Monday, 26 July 2010

International Snowdon Race - A Bone-Crunching Run

Date: Saturday 24th July
Time: 02:34:31

This was as an opportunity for a long, easy training run to prepare for the Borrowdale fell race in a couple of weeks. I am still slightly concerned about some pain at the site of my knee surgery last November, so I also wanted to take it easy for that reason.

Lightning and I started right at the back of the field - this is probably the best-known mountain race in the UK, so there would be a fast field which we didn't want to hold up; and there were chips in our shoes anyway (one of the benefits of a well-known race) so our true times would be recorded electronically.

Getting the tags onto the Five Fingers initially looked to be a challenge, given that the instructions explicitly mentioned attaching to laces, but the reverse turned out to be true.

Lighting gets ready before the race.

Waiting to start at the back.
On the podium, fell-racing legend Kenny Stuart poised to blow the starting horn

For a while, I thought I was in last place, as Lightning forged ahead to challenge his personal best from last year; but I was enjoying the steady pace. It's liberating to run in a race and not be concerned about being overtaken or catching others up. In fact there were quite a few people behind me, I later found out.

I ran the whole ascent. Ironically, this was made possible by my slow pace. Had I wanted to make faster progress I would have needed to power walk on the steep sections. As it was, I took small, bouncy strides on my calves when it got steep, happily accepting the slow progress.

The weather was pretty foul. No visibility to speak of, plenty of drizzle or rain, and some wind. No doubt it often gets a whole lot worse up there, but that was little consolation to someone hoping to enjoy the exhilarating views on the way up.

The electronic chips were a perfect fit for the Five Fingers...

...but required more fiddling for people with laces!

Snowdon is a gruelling race, especially for someone wearing Five Fingers. The route is almost entirely on rocky and stony ground of varying types. There is little respite from the bone-crunching, ankle-challenging variety, making the downhill a tough gig even for the pros. Until this race I had though the Skiddaw fell race was tough in that respect, but now see it in a more benign light.

On the way down, I ran faster. My goal was an average heart rate below 160, and of course downhill is much less effort. About two thirds of the way down I lost my footing and crashed to the ground, knee first. Yes, that knee. For about 30 seconds I sat laughing to myself between grimaces of agony, something onlookers might have found a little puzzling. The irony was killing me.

Click for a larger version

The first aid people were on me like a shot, which was impressive. After a minute or two the pain abated and I realised I could stand. They sent me on my way with a silver Superman cape and the offer of Haribo jellies. "Should I rub the them my knee?" I was tempted to ask.

I shuffle-ran the remainder of the downhill, which took 45 minutes.

Later in the year, we are running the Ben Nevis race, the largest mountain in the UK. Having walked Nevis I know that the terrain is rather similar to Snowdon. Yikes.

As I sit here with ice packed on the knee, I am pretty sure it's a different part of the knee that took the impact, and there was no discernible damage to the site of the original surgery. The new bruising seems superficial. I am seeing my consultant on Tuesday, an appointment I already arranged before this race. I will also seek an opinion on whether Saturday's impact caused any damage to worry about.


I decided to run the race more or less fasted - an early breakfast, then no food until the evening - a hunter having some leftovers in the morning before embarking on a long hunting expedition and then not being rewarded until the evening when the prey had been dragged home and finally cooked.

By the time I tucked into that lamb I was very hungry... and it tasted good!

5 hours before the race at 9am....

3.5 hours after race race at 8pm....

slow-cooked lamb, broccoli, beetroot, spinach


Boris Terzic said...

Sounds like a grueling event!

Lightning said...

Very grueling on the knees. Well the way Methuseah did it anyway ;-)

Asclepius said...

You know, you have done more than most to put running back on to my paleo agenda. (My ever-adapting agenda sits alongside a modest and occasional portion of starchy carbs).

When I read passages like the following, I see paleo-running at its best:

"It's liberating to run in a race and not be concerned about being overtaken or catching others up."

But then I see you consumed by neolithic-running and the alarm bells start ringing:

"On the way down, I ran faster. My goal was an average heart rate below 160, and of course downhill is much less effort."

I can appreciate that paleo man might have run distance, but he would have read the terrain and adapted accordingly. Put down the HR monitor! ;)

Sadly my neolithic tendencies see me similarly over-exerting in the gym on occasion, so I am well placed to empathise.

Console yourself with the fact that there is no failure, only feedback.

Oh well. Best of luck with the recovery.

Steve said...

Great job - I enjoyed your race report very much. See you there next year, with any luck.

Methuselah said...

Asclepius - I know, I know, the heart rate monitor is not exactly in the spirit of the hunter. In my defense, there are two main reasons I am using it at the moment.

First, I want to understand what different heart rates feel like so that I have a benchmark when reading recommendations from people like Mark Sissons about chronic cardio. I agree that really I should just get ou there and do what feels right, which I suspect would be just fine... except that since my whole paradigm of existance is different from the wild hunter, what feels right to me may never match what felt right to him (or her!) All my thoughts are through the lens of a fitness-obsessed ex-half-marathon runner! That said, I think I pretty much get it now. If it feels comfortable and sutainable, it's fine.

Second, I like putting the chart on the blog because it's a neat way of showing how effort levels correspond to the ups and downs of a fell race.

Having said all that, it's a pain to strap the damn thing up each time, carry the phone around and worry about whether it's even working (which invariably it doesn't), and when I decide against it, it's quite liberating to be running totally free of paraphanalia.

So I think I will run Borrowdale as you describe. 17 miles of unmonitored mountain running. Just me, my shorts and hopefully this time, the sun ;-)

If I have got you back into running, you should consider a fell run. I'd be happy to head up your way for a training run sometime. Where are your nearest hills/mountains?

Methuselah said...

Hi Steve - thanks. Yes, I'll be doing it next year. Hopefully see you at something sooner - what's your next outing? You did list them last time you commented, but I can find your comment!

Asclepius said...

My local hills are the Peak District. There are some good circuits taking in rugged and hilly terrain. Nice for a challenging walk with demanding inclines.

I think any re-creation of a persistence hunt would see me re-enacting the part of the quarry!

Methuselah said...

Peak district isn't to far. The quarry usually goes faster than the hunter!