Last weekend was the annual Gravy Pud Fell Race. The sister event of ‘Round the Resers’ the Gravy Pud is great short fell race in Tintwistle. It’s the 3rd time I’ve done the race.
It’s a fell race I’ve raved about to those around me. It’s a lovely route that isn’t particularly technical and definitely a good one if you’re new to fell races. And last weekend we were blessed with almost perfect weather; save for a little bit of frost on the cobbled road which could have been a little slippy, the weather was crisp and clear with the views being as clear as they could be.
Unlike many fell races, the majority of the places were purchased online in advance of the event. I booked my place several months ago and pretty well forgot about it until it loomed in my calendar. I even had to check that I had actually entered as so much time had passed since entering!
Have I entered?
In fact it was good that I had pre-entered. For one reason or another last weekend I really wasn’t feeling my running. My recent parkruns have all been 2 minutes or more off my normal pace, more than likely as my body was still recovering from November’s ultramarathon. Having bell-ringing commitments on the Sunday morning and this lacklustre feeling it would have been easy to not go to the race. However, it became apparent that the bell ringing band was depleted to the point that we wouldn’t be ringing. And the weather forecast was excellent. I packed away the various excuses to not run and headed over to Tintwistle.
It’s worth noting that on the Saturday, I ran at Marple parkrun, partly due to it being a friend’s 300th parkrun and partly due to the founder of parkrun, Paul Sinten-Hewitt coming along. I mention this fact because on Saturday morning it was Baltic. The ground was partly frozen, which generally meant for feet going through the ice into several inches of icy water in several different parts of the course. Which you do two laps of. So by the time I’d got home I was well and truly chilled inside and out!
As such, I turned up to Tintwistle on the Sunday morning with long sleeves, leggings, gloves, hat, thermos…. You get the idea. And it became quickly apparent that whilst it was a bit frosty, that was it. There was probably as much chance of overheating than freezing. Oh well!
I was comfortable in my head that today was not going to be fast. I’ve not done any speed training for months and as the parkruns have shown, I’m stuck in ultra-gear rather than speedy. But on a day so fantastic, I decided that I’d just go out and enjoy the course. Which I knew would be easy to do because it’s fabulous.
Here’s the route, which is the same as last year!
What’s a Gravy Pud?
Over 230 runners lined up at the start, a big record for this race. And a big mixture of abilities from the winner who was around the 5.5 miles in 36ish minutes all the way back to the final finishers closer to 90 minutes. Oh and there was tea and pieces of cake at the finish line. You don’t get that in your shiny-corporate-money-making races….. All for a fiver (plus a bit of a booking fee for the online system).
We went off and actually the road wasn’t particularly slippery although there was a bit of ice here and there. Within a couple of minutes we were off the road and on the first climb up to Arnfield Farm. I’m OK at the ups and overtook a load of people, knowing full well that I’d lose the places again on the short sharp downhill where I’m less confident in my ability to stay upright! As we crossed the stream you could see the leading runners snaking their way up to the top of the ‘Gravy Pud’, the hill above the farm.
Most of the climb is pretty steady but the very top is a steep little section. But it’s quick and then the fun really begins. An undulating but predominantly downhill selection of tracks, paths, woodland, another water crossing (which this year seems to have gained a bridge to cross it). It’s mostly easy running with only a bit of slippery mud and a few low-hanging branches to cause a potential nosedive. I’d been swapping places with another 3 or 4 runners who would whiz past me on the downhills but I’d claw them back (not literally) on the ups.
Once out of the second set of woods the path climbs its way back towards Tintwistle and joins the road which we set out on over 5 miles earlier. And the majority of this is slightly uphill which was good for me. I managed to get past all those I’d been battling with in the woods and overtake a few more to boot. As we got to the crest of the final climb I’d pretty well given all I had on the day so had to settle following in a Dark Peak runner to the finish even though I’d almost caught him on the hill.
Finish time was 49m55s in 95th place, over 3 minutes slower (and about 50 places lower) than in 2018. No surprises really given my lower fitness, but I was just happy to have got around without any incident.
Going forward there’s a realisation that there’s some work to be done on my fitness. Accepting first that my body does need to get over the ultras of the year. But getting back into the swing of regular runs to start to build up the aerobic fitness beyond my “ultra-plod” pace which is great for 50 milers but a bit sad for half-marathons!
Whilst the speed work isn’t as high on my list of important things as it once was, it does still mean enough for me to be disappointed that I don’t quite have the edge I had at the shorter distances. But with a couple of months before half-marathon season starts for me again, there should be ample time to make a difference.