Inter Counties Fell Race - Moel Eilio

A few weeks back I did the Warwickshire county selection fell race at The Wrekin where I came second so gained automatic qualification to the county team.  Fast forward a few weeks and today was the inter counties fell race held near Llanberis.  Any aspirations of getting a decent placing were out of the window for this race since it contained multiple national champions, people having represented GB etc.  The plan was to just enjoy the race and see what happened.  I did recce the route a few weeks back so knew what was ahead and whilst I have done two previous fell races, I'd never done anything on this scale before since it was 12.8km and contained 915m of climb.  I was one of three members of the Warwickshire team with three to count (the fourth was unfortunately injured the week before) so all of us needed to finish.

Me on the right just before the start

The start was extremely cramped; a very narrow lane going straight uphill and it took 10 or so seconds to get through the start.  It was extremely difficult to run at any pace so just held back and when an opportunity arose I tried to squeeze through the gap.  Early on I was the lead Warks runner and as the climb continued after the first km I was still pretty comfortable and picking off quite a lot of people.  Eventually we turned off the lane to go onto the slope proper and there were some nasty steeper sections and I made a conscious effort to keep running and as a result my progress continued up the field.  About half way up the first mountain that contained some 550 metres of climb I was well placed although no idea what position I was in.  I was particularly pleased that no one had overtaken me so knew I was running strongly.

About five mins into the climb with the lower slopes of the mountain in the background!

In the last quarter of the first climb (about 20 mins in) I eventually hit another steeper section and it was at this point I had to slow to a fast walk.  I more or less held onto my position, occasionally overtaking someone and then the same person moving a few yards ahead of me.  It was a shame I had to walk but the slope was too severe for me considering what I had previously climbed.  A few minutes later the first (main) peak was ascended and was quickly followed by a moderate but fairly runnable descent.  Being a pretty poor descender I managed to hold my own and I only lost a few metres which I regained as the course flattened out a bit.

There were then a couple of smaller climbs, one that on paper was just 30 metres of climb, followed by another of about 100 metres.  The reality was that both ascents were quite sharp in places and again anything beyond a shallow climb I had to slow to a walk.  The first of these two peaks was the point I was overtaken by another Warks runner.  I was surprised that I had been overtaken so soon as until this point I thought I had been doing particularly well.  A couple of other runners also got past and then on the descent I lost touch with them and never regained that ground.  The second ascent I lost a bit more ground and a couple of positions and ditto on the descent.

A relatively flat bit after all that climb

The final climb was an ascent of circa 200 metres and was a particularly long climb.  Again I lost a position on the bottom of the climb, but then I pretty much held my own to the top, albeit at a fast walk, although I ran in a few places where the climb bottomed out and particularly near the summit, knowing that almost all of the climbing was now done.  I now had a particularly sharp decent down off the mountain and it was as bad as I remember in the recce.  There was no path, the slope was full of boulders, tussocks and the gradient was very steep.  I lost about a minute on the descent and a further 4-5 positions, but in some ways I was thankful I hadn't lost more, my legs had frankly gone and being a poor descender anyway it was always going to be grim.  There was then just a stream crossing and a short climb onto a track that was a gentle descent of about 1.5 miles to the finish.

Just under 1km from the finish

One person overtook me early on down the track and it took a while for my legs to get going again.  As the track dipped down and up again I managed to catch the person ahead of me and I made an extra effort to hold him off over the final kilometre.  With about 500 metres I could sense someone not far behind me so I had to keep on the gas and with about 150 metres to go I could sense someone making a final push to overtake me.  I responded and finished in a full on sprint and in the end my position was never really under threat.

A few metres from the finish.  Pained expression due to 12.8km of course and 915m of climb followed on by a full on sprint to hold my position!

Overall I came 52 out of 291 in a time of 71.48.  In terms of the inter counties classification I was second Warks counter and was 48th out of 85.  Sounds pretty poor but when you look at other people around me it wasn't too bad when compared to similar 'non-fell' counties.  Although the final team results have yet to be released I think we came 14th out of 20 teams which isn't too bad - the first 'non fell' county came 10th and some of the other counties are not really counties at all, 5 of the teams ahead of us were in fact an agglomeration of counties so were really representing a region.

Team photo at the finish

I wasn't too sure what to think once I had finished, I clearly had a very good start, but when the wheels came off I had nothing left to give coupled with being a poor descender resulted in losing around 15 positions.  That said, I enjoyed the experience and didn't disgrace myself at all which is always a bonus.  I was also reminded that this is my first 'proper fell terrain' fell race so shouldn't really complain.

Next race is a half marathon in June which will be an interesting experience as my last one of these was in 2008!


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