Race The Night (and Day) Away

Race The Night (and Day) Away

Well I did it, I ran 4 times in 39 hours over the weekend, starting from 7pm on Friday night with our club race, The Dark Un.  Most people will never run a fell race and for most people hills are their worst nightmare but I can certainly say I've only a handful of times had more fun racing than I did doing the Dark Un.

Having only ran with a head torch on 3 previous occasions, I was slightly unsure on how it was going to pan out, although 2 of those mentioned occasions were in fact recce's for this race itself.  My aim was to avoid injury and enjoy the boggy moors as much as possible (that does sound odd, but it's a thrill, honest!)

the start of The Dark Un (images courtesy of +fellephant )


 safely crossing the finish line, phew!

post race, what an experience that was!!

As I mentioned, my main aim was to finish the race unscathed and just add to my fell running and night running experience but I did finish 33rd out of a field of 72, which I was both pleasantly surprised and happy with!  Local knowledge was obviously of an advantage but in the dark I don't think encyclopaedic knowledge would reduce your time that much!

Bring on next year for The Dark Un...a top race with a great bunch of people!

With 1 down and 3 to go, Cuerden Valley parkrun was my next stop, bright and early for the 9am start on Saturday morning.  The Dashers were on tour and this was my first parkrun at Cuerden Valley, the famed "most difficult and undulating" parkrun course within a decent drive of Darwen.  One thing I have learnt while running over the past few months is not to take in people opinions on courses and routes, for that reason alone, they're an opinion.  Everyone will say something different and all I could grasp was that it was an up and down, trail style route, so the time would be down on Bolton parkrun.

I ran a respectable 23:54, finishing in 22nd place and less than 20 seconds slower than my Bolton parkrun PB.  I started fast but reminded myself I was less than 50% of the way through my running weekend so at around 2 miles I started to enjoy the route a bit more and slowed myself down.  In hindsight I wish I had just gone for it and I'd have beaten my Bolton parkrun PB on this apparent more difficult course, but that's all part of the learning curve.

trotting up the last slope towards the finish line, enjoying a joke with the locals

The parkrun was used as a nice warm up, although it couldn't provide anything near what I was putting myself in for at the Bleasdale Circle fell race.  This was one of the races I call a "proper" fell race.  I have done quite a few now, some named fell races are not what I'd class as "proper" ones, for various reasons, but this one was!

For a start, looking back at my splits, one of my miles was sub 21 minutes with a near 1000ft of climbing and by the time I reached the fell top, I was nearly 500m up, so you might be able to imagine the elements we were exposed to up there.  I was on all fours for the majority of that mile, scrambling up towards Paddy's Pole checkpoint on the tops.  I was only sporting a vest with no base layer/coat/undertop, much to the amusement of many of the racers.  I was called a few things along the lines of brave, crazy, mad and a few others to note but I know myself, once I get going in a race, especially up hill, I'm more than warm enough with just a vest!  Although saying that, for longer races in the future, it will be something of a more serious consideration, for sure.

Saying that, the scramble up was a long one and once up at Paddy's Pole, the mist was all around and the ground was snow covered, it felt somewhat refreshing (as well as relieving), that I could get myself running again.  But as I've learnt, that's the beauty of fell racing, it tests your ability to get up to the top as quickly as possible and then recover from the climb to push yourself on to race again, hopefully just on my two feet and not on all fours!

Once you have ran along the tops, you hit Parlick, which is a real class descent down a grassy hill side.  This is not one for the faint hearted as you feel like you're at a near vertical fall down the grass.  I love these types of descents though, these are the ones I look at in awe when I see pictures of the fell races in the Lakes etc and I finally got to test myself on one.  I did have to put the brakes on once or twice as I overtook quite a few people going down then found myself in a small hole, well hidden by reeds.

about 1 mile in to the Bleasdale Circle fell race, felt good but the tough part was to come (picture courtesy of IW Charters)

I felt strong heading to the finish and was starting to feel good about my love for fell running, as I usually do once I've conquered the climb, haha!  I finished in 83rd place eventually, in a field of 136 with a time of 55:36.  This is around my usual place in a fell race, although I am a lot younger than the majority of the field (experience counts for a lot in fell racing, more than young legs, haha!), possibly even the youngest on this day, with most of the runners in the vet category.  Even the winner and 4 times British champion, Rob Hope, is a V40.

To round off the weekend and somehow feeling not so aching, I was near Bolton Wanderers stadium for the Lostock 6.  I ran this last year (unattached) in 51:47 and with a slight change to the route this year, it was an even faster course, as well as my actual running being faster anyway!

I finished in 74th place in 43:48, which I was happy with.  My legs were up for giving in after about 3.3 miles and even when I tried to push on, my pace actually slowed down.  So, I just relaxed for around a mile or so, then when I hit 4.5 miles I stepped it up a gear and thankfully my second wind came through and I pushed on for quite a strong finish.

It was a Dashers road championship race.  Although I have no real hopes of winning or getting near a championship title, especially on the roads but it was a terrific turnout and a successful day for the club.  Joanne was 1st lady, Brian was first male V50, Linda was first female V60 and the ladies won the team prize too!

pain in the face but an enjoyable run and one I was/am happy with

My Asics gear is also still going strong.  I did my 15 hill reps and a total of 11 miles last night in the 33DFA's and have done nearly 70 miles between those and the Gel-Glorify's already!  As you can see from the picture from the Lostock 6, I was sporting the Asics shorts, they've quickly become my favourites to be honest...

As my reference and the main theme has been to mix up your run, I can say I have definitely managed to do that this weekend!  A night fell race, trail parkrun, "proper" fell race and then a road race on Sunday...I don't think running gets more variable than that, I was probably just missing a desert/sand based run, but they're pretty hard to come by in Lancashire!!

For you guys and girls who are interested in the Asics shoes I have mentioned (and pictured in a previous post or two), you can still get them exclusively from Intersport UK at the following link;

http://www.intersport.co.uk/campaign/gb-asics-mix-up-your-run

I think mixing it up definitely helps to make you a stronger runner.  I know not everybody has access to fells like I do but hills are something that should be seen as a really helpful tool for your running.  Most people seem to fear them, but if you really attack them and don't see them as something that puts you off, you will reap the rewards, honestly!

Since I started my hill reps I have seen my times tumble down and running up hills/slopes in road races now seems like a piece of cake on most occasions, so it's all about taking yourself out of your comfort zone really and pushing yourself beyond the norm.

If anyone is in any doubt about their training or would like any tips on this kind of thing, feel free to get in touch.  Comment below, tweet me or follow me on Instagram and drop me a comment on there.  Don't forget, keep mixing up your run - speed, distance, pace, power & HILLS!...you'll be a better runner for it.

Twitter - @CalFerguson
Instagram - @CalFerguson



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