Sunday, 15 May 2011

Rescued by a Small Mountain

It is in moments of weakness that I learn how to be strong.

Off the back of an all round dreadful week I achieved my longest fell run, a nine and a half mile route up and around Tal y Fan. The day started after 5 hours sleep and continued with a gloomy sense of tiredness. I eventually managed to switch my brain off to the tiredness and drove to the base of the looming "smallest mountain" in Snowdonia. It's actually not too far from my house to the parking spot but running that extra distance would be a little too much for me.

After a while I managed to get into some sort of rhythm on the upward slog. I know that the ascents are my achilles heel at the moment and the lack of proficiency in this area has prevented me from signing up for an actual race. My problem is a combination of too little fitness and too much weight. I need to lose another stone (well, two if you count my gall stone) to reach a more efficient weight on the hills. I have too bigger build to get down to the sort of super skinny elite runner type but I would like to get below 11 stone. In combination with an increase in fitness the hills should get easier.

In the meantime I decided to experiment with my uphill technique. Varying stride length, cadence and lean angle on the different gradients was almost fun. Everything I've read on the subject says that leaning forward with a shorter stride length whilst maintaining stride cadence is the correct technique. Whilst I was aware of this, I wasn't aware of how pronounced these three variables needed to be. My level of fitness requires a very short stride length and my cadence needs to drop a little but working on the technique has helped.

In spite of these musings, I was reduced to walking on most of the more violent climbs. At the top I was surprised at the weather. The weather had been mild on lower ground but at the summit the wind whipped around the rocks and sucked the warmth from my muscles. I was extremely glad of the second top and gloves I had brought with me. This emphasises the need for caution regarding the weather on these longer mountain runs.

I struggled on the initial descent. I took a bad route through bogs and thigh deep heather. For about a quarter of a mile I was reduced to a walk in order to avoid breaking a leg on unseen rocks. Once I found the path again it was all plain sailing back down to the car.

This run has certainly taken a lot out of me. My legs feel like I've raced a half marathon. I might try a few shorter fell runs before trying this distance again. I'll try decreasing the mileage and increasing the ascents. That should take the sting out of my legs. However hard, this was a very enjoyable run and a highlight of my training so far this year.

Next Sunday is the Llandudno 10 mile race. This is my first race in a while and should be fun. The race is close to home and is a flat, fast course. It will be a good chance to see where my fitness is in terms of absolute pace. I am going to taper a bit this week but nothing too serious. I'll just take everyday as it comes; run how I feel.


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