Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wellington Monument & Stoke Stampede 10ks

Wellington Monument 10k isn't the most exciting event but we keep doing it every year anyway - mainly because it can easily be combined with a pre Christmas visit to my parents. And this year we scored a double whammy - lunch at Richard and Lesley's as well as a family dinner.

We set off slightly later than we intended in a dangerous format - me behind the wheel and Martin with the map. This is not a slur on my driving, which compared to Martin's is boringly safe, as opposed to fast, reckless, nerve wracking, suicidal.............. Martin's map reading is also distinctive, his philosophy being, why drive 4 miles along a main road when you could take a short cut, i.e 3 and a half miles, along a lane with grass growing up the middle and various farm animals running free? Anyway, I digress ( as usual) - we arrived (eventually), safely (slightly stressed) and so back to the race report.

We had been worried about how slippery condition would be due to icy roads, but our fears proved ill founded. We gathered outside the Catherine Wheel pub, the race organiser gave a mercifully short speech which no one could hear anyway and then we were off on the mad dash down the hill out of the village. Martin was on a mission to try and retain his male vet 50 title from last year so he soon disappeared from my view. I knew as soon as I hit the hill that it was going to be another hard slog for me. Richard passed me soon after this making some strange clicking noises and gestures (which he explained afterwards was something to do with Harry Enfield - completely lost on a non TV viewer like me). Anyway he soon disappeared from view too, as did most other people.

As I turned off the road and onto the Monument track I was treated to the rare sight of seeing the front runners - having completed their loop of the Monument they were already on their way back. The first lady (an International we had been told pre race, although I must confess to not recognising either her face or her name) was in 6th place overall - although she was clearly working very hard. (She eventually knocked a massive 40 seconds off the course record - fantastic effort).

I counted the runners and in 18th place was one Martin Lascelles looking like he was out for a stroll in the park. And with a potential threat for his vet trophy - Phil Baylis from Axe Valley Runners - firmly behind him. Marvellous!

I completed my loop and started back down the track - meeting Lesley on her way up - and now it was my chance to feel smug that I was returning and that all those I met were still on their way out. It's mostly downhill on the way back except for the final climb up through the village, past the start and on to the race HQ at the primary school. I had hoped to beat last year's time, but it just wasn't my day and I recorded a personal worst for the course (46.06) and may just have scraped into 10th place. It was a very strong field this year - even last year when I still didn't have a brilliant run I was fourth overall.

Martin did fantastically well - he was only 10 seconds outside of last year's time, despite having done 32 miles the previous weekend and the lack of solid training. We waited for what seemd about 3 hours for the presentation to finally take place, only to discover that John Shapland from North Devon Road Runners had beaten him into 2nd MV50! What a disappointment. Due to the fact that he only weighs about 6 and a half stones neither of us had spotted him. As there are still no results to be found we don't know what the winning margin was and I also can't report on Richard and Lesley's results, but I'm sure they will tell you themselves.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch, and were treated (?) to Richard modelling his Everest/Father Christmas-keep-everything, including nearby mountains, dry poncho. I don't think they'll catch on in the running world..............

And so getting Christmas over with (spent the morning keeping to the age old tradition - no, not getting up at 6am to put the turkey in the oven and make the stuffing - the famous Xmas day run at big Phils' house - good turnout this year - about 14 of us although it was difficult to count because no one stood still for long enough). And the newer tradition of stopping at the Greyhound on the way back, at least this year we didn't have to abandon the car for later collection........

Boxing Day - another age old tradition, the Stoke Stampede. An interesting figure of 8 10k and another place that there is just no easy way to get to. Amazingly we were early, but that gave us plenty of time to eye up the competition before the half mile jog up to the start. Martin is so fired up at the moment that he had decided once again to forego the pleasure of plodding round with me and to race it instead.

Richard and Lesley were also on the start line (Lesley having remembered to pin her number on this time - luckily, given the distance from the car to the start!) and there was a large YTRRC turnout. I had my own agenda - to beat Pete Jakeman and get my revenge for his victory at the recent Street 5k.

Another downhill start - a real cavalry charge along a narrow lane down into the village and for the first couple of km I could see the green and white of Martin's vest ahead of me. Pete was on my shoulder and I was working hard to keep him there. The first loop is clockwise and includes quite a sharp climb, both Pete and another Yeovil runner, Mark, overtook me, but neither of them pulled far ahead and once we reached the top I was able to pass them as we headed back to the start and the village to complete the first loop. I didn't see Pete again, but Mark also overtook me on the climb at the start of the second, anti clockwise loop. Once again I pulled him back at the top and managed to open up a bit of a gap which he never managed to close again.

At about 8km I became aware of someone else catching me, caught a glimpse of bright yellow out of the corner of my eye and to my surprise discovered that Richard was behind me. I thought he was so far ahead that I hadn't even seen him! We ran the rest of the race side by side until the very end where Richard sprinted ahead to try and hold off the challenge of a Mexican bandit complete with Poncho, Sombrero and guns. Unfortunately, as Richard was not sporting his own go faster, bright red Poncho he didn't win the contest!

