Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three In One

Since the Westgates have let the side down - must be a least a fortnight since they ran a marathon - I felt duty bound to update the blog. So, three things:-

Maiden Newton Running Club Non Meeting - 11th December

Only the real hard core turned up for the pre non-meeting run. Phil, Martin and I slithered around the icy lanes of Cattistock and even Phil admitted that it was a bit cold. Personally I resorted to handwarmers after about half a mile...... In true Maiden Newton Running Club form our numbers swelled once the running was over and the pub began: Mike, Di and Dan turned up to join us in the nice warm pub for a drink.

No minutes were taken as we weren't sure if it was a meeting or not but we did a sort of past events - I whined about how hard the Colyton Five was and gloated about beating my previous Street 5k time by over a minute, mind you I was so slow the previous month it wasn't much of an achievement. Martin bemoaned his loss of race fitness which has resulted in him losing a minute over the 5k and blamed it on his recent weight gain. Yeah right - must have grown his toe nails or something. Di let slip that she is an experienced skittles player and I made a mental note to make sure she ends up on my team for the Xmas skittles game. At the mention of Xmas we discussed the possibility of having the do at the Fox & Hounds. Phil warned us that it might be pricey compared to the Chalk. Dan, with amazing speed headed for the bar to find out - possibly the idea of being able to stagger home afterwards motivated him. If he showed a turn of speed like that in races MNRC would have a new champion to boast about. Anyway, a couple of hot dishes and garlic bread for the very reasonable price of £6, with chips and salad thrown in for an extra £1. Unfortunately Saturday 10th is booked so a few alternatives were discussed and Phil undertook to e-mail everyone (still waiting Phil!!!). We glossed over future events - Stoke Stampede on Boxing Day got a brief mention, Dan told us that he almost went fishing but it was too cold and after confirming the ridiculously early start time of 10am for the Sunday morning run the non meeting shuddered to a halt and we all went home.

Reindeer Run - Otterton, South Devon

Unfortunately this coincided with the Yeovil Running Club Xmas do - so Martin and I spent a sleepless night on Friday in the van in the car park at the Halfway House in Chilthorne Domer (having considerably reduced our normal alcohol intake) listening to the rain beating against the roof. By the time we had negotiated the mud, floods and road closures to reach the start we were fairly confident (and it must be said, slightly hopeful) that the race would be cancelled. Fortunately (or unfortunately) runners are a hardy breed and although a large part of the course was completely flooded it had been re-routed so that the race could go ahead - but over a shorter distance of about 8k.

This is a pleasant, mostly off road run but with a tough uphill start. We set off quite conservatively, neither of us feeling particularly competitive. The off road sections were killing - struggling up sodden fields trying to keep your footing and a lovely section of lane which made the Grizzly bog look like a walk in the park - real stamina sapping stuff. The best part was the diversion at the end which made the last mile and a half take to the roads - an easy option you might think, but only until we reached the floods and ran the last half mile through ankle deep water. The shortened course was only just 5 miles, but it was really hard and took us just under 40 minutes. Mulled wine and mince pies afterwards and then an announcement that the road had been closed. It was OK for over a hundred runners to negotiate but way too dangerous for all those precious cars! Martin, he who is so overweight and must lose half a stone, succumbed to the temptations of the cake stall and bought a large coffee and walnut cake to take home with us, then we went to the pub for lunch and a couple of pints. No wonder he's such a blob........!!

Sunday Morning Run - Fox & Hounds

A good turn out. Phil, Dan and his non-imaginary friend Rob, Mike and Di, myself (Martin languishing in bed with a cold - that'll teach him to spend Saturday morning running through icy cold water), Andy and Charlie, and best of all, Tyson the Boxer joined us - with enough enthusiasm for the rest of us put together. Di decided that Phil's treacherous off road route was to be avoided at all costs so 8 of us set off up the muddy hill towards the A37. Interesting how Phil is the only one of us fit enough to keep talking all the way up the hill...................

A brief swoop down into Sydling where Mike and I both (secretly) considered sloping off home, and then the hard slog back up the Wessex Ridgeway to cross the main road again. The track down to Maiden Newton bore a strong resemblance to yesterday's route - Dan and Rob treated us to an impressive display of sprinting hard through the biggest puddles, not sure what that was about - reversion to childhood perhaps or possibly not having to wash their own running kit later..........

Charlie and Tyson left us at the station in Maiden Newton, Tyson with considerable reluctance - a new member perhaps? The rest of us headed up the railway path and Chilfrome lane back to the pub.

Martin & I are planning a 10 mile, mostly off road run from the Greyhound at Sydling next Sunday if anyone is interested in joining us. Course, I may have caught Martin's cold by then but being a woman I'll still be able to go out for a run..........................

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Bicton Blister

A very cold morning last Sunday found Richard and I at Bicton in East Devon. We were there for an off-road race of approximately 11 miles. The start has been moved half a mile down from the College to the Arena. This wasn’t a positive move as far as I was concerned as instead of a warm hall, registration area and showers, we now had an outdoor toilet block with showers attached, and a large marquee for everything else. The race itself went well enough. It was very cold and I saw very few who were brave enough to run in only a running vest (and shorts of course!). I had my coat, hat, gloves and wrist-warmers, and the gloves only came off briefly. The course was almost entirely off road, with mainly forest tracks, and a very exposed bit through a quarry, and a long grassy section at the beginning, and we re-traced our steps there at the end. Only two very small streams, which were almost small enough to jump over, and one or two boggy bits. Nowhere near as wet as the route I remember from two years ago. Richard finished well ahead of me as expected in a time of 1:28:46 and I managed a meagre 1:48:09 although I did overtake at least five runners in the last mile. Closer inspection of the results has just revealed another Maiden Newton Runner: Charlie Bladon who finished in 1:50:05.

Saw a few familiar faces while warming up, but as the warmest place after the race was in the car, there wasn’t much socialising. Needless to say, no trophies to take home. And even if we had deserved one, they weren’t there as they had been stolen from the organiser’s car on the previous day.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Colyton Fiver

A strange thing happened this weekend - Martin and I dragged ourselves out of bed at an unearthly hour and drive down to Colyton to run a race. Almost four months since we last did such a thing...............the difference being that this was just a five mile trot round the flat lanes of Colyton.

This used to be a 10k but has now been reduced to 5 miles - 2 laps of the village instead of the trek across muddy fields to the start and two and a half loops. Also a new race HQ - with parking, toilets and entries all under the same roof - a real luxury on a morning when it was chucking it down with rain.

Richard and Lesley arrived soon after us looking remarkably fresh and well rested after their sojourn across Bodmin moor last weekend. With the Club Championship at a crucial stage the only betrayal of any interest was a casual question regarding whether we had seen Dave Carnell!

At 10.30am the rain stopped as if to order, the sky turned blue and off we set. Martin quickly disappeared into the distance and I tucked in on Richard's heels to see how long I could keep him in sight. I was aiming for 7.20 minute miles due to my appalling lack of fitness, but as usual got carried away by the excitement of it all and ran the first mile in 6.49 - by which time I already knew that I'd gone off way too fast.

Richard was starting to ease gently away from me and it was already beginning to feel like hard work. When I ran the 10k in 2003, I would have sworn the route was dead flat, but now several hills seem to have appeared. It was a relief to turn the corner into the village, out of the wind and to head back up towards the start line (another hill!).

Richard had long since disappeared and as I started the second lap I could hear a runner closing in behind me. My lack of fitness was really beginning to tell now and it was just head down and slog it out. As I passed the 4 mile marker I could tell the runner behind me was female and I started to feel sympathy for Richard - if it was Lesley my plan was to wait until she passed me and then crawl into the nearest ditch and stay there. Fortunately it was an unknown Honiton runner, and I couldn't hear anyone else behind me although I was way too scared to look back!

With two corners and a few hundred yards to go I met Martin trotting back to meet me and with him yelling encouragement I attempted a bit of a sprint to the finish - crossing the line in 37.11, not too far outside my target time, but it was way too hard for such a short race and left me wondering how the hell I managed to run three ultra marathons earlier this year!

In a strange quirk of fate - bearing in mind last week's cruel defeat of Richard - the Westgates managed to get their numbers mixed up so if you look at the results it appears that Lesley beat Richard by over 5 minutes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cornish Marathon

Sunday 16th November saw the Westgates at the 25th Anniversary Cornish Marathon. It’s with very mixed emotions that this blog is being written cos after 18 marathons the Cornish was a bit of a landmark. I’ve come to the conclusion that the pain my stomach has to endure, during and after the race is just not worth it. For those of you who have seen the race results, this decision has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Lesley slightly beat me by about 5 minutes! There was a possibility that race numbers got mixed up or a weasely claim that I dropped out after pacing her for 21 miles, but the truth is she ran much better than me. For those who I haven’t bored with the details of my stomach problems it goes like this: at some point my stomach seems to stop absorbing any fluid that I take on board. As I get thirstier I drink more but it just sits in my stomach and I start to feel very sick and weak and dehydrated. On a bad run I stop and puke at the road side then try and pick up the pace again. For up to three hours or so after a race I am still unable to eat or drink without puking. So on top of the normal aches and pains of marathons this is just a stage too far, so unless someone can suggest a miracle cure I won’t run this distance again.

