Monday, December 17, 2012

Boscombe 5k

Lin and I had really been looking forward to this race for a while because it was to be Lin's first for three months, and a step on the road to recovery from her injury, and we would be going to our favourite restaurant after the race. And its a cracking little race! Dead flat along the seafront from Boscombe pier for 2.5k, then a tight turn around a man holding a lamp in the air calling out times, then back to the pier. I like the fact that you can see who is ahead of and behind you at the turn, and the sand on the course, plus the sound of the surf crashing on the beach in the dark is somehow exciting, and exotic.

But first we couldn't get a reservation, then the weather forecast started looking decidedly dodgy, then I found out how unfit I was at the Street 5k on Wednesday with a time over a minute slower than last year. So I wasn't really that keen on it any more and would readily have wimped out, given half a chance. 

But Lin is made of sterner stuff, so we turned up half an hour before the start, just as the heavy rain stopped (but not the wind). We registered,  and prepared ourselves for the ordeal. My goal was to beat my Street time, and hopefully finish ahead of the other V55 males, Lin's was to finish without too much discomfort from her Achilles.

After a jog downwind past the start and along the seafront we turned, back into the 20mph wind and got a taste of what the second half of the out and back course would feel like. Then back to the start, lined up, and we were off. Less of the usual stampede, because numbers were well down on the usual couple of hundred. I pushed hard the whole race, turning in just under 9 minutes, then battling back into the headwind, gratefully tucking in behind an overtaking runner from Poole who turned out to be my V55 competition. I shamelessly drafted for 2k before making a desperate bolt for the finish with 200 metres to go. Lungs bursting, I managed to open up and hold on to a slim lead and also finish under my Street time. So I was fairly pleased, despite taking over a minute more on the return half. 

I jogged back down the course, anxiously scanning for Lin, but she was unfortunately well back, more than I would have expected, even given her loss of fitness. As feared, her Achilles had started to play up almost immediately, and she had had to back off and limp home over 3 minutes down on her usual time which would have won this race normally. She was still first in age-group, but that was no consolation as this was clearly a setback for the injury. Hopefully a bit of rest and continued rehab, and she'll be back in training early in the new year.
After buying a bag of Tesco's cheapest frozen generic mixed veg (even cheaper than the value peas) to use as an emergency cold compress, we consoled ourselves with a fish dinner at our second favourite pub on the way home. There are much worse ways to spend a wet, windy evening in December.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

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Monday, November 05, 2012


Saturday 11 August saw two big events in the running world. While Mo Farah was speeding round the Olympic track to 5000m glory, 117 runners were making their way, at a more sedate pace, around the Maiden NewTen Madness course. Luckily I was stationed under the old railway bridge so was able to listen to Mo’s magic moments on the radio, and then attend to my marshalling duties. We were very pleased to see several of our new ‘Monday night runners’ taking part, including Louise Goodman, Alice Moore and Sean Clothier. I would particularly like to congratulate Floss Wright who, at 17, is making a big impact on the club’s average age. After completing the NewTen course, she is now deciding whether to join Mo Farah at the Great North Run, or to target a race next year.
Next, a quick general knowledge question. Are the ‘Trossachs’ a) a sensitive part of the male anatomy, b) something you kneel on in church, or c) an area of Scotland? The answer turns out to be “c) an area of Scotland”, and this is where we spent the first week of our summer holiday. Our running opportunities included a scenic path around the shores of Loch Katrine, where Rob Roy roamed with his cattle raiders in days gone by. I was training for The Beast, a 13-mile race at Corfe Castle that includes some brutal cliff climbs. After a week in Scotland, we moved to the Lake District, the home of British hill-running. There is a whole fell-running sub-culture, with hardy athletes who would put Southern softies to shame. Perhaps the most impressive of all these great runners is the legendary sheep farmer, Joss Naylor. Now in his 70s, and still running, his past feats include multiple race victories and amazing achievements, such as covering 72 peaks in 24 hours in 1975, a route that involved over 100 miles of running and 38,000 feet of ascent.
I set off for a training run on a damp morning and, as the track climbed, the clouds lowered around me. I must have missed my turn because the path led me through a bog and then up and over 2 small peaks, steep enough to have me scrambling up and down the slippery stones. With only the occasional sheep for company I was starting to panic until a breeze began to disperse the clouds and I could find my way back down.
This brings me on to this month’s running question, which is ‘what is the best way to run downhill?’. My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, says that the best thing to do is not to go up a hill in the first place. If, however, you do find yourself heading downhill, the best advice is not to ‘brake’, by leaning back and landing on your heels, but instead to lean slightly forward and land on the balls of your feet. The aim is to visualise yourself flowing down the hill like a river, though for most of us it feels more a case of bumping downhill like a sack of potatoes.
Back in Dorset, I joined Martin, Lin and 450 others on the start line for The Beast. The route includes 2 huge flights of steps up the cliffs, but I had a secret weapon with me, namely my hat. I found that the peak of my cap stopped me looking upwards to see what was still to come, keeping my morale intact long enough for me to reach the top and the path back to Corfe Castle.
With the nights now starting to draw in, we will soon be testing the batteries in our headtorches for our Monday and Wednesday night runs, to which anyone is welcome. I should also mention the Sydling 5K Fun Run on the morning of Sunday 21 October.


