May 2011

Fellsman 2011


This was my 3rd Fellsman. The route doesn’t really suit me. I plod up and down the big hills at the start, and by the time I get to the runnable stuff later on it’s dark and grouping keeps the speed down to a plod. My original plan was to go as hard as I could to Fleet Moss, hopefully get into a fast(er) moving group and see if I could round in closer to 20 hours (2009: 23.23, 2010: 21.47). My injured calf put pay to that, and I downgraded my goal to ‘get around in one piece’.

20 minutes in, as I struggled up Ingleborough with both calves screaming, I downgraded further to ‘get to Hill Inn in one piece and DNF’.  My calves loosened off on the descent though and I decided to aim for Dent (and at least get a half-way decent training run in). Ascending Whernside was a bit easier and by Gragareth my calves were no more sore than any other bit of my legs.

The last 2 years I snuck through Redshaw with 5-10 minutes to spare before the grouping cut-off. I thought I was on course to do the same this year, but the cut-off was 30 minutes sooner than I thought and I missed it by 10 minutes.
I quickly found myself 3 fellow run/walkers and we set off (at a steady walk) for Dodd Fell. Two of the group were first timers (one a fast-ish runner who’d lost time due to dodgy navigation). The 3rd, a very fast walker, was also on his 3rd Fellsman and knew a more direct (but not I’m convinced faster) route to Dodd Fell than I’d taken before.

We reached Fleet moss just as it got dark. From this point the navigation was my responsibility. The last minute route change throwing a boggy spanner in the works... I took us on a fairly conservative route, using fences as hand-rails (and a couple of groups of head-torches gained on us with more direct routes..). We were lucky to latch onto a group of old-timers for the final stretch to the new Middle Tongue checkpoint and over to Hell Gap. With the navigation responsibility gone I was feeling a bit rough and struggling to keep up at the back. I even briefly considered dropping out when we got to Cray to avoid slowing the rest of the group down. But when we got there the tent was full of people in a far worse state than me, so I popped a couple of pro plus and we quickly headed out again. Normally when grouped I get frustrated at having to sit at checkpoints, getting cold, but these guys were even less fond of dallying than me.

We were moving a fair bit slower than the group I was in last year, but the short stops were going a long way to compensating for this. En route we’d be overtaken by several groups (one of which was being ‘driven’ by a woman who seemed hell-bent on burning her companions out one by one...) but we’d then catch and repass them at the checkpoints.

Come Yarnbury and de-grouping I briefly considered trying to run. Last year we’d had a crazy run-out and I was out-kicked by a 3.15 marathon runner. This year the rest of the group clearly weren’t up for it, and I didn’t want to risk trying to run, pulling something and looking like a prat. We finally finished in 22.31, which in the circumstances I was reasonably satisfied with. But I’ll be back, with some more hills in my legs, to try and get closer to 20 hours.


Injured. On the way to get my UTMB medical certificate signed

I was on the way to the doctors, carefully clutching my UTMB medical certificate. I had plenty of time, but couldn’t be bothered to wait for the lights to change at a pedestrian crossing. So I started to ‘sprint’ across the road. Half-way across something ‘went’ in my right calf. And the sprint became a hop. Followed by a frantic hobble to make it to the doctors on time. And convince the doctor, that despite being unable to walk properly I was fit to run 100 mountainous miles in 4 months time...

Rewinding a couple of weeks... I’d finished the ‘Haworth Hobble-Hardmoors 55’ back-to-back weekends feeling fine.
Next up was several weeks of work travel (Amsterdam, Swindon, Glasgow and Bologna) with the Calderdale Hike in the middle. 

I arrived at Calderdale feeling tired, but otherwise OK, and aiming for a time somewhere in the middle of 2010’s good (for me...) run of  8.43 and 2009’s 9.30 casual plod. My right leg felt a bit tight for the first couple of flat miles, but I didn’t think much of it, assuming it’d ease as I warmed up. 

Unfortunately not. On the first steep climb both of my calves were excruciatingly tight, and I ground almost to a halt and the rest of the back end of the field streamed past me...
I slowly worked my way back past a handful of people, but by 10 miles I’d developed an array of random aches. And to increase my entertainment levels, rather than sticking to the tried and tested route choices I used last year I got creative... The low-light was swopping a runnable gravel track followed by a short sharp climb for an interminable plod through slowly rising boggy ground (although I did manage to plod past a group of youngish blokes at this point...). I kept plodding away and ended up finishing in 9.23, just inside 2009’s casual stroll...

The next day I was waddling/hobbling worse than I’ve done in a long time, so I decided not to take the running shoes to Bologna and have a few days rest. When I got home the legs still weren’t right, but nothing specifically wrong, until the road crossing incident...  I’m still not sure exactly what happened, but the underlying cause appears to be a tight ITB.

Common sense prevailed and I DNSed the
Highland Fling (my first ultra DNS). I’d had one eye on trying to better my placing in the ‘most total points’ category in the Run Further UK ultra-running championships (last year I was just outside the top 3) but convinced myself it wasn’t worth jeopardising UTMB (or the rest of my May plans). I rewarded myself by spending the money I’d otherwise have spent on the train fare on a pair of blingy new trekking poles.

Two weeks of massage and stretching and I’m back running. The calf is fine, but the underlying tightest isn’t quite gone.

Next up: 
Fellsman (and hoping my old Montrail Highlanders pass the kit-check as their ‘not quite yet worn-in’ replacements took the skin off both my heels yesterday...). I had been planning to go hard(er) until Fleet Moss and (grouping permitting) try and get my time down to something closer to 20 hours (23:23 in 2009, 21:47 in 2010). But now the goal is to get around in one piece.