Back to the Cornish. Quite a trek down to Pensilva near Launceston Drove through loads of low cloud and heavy drizzle, but it was mild with not too much wind – perfect for marathon running. We had a race plan. I would run with Lesley, calling out mile times etc. until 20 miles and then perhaps push on ahead. She promised not to keep talking but as a precautionary measure I brought some earplugs, but went and left them in the car. Saw some familiar faces at the start – Alan Littlejohns of Launceston RR dressed in a tutu, bra and a brilliant gorilla head piece; Mr Wells City (don’t know his name), Danny from the 100 marathon club who we saw at the Neolithic, Robin from Dawlish Coasters, and of course Jenny Mills.

Starting off near the back you can’t hear a word the race director says – so why do they bother? The first two miles are laps of Pensilva passing the start twice; this was great for the spectators and a good gentle warm-up for the runners before the hills. This is described as a tough course. After the initial 2 mile loops, there is a 5 mile section to Redgate, a 14 mile loop up the Draynes valley and across Bodmin Moor and down the Fowey Valley, before rejoining the 5 mile section back to Pensilva. Running with Lesley proved fairly relaxing at about 9.5 min/mile pace. However as soon as we hit any hills I found it easier power walk while she pulled away; going downhill I found it easier to increase my pace, caching her up and going a little ahead. On the level I ran a bit behind; this was not so I could admire her running style, but rather keep out of earshot as she kept striking up conversations with strangers. She gave up talking to me when, pretending not to have heard, I kept asking her to repeat herself.

In retrospect I am glad that I didn’t realise that we went out and back along the same 5 mile section; there were a few demanding hills which would definitely have worried me; ignorance is bliss. We didn’t have to climb much before being rewarded with some good views. Across the moor it got a bit cooler and although Colliford Lake was very scenic it generated a cool wind; fortunately I was wearing long-sleeve helly, club vest, running jacket, gloves and a woolly hat, bit of a wimp really. At Bolventor (Jamaica Inn) there was a welcome crowd of supporters. I must say that even in the quiet, remote bits there were supporters and cyclists going up and down cheering us on. At Jamaica Inn we turned right and right again to follow the Fowey Valley. Immediately the temperature picked up and there were glimpses of sun. It was downhill for as far as we could see and we felt good. Our target was to do better than 10-minute miling, and we were still doing about 9.5. Optimistically I said to Lesley that if we continued at this steady pace we would probably pick off some runners later on who had over-cooked it. Following the Fowey there were stagnant pools of water and trees full of lichen. All along a scattering of cheering supporters – probably the same ones moving around.

We did, in fact, catch and pass several runners and this felt so good. After about 19 miles, I noticed, with some horror, a range of hills ahead. Lesley assured me it was OK as we would go round them, rather than over them, It seemed she was right, we did rise a bit, but there was some downhill as well. At about 21 miles I noticed Mr Wells City stretching against a supporter’s car; he told us he was bushed! While I exchanged a few words Lesley took the opportunity to pull ahead going uphill. I was starting to feel sick and my brain convinced my body that all would be well if I just walked the steeper bits and caught her up on the downhills. However after that first hill I never saw her again. There was a good downhill to Crows Nest and I was sure she would be just ahead, but no. From Crows Nest there’s about two miles to go with about 1.5 miles of heart-breaking uphill. Towards the top some runners I had passed miles back went back past me.

It came over very misty with drizzle and I didn’t really care about anything anymore. Every time I tried to push on, my stomach felt so bad. After what seemed like an eternity or to quote an East Cornwall Harrier “the road seemed to stretch endlessly like a rubber band”, we at last levelled out, and turned left for 50 metres on the main Liskeard to Launceston road before the final half-mile downhill to the finish. An Axe Valley Runner who I had passed as we both struggled up from Crows Nest went back past me. This seemed to spark into life a final bit of competitive spirit and I somehow found the energy to catch and pass him before the finish.

The finish was a bit of a blur but I remember fumbling with my coat to show my number. I found myself shrouded in a space blanket refusing all offers of water. Lesley was there! She said she would have waited but she thought I was just behind her. She looked fresh as a daisy and took herself off for a shower, followed by a cup of tea and a pasty. I laid out under the space blanket on the sports hall floor trying not to be sick. 20 minutes later I dragged myself into the shower. Later on I was in the toilet voiding alternately at both ends.

Back in the hall Lesley nonchalantly informed me that she might have won another prize! Carry on like this and she’ll be disappointed to come away empty-handed. Prize giving was very noisy with several clubs having large contingents. As predicted Maiden Newton scored – 2nd FV50. For the record Lesley’s time was 4:11:52, and mine was 4:16:04.

Jenny Mills was very sympathetic to my plight – take up long distance walking. Five miles into the journey home, (with Lesley driving) we had to stop so I could engage in some projectile vomiting. I think Jenny was right. Some 15 minutes later as if someone had flicked a switch I suddenly felt better and ate a mars bar and then my pasty – it felt like Heaven. However I’m still not doing any more marathons.

Anyway I’m so pleased for Lesley. It seems like only yesterday when she started running and she would do 1 minute running followed by 3 minutes walking and she would claim I didn’t give her the full 3 minutes. How times have changed.

In spite of everything I highly recommend this race to anyone; it’s very well organised, friendly marshals and helpers at the water stations and top facilities at the roomy HQ (especially the hot showers).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Templer Ten

Firsts for Paula Radcliffe, Lewis Hamilton and Lesley Who????

Sunday 2nd November saw the Westgates at the Templer Ten, a 9.7 mile race that starts and finishes at the Passage House Hotel at Kingsteignton. Following last week’s mistake at the Stagger I made sure to wear my warm, woolly hat ’cos the Passage House is situated on a very cold, windy estuary location. The Templer has barely a slope in sight so none of the gut-busting rigors of last week. This really is a gentle sort of course, about 4 miles of road and the rest along the River Teign flood meadows, some woods and a circuit of the picturesque Stover Park and lake. I felt relaxed, set off at a gentle pace, overtook runners up to 3 miles then settled into a relaxed pace. I was on my own through the woods – always a risk of an old git like me missing the tape and going off-route. However all went well and although I was unable to catch any other runners, only one person caught and passed me in Stover Park; so for the last 4.5 miles I was running on my own with just few snatched glimpses of the two runners ahead. Conditions were a bit wet underfoot but by picking the right line it was fairly easy to keep your footing; Lesley even ran in normal road shoes.

I would like to report that there was a huge entry with national class runners across all age groups. Truth is that Teignbridge are quite generous with their prizes and age-categories. However you still had to be there to win and of course I’m immensely proud of she who said you’d never see her running, as she picked up First FV 50; a trophy and a bottle of white and 2:20 off her previous best at this race. My 69:10 was a personal worst after six attempts, but by some miracle earned 2nd MV50 and a bottle of red.

And from herself: I guess all these national class runners were in New York for the marathon. I had my own personal target and time to beat in this race. After achieving increasingly faster times in the previous four Templer Tens, I was hoping to shave a few further seconds off my time for a fifth consecutive PB. My cunning plan to achieve this was to start nearer the front, saving several seconds on what is usually a fairly congested start. This plan had another advantage as it meant I was mixing with some more serious runners, who didn’t consider the first mile to be a warm-up and time for a chat. The first mile therefore went quite quickly in 8:12 mins – yes I was wearing a watch and occasionally managed to glimpse the time on it. I was fairly confident that my road shoes would be OK having tried them on a similar training run, and there were no problems in the fields and on the easy path around the lake. On the last bit of road back towards the finish the punishing pace!! was really starting to take its toll and I ended up counting paces. (It’s good enough for Paula). I was glad to see the 9 mile marker as this was where the last short section of off-road began. Through a field, over bridges, round some bends, under a tunnel and along some very uneven track. I could hear traffic so knew it wasn’t far, there were footsteps behind me, but he didn’t know I wasn’t racing him but my own personal time. Round the last bend and I glimpsed “22” on the clock. Had I achieved my goal? Got to the line and was astonished that my time was actually 1:20:29. (The glimpse was the seconds not the minutes).

I was really pleased to pick up the prize, although if all the usual faces had been there I wouldn’t have stood a chance. For any insomniacs my times for the five races from 2004 on were: 1:30:50, 1:25:53, 1:23:14, 1:22:49, 1:20:29. Now I just have to think of an even more cunning plan for next year……………

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Exmoor Stagger with real stag

Sunday saw the Westgates at the Exmoor Stagger, one of my favourite races and Lesley’s first attempt having previously done the Stumble. I was particularly looking forward to it as I missed last year’s event while trekking in Nepal. Chatted to Fred Hagen before the start, he was cheerful as ever but not up to running at the moment. Pre-entries were a bit down this year but then about 100 entries on the day!

Slightly surprised to see Martin Lascelles on the start line. Chatted briefly and tried to get a quick, straight answer as to how he might do, but in typical politician, shifting sand evasive double talk the answer took some time drawing, but it seemed he undoubtedly thought he would do sub 2:30. I was hoping for sub 2:45, but we both recorded personal worsts! Lesley predicted she would be sensible, start slow and finish slow. She didn’t want mud on the club vest as it wasn’t due for its monthly wash. However she was devastated when some oaf splashed her as she carefully stepped round a muddy puddle. However she had the last laugh as she picked up 3rd female vet 50 even though she had crossed the line holding hands with 4th FV50. ‘Spect she won it on a short nose.

