The gaps between the SCX rounds are a useful chance to catch up with other activities, handily there was a hill race this weekend past- just the job for a Saturday afternoon. The event was combined with a sheepdog trial and sheep judging show, luckily the running was limited to just that, no sheep involved. I was keen to have a do at the sheepdog trial but my parents Parson Jack Russell is more interested in eating sheep than herding them so we left her at home.
The run was good, 10 miles and 700m of climbing, an out-and-back course so pretty much 5 miles up then 5 miles down. Brief flirtations with hill (fell when south of the Border) running over the last few years have always led to the same outcome for me; strong biking legs allowing me to climb the hills well but poor descending technique causing major cramp when coming down (and the loss of all places gained on the way up). Thankfully Saturday marked some progress. Besides being a step up in distance I also got the hang of the descent- at last- I was getting pretty miffed at always loosing races on the downhills. The trick with running down is to lean in and let go- easier said than done however. Having only ever run shorter hill races of a few miles I was unsure how tough 10 miles would be so didn't go too ballistic on the outward leg, also keen to save some strength for the return run. I reached the summit in 4th place, just behind Westies team mate Owen and happy that this was a good place. Owen disappeared into the thick mist off the summit and I thought that would be the last I'd see of him knowing that form would suggest I'd soon slip back. Determined not to repeat previous mistakes I leaned into the hill and let the brakes off. To my delight my legs didn't cramp and I was able to fly down- a great feeling. About half way down I caught sight of Owen and got a sniff of a top three placing. No holding back now, full gas. Catching Owen I pushed past and kept the pace high managing to get a small gap as we got back towards the finish. The last mile was a case of hanging on and making sure no one was coming up behind. I was surprised and pretty chuffed to finish 3rd, 1 minute and 1 second off winner and course record holder Brian Marshall. I'm not sure what it is with fell races but there always seems to be a friendly relaxed atmosphere, no one taking things too seriously and most often a bottle of beer at the finish; I can highly recommend it, if nothing else it will make bike racing seem a whole load easier!