Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ash Town Tree Trail Race

by Dave Carnell

This event had its first running on Thursday 30th June, starting out from Ash Primary School (near Martock) at a billed time of 7.00pm.  The route was described as being about 7 miles, covering country lanes and a few fields on its way out to (and back from) the beautiful, hidden "Town Tree Nature Garden."

It was a lovely summer evening, so the gathered throng of nearly 60 eager runners weren’t too perturbed by a bit of delay in getting the start organised.  The race finally got going at about 7:15, with the start being at the top of Whitcombe Lane and looking north to the Levels.  At the top being particularly key as we immediately set off on a gloriously long downhill stretch of about 1km (part of the Ash Excellent Eight route).

Unfortunately I’d been egged on by friendly banter from some Crewkerne runners and my addiction to gravitational assistance was just too much of a temptation.  It’s a very rare thing to lead a race but for a short and heady moment that’s what happened as I tore up the tarmac in a spectacular fit of downhill madness – and then it flattened out!  Having shot my bolt, the rest of the race (ie most of it) was then very hard work despite being mostly flat, but I didn’t mind as the hidden "Town Tree Nature Garden" was an absolute delight.

This unique garden is the creation of just one man, Chris Burnett.  Over many years he has built a non-formal landscaped water garden that now takes up 22 out of 100 acres of the owner’s farm.  The race route weaved it’s way for about a mile and a half through the gardens on the same path that visitors would take – brilliant!  These gardens are open to the public for a modest £2-50 entrance fee and are a must for anyone that wants to see something a little different (for info visit

One slightly unusual feature of the race was where, for a short distance the outbound route met the homebound route and runners were going in both directions.  For a moment I thought I was going the wrong way, but happily all was well and I got back OK to finish 17th overall.

BBQ, cakes and refreshments were helpfully on hand to complete a very pleasant evening, with proceeds from the event going towards the upkeep of the Town Tree Trail and Ash Primary SchoolA relaxed low key event made all the more memorable by its little foibles and is a ‘must do’ for next year.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Charmouth Challenge

Last Saturday afternoon saw Team Maiden Newton - Charlie, Andy, Martin and myself - at Charmouth on a delightfully sunny afternoon for the Challenge, a race which lives up to its name with (according to the Garmin) 440 metres of climbing, including Golden Cap. This is one of our favourite races as can be told by the fact that this was our seventh visit.
We were extremely well prepared by the time the race started, mainly due to the fact that I had misread the race information and thought that it started at 2.30pm (fun run) when in fact it was, as usual, a 3pm start. You'd think I'd know that after all these years........
The race had a very prompt start, a sort of, hello, thanks for coming, go! type of thing and off we went scattering unsuspecting tourists in our wake. As usual I had been eyeing up the possible competition and had not spotted any known rivals but one girl went off very fast ahead of me. Martin's repeated warnings about starting too fast seem to finally be sinking in and I let her go and started at a pace which felt extremely comfortable. I had a feeling that she wouldn't be getting too far ahead of me.
As we started climbing Stonebarrow Lane I became aware of Yeovil's Richard Boulter and as he passed me on the hill decided to use him as my pace maker. The further up the hill we went the smaller the gap between me and my female rival became and as we left the stony car park and turned onto the coast path at about 2 miles I went past her and didn't see her again.
The route dropped sharply onto Muddyford Lane and then heads across a series of fields - some tactical sprinting got me ahead of the queues at the stiles here, one of the advantages of knowing the course so well, and then a short section along a muddy path through trees before the climb to Golden Cap began.
I had passed Richard some miles back and as I finally reached the top of Golden Cap I thought I had dropped him, but two things I've come to know about him, one is that he reads the Maiden Newton blog and the other is that he is annoyingly persistent!......and sure enough I became aware that he was still breathing down my neck. From that point on I was confidently expecting him to bomb past me on one of the downhill sections.
Coming down off Golden Cap is always a challenge, first a series of steps cunningly designed to trip a weary runner and then a very steep field which I tacked down in an attempt to stay upright. At this point in the race I was scanning ahead hoping to catch sight of Martin but there was no sign of him so I knew he must be having a good run and hoped that he would achieve his goal of being under an hour.
Running back along the coast to Charmouth is like being on a roller coaster, you're either hurtling downhill or panting up and over the years we've done it in rain, gale force wind and sunshine, happily today was the latter, one of the most pleasant outings we've had at Charmouth.
Finally reaching the top of the last hill I was looking forward to the downhill finish only to get an annoying stitch which hampered my breathing and slowed me down, but fortunately not quite enough for Richard to get past me and I managed to hold him off in the sprint to the line, finishing in 64.05, my fastest time here to date and retaining the ladies title.
Pleased as I was with this performance it was as nothing compared to Martin's race. He had finished in an amazing 57.51, nearly 4 minutes faster than last year and in 4th place overall, a fantastic achievement at a race of this standard. He modestly protested that the standard was lower this year but research later showed that in 2010 when the first 20 finishers were undoubtedly of a higher standard, he still would have been 6th with this time and as I always say, you have to be in it to win it, so well done to him. What a star!
We headed down to the sea for some cold water therapy to the legs and I still can't believe that I said this about the English sea - but it was actually too warm! It may not have been as beneficial as intended but it was certainly very pleasant and we just got back to the car in time to cheer a strongly finishing Charlie in - she had knocked an incredible 9 minutes off last year's time and then Andy finished struggling in with a nasty cough and a sore Achilles, either of which would have been a good excuse to drop out.
After an exceedingly good cream tea and collecting of awards - Martin was first vet 50 - we headed back to Sydling well pleased with our afternoons endeavours.