For me the race started off well at a comfortable pace but gradually got worse and worse. I knew I wasn’t anything like race-fit when Jenny Mills skipped past leaving me and Rod Appleby behind; no shame really though, she is an inspiration with such an efficient, powerful running style that belies her age and build. Thought I’d manage an easy walk/run method up the Beacon but this deteriorated into a weary trudge. I cursed the fact that my warm hat was at home; the driving wind and rain froze my head and ears and I started to lose balance! I was so jealous of the hardier runners who enjoyed the Beacon section as it cooled them down! I wasn’t the only one felt the cold – Rod Appleby sported size 24 bright yellow thermal gloves although he did claim they were for rescue purposes if he got lost.

Two-thirds up the last hill I caught Rod again; he was suffering with cramp. I think I managed to pass 3 more runners, at the time this was like huge milestones as I didn’t feel too good. So relieved to see the 1 mile to go marker but it was lonely with no other runner in sight. Suddenly on the narrow road section before the finish I heard steps behind me, so I sped up; the footsteps sped up but I wasn’t going to look round as this could be a sign of weakness. However as I turned into the finish straight I had to look back; there was no one there. I had dug deep, risking cramp in both legs, spurred on by my own echoing steps.

Once again I missed seeing Lesley finish.

And a few words from herself:

Yes I did see a real deer of some sort on the horizon as I was also wearily walking on the wet, boggy track up towards the Beacon. And I did have my coat and hat on and my hood up as well with the wind. However I wasn’t as cold as Richard, and managed to pass the time in pleasant conversation with fellow runners. When we crossed the road I recognised the track from a previous training run (on one of the hottest days of 2007) and was determined to repeat my previous performance of running all the way to the top (which I almost achieved). It was bliss to be running down the other side, wind behind us and a 10 degree rise in temperature. Paid for it with shin pain later. From this point on the runners were very sparsely place and I decide to run with another lady – from Australia and who prefers our climate. Apparently you can get bored with constant heat! We kept each other going with thoughts of delicious chocolate cake at the end although sadly with our meagre time it had all gone when we got there. We were spared any embarrassment at the prize-giving as they only gave out the first FV50 at the time, and it was only on enquiring after my time I found out my position. I wonder if there is a set procedure in the event of a tie? In all the excitement I never did get my time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mendip Muddle

Well, no more photos appeared so here are some words from Richard:

Sunday 12th October saw the Westgates at the Mendip Muddle – approximately 13 miles, mainly off-road, run under FRA rules. I keep saying that amidst all the rain this year we have had some exceptionally warm days to complement some of the finest races in the West Country. Sunday was no exception: after a slightly worrying amount of early fog we had brilliant blue skies, warm sun and no wind. (It was so warm I had to abandon my warm shorts and borrow a skimpy pair from Richard – LW). I was so happy ‘cos I love running in warm weather and the views were fantastic. 330 entries was a record entry although only 280 turned up and finished. Perhaps there is a breed of fell-runners who only turn out if the weather is foul!

I did this race in 2002 and the weather was so wet and miserable that the only views I can remember were hallucinations from hypothermia and exhaustion. It’s taken six years to put this behind me, but having had such a good experience this year it’s back on my fixture list as a must do.

The course is described as tough with 420m of climb. I found the boggy bits on the open moorland a bit energy sapping but overall a fair bit easier than the Stagger. With the clear bright skies we were rewarded with some really stunning views as we turned corners or crested hills. The start is slightly narrow and congested so by starting off quick I avoided some of the delays at stiles. Lesley reckons she waited about a minute at each of the first two stiles. The route soon opens up and the runners spread out. I found everything about this route enjoyable including the bit of competition with Rod Appleby as we leap-frogged. I must admit he gave me some encouragement as I walked/ran one of the last hills and I had enough energy left to keep ahead of him at the end. Was he really trying or just warming up for the Stagger?

The official description of the race includes the following: Roman lead mines, underground rivers, a nature reserve, potholes, an ancient rabbit warren, an Iron age fort, deciduous conifer forest, and prehistoric tumuli. Other landmarks are: Velvet Bottom, Rhino Rift, Beacon Batch, Black Down and Rains Batch. Glad we didn’t have to find them all! There were also 25 prize-winners in all, although sadly we weren’t among them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Parrett Trail Relay 2008

Race Report - Leg 1 by Dave Webb

As proud members of the ‘Cheese’ team, Jackie and I were running the first and last legs. In fact, we could be seen as the Cheese sandwich.

The new Maiden Newton Runners multi-team approach to relays seemed like a great idea to me until 6.10 am on Saturday, when I dragged myself out of bed with a sore throat. So much for the weekend lie-in till gone 7.00. I had to get myself to Bridgwater for 8.00 to meet up with the Englands, and then on to a secret coastal location for the start of the race. The secret location might have stayed a secret if Phil hadn’t spotted a car load of Yeovil runners for us to follow.

Before the start Phil agreed that we weren’t planning to run competitively, just to get round the course. We chatted to Fred Fox, one of the 7 Yeovil runners, and as he changed into his race top I noticed he had put plasters over his nipples; clearly a runner in a different league of seriousness, I thought to myself. But once we were off and running, Phil seemed intent initially on keeping close to Fred. I hared along behind Phil, with no time to take in the gorgeous estuary views. After about a mile we caught up with Fred, had a bit of chat, and soon saw him easing away again in front of us. But there was no time to relax; Phil had spotted a Crewkerne runner ahead, Richard Blackmore, and was determined not to be beaten by him. Once more I thought about Phil’s idea of not being competitive, as we upped the pace to get past Richard. Maybe it was the early start, or the half-marathon last weekend, but I found the whole thing a bit of a struggle.

The problem we now had was that, with no one in sight in front of us, there was no one for us to follow. This was the 3rd time Phil had run this leg, and he had recced part of it again recently. So we should have been OK. But there were a few occasions when we entered a field and wondered where we should be heading, each time with Richard closing on us. Eventually he fell behind, and we got to the finish together, though Phil had one last trick up his sleeve, lurking on my shoulder and dashing past me just before the line.

Leg Six by Jackie Webb

In a reckless wine-fuelled moment a few meetings ago, Amanda and I casually signed ourselves up for a leg of the Parrett trail relay. At the time neither of us had run more than 10k (plus a bit if it’s in Maiden Newton!) but it’s funny how confident you feel after a couple of cinzanos. Dave suggested it would be a good idea for us to do leg six, as he knew the route. He failed to mention, that it is billed as the hardest and hilliest leg. Something we only discovered at the point of no return.

On the afternoon of the relay, the October temperatures soared as we made our way nervously to the start. Our nerves were not calmed by the sight of Paul Rose at the starting line poised as if to start the 100 metre sprint. Funnily enough we didn’t see him again; perhaps he took a wrong turn.

Although our aim was always just to complete the distance, we did feel slightly demoralised at the sight of the other runners dashing off into the distance. We managed not to get lost, largely thanks to Amanda’s sense of direction and the reassuring sight of Dave at strategic points along the route shouting encouragement and proffering drinks. We were also inspired to put a spurt on through North Perrot after catching sight of fellow team members cheering us on. I’d already agreed with Dave that I wouldn’t answer my phone if it rang as you can guarantee it would be someone for a chat, but Dave did ring (helpfully scaring a herd of bullocks) because he’d heard two women had taken a wrong turn. Oh he of such little faith.

In fact we managed to keep to the route throughout, which included various fields, with and without animals, lots of mud, deceptively deep cow muck, a river, tunnel under a road, railway crossing and, oh yes, that huge hill at the end. Amanda maintains that she had nightmares about that hill, but actually when we got that far and could barely heave ourselves over the gates, we had gone past caring. We got to the top, half running, half walking, to see a woman leaning on the last gate shouting “you’re nearly there” with a lovely smile. I just wanted to shout back, “open the f***ing gate then”, but I’m far too polite. We managed to put a bit of energy into the finish so that we didn’t look quite as knackered as we felt. Amanda has said several times “I’m never doing that leg again” and right now I have to agree. We were both really glad to have turned out for MNR and proud that we exceeded our longest distance, over difficult terrain, but can we have an easier leg next time please?

More photographs courtesy of Phil:

Eagerly awaiting Jackie and Amanda to pass through North Perrott aka having a beer at the Manor Arms

Late replacement, Steve Mottershead, finds out early on in Leg 3 just what he has let himself in for!

Looking good - Amanda and Jackie pass the beer swilling hecklers at North Perrott

Another glorious October day for the Parrett Trail Relay and this year Maiden Newton Running Club rose to the occasion with not one but two teams on the start line. Not that there weren't some last minute hiccups in the shape of injuries, post operative tenderness and unexplained absences in Colchester....but it all came together on the day and everyone made it to their respective starts. Although someone did cut it a bit fine!

A big thank you to Steve Mottershead, Ines Braun and Tom Parsons who all saved the day by acting as last minute replacements. It was great to see some different club faces in the teams - the two Charlies, Jackie and Amanda. And of course the Parret Trail stalwarts, Dave, Phil, Martin, Di and Ian.

