View from the Back
Vicki Milburn's Blog
On May 20th, I took on my biggest challenge yet. A fell race. The race of choice was the Goatfell Race. I wanted to challenge myself to do something that scares me. I took on too much. The race was on the beautiful Isle of Arran.
By 11am, the Ormidale Pavillion in Brodick was packed. I looked around at other runners in full fell racing kit. I had little specialist kit as I didn't want to buy lots as I didn't know if I would do fell racing again. The first big problem occurred when I went out to do a warm up. My back bag kept banging against my lower back. I saw some of the other runners had tighter fitting packs or larger waist packs with water bottles on the belt. I wasn't going to be able to complete the race with my back getting bashed with every move. Not wanting another DNS, it was a case of rapidly rethinking how to carry essential kit. I was able to attach the holders of my waterproof jacket and trousers to my waist pack. Hat and gloves were stuffed inside the jacket. The whistle went around my neck. A few snacks in my backpack. My water bottle had to stay in my backpack to be left there. Despite the more unusual kit carrying practice, I passed kit inspection.
At 1200, we were off for a lap of the playing fields then a jog into Brodick and along the road towards Castle Drive. This bit was nice, pleasant weather and very pretty. At Castle Drive, it got hillier as we headed into the tree line. I could handle that and kept it up.
By the time I got to the top of the tree line, the path was heading to the summit and very rocky. Big boulders, narrow bits, large gaps that had to jumped and lots of walkers in both directions added to the difficulties. I felt way out of my depth but was hell bent on not quitting.
By the 2 hour mark, I was only at the shoulder of the mountain. I was mentally and physically exhausted. The summit was a near vertical scramble half a mile above me. I knew it would take at least half an hour then I had to make my descent. I was so far out of my league on this one that I made the decision to cut my losses and head back down, for my safety and for the sake of the many volunteers. It was sorely disappointing but I made the right decision. My first ever DNF.
Trudging back down was easier physically, though mentally harder. The sense of defeat was crushing, even though I felt it was the right thing to do. A mars bar from my waist pack gave me an energy hit to get back. I got water on the way down from my partner. The worst bit was coming out of the trees back onto Castle Drive. Off the mountain, onto the road... Then still a mile and a half to go.
The walk back to Ormidale seemed like the longest mile and a half in my life. I didn't bother running back as so was no longer in the race. I returned to the Pavillion to an unexpected round of applause.
I did the lap of shame around the playing field then watched the prize giving, cheering on the real fell running heroes of the day.
On reflection, I was too ambitious. I am proud that I started and gave it my best shot, it just was not meant to be. I am pleased that I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I feel like I have learnt a lot from the experience. It did show me that I need to rethink my strategy.
I don't think I will return to run it next year, though I would love to be there to spectate. Fell racing isn't for me just yet. In any case, all of the experiences that we have are valuable and allow us to learn, but we don't necessarily always want to repeat the experience.
My name is Vicki, 40 something runner, living in Sunderland. I've been doing running events since 2011. I do a range of races, parkruns, Great Run Locals, monthly miles, charity fun runs and various distances. Over the last few years, I have taken training more seriously. I am a member of Newcastle Frontrunners.