Last weekend I was lucky enough to run the Isle of Wight fell running series. Due to running with the Victoria Park Harriers a few times over the last few months I heard about the series and thought it would be a good idea to get involved. I’m always keen to take on different running races and challenges and get out of London every now and then. I have to say thankyou to Neil Cook for letting me know about the weekend and nagging me to run.
The only fell race I had done, before heading to the IoW, was the Orion Harriers 5k. This was a couple of months back, I really enjoyed it despite the course being a shock to the system with steep ascents and descents. That race had 800+ft of elevation gain and that was hard work, I kind of thought the IoW fell races would be the same but that was me being naive. I had the Friday off work so me and Lorna did a steady 10k along the river in the morning, it was a good shakeout run. I then chilled for the rest of the day and got packed up ready for the mini adventure.
The journey was relatively long but luckily chatting to the Harriers and keeping myself occupied with selfies and pretending to be a professional photographer the few hours disappeared quickly.
Once we got there we got some food and headed for an early night. After all we had 3.8k, 12k & a half marathon to tackle over the next two days. The 3.8k started at 11am so we had plenty of time to chill, get a good breakfast, collect race numbers, look at maps (with too many contour lines for my liking) and warm up.
When I go to races with other people due to chatting etc I almost forget I’m racing. I guess because I hadn’t trained for the races and hills specifically I just took each race as it came and was pretty relaxed because I didn’t know what times were good or bad and what I should be capable of.
The first race was the St Boniface Fell. It was 3.8k long with 235 m of ascent. I briefly looked at the 2014 results and predicted any time around 20 minutes would be good. Looking at the stats I knew it would be hard but I wasn’t prepared at all for how long and steep some of the climbs were. I guess if you are really strong the whole route would be runnable but the majority of the runners were hands on knees clambering up the hill, myself very much include do. I didn’t expect to be breathing so heavy for so long. Once I reached the top I was so relieved to be descending. This for me was the most fun part of the weekend, letting my legs do the work. It became harder on steeper parts but overall the descent and the few hundred metres on the road leading to the finish were awesome. I finished the first race in 20:18 placing 28th, not too bad for a roadrunner I thought. That thought was immediately replaced with “I’ve got to do 12k with nearly twice as much ascent in three and a half hours!!”
After each race the team headed down to the sea for a dip to aid recovery, you don’t get to do this in London 😦
My approach to recover between races was to eat A LOT!! I also got an hour or so of sleep which I found I needed between laps on 24 hour team relays before. I didn’t leave much time for warming up but woke up and got into the race after a few kilometres. I thought there couldn’t be a tougher ascent than on the first race but a few miles in I came across the large steep steps. You have to pull yourself up using the railings and it is knackering. I’m struggling to find the words really. However once up the steps you can run again and I knew the descent was coming up. I like the fact each race finishes with a long downhill section so you feel good then and your memory is almost wiped of the pain you felt before. The downhills and views were definitely worth the effort.
I finished the Ventnor Horseshoe in 1:01:15 in 22nd. Again I was thinking “I’ve got a bloody half marathon tomorrow!!” Luckily we went for some good pub grub, pie and chips I thought was well earnt and would be good fuel. The half marathon started at 10:30. I felt sore and whilst warming up was thinking “why am I doing this and who thinks this is a good idea?” A few moments later and I was enjoying the initial steady climbs and taking in the great views. I was mentally ticking off elevation gain and thinking “yeh that’s got to be about 400m ascent done, it’ll be all down hill from here” ha! I felt stronger as the race went on and enjoyed sliding though the mud and running through the wet ground with the water kicking up. I was chasing down runner after runner and loving the flows of the course through the trees. I tackled the steps one last time and felt strong along the flat sections and descending. I finished the Wroxhall Round in 1:33:38 in 19th. I really enjoyed the half and think I might have to search for more trail and fell races soon.
In the team standings we finished 2nd. Being outside of the top 3 men for the team I didn’t contribute but running with faster runners from VPH etc I’m motivated to train harder and get faster and stronger to compete more. It was also amazing to see runners in various age categories doing so well, one man getting a course record. I love the fell running characters. One man was a spitting image of the Western States 100 founder Gordy Ainsleigh.
Overall the weekend was awesome, probably one of my favourites this year so far. Massive thanks to Neil, Simeon, Rob and all the Victoria Park Harriers for making me feel welcome and also for offering advice and tips on the routes. I look forward to being back on the Isle of Wight soon.
Massive well done to everyone that tore up Berlin Marathon, Ealing Half etc etc! There are too many of you to shoutout individually but you know who you are, you’re all legends!!
One last thing! Fingers crossed for those of you in the London Marathon ballot.