The first tour event that I have taken part in was finally here! 3 days of 6 miles per day with a good mixture of road, trail and fell. This is where the year starts to get tough for me with the Tour of Tameside next week. What a warm up! Read my full report here.
And we’re off! Stood on the corner of the main road, which was certainly not the standard start line but it did the trick! The gun sounded and it was the beginning of the 3-day challenge. Or at least it was for the majority of people. I believe there were 79 people competing in the full 3-day event if I heard correctly. That’s only 78 people that I needed to try and beat! haha.
The road race was certainly the more straight forward out of the 3 days. There was a constant climb for about 1.5 miles or so before a long couple of stretches out along busy roads followed by another bit of climbing and then a decent stretch downhill.
Overall, the course had inclines that totalled roughly 450ft, or certainly close to that amount, so this was far from a flat road race when compared to an inner city run.
This certainly got my legs pumping, but with the tour being another 2 days, I was slightly unsure how to approach each day but I certainly knew that giving it 100% every day could lead to some regrets, especially seeing as I have the Tameside tour starting after 3 days rest from this event.
I enjoyed the road race and I was impressed with the organisation of the event. Everything was well marshalled and the results were online the very same night as well. Great work everyone!
Having said that I enjoyed the race, I was looking forward to the next couple of days even more because I prefer a more varied terrain when running. I was particularly looking forward to the fell race on the Sunday!
Overall, I finished in 37th place on day 1 out of a total of 130 runners, which I was happy with. The key for me in this event was getting through it unscathed and finishing well overall. So far so good! You can see the full race results for day 1 here.
Feel free to watch my quick video from day 1 where you can view parts of this great run along with my usual race day mid-race selfie that this time included an unsuspecting member of the race marshals. And she loved it! haha. What a good sport.
Waking up on Saturday morning after doing a 6-mile race was going to be a test on the legs. How would they feel? I usually feel ok after that kind of distance as I run that several times per week, but I rarely go and do the same distance again the following day. This was where the mind games could come in. Races can defeat you at times and it is certainly tougher to remain focused and positive when you have further race days coming up. Technically, I was only 1/3rd of the way through the overall race, but knowing that I would be over 50% of the way through the full event later on was what kept me feeling positive going into day 2.
The trail race is more my cup of tea. I enjoy a good variation in terrain, mixed with some good climbs and downhills. I think the image above shows that I got exactly that from the Naden Valley race! There were some sketchy bits of terrain thanks to our lovely Northern downpours suffered over the last couple of days, but this only adds to the fun. Keeps you on your toes! Or in some people’s cases, on their arses! There appeared to be 1 or 2 that went over during the race but I am sure they still enjoyed their day in the rain 🙂 Hopefully, they didn’t suffer any serious injuries.
The course comprised of a short starter section followed by 3 loops of the valley and a short final push back down to the main road. Races that involve laps can go one way or the other for me, either I judge the first lap well enough to not over commit, get the lay of the land and know how hard I can push over the further laps, or I push too hard and live with regret for the rest of the race. Thankfully, I judged the first lap well and felt good throughout the race.
This race was pretty much exactly the same length as the road race the previous day, but this certainly felt like a quicker race for me. As I mentioned previously, I prefer this style of terrain and mentally, I seem to fly through races in my mind a lot quicker when I do not have long stretches of ongoing road to look at!
Firstly, I have to describe my feelings of the morning build up to this race. I had woke up the previous day feeling fresh after day 1 but today was a different story entirely. I felt shattered. This was partly due to me waking up a few times in the night with a bad cough but more than anything it was the last 2 days taking their toll on me mentally and physically. When you wake up on race day, your physical condition can be reflected in your mental state. So if your body is feeling fit and raring to go, you probably will do too. I know this is how my body and mind work together. Waking up with aches in your hamstrings due to racing the previous 2 days makes your race day an entirely different prospect.
Oh my God…am I really getting up again today to race? Bloody hell. I must be mental.
These were roughly the words I uttered in my mind as my eyes opened on Sunday morning before the fell race.
