Friday, July 31, 2009

Brighton & Hove Park Run

Following another week of tough training for the Berlin marathon , Martin and I headed off for West Sussex last weekend for a little fun and relaxation - a 5k race and an 18 mile training run.

This was our second time at the Brighton and Hove Park Run - a 5k time trial held every Saturday throughout the year, brilliantly organised and free to enter. A pre race jog round the park confirmed that my legs were way too tired to be racing but reminding myself that it's all good training I joined Martin on the start line.

The race does two and a half loops of the park with a bit of a hill being run three times so my expectation was that I would not be able to match my last Yeovilton time. Last time here Martin paced me around the race but having seen the previous winning times and in view of his current form this time he was going with the leaders and I was on my own.

For me the race was a huge disappointment and really hard work, making me doubt that the marathon training is doing any good. However it was really exciting, having completed the half lap and plodding up the hill on the first full lap, to see Martin racing along the other side of the 4th place!! As my race went from bad to worse, Martin's race went from great to fantastic! Plodding up the hill on the final loop I once again saw him sprinting along the bottom of the park....and he now appeared to be in 2nd place, although I couldn't be sure as the leaders were lapping the back markers.

I'm ashamed to admit that knowing my time was going to be poor I more or less gave up on the last half km and crossed the line in 6th place in the ladies race with a time that I'd prefer not to mention.

Meanwhile Maiden Newton's super sprinter had indeed finished the race in 2nd place in a time of 18.20 and was now lamenting that he hadn't tried a bit harder and come in first! He was only 6 seconds behind the winner who had a 20 year age advantage and could clearly have been beaten into 2nd place with a little more effort. I am so proud of him, just got to say that again - 2nd place out of 168 runners, fantastic!

The following day saw us out on the South Downs doing an 18 mile hilly training run across some fantastic countryside, and purely by coincidence we saw the start and finish of a 30 mile ultra which we didn't even know existed, the Downland no prizes for guessing what we will be doing on the last weekend of July in 2010!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Blackdown Beauty

The Blackdown Beauty is a new event, "dreamed" up by Honiton Running Club which has five pubs, a cream tea, 18 miles of scenic off road running, including boggy bits....sound familiar? The only thing missing is the sea.

And they're off

We gathered at the Holman Clavel pub at Culmhead for a very civilised 11.45am start, each clutching our beautifully prepared map and instructions and prepared to search out the elusive white drawing pins which were marking the route. A small but eager group of Axe Valley Runners charged off in the lead through the woodland section which began our adventure. The path was steep, wet and stony, requiring careful navigation. It wasn't long before the leading hares missed a sharp right turn and Martin and I found ourselves in pole position on route to the first pub, the Queens Arms at Pitminster. Scenting the beer, we stepped up our leisurely pace to pretty much race pace in our eagerness to beat the queue of thirsty runners and were greeted by the landlady as we charged over the threshold with "Ah, the first runners are here!". A nice pint of Doom Bar was enjoyed whilst the other runners filtered in.

The first pint - always the best

We knew it wasn't a race but the alcohol hadn't yet blunted our competitive edge so we set off ahead of our fellow drinkers (runners?) with a trio of Dorset Doddlers, heading towards the Merry Harriers at Forches Corner. After a few fields of sociable running, including one encounter with a rather lively bull, Martin and I decided it was time to shake off the company lest they get to the bar before us. As most of the route involved a steady uphill climb, with some steep bits thrown in, it was quite hard work, but we were rewarded by an empty lane behind us. The last part of the route was through some lovely woodland and by the time we reached the top, fortunately, we had worked up quite a thirst. We were relaxing nonchalantly in the beer garden with a rather decent pint of Proper Job by the time the Doddlers and Axe Valley runners caught us up.

