Like so many in the UK running community this past week I received the "Sorry" magazine that I was unsuccessful in the Virgin London Marathon lottery. Guess that means I should get off my lazy arse and make up a running plan to try and train for a "Good For Age" entry time for next year but that means I would have to knock over an hour off my current marathon times...and try not to get injured in the process (again).
However the next day I noticed a post on the UK Women's Running Magazine facebook page that I'd won an entry into the Red Bull Steeplechase! I'd forgotten even entering the competition! Granted I knew I would get knocked out well before the final stage but who cares, this is an area I've been itching to run in anyways and to get a medal, hoodie, a bag, and a lunch for doing so...hell yeah! Ok, I've gone a little overboard on the exclamation marks, lol.
Here's where things go a little awry--I've not felt well since Thursday so the nutrition has not exactly been stellar, ie I've not ate or hydrated enough for a hard-core trail run and Friday morning's normal run wiped me out. Not good but there was no way I was passing up the chance to run in the Peak District--did I mention we would get a hoodie as well???
Sporting the club colours--represent, y'all.
I've had some calf issues on the hills lately so thought the compression sleeves might be a good idea this time around. Looking at the crowd pics, I was not alone with that train of thought. They did help but really the only thing is to get out and train on those hellacious inclines. To me, the above shot also shows how bad I was feeling pre-race.
Wonder what's going on here? And just WHY did my partner take this pic?
Apparently there was a malfunction with the gun so the guys didn't get the "On your Mark, Get set, Bang!" on their start. Us ladies did though ;-)
Ready to run!
I think it must be an unwritten law in the UK that the majority of fell races must start with an evil uphill climb and this one was no exception. The difference is that this is this one required the use of all your limbs to get up the steep incline--in between gasping for air, another girl made the comment that it was her first race to require the use of her hands on the ground to get up the hill...Wasn't my first but it doesn't make it any easier!
And we ran! Until this started, then we hiked
And then we clambered.
What goes up must come down...Eventually. Before we got to that point though we had to try and find a decent running rhythm on the undulating rock steps. Which were slippy. And very hard, especially in shoes with no padding and hard plastic studs on the bottom.
The downhill to match the uphill in the beginning was a doozy. Slippery wet grass that hadn't dried out from the morning's frost made me appreciate the shoes I was cursing metres before. I was able to grip in and make my way down sideways fairly fast(ish)--speed is all relative when it comes to fell running. Of course the moment I didn't grip in quite well enough and slid down a foot or two on my bum was probably the fastest part of that descent. Grass is nice and soft and I didn't find any rocky speed humps so no blood this time around.
Not long after the steep downhill and before the halfway point of the first stage is where I started to get into trouble though. I had already dialed down the speed I would usually do something like this at because of not feeling well but then I started to get dizzy spells. There was one mile where I'm not sure how I even made it through because it was so technical and I was having trouble focusing on the trail, I do know I stepped aside for several runners to allow them by but the rest of is a blur. Fortunately I'd packed a 9bar in my spibelt and was able to swallow three bites of it, that seemed to help but I knew at that point I was done for the day even though I had a comfortable margin to continue on for the 2nd stage.
I had a bit of a nice surprise at Bamford, walking up one of the last inclines I started getting heckled by my partner who had driven over to visit his mate while waiting on me. It perked me up but I still didn't run that damn hill, lol. As a matter of fact it energised me so much that once I reached the chutes and saw I was 71st female (cutoff was 85) I thought I would go ahead and run the second stage...that lasted right up to the point where we turned out of the field to go upwards again and I started feeling light-headed once more. At that point I turned around and walked back to call it quits and catch a ride to the finish line on the shuttle bus, there was no need in endangering me, the others around me, and worse case scenario having to utilise the rescue services. To continue on in an easily accessible road race is one thing, to do it on something like this would have been completely irresponsible on my part.
This overall was a brilliantly organised event and I would definitely do it again--hopefully under better personal circumstances. The marshalls were excellent and VERY encouraging (except for the one bloke who was more interested in his phone), the scenery is gorgeous, and it's extremely challenging. The only complaint I could make would be the stewards not being aware of the amount of parking left at the top before sending several cars on up, that created some snafus because there wasn't a good turn-around place at the top. Another tiny complaint is non-race organisation related but more other runner related--the British love of queues goes out the door when it comes to races! I was practically shoved out of the way several times at the registration table...lol, I'm supposed to be the rude one being American and all (stereotypes, eh?).
The swag was top-notch as well, we received a drawstring bag to put our gear in at the start, a medal, a canvas bag, a hooded sweatshirt, lunch, all the Red Bull you could drink as well as beer or cider if you wanted. I had to say no to the beer tent though, I was feeling too ill.
The obligatory aftermath pic
I have to talk about the hoodie some more, it's AMAZING. Very good quality, nice drawstring, the hood itself is lined with thermal type fabric, it's not the typical black, the graphics on the front and back are nice and it has THUMBHOLES!!!! Yes, I'm gushing about thumbholes, it's a female runner thing I think.