The results are up on the Crewkerne website:

PTR Results 2008

Okay, so we didn't win it, but we had a lot of fun along the way.........................

Martin sprints to the top of Burrow Mump

Ian races to the finish

Ines is just glad it's all over!

Did they discuss their co-ordinating outfits in advance?
Jackie and Amanda head thankfully to the pub.

More photographs to follow, watch this space!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Cricklade Half Marathon aka A Stroll Down Memory Lane

Race Report by Dave Webb

50,000 people may have tackled the Great North Run on Sunday, but the real action was in Cricklade, where 230 runners sped round the eponymous half-marathon. Cricklade is, of course, famous for being my birthplace. I was born in my parents’ farmhouse, with the district nurse anxiously looking out of the window to see where the doctor was. He never arrived, but luckily I did.

The half-marathon course finished at the bottom of our lane, at the new sports centre (built in 1977). Unfortunately it started half a mile away at the village primary school, which meant a jog down in the pouring rain, and no shelter whilst we waited. I decided to wear my cagoule until the call for the start, lobbing it over the fence into the adjoining cemetery for safe keeping. The weather was varied, that is, at times there was light rain, and at times there was heavy rain. Luckily I had remembered the Vaseline and was able to keep the chafing to a minimum. My aims for the day were to enjoy the run down Memory Lane, and to finish in under 1 hour 30. The Memory Lane part of the plan was easy enough. The course covered familiar roads and lanes, including a section that passed the edge of what used to be our farm, but which is now the Cotswold Water Park. It took a stretch of the imagination to visualise our walks and picnics on fields that have been replaced by lakes; and to think of my grandfather farming the land 70 years ago.

Pacing a run has never been my strong point, and my recent marathon experiences have dented my confidence in my ability to keep going strongly throughout. I wasn’t helped on Sunday in the first few miles by a woman from Headington Runners; I overtook her, then heard some laboured breathing as she worked hard to sprint past me. Again I overtook her, and again she went past me, panting heavily. Eventually I pulled ahead, and the sound of her gasping subsided. I settled into a fairly even pace, and some recent training paid off as I was able to keep going fairly well, passing some runners towards the end and beating the 1.30 mark. All that remained was to return to the cemetery to retrieve my cagoule, which I found under a tree. I then thought that it would be nice to visit the grave of my great-uncle, a sporting fellow who was renowned for his bad language, poor hygiene, and limited social skills. He sounds like the prototype for a Maiden Newton Runner in fact. Sadly I couldn’t find his grave, despite ringing my parents for directions, so I left with some unfinished family business but a sense of satisfaction from a good race on a flat course. I checked the online results later, and discovered that David Webb from “Maidenhead” had finished in 1.29.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Anniversary Races in the Sun

Sunday 21st September saw the Westgates at the 25th running of the Denes Doone race. Apart from being the 25th, the occasion was also notable because for the first time in over 200 races Lesley drove us to the event. I am pleased to report that the drive out of Somerset and into Devon was very relaxing and we arrived in plenty of time. (Not so relaxing for the driver! –LW). Contrast this with my driving on the return home; rounding a corner at 60mph we met a hay wagon taking up most of the road which caused Lesley to scream very impressively.

After a wet summer with less than 50% of average sunshine, Sunday was a brilliant day, blue sky and warm sun. The views were really spectacular and coming back from injury my slow pace gave me lots of time to look around. It was good to see the marshal with his tray of refreshing orange segments on the path again. (Also good to realise that the gorse bush wearing a yellow vest was not really a headless marshal – LW). The course was really dry and lacking in mud – no dirty shoes or legs – and the steep zigzag under the cliff railway was safe for a fast bit of downhill. My 90 mins or so was about 6 mins slower than last year but it felt really good just doing the run as opposed to really racing it. Lesley also enjoyed the run, so much so that she stopped to take several photos of the views much to the probable annoyance of fellow runners, one of whom got revenge by overtaking her on the line.


Today 28th September saw us at the 10th and final Frank Elford Autumn Trail. Frank will not promote this race again and it will only take place next year if someone else takes up the reins. This is a really popular and well-attended off-roader crossing the Tory Brook four times. I was there to support Lesley and really enjoyed watching everything in the brilliant sunshine. The water crossings are all very close to the start/finish and it is easy to get good viewing points. The final water crossing was a tad deep and uneven causing many tired runners to plummet into the water. Surprisingly even the winner who was some two minutes clear fell in.

Before the start we were introduced to past winners and record holders male and female as they posed for a group photo. I missed seeing Lesley trundle off but saw her at the second water crossing; it looked like there was going to be a refusal but weight of numbers meant there was no turning back and like the proverbial wildebeest there was a mass entry. At the finish Lesley actually produced a bit of a spurt and held off a female challenger (unlike last week).

Lesley's bit: I really enjoyed this race, no stopping for photos today, and used some fellow runners to pace me from 3 to 7 miles. At this point the trail became very stony and downhill and my cautious pace left me behind. It was good seeing Richard supporting in several places. One of the highlights was seeing the runner in front of me with a pair of trainers that were literally falling apart, with the insoles at right angles to his feet! The finish is quite hard as there is a long stretch of field, with the finish in sight but ample opportunities for being overtaken. However thanks to loud shouting I threw myself at the line in best Olympic fashion and beat off the challenge. Richard thinks I did about 75 mins, forgot to stop the watch as usual, but it also took me 30 secs to cross the start line.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ash Excellent Eight

Sunday 7th September saw the Westgates at the Ash excellent Eight. This was the fourth time at Ash for me and at 1:05:47 a personal worst. However having only trained three times in the last three weeks due to injury and continuing DIY jobs I was very happy with the run. There is a reasonable mix of terrain in this 8-miler, some road, fields, stiles, a golf course and a drovers track. There are some undulations but none long enough to warrant walking. This year has been a tad wet and the drovers track was suitably wet and muddy for those of us who like getting dirty. I remember one year when the track was so dry there were clouds of dust! Running a bit slower meant I could enjoy the terrain and countryside, although my time was probably about a minute quicker as I tried to stay in touch with an Axe Valley Runner. Last year’s race clashed with the postponed Grizzly so it was good to see 148 finishers this year. Many thanks to all the marshals and other helpers at the school – good facilities.

Saw Dave C resplendent in his Crewkerne colours and running tights before the start. He said he had recently run a personal worst 5K and then nonchalantly informed us he had got a 10K PB at Langport finally breaking 40 minutes. So well done Dave. (Dave doesn’t run with a watch, he always sets off very fast and was really happy when he approached the timing clock showing 39 minutes something).

Lesley also did a personal worst at 1:16:22 but on a positive, she managed to keep her vest spotless. She also managed to finish above me in the provisional results – obviously a temporary mistake soon to be rectified – and says she should get double points for appearing twice in the results. She says Dave C’s legs are so hairy that the weight of congealed mud would slow him down hence his non-stick running tights.

PS I came close to finding a new way to get injured. As I crawled through the gap at the side of a stile the bloke going over it dislodged the three-foot landing plank causing it to fly up in the air narrowly missing my head.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Race The Sun ( Which should have been Race the Rain)

This is a team event run by action medical research and is held around Penrith (a challenge just to get there from Dorset). The event consists of cycling 20+ miles to the foot of Helvellyn, running/climbing to the top and back down again. Then getting in a canoe to go around Lake Thirlmere before getting back on the bike to cycle the 25miles back to Penrith, this has all to be done in the day before the sun sets. As it rained the whole day and the sun did not appear at all it was hard to tell if we beat it or not.
This may not strictly be a running event but as the events leading up to and on the day unfold I think you will agree it fits with MNR usual standard!!.

I should have been one of a team of four, the rest of the team being two guys from work and the ringer of the team a full time fireman (must be fit). Unfortunately less than two weeks before the event one of the guys from work very inconsiderately broke his ankle and pulled out (what’s wrong with competing in a plaster)
After many phone calls trying to find a replacement and a list of excuses as long as your arm as to why they could not take part, a replacement was found (I think he was offered a free weekend in the Lakes and added to that bring your bike a long we might do a bit of cycling if the weather is nice). That’s got the team sorted, all we need to do is all get there for the race brief at 9.00pm on the Friday night. If I am ever going to finish this report lets just say we all got there in the end and presented are selves to the organizers. This is when I started to realize our choices of team captain may have been a mistake (it was not me). Having given the team name to the registration desk the request came for the paperwork detailing next of kin & contact details for the day (no problem we had all given them to our captain John weeks ago) but he replies with “no i did not receive that are your sure you sent it out”. After a few exchanges a new form was issued and filled out by all. Only to find later the original form was completed and sitting out side in his car. We were then given our team number and start time, there were 74 teams taking part starting at 1 minute intervals from 6.00am the next morning and we were team number 74, yes the last to start. On asking why we were the last to start (thinking we must have been one of the last to enter) we were told you put down the fasted expected finish time!!!, when did we have that discussion.

Registration sorted and all accepted we would be the last to start, but at least we could have an extra half hour in bed. We then got to know are new super sub, again arranged by our team captain John. It turned out he was John’s nephew and the description he had been given of the event was some what vague, are you starting to see the similarity with MNR.

