The 20th of July found me running my 3rd Holme Moss Fell Race. The course has 3300ft of ascent over 18 miles of rugged moorland in the beautiful Peak District.
Chi Running principles involve focusing on alignment and relaxation, and so these became my main aims for the race. Given that I had competed minimum training I knew that using technique to preserve energy would be vital. This course is varied, with a few seconds of unrunnable, rocky hillside sections, especially in the first half. My main tactic was to preserve energy on some key sections, applying power and energy to run faster on other strategic sections eg. The descent from Tooleyshaw Moss and the return from Black Hill to Holme Moss. Also, I wanted to remain strong for the final scramble up a steep valley side at Ramsden Clough before the final 1.5 miles to the finish.
After setting off I found myself behind a large group of lead runners who I had no desire to keep up with. Just behind me were another large group of runners. I held my own on the way to Holme Moss summit, focusing on lengthening my spine and maintaining a good head position with the right amount of lean for the various different gradients.
Race Route trace:
Using my upper body to shift the work away from my legs was going to be important as the ascents were extremely challenging. I used the Chi Running technique for gradual up hill, adjusting my lean and stride length as well as engaging obliques and upper body. This worked well in the main, and I reached Holme Moss in about 38 minutes, feeling fresh.
After passing Holme Moss there was a steep descent and then a hands and feet scramble up to Tooleyshaw Moss. This was climbing pure and simple, no running technique was involved!
Then came a nice springy decent to Crowden on wide boggy paths. There were times here where I was able to bring in some downhill technique to good effect. I also used y-chi to focus on distant points. The issue here was keeping an eye on the technical nature of the path whilst still staying focused on distant features to use add mental targets. I will continue to work on exercises to train my peripheral vision.
An energy gel and water at Crowden and off to the steepest sections – Bareholme Moss and the legendary ascent of Laddow Rocks.
These required pushing down on my knees with my hands and keeping my upper body and centre of gravity add far forward as possible. When I got this right, I felt I was using my lower legs as little as could be expected given the severity of the climbs. Local knowledge and training on the course paid off here as I was able to find a decent line. Another energy gel … the side of Laddow Rocks was more climbing than walking in places!
2 hours in to the race, I was conscious that the rest of the course was mainly runnable, but had I paced the first half right?
A lot of runners had already told me that they were not looking forward to the next ascent, Black Hill. I know that section well, and was able to settle in to a more determined pace. Then the heat really started to kick in. The wide open moors started to feel distinctly oven like. I was hoping to use more of a lean and create some speed on that section, however I felt preserving energy was important in the heat. A group of runners just ahead were visible all the way up Black Hill, but started to pull away during the intricate weaving through peat hags on the return to Holme Moss summit. Another energy gel.
I was expecting to feel strong in the return to Ramsden Clough, and was on track to get close to my target time of about 3:35. For some reason I was starting to feel tired?! The downhill section to Ramsden Clough felt like it was getting longer as I continued. I kept going, mindful of my cadence and posture, determined to maintain mental focus no matter what.
Just the small matter of running straight up the banking and then 1.5 miles to the finish. I say run up the banking. .. It was pulling up the heather using your hands. One poor chap asked if we had anything for cramp. Another runner asked where he was cramping. The reply? “Everywhere! ”
I reached the top and was glad to find Phil with water. A nice bonus, thanks Phil. One final push needed.
Despite not catching any of those ahead of me I ran well on the final 1.5 miles, focusing to posture and arm swing to achieve decent split times. I finished with a personal best time. This still wasn’t the time I’d hoped for, but I’d not gone the whole distance in training and I’m sure the heat made a big difference to everyone.
It was a great event, and one I intend to make an annual event. What did I learn? On a course like this, knowing the route really well is extremely useful. I’d like to do even more training on it next year. I also need to work on the Cartworth to Holme Moss section before the race. Chi Running wise, I’m convinced I need to train longer and slower ahead of my next long race, the High Peak 40 in September.