A Runners Journal – Commondale Clart Fell Race

Commondale Clart fell race marked my comeback after six months out. Its been tough but I used the time well to build strength and foundations for 2019. foundations which came good during the race, my legs felt fresh and strong which bodes well.

Strength hasn’t been my only focus, I struggled mentally on more than one occasion last year. Expectations and my relationship with competition were not healthy so a look under the hood has helped me fall in love with running again. Those lonely drives to registration were prime time to wind up but the battle with myself usually began the night before. Not this time, I felt relaxed and at piece, knowing my best would have to do.

Kim Cavill joined me on the ride to Commondale, a welcome change and distraction from the race. Waiting to start I felt nothing, not nervous, nor excited, just content to be back with an opportunity to test myself. I can’t remember ever feeling this way.

Commondale Clart Fell Race

Commondale Clart Fell Race begins with an uphill dash, after 8 minutes we levelled out onto open Moors and track. Blue skies, no wind and sun made for perfect, Winter conditions. The course was a little muddy with some areas waterlogged but considering the name includes ‘Clart’ we were lucky.

The race was keen early on, the top 15 toing and froing I remember pondering Chris Vanderhoven’s whereabouts. A class runner Chris has proven himself in the Esk Valley Winter Series already, yet he was nowhere to be seen. Sure enough he came whizzing past, hurdling our first obstacle of the day (picture below.) Chris went on to finish second, nice to see a fellow Cavill Coaching team mate do well.

Commondale Clart Fell Race

As the race progressed I felt good and legs fresh. If only my lungs would play ball, seems a lack of training would play its part. Yet this pleased me, for the first time in two years my legs are ahead of cardio which has great potential going forward. Though this was of no comfort as I wheezed and whistled my way through bracken and heather.

Isn’t it funny where the mind takes us while pushing hard. ‘Shit this hurts, is that a stitch? Hmm, the legs feel good…’ For a fast race Commondale can be technical, around halfway I began the long slog up yet more heather with no track to follow. Pick the right line they say, there is no right line, a real leg sapper we eventually reached a junction and the relief of limestone.

With runners breathing down my neck there was no time to slack, a mad dash took us back onto yet more technical terrain. The next descent was long and across ankle breaking Moorland, my feet disappeared with every step, ‘Don’t’ fall, DON’T fall.’

The final half mile takes in a slight climb along awkward ground requiring a good line. Tired legs get found out and I nicked another place before the final descent on road. Downhill, on road; sounds lush I know. Yet it felt awful, my lungs screamed and begged for rest. A wish granted as I crossed the line in 40:33, 25 seconds faster than 2018 bagging 8th overall.

Happy Days And a Pinch Of Optimism

I was delighted to see my gym work pay off. The same effort last year would have felt tight and soar, but S&C has built resilience. The fact cardio held me back is a positive considering my lack of running. I can’t wait to see the season unfold and do so with the same, healthy approach, to enjoy the race and process, accepting the outcome will take care of itself.

But most of all, I am happy to be back on the Moors, pushing boundaries and questioning my limits. Bring on February and Maybeck 3 Crosses, but first, lots of hard work!

Commondale Clart Fell Race Stats

Here are my race stats including Commondale Clart route and elevation for those who fancy a crack next year. Highly recommended.

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Darren Smith

Training with purpose since October 2016 Darren has gone from trailing the pack to winning local races and the times keep on falling. A true believer in hard work over natural talent he writes to help others realise their true potential. Darren's race schedule for 2018 includes the Hardmoors Wainstones marathon (1st place), Keswick Mountain Festival (10th place), Scafell Skyrace and Salomon Ring Of Steall (World Championship race.)

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