Sunday, 3 December 2017

Race Report: The Hexhamshire Hobble

Despite being almost literally my back garden, I’d never done this race. I was entered for it last year but DNSd because of a nasty cough, so I was keen to give it a shot this year if at all possible. I was obviously pretty familiar with most of the route, but hadn’t done the leg from Allendale to Hangman’s Hill. It would be an interesting test of the efficacy of the ferrous gluconate: would I have the oomph I’ve been lacking of late?

A warm-up trot up the first hill was promising, with no crazy HR spikes, and legs feeling pretty strong. As well as taking the iron supplements, I’ve been making some effort to do leg strengthening work, and I think that’s helped the climbing a bit too.

Returned to the school for the safety briefing, and then it was time to head to the start line. I didn’t want to get caught in a bottleneck but also knew I didn’t have any business being right at the front, and I think I got my start position pretty spot on for once! The air horn went and we were off.

A big ol’ road climb straight out the blocks seemed to settle everyone down a bit, and positioning didn’t change  much. I was feeling pretty good once we got onto the fell itself, and tried to set a decent pace whilst it was still runnable. Unfortunately, the melting snow had left it clarty in quite a few places, and this slowed me down, especially on a descent a few km in, where I lost a couple of places.

Once we hit the first checkpoint and turned up the Broad Way I was into more familiar territory, and the legs were still feeling alright. Tired, but a totally different feeling to Gibside. The reward for making it to the top of that big drag was a fast swooping descent on roads, where I did my best to up the pace again. I was too far back from the guys in front to really make a move though and, when we hit the last incline, I rapidly lost ground to a guy from NSP. The descent down into Allendale again was a bit nuts on the road, but I managed to claw back at least one place; much as it pains me to say so, I think I’m much better on roads than fells! Into the finish chute, job done.

Photo: Lee Cuthbertson 
One thing I do love about fell racing is, for £8, I got a good run out, a mountain of cake, and no crappy t-shirt or medal to take up drawer space! Seriously, the tiffin was worth £8 on its own... Managed 19th out of 150, so moving in the right direction. To be honest, given that I’m not great on fells anyway I don’t think I would have been top 10 regardless of serum ferritin levels.

Today was also my first time running a fell race as a Tynedale Harrier. After some thought, I decided to switch my first claim to be entirely black, and not continue running for NFR competitively. I don’t really race on the fells that much, certainly have no plans to do any Lakeland Classics any time soon and, given that Tynedale is affiliated for fell anyway, it seemed a bit daft to be paying twice. Added to which, I’d like to see more folk from Tynedale trying fell running/racing, and that means showing up in club colours; people are less likely to come out if they think they’ll be the only black vest there.

All in all, there are worse ways to spend a Sunday. North East XC Championship next weekend; hopefully the positive progress will continue.

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