Thursday, July 23, 2015

2015 Sheldon Fell Race

It was only on the way to the Sheldon Fell race that I remembered where we were going. I got confused with another race beginning with S. I have done Sheldon before. It was my first fell race in 2010 when we first arrived in Sheffield and I mentioned to a friend that I wouldn't mind having a go at a fell race.

Not only did she suggest trying but also convinced me that I could do it by reassuring me that although there would be plenty of old men in RonHill Tracksters, there would also be marshals at every turn and no way for me to lose touch with the runners in front. I didn't believe her on the last point. While I am not concerned about my mountaincraft skills (my mistakes are generally embarrassing not dangerous), a last minute decision on a Tuesday is no preparation for a navigational race and I had no idea where Sheldon was, never mind what it's hills look like.

I met TSK and Sam in the car park at Waitrose. I had only met one of these people before but was soon to find out that Sam's road shoes have run a few marathons before.

We registered, got dressed and I made gestures towards warming up which were more concerned with trying to squeeze some fatigue out of my legs from yesterday's fast run (planning fail!). We explained the rules of fell running to Sam ("don't quit unless something is falling off" and "there might be shirtless people about")

We huddled about half way through the field at the start - an open expression of my new found confidence in my feet.

When the start horn sounded i was immediately struck by the need to get around the woman whose bony elbows fired outward, seemingly in endless possible jabbing directions.

This pretty much meant that I had to keep up with the group. It's still hard to watch the masses of the group stretching out into the road ahead of you but it's easier when you are with the group rather than last time when I was already detached from the group with my inability to even try to run down hill fast.

The first flat field felt hard after the downhill sprint but by this point I was committed to trying to keep up with TSK. I had him in my sights but it was too much to concentrate on him with the steep downhill approaching.

I had forgotten to bring my new fell shoes with me and instead brought trail shoes in which I have no confidence on grass. Thank God it wasn't wet.

Some Dark Peak boys shot past wailing/singing/giggling so I decided to keep the side up and go with them. I had soon lost complete control of my feet and my confidence flailed when i thought, "it doesn't really matter if I fall here it's just a grassy field", then noticed the rocks sticking out from under the grass below. Sam later told us that he was passed by someone rolling down this hill.

Some of us took the sting out of the descent by adjusting our path through the long grass on a sideways slope but there was no avoiding the steepest section down to the river where I just turned my feet over as fast as I could and flailed my arms to keep my balance. Somehow I came out at the bottom upright and thought, "well, that's over for another year".

In retrospect I am very pleased because usually on the descents i am picking off all of the slow, nervous people but I clearly*was* the slow, nervous person last night so I have obviously made progress. Partly due to doing more fast run training, partly down to TSK playing carrot.

This time I picked a few off on the flat run along the river. One Dark Peak team mate passed me but I followed him and we picked off some more.

Disaster almost struck when my trail shoe slipped off a rock sideways causing me to go over on my ankle and yelp like a wounded puppy. I was so into my position which I had worked so hard for that I just kept hobbling along, swearing at and coaching my foot to bloody sort itself out. I momentarily thought of the impact of running on a sprained ankle prior to the expensive Liverpool Triathlon on Sunday but put it to the back of my mind because, honestly, I was having too much fun fell running. TSK turned around when I yelled to see if I was ok and I waved it off, saying, "I am ok" then as the pain failed to subside, thinking, "am I though?".  I still passed him anyway. A big achievement since to date i haven't beaten him in a running race.

Eventually the endorphins washed soothingly into the joint and I was able to run normally again. Me and Dark Peakie got on with it.

By the time we got to the big hill climb I was either alone or at the front of a big group and there was nothing left to do but maintain my position and try to gain slightly on the runners in front. I am a positive thinker (in racing) so I found it quite easy to imagine me stretching ahead of the struggling runners behind and reeling in the people who are going to collapse with exhaustion at the top of it. Of course it never pans out that way.

I had to try really hard to stay ahead when I heard breathing at my heels. Yes it is that steep. I had to concentrate on every step to stop my crappy trail shoes slipping on each stone and when I reached the top the people ahead only re-opened their lead on me.

The lady ahead had been in front of me on the start line, telling her friend that she was just going to follow everyone else so I had a suspicion that I could catch her on the final descent to the line.

I immediately passed a guy in a blue teeshirt that I thought I would be able to stay ahead of but who hounded me for a while before passing me back. I asked if i had woken him up. He just replied that the hill nearly killed him. That was a mistake because I just sat on behind him and waited for that final small rise across the field and hoped i could hold him off on the descent to the line.

Sure enough I stormed past him but that was all I could manage.  The lady in front who was "just going to follow everyone else" remained illusively ahead of me and as we hit the descent it became clear that her legs were just as long as mine and she had more reach or speed in hers than I did.  I heard someone approaching at speed and was about to be disheartened.  Fortunately it wasn't the guy in blue but someone different who rocketed down the hill.  I sprinted for the line in case anyone else was approaching but  I don't think there was anyone.

My watch said 37 minutes when I eventually stopped it and I couldn't wait to get home and see just what damage i had done to my 2010 time.

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