This month I have the unexpected pleasure of reporting on a triumph for Maiden Newton Runners, making our own contribution to the country’s fantastic summer of sport. Never mind the achievements of Bradley Wiggins and Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Andy Murray, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir, we have 3 more names to add to the list. Charlie Spencer, Lin Lascelles and Zoe Hayward combined as our ladies team in the King Alfred’s Torment cross-country race at Stourhead. The pre-race omens were not good. Lin’s summer had been disrupted by injury, though she is getting back to full fitness, and Charlie had been slower than usual at the Yeovilton 5K. It turned out though that this was because she had packed the wrong pair of trainers, and ended up running that race in her Pilates shoes. On a wet and windswept September Sunday the dream team lined up, relishing the weather, the mud and the hilly course. Lin was first home, followed by Zoe and then Charlie, this time in the right shoes, and their combined times gave them first place in the ladies team category.
Our team stood proudly for the presentation ceremony. Sadly we do not yet have a flag to fly or a club song for such (rare) occasions, though any suggestions would be welcome. Olympic winners know that they will receive a gold medal, but in club races there is more scope for trophy innovation. Previous winners of our own Maiden NewTen Madness, for example, have been surprised to receive one of Lesley Westgate’s home-grown cucumbers. Lin, Zoe and Charlie did their best to look pleased when they were each presented with a large, ungainly wooden object which, on closer inspection, turned out to be a sort of cuckoo-clock without the cuckoo. Too ugly to be displayed, but too large to be easily hidden at the back of a cupboard, these trophies have given our victorious team a housekeeping dilemma.
This month’s running question asks what have we learnt from the Olympics? My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, had 3 things to say on this subject. Firstly, he announced that he has re-branded himself as an ‘armchair athlete’, and as such took pride in the country’s excellence at sports that can be done sitting down, such as cycling, equestrianism, canoeing and wheelchair racing. In fact he is thinking of having larger wheels fitted to his armchair so that he can get round his house more speedily. Secondly, he said that he now felt better to know that some of the money he wastes each week on the lottery is being used for sports funding. Finally, he said that he would like to see more beach volleyball on the telly. For my part, I was struck by the success of so many female athletes, and the amount of public interest that was generated in sports other than football. I would also say that perhaps too much emphasis is now being placed on elite performance, and the success of the very few world-class competitors, and that it is more important to encourage mass participation, no matter the standard.
As well as the success of our ladies team at Stourhead, I am very pleased to report that we have seen a significant increase in the number of women in the club. The Monday night runs have been particularly effective at getting more women out running with the club, and we hope to keep this going throughout the winter, with the help of head torches and hi-viz clothing. Next month I will be able to report on how we fared at the Parrett Trail relay, and in local races like the Cerne Burn 10K and the Sydling Fun Run.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

King Alfred's Torment

A very wet and windy day saw a huddle of Maiden Newton Runners shivering on the start line at the beginning of this scenic, hilly 7 mile race.

There were some very strange marshals out in those woods today!

Zoe shows her speed.

Go Charlie!

