Thursday, June 16, 2011

Burnham 25th Anniversary Triathlon

I’d been anxiously watching the forecast all week and had been bitterly disappointed to find rain was due all day on Sunday. I’d had visions of running along golden sands on a beautiful sunny day. However at least I was forewarned and borrowed a good sized plastic box from work in which I carefully packed all my kit. A woman just along from me had brought an open topped fabric shopping bag. Anyway, enough of the technical stuff, the other thing which had horrified me at first was the ungodly hour of my start time – 6.40am!!! This meant getting up at 4.30am – a time familiar to Richard but not to myself. However all went well and we arrived at the leisure centre and registered, collected chip and goody bag, dumped box next to bike and waited for the swim to start. The organiser asked us to give a rousing cheer to one of the swimmers just finishing his last length. He was a bit slow but when told he was 90 years old we were suitably impressed.

My swim went poorly – not sure why I can do Ok while training but it all goes to pieces on the day. Then out of the pool and into the outside world, which felt quite cold, but only light rain. I wasn’t taking any chances however and dressed in long-sleeved top plus coat and hood and gloves, long shorts and warm socks. All this took valuable transition time so it was a bonus to find that the T1 times hadn’t been recorded on the final results.

Off on the bike and a few cyclists soon went past. The course was quite flat, the only hills being a couple of railway crossings. Being used to the hills round here this was good, and perhaps I could have tried a bit harder. I did feel good though when I actually managed to overtake two other cyclist – and they both had racing bikes. The only people I have ever overtaken previously were either on the phone or smoking a fag!!! Before long the finish line approached and I was into T2 and off on the run. It was still damp rather than raining, but the wind was getting stronger. We got on to the beach and ran towards the lighthouse – a familiar sight to anyone who has done the Burnham beach race, and then followed a path up some slopes of soft sand and through the dunes before emerging back on to the beach. Now the hard work really started as I was running straight in to the wind back along the sand to the finish. It was head down with an occasional glance up to follow the road cones. It’s a strange thing with flat beach runs that you never seem to get closer to the destination. So I counted myself along the cones instead and finally the finish line was there. A few spectators were huddled under the sea wall including Richard, and the finish marshals were well wrapped up. My watch showed an approximate time of 1:45. I’d finished the whole event and it still wasn’t even 9am.

Back to the leisure centre for a good hot shower and it was absolute chaos in the changing room. It was one communal room with cubicles for changing and showers and there were kitbags everywhere, other competitors were arriving, departing, getting changed, queuing for toilets or showers or to be called poolside. We didn’t bother to wait for the prize-giving as it was still a few hours away. I later found out I was second in my age group (out of two)!!! But only by 3 minutes. Perhaps I ought to buy that racing bike after all.....................

Having arrived home in time for a late breakfast, Richard decided to catch up on his sleep. Being a hardier soul I spent the day thawing last year’s fruit from the freezer and making jam. And being glad that I couldn’t swim any faster (which would have given me a later start time and a much wetter day).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The London Marathon 2011:

by Olivia

After a forest of bananas, a novel worth of advice and enough water to flood the Thames I can finally say I have completed the London Marathon.

The 17th of April came round in such a flash that the feeling of nerves only really set in on the Saturday on the way up to the Big Smoke. After dozens of good luck messages began to show up on my phone reality had set in that I was about to take on the biggest challenge of my life to date.

During the day on Saturday I continuously and very kindly reminded my darling mother that this year was in fact about me as at every marathon reminder (which is London is every second ) came her words “ ooo I so wish I was doing it this year”!!

After the biggest pasta dish of my life I then got my head down to conserve as much energy as I possibly could for the day to follow.

At about 4.00pm on Sunday the 17th of April, medal in hand I had completed the London marathon. My only criticism of the day was the cruel process of walking what feels like another marathon to receive my kit bag and to find my family members in a sea of faces who after 26.2 miles all look the same !!

It struck me after I had finished that I had been in such a daze on the way round that I believe I missed many of London’s landmarks , but the images that will stick with me forever will be the fabulous attempts of runners who believed the challenge of just simply running wasn’t enough !

I want to first of all say a big thank you to all at Maiden Newton runners for all their help and support, and also my family who’s cheering kept me going when I truly believed my feet were to fall off . But my main thank you goes to my biggest inspiration – My mum, who through seeing her complete her first marathon last year inspired me to follow in her footsteps (literally). But will be letting her take the credit for next years marathon as never say never but just not for now.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Winchester to Brighton on the South Downs Way, incorporating Poole Park Run...... oh and the New Forest!

One might be forgiven for thinking that the first full weekend home after a hectic three week “holiday” in the US, including running a marathon and an additional 60 plus recreational miles, hiking approximately 50 miles, cycling at altitude and swimming, would be a good time to kick back and take it easy. Well maybe for sensible people that would be the case but not in our mad world.

