In a previous blog I pondered how training for a 24 hour mountain bike race would be compatible with training and taking part in a long-distance fell race. I was wondering how I’d be able to give one priority over the other, how I’d cope with the 3 Peaks race at the end of a reasonably intense week on the bike and how I’d be able to recover properly after running for 24 miles in mountainous and difficult terrain before getting back on a bike the week after.
Well, it was even harder than I thought it was going to be. I’d afforded myself a couple of easier days at the end of last week but if I’m being totally honest, I made a mistake that I’ve made time and time again over the years. I didn’t give a race the respect it deserves. I didn’t feel particularly tired, but not spending the week tapering was only going to make life difficult when the race started.
The first few miles were ok. After setting off nearer to the front than last time I made it to the top of Pen Y Ghent a couple of minutes faster than last year and I’d learned from last time that bombing down the hill at full-pelt was only going to end in tears so I took it reasonably steady. One hill down, no dramas, happy.
The long drag across the moor towards Ribblehead was as dull as I remembered it last time and for me is a real test of focus. And it was still quite spongy and energy-sapping. By the time I’d reached Ribblehead I’d slipped over once and belted my knee into something hard (possibly to liven things up a bit). I was also starting to feel knackered. Deb was there, waiting with water and a gel. I moaned like a champion moaner and carried on.
I dragged myself up to the summit of Whernside. I could almost hear my knee shouting “please stop!” but I carried on. The pain wasn’t that bad that I was full-on limping but it was throbbing just enough to cause a distraction. At that point the climb gets really steep, goes up for a bit and then gets REALLY steep. I did ok at this point, my ‘determined march’ technique was quicker than many of those around me and I got myself past a few guys before the summit, an incredibly strong crosswind and the descent that consists of stone slabs, steps and large rocks. If you’ve not got sore feet at the start of this downhill run, you’re going to have sore feet at the end of it.
I reached the road which marks the end of Whernside and the start of Ingleborough. Deb was there, waiting with water and a gel. I moaned like a champion moaner and carried on.
I did consider dropping out at this point. It was only my prior experience of dropping out of stuff and the painful memories of how that feels that kept me going. Even if I was going to walk to the finish line, I was going to finish.
Once again, the climb became silly-steep and I got past a few other runners. Maybe I should find a race that just goes up a steep hillside. I’d do ok I think.
From the summit, you’d think the mostly-downhill run to the finish would be easy. It’s far from it. It’s probably the most knackered, lumpy, muddy and rocky drag across a windswept moor in the world. It’s bloody awful!
“3K to go lad” said the marshal at the final water station. It might as well be 100 miles. I looked at my watch. If I could somehow average somewhere near 7 minutes a mile for this last bit I’d beat last years’ time, but it wasn’t happening. I had nothing left and just couldn’t go any faster. Even at this distance, it wasn’t 100% that I’d be able run all the way to the finish line.
I crossed the line (still running) in 4 hours 2 minutes, 4 minutes slower than last year (but a few places higher). That wasn’t too bad considering the much softer conditions this year but all the same, a bit disappointing. There’s always next year though, eh?