Race morning and no sign of the sun just wind and rain, having watch the last few teams start we were ready for the off (No more surprises). The first 10 miles were on roads and to are surprises we caught and passed quite a lot of teams. At about 10miles the route move on to the old coach road which is 6 miles of the roughest and wettest track you can imagine. Did I forget to mention all the rest of the teams were using mounting or cycle cross bikes, but we had opted for full road race bikes (this was a joint decision I can’t blame on John) . We made slow but steady progress across this section not to mentions the shear look of surprise and comments we got from the other teams seeing us on our full race bikes, after what seemed like hours and many hart stopping moments we made it back to road again heading for the transition area where we would leave our bikes and collect our kit to take on Helvellyn. We had been given a list of kit that we had to have or we would not be aloud to go on to the mountain, but on checking with the marshal before starting the climb all we asked have you got a map and before we could give replay she pointed towards the mountain and said your going that way.

Some in to the climb our last minute stand in Jo was really looking like he had had enough and I have to admit I had doubts he would be able to complete the climb let alone the rest of the challenge. We continued on still passing teams as the wind and the rain got stronger the higher we went, at about half way up we meet the first team coming back down. Not really knowing how far we still had to go there was no way of telling how far in front we they were. After that point it was just heads down and keep going until eventually reaching a marshal about 150 feet short of the summit, who explained that’s as far as your going it is to windy to go all the way (at this point the winds were at about 55mph) we did not need telling twice and started head down. Seeing all the teams still heading up seemed to give the whole team a lift and our pace quickened, to quick in my case when my feet slipped off a rock and I landed flat on my back. At the time the pain was centered around my left cheek (rear) it was not to the end of the day the reason for this became clear, I had landed fair a square on my phone that I was carry in case of emergences, I now had a tattoo of a Nokia E51 on my left cheek.
Picking my self up as quick as I could to save further embarrassment we continued down wards, but by the time we had reach the transition area to reclaim our bikes all the rest of the team had taken their turn in trying to find the quick route down by slipping or falling.

Back on the bikes it was 2 mile dash to the edge of Lake Thirmere to take on the canoe section, after a short safety brief we were given lifejackets and paddle each and sent in to the water. Having never been in a canoe in my life I was extremely pleased to complete the out and back route with out falling in, unfortunately for John who had to share with me. I spent more time moaning about how uncomfortable it was than doing my share of rowing (or what ever you call it)

All that was left between us and the finish line was a 25mile bike ride, at this point we had no idea what place we were in and did not really care. Having spent about half an hour sitting in/on a Canoe in open water we were all starting to feel the cold. About five mile in to our ride at a marshal station we were told we were only the sixth team to go past, this came as quite a shock to all of us. But it did not seem to matter which direction we were heading the wind was always straight in our faces, we managed to pass a couple more teams as most of the return route was on road (all of a sudden road bikes weren’t such a bad idea). With only about 4 mile to go we came into Greystoke where it seemed all the spectators were supporting team Terex (Us) that may have had something to do with the pub right at the side of our route. Jo our late stand-in who had really being struggling with this last section just took off leaving the rest of us to chase him, not sure if it was the cheers from the supporters or knowing the sooner we finished the sooner he could get back to the that pub. 7hrs 28mins after leaving the start we crossed the finish line (well we would have done if the wind had not blown it down earlier in the day). Handing in our check sheet to prove we had complete the whole event we were told we were only the second complete team to cross the finish line so far, being the last to start it did not take much working out we had come second overall only about 12mins behind the winning team.

The reason for taking on this event in the first place was as tribute to a colleague who lost his life early this year in a fall while walking on Ben Nevis. We were all so trying to raise as much money as possible for a trust found set up for his 10 month old son. 74 teams started the race and though pure team work we had finished in second place, a fitting tribute to greatly missed friend & colleague who had completed this challenge in 2002.

That’s it I am going to give up all this extreme event’s it takes to long to write the reports afterwards.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Race The Train

Saturday 16th August saw the Westgates at Tywyn in Wales for the Race The Train event. In the morning there were the Quarry (10K), Dolgoch (5mile) and Tyllwynhen (3mile) challenges, and at 2pm the 14 mile Rotary Challenge.

We took a four day break so we could enjoy the wonderful Welsh countryside before and after. It seemed our trip might be jinxed when we pulled into the drive of our first B&B, a place we had stayed at 2 years ago. A strange face greeted us at the door and we found the owners had sold up and moved to Swansea more than a year ago! Lesley had made a booking on the net but where had it gone? Fortunately we managed to find another B&B at short notice.

On to Aberdovey near Tywyn for the second B&B. Before we left Somerset we realised that of two B&Bs in Aberdovey that we had contacted we couldn’t remember which we had booked with, so we phoned one and were told yes they had our booking. We arrived, started unpacking, and the landlady realised we were not booked there after all, seems her husband had heard the letter “G” or “gate” in our name and confused us with someone else. Eventually we got to the right place a mile up the road! It’s a good job that Race the Train is a bit more organised than us, although the printers did put “24th” on the running numbers on their 25th celebration year, and road diversion instructions led us into a small cul-de-sac.

This year the Race HQ, Marquee etc had been moved on to the school grounds in the town centre. We found a good parking place 30 seconds from the female showers and one minute from the finish. Weather was perfect – not too warm with a fresh breeze. Having been injured and missed training I was a bit worried about this 14 mile mainly off-road race. At about 2pm the steam train blew its whistle and set off. This was the signal for us to push forward and onto the timing mats. The target for some is some is to get back to Tywyn before the train, which is packed with cheering supporters. The target for others is to enjoy the race and take in the countryside. Although this race does have some hillwork and a really good boggy bit it is nowhere near as tough as the Stagger. Parts of the race are fairly level following the contours and I set off at a very easy 7.5 min/mile pace for the first two miles. This year the ploughed field wasn’t ploughed and the sun came out for a while. Ahead it looked black and we had rain for about 30 minutes. Even though it has been very wet this year the running conditions were good. I carried on at more or less conversation pace to about 7 miles and then upped the pace a little. The boggy bit nearly sucked off one of my shoes, and the cambered tracks caused a bit of pain. Parts of the return section had a good tail wind. On the last mile I felt quite good and went past 5 runners. I finished in 1:56:39, a few minutes faster than 2006, but this year’s course was a bit shorter. 201 runners bettered the 1:48 time to beat the train. Considering the size of the event in a small community the organisation was 1st class; drinks stations were frequent with a choice of drinks.

In the evening we returned to the marquee for drinks and the presentations. Maybe we don’t get out enough, so we were surprised at the noise and rowdy nature of people enjoying themselves. The winner’s time was 1:18:15 – his fourth consecutive title. One man has done all 25 “Race the Trains” but failed to turn up for his special memento! On Sunday Lesley took us on a forced route march to the actual source of the River Severn. It was sunny and warm and Wales was the place to be.

Lin and Martin might be interested in the Severn Way, the longest riverside walk in Britain at 210 miles, or perhaps the adjoining Wye Valley Walk at 136 miles.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Maiden Newten Madness

Great support from Yeovil Town RRC and Egdon Heath Harriers - including 1st man home - Paul Rose and 1st lady - Steph Slade

Club Chairman and Race Director, Phil England presents race winner Paul Rose with his trophy, lardy cake and cucumber! Jacky England (centre) still smiling after taking all the entries

The fourth running of the Madness took place in appalling weather conditions and congratulations are certainly deserved by all of the 117 brave runners who completed the course in a torrential downpour. As one Yeovil Town runner, sidelined through injury remarked "It's the first time I've ever been glad I can't do the race"!

Despite the rain, mud and slightly longer course, Paul Rose of Yeovil Town Road Running Club "stormed" (excuse the pun) home in first place just ahead of Royal Manor of Portland's Mark Pittaway. Steve Masters of Wells City Harriers was hot on their heels to take third place, meaning that, unusually, the winning trio were all veterans.

It was obviously a night where experience rather than youth counted as Clive Harwood from Crewkerne Running Club took the first vet 50 prize, finishing in an excellent 6th place overall - and I'm sure Clive won't mind me mentioning that he's closer to being a vet 60 than a vet 50!

In the ladies race however, the youngsters ruled supreme with Steph Slade from Egdon Heath Harriers retaining her title from last year and managing to beat all but 8 of her male rivals to finish in 9th place overall. Second and third places went to junior runners, Lucy Tweed and Emily Martin, both from Bridport Runners.

On a night when conditions really could not have been any worse, an even bigger thank you than usual must be said for all the marshals, time keepers and other helpers who braved the rain to make the evening a success. As usual, the race would not have gone ahead without the energy and input of Phil England, Club Chairman, and his long suffering family, all of whom get roped in to complete various tasks.

And I would like to give a personal vote of thanks to whoever made the coffee and walnut cake - it was excellent and gave me the strength to complete the arduous task of typing in the results!

