The Fell (off the) Side Race

I’ve had a few days in the Lakes, so I thought I’d do a series of posts on what I got up to.

First, a little aside.

If you read my posts from way back, you’ll know I’m a ‘minimalist runner’. That means I wear very little ‘shoe’ under my foot when I run: recently I’ve gone over to completely ‘zero drop’ shoes, meaning they don’t raise your heel at all relative to your forefoot. This type of shoe tends to have very little or no cushioning too: all of mine have either a very thin midsole and no insole or no midsole, but an insole. Still awake? Good. Anyway, I bought a pair of Inov8 Bare Grip 200 a few months back, a shoe with an aggressive tread for more extreme off-road running.

Inov8 Bare Grip 200

On the one hand they feel great, giving loads of feedback on the trail underfoot (hardly surprising, as they have no midsole) and feeling very agile. On the other hand, they’re not as grippy as I’d imagined they would be and your heels get a battering on steep, rocky descents, which force you to land on your heels sometimes.

The other shoe I’d considered was the Inov8 Mudclaw 265, a shoe with a thin midsole and a 3mm heel-toe drop.

Inov8 Mudclaw 265

I’d decided that the Bare Grips were only going to serve me well on shorter or grassier runs and that I ‘needed’ a pair of 265s too, so the first thing I did when I got myself over to the Lakes on Tuesday, 23rd July was visit Pete Bland Sports, in Kendal to buy a pair! I’ll post a review on here soon.

After Kendal, it was straight up to the appropriately named Fell Side, on the northern border of the national park, for the Fell Side Fell Race! There had been some hefty showers during the day and my hopes that things would improve by the time of the race start (19:15) were not met! Even the decision to walk less than 100m from my car over to the ‘HQ’ tent to register without my waterproof proved to be stupid, as I had to wait a few minutes for the torrential rain to ease off before venturing back to the car to change.

As I stood at the start, I could see that the modest (c650m) hills we were to race over were shrouded in murky cloud. I admired the lady who briefed us, as she made sure we were actually listening in a no nonsense way. She told us that they had carried out a kit check on 5 runners and hoped we were all sensible enough to have the ‘regulation’ fell kit on us (full body cover, map, compass, whistle): my lightweight waterproofs and other essentials were stowed in my bum bag, and jolly glad I was of that.

The race itself was a mixed bag for me. I set off fast, but was soon dropped by the lead group. As the field thinned, I was left on my own and unsure I was going in completely the right direction in the cloud. I heard a fellow runner behind me and slowed to let him catch up. However, we were both newbies to that area and race, and each hoped the other could set him straight! We knew that we were probably west of the proper route (the highest parts of the very rounded ridges) and corrected, having to climb about 60m because we missed the high point of a col, but finding the first checkpoint without overshooting.

I left this runner behind, but soon repeated my westward drift and found more runners in the same boat as me, once again correcting and finding checkpoint 2. Yet again I went too far west, this time ending up with some awkward traversing across a rough hillside. We only had 1 more checkpoint to do, and we passed a hut we knew was en route: a most welcome site. At about this time the cloud lifted enough for us to stay on course and the last checkpoint was despatched, leaving a lovely run in to the finish, down a long, not-too-steep hillside. My new Garmin later showed me I’d run a 6.5 minute mile during this part of the race, which is a really good pace over rough grass.

Have a look at the results if you want: 35th out of 48 is probably my lowest proportionate placing of any race, but getting lost will do that for you.

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One response to “The Fell (off the) Side Race

  1. Pingback: On the Sharp Edge | 3:15 Marathon for Excellent, Pioneers of Sand Dams

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