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……………