Monday, 24 March 2008

w/c 17 March - Dirty

God o mighty the Peak District is a filthy place. I've done my fair share of fellrunning to know how utterly minging you can get after a good run out on the fells, but there's something about peat that propels it into a league of its own when it comes to gunk. There's a certain adhesiveness and gloopyness to it that makes running at any kind of pace so difficult.

Peat is arguably the toughest running surface, if you can call it a surface. It wears you out like no other terrain and does so for three main reasons. 1 - You lose nearly all of your momentum with each footstrike because it's so hard to get any form of grip, and so each step is taken almost as if from standing. 2 - It sticks to you, especially your feet, thus adding to the burden. It makes me laugh that Innov8 do two versions of one of their (many) models of shoe, one being 10 grams or something lighter than the other so as to be lighter for racing. I don't think they had racing in peat to mind when deciding to pursue that one! Peat can ball up in your studs almost like snow in crampons so you're carrying weight and losing grip (and therefore momentum, see reason 1!) 3 - Peat tends to exist on hills with shallow gradients, and so the compulsion is to run rather than walk hard, unlike on the steeper, rockier climbs. Running is so much tiring than walking (duh!) and these gradients lull you into tackling them at pace.

I had plenty of time to muse on this (as is evident from the above!) during an excellent Good Friday outing on the Edale Skyline route. It's the race next week an I'd like to do well in it by my mid-packer standards. So I decided an early start from Edale was in order.

I must say, it's a brilliant course. It has a bit of everything (apart from perhaps really huge climbs). There's runnable fast ground in the early stages, cropped grass, good tracks and even tarmac and paved paths. After just over halfway, the peat shows itself. Most of the climbing and just over half the distance is done, but the difficulty starts when the black sea of ooze lays ahead. As a race, it's a test of fitness; not just of speed but of strength. Fast road runners would not prosper on this course without the strength of joints and body that good fellrunners tend to have.

I love it and can't wait for the race on Sunday!

The recce was done in a very cold wind, good visibility and at a nice steady pace with a couple of stops for food and text messages ;-). I bumbled round in just over 4 hours and felt strong throughout from mile 1 to 21. I wasn't the only one - there were studmarks everywhere! I had the pleasure of another fellow fellrunner's company for a good few miles too which makes the time tick by. It was a rewarding run - esp at the end when you stand in Edale, do a 360 and realise that it is oneof the best, most appropriately named fellraces there is - it truly does cover every bit of the skyline you can see.

The rest of the week's training was steady enough - upping the milage was a test, esp two 20 mile runs in three days! I feel like I'm getting fitter and am confident about the race next week. I, along with the organisers Dark Peak Fellrunners, will be hoping for slighly better conditions than last year's gales, hailstones and thunder! This year we're all required to carry a working mobile phone - unprecedented in the fellrunning world as far as I know. I kind of have mixed feelings about it, but the overriding feeling is that the organiser's word is law and to be respected full stop. So I'll be there, front and centre, phone charged and ready to go!

I need to remember not to judge myself too much against the guys I race against from the club - they're in the throws of BGR training and a short few weeks out from their rounds. I remember the confidence and sheer good shape I was in then - I'm not there now and would be happy to get somewhere near them on Sunday. For me, it's about the clock. If I can get round in about 3:30 I'll be happy. We'll see....

Training this week:

Mon - 7 Miles - Llay loop, hilly. Steady pace - ave 7 min/mile. Felt good
Tues - 8 Miles - hill reps - Harthill. Felt good, bouncy legs!
Weds - 5 Miles - track session - 8 * 600m - pushed all the way by quick guy at Chester Tri - enjoyed the challenge!
Thurs - rest
Fri - 21 Miles, 4500' - Edale Syline recce
Sat - Rest
Sun - 19 Miles, trail run with Alison and Amanda. very easy paced. Sluggish at the start, felt good at the end and would have carried on with no worries - good sign.

Totals: 60 Miles, @6000'

Tune in head: Tiny Dancer - Elton John. Brilliant track that plays right through twice if you listen carefully. Really ought to be on my top 20 CD but it's in the car nonetheless.

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