Monday, 28 September 2009

Scafell Pike - a different league

I like steep fell races. I generally avoid ones that don't have a sufficient amount of height. And I've done some good steep ones in my time. Ones like Buckden Pike, Mount Famine and even Shutlingsloe.

However, nothing could prepare me for Scafell Pike fell race. It was steep, but never steeper than other things I've done. But it was the length of ascent (and more worryingly descent) that I couldn't cope with. No amount of reps could prepare me for 3000 feet of downhill in one go. I've never before done a race where my legs hurt for two days after the race.

The race went reasonably well, I was in a good position at the top, but lost about 40 seconds after reaching the summit as I couldn't tell which way to go in the thin mist. I was asking myself "how can I get lost in a there-and-back race?" Well, there seemed to have been a gap of about a minute between me and the guys behind, and there was a gap of about a minute in the stream of runners coming up the summit. These two gaps somehow managed to coincide. Add my natural inability to remember which way I've run, and I was temporarily lost.

Luckily I then saw the stream of runners coming up and could slowly boulder-hop down the way they were coming up. After a minute or so of this, Fleeter shot past me and I said "that's what I need - a pacer. Go on Fleeter". Unfortunately, Fleeter's downhill pace was way too fast for me, and I lost another few places on the long descent. I finished in 1:06:30 (ish), which was faster than my target time of 1:07:00.

Despite me beating my target time, I have mixed feelings about this race. I would like to return and do it justice. I feel like I could have been a few places higher if I had trained a bit harder. But the real killer was not having the stamina or technique to descend a mountain (as opposed to the hills we have in the Peaks). I would get genuine satisfaction from being able to say I ran this race well.

Next year? I'll have to see how things work out. It is a long way to travel for a 4.5 mile fell race. I certainly feel I have unfinished business with this mountain. And I'm slowly coming round to the idea that the best way to train for Lakes races, is to do more of them. Is this a statement of intent, or a pipe dream? Time will tell...