The last time I did any ‘proper’ fell running was back in February when I took part in the Winter Hill race and Mr Sparkle’s Dark Un (Simon’s fell race in the dark, in other words). As usual, I didn’t do any running during the spring and most of the summer as riding bikes took over.
Recently though, as part of my preparation for the 3 Peaks Cyclocross, I’ve been running again. It’s not really to make me any faster in the race, but it’ll make me feel a bit more prepared plus it’s an excuse to take part in a few more fell races along the way.
Over the years I’ve developed a lot of affection for fell running, especially organised fell races. Like bike racing, it gives me a chance to catch up with friends I’d otherwise never see. The average entry fee is often less than the price of a decent pint of bitter and handily, the ‘race HQ’ is often a pub. The training consists of pulling on some running shoes and heading out of the door, returning half an hour later, job done.
More than all this though is the race itself – the pain, intensity and suffering of a long bike race condensed into something much shorter and in many ways much more straightforward.
The Golf Ball Fell Race the other night was approximately 50 minutes of deep-breathing, sweat-pouring, no-coasting effort. 50 minutes of being completely ‘in the zone’ with nowhere to hide, nowhere to soft pedal and recover. Uphill, downhill and on the flat, the effort was constant. Any attempt to recover or ‘hang on’ would immediately result in being overtaken and the loss of one or two places.
Finishing in 28th place out of 122 finishers with the usual puddle of sweat in each eye and the taste of blood at the back of my throat, I shook hands with mates, had a plastic cup of water and reflected on yet another happy return to a sport I enjoy more and more every time I take part. Another one in a few days, starting at another pub, up and down another silly-steep hill and through another series of knee-deep moorland bogs…and all for three quid.
While we’re on the subject of ‘preparing for the 3 Peaks Cyclocross’, here’s the bike that I’ll be riding in the race.
On-One have very generously sent me a Dirty Disco – a disc-brake-specific, carbon fibre cyclocross bike. The parts that came with it are ideal for ‘normal’ cyclocross racing and I’ll be doing lots of that through the winter – for the 3 Peaks though I’ve made a few spec changes…
First of all I’ve fitted a compact chainset with a 50-tooth big ring so I don’t need to spin my legs like a lunatic on the long road sections between each of the three mountains. The Sram ‘Climbers Kit’ which basically consists of a 10 speed MTB cassette and a long cage rear mech also gives me a very low bottom gear of 34:32. That might sound a bit soft, but I’ll be glad of it during the final ascent of Pen Y Ghent.
Instead of the carbon wheels that came with the bike (which, again, are perfect for ‘cross racing), I’ll be using a tubeless wheelset that I’ve pinched from my race mountain bike. Punctures are a big worry in the 3 Peaks so providing these tyres stay on the rim, I should be able to chuck myself and the bike down Whernside without too much worry (relatively speaking).
I’ve had a disc brake-equipped cyclocross bike for years (my other bike is a Planet X Uncle John) and I’d never do the 3 Peaks without disc brakes. With discs, I know I can brake when I want and I know I can brake much later than I would if I was using cantilevers. Disc brakes are just better, more powerful and more dependable, which means I can go faster. I can’t see any downsides.
The bar tape is blue with matching cable outer. Just get over it
I’m really looking forward to giving the Dirty Disco a proper thrashing over the next few weeks as my 3 Peaks ‘training’ continues…ignoring the fact for a minute that I’m actually training for a 24 hour solo race that takes place the weekend after the 3 Peaks, I think I’m doing everything I should be to prepare adequately for both.
If not, I definitely can’t blame the bike.