Posts Tagged ‘fell running’


It’s the night before another fell race and I’m sat here feeling sick and nervous at the thought of tomorrow’s race, the Mythholmroud fell race. Why though? It doesn’t make any sense. I’ve run this race before and know the area fairly well. I’ve run races before including plenty of fell and trail races so I know what to expect, tough climbs, mud, cold water, more mud and cold water and a horrible descent before I can get back to the warmth of Mytholmroyd community centre. So I know where I’m going and what to expect. So why do I feel sick and nervous? I’m not fit at all. Overweight, slow, carrying the usual niggles that every runner seems to carry so no chance of winning or even coming in the top thirty. Even if I was fit I still wouldn’t have a chance so that’s another reason out of the window but it doesn’t explain why I feel sick and nervous. In the end all I can do is assume that it’s just a natural thing to feel nervous before a race, part of the process of preparing yourself mentally to run and do your best on the day. There doesn’t have to be a reason, it’s just one of those things that you can’t control. So yes it’s another sleepless night of worrying unnecessarily over something I can control and I know what I have to do but I still worry and I always will.


On Sunday I took part in my first Trigger Race a tough and demanding 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale over the Dark Peaks of the Peak District. This is my Trigger Race.

The day didn’t start great. It felt like I had, had hardly any sleep despite going to bed early on Saturday. I was thinking about the Trigger Race and wondering if I was up to it. If I should pull out and what could go wrong. In the end despite my reservations I got up at 3:30am and began to get ready for the biggest race of my life.

At 5:00am my mate Matt Fielding and me where off, travelling down to Edale to leave one car there before driving up to Marsden where the race started. The journey down the M62 to Edale wasn’t nice. Fog and rain on the roads just added to my already nervous state about what I was getting myself into.

We arrived at Edale in time to see the competitors getting ready to go in the Montane Spine Race http://thespinerace.com/. These runners were going the whole length of the Pennine Way, 268 miles over 7 days and I felt in awe of these amazing athletes who were pushing themselves to the limit mentally and physically in one of the most brutal and challenging races in the world.

On to Marsden and arriving at the cricket club we quickly got our kit checked and registered for the race. To my surprise I had race number 1! I did feel proud to be representing my club, Queensbury and wearing number 1.

Soon we were all outside having a last minute talk from the race organiser and then we were off! I quickly settled into a steady pace and felt good as we passed Butterley Reservoir and began to steadily climb towards our first trig point at Black Hill.

At this point it was terrain I was used to. We were on the Pennine Way and this part of it was one of the easier sections to run on and navigate. Then we turned off, left from memory, and began the first of our big climbs up Black Hill. I was feeling good, felt strong on the climbs and was passing people.

And then suddenly we were in the mist. The temperature dropped and the green grass was replaced by white snow. Now was the time to take care as the paths were wet, icy and dangerous. Care was needed as one slip could spell the end of my race.

And then the mud and bogs appeared. I went from running upright to slipping everywhere and falling into bogs. I’ve been very lucky avoiding most of the bogs where I run and not falling over. Today more than made up for my previous good luck.

It seemed to be my fate to fall into every single bog on the day. I lost count of how many times I ended up to my waist in a bog full of freezing cold mud and water or falling on my hands and knees onto the cold, wet ground. Within minutes I was wet through, wet mud clinging to my hands and legs making it difficult to keep warm.

I was still feeling focused and determined so put any thoughts of feeling cold and wet to one side ploughed on, upping my pace and passing more people as I raced to the summit of Black Hill.

And then I felt something hit my side. To my surprise one of my water bottles had come out from its pocket on my racing rucksack and was banging against my side. I tried to put it in on the move but it just kept popping out so I ended up carrying it in my hand.

This was far from ideal as it upset my rhythm and meant I was maintaining my balance with one hand. Around the same time I felt an ache develop in my right hand side. I wanted to stop and check everything was ok but there was no time. This was a race and I had two timed checkpoints to meet. Any delays could cost me meeting those times so I ploughed on as best as I could.

