Monday, 9 January 2017

Race Report: Kielder Winter Trail

You may remember from my previous post that I currently have one, if not two, probable broken toes. The sensible thing to do therefore would be to rest. Definitely not compete in a trail race.
I was super excited when this race was announced, to the point that I was the first to sign up for it. I love Kielder; it's my happy place, and High Terrain Events put on a good race, so I had a bit of a Month Python Black Knight situation going on. Tis merely a flesh wound, and all that. Right up until the night before I was flip-flopping about toeing the line, and then the buggers posted some photos on Facebook which reminded me just how gorgeous those trails are. So that was that.

I wear Injinji socks at the moment, and so my first challenge was actually getting them on! The nurse had said that, if I taped my toes and could stand the pain, I "wouldn't do any more damage". Taping had been causing me some problems though, and so I decided to risk it without and stick with the tried and tested Injinjis. Bit painful to get on, but doable.

Other kit consisted of my trusty X-Talons, some new Inov-8 debris gaiters, Ronhill Trail Cargo shorts, a merino Hello, my NFR vest, and of course the ever present Buff (day-glo yellow!). The weather was good but I still decided to carry FRA mandatory kit, as much as anything to test out a new bumbag in a situation where the stakes were low, this being a fun race. In the bag, amongst other stuff, was a new OMM Kamleika but this didn't see any action.

Got myself registered, and ran into the ROs, Paul and Ian, on the way back to the car. Stopped for a quick natter then it was into pre-race mode. Also briefly caught up with "HellsBells" (gotta love an AC/DC inspired nickname) before getting changed.

Met Chris Winter, also of NFR, around the start area. The purple vest is doing wonders for making me more sociable, which for someone who definitely tends towards introvert is a good thing. Also at the start was fellow NFR man JB, and we had a good catch-up and chat about ultras, in particular the High Terrain Events at Kielder, prior to the briefing.

Briefing done (fairly standard) the countdown began, and we were off. I hung with JB for oh, I dunno, 200m?! which may actually be a PB for me! Still, I was fairly comfortable in the lead group and the foot wasn't doing anything pain-wise that I couldn't ignore. My bumbag took some adjusting on the fly before I got it locked down, which was a big distraction but probably had little overall effect on my performance.

I was surprised to find that, when we hit the first incline, I lost some places. This, despite my Causey Hill sessions. I was never in any real danger of a tactical hike, so the endurance was there, but not the power to get up quickly. Something to think about. This was made worse by hitting a reet clarty climb, at which point I added foot pain to the difficulties. A quick glance at my HR showed I was in L5, so I basically had nothing more to give (I remained L5 all race); it just wasn't as much as I hoped/expected.

At about this point the front runners settled into what was essentially the final positioning. JB had long since disappeared into the distance (no surprise, he won by a hefty margin), followed second place. I kept eye contact with third and fourth for quite a while, but was essentially in what seems to be my natural position at the moment: ahead of the pack but not in the lead group. Quite lonely at times, as I go long stretches without seeing anyone, making it feel a lot like a time trial!
At the halfway point of the figure-8 course Rachel shouted confirmation that I was in fifth, and then it really became a case of hanging on; whilst I could see third and fourth still I was pretty reluctant to attempt to reel them in; I doubted I had the upper gears to do so anyway, based on my HR, and I didn't want to subject my foot to that kind of abuse unless there was a good chance of success. I instead concentrated on consolidating fifth place and putting a decent gap on sixth, which I seemed to manage. Crossed the line in around 1.11, with a numb foot but having thoroughly enjoyed the race.

Halfway point, I think. Copyright: Paul Wathan

When I got home and cleaned off my kit, I was a bit dismayed to find a tear in the upper of my X-Talons. I think this happened a few weeks ago, when hacking through heather, but I'd not noticed quite how bad it was. It doesn't seem to have gone right through, but it has given me some durability concerns; I've not abused them by any means, and they are intended for OCR/fell racing so ought not to suffer too much. Coincidentally, Asics opened applications for their Frontrunner program (basically, brand ambassadors), and the Fujirunnegade caught my eye recently, so I stuck in an application. I'm tempted by the shoe regardless of the success or otherwise of that, but I do tend towards brand loyalty if I find features and fit that suit me (which Inov-8 generally do, apparent durability issues aside) and am nervous of change. I started running in Asics, so the fit shouldn't be a concern, though one reason for switching from them was how over built most of them are. I definitely prefer a minimal shoe and, whilst the Fujirunnegade seem reasonable in this regard (on paper, at least. Comparable with some heavier Inov-8 offerings), finding a suitable road shoe in the line up looks trickier. I guess the first thing is to see what happens with the Frontrunner application; it's not as if I can afford new shoes this month!

Finally, after spending Sunday afternoon catching up on the Greater Edinburgh International XC (or, most of it anyway, until Xan switched the computer off...), I decided that I actually did want the option to compete in the North East Harrier League, which meant joining a more mainstream running club as well as NFR. As a result, I will imminently be joining Tynedale Harriers. Again, for someone who once regularly described himself as too antisocial to join a running club, this is quite a big step in terms of being more social and dealing with that introvert streak. It's helped by the fact that I know some of the Harriers now; HellsBells, and some other NFR types. I also know the likes of JB (amongst others) who, whilst being a Morpeth Harrier, I'm likely to run into at races. Funny how things change. I'm looking forward to it though. Here's to a 2017 with lots of running of all types: ultra, trail, fell, XC, and even road...?! Probably not competitive track though. God I suck at track.

Oh yeah. The foot. Knacked on Sunday. Funny that... More rest it is then. Fingers crossed for the Hedgehope Winter Wipeout in two weeks.

Littlest crew member

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