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Each month, Team Montane Athlete Sally Fawcett shares an insight into the world of elite fell running.  This month deals with the importance of overcoming the mental aspects of injury as much as the physical in the run-up to a big race:

The last month has been and gone pretty quickly!

Training is back on track after a foot niggle restricted my running for a couple of weeks. This is a flare-up of a previous problem and I knew walking, or steep hill walking to be precise, wasn’t going to be an issue but running on it was so I left the tarmac behind! I have stopped my commuting runs and stuck to off-road, soft muddy terrain and it’s worked. I’m back running and feel the strength gains from initially power hiking the hills, then putting in running sections will translate well to the Trail World Championships course, after all, I never intended to run the whole 85km there with all that ascent!

I have been to Spain to recce the course, that was a bit of an eye opener, it’s rocky and very technical. The shade doesn’t really come until the last 25km of the course so I really will need to be on top of my hydration and nutrition right from the start. The unfortunate thing is, the dry rocky trails over there can’t be replicated in the muddy trails here, but for the sake of my foot I will continue with my Peak District bogs for training. The hills I have been doing do translate well to the steepness and length over there, my climbing strength gained from the last few weeks was encouraging. The confidence for descending will improve now I’m able to push my foot.

I’m sure many will relate to the psychological impact of an injury, there’s a period where you don’t dare push it. Just in case, you continue to plod in training, rather than get some higher intensity sessions in. I recongnised this, but wasn’t confident in particularly pushing any descents. That’s why I decided to put a number on. There’s nothing better than to get competitive, accepting you may be a bit slower than you’d like, but to mentally switch off from an injury by concentrating on a race! This is what I did with Coledale Horseshoe, a fantastic fell race in the Lake’s. At 13.7km with 915m ascent it’s a great way to get some different climbing in. I was happy with my 10th female position, and more importantly my foot was happy too! That meant I could do a double weekend of racing. I decided to do the Kong Mountain Marathon with my partner Simon on the Sunday as we were in the area. We are new to the score orienteering events, in fact in our last one we were so late back all our points were docked! We had 4 hours from Glenridding for the event, but we decided, as it was a training run rather than flat out race, we’d get as much climbing in as possible. We took lots of direct lines to get to the controls and managed 1600m of ascent in 21km. We finished 38th overall and 2nd mixed pair, considering how much fun we had, and enjoyed the stunning views around Helvellyn we were particularly pleased with this. I certainly intend to do more mountain marathon events.

A key session for me in my Bob Graham training last year was a Kinder Dozen. It’s a route devised by a Dark Peak runner, Ken Jones, to get in as much ascent and descent as possible by circumnavigating the Kinder plateau. It is a brilliantly tough route, around 36km with 3000m ascent, it’s a great way to condition the quad muscles for mountainous races. We got the Dozen in last weekend, first time I’ve been out in the Peaks in shorts and t-shirt for months! My quads paid for it, the aching took until mid week to wear off and I needed the help of fellow Montane athlete, Marcus Scotney, with a sports massage to ease them off completely.


So, onto this weekend and a race I’d been looking forward to, the Teenager with Altitude. It’s another Lake’s toughy, 24.7km with 2400m of climbing, another chance to work on my descending. Aware that I was tired from the last few weeks training, I did ease back at the start and enjoyed chatting to the runners around me who I knew. The conservative start definitely helped as it was such a hot day. The race is pretty relentless, particularly the first half where you’re either climbing of descending with virtually no flat sections. The second half I tried to push a bit more but I guess the lack of speed sessions the last few weeks told when I started to feel a cramp coming on in my left hamstring over the final 3 miles. I’m putting this down to general fatigue from the last few weeks training and the hot conditions but is the timely reminder to keep on top of stretching this week. My finish position of 6th female and 53rd overall was very encouraging, especially as I hadn’t reccied so took the far from optimal line on a couple of occasions. I think this goes down as my best Lake District result, and certainly my favorite Lake’s race.

So, the stats are impressive, over the last 7 weeks I have done 90 reps of Win Hill and have averaged a weekly ascent of 5793m. My skinny jeans don’t quite fit the same now on my quads and calves!

It’s the last 3 weeks now so I need to ensure recovery from the hard training I have done so far is optimal, this is the key time to ensure I’m stretching and foam rollering lots, eating well and sleeping plenty.

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