Full results have been sent to Runnerswebuk and should be on their website shortly, but here are the prize winners:-

1st Paul Rose 39.21 YTRRC

1st V40 Mark Pittaway 39.32 RMOP (2nd overall)
2nd V40 Steve Masters 40.35 Wells City Harriers (3rd overall)

1st Senior Joe Allen 42.13 Bridport Runners (4th overall)
2nd Senior Mark Caldecourt Hamworthy Harriers (5th overall)

1st V50 Clive Harwood 43.16 Crewkerne Running Club (6th overall)
2nd V50 Nigel Johns 44.16 RMOP (11th overall)

1st Lady Steph Slade 43.31 Egdon Heath Harriers (9th overall)
2nd Lady Lucy Tweed 49.55 Bridport Runners
3rd Lady Emily Martin 50.04 Bridport Runners

1st V40 Jane Mills 52.52 YTRRC
2nd V40 Julianne Jenkinson 53.11 Egdon Heath Harriers

1st V50 Frances Anderson 52.38 Egdon Heath Harriers
2nd V50 Joyce Rendell 53.10 Axe Valley Runners

Monday, July 28, 2008


Sunday 27th July – the hottest day of the year and the Westgates were on the Exmoor coastal path. One running and one supporting/heckling. I was the one running and Richard was there with his boys. But first I had to get there. This was a bit daunting having never driven myself to a race before, but arrived, parked, met Lin and Martin and various other runners, got the coach and set of for Countisbury with no problems. It was already hot before we set off, and the shade in the woods was very welcome. However all sorts of nasty things lurk in the woods, and before I’d done 5 miles I’d been attacked by the wasp. Unfortunately it was a narrow bit of the path with a precipice to the left and cliff face to the right, so had to struggle on to a wider bit before I could stop and dispose of it (humanely of course!!!). The next water station had nothing to offer except water and sympathy, but for some strange reason it didn’t get any worse, and took my mind off various other pains in my legs, stomach etc. Reached Porlock Weir but didn’t stop, across the pebbles and marshes to the next water station, and on to the infamous hill. Had some company on the way up and while we stopped “to admire the view”!!! a voice came booming down from the top of the hill. Richard was there taking photos and offering encouragement. (Some will appear on the gallery soon I hope). The next bit along the top of the cliff was even hotter, no sea breezes and no shade. Was really glad to reach the sign to start the descent towards Minehead, and followed the correct route this year thanks to the excellent signposting. Richard appeared again shortly before the finish, but with his expertise with the camera he only got some footage of his leg and the sky – but it’s the thought that counts. Did an excellent sprint finish (OK a fast hobble) due to a hallucination of a runner in a green T shirt behind me. Really enjoyed the free food and drinks afterwards, and had a surprise invitation to a barbecue in the evening.

Update on the wasp sting – it’s now large, red, painful and has melted the first ice-pack.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Quantock Beast

Lesley running her way to the top of the Club Championship table!

Last Sunday the Westgates were at Fyne Court for the Quantock Beast, but only one of them was running! Richard had pulled out with a hamstring injury sustained at Forde Abbey, which proved to be a race too far after the Discovery and the Welsh Castles weekend. The previous day’s weather had been torrential rain all day so I was expecting a plentiful supply of mud. However it wasn’t too bad, as the excess water had made it sloppy rather than sticky. Set off at the usual conversation pace until I realised that several people who are usually slower than me were actually up ahead, so had to leg it across the fields. The hills were as steep as I remembered them, but I managed to run the long uphill section in the middle where there is usually some tree clearing going on (info for those who know the course). There was a brief shower, but not enough to make me put my coat on, and before too long I reached the road and the 5-mile marker, which meant the finish wasn’t far away. An enjoyable gallop down the hill, overtaking a few more runners including a lady in a grey T shirt (behind me in the photo). She did her best to get past me again on the final sprint, but I really hate that happening and threw myself at the finish line and held her off. Lucky I was familiar with the course. In case all this sounds like I am a real runner, my tortoise like plod got me around in about 55 minutes. Forgot to stop the watch so can’t give a more accurate time, but possibly a minute quicker than last year, so a PB for the course.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Dartmoor Discovery Ultra Marathon

Saturday saw the Westgates and the Lascelles duo at Princeton for the 10th anniversary Dartmoor Discovery 32 mile Ultra. A stroll in the park for Lin and Martin but a step into the abyss for us ultra virgins. Training included a week’s holiday to build up strength by laying and pointing a huge area of paving. Unfortunately this backfired as we both got dehydrated and backache.

Having checked the weather forecast Richard and I were among the few runners who wore coats over our vests; Richard also wore gloves and kept his coat on for the whole race. We started off slowly at the back and I thought conversation pace meant talking to everyone I knew, plus a few who I didn’t. Richard lagged behind for a while, then drew level, but the talking proved too much for him and he moved ahead. I spent the rest of the first 10K getting bored with the sight of his yellow coat an irritating distance ahead, before he pushed on out of sight. I prayed that he would be tempted to try and “race” the next 26 miles, fall apart as he nearly always does on a long run resulting in me beating him!

The second 10K was probably the most enjoyable, good scenery, lots of downhills, sunshine and feeling good. Nothing much to say about the route through Ashburton, which led to a long hard climb back to the moor. The weather now changed: thunder, hail and continuous rain. I wished I had brought my Everest Base Camp handwarmers, which I had optimistically thrown out that morning. Richard said he couldn’t feel his fingers towards the end and a marshal offered to pour out his special drink at the 29-mile refreshment station.

Make no mistake, this is a testing route but it does have some excellent viewpoints, streams, stone bridges, wooded hillsides, chocolate-box thatched cottages, sheep and ponies with foals. Shame about the cloud and rain, apparently it was 25degrees C in Milverton.

Organisation was excellent; friendly marshals and drink-station people. Split times were called at various points and our own special drinks were transported to any of the 10 stations. I had ginger beer towards the end and it made a refreshing change. At the finish there were free teas, coffees, bananas, sandwiches, biscuits etc. The moment runners crossed the line a blanket was wrapped around them, a real benefit on a cold, wet day. Unfortunately Richard didn’t blow up and finished in 5:33:22, but I wasn’t far behind at 5:46:42 (unofficial times) which probably beat him on an age-graded basis! (And I ran the last 10K about one minute faster than him!!!).

Lin and martin had a slightly slower run than last year with Lin persevering with some pain in her knee but still putting in a strong last 10K. Apparently her time will mean that Lin won’t get the No 1 race number next year!

Additional words from Richard:

My race plan was to run with Lesley and hopefully finish in just under 6 hours. Soon after the start I realised I didn’t want to run with Lesley – she talks too much! But I did set off slow and comfortable and it felt good in the sun. reached 10K at 58ish, 20K in 1:56ish, marathon in 4:25ish so the times were well on schedule for under 6 hours. The cold, hail and rain proved a bit of a challenge. A lady runner thought ‘cos I was well dressed that I was an experienced ultra-runner – no, just an old git who feels the cold! Last three miles were a real mental battle – took about 34 minutes running completely on my own but there were occasional supporters who really cheered me on. The blanket at the finish was so welcome and I must admit as I did some stretches on a stone wall there were a few emotional tears, relief at finishing, relief at staying ahead of Lesley, relief at not feeling sick and bad and having to lay on the ground in a recovery position! Phil England drank flat coke on his Ironman marathon section and this also worked for me on my two special drinks.

Good to see many familiar faces, a huge contingent from Teignbridge Trotters, Jonathon Day from AVR, Alan Littlejohns, and Kevin Day of Goyt Valley Striders, the organiser of the Shady Oak 10K which we ran as a warm up for the White Peak last year. Also met a geezer who has done all ten Discoveries, and he lives in Essex!

Respect to Lin who ran on through knee pain, must take an extra stubbornness to keep going in pain, especially knowing that on a better day you could be 30 – 40 minutes quicker. Respect to Martin for staying with her when he could obviously have pushed on. Naturally in similar position I would have stayed with Lesley!

PS from Lesley. Was this the hardest thing I have ever done? It certainly wins for sheer effort, but the final day’s walk to Everest Base Camp is just ahead as I was more exhausted afterwards. The effort of trying to get there while suffering from altitude sickness definitely took more out of me.
Postscript from Martin:
I took some pictures early in the race before the rain. Unfortunately the camera phone soon became waterlogged and I was unable to get any pictures of Lesley and Richard after the race ( or for 2 days afterwards until it dried out).
Lin running down the hill towards Ashburton, not much sun left.
Rain threatening Just before half way.

Its really raining now.
The highest, and the wettest point - so far - hope the lightning doesn't hit us!
Meanwhile, back in Dorset, in fact everywhere else but Dartmoor!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Johnny Kipps - 2008

11th May, as suffered by your correspondent Dave C.

A gloriously sunny and hot day resulted in what could almost be described as a mass turn out for the annual running of this event. The thirteen runners comprised of a section of seasoned MNR stalwarts (always ready to stall and one at least quite warty), a couple of unwitting first timers (no doubt lured by some dubious promise of glory or such like) and a small contingent of renowned Yeovil runners who bravely joined in, probably being too embarrassed to admit they’d got lost looking for a ‘real’ event when they inadvertently stumbled across our little gathering.

The warm and clement conditions had clearly influenced the choice of racing apparel, with shorts and vests seemingly being the order of the day. As the only foolhardy individual to be wearing tracksters, I tried to explain my foolishness as being down to the habit of avoiding the effects of chance encounters with nettles and brambles, admittedly not normally a problem on Dorset’s roads, but it was better than confessing a current lack of shorts that were either sufficiently clean (ie would stay still long enough to be captured) or that would actually fit.

