Wrekin Fell Race

Today was a race that I've had scheduled in my diary for some time - Wrekin Fell Race which is a 5.5 mile race up to the summit of The Wrekin and two smaller ascents of Ercall giving a total ascent of over 500 metres.  The race doubled up as the county trials for Warwickshire (my county) as well as Shropshire and Worcestershire.  I didn't necessarily expect to qualify for the inter counties but I thought I'd have a go and see what happens.

When the race started I went off at a reasonable pace and once out of the school grounds it was immediately uphill on a local road and I tried to keep off the gas.  At this point I was around 10th and soon afterwards we went off road to make the first ascent of Ercall at which point I was now 4th (behind someone in a batman costume).  The first ascent was runnable and about 2/3rds of the way to the summit I moved into 3rd.  I was certainly starting to blow a bit and I suspected that I had gone off a little too hard.  There was then a bit of flat running before an extremely sharp descent back down.  I had actually moved into second at this point but only because the leader had gone the wrong way.  I don't like these sorts of descents at all - very technical, lots of slippery roots and foliage and I quickly lost contact from the runner ahead and soon afterwards the runner who had gone the wrong way overtook me again.  There was then a small section of flattish running including a small amount of road before ascending The Wrekin.

At the top of Ercall - probably my favorite race photo to date.

I could tell that something was either not right in my legs and/or I had gone too hard as I felt that I had lost a lot of power in my legs.  Soon afterwards there was an exceptionally sharp ascent where everyone could only walk hands on knees on the way up but I knew I was blowing extremely hard and it was taking its toll on me.  Eventually this section was cleared and what followed next should have been very runnable terrain but I felt that I had nothing in the tank and the legs would just not get going again - I was in trouble.

I would run a few bits here and there and walk again anything that was remotely hilly.  I was a still a clear 3rd about half way up but could sense people behind me closing in.  At this point I had completely lost touch with the two leaders and they were not even in sight, such was the distance that I had fallen behind.  I ran the last section properly near the summit and I guessed that I was about 15 seconds ahead of 4th and maybe 25 seconds ahead of 5th and 6th.  About 300 metres into the descent the first runner overtook me and whilst I was now running at a fair lick I just couldn't keep in touch with that sort of pace and as soon as the steep section came by near the bottom of The Wrekin I had to put on the brakes at which point I had more or less lost sight of him.  Right at the base of The Wrekin and the start of the small road section I was then overtaken by 4th and 5th placed runners.

I kept in touch on the second ascent of Ercall, partly because of the steepness foreshortens the real distance between runners but also the opportunity for them to pull away was less as it was so steep.  In some ways the extra steep sections I preferred as I was no worse than anyone else, it was the sections that should have been runnable which were causing me the problems as I have nothing to give.  I then lost touch on the flat section before the less technical descent to the finish.  There was a runner not too far away in 7th but I was never really in danger.

Final ascent of Ercall - the angle of the photo doesn't really show how steep the ascent is.

However, this photo does show a) how steep it was b) how knackered I was and c) The Wrekin that I had earlier ascended in the background.

Overall I came 6th in a time of 41:34 out of 105.  To be honest I was really disappointed as I ran a really poor race, despite being 3rd at the summit I should have run a lot more of the ascent and I need to rethink how I run future races like this.  In terms of the descent I just don't have the capability to run fast on technical descents so there is less I can do about this.  I was also disappointed as only the first two runners qualify automatically for the county and whilst 6th was still good I wasn't sure how many of the runners ahead of me were also entered into the Warwickshire trials.

A few metres from the finish - eased off at this point as my position was safe.

A few hours later I was contacted by the team captain and it turned out that I came second and I have been selected to represent Warwickshire in the inter counties fell race in May!  To say I'm chuffed is an understatement and it negates the disappointment of my run on the day.  The last time I represented my county was in the cross country of the U13 category in 1994!  I've had a quick look and the inter counties race is in Llanberis and is some proper fell terrain - some 13km and 915 metres of climb.  I think I need to do some more hill running!


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