Saturday, 30 April 2011

Three Peaks Fell Race - 30/04/2011

Sprint finishes are hard after 23.5 miles!
This was a good end to the last six weeks, which have been somewhat frustrating with the on/off injury sustained on the BG recce back in mid March.

I finished the Three Peaks Race today in 5 hours 16 minutes... But crumbs, it was hard: more mentally than physically really.

I had a great chat with Manhar Patel (CVFR) at the start, and then got stuck in on my plan: 1 minute up half way up PYG, on top one minute down (48 mins), and the same at Ribblehead (2 hrs 1 min).

On the climb from Hunt Pot to Penyghent
By Ribblehead I was suffering badly with a blister on my right heel. I wondered about getting it looked at but it wasn't too bad and the next bit was uphill anyway (weight on toes and balls of feet) so I thought sod it and just kept going.

Crossing the wall after the long slog up Whernside,
but before the really steep bit

The two steepish bits between Hell Gill and the bottom of the very steep final ascent were hard. I didn't find the top bit of the Whernside climb too bad - it was the only bit of the course the easterly wind really helped on. I walked almost all of the way from Hell Gill. I did have jellied legs at the top though and staggered badly in the wind trying to cover the five yards to the marshall with the dibber thingy. I struggled a bit to get running on the descent and never really found a rhythm again. I made it to Hill Inn with about 5 minutes to spare on the cut-off and about 5 minutes down on my (5 hours ish) schedule.

The Ingleborough section was really hard - I lost a lot of time on the ascent, walking all of the flat bit about 200 yards behind Manhar. He must have made a very good fist of the steep bit and the descent to finish 10 minutes ahead of me. The spectators on this section were superb - I had several drinks of water on the way up (my energy drink was interfering with my guts) and just the general encouragement can carry you along for a bit. It was very hard running on the top, and also disappointingly difficult down the first part of the descent. I had a walk and a breather just before the ladder stile and then managed to run the rest of the way to the start of the limestone pavement at Sulber Nick. I had to walk almost the whole of the flat bit after the check point and couldn't work out why, reading the preceding posts it must have been the wind as well as just general knackeredness.

Anyway when the gradient steepened I got moving again and eventually managed a sprint finish in the field to skip in front of Nigel Crompton, who I'd followed much of the way down (sorry Nigel) and stay in front of David Timmins, without who's encouragement I'd have finished another minute and a half down. Anyway, despite falling apart a bit I did finish, in 5:16:26.

Sprint finish in the field - just overtaken Nigel Crompton (left)
It was brilliant to have completed the race: over 10% of the starters either retured or were timed out.

My feet are destroyed, no skin on either heel and various smaller blisters on the balls of my feet from having to midfoot strike from about 4 miles in. Crumbs, those paths were hard and rough! Other than that, I'm ok tonight and certainly learned a lot of things (mostly ones I already knew - don't race in untried gear, in this case socks, or use untried nutrition etc. etc.).

The thing that worked best was the simple form prompts from Danny Dreyer's "Chi Running" book which got me focussed on something other than the pain from my feet and ensured that my legs weren't totally destroyed despite this being the longest run I've done to date. I was also inspired by running in an area and on a route I've been familiar with since childhood, although I've forgetten much of the detail since I last walked the Three Peaks in 1991.

It was good to meet other Mercia Fell Runners at the race - Pete Vale (8th, 3:06:58) wished me luck beforehand, as did Andrew Hearle (316th, 4:23:03). I had a great chat with Dan Brazier (153rd in a great sub four hour time, 3:58:57) before the race, and again after (photo coming). Sadly I missed Jonathan Newey, but it looks like he had a good day too (42nd in 3:30:29).

I'm sure now I have experienced it once, I could do things better and improve significantly on my time if I run this race again, so I may even come back but let the blister heal first)!

All of the racing photos in this blog entry are (c) Sportsunday.

Thanks to Dan, Pete, Andrew, Manhar, Tim and Helen (and countless others) for their support. I've achieved one of the ambitions I had two years ago when I started fellrunning.


  1. Well done Jim - hope the feet recover soon! Gutted not to have been able to make it this year. It's a tough race alright.

  2. Good stuff Jim!
    Great result, after all your recent ups and downs.

  3. Thanks guys... I'm just moving from the "I must be insane" phase into the "shall I have another crack at it next year?" phase. It'll go in the diary shortly!