This lack of preparation should of course be taken in context with a cut back in pre-race training due to a selection of injuries, together with an over indulgence of fermented red grape juice the night before, unsurprisingly resulting in a distinct lack of sleep.

Due to the inexplicable absence of our traditional noble starter, Dave Webb (last year’s controversial winner) adopted a lordly demeanour and officiated at the start.

Keen not to disappoint club colleagues with the fun of a chase, I set off at my usual unsustainably enthusiastic pace, hoping to provide my more practised and sensible colleagues with the traditional fox and hounds experience, at least up to the first serious climb, where I expected to watch a good few of them toddle on by.

As I sweated my way up to the top of the long climb, getting slower and slower I started to conjecture where the chasing pack had gone – were they lost, had they been abducted by aliens or was I hallucinating due to the heat? Whatever the reasons, I was oh so grateful to see the welcome oasis of the water station being (wo)manned by the ever understanding wife of our illustrious Chairman.

Having taken on board a gulp or two of water, heartened and refreshed, I set off again with a little more vigour up the final gentle climb, to the high point and halfway point of the circuit. Reaching this whilst still in front was a rare and most unexpected hallelujah moment.

I didn’t look back to see who must surely have been closing in on me, but knowing it was all downhill from here, I was content that I could now at least put on a bit of a show when a challenger came past. Indeed such a show was needed when I spotted Dave Webb, now spectating from the roadside and brandishing the unique and coveted winner’s trophy for this event.

The final two mile run in then became a tooth grinding epic as the tantalising thought, that I might actually have half a chance of a win, started to dance around in my head (probably an effect of the heat more than the logic of seeing Dave W, one of our top runners, spectating rather than chasing).

I was hugely relieved when I reached the last hurdle of the steep drop down into Wynford Eagle. Still expecting to be caught, I zigzagged my way down this fearsome incline (even the temptation of a win couldn’t override the trepidation of this decent) to the finishing straight, where I managed a last little sprint for the benefit of the waiting throng.

At this point I feel I should unselfishly say a few words about the prowess of my fellow competitors as they gallantly crossed the finishing line, but in honesty I was too shagged to be paying much attention, being more concerned that my earlier breakfast stayed where it was supposed to and didn’t make an encore appearance.

It was great to actually win my first ever running trophy and for it to be for the Johnnie Kipps ……………….. - words fail me here, I’m overcome with emotion. Nonetheless, a final thank you must be said to Dave W, for ensuring that a good selection of biscuits was in the tin and for not doing the run this year!

And here are some pictures:

The Wynford Eagle hovers over Andy's head at the home of the "Johnny Kipps"

The Massed start, well into double figures this year.

The coveted biscuit tin is presented to this year's winner by last year's.

The Martins cool down in the stream that marks the start and finish.

The Biscuit Tasting.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Big Sur Marathon: the most scenic road marathon in the world

April 27th 2008 - our mission - to check out if the above claim was really true.

The Big Sur is a point to point marathon along the coast from Big Sur to Monterey about 100 miles south of San Francisco. As the road was closed for the duration of the race most competitors had to get the bus from Monterey at a ridiculously early hour. We had the foresight to book into a camp ground amongst the giant redwoods just 1km from the start - for which we were rewarded with a lie-in until 4.30am.

Despite this being the 23rd running of the event the organisers made a bit of a foul up at the start which found the road jammed with the slower runners and nowhere for the front runners to go. Eventually with a minute to go till the 6.45am start they announced that everyone should stay where they were and the rest of the runners would be “fed in” - after the 6 hour plus competitors had plodded past!! Our immediate reaction was “No way!” so we dived through the barriers, raced across the front of the start line and dived in from the side. A few lucky souls were quick enough to follow suit but then the marshals sprang into action and no-one else made it. Their problem, not ours - we were on the start line and ready to go.

And so finally, after months of planning and looking forward to the Big Sur, we were underway. The first few miles were slightly downhill or flat, winding through the redwoods, but we resisted the temptation to storm off and took it steadily. Martin was still suffering the end of a cold, which had left him with a nasty cough, and didn’t want to push too hard too soon. That suited me fine, neither of us was in top shape and we were happy to take it easy. Enjoying the route was more important than a decent time for us today.

After about 5 miles the sea came into view on our left and the first of many undulations began. At the same time we were treated to the first section where we were heading into a strong head wind. The first climb, although not steep was hard work but the views made up for it. The Big Sur marathon has an excellent website with a virtual tour - words simply cannot describe the splendour of this section of coastline - it’s well worth a look.

I was finding the race quite tough from fairly early on - an upset stomach was making life uncomfortable and I could feel a repeat of Venice coming on. I wanted to enjoy this race and not struggle for over half the way! However at about 8 miles we began picking off other female runners who had clearly gone off too fast and that improved my mood which in turn made my legs feel lighter!

There is one long hard climb up to the well-named Hurricane Point which begins at about 9 miles and reaches the summit at around 12. We reached the top and were rewarded with more fine views and a long swoop down to a picturesque bridge. On the other side I had to give in to the call of nature and pay a brief visit to a handy Portaloo - timed by Martin at 45 seconds - but well worth the wasted seconds. I felt soooo much better afterwards!

There were several bands and groups along the way and as the event also incorporated a 21 mile and 10 mile walk we were passing people all the time and the atmosphere was good. The whole route was undulating but the worst hills were during the first half, although as the miles ticked by I could feel myself slowing on even the lesser inclines.

The last few miles were tough but nothing compared with the hell that was Venice. We may not have done enough specific marathon pace training and doing a 50 mile training run just 4 weeks beforehand may not have been the wisest idea, but at least we were reasonably fit and could dig in when the legs would really rather call it a day. At every mile marker marshals were calling out not only the time but the average pace per mile and the estimated finish time which was really helpful. In the latter stages of the race our estimated finish time was 3.24 - 3.25 and that didn’t change.

We crested the final rise, with half a mile to go and a nice downhill sweep to the finish, we managed to inject some speed into our pace. Martin suggested sprinting for the finish line, I asked him politely what the hell he thought we were doing if not already sprinting? But then I noticed another woman about 20 yards ahead of us and we really went for it and swept past her in fine style (I was later extremely annoyed to find that she beat me on chip time anyway!!).
It was a great race, and I know we would both agree with the extravagant claims made by the organisers. We finished in 3.25.24/25 - 10 - 15 minutes slower than we were expecting, but the “undulations” had also proved tougher than expected. It was a good enough time to give me 2nd in the 40 - 44 age group and 12th overall. And in a field of well over 3000, we finished 126 and 128 respectively.

Straight after the finish we were herded through a tent packed with a huge variety of food - which would have been nice half an hour or so later but was way too soon for us - not often we pass up free food! Even more remarkable was that there was also free beer….but the queue for it was so long even Martin wasn’t tempted to wait for it!! Might have been an incentive to run a bit faster if only we had known!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Taunton Marathon

Richard’s report:

Adverse weather was predicted for the Taunton Marathon on Sunday and there was indeed some laying snow when we drew back the curtains with a degree of trepidation. However everything turned out perfectly for the duration of the race, although it was still a tad cold. All the snow was soon gone, there was only a light breeze, and the bright sunshine gave a real feelgood factor. Dave C looked in good shape with two arms for the half, while Phil was confidently boasting that he would do no good as he’d not done any training! Lesley, for a change seemed cool, calm and collected and had even remembered her front and rear numbers for her first Taunton Marathon. I didn’t feel too good and in fact hadn’t felt right since the Four Trigs. I had aborted my last 800m rep. Session and walked home in confusion. On the plus side Lesley and I had both done four long runs in the last six weeks.

For the second year Taunton had “proper” chips with mats (cf. the Grizzly) so I made a determined effort to start off in very last place. Everything went well with consistent 8 min/miles and a 3.5 hour target. The sun must have brought out the best in me as I actually talked to a few people, which I never do when running. Fred Hagan from Minehead was supporting on a bike and we chatted for some time. There was a revised route this year: 1) Miss off the French Weir Park bit, staying on the main road. 2) Take the left “leg” at Bradford on Tone to the A38. 3) Turn left into Bishops Hull, through the village, exiting at Netherclay, then right onto Silk Mills Road and left into Heron Drive and through the car park to the finish. Beware half-marathoners who park here wanting a quick getaway!

Halfway I was right on schedule as I collected my special drink from the water station (orange juice, salt and sugar). I was joined by Mike Berry from Minehead and we ran the next six miles or so together. His last marathon had been in Prague, in a temperature of 29 degrees C. We passed Jonathon day of Axe valley and although I was starting to feel less good, pulled away from them. Not much conversation now. Strange snippets of talk: someone I can’t ever remember seeing before asked if I was doing the Seaview again! By 21 miles my 90 seconds in hand had gone and I could feel liquid moving around in my stomach; this meant that although I was a bit thirsty everything I drank would just sit there getting more and more uncomfortable. I must admit to walking a bit on the small hill at Bradford and the longer one at Rumwell. However the new route does have some good downhill bits through Bishops Hull and I was well enough to go past a few runners. Finished fairly comfortably in a gun time of 3:39:08 with Nicky Taylor of Yeovil one second behind – I had no idea she was there. My chip time was 3:36:39 just a tad slower than last year. Took my medal and, at the time it seemed a good idea, a cup of Bovril. Sat down in the warm sun, recycled my chip, and cheered home J Day and M Berry who came in together. Also spoke to Alan Littlejohns who raced the half – winning a category prize - the week before London!

