Having heard various horror stories over a few years from many people, I decided to give this race a go. This is the English Champs version of the fell race usually run in February, hence competition was going to be strong with a turnout from the best fell runners. I managed 2 recces the previous week, breaking down the route and using a ‘waterproof’ map purchased from Harveys. After an hour and a half in the rain last Sunday, it is a bit worn and tattered but at least it is not mush. The day was hot and sunny already when I met up with Gary Pearson our other representative. Full gear according to FRA rules had still to be carried. I bought a new bum bag for it all from Pete Bland who have stores at these events. Never buy a piece of gear you haven’t trained with for a race with minutes to spare. After a bit of late minute fiddling, I had to jog at a fastish pace for ten minutes to the start in Cardingmill Valley. At least I was warmed up and it helped to avoid DOMS according to my recent research (I feel good today..Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome). The route was professionally run by SI Entries. 1350 ish metres over 18.5 ish kilometres. The hills began and were absolutely relentless in the second part of the race. I knew I was in the back third in terms of numbers (not usually happy unless in top half plus) but it was a pedigree field. All checkpoints have to be checked into using a dibber which slows you down a little. The creative route allows for height gain similar to lakeland fell races, and judging by the majority of accents, it might just have been based there. Halfway round, I sighted Gary. My policy of starting slowly was working and I was reeling a few people in. I don’t think I have ever passed a Pearson before and definitely not on a hill. But Gary’s experience on the downhills left me behind again, though I caught him on the last hill where his experience helped pull me up. We slivered down the very steep descent to the finish. It felt good. Gary was in around 2hrs 20 mins 25 seconds, I was 25 seconds behind. My target of 2hrs 40 was beaten by almost 20 minutes! I think that my Buttermere Sailbeck last year over same height gain but 3km shorter was 2hrs 25 so I am very happy and working hard towards Fairfield Horseshoe this year and my first Man v Horse.
Postscript Training for fell runs I have decided is very specific. About 10 days ago, having learnt about eccentric quad contractions on downhills, I did 900m height on a fell, 6 mins up, 3 mins down, 150m x 6. I would say this made the difference. No DOMS today. After Buttermere last year, my quads ached for a week. That is the difference that specific preparation makes, in my humble opinion.