We were in Poole at 9am on Saturday morning to race the Park Run (Martin was 5th overall in 18.14 and I was exactly a minute behind him in 13th place overall and first lady) before setting off on a weekend jaunt across the South Downs. First there was the small matter of driving the car to Hinton where Martin’s brother lives, leaving it there and then running 11 miles across the New Forest to Brockenhurst where we took the easy option of a train to Winchester.

What with one thing and another it was 2.30pm by the time we arrived at the station in Winchester and we were then slightly delayed by the distraction of stocking up on food and trying to find the start of the South Downs Way. It was, therefore, already gone 3pm by the time we “started”. After the bustle of shoppers and traffic in Winchester and crossing the busy M3 by means of a footbridge, it was a relief to get out into the countryside and experience some peace and quiet.

Unfortunately the forecast for the weekend had not been particularly favourable and it proved itself to be entirely accurate as we ran beneath overcast skies with a strong south westerly wind making it feel much colder than it actually was. After a couple of hours of steady running we arrived in the village of Exton where it was just late enough to justify a stop at the pub for some liquid refreshment and short break. Tempting though it would have been to remain in the pub with its friendly atmosphere, real ales and excellent menu, we knew we had to get several more miles under our belts if we were to reach our final destination by Monday.

Our next target was the village of Clanfield, just off the South Downs Way, but a necessary diversion in order to obtain food. Even we are only willing to take roughing it so far and there is a limit to how much food I can carry – which falls way short of how much food I can eat! The Rising Sun in Clanfield proved to have a decent menu, huge portions and very reasonable prices, all of which was very welcome as it took us much longer to get there than we had estimated and by the time we left again it was already almost dark.

The next challenge was to find a suitable place to camp and this also proved more difficult than we had hoped. A couple of miles after leaving the pub we crossed the busy A3 and rejoined the South Downs Way as it passed through the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. We knew that we would have to pass through this before we could stop but we had to go a lot further than expected and when we finally found a suitable spot to stop for the night it was about 11.30pm and we had completed 44 miles since setting out.

Shortly after getting the tent up we were dismayed to hear voices approaching and cowered inside not knowing what to expect – only to have a group of night walkers pass us by. Amazing that in the middle of nowhere, somewhere on the South Downs at nearly midnight, the only two groups of mad people with nothing better to do on a Saturday night should cross paths!

For once we had managed to find a relatively comfortable camping site and we managed to get a few hours of sleep. When we emerged on Sunday morning the sky was still overcast and it was a relief to get the tent stowed, repack our bags and get underway. It took a while to warm up and to loosen our stiff legs so we walked the first mile or so before breaking into a reluctant trot. The miles passed by swiftly and our early start was rewarded by sighting of deer and an adder and our peace was only disturbed by the occasional enthusiastic mountain biker whizzing past. Part of the route was familiar to us from various long runs we have previously done on the Downs, and this helped as we counted down the miles until we could replenish our food stocks meanwhile munching our way through various protein bars and bags of dried fruit and nuts. Anyone who knows me also knows that I need a constant supply of coffee, especially in the morning, and Martin got off surprisingly lightly considering that we covered 20 miles to Amberley before there was any chance of me obtaining a caffeine fix!

Typically, after twenty miles of deprivation there were two pubs, a bistro and a cafe in Amberley, all standing shoulder to shoulder! At this point also the sun came out and we enjoyed our lunch in the pub garden, which was probably a blessing for the other more elegantly attired and hygienic customers trying to enjoy their Sunday lunch without having two smelly runners sitting next to them and taking their shoes off to give their odorous feet a break!

A long uphill climb followed and as we reached the high point of the Downs all trace of sun disappeared and the wind became bitterly cold. We were headed for Devil’s Dyke now, the point at which we would leave the South Downs Way and head south for Brighton and the end of our travels. It was becoming increasingly hard to break back into a shuffling run each time we walked up a hill and our walking breaks became longer and longer as we headed further east.

Finally we arrived at Chanctonbury Rings and from there we had already covered the rest of the route to Devil’s Dyke during the Three Forts Marathon in 2009, albeit in reverse of the direction we were now taking. We passed through the village of Botolphs, crossed the busy A283 and started the final lengthy ascent which seemed endless. At this point Martin scented the beer and began the final push for the pub with me floundering along behind. My thoughts were not on beer but on sitting down and not moving for several hours!

On arrival at the pub we found comfortable chairs, took advantage of their facilities to make ourselves vaguely presentable and ordered something to eat....and it was at that point that the idea came to us that we could get the train home tonight instead of roughing it for another night. And once that thought had lodged in our minds we headed for Brighton, caught a train to New Milton and somehow managed to summon up the energy to walk the final 3 miles back to our car, arriving home in Sydling at 1.25am having covered just short of 90 miles.