I went to the car and felt very sick – it’s so not fair. Had the camera ready to take a picture of Lesley as promised. However she finished so quick I wasn’t ready. She saw me laid out in the car as she ran past! Anyway she looked fresh as a daisy with a new PB of 4:06:35 knocking 12 mins off her previous best. We got home, I went to bed, she dug holes in the garden planting things and once again her vest didn’t need washing. I think I’d better let her pace me at the Dartmoor Discovery.

Lesley’s report:

Not that organised – I forgot to put tape on my left foot where it rubs on my shoe, and was hobbling for the next two days. However this was the first marathon where I was able to even think about a pace rather than just reaching the finish. I though I was taking the first half at a very leisurely pace until I heard a runner behind me mention he’d done the last mile in 8:40, way too fast for me. But I plodded on going through halfway in about 1:57 and chatting to Clinton Rogers - a reporter on our local TV channel. Suddenly it got very lonely. Runners in front were several hundred yards ahead and barely visible as I picked my way through Taunton’s shoppers. Then out onto the long drag up through Norton to Oake, where some less than welcome company that had appeared spurred me to push the pace a bit. From Oake to Bradford I was back on familiar training ground, and the miles slipped away. I even managed to “run” the hill at Rumwell on the second lap, although it could better be described as “falling forward slowly”. The approach to Bishops Hull meant the finish wasn’t far away. I negotiated the car park, road humps and uneven ground etc. to make the finish line without falling over. That was a slight exaggeration from RW about digging holes in the garden, as not long after we got in there was a white out with snow. However one of us did stay on our feet to do the cooking, washing, etc. (including the vest!!)


Well done to Dave who did a good half and to the Ironman who in spite of his lack of training finished in 3:19.16. Of course all this pales into insignificance compared to Lin and Martin’s epic 50 mile adventure in snowshoes, battling through hostile terrain and 20foot snowdrifts.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Exe to Axe

The advantage of going to a race on your own is that you can leave at the time you want to, drive at a sensible speed and arrive calm and stress free with plenty of time to spare. Having said that, I am missing him…………..

First challenge was to get to Seaton for 8.30am on the weekend when the clocks go forward. Second challenge was the car park charges - 85p per hour. Well you try working out how many hours it’s going to take you to get to Exmouth on a bus and then run back - and then multiply the answer by 85 - and at 8am which is really 7am! I did manage to work out that I didn’t have nearly enough change and that a cheaper option needed to be found - which proves my point that it’s always worth getting to a race in plenty of time (Hope he’s reading this in a cyber café in the Alps between black runs).

The race starts from the Foxhole Café on Exmouth sea front and follows the coastal path for 20 miles (advertised) or 21.2 miles (real life) back to Seaton with a total of 4000 feet of climbing. I started off fairly steadily trying to conjure up Martin’s usual mantra “too fast, you’re going too fast” and sensibly let a young girl from Exmouth Harriers take an early lead. I caught her up at Budleigh Salterton - she clearly didn’t have the advantage of Martin’s wisdom regarding pacing - and settled down to enjoy the race from the front.

At Budleigh you head inland for half a mile to the bridge over the River Otter - a beautiful (and flat!) stretch before once more turning south and tackling the climb along the cliff path before dropping to Ladram Bay. Shortly after this you pass the first (or last depending on which way it’s being run) of the trig points from the Four Trigs, and this meant that I was onto familiar territory. At this point I also became aware of another female runner on my heels. Each time I glanced back she was closer and looking strong and she finally passed me on the Sidmouth sea front. No need to worry - she was a relay runner and was stopping at Sidmouth, so I could relax, slow the pace a little and hold my lead.

The second half of the run is by far the hardest - first the long, steep climb out of Sidmouth, then the drop to Salcombe followed by another muscle screaming climb, then down to Weston Mouth for the short stretch of beach before yet another ascent. The pace over the first half of the race was beginning to tell now and I was really regretting the T shirt I’d put on under my vest because it was baking hot.

As I dropped down to Branscombe, Fred Fox from YTRRC caught me up and we walked the hill up the other side together. Once we reached the top and began running again he soon pulled away from me - but the worst of the climbing was behind and only a few short miles to go now. I passed a few runners between here and Beer, who had also clearly got their pacing wrong, although I couldn’t believe by this stage that anyone was running slower than me.

Down the hill into Beer and a sharp right turn onto the coast path and to my dismay I spotted another girl sprinting down the hill a mere 50 yards or so behind. I tried to make my tired legs climb the zig zag steps out of Beer a little faster and passed another male runner. The final descent into Seaton and my rival seemed to have fallen back a bit but as I turned onto the coast path and the steep drop to the sea front she came into sight again, and she was gaining on me. I had absolutely nothing left in my legs but I gave it my best shot and if I had only known that the finish was at the end of the first stretch of promenade and not at the Hook & Parrot (Grizzly finishing line) as I had assumed, I think I could have held her off.

As it was she passed me with about 30 yards to go and beat me by 6 seconds. I was gutted as you can imagine, but I have only myself to blame for giving in just a little too easily. Now I know how Martin felt at the JK last year when he stopped on the bridge and Dave swept past him to victory!

This is a fantastic race, great scenery but a really punishing course and on the day, the combination of starting just a little too fast and the totally unexpected high temperature caught me out. Link to the results in on the website and hopefully some photos will be added to the Gallery shortly.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Grizzly 2008

Sunday 9th March saw us make the traditional pilgrimage to Seaton for the Grizzly. I really wasn’t going to run as I was still full of cold, snot, gunge etc. However amongst even more extreme weather we had another period of calm and I couldn’t resist. As a precautionary measure I decided to start off in very last place and do a sensible, sustainable pace. So I lingered by the car stretching while the runners disappeared over the start line. This year there was some fancy timing device folded within the race numbers so I thought my leisurely last place start wouldn’t affect my true finish time. I did have a few doubts however as I crossed the start line and failed to see any sort of timing mat. Many hours later my doubts were confirmed at the finish as we were scanned by a row of humanoids waving loop aerial devices reminiscent of a one star 1950’s sci-fi movie. Ah – the Grizzly has finally entered some time warp.

Anyway I caught the tail of the runners as they turned onto the beach and decided to run on the largely clear path next to the sea. The sunny weather and the sound of hundreds of pairs of feet crunching their way through the pebbles seemed to spur me on to a slightly faster than sustainable pace. I eased back a bit and felt really good for about 7 miles. After that things slowly deteriorated. At one point my cold really turned on me with a wilful vengeance. My ears and head became completely bunged up. I went deaf and lost balance. Snot and gunge glistened on the backs of my gloves and even my sunglasses acquired sticky smears which reduced my vision. Then, on an exposed hillside, the wind blew up bringing hailstones which stung face and legs. This was more like it! This is the stuff of tales for future generations; hail the size of golf balls and waist deep swamps that swallow the unwary. At this stage I must apologise to anyone following me, who slipped or got stuck on anything resembling snot; it probably was snot.

It’s a bit difficult to accurately describe the Grizzly, but let’s just say it’s probably one of the best races, courses, and events in the world. Even on a wet, cold day there will be loads of cheerful supporters, bands, helpers and on a sunny day it’s even better ‘cos you can enjoy the views.

After about 15 miles I was struck with an increasing queasiness. I could have said a feeling of nausea, but ever since we got stuck in a mess tent with a couple of Americans who kept using the word nauseous in their irritating accent, I won’t. (But that’s another story – not that we have anything in general against most Americans). Towards the end two SWRRs pulled ahead of me but I really believed that by keeping in touch I would have the last laugh on the results due to the “chip” times. This was not to be and I was penalised for taking 2mins 7 secs for crossing the start line.

L & M had by coincidence parked on the seafront about 5 vehicles away from us. Afterwards as I approached their van, I heard a loud click; thinking that they were trying to attract my attention I went over but was met by a frantic waving and shooing of the arms and the electric windows gave a firm clunk as they closed in extra fast mode. (The original click must have the central locking). Jesus, I only had a slight cold, and they made me feel like a leper. I know they take their running seriously, 225 mile per week, and no sex or alcohol, but I only wanted to say “hello and well done”. Lesley tells me Lin now wears a surgeon’s breathing mask at work and out shopping in a desperate effort to avoid germs. I think I ought to share some snotty bits to help build up a healthy immune system.

Anyway I didn’t feel too good and laid out in the car with the engine running.

(Waiting for some good-natured person to connect a hose to the exhaust). Fred Fox came over later and sympathised as he used to be afflicted with similar stomach problems. Now that he runs a bit slower he is largely cured. He did look very surprised when Lesley said she didn’t think he had slowed that much; he reliably informed us that in a previous incarnation he had been a top 30 Grizzly finisher.

Once again thanks to everyone who helped make the Grizzly another memorable day out.