Monday, January 14, 2008

Oh My Obelisk!

Sunday 13th saw the third running of the “Oh my Obelisk” multi-terrain 10.8 mile race at Dawlish. This event has good parking and great facilities at the leisure centre and is well marshalled. The race suddenly kicked off with no safety talk (great) or count down, taking many by surprise. The first bit goes over rolling grassland at the back of the leisure centre. It became a little congested and to avoid clipping someone’s heels I thought it a good idea to speed up and over a small grassy knoll on the left. Unfortunately I caught my foot in the grass, flew forward and rolled down the other side. What a boring bunch of runners – no laughing, clapping, cheering or jeering! Still, at least I had rolled past the person in front.

We were soon on a narrow track through woods, then bits of road, then a long muddy standing water track, a field or two with gates and stiles, more bits of road, then up through woods to the obelisk. However due to building work we had to divert round and use a different track down. I seem to remember last year’s track down through the woods being much more fun – very steep and winding and slippery. We were soon into a steep downhill road section, probably the least enjoyable bit. Most of the last four miles or so retrace the outward route. With about three miles to go I was thinking of anything apart from the fact there were still about three miles to go! I think that the gale force gusts and wet mud had taken their toll – but it was the same for everyone. It’s a bad feeling when 6 or 7 people go past on the last two miles and here’s nothing you can do to increase the pace.

I was very pleased to see the finish line and my time of about 87:24 shouldn’t really have disappointed me. Last year I did 80:34 but in retrospect that was proportionally the best position I probably ever have done in any race. So, especially with today’s adverse weather, I shouldn’t be disappointed but there were people I beat last year who beat me easily this time, maybe I get too bogged down on results and positions, perhaps I should run a few races without a watch and not look up the finish positions.

On the same subject I spoke to one of the organisers as the prize list for a race of this size is paltry – 350 finishers last year. For the male 40 and female 35 there is just ONE prize each, and no other veteran categories. I was told that the popularity of the race had taken Dawlish Coasters by surprise and in the first year it took time to work out the prizes and people just went home, before they were ready. However they have a different race results computer system now and next year they could well extend the prize categories etc.
Richard's consolation prize - a half eaten banana..................
Lesley sensibly boycotted the race and kept an eye on the sea defences instead.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Four Trigs Recce

Last Sunday Richard, Lesley, Martin & I met at Sidmouth as Richard and Lesley had decided against all the evidence and their better judgement to trust our navigational skills and run round the 4 Trigs course with us. Some of you may remember that Martin and I completed this self navigating race taking in the 4 trigs surrounding Sidmouth last year – quite successfully – mainly due to some exhaustive recceing of the route in advance.

However, running round it again 12 months later was not quite as easy as it sounds because each year the course changes from clockwise to anticlockwise and running the same route in the opposite direction is surprisingly confusing. Plus we had to find the cunning short cut which a couple of locals took in order to get ahead of us last year.

Our first mission was to find free car parking having discovered that East Devon County Council wanted to rip us off to the tune of 80p an hour and we had no idea how many hours it was going to take. We set off in convoy with grim determination, turned out of the car park, and immediately found some free spaces about 100 yards from where we were bracing ourselves to part with our hard earned cash!

As we were starting the run about a mile in from the start, we were faced with running (?!) up Peak Hill right at the start – the cruel hill that figures in the start of the Sidmuth 10k. Much huffing, puffing and moaning followed until we eventually reached the summit. Here it was possible to take a short cut as the first trig is out and back about a mile along the coast path and can NOT be missed. What if we miss it Richard asked plaintively? To which I replied, if you find yourself plummeting head first down a cliff then you know you’ve missed it but you probably won’t care any more.

Next for the stretch through the woods where we only took one wrong turning. Fortunately Lesley discovered that she had dropped her map and sent Richard back to the bottom of the hill to fetch it. Meanwhile Martin checked his map and realised he was taking us the wrong way (I knew it was the wrong way but also that it’s a waste of time arguing with Martin). We could have waited until Richard had slogged back up the hill before letting on (that would have been my choice) but the others, being of kinder disposition, trotted back down to meet him and save him the trouble.

