I’ve not posted since my rather long write-up of the Limassol trip. I have done a couple of races since and so here’s a bit of a write-up about them.
Rivington Pike Race
The ‘Rivington Pike’ Fell Race is one of the oldest fell races still being run. Taking place up in Horwich, this 3 mile run starts in Horwich and heads to the summit of the ‘pike’ and back. And whilst the race length is short, it has an ascent of 700ft. Short and sharp!
As you may know, it was my intention in 2018 to race off-road a lot more, although with my first 3 races of the year being on tarmac, you might have wondered if there was a change of plan! In fact, it was more about how things worked out. My two ‘A’ races on road just happened to both be in March. In fairness, neither really went to plan, but these things happen.
As with most races I hadn’t done before, I didn’t have a particular feel for what this race would have in store. Yes, I knew the distance and the amount of ascent, but with off-road running, one of the big unknowns is exactly what the ground is going to be like; some routes follow paths or firm tracks, whilst others you can be wading through boggy ground.
Rivington Pike Race threw me initially as the first section is along the road. Only slightly uphill, but definitely going up. From there the route went through a short muddy wooded section before joining a stone path whose rate of elevation ramped up significantly. Through a gate (roughly about the mile mark) and the main part of the climb began.
The thing I noticed first as I was starting on the uphill, was that I was not feeling at all fit. My hands were tingling which was a little off-putting, but as I’d misplaced my heart-rate monitor, I didn’t know whether my body was working harder than it should have been. Either way, I walked a lot more of the uphill than I might have hoped! It was also off-putting that the race leaders were already passing us on the way back at this point. How they manage to go that fast is beyond me!
Anyway, on reaching the summit of the Pike, it was 1.5 miles of very downhill. I’ve recently acquired some more aggressive race shoes with a lot more grip. I’m still getting used to what I can get away with in them, and as such it wasn’t the most textbook descent. Plenty of ‘Bambi on Ice’ moments.
Perhaps the plus point of the race starting on a slight up-hill tarmac section was that the race finish was this in reverse. With the years of road running behind me this played into my hands and I managed to overtake a large number of the people that had passed me on the way up!
Finish time was 26m01s. Not a spectacular time for a 3 mile route, but definitely a fair one. It was a wake-up call that my fitness was not where I thought it was!
A change of club
The Rivington Pike Race was also my last race with Stockport Harriers &AC. I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable running for Stockport as I don’t feel that the club’s own aims represent my own beliefs.
Having been sidelined at sport throughout school as I wasn’t any good at football (the sole measurable in the 1980s) I actively encourage people now to take part and be the best they can be. True, they may never make the Olympics team, but then, how many of us are? Whilst it’s important that talented junior and elite athletes are coached to their potential, there is no reason in this day and age to discourage/ look down on those not in this bracket.
My decision was purely based on personal feelings and I spent a lot of time mulling over it all before putting in my transfer request. For one, the runners at the club are great people and I’ve made some good friends there. It’s just that the direction/image that the club itself portrays doesn’t match mine.
I had considered joining a pure fell running club, but sadly all the local ones seem to meet on a Thursday, which is the one day of the week I have other commitments on! So I’d never get to run with them! So instead, I’ve joined another local road-based club, Marple Runners, who do dabble at other disciplines.
Chicken Run Fell Race
Club-transfer having gone through and my next race was the intriguingly titled ‘Chicken Run Fell Race’ which is one of the events from the Hayfield Race Series.
I’ve been doing a bit more running up in the Hayfield region in order to start getting myself race-fit for Snowdonia in the summer. Chicken Run is a 10k (ish) route with 3 climbs and a mixture of terrain. I included it in our Lyme Runners race series and a couple of the others from the group came out to the event too.
Starting from Hayfield Primary School, the route takes the runners up a stony path which gets reasonably steep. It was quite narrow and became a bit annoying as someone behind me was clearly under the impression that if he kept pushing into me, that I’d mysteriously vanish or something. But a quick grassy descent later and he was left in my wake.
The route then got out onto the hills themselves and the second (and biggest) climb began. The path was reasonably firm and runnable although I did walk a big section of it. I’m quicker doing that than running when it’s that steep! As the gradient reduced, I did pick up some speed although I was still retaining the road-running mentality of trying to avoid the puddles. I always go much faster when I just get on with running regardless rather than dodging around water! In the end the urge for speed out-weighed the urge to have dry feet!!
I managed to be running on my own for most of this having left a few others behind on the big hill. I could see a couple of runners up ahead, one of whom had run past me up the hill. However it seems whenever I made decent progress, so did they and they never seemed to get any closer! Having made the sharp turn at the furthest point of the route to head back there seemed to be a lot of walkers on the return path. All of whom were very cheery and moved to one side as I passed them. There were a few very muddy sections which I was adamant I wasn’t going to face-plant in front of anyone, so I took my time. And amazingly didn’t fall over!
And then it was hill number 3. Again a mixture of running and walking. Up ahead I noticed the two runners ahead of me had changed order, and whilst one was making rapid progress, I was actually catching the second. By the end of the climb I was on the shoulder of the second runner who was amazed that I’d apparently come from nowhere. And then it was downhill time, and I don’t hold back on descents (at least when I’m not scaring myself about them!). The grassy descent met a stony farm track before meeting the path we had run up before the big hill. The downhill gradient increased a bit more and so did my speed. The runner ahead was clearly doing the same and whilst I kept getting glimpses of him ahead, they were fleeting.
The downhill was interspersed with closed gates which resulted in cartoon-like braking manoeuvres to prevent any collisions. There was a road crossing which both the runner in front and I managed to get across in between traffic light changes. I’d have been gutted to have had to stop and wait having finally found my speed!!
At the end it was back into the primary school field and the end of what was a very enjoyable race. My watch time was 53m10s which, whilst slow for a 10k for me on the road, I was more than happy with. Unlike at Rivington, I felt OK throughout and was able to run at the level I felt I could at the time.
So what’s next?
May looks to be a busy racing month, with a number of local fell races all falling in rapid succession. I’m being very conscious that it was last May when I picked up the injury which has been an ongoing saga ever since, so hopefully by doing a bit more of the strength work, I can get through this next phase of training and racing, intact.