The evening of June 24th saw the 2016 Tideswell Fell Race. The venue is Tideswell Dale. This year, 85 runners took part, which is a good turnout. I think there were a few more than last year.
It looked as though rain may stop play before the fell race even began. Dark clouds were overhead and they unleashed a deluge of large hailstones. Luckily the heavens cleared and blue skies soon chased off the dark clouds.
I arrived early at Tideswell Dale with just enough time to record a quick snap chat about how I was feeling before the race. It’s a nice race with a bloody tough climb quite early on.
When I arrived I went to sign in and collect my race number, which wasn’t great, it was number 13. Not a good omen in my opinion and so it was proved. I’d told my friends Jo Shimwell and Nick Johnson and they came along for the race too.
Myself and my fellow clubmate Will Brindley headed up into the quarry to do some pre-race warmup. Not that it did me any good at all.
The Race Begins
The race began at a cracking pace, a little bit too fast for me. I did my best to keep up with the middle of the pack, but by the bottom of Tideswell Dale I was already flagging. My legs felt very heavy. By the time I had climbed up onto the Monsal Trail I was just about done for, the race wasn’t even a 1/3 in.
From the Monsal Trail it was up the steep steps at the side of the old packhorse bridge that crosses the old railway line, and up the steep, steep climb to the top. I have done this climb many times before, it all depends on how you approach it. This time, it was so hard, I was so tired, the flies were out in force, the cowpats were everywhere, tough going is not the word.
Just before the top, I received some welcome refreshment two Tideswell people were standing there handing out water. I took 2 cups, One to drink and one to dunk over my head and wash the sweat from my face.
Hitting the top of the hill, I found my legs again and began to run. I could see Colette Holden in front of me, about 100m ahead. Collette had passed me on the hill climb and it was my determination to keep her in sight.
My standard approach to other runners of a similar ability level is keep them close about 50 m ahead and then plan a cavalry charge at the end. I saw Colette pass the barn on the crest of the hill, I’d cut her lead and was probably, 20 seconds behind her.
As soon as I hit the downhill, I started to increase my speed. At one point, she couldn’t have been more than 30 meters in front of me, but again fatigue set in and my resolve evaporated. I just couldn’t maintain the pace, having to stop for too many breathers.
The descent plunges down a green hillside and then into a small wood. The path is muddy and rocky. It ends with a long set of steep steps, which are lethal when wet. Even a “descent psycho” like myself gets nervy on them. They seem to go on forever and are just so steep. My knees were screaming by the time I crossed the river bridge to hit the tarmac at the bottom.
The Tar Stretch
At the bottom gates of Ravens Tor Youth Hostel, Colette was out of sight again. I increased my speed, and after about three minutes she was back in sight and only 50 meters ahead. I thought that if I could maintain the pace I might overtake her towards the end.
The ascent backup Tideswell Dale is a deceptively long drag, especially when you’ve just done the best part of a fell race. I tried to maintain my speed, increasing my steps, I closed on Colette, “this is it, I said to myself as I rounded the corner. Cramp was setting into the legs and suddenly something in my brain said “stop”.
I stopped for about 30 seconds, just to get some air and knowing all the time, that I’d just blown my last chance. I pressed as hard as I could on the final stretch going through the gate just before the quarry. As I rounded the first corner I could already hear the cheers as the crowd cheered Colette up the home straight.
Nothing left to do now but finish strongly. I rounded the final corner and the crowd started to cheer me on. I gave it my all, I am rather well known for my sprint finishes. It’s just a shame that I can’t find that speed earlier in races. I don’t get my legs till far too late.
A fantastic race by Colette has to be congratulated, especially that she’s been struggling with injury all year.
Tideswell Fell race is a fantastic race, really enjoyable. My time is down on last years, but I can cope. This was only my second race this year and my training has been patchy due to PF.
One thing this result tells me is that I really, really need to work on my fitness and stamina. This is been a consistent problem in races, giving up too easily when I need to keep going.
I am sure I need some kind of mental training. My weight is getting there, am capable of bursts of speed, so I don’t know what the issue is.
Any comments on this from experienced runners would be welcome.