I was quite pleased with my time of 42.06 which was half a minute or so faster than last year despite having done another 10k only 3 days earlier....until I saw Martin's smiling face and he smugly told me that he had done 38.29! We have a contest which is who has the record time for each race that we do - and Stoke was one of the dwindling number of races that still counted as mine - until today when Martin had smashed my 2003 time of 39.09. Despite being a bit put out, I was also very proud, he is running so well at the moment and if there had been a MV50 prize today he would surely have won it. Lesley finished in around 52 minutes, a little slower than last year, but understandable in view of the stress she had endured over the past 2 days.

So that's Christmas run and dusted. Now we have the New Year to look forward to and the Brown Willy, a 6 mile race over Bodmin moor on New Year's Day. At least I don't have to worry about retaining the course record since neither of us have done it before!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bushy Park Time Trial & Ambition Life Lee Valley run

Well it couldn't last - 5 weekends at home with no races and Martin and I were both getting fidgety. My injury was steadily improving and the miles were starting to build up again, so a weekend away with not one, but two events sounded like just what we needed.

Friday evening saw us travelling up to London to camp overnight at Chertsey ready for the Bushy Park Time Trial on Saturday morning. This really is a fantastic event - it's free to enter, you register on line and once you've done it you never have to register again. It's held every Saturday throughout the year and the website is brilliant - up to date results appear soon after the event which not only tell you your position and time but whether it's your first event, and if not, what your PB is and if you've beaten it.

Martin & I did it in April 2005, so all we had to do was show up at 9am....and run. Despite being so far from home we weren't the only enthusiasts sporting Yeovil vests. Ex Maiden Newton Runner, Brian Mountjoy Row was staying with his daughter (17 minutes away at a warm up jog!) and joined us on the start line.

The route crosses the park to the southern boundary and then follows an anti clockwise loop around the perimeter before turning south along an avenue of trees to the finish. The paths are mainly quite smooth, easy running and it's almost completely flat. After his excellent run at the Street 5k on Wednesday evening, Martin decided to take it easy and jog round with me. I was hoping to beat my Street time but I had my excuses ready, lack of fitness, lack of racing, legs still tired etc. etc. to recite when I finished - in 21.26, 23 seconds outside of Wednesday's time. From there it was an easy drive to the Sweatshop, specialist running shop in nearby Teddington, where as BPTT runners we received a 10% discount and consequently were quite a bit poorer by the time we left the premises....................

Next day we arrived at Cheshunt station at 6.55am expecting the Ambition Life 7am start to resemble a YTRRC 7am start, i.e most people don't turn up till 7.10am and then you might start at 7.30 if you're lucky. This was after all billed as a 32 mile training run, NOT a race. Needless to say, I was struggling into my shoes and Martin was searching for change for the car park when the other runners set off into the darkness. Fortunately we managed to catch up the stragglers before they disappeared to find out where we were going!

The run followed the Lee River south towards London and was quite simply described as "follow the water"! As it was an out and back course the option was to run whatever distance you chose, some people were planning marathon distance, others were going "all the way". We set off without any clear idea of how far we were going to do. We ran a mile or so with Ambition Life Managing Director, Rory Coleman, with Martin quizzing him enthusiastically about the prices for various events and why they've gone up so much! I think Rory was probably quite pleased when we pushed on ahead and left him in peace!

The route was not quite as scenic as we expected, but it was flat, easy running and being completely new to us, we enjoyed it. We reached the promised cafe at 10 miles which was one of the options for turning back....and decided to go on. We reached the 13.1 mile point at a lock (the name of which I have deleted from my memory).....and decided to go on. And then we were so close to the turning point it would have seemed like wimping out so we ran right on to the Commercial Road Bridge, which according to my GPS was just over 16 miles.

The first few miles of the return route flew past as we ran with Graham, a Benfleet runner, who was carrying a pack weighing about 6kg as he is in training for Marathon des Sables. We listened in awe to his description of doing 80 - 90 miles a week, cross training, working and all fitting around his young family. Apparently there's this thing you can do called "getting your arse out of bed early". I'm not sure it'll catch on in the Lascelles/Cummins household, but it was interesting to hear about it. (Graham had completed the Ironman at Sherborne in 11.15). It was quite a relief when he decided to push on and we could drop back to a more comfortable pace!

By now the sun had come out and although still chilly, it was a beautiful morning. We kept going at a steady pace and the miles flew past as we ticked off various landmarks from the run out. We both "hit the wall" at about the same time - with 10 miles to go. From then on it was just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and telling ourselves what an excellent training session we were putting ourselves through.

Finally we crossed the last road and knew we had less than 2 miles to go, one final problem: As it was dark when we set out we didn't recognise the final stretch and we weren't sure at which point to exit the towpath! We made the right choice and as we headed towards the level crossing which stood between us and the station I remarked to Martin that I just KNEW the barrier was going to come down before we reached it......and sure enought it did, so we had to crawl up the steps and over the bridge to reach our destination!

We took about 5 hours 20 in total and although it had been really tough at the end we were extremely chuffed with that. We haven't even been running 30 miles per week for the past 2 months, and even better my Achilles was absolutely fine and still is today. Might even be able to fit in another race or two before the end of the year......................