An easy section followed until we reached the first major road crossing and the point at which we had to find our way through the woods. There was no foot path on the map for the way we needed to go and Martin and I had tried 2 or 3 different routes the previous year., none of which were either direct or easy. This time we found a permissive path heading in the right direction and managed to negotiate our way through the woods to the required path – part of the East Devon Way. We made a sight detour to miss a steep plummet down wooded hillside. Richard is planning to gallop straight down the steepest part in order to save time whilst Lesley could be heard muttering darkly about staying on the road.

More hills followed and another road crossing until we reached the 2nd trig point (I didn’t actually make it having turned off the track a little too early and being detained by some rather ferocious gorse – however I took advantage of the delay whilst the others dutifully trekked out and back, to polish off my elevenses).

By this stage we had already completed the trickiest parts of the course so we could relax a little and push on – this involved Richard charging down a very wet, muddy path, happily splashing water everywhere and ensuring that his new shoes were well and truly christened. The rest of us followed a little more gingerly. Another road crossing at Sidford and then another climb and another short cut through the woods – not entirely sure we went the right way there, but we reached our objective which was to find the path to the third and most cunningly concealed trig point. Actually it was a lot easier to find from this direction – the difficulty then was finding our way back out of the overgrown woods to the correct path.

Once out into the fields we digressed from our trail running to help a lady catch her playful and energetic dog who was much more interested in running the rest of the route with us than going home for lunch and a nap by the fire. A steep downhill, followed by the inevitable steep uphill climb followed – and the rain which had been threatening for a while began. We could hear the donkeys at the donkey sanctuary bellowing for food so Martin gave the useful advice to “head for the donkeys” as we followed the trail through the woods and up to the last major road crossing. My favourite section here – through the donkey sanctuary, however most of the inhabitants were wisely avoiding the inclement weather and we only spotted a few rather baleful faces staring out at us.

At this point there was a very tempting short cut which would have taken us to Weston Mouth – without having to drop down to the beach and up the other side. After spending 10 minutes explaining the route to the final trig to Richard and Lesley, Martin and I relented and agreed that it was only fair to show them the way, even if it did add a mile or two to our route.

A short road section along to Weston and then back on to the bridle path towards Weston Mouth. We parted company here – Richard and Martin ran up to the final trig, Lesley and I sensibly decided to head straight for Weston Mouth as this is the easiest trig to find and it really wasn’t necessary to run the extra hill just to look at it.

We were within about 3 miles of Sidmouth now but both Martin and I knew that there were a couple of ferocious hills between us and our goal – firstly the aforementioned Weston Mouth and a couple of miles later – Salcombe Mouth. At this point Martin the Intrepid decided that we would return along the beach instead of tackling the final hill. How do you know the tide is out far enough I asked? It’s bound to be he said confidently and set off before I could raise any further argument. Richard, Lesley and I trailed in his wake, battling along the shingle in a decidedly Grizzly like fashion. I have to say that the only thing that kept me going was the fear that the tide would come in too far before I reached Sidmouth – interestingly I wasn’t particularly worried about drowning, it was just the thought of having to trail back along the beach and up the final hill that was worrying me.

Fortunately we all made it unscathed and could then run across the finishing line in front of the Yacht Club – only to have to run another mile before we got back to the cars. It had been a gruelling morning – over 4 hours to cover 15 miles – but it’s a beautiful part of the country and hopefully Richard and Lesley will benefit from our experiences last year. Last we heard Richard was planning to come back and go round again in a couple of weeks time, think we’ll leave it until the day!

Link here to entry form if you feel inclined to join the madness…………..

And here is a selection of the photographs Martin took.

Lin & Martin are actually ready to start at the agreed time!

The first trig point ahead

Lin demonstrates the correct way to Martin

It helps if you have the map the right way up

The second trig

Richard thinks if he runs fast enough and flaps his arms he can fly!

A bath may be necessary later......

The muddy shoe competition


And up!

It's just around the corner...

The race against tide.