Struggles and self-talk – 3 Peaks Fell Race


Ingleborough Pic from David Bradshaw/SportSunday

Pic from David Bradshaw/SportSunday

I suspect it was the trauma of having brought two right gloves to race in that was the deciding factor. For someone who (for some odd reason) seems to have picked up a reputation for being rather OCD about kit, it was distressing to be fair. Every time I looked at my left hand, I was painfully reminded of my glaring ineptitude not to mention going through the trial of trying to get a right glove on a left hand (try it, it’s harder than you think) at regular intervals as I got hot and then cold in the wild ‘seasonal’ temperature variations of the day. I was sure of it in fact, it must have been contributing to my sub-par performance around the 3 Peaks.

It was just one of those days really. It just never got going how I imagined it would. Fatigue started early, almost imperceptibly at first but at a point where you wouldn’t to start feeling tired if the rest of the race was going to be even vaguely pleasant. And so the turn onto the lane up to Penyghent marked where it all started going awry. Less than a mile into a 24 mile race with 5000odd feet of climb isn’t the best place to start questioning things, but there we go, something wasn’t quite right.

The rest of the story is a slightly tragic, rather predictable decline into a fairly advanced state of decay. Highlights included a waist deep immersion into a  bog that precipitated a full cramp attack in both legs and avoiding the walker who went for an impromptu 40ft glissade on his arse down and past me on the treacherous Whernside descent. Ouch. The weather was a bit wild too at times but whilst the snow on the summits made descending interesting, it was also stunningly beautiful as a back drop to my suffering.

After Whernside summit, I was really doubting my ability to finish. The change in gradient from the ridiculously steep climb to the downhill track had somehow rendered me unable to run, and in some pain with my left knee. Hobble, shuffle, hop, curse. Then the thought of sitting in the Bus of Shame back to Horton, explaining what had happened to other hapless souls, flashed across my brain and I resolved that I ought really to finish this bloody thing. That and the fact that I couldn’t do a fell and ‘cross double this year if I didn’t get round.


Shuffle… Pic from David Bradshaw/SportSunday

Of course in reality, I actually had a reasonable enough run, for a first timer and in quite tough conditions. It was the hardest thing I’ve done yet (whisper it, yes, harder than the cross race). The issue I had was the very poor self talk that started early on, the doubts, the incessant whinges inside my head, all of which did little to help my mental approach to a notoriously tough challenge. I learned many lessons about myself during those 4 hours and 43 minutes, lessons which hopefully I can bring to bear on future long events including a tilt again at a substantially quicker Peaks in 2017. One for which I will actually DO the homework of regular long runs, something which seemed blindingly obvious after the finish, but had escaped me in the run up to it. I’d only really done one proper long run over 20 miles in the run up, and the Peaks was the longest I’d run in 20something years. Not rocket science really, and possibly enough proof to throw doubt on my theory about the adverse performance effect of wearing two right gloves…

Here’s to a return to the Peaks on the last Sunday in September where I can bring my bike with me for company.