Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Round the Lakes 10k - Boxing Day

We decided to break with tradition this year and drive to Poole Park for the Round the Lakes 10k instead of our usual pilgrimage to the Stoke Stampede. Actually we were lured by the course description of “fast and flat” and omitted to notice the mention of laps.

The first challenge was a Round the Park search for toilets which weren’t locked – there weren’t any so we did the first km of the race in reverse to Race HQ at the cricket pavilion, then a km back to the car to change and then another km back to the start. At least we were well warmed up, I’m just glad that we arrived with plenty of time to spare.

This 10k is, as billed, completely flat. However the course is 4 laps of a large salt water lake on a narrow and in some places “slippy” path, with a detour across grass, through trees and puddles, passing by the temporary “reindeer” stables. By the end of the first lap I was almost wishing I’d worn off road shoes.

With over 350 finishers it was inevitable that there would be lapping – I overtook the back marker at the end of my second lap. It was OK to begin with, passing the odd straggler, but by lap 4 I had caught all the recreational joggers running three abreast and chatting with no thought for the people behind who were actually trying to race. It became a game of Russian roulette – do you take the easy way round, between them and the lake and risk ending up in the lake, or jump up onto the grass?

Martin and I were both hoping for a good time and under the circumstances we were both quite pleased. Martin finished in an excellent 28th place in a time of 38.39. I spent the whole race chasing down Pete Jakeman but he got away from me on the last lap and I finished in 41.45 - a post broken hip PB, although only having done about 3 road 10ks since I broke my hip that isn’t too much of an achievement. I subsequently found out that I was first V45 – prize in the post.

On the whole we have decided that we will be returning to Stoke St Gregory next year!!!

And on that note, congratulations to Lesley who completed the Stoke Stampede in yet another personal best time and also to Richard who despite feeling less than well managed to finish the course without needing resuscitation or a stretcher and slightly ahead of Lesley.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wellington Monument

Sunday 20th December saw the Westgates at Hemyock for the 25th Wellington Monument race. Lesley had trained hard for this race with an extra incentive having just had a birthday and entered the next age bracket. Saturday night was particularly cold and about midnight I was roused from a warm bed by the sound of running water. Thinking the water supply pipe for the garden tap had burst I struggled outside with a torch. To my surprise everything was wet, the sound of running water was the downpipe from the roof; it had been raining. How can it rain when it was so cold? The sky was clear and I hoped it wouldn’t be an ice-rink in the morning. It was an ice-rink in the morning! Lovely and sunny but icy. We parked up in the parish hall car-park and I fell over getting out of the car! Although most of the race route was OK, the finish up to the school was no good. The pavement and road were a sheet of ice and the race director had no option but to cancel the race, a brave decision, correctly taken.

A large number of runners went on the organised at your own pace off-road run up to the monument. Lesley and I decided to do the original course starting and finishing at the 6 mile marker avoiding the worst of the ice. It was a perfect winter’s day for a fast training run, which Lesley treated like a race. On one narrow corner going up the hill a car came down too fast and skidded into a fence. For everyone’s safety the race director was right. On higher ground towards the monument the rain had fallen as a light dusting of snow and we exchanged greetings with about 30 other runners who had decided to get their money’s worth and run the course. For the record Lesley completed the 6 miles in 50:20. Over all not a bad day, and we still got a mince pie and an anniversary hat.

Monday, December 07, 2009

East Devon Way Recce Legs 1 - 6

(Sorry Richard and Lesley for bumping your Full Monty Blog off the top, your fault for posting it so promptly! Click here to see it )

The drive to Exmouth

We were only 2 minutes late picking Phil up on Saturday morning and that really wasn’t our fault (hat, horse, tractor, long story, don’t ask). I unselfishly allowed Phil to take the front seat so that he could get the full thrill experience whilst I sat safely in the back – further from any impact with large, fast moving metal objects. Having said that we arrived in Exmouth unscathed apart from Martin becoming cross at Phil and I for chatting instead of map-reading – I found myself ejected from my comfort zone and driving Martin’s Ka with the manic clutch whilst he barked orders at me from the back seat. Bit of a problem with the car park/toilet/finding the correct place to start but as this is already threatening to become a very long story I’ll cut that short.

