me seemed to be making good inroads into me, and there was an overwhelming feeling of just wanting to sit down and not go on. A gel semi-helped me to get my head together, and I forged on, up through the scree. The nice thing was that the stitch didn't affect me uphill, so I was free to go as fast as my rapidly tiring legs allowed.

That being said, I was certainly slowing down a lot here. I vaguely new the splits needed to get around and off the hills to be in with a fighting chance of a sub-4... but killing yourself to hit the splits still doesn't guarantee you to be able to get off the hill in time. We passed a spectator who mentioned that there was now less uphill than down for the rest of the race, which didn't entirely fill me with glee, and continued upward. A left around the buttress and then a ridiculously steep climb, hands on heather and stone instead of knees. The cloud was swirling around, but it was only feathery, not really clag at all. The group ahead of me were all but out of sight, and the guys behind had caught me up. Summiting, and then across the ridge, followed by a drop to the right, down a steep grassy bank that never really becomes the scree-fest that you expect, and down across to the next bog, before that final Pap.

I could feel my right leg beginning to cramp slightly as we began Pap3, which wasn't good - last time I ran Jura that didn't happen until the very last run off. So I swigged a little water and got stuck in, hoping it would go away. It did, and so I set about trying not to lose too many places on this climb. A much less technical climb, (still un-runnable for me in any state), I slogged my way upward. Jim Mann overtook me (again) along with a couple of others, and the climb just carried on going.
Jim Mann ahead of me up Pap3

Hit the top a way behind Jim and another person, and I followed them down a scree path, which was great to begin with, but I got a bit fixated on them, and instead of looking over to my left for another pile to follow, I concentrated on heading down until I overtook them, and then suddenly ran out of runnable scree.
Screes coming off Pap3. Just before running out of runnable stuff.
So I skittered off to the left, doing what I should have been doing anyway, looking out for the runnable lines, eventually finding one, and surfing down, slowly making my way down to the trod. I didn't stuff it up too monumentally, but certainly could have taken a much better line down.
Onto the trod, and now just a run across a moor, up the climb of Corra Bheinn, which took an agonisingly long time.
Splits in my head were coming and going, I wasn't going to get my map to check the numbers, if I did it would simply lose time, and the cramp in my legs would start. So I made my way up the hill with 3 others in close attendance, turned at the top, and looked at the absurdly long run off down to 3 arch bridge.
Looking back to the descent lines from Pap3

The beginning of the run off started promisingly, as I still had a fair amount of water. It got drunk and thrown over my head in equal measure, but slowly the stitch began to encroach and my enthusiasm for descending down tussoky bogland wained. The first stabs of cramp hit my legs, going down the adductors, last time this happened the best thing to do was to keep moving, trying to send messages to the legs that I wasn't going to take any nonsense from them.
It seemed to work for the most part, but at the crossing of the Corran River the insides of my legs cramped spectacularly. Still, not having any of it, I pressed on, with legs cramping. I can't recommend this, as it was ridiculously painful. Running through cramp makes it worse, but there was no way I was stopping. I may have used some fairly strong language, and at one point was reduced to a crazy hopping shuffle through more tussocks, but the sub4 was still on. Through an indeterminable amount of bog and cramp, and then bridge slowly got closer.
I managed to catch up with a couple of the guys that had got slower toward the road and we got over the stile together and went under the bridge to hit the road. I was, for once, quite happy to get to a road as it meant my cramping legs didn't need to be lifted quite so high, and so would cramp less. The
first 2.5km of the road went really well. I felt good, didn't push too hard, and the distance ticked away quite well.

I caught and overtook 2 runners, and then about 2km from the end the whole thing fell apart. The right quad cramped, swiftly followed by the left, then the hamstrings on both sides, followed by a stitch, my speed slowed dramatically from "not a care in the world" to "I can barely walk". I slung the bumbag around my shoulders to take the weight off my tummy, and "ran" crabwise for a while.
The runners that had been overtaken came past as I lurched forward. My watch said I had a decent amount of time before the magic 4 hours passed, and with about 1km to go, Jim Mann cruised past my staggering attempt at forward locomotion.
The run stalled to a walk for 20 paces before I gave myself a talking to and managed to run in to the end, coming in at 3:51:55 or so. Just a tiny bit faster than last time, but looking at my splits, I lost 7 minutes on the road in comparison to then. Thankfully I had quite a time buffer.
Well earned.

My body was totally done in at the end. The journey home hasn't done it any favours either. I can still feel the stitch if I do anything too fast, my quads and adductors still hurt in the same places as when they were cramping. I suspect they just need a bit of rest, and then a whole lot more strengthening.
The stitch thing is a bit annoying as no-one really knows what causes it. There are as many theories as there are people who suffer it, and I suspect that what caused for me a few years ago is not the same as the cause now.
I have, however, got the glass, proof that last time wasn't a bit of a fluke, which is always gratifying. Now I need to sort out this stitch, and the cramping legs and I should be flying.

Results sheet 1
Results sheet 2
Results sheet 3
Thanks so much to the organisers, the marshals on the tops and the people that make this race happen. It really is one of the highlights of the calendar.
John Ryan, eyes on the prize. Well. The pub.
Tim C coming in toward the finish
Relaxing in the sun as others finish their race.
 Thanks also to John H for letting us sleep on the floor of the cottage, John D for the lift up and back, and the Carnethy/Glossopdale Massive (no I don't *just* mean Alex McVey) for great craic and a superb weekend away.

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