Maiden Newton Runners win the Ladies Team prize!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Charmouth Challenge

Race report by Dan

I was very disappointed to be stranded in Cattistock by flooding on the day of the Charmouth Challenge, so it was great to hear that it had been re-scheduled. I turned up a day early by mistake, but decided not to recce the route, so as to avoid unnecessarily tiring my legs (I think I heard this advice from Dave's mate, Mr. L. Notbother). No recce needed, the course was well marked with marshalls at the right places and even two water stations. I kept far too close behind Martin and Lin at the start, but they must have been running a tactical race, because I had enough energy to hit the first hill fairly hard. Once it levelled off, there was a flat section, with long views and I could still see the front runners, perhaps only 500m ahead! 

There were more hills, and I found myself occasionally being overtaken on the medium climbs, by people that I would then overtake as they walked on the really steep bits. There were some dastardly steps that break the stride and make running very tricky. My legs were burning at the top of that bit...I would probably have been quicker overall if I had walked, but there's some satisfaction to keeping on running and not giving up.
Normally I'm one of the more reckless at descending, but some of the runners that charged past me on the steepest descents must have had even more of a death wish. These were the same ones that I ran past going uphill. This felt very odd - normally it's the other way around.

There were fantastic views, and I could see sails off Lyme Regis. Some friends from Sutton Bingham sailing club were out there racing. It felt quite breezy on top of the hills, so I expect that the serene white triangles in the distance probably belied frantic scenes of spray, capsizes and 'nautical' language.

About a mile from the finish I was overtaken by an athletic looking figure, who blasted past me, then settled into about the same pace as mine, 20m or so in front. When I saw the finish line flags, I thought I may as well try, so sprinted as quietly as I could. He saw me about 3 seconds from the line when I was a meter behind, and sprang to life. The finish line was quite narrow, and we 'crashed' across it, nearly taking out the timekeeper. They 'clocked' him first, but it was a close thing. Turns out he has done the OMM, an event that I am very tempted by. Well if he could do it... On the other hand, the OMM requires good navigation, so I don't think finishing behind someone that's done it in anyway indicates my readiness.

1:14 by my watch. Did not check the results, but by the look on Martin and Lin's faces, I think they probably did the club proud. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Despite misgivings about the date conflicting with another small sporting event taking place at the moment the 8th Maiden Newten Madness was well supported on a lovely evening which even saw the post race prize giving take place outside for the first time in race history.

As the 117 runners toed the start line for Phil's "brief"-ing the burning question was whether Paul Rose would defend his 2011 title or whether Alex Todd, Axe Valley Runner's winner of the recent Haselbury Trail, would give him a run for his money.......or would some speedy tourist from parts unknown take them both by surprise?  Further down the field most people just wanted to finish in time to partake of the fantastic spread of cakes provided.......

The course record of 37.49 was set in 2009 by Bertie Powell of Woodford Green and as the minutes ticked by it became apparent that it would be unbroken for another year.  Eventually a cry was heard from the last marshalling point and the ever consistent Paul appeared powering over the line in an excellent time of 39.45, just over a minute ahead of Alex.  Alex was closely followed by Mike Pierce but then there was a gap of almost two minutes before the rest of the field began to arrive.

As usual Yeovil Town Road Running Club had turned out in force, not only taking the overall winner's trophy, but also the first V50 prize with Mike Harvey finishing in 45.40 and keeping it in the family, Mike's sister, Rose Harvey, also from YTRRC was first lady home in 48.59.  Richard Orme from Egdon Heath Harriers broke the green and white stranglehold on the honours to take the first V60 prize in 51.41.

Egdon Heath also took second place in the ladies race with Elaine Falcus finishing in 50.14 and the V35 and V45 prizes went to Sandra Hewson of Westbourne RC and Alison Barry from Wimborne AC respectively. Maiden Newton Runner's Lesley Westgate took the V55 prize narrowly beating her arch rival, the other Lesley (Nesbitt) by 8 seconds in the process.

First Maiden Newton Runner home was Richard Rider in 11th place with Dave Carnell following him over the line and Jackie Webb was delighted to break the hour to finish in 58.18.

Early feedback indicates that everyone found the race as well organised and friendly as ever, Phil having done his usual excellent job of making it happen whilst the rest of us flapped around pretending that we were helping.  And I think it would be fair to say that the reputation of the post race refreshments being the best in Dorset was proved to be true yet again.

Thanks to everyone that came along to make it such a great evening especially when the alternative would have been to stay at home and watch the fantastic achievement of Mo Farah becoming a double gold medallist at that other small sporting event...................

The results are here:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

View(s) from the Back of the Pack

The last two amusing episodes of the