Lee Mill Fell Relay

Since my return from New Zealand I've just been focussed on keeping things ticking over and I haven't really done any sessions of note since late September.  For me this is as close as I get to having an 'off season' and it's the one time of the year where I can slot in some 'fun' events and the Lee Mill Fell Race Relay was exactly that.  The course was approximately 10km and included around 370 metres of climb.

At the event centre it was a pretty chilly 2 degrees and the ground was pretty soft, but on the hills it was clear there would be some snow to contend with.  I was second leg for Mercia Fell Runners and whilst waiting for the start of my leg the finish times of the leaders were much much slower than in 2016.  I started in 8th, about 4-5 minutes from the leader and then around 30 seconds - 3 minutes behind those between 2nd - 7th.

Handover at the start.

Quite early on it was difficult to gauge who was racing and who was just warming up on the route so it was never really possible to work out what position I was in race wise (plus at the time I wasn't really sure what my starting position was). The first km came and went pretty quickly; although there was a decent amount of climbing it was on a well made track and whilst I was blowing a little I was well in control.  Over the next couple of km there was quite a fair bit of climbing and it was clear that there was far more snow than I originally envisaged.  I thought there might be a few cm, but at its worst there was a couple of feet in places where it had drifted.  This made the conditions particularly challenging, more so when the ground on the fells is so rough to begin with.

About 1km - up the climb on the track.  Just starting to get to the snow line.

What 90% of the course looked like.  Often thigh deep mud in the peat hags.

By the start of the 3rd km I had moved through the field quite a bit and had picked off four runners and to be honest I felt pretty good.  By the fourth km I had passed two more runners and from this point onwards there was no-one in sight ahead.  Considering some of these runners had started several minutes ahead of me I knew that I was in a pretty competitive race position and I had even wondered whether I was leading the race.

Amazing scenery

From this point onwards most of the main climbs were done and for the next couple of miles it was mostly small ups and downs, but to be honest the climbs were not all that noticeable as the main challenge was the ground conditions.  The ground was super soft, some bits were quite firm, other bits were thigh deep mud and then snowy tussocks that made it easy to fall over or even turn an ankle.  On the plus side the navigation was easy as all I had to do was to follow the muddy line that had partially cut through the snow.  Apart from me and the terrain, it felt like I could have been miles from anyone; just me and the challenge of the course - pure bliss!

Despite falling over several times in the mud and snow I was running fairly conservatively, in part to try and not injure myself but also the limiting factor was the ground conditions made it hard to go full gas.  I finished in 54.15 and felt pretty strong overall, other than having no sensation in my feet for several hours after!  It turns out I handed over in second place and was third fastest overall on my leg.  The club finished 3rd out of about 90 or so teams overall.


Overall I was pretty pleased with my run plus I enjoyed the challenge of the snowy terrain which is not something I've had to contend with before.  Most importantly I managed to finish injury free, which the same can not be said for some of my fellow competitors, one of whom had a nasty deep gash to the knee which would have required several stitches, whilst another I saw had a head injury, not to mention many others coming back with various scrapes.  While I could have pushed much harder, today was a story of survival and save the legs and heroics for another day!


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