Monday, 24 July 2017

Race Report: Chapel Fell Top

Despite not being able to make sufficient fixtures to actually qualify for either the NECAA champs or the NFR champs due to a combination of injuries and other races, I still fancied having a crack at this, which was a Tuesday-evening AS organised by Durham Fell Runners.

Driving south through the Pennines, the view was genuinely breath-taking. I live on the edge of the AONB, and it's quite easy to take it for granted, but it really lived up to its designation. Reminds me that I must make an effort to go running south of where I live, and not just north to the National Park.

Managed to get parked quite easily, and mooched over to register. Irritatingly, I'd forgotten to pick up the form I'd printed and filled in at home, but that wasn't a problem as there were plenty on the desk to be had. Then, anxiety struck.

I've dealt with depression and anxiety for as long as I can remember, though for much of that time (certainly with regards to the anxiety) I didn't understand what was happening. Through speaking with professionals and my own research, I'm educating myself slowly and, on this occasion, it was pretty obvious as my hands began to shake; initially, just a little, but getting progressively worse. I have horrendous handwriting at the best of times, so I pity anyone who had to read that form! By the time I made it back to the car it was bad enough that I struggled to even pin my number on my vest. Not ideal, and some stern words were had with myself; need to work on the whole "be kind to yourself" thing as I tend to be a bit of a drill sergeant in those situations, when I would never dream of speaking to someone else like that. No reason for it to happen; there was nothing about the race that was outside of my comfort zone. As my wife put it when I relayed the story the next day, it was just the "Generalised" in Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

Soon enough it was time to congregate at the start for the briefing, and I got picked for a random kit check. No problems there, I had the necessary. Then, the countdown, and we were off.

The race was the classic "See that thar hill? Ye run up, and ye run doon, and divn't get yerself dead" comprising of 1.5km of rocky track until the fell gate, at which point it was open route choice to the summit before turning round and charging back down again. Obviously, nav wasn't an issue on the track(!) but once we got to the fell gate there were a number of choices made. Having not done any kind of recce, I opted for taking a direct line to the summit, and it was with some curiosity that I watched other racers (including Big Phil Green, chief NFR agitator!) peeling off to the right. I was fairly quickly reduced to the old hands-on-knees-blowin'-oot-ma-arse pose; tussocks and peat hags, along with legs that were still fairly battered from Ingram two days earlier, meant that I was destined to hike the majority of the ascent. As Phil and I converged again he clued me in to the land rover track that they'd all followed. Balls. Still, at least I knew about it for the descent.

Even before the summit came into view I saw Will Robson from North Shields Poly haring it back down again, with another runner in close pursuit. Bloomin' impressive. I shouted a "Well done, lads!" then returned to the task in hand, making it to the top just behind Phil and John Tollit (also NFR). Duly checked off by the marshals, it was about-turn and back down again, passing Karen Robertson (another NFR, and the holder of the women's CR).

Trashed quads and inexperience on fells (I'm a trail runner with ideas above his station!) made for a fairly gingerly picked descent to start with, and Phil and John got away from me; John and I were to leapfrog on the descent until midway down the track, at which point I opened up a gap, but I wasn't to catch Phil, whose experience on the off-piste stuff showed on the day. A sprint to the line netted me 24th place out of 66; not terrible given the weekend's efforts, but nothing to shout about. Still, there are worse ways to spend a beautiful summer evening than running up and down a hill like a lunatic. Interestingly, once we were lined up at the start and I had my game-face on, the anxiety didn't bother me. With all the focus on not falling on my face, it was a classic example of mindfulness in action.

Karen took the win in the ladies' race, and NFR took the ladies' team win as well, so a top evening out for the club. Will took the win for the men, and DFR took the team prize. Anxiety aside, I thoroughly enjoyed it and will aim to be back next year. Top job by Andy, Fran, and their band of DFR helpers.

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