Leg One Exmouth to Lympstone Common (4.6m)
Off we set just after 11am with the estuary on our left, the railway on the right and the large font instructions clutched firmly in my hot little hand. What could go wrong? Well it would have been nice to make it as far as half a mile without catching my toe in a stone and falling flat on my face. Phil gallantly waited until he was sure that I hadn’t a) broken something or b) burst into tears before he started laughing. Fortunately I have a high pain threshold – it’s no problem for me to limp 10 miles with blood gushing from my knee – Martin intercepted us shortly afterwards so I insisted that he get a photo of my injury before it got covered in mud.

The rest of the run passed uneventfully – the instructions are very clear and the East Devon Way, unlike the Wessex Ridgeway, is clearly signposted. We lost count of the times that a little red Ka and our personal photographer popped up en route but lots of unflattering photographs of me puffing along in pursuit of Phil will NOT be appearing on this blog.

Leg Two Lympstone Common to Higher Hawkerland (5.8m)
I was glad to send Phil off with Martin so that I could slump into the car with sweat pouring off me. Attempts to read the instructions to the next handover were thwarted by my glasses steaming up every time they came within about 3 feet of me. However despite the fact that I had no idea where I was or where I was going, the instructions were clear and I arrived at the next car park with plenty of time. In fact by the time Martin and Phil arrived I had gone from sweating to shivering.

Martin said: One reason we took so long, apart from it being the longest leg, is that we somehow went off course after 10 yards, and wandered around in the woods for a couple of minutes before retracing our steps and finding the correct path out of the car park! I can’t blame Phil for doubting my navigation at the bottom of a steep hill a bit later when there seemed a more likely path off to the left, luckily in this case I got it right, and mutiny was narrowly avoided.

Leg Three Higher Hawkerland to Harpford (2.9m)
Phil and I crossed the dangerous A3052 which no runners are allowed to set foot on during the race, but which apparently is quite safe to cross during recce runs.......and set off on a nice downhill section through the woods. At the bottom there was a stream with a cunningly concealed bridge, which we wasted valuable time using to get across although Phil was quite clear that on the day I should not waste time trying to keep my feet dry. Some more well way marked footpaths, a small section of road, a very steep but fortunately short climb and we could see Harpford Church ahead – just a few sodden fields and the swollen River Otter between us and our destination. I was extremely grateful that Martin had not only arrived but picked up supplies en route – we had grossly underestimated the time and I’m not used to skipping lunch (not to mention elevenses). Given the unsociably early start breakfast was a dim and distant memory.

Leg Four Harpford – White Cross (2.9m)
What a nightmare!! Trying to stuff food back, read the map and stay in control of Martin’s mad car I got hopelessly lost. The instructions were useless!! I turned right too soon and didn’t get suspicious that I was on the wrong road until grass started appearing in the middle and then it turned into a stony farm track. Had to reverse back about half a mile, set off again, turned left when I should have gone straight at a cross roads and eventually got onto the right route – a single track lane along which I met three cars and had to reverse back for two of them. On one occasion into a muddy gateway that I had severe doubts I’d ever get out of again. Finally got to White Cross about 3 seconds before Martin and Phil – luckily most of their route had been uphill or they would have arrived there long before me.

Leg Five White Cross to Hatway Hill (3.4m)
This was familiar territory for me as apart from the last short section the East Devon Way is also the route of the Four Trigs. Phil and I zoomed happily downhill for the first 1.7 miles until we reached the road crossing in Sidbury. Unfortunately Martin had got a bit confused and thought this was where the next hand over point was and so had assured Phil that this leg was all downhill. He was therefore slightly underprepared for the horrendous climb ahead of him. We gave up any pretence at running half way up the first field – by the time we got halfway up the really steep part through the woods Phil had even given up trying to talk (I only put that in as an indication of how bad the hill really was). At the top we turned off the Four Trigs route and enjoyed the last half mile stretch gently downhill to see Martin jogging out to meet us. Phil, having already covered over 19 miles decided to take the easy option and hitch a ride in the car. I dithered for about 2 seconds, nearly offered to run the last leg with Martin but then callously sent him off on his own.

Leg Six Hatway Hill, part way to Middle Knapp Farm and back again (should have been 3.2m...)
For the happy ending to our story I hand over to Martin who no doubt will enjoy regaling you with stories of my years to come when people are introduced to us there will be a side comment “Don’t mention the keys!!!!”...........................................