We made the snow covered checkpoint at Black Hill, the mountain rescue team standing out in their bright red jackets in the mist and began the descent towards Crowden the first timed checkpoint. We had caught up with some other runners and was making good progress. Despite carrying a water bottle in one hand I felt confident on the descent towards Crowden and made good time on it.

We arrived at Crowden in plenty of time but in my haste to sort out my water bottle issue I tripped over the entrance to the checkpoint tent and demolished the table the marshals were using! This was one of the talking points of the day as people where asking who the lunatic was who destroyed the table!

We checked in and carried on but to our dismay we had lost the group of runners in front of us due to me sorting out my water bottle problem. The two ladies we had been running with retired at Crowden and now we were on our own with only a map and a compass to get us to our next checkpoint at the top of Bleaklow.

We arrived at the bottom of our next climb thanks to Nicky Spinks pointing us in the right direction. We looked for an obvious trail to follow to get to the top but couldn’t see one and then I spotted what looked like a reasonable trail to follow to the top. How wrong I was.

We began to climb and everything was fine. Then the climb steepened sharply and I realised I was out of my depth but had no choice but to carry on to the top. Staying focused, looking up and grabbing bits of heather I worked my way up steadily.

Then I put my right leg out and felt my calf muscle go. I was 100ft up the side of a short but steep climb with my right leg at 90 degrees, my right calf cramping up and me holding onto a clump of heather.

I looked down and realised that I had no choice but to go up. The line from the Killers song, ‘All These Things I’ve Done’, ‘when you can’t hold on, hold on’ played in my mind. Matt was now at the top, only 20ft above me but far enough away. I looked for footholds and clumps of heather to grasp onto and got myself to the top. I’m not a climber and I’m scared of heights but I did it. In situations like this before I’ve froze but this time I stayed focused and made the climb.

At the top we worked out which we to go and began the ascent to Bleaklow and it was here that the weather here took a turn for the worse. From a pleasant winters day at Crowden we were enveloped by cold mist, deep snow and the only visible trails had ice cold water running down them. We had no choice but to follow these water trails and soon I had lost all feeling in my feet as they went numb from the cold water running over them.

We made steady progress and found the waterfall that meant we were on the right route. But somewhere between starting the climb and getting to the head of the waterfall I started to feel the onset of hypothermia. My hands and feet were numb with cold and had no feeling in them. My shoulders and chest were starting to go the same way, the cold cutting right through my body. I was sweating but it was cold and clammy and my clothing felt heavy because it was saturated in sweat and water.
I had no choice but to carry on. I could feel the onset of fatigue and each footstep was getting harder to make, both my legs cramping up as I moved through deep mud and cold water. Making Snake Pass was going to be very tough.

Then we heard voices behind us and saw the mountain rescue guys who were acting as sweepers for the runners. I felt relived knowing that if I got worse I was with the right people to help me. I was carrying an emergency sleeping bag but in these conditions with poor visibility it would make finding someone difficult and time is of the essence if you’re in trouble on the moors.

We carried on with the mountain rescue guys guiding us to our next checkpoint at Shelf Moor at the top of Bleaklow. The conditions were so poor that they had problems navigating and finding the right route but they got us to the checkpoint. Everything looked the same. Mounds of snow covered earth with streams flowing through them. It really was as if we were in a whole different world.

At Shelf Moor my condition had worsened. I could feel my body and mind slowing down, moving was difficult, thinking even more so as fatigue set in. I was beginning to feel punch drunk but without the pleasure of having had a couple of beers. I knew I had reached my physical limit and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep but that would make things much worse. My only option was to carry on to Snake Pass.

The mountain rescue guys knew what was happening too. There was no point in asking what was happening. It was obvious to everyone.

I didn’t have the energy to unclip my racing rucksack and get some food so the guys gave me a cookie and some hot Ribena. It seemed to take forever for me to eat the cookie but I needed immediate energy and eventually I finished it.

