Haven’t had much sporty stuff on the blog for a bit – time for an update about what I’ve been up to and why I can’t walk faster than a snail’s pace today.
I had a pretty good run in the Three Peaks Race yesterday. It’s not the hilliest fell race there is but at almost 24 miles it’s a hard, hard endurance event. I’m sure there are tougher things to do, but it’ll do me for now. Key headline is that I finished ten minutes quicker than my first one (last year), with a time of 3hrs 44:59(click for split times). My cycling team mate Rob Jebb won for the second year running with 2:54:15 – a four minute improvement on 1995. Somehow, because of a stronger field, I guess, I finished five places further down the field than last time….
Managed to prepare pretty well but the main worry was that I’d been cycling a bit more than I should have been. There’s not much substitution for running as training for this distance, with the 4,500 feet of climbing and (importantly) hard descending. The main ‘lesson’ I took with me from 2005 was to go out a bit more gently and leave plenty in the tank for the finishing 10 miles. That said, I somehow managed to get up the first mountain, Penyghent, two and a half minutes quicker than 2005. Ooops.
The long stretch after descending the fast track from the summit didn’t seem to take its toll too much – I reached Ribblehead knowing that I hadn’t over-stretched myself a full five minutes quicker than last time. Although I improved on every split, things just got so much harder after Ribblehead. I was starting to get very tight calf muscles (all than non-running training!) and the decline in my wellbeing was compounded by a nasty fall on an innocuous bit of rocky track next to the Settle-Carlisle railway. A lamb ran out in front of me and I just caught a rock with my left toe and went straight down in a heap. Sitting there for 30 seconds or so I was in quite a bit of pain, but made what was to be the right decision in getting up and seeing how I felt. Three or four minutes of limping and nursing a bit of a bloody knee was all it took before it soon mingled in with the rest of the pain and got pushed from my mind.
From the summit of Whernside, the highest and steepest part of the race, I started down the next descent a little bit more cautiously. Partly because of the fall, and partly because of the nagging signs of cramp in my calf muscles. I had a nasty spasm of cramp that I quickly dealt with by belting it with my fist (!), then continued down the steep track, fingers crossed that all the flat tonic water I’d drunk during the race (quinnine reduces cramp, apparantly) was working.
By the time I reached the Hill Inn (the last point you can logically pack in!) I knew I was going to get back in one piece, but had to slow my pace – drastically, to keep the cramp at bay – in would have stopped me dead in my tracks and I knew it – so I had to be wise and mentally strong in letting people run past me. The competitive urge is hard to overcome, but I was right to lay off for a bit. The climb of Ingleborough was satisfying – the end’s almost in sight and although there’s an attrition on the legs that you can’t describe unless you’ve experienced it – you know you’ve done it.
The four mile descent back to Horton in Ribblesdale is a bit of a cruel one. The gradient is gentle, but an uneven path surface is cruel on tired legs and aching feet. Again, I had to let people pass me, knowing that if I tried to stay with them, I’d be rolling on my back in the side of the path with cramp for five minutes. The final false-flat passes excruciatingly slowly, then, ‘you bloody beauty’ – I can see the road only a few hundred yards ahead.
After I came over the line I got a great hug from Lily and it was ace to have some family in support. I really seized up afterwards and have been hobbling about for 24 hours since. Well worth it though.
Matthew (Pixton) defeated his demons, having had to pack in 2005, and overcame some horrible cramp to finish in 4 hrs 49 – will “never do it again” (my words, 2005 – maybe he’s got more conviction than me though!). Carl (Nelson) was not so lucky at his first attempt and blisters got the better of him. His long walk down from Whernside to the bus back to safety added insult to injury. Mike (Cottrill) soldiered round in 5:03 – a hard day out, but got a good finish under his belt.