Martin Said: About 2 miles into the final leg, I was nearing the bottom of a long hill which I had just run down with the wind behind and was thinking “I’m glad I am running down and not up that”, I received a call from a slightly hysterical wife claiming to have lost her copy of my car key. “But I explicitly checked that you had it before I started this leg!” I replied, incredulously. “You’ll find it”, I assured her. “No I won’t, we’ve looked everywhere, and you’ll have to come back”. So, I did, into a stiff wind, expecting all the time to receive another call saying the key had been found. But on arriving back at the car and opening the boot it became clear that Lin had found about the only place in a Ford Ka where it is possible to lose a key so completely – on top of the rear light so that when the boot was closed it would be in a little pocket between the light and the hatchback. It was just bad luck that the Ka lacks an interior boot opening and cannot be unlocked except with a key. I’m sure it could happen to anybody, so I won’t mention it again - until I do something equally boneheaded unfortunate.

Anything you want to add, Phil?

Full monty-cute

Sunday 6th December saw the Westgates at Ham Hill for the 11th Full Monty-cute trail race. After missing Bicton through injury this was a real treat. Just over 10 miles of multi-terrain including ten hills and some lovely mud after the recent bad weather. Nice to see Dave Webb at the race HQ, back in the car park we found him parked immediately in front of us. Hopefully I prayed he wouldn’t be in front of me at the finish. Weather was breezy, bright and warm for December. Going was heavy and ambitiously I set off too near the front at a silly pace. I saw five potential rivals who have beaten me before and decided to just go for it. Before long Dave went past but I sort of slid back past him on a very muddy downhill slope. By mile 3 I was gasping for a drink, how long to the next water station. I was dripping sweat and eventually was able to tip two cups of water over my head and drink one. Pressing on a marshal counted me off in 24th position, impossibly hopeful!

At a road crossing were familiar faces – Lin and Martin cheering us on. Saw the six-mile marker and knew it was going to hurt from now on. A Wells City runner chatted for a while; he was expecting his partner to go past at any moment and sure enough she caught up and passed, looking fresh as a daisy. (Not surprisingly she was first lady). At the top of another hill were the enthusiastic Lascelles. “No walking aloud” I heard as I plodded upwards – I was walking quietly. Brief wave, short pause at the drink station, then sharp right and I caught a glimpse of Dave only seconds behind, damn…

Managed to put a bit of distance between us down a downhill rutted slurry track, but didn’t feel too good. By about mile nine he had caught up and gone past, but on another grassy hill I caught him again and tried to convince myself that he didn’t look good at all. Didn’t work and he pushed ahead. Coming to the finish I just accepted I wasn’t going to catch him and he finished about twenty seconds ahead. However just before the finish there was a tempting puddle and I jumped two-footed into it, “well done” a marshal called out “you’re the only one who has done the course properly!”

Time was irrelevant, 27th was good enough for me, and a spot prize as well. Walking back to the car with Dave he let it slip that he was hoping that I would have a bit of stomach trouble, to make sure that he stayed ahead!

Some words from Lesley:

From Richard’s account you’d think only a couple of Maiden Newton Runners were there, but in fact there were quite a few of us. Andy Staples spent the last few minutes before the start frantically trying to find Charlie and Olivia to give them their numbers. However that was the last I saw of them as we were off. Lovely start, going past the monument with the sun shining, and even saw three deer crossing the path right in front of me, but all too soon we had reached “that” hill. Was pleased to find a rope – climbing practice and running at the same time! But some of those ahead were still making slow progress, so I struck off into the undergrowth and pulled myself up using any handholds available. Hated the steep down hill muddy bits and loads of people went past me on them, but the downhill grassy slopes were another matter, and I was flying past other runners by avoiding the path and running in the long grass and nettles. Pleasantly surprised to see Lin and Martin at the top of another grassy hill, but told them what I thought when they asked if I was doing Exeter 3K the following day!!!

By now my legs were dead and a lot of plodding followed, especially up hill 9 through the woods. Tried to run up hill 10 but “falling forward slowly” would be a more accurate description. The sight of parked cars and the encouragement of a fellow runner helped me through the last half mile, although I repaid him by overtaking shortly before the finish. No jumping in puddles for me, my lace had come undone again and I was glad to reach the line without falling over. I did have a speck of mud on my vest from a slight fall, but my trusty water bottle was in a sorry state after getting dunked in some particularly vile mud.