I knew I had to carry on and get to warmth. There was around 3 miles to go to Snake Pass and I focused on getting there and put thoughts of coldness, fatigue and hypothermia out of my mind. My only focus was to keep moving, keep talking and keep making progress.

We had some more minor navigational issues but eventually we found ourselves on the Pennine Way footpath and the gate to Snake Pass appeared out of the mist. Matt and the mountain rescue guys let me lead and dictate the pace but I felt myself get a little bit faster towards the end and the feeling was returning to my hands.

At Snake Pass I retired. I had made this decision at Shelf Moor and I knew it was the right one. This was not the time or place for being a hero and I do not regret retiring at that point. It was the right decision.

Matt carried on and finished in around 8 hours 10 minutes. I got a lift back to Edale village hall and warmth. After a couple of hours I began to feel warm and I could reflect on my performance.

I felt very proud of what I had achieved. I had done things I never thought I would do when I began my running journey two years ago and I had pushed myself beyond my limits and achieved more than I thought I ever would. Talking to other runners they said this was the worse conditions the race had been run in and this made me feel better knowing I had run in such brutal conditions and given it everything I had on the day.

My experience has not put me off the Trigger Race either. On the contrary it has strengthened my resolve to come back better and stronger in 2018 and finish the race.

Big thanks to the guys at Woodhead Mountain Rescue. Without them the day could have been much worse.

http://www.marsdentoedale.co.uk/
http://woodheadmrt.org/


Monday, 14 November 2016

The day after the final YVAA vets race at Spenborough and I have the usual aches but nothing I haven’t had before. I want to rest but I know I have to get out and run however short it may be. I choose a new route, short just 2.9 miles but hilly with 512ft of climbing. I want to see how hard I can push myself over a short distance as I need to increase my speed.

This will help with my training for the Trigger Race too, a tough 21 mile fell race from Marsden to Edale in the middle of January. Strangely I’m not worried about the distance although that may change when I start doing some serious long runs! However I feel that doing some short runs and going as hard as possible on them will increase my endurance and give me an edge. This edge is not to do with beating anyone but toughening me mentally in preparation for my biggest running challenge to date.

After the run I feel good and ache in different places. This is what I wanted. Getting my body used to different demands so that I’m more of an all-round runner and not just an endurance athlete. Running fast on road again will hopefully give me an extra something and improve my trail and fell running too!


It’s been an interesting week for me especially with my running.

I ended last week having run further than I have ever run before, 41.5 miles. This was done deliberately as this past Thursday I had decided to enter the Rydal Round fell race at Ambleside and I believe in overtraining the week or so before a big race, having a rest the week before and then I am ready for the big day.

So the first three days of this week were a living hell for me as I rested my legs so that they would be fresh and strong on the day. Seeing all your running friends posting their runs on Strava makes it harder but I had never done a proper fell race before so I knew I was doing the right thing.

Come Thursday and after a drive of a couple of hours I was at the Ambleside Sports Day and getting ready for the race by getting changed at the boot of my car! Luckily it was cold and wet so I wasn’t hanging around and neither was anybody else which spared embarrassed blushes for everybody.

Then a massive disappointment. The race had been shortened from a 9 mile horseshoe loop to a 4 mile out and back to the first summit Nab Scar. This was due to horrendous weather conditions on the highest summit Fairfield which the marshal had decided too dangerous to race under. No-one could do anything about this as the organisers are responsible for the safety of the runners and no-one wants to put anyone in a dangerous situation if they can avoid it.

So under a sky of mist and rain around 100 mad runners set off to run up to a summit that they couldn’t even see at that point. The first mile was fine. Nice and steady uphill trail, nothing I hadn’t run on before and I was keeping a decent pace with some of the other runners at the back of the pack.

And then we saw the last house and turned right up the fell and the real race began. Immediately I went from running comfortably on trial to scrambling up the side of a cliff! This was rocky, steep and wet, a combination of surfaces I had not run on before and none of my training on the hills where I live had prepared me for this.