The second pint

After a brief interlude I managed to persuade Martin that he could wait until pub number three, the Half Moon at Clayhidon before having another drink and we set off again, this time unaccompanied. This stretch was a bit more complicated involving a very faintly defined path through some rather boggy bits and an interesting climb over a high wall into a field of pigs. At least it had the advantage of being flat and we were able to make good time, despite a rather shocking experience with what turned out to be an electric fence. We thought we may have been overtaken because there was clearly a short cut which could be taken by remaining on the road, but once again we found ourselves first at the bar, and just as we took refuge under the awning in the beer garden with a pint of Yellow Hammer, the skies opened and the first rain of the day came down. We could be forgiven for feeling a bit smug that we were under cover whilst our fellow runners were getting rather wet, but of course we felt no such thing and were more than glad when they began to arrive, even though the Doddlers came from the wrong direction due to some faulty navigation.

The third (and for some, fourth) pint

Martin decided that he needed to sample a pint of the local scrumpy and as the next stop was the cream tea, hence no urgency, we let the Doddlers leave ahead of us. We had a sneaking suspicion that they weren't really drinkers anyway........We finally set off, and on this stretch my intrepid map reader made his first mistake and we missed a left turn and added a half mile or so to what was already the longest leg of the run. By the time we had retraced our steps we were behind the AVR foursome and they were much too fast for us to keep up with. We also encountered an unhappy landowner on this section who was patrolling the footpath which crossed her land verbally attacking innocent runners. I fear I may have wound her up a bit (it's OK I had my Yeovil Town shirt on at this point so can't be accused of bringing MNRC into disrepute) and then left Martin trying to calm her down whilst I went in hot pursuit of AVR. I think she must have had an exhausting afternoon by the time everyone had passed her by.....

Soon we saw the welcome signpost directing us to Pear Tree Cottage at Stapley, and OK, they didn't have any beer but they did serve rather decent cream teas. A debate ensued about whether they were Somerset or Devon cream teas (jam on top) but no one could remember which was which and who cares anyway, either way they were seriously good!

Too much cream can seriously damage your ability to drink beer

We were lagging well behind now, but as with the cream teas, it didn't seem very important any more. For some reason my memory of the fifth leg is rather vague, I do remember a field with an awful lot of pigs in it, which we ran all the way around before we found the correct way out of - which seemed to upset the pigs a bit. In no time at all we were at the York Inn, Churchingford, where Martin managed to effortlessly down a pint of Summer Lightening. I confess to being a lightweight, the cream tea had gone straight to my head and I could only manage a half. I'm seriously ashamed of myself, I will do better next year.

The fourth or fifth pint?

All that remained was On Inn, another lovely stretch which involved Otterhead lakes and a field of extremely lively bullocks who were somewhat mystified by Martin's antics (as was I!) before a short section of road and the welcome sight of the Holman Clavel.

This was a great day out, full marks to Honiton for setting out a lovely route and excellent pubs and also negotiating an excellent meal deal at the final pub - fish and chips for a fiver. The only thing which could have been slightly better was the weather, but the running, the company and the beer were all top class and we will definitely be putting the date in our diary for next year.

Some more photos can be seen at:

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Charmouth Challenge

Well done to everyone at the Charmouth Challenge on Saturday 4th July. Well done to Martin who I believe ran a PB on the course finishing 24th, but with a strong field in his age category he was only 4th MV50. Also well done for finding a free parking space in a side street – the credit crunch must be biting when 80p parking fee is out of reach!! Well done to the Ironman who cycled a prodigious distance to and from the race (perhaps he was also trying to avoid parking charges.) Well done Lin who was a close second in her age group, unfortunately only one prize per category. Well done Lesley who behaved impeccably resisting the temptation to bring the club into disrepute when two walkers wilfully strolled slowly two abreast in front of her on the narrow bridge near the finish. Well done Charlie who managed to change gender and appear as fourth male team member – see provisional results. Well done Andy who looked comfortable as he finished. Well done Dave C who at last had a slightly off day, allowing me a rare victory over him. Finally well done the organisers who were rewarded with a record entry.