As always, no pain, no gain! I have to repeat those words to myself on days like this. I have to remind myself of the original goals I set and visualise myself getting there. It’s just a mind game this running malarky and I will not be beaten by negative thoughts. Never!
On to the race…
Even without the previous 2 days, I knew that this would be a difficult race. The 6 mile fell has a total of 1300ft of climbs and a couple of those climbs really take it out of you.
The climbing starts right from the off, immediately making your way up a steady incline which takes you roughly 500ft above your starting position within the first 1.5 miles. What comes up, must come back down. That is exactly what you get next, with about a 350-400ft descent carrying you past the 2-mile marker…this only builds you with some false hope before the evil rise back up to Knowl Hill!
1357ft is the highest point you hit during the race and you do so just short of the halfway point at 2.85 miles.
To get up Knowl Hill you will not be sprinting, oh no! Not unless you have the ability to run vertically, which I am assuming the vast majority of us do not. You will be scrambling up the hill. For those of you not familiar with the term, I suppose it is when the climb is far too steep to walk, let alone run but it is not quite an actual climb. In the case of Knowl Hill, if you are anything like me you will appreciate a couple of minutes rest from the running, even if that so-called rest is actually a scramble that is making your legs burn a little bit haha! What can I say? I am a sucker for punishment!
The real challenge is not the scramble…it is the mental battle to get your legs moving at a running pace again after the scramble. By this point you have done a 6-mile race the previous 2 days, have probably woken up with aches in your legs, have just scrambled up a very tough hill and you now have to get hose heavy muscles moving again. But not until you hand in your race tag! For those of us competing for the full 3 days, we had a tag to wear around our necks that we handed in at the top of the climb to then claim our t-shirt at the end of the race. The things we do for a new top!
For any of you who follow my race blogs on a regular basis, you know that I like to have a laugh as I run and always get a quick selfie or two right in the middle of a race. It’s just one of my way of making the tough events a little more joyful. It gets me through the day smiling! You can also see my video below which shows the top of Knowl Hill where I managed to get 3 video selfies in quick succession. All of those involved were great sports as usual. Thank you to them!
The route back down
Obviously, the rest of the race was not simply downhill all of the way, but there was some awesome downhill action to be had. This is where I feel mentally relieved and excited as I attack the downhill sections of the course. During the race, this was definitely where I gained a few places on the leaderboard. I am not sure whether it is my will to give it everything or my child-like lack of consideration for what will happen if I trip as I sprint down these fells that get me doing well at these points. It’s probably a combination of the two. I do love going downhill fast though! It makes it all worth it after scrambling up those horrid climbs. I come alive at that point in a fell run, letting all thoughts go and just give it hell! Run free, like you did when you was a kid! It’s absolutely brilliant! This is one of the main reasons why I love fell racing.
I have fond memories from the second half of the race! Once I had conquered Knowl Hill, I knew that everything was downhill (except another 200ft climb between about 3.7 and 4.7 miles). This is where my mind goes to my happy place for the day. I know that I have done almost all of the hard work for the tour and I can soon start picturing some yummy lunch and a rewarding pint of lager for the weekend’s efforts. Oh, sweet sweet food and drink…how I do love you!
I pushed on hard for the final stretch and with a couple of people hot on my heels for the last quarter of the race, I think I did well to keep them just behind me until the finishing line.
And the results are in! I finished 14th in the male category and 16th overall for the 3-day event. A result that I am more than happy with.
You can see the full list of results here.
So, that was it…job done! 3 days of good hard effort. It was tough at times, mostly on day 3 in the early parts, but this was a great experience. I will be recommending this race event to anyone who cares to listen 🙂
What next? I have a nice 3 day rest from running before tackling the 4 day Tour of Tameside. Yes…3 day’s wasn’t enough for me. This tour also includes a half marathon. What the hell is wrong with me? hahahaha.
For those of you that have read this far, thank you so much! I know I have banged on but this was 3 reports in one if you think about it. Feel free to share or comment as much as possible. I love to engage with fellow runners! Have a great week!