Petzl Nightrunner Grizedale

In what is starting to become a bit of a tradition I entered the Grizedale night event as part of a long weekend away in the Lake District.  As this is the third year in a row that I’ve done the event it would be a good test of relative fitness assuming the course conditions are more or less the same.  Unfortunately, it became clear that this would be far from the case as I waited in the event centre car park.  There was already some snow on the ground, it was -2C and is was starting to snow again about 90 minutes before the start.  It was even getting to the point about having to decide whether to bail from the event, as if the snow started to settle on the roads it would be almost impossible to get back to Ambleside safely.  Thankfully, about an hour before the start it stopped again, so the race was on!

Can just about make me out in seven layers stripping down just before the off!

Due to how cold it was I decided to race in my leggings for the first time ever and also to get to the start from the warmth of my car as late as I dared.  With only a few minutes to go we were told that some adjustments had been made to the course, although it wasn’t entirely clear what this meant in practice other than the course length was still more or less the same.  As soon as we set off I was pretty much straight into the lead which was not at all surprising considering I won by several minutes the previous year.  However, after the first km there were still a couple of runners in touch who were perhaps 5-8 seconds behind.  As soon as we entered the forest it was clear the course conditions were going to be challenging, on the plus side the ground was frozen but on top was a thin veneer of snow which made things slippy.  Having said that my choice of Inov8 Mudclaws made short work of the ground conditions and I always had a sure footing.

Off we go...

In previous years the bulk of the 160m of climb is done in km 2 & 3, but this year it was a complete unknown as we took a completely different route.  It was obvious we were going to stay a bit lower but then there was a lot more shorter up and down for much longer.  If anything I suspect the overall climb was more or less the same but in some ways I preferred getting it all done and dusted in one go.  The up and down nature of the course made it very difficult to judge how much effort to put in, especially at night where you didn’t really have the benefit of knowing how high you are relative to the start.  Over these early km that were mostly uphill I pulled out a further advantage and from this point onwards I was pretty much on my own and it was now more or less a case of time trialling back to the finish.

Between km 2-9 it starting to snow, at first I thought it was just snow in the trees blowing to the ground but it soon got harder and harder to the point where I was really struggling to see where I was going.  The snow reflected in my head torch light and with the snow already on the ground made it very difficult to see much more than 5-10 metres ahead.  At various moments I veered almost to the edge of the 5m wide vehicular tracks that we were following through the forest, such was the poor visibility.  It was almost getting to the point where had it been like this before the start it would have been 50/50 whether the race should have started.  As previously mentioned it also made it difficult to judge the terrain ahead, I had literally no idea at times whether there was an incline or decline ahead and at some points I had no idea whether I was even on the flat, uphill or downhill!

With about 3km to go (7km in) I must have finished a mini loop as I was now going back along the track that I had run on earlier but in the opposite direction.  There were still scores of runners in the opposite direction to me and this in itself brought challenges.  Whilst it was still snowing the full on blizzard had subsided a bit, but with it came the new issue of lots of headlines pointing directly at me so I couldn’t see all that well.  Also for some unknown reason lots of people were running directly at me and were only jumping out of the way at the last moment, all a bit bizarre!

Crossing the line having just ran in a blizzard for 30 mins.

As I exited the forest for the final km downhill it stopped snowing and I crossed the line in a time of 35.25 at an average pace of 3.36m/km and 240m of total climb.  I won by about 2 minutes from 2nd who was a further minute or so ahead of 3rd.  My wife heard the two speaking at the finish (I had already gone to the car to get some warm clothes on) who commented that they tried to hang on to me for as long as possible and had assumed that I would come back to them later on but kept on going!

Prizes.  A shield and a Petzl Reactik+ 300 lumen headtorch.

Overall, it was a bit disappointing to not run the same route as in previous years but the right call was definitely made.  It was certainly a new experience and one that I will probably unlikely to repeat again in my running career so glad I did it, even if it was more of a race of concentration and mental toughness than anything else.  That night I really struggled to get any sleep so at 2am I bailed and ended up doing my scheduled 20 miler that involved 8 laps around Ambleside which I finished at about 4.10am.  My wife thinks I have well and truly lost the plot.  Next up is the Wheaton Aston 10k in a couple of weeks where I’m hoping to smash my pb that I got there last year.  Everything suggests sub 32mins is on the cards (current pb 32.22) but as always doing it on the day is much harder than saying I can do it!


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