Monday, 24 November 2014

Final fell race of the year

Another weekend, another race. This time I was far from concerned about a time, and was more looking forward to running over the hills, seeing some spectacular scenery and potentially have an element of competition thrown in. The race provided 2 out of 3; thick mist scuppered any decent views.

The Kendal Mountain Festival is mostly about screening adventure films, but they threw in a 10k fell race that went over some of the foothills around Kendal. The first couple of miles climbed up Beast Bank and, knocking off the first couple of miles at 6:15 pace, was tiring and a bit of a shock given the ascent! I was about 5 seconds behind Tom Addison (English Fell Running Champ) as we started to traverse Scout Scar. By this point, we were in the clouds and I was losing a bit of focus on the undulating terrain. Tom began to put some distance between him and soon disappeared into the mist. My legs felt fine, I just missed the technical ability of running efficiently on the uneven surface.

As the course started to drop off the ridge, we emerged from the clouds and I was about 30 seconds begins first. It would take a huge effort on the descent to close this gap and it was at about 8k that I realised this was the case. We dropped down towards Kendal across a golf course and then back into the town through some narrow and steep alleys. The finish was fantastic, right in the centre of the town and amongst a festival atmosphere. I crossed the line in second, about 50 seconds behind first, in one piece and with no aches (as seems quite often the case after fell races). Not a bad effort given my recent training along the pancake flat Thames Path.

The countdown is now on to the last couple of races of the year: IFXC on Wednesday, Sri Chimnoy 10k on Saturday and then Met League before Christmas, but at this point I'm very much looking further ahead to the major events of spring 2015

Sunday, 9 November 2014

A damp day out at the Ballbuster Duathlon

Having got painfully close to the course record last year, I wanted to put in an effort that would challenge the course record (which I think is about 2:34). I had no idea what the opposition would be on the day, but there are so many uncertainties on the course that positions can easily change throughout the race and it would be necessary to race hard all the way to the finish.

The race certainly is iconic, taking in 5 laps (2 running and 5 cycling) of an 8 mile circuit which includes the Zig-Zag climb at Box Hill. There are fast sections, technical sections such as through Headley village and tough sections like the climb up Box Hill (and the whole 8 mile run having already completed the first 2 legs of the race). The race all kicks off at 8am in the morning and I imagine it must be one of the only times throughout the year that you get well over 500 competitors and spectators gathering up at Box Hill at that time in the morning. Believe me, I was questioning why I'd signed up for this race when my alarm went off at 4:45 in the morning!

As per last year, I deliberated a fair bit about the choice of bike, to the point where I took both a TT bike and my normal road bike to the start. In the end I opted for the TT bike...possibly a poor choice as you will understand reading on. I felt good on the first run, starting out steady at about 5:30 pace, picking up the pace in the mid section to 5:15ish pace as the course descended, before putting in an effort on the Box Hill climb (although this results in a drop in pace given the ascent). I wasn't aware of anyone too close to me at the end of the first run, but a strong cyclist can easily overhaul a deficit on the bike. This race is heavily weighted in favour of runners given about 60% of the time is spent running. For this race, I feel that you should take the first run comfortably and not exert too much energy given that you still have a good 2 hours of effort ahead.

Prior to the start of the race, there had been a little bit of rain which had made the course a little greasy in places. The first bike lap was 'OK', there was minimal rain and traffic and I could put in a reasonable effort throughout the course. The only mishap occurred after 4 mile when my Garmin fell off my bike whilst doing about 30mph; I went back to pick up only to find it was completely smashed to pieces (hence reverting to the watch to track my effort). This frustrated me a bit, but these things happen and I tried not to let it loose my focus for the race. As I started the second lap, the rain started to fall a bit harder and the race traffic began to build. I was constantly having to shout 'keep left’ to the other cyclists as I overtook them. Combine this with the increase in traffic along and the deteriorating conditions, and it all became tough going. When I realised the course record was out of reach, I made the decision to just make sure I finished in one piece-I’ve never been so concerned about my safety on the bike in a triathlon/duathlon before, but the circumstances were just not right. I spent little time on the aerobars, a fair amount of time on the brakes and as a result felt as though my effort over the bike course was limited. But the big relief was to finish in one piece!

Having not pushed so hard on the bike, I had more energy to try to make amends on the second run. I followed a similar strategy to the first run and felt strong all the way to the finish. I got good support from other riders and the slightly easier bike leg meant I could push harder on the second run. I finished in first in 2:37, some 3 minutes off my best and 9 minutes ahead of 2nd, but very pleased with my running and also to negative split on the run.

It is a good event and can be extremely fun in the right circumstances, however I just did not feel comfortable with the conditions today. Whilst closing roads can be impractical, I'd suggest to the organiser to investigate the possibility of either closing the ‘back road’ or making it one way to help reduce the chance of incident. I don't really like to suggest putting 'red tape' all over races, but I guess you need to be mindful when you're hitting speeds well over 30mph.

Thanks to Team Lifeventure for getting me a place in the race.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Red Bull Steeplechase video

The team at Red Bull put together a video of the Steeplechase Race. Here it is!