Sunday morning and the alarm clock goes at 7:30 am but it’s not Monday… That means one thing, it must be race day and Mickleden Straddle is calling.
In the words of the organisers this is what I’d signed up for:
“A category BL fell race over 14.3miles with 2431ft ascent. Difficult high-level moorland terrain & potential for severe weather conditions make this a serious winter challenge, requiring previous similar fell running experience. Navigation skills required.”
And it didn’t disappoint, with 2cm of snow reported by the park rangers at the highest point, low lying cloud for the ascent during the first third and a smattering of snow for the first hour.
Mickleden Straddle Fell Race
This was my first long run for a few weeks after taking it easy due to a minor injury on my lower right leg from overtraining, but I decided it’d be worth giving it a go after testing the water and giving a tantalising performance the day before at the local Sheffield Hallam Parkrun.
This was the first time I’d tried out some form of refuelling during a run, this time with my own supplies, not Jelly Babies donated by my fellow fell runner, Rose, which saved me during my Derwent Valley run. I’d invested in some energy gels and they definitely helped, but I suggest that you carry more than you think you’ll need, to make sure you don’t get caught short. I munched my way through two and probably could’ve used a third for the final stint.
As for the race, I won’t bore you with a blow by blow recount, but it was tough; at points, it felt like I was running through treacle. After 24 hours of rain the day before, the pre-warned ‘boggy ground’ definitely delivered. In places, the mud was 2ft deep which lead to an above-average number of tumbles. On a number of occasions, the suction from particularly deep strides almost claimed one of my shoes.
This was the highlight of the terrain, an 8ft wall of mud somewhere in the middle of ‘The Mickleden Bog of Eternal Stench’.
The return journey was very difficult, after descending back down from the moorlands I had roughly 1km to the finish line along a lovely trail at the side of some woodland. My legs were gone and I had to sadly walk a fair chunk of this final kilometre only managing to slowly run to the finish line for the last 100m.
Crossing the finish line I necked 5 cups of strong juice, the life-giving nectar of sugar & water. And collected my congratulatory free ale whilst the lovely race volunteers cut my race number from my t-shirt like absolute professionals making sure they didn’t get in the way of my juice consumption.
On to my next stop I headed straight into the barn where I inhaled 5 sandwiches in a matter of seconds, 3 ham salad cobs, 1 cheese salad cob, 1 carrot and cheese wrap washed down with a soup chaser – 3 cups to be exact. This was all followed by hoovering up 6 pieces of cake; 1 piece of toffee cake, 1 piece of coffee cake, 1 piece of chocolate cake, 2 pieces of chocolate brownie and 1 piece of flapjack. Suddenly a feeling of nausea washed over me, maybe it was the intensity of the race, or maybe the quantity of after race snacks.
With my first fell race completed successfully, I’ll certainly be looking for new ones to take on in the future – I’m hoping for at least a few more post-race buffets!