This was a brutal and intense introduction to feel running and nobody was messing around. Everybody was doing their utmost to beat everybody else, even more so it seemed than in the road races I had competed in. I felt strong going up and whilst I was never going to be the fastest I was catching and passing people. All my training and rest had paid off. I was moving with ease up the side of the fell and making good, if steady progress.

Then I got to the top and my problems started. What goes up must come down and coming down was far more difficult than going up had been. I was wearing was wearing my fell shoes and still struggling for grip. I seem to find going up a steep climb easier than going down and today was no exception. All the runners I had passed on the way up passed me back on the way down and my progress seemed to slower and slower.

Eventually I reached the bottom and found I couldn’t remember which trail I should take to get me back to the finish. I started going up one and then decided it was the wrong route, turned back and ended up on the main road. Whilst I knew this was also the wrong way I had now been running for nearly an hour and was cold and wet so headed back to the fair and relative comfort.

My next run wasn’t till Saturday after the local parkrun at Shroggs park and it hurt. My legs had not fully recovered from Thursday and I was aching in places I didn’t know I even had! It was obvious to me I had giving it everything and more on Thursday and put my legs in extreme positons that normally I would not even think of attempting. My thighs in particular were burning with pain but I knew a steady run would be the best thing for them to get rid of the stiffness and soreness I was experiencing.

After my run I ended up going to two parties and instead of driving home in my car from the last one ended up leaving it in a field the other side of Halifax! So I woke up today in the knowledge that I would be running to get my car and wondering what shape I would be in. Surprisingly I felt really good. Yes, I still ached but nothing I wouldn’t expect. I soon get into a steady, comfortable rhythm and was at the field within an hour. But I carried on past my car and extended my run from what would have been around 5 miles to nearly 9. Even then I felt I could have run further but decided to stop there and give my legs the rest they need.

This week I have come across two people who have similar reasons to me for running. One of them is a lad from Halifax known as the ‘Pink Running Machine’ and it was interesting learning about his reasons for running and what he gets from it.

The other was a lass I hadn’t heard of but again I could empathise with her as to why she run.

To see these two people out running it would be easy to make a judgement about the ‘Pink Running Machine’ as he runs topless and dyes his hair pink and think of him as an attention seeking poser. I can guarantee you he is not. The lass you wouldn’t notice out running, she would just be another runner you pass on the road yet they both have much in common as to why they run.

Maybe if we get to know someone properly before we make a judgement on them we might find we have much in common with them as to why they do certain thing and that the façade they put on is there to hide years of pain and to seek attention. Next time you see that person whether it is a runner or not get to know them first before making a snap judgement about them and maybe you might find out you have much more in common with them then you first thought.

 


I knew July would be a tough month for running but I didn’t realise just how tough… 2nd July: The European Mountain Running Championships (Arco, Italy) 9th July: Sedbergh Sports (The British & English Fell Running Championships) 16th July: Râs Yr Wyddfa (The Snowdon International) 30th July: British Mountain Running National Championships incorporating the World Championship Trial (Uphill) and […]

via Râs Yr Wyddfa — The secret fell running diary of Ben Mounsey aged 34 and 3/4


Another cracking blog about fell running from the amazing Ben Mounsey

The secret fell running diary of Ben Mounsey aged 37 1/2

HOW IMPORTANT IS A RACE RECCE? 

Fell running is becoming an increasingly popular sport. These days the racing calendar is so heavily saturated you could race a couple of times a week if you wanted to or even twice in the same day like my hardy friend Darren Fishwick of Chorley AC. However, it’s almost impossible to find the time to practise every single race that you intend to do. So just how important is a recce?

This year I’ve had to think very carefully about choosing which races I want focus on, everything else has to fit in and become preparation for these key events. My first major goal is to try and prepare for Black Combe, the opening race of the British Fell Championship. I’ve competed on this course once before in 2008, the last time it was a Championship fixture. Unfortunately for me I don’t…

View original post 1,752 more words