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.