Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boscombe 5k

Our recent obsession for driving extremely long distance to run extremely short races continued on Friday evening when we went to Boscombe to compete in the second of their winter series of 5k events.

A white knuckle ride through the outskirts of Bournemouth (anyone who has been a passenger with Martin will know what I mean), a frantic search for first a parking space, then the race HQ and finally a loo meant that the stress levels were suitably high as we approached the start with time for only a minimal warm-up.

This is a very well supported event with about 300 runners and the route is out and back along the sea front. Before I did this race I thought the start at Street 5k was a bit of a zoo, now I realise that Street is a gentle and happy place to start a 5k! Imagine the scene, 300 runners set off at 5k pace on a narrow stretch of concrete beside the beach – my race was nearly over before it even started as someone hooked their foot round my ankle. Fortunately there were so many runners in close proximity there just wasn’t space to fall over.

On the way out the wind was behind us and after the first mad dash the field spread out and it was possible to settle into a good pace – until the first stretch of sand was reached. There were several places where large quantities of sand had blown onto the path and it felt like running through treacle. I had no idea of my pace, there were no km markers and it was too dark and too dangerous to check the GPS, you needed to be looking strictly where you were going at all times.

All of a sudden there was a shout up ahead of “runners on the right” and the leaders were charging back towards us – just at the point where the path narrowed! It was a relief to reach the turn around point where a marshal was calling out times (9.47) and turn back, but now the surge of runners on their outward journey meant that there was no choice but to run through the sand until finally the path widened again and only a few stragglers were still running against the flow.

I tried to draft as much as I could back into the wind but it was hard to find anyone running at the right pace and to my surprise I overtook quite a lot of people on the return leg. At last the lights of the pier came into sight and I crossed the line in 20.26, which I was pleased with given the conditions and which was good enough for 1st V45. Martin had run 18.51 to finish in an excellent 35th place out of 319 entrants, although he was annoyed to miss out on first V50 by a mere 12 seconds. From a comparison of results most people appeared to be around 30 seconds slower this month.

My first words were – “this is the most horrible race I’ve ever done and I’m never doing it again”. How is it then that after some excellent post race refreshments we were working out that actually we could do the December race as well……………………?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Sunday 25th November saw the Westgates down in the scenic Devon countryside for the Drogo 10. For a demanding off-road 10 miler this must be one of the best. Late on Saturday we realised our names weren’t on the website entrants list and a conversation with the organisers confirmed they had not received our entry. The postal service just isn’t what it used to be with belligerent post-persons striking willy-nilly! We sorted out an entry on the day in advance, so slept easy.

After some truly foul, wet, windy weather, Sunday dawned bright and still and warm. We arrived an hour and a half early, truly relaxed although the red car was looking a bit mud-splattered. A record entry with, in my estimation, £2000 going to the National Trust. Following last year’s change the start and finish were outside the castle giving a fantastic race a splendid backdrop.

With the first couple of miles being downhill and narrow I decided to set off at full tilt to avoid any bottlenecks. The pace hurt and people fell on the tricky surface. Mile markers were clear and marshals and tape plentiful. A very demanding hill at around 4 miles reduced most runners to at least some walking. There were many good downhill stretches to get back on the gas. The section between miles 7 and 8 along the River Teign was very scenic but, by God, I was suffering and found it difficult to maintain any pace and it just went on and on. (a bit like Richard’s blogs – LW). Sharon Daw went past me at this stage and there was no way I could keep in contact. The final tortuous climb – Hunters Path – really hurt the legs; sweat was pouring off my head and face like a mini waterfall. Having summited there was an undulating path before another kick in the guts – a flight of steps. Onwards and upwards and soon the castle was in sight. A good crowd of vociferous spectators lifted spirits for a final sprint. I felt so happy, (it doesn’t take much – LW), and couldn’t stop smiling. I had pushed and enjoyed, and also beaten runners who had beaten me recently. It was in fact a personal worst but who cares we are all getting older. (so how come I got a PB – LW).

On a final note – it was extremely muddy and wet underfoot. At home Lesley neatly folded her running vest – not a drop of sweat or mud and put it away for the next race. I only know she’s human after watching her reverse the car into a narrow drive in the dark and wet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brighton Revisited - Park Run 5k

As we set off for West Sussex on Friday evening in a howling gale, I think either one of us would have readily agreed not to go if only the other had been the one to suggest it. However we sensibly ignored the severe weather warnings and drove through the floods to spend a largely sleepless night being buffeted about in the van, wondering whether it was going to stay the right way up.

