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.