Sunday, 5 July 2009

Challenge in the Cheviots! (PART 1)

Last Saturday saw me take part in my first ever Chevy Chase. I was part of a 2 man team from Northern Rock with accomplished ultra distance runner Ian Harding providing youth and quality to our side!

For those of you who don't know, this is a 20 mile fell race starting from Wooler and taking in the glorious heights of The Cheviot (2,674 ft) and Hedgehope Hill (2,340 ft).

I should also say that it is a very well organised and supported race and a lot of credit must go to Wooler Running Club, Northumberland National Parks Search and Rescue Team and the many volunteers involved in various aspects of the race.

Registration for runners on the day was at 09:00 and I made sure I was there right on time after a leisurely drive up through Northumberland. This was a good move as it got a little busier shortly after. Following registration was the kit check where the contents of my Camelbak were checked to ensure that I had all of the necessary items; Compass, map, water, energy gels, peanut butter sandwiches, etc etc. That whole process went very smoothly and there was plenty of time to get prepared before the 10:30 kick off.

Readers may remember that I attempted a 14 mile section of the Chevy Chase route 3 weeks ago. I came out of that run with confidence sapped due to a very poor performance indeed. It didn't take me long to realise that day that I had neither the technique nor the courage required to set the fell running world alight. My biggest fear was taking longer than the allowed 6 hours! I spent the next 2 weeks worrying about the race and the potential embarrassment. I even lost sleep dreaming about not immense failure in the Cheviots!

It was only last Monday when I really started thinking about how I could reach the finish line within the required time. I started focusing on the positives first. For example, the potential weather conditions. Well this is an easy one for me as I relish running in any kind of climate. There's a positive straight away. I've ran in all kinds this year, from the bitterly cold icy conditions of the Pennines in winter to the baking hot desert in Egypt.

What about the hills? There are some nasty climbs in this race. Let's not forget that I've done a lot of hill running this year. I've got a lot of confidence when it comes to any kind of climbing (in the running sense of the word) and if I adopted the attitude I show when running in the Pennines I should be OK. Plus, my legs have got a lot more strength in them these days. Surely I could handle 2 major climbs.

Finally, I remembered that I was the lad who ran 874 miles in 37 days from John O'Groats to Lands End in 2007. I've been in bigger scrapes than this! The Chevy Chase is a one off event and I would be able to take it easy for a few days afterwards. That got me thinking about a plan of attack. There were only 2 elements to it as far as I was concerned. The main tactic would be to make best use of the various types of terrain. Where there was a decent place to run I would go for it with as much pace as I thought was sensible at the time. On the rough and uneven terrain the plan was to push forward with a little more courage than I showed 3 weeks ago. Let's face it, that would not have been too difficult! Secondly, I imagined the forward motion coming from my upper body with my legs adapting to the various terrain underneath. This approach was to work much better on the actual race day than my previous practice run. This was me taking a few more risks on the day without actually thinking I was taking risks.

Last week, leading up to the race I managed a couple of 6 mile sessions through Jesmond Dene and a slower than usual 4.5 miles on the treadmill. I had a few pints of orange the night before the race with none other than Jimmy Bell among a few others. Jimmy has ran this race twice before. His words and advice really set my mind at ease and completed my week long mental preparation for the run.

Meanwhile, back to the start line at 10:15 on Saturday morning. The weather was absolutely baking hot! I met up with the other half of the Northern Rock team, Ian Harding, who was out to do a very good time. Of course, this was to be the last I saw of him until the finish line! Me and a few hundred other runners got underway right on time. I was actually looking forward to getting stuck into the run now. Did that frame of mind last? Tune in for part 2 as well as a surprise ending be continued.