Thursday, November 24, 2011

Elan Valley 10 mile race

by Lesley

Last weekend found the Westgates back in Wales. We stayed in the same excellent B&B and were made most welcome after my glowing review on tripadvisor. But first we had to get there which we did via a day in Gloucester. Unfortunately my road map was 15 years old and the roads seemed to have changed considerably since then. But we still found the cheapest car park in town where Richard tried to nobble me by shutting the car boot lid on my head. In spite of being somewhat dazed we still spent the day looking at the sights including the waterways museum in which I was particularly impressed with the narrowboat/barge where the living accommodation was smaller than a camper van and whole families used to live on board. So we were quite late arriving, having eaten along the way.

Saturday was dry and mild, perfect for running, and after a leisurely breakfast we drove to the start and then around the race route. The hills weren’t as bad as I’d expected and are probably no more than undulations in Wales. The first mile was downhill all the way and I clocked mine at 7:11, Richard being a bit faster at: 6:08. After the initial sorting out of places I found myself behind a lady with long blond hair who stayed about 50 yards ahead for at least 7 miles. The roads were very quiet and only 2 cars and 2 tractors went past me. The second one was cutting the hedge and took up nearly all the width of the road, causing the blond lady to slow to a walk. Being used to that sort of thing round here I scooted past a bit quicker, and nearly caught up. A little while later she looked round and I realised that she was a bit older than I first thought, about my age in fact. So not knowing how many others were in front, I decided I had enough energy left to get past. There was only about half a mile left to go, so I hung on, counting paces until the finish line came in sight with me still ahead. She finished only 9 seconds behind, and sure enough, when I checked the results she was the same age. Even better – there were no other old crones ahead and I was 1st FV55 in a time of 1:25:23. (Just to put it in perspective, the same time last year, wouldn’t have even got me 3rd place in my age group.) So we stayed on for tea and cakes and prize-giving and I’m now the proud owner of a piece of Welsh Slate!!!

The day concluded with a walk round Rhayader and an evening meal in the Brasserie on the Pier at Aberystwyth, where I had the saltiest pizza I’ve ever eaten. OK, smoked salmon and anchovies do have a head start but I didn’t expect there to be so many of them.

A few words from Richard: I must admit that Lesley did manage to bash her head as I was shutting the boot lid. Soothing comments along the lines of “If you’d remembered to wear your hat it wouldn’t have hurt so much” weren’t received very well as she was still crumpled on her knees in the car park. However I think I managed to retrieve the situation as I offered to stem the flow of blood with an oily rag. Very pleased to say she was fully recovered next day for the race and won her age group. I think this was the fifth running of this race and they say some years it’s been under water so we were very happy with the mild, dry weather. Quite rural and scenic but less demanding than the Wellington Ten or the Humdinger. Reasonably happy with my time of 73:40.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Yarcombe Yomp

Another great low key Axe Valley Runners event - and in case you think you're seeing things, Martin and I did sport our new yellow vests and run as second claim Axe Valley Runners!

This is a (approximately) 10 mile race comprising of two 5 mile loops. We were expecting it to be "gloopy" as Dave Carnell would say, after the rain of late and we weren't disappointed. A cavalry charge from the start across the first field found us in a gateway blocked by a large puddle which was nearly deep enough for a swim and the following fields were soft going to say the least.

I started off at what I felt was a conservative pace but still found myself near the front of what was quite a small field (60 finishers) and with Martin behind me spent the whole race expecting him to overtake me at any minute. After a mile and a half or so the first climb began and I could hear a female runner behind me. I was struggling with tired legs and expected her to pass me and leave me for dead but as we steadily climbed the hill she began to fall back again and I pushed as hard as I could up seemingly endless fields. A brief reprieve from the climb as we came out onto a road and a glorious flat few hundred yards before turning into a narrow, steep and stony track which reduced the runner in front of me to a walk and soon had the same effect on me.

At last we reached the top of the first lap but even then there was no respite for tired legs as we followed a deeply rutted, muddy track strewn with fallen branches, brambles and large stones presenting no easy way through. Another road crossing, some more muddy track and finally a sharp left turn and the beginning of the glorious descent back down to the start.....I didn't look back to see if I had shaken my female rival off and was still expecting Martin and my other rival, Richard Boulter from YTRRC, to swoop past me on the downhill, but I reached the finish/start line without that happening and started on my second lap trying not to think about the mud, hills and obstacles still ahead.

As I reached the welcome flat road on my second lap I risked a glance back and sure enough, Martin was only 50 yards or so behind me with just one Honiton runner between us. I knew I could hold him off on the uphill but that he could easily out sprint me on the steep descent so I gave the final climb everything I'd got and then legged it through the woods hoping I could do enough to stay ahead of him.

At the turning point where the downhill began the Honiton runner was hot on my heels but Martin had not closed the gap. Running downhill on a steep stony track as fast as I dared I just hoped that I didn't catch a toe and do one of my famous crashing falls. Fortunately after a road crossing the rest of the run was across fields and even though they were steeply downhill at least I was assured of a soft landing if I nose dived. As I entered the last field the Honiton runner caught me and we sprinted neck and neck for the line where he just managed to pip me to the post although the time keeper kindly gave us the same time. As he suffered the comments of the on-lookers about lack of gallantry I looked back to see Martin approaching looking for all the world like he'd been out for a little Sunday stroll - whilst I heaved and gasped desperately trying to refill my lungs - but a victory is a victory regardless of your state at the finish line!

We finished in 5th and 6th places respectively and once again the benefits of ripe old age told as were 1st and 2nd age graded overall.

Off to the village hall where the modest entry fee included a bowl of delicious home made soup, a roll, a dazzling array of cake and tea or coffee. Axe Valley really do know how to put on a great event.

This was the last race in the East Devon Community race series which started back in February with the Dalwood Three Hills race, and I am delighted to report that Martin was the overall runaway winner in this event having had some fantastic results at Charmouth and the Dalwood 10k where he scored so many points that no-one had any hope of catching him.