After the fiasco last time when we overslept we set four alarms but actually need not have worried because Phil very kindly woke us up at 7.30am – when the text message he had sent us the previous evening finally arrived!!

The number of runners in attendance did not seem to have been affected by the daunting weather forecast and it did actually stay dry, if extremely gusty for the duration of the race. My plan was to tuck in behind two other ladies who were just in front of me on the start line, but at they started at a very conservative pace I soon found myself ahead of them. In fact I was only 20 metres or so behind Martin for the first km. I couldn’t work out if he was having a terrible run or if I had taken off way too fast - until I went through the 1km mark in 3.49 and knew for sure it was the latter.

The first half loop completed I set off up the hill on the second lap and found myself being overtaken by one of my female rivals. However once past me she didn’t pull away so I cunningly tucked in behind her and drafted all the way down the far side of the course which was into the strong wind. I was planning to try and stay with her and go for outsprinting her at the finish, however, heading up the hill on the final lap, and with full wind assistance, I managed to get in front of her again and rounding the last corner with half a km to go there was no way I was giving up the lead.

I sprinted for the line expecting my fan club to be cheering me on in this exciting finish, only to discover that he had lost interest and wandered off somewhere. Despite this uncharacteristic lack of support I managed to retain my lead and cross the line a mere two seconds ahead of the competition, in a time of 20.23, which given the conditions, I was well pleased with - and my first victory at a Park run.

Martin was disappointed with both his time of 19.14 and his fifth place – there’s no pleasing some people! Fortunately a delicious breakfast at the excellent park cafe soon restored him to his usual good humour.

Sunday saw us out for a 9 mile jaunt from Lovington up onto the South Downs Way in clear sunny weather through lovely countryside. The running in this part of the country is excellent and it makes for a great weekend away.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cheddar Half

Sat. 7th Nov saw Richard at Cheddar for the Ninth Cheddar Half, while Lesley took herself up the gorge to mingle with wild goats. Also present and good to see were Mike and Di. Once again very lucky with the weather, a bit breezy with just one brief shower. Ever popular the “Nippy Ninth” was sold out and there were many familiar faces. My target was 95 mins, requiring an even pace of 7mins 15 secs per mile. My first 2 miles clocked 13mins 55secs slightly ahead of schedule so I slowed a bit and by the halfway mark was running comfortably and during the 2nd half went past 8 runners with only 1 going past me.

At mile 10 I was 73mins slightly down on schedule leaving me 22 mins to do the last 3.1 miles. This meant upping the pace to about 7mins 6secs per mile which given the downhill last section and a tale breeze was certainly worth going for. Entering the wet playing field to the finish I had to push a bit but got in a few secs under 95 mins. Very happy.

Sorry to Mike and Di but we had to rush off to do a ton of shopping. Some interesting results with two 60 year olds doing battle - Pete Jakeman and Lewis Jones. Lewis came out on top with a sub 90 PB. Jenny Moore produced a scintillating 82 something time.

Exeter 3K Series

Monday 2nd Nov saw the Westgates at Exeter Arena home of the mighty SWRR and Exeter Harriers for the 2nd round of the current 3K winter series. A great and very welcome surprise was the appearance of Lin and Martin. Obviously the 3K distance must hold a special attraction to warrant another long drive; maybe they were trying to work out why their 3K splits in a 5K are faster than their 3K track races.

Anyway the evening was surprisingly dry with little breeze and a large turnout. There were six seeded groups with the slowest off first. Lesley was in the 2nd group and soon eased herself into 3rd place. Someone remarked that she had a very fast but efficient turnover but not quite fast enough to prevent her being pushed back to 4th near the finish. However her 13-20 was another PB.

Lin and I were in the 4th group and I settled down to a sluggish rhythm trying to avoid clipping the heels of a tall bloke who in turn was running extremely close on the heels of Lin who in turn was close to a youngster whose pace changed. I wasn’t running particularly comfortably but managed to keep going and seem to remember running close to Lin for the last 2 laps. Rather than have any possibility of being accused of draughting I moved out and tried to run alongside. On the final straight I managed to ease past her and finished just 3 seconds off my 12-00 min. target.

Martin was in the 5th group and he produced an outstanding last lap with a spectacular final 100 metres.