Monday, December 20, 2010

Midwinter Dream

Never let it be said that we are fair weather runners, and to prove that point, Martin and I headed off down to Seaton last Saturday evening to join Axe Valley Runners on their annual Midwinter Dream.  We met up with the other hard core runners at the Hook and Parrot at 6pm when the temperature was a balmy minus 4 or so and set off along the coast path towards Beer, seven (fool) hardy souls.

We followed the route of the Grizzly across to Branscombe Mouth, even venturing down onto the beach for a short stretch and finding the shingle much easier than usual to run on as it was frozen solid!  A sharp climb up the other side and then through the trees finally dropping down to our first welcome break at the Fountainhead pub - where we promptly divested ourselves of several layers of outer clothing and hung it round the glowing log fire.  Fortunately, probably something to do with the inclement weather, there were very few other customers to object as we huddled round the fire for a few blissful minutes and enjoyed (I think) a lovely glass of cold beer.

It was oh so hard to leave the warmth and head back outside, turning inland now for another climb and knowing that we had five miles of running through the snow before the next break. The route was not so familiar now, lots of wood, lots of snow, a brief moment of bashing around in the undergrowth when even Garry managed to lose the path, finally emerging onto the road and arriving at the soup stop, a strategically parked car with flasks of steaming hot and very welcome leek and potato soup.  Not quite so festive but infinitely more warming than beer!

The temperature seemed to be dropping and as we headed down to the river crossing near Colyton it was not a hard decision to detour to the bridge crossing rather than wading through the ford as we normally do.  A nice flat section of easy running across snowy fields by the river and we were soon heading through the deserted streets of Colyton, the Kingfisher pub our destination and another brief break from the cold as we refuelled and defrosted.

It was getting late and even colder and we were all beginning to flag a bit so when a short cut was mentioned it wasn't long before Garry had a mutiny on his hands and all but he and one other runner abandoned ship and scurried towards Seaton in rat-like fashion. The last few miles were definitely a test of endurance as we slithered along slippery roads, our only thoughts now on warmth, food and rest.  We finally arrived back around 10.30pm and taking leave of our companions headed for the camper van where we had foolishly decided to spend the night.

Firstly I couldn't get my shoes off because the laces were frozen solid and so were my fingers! After some very welcome Indian food, which barely touched the side, we settled in for the night but we couldn't get warm no matter how many layers we put on. Finally, after a few sleepless hours, we got up, scraped the ice off the inside of the windscreen and slithered back over the icy roads to the warmth and comfort of Sydling, arriving at about 3am when the whole dream felt like it had turned into a bit of a nightmare!

Apart from the cold it was a brilliant evening, a great route, great company and the snow certainly turned it into a special experience........but I'm really hoping for a better temperature next year!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Reindeer Run

Following on from a week when we thought we may need some reindeer to provide transportation to the start of this race, we were very relieved that some kind of thaw occurred overnight and we could slither over to Otterton for the Reindeer Run without too much difficulty.  And although it was still very cold it was positively balmy compared with the misery that was last week's Bicton Blister.

This is a fun off road 10k organised by Sidmouth Running Club and Martin and I had a serious title to defend - first married couple! - which prize saw us enjoying a free lunch at Otterton Mill last year so naturally we were keen to repeat the experience.

A 10am start is the single downside to this race but once the crack of dawn start is behind you the rest of the race is enjoyable (apart from the uphill start) and even more so this year with some minor route changes which were all improvements.  Once the fun run split from the main race after the first km and I no longer had to worry about the two small boys zigzagging wildly about in front of me I could concentrate on trying to keep Martin in sight.

After turning off the road the route climbs up across some fields, drops back down near to the River Otter before heading back up hill across some more fields, a diversion from the usual route which took out all the serious opposition - all the leaders ran around the edge of the field instead of following the markers straight ahead and back down to the river.  Fortunately the guy in front of me realised and went the right way - I would have followed him ether way - and as we dropped down a steep hill it was with some relief that I saw Martin still up ahead having chosen the correct route.  For the rest of the race the front runners gradually caught us up and overtook us having completed an extra quarter mile or so.

Out onto the road and across the River Otter, a section of flat easy running on the road before turning back towards Otterton and another route change here as we were directed up a slight hill and across more fields, a pleasant diversion from the extremely muddy and difficult track normally taken.  My favourite part of the race along the flat riverside path follows, marred only slightly by the knowledge that the river crossing lies ahead as you are directed under the road and through waist deep water.  I hadn't realised how much I was dreading it until I arrived and found much to my delight, no water!  Just some rather pleasant concrete, result!  I had a sneaking suspicion that there might be a nasty surprise later on to compensate but fortunately the organisers weren't that devious!

On the home stretch now - a few more fields, another river crossing - by bridge! - then the last few fields and a steep downhill section to the finish.  Martin finished in 11th place in 43.06 and I was first lady home in 18th place overall and 44.16 - much more respectable than last week's resounding defeat at Bicton.  And much more importantly we regained our title and picked up another free lunch, although we hadn't realised that there was some serious competition this year in the shape of Lucy and Martin Owen - fortunately Martin was one of the front runners who took the scenic route, but I think we might just have beaten them anyway.  However the challenge has been thrown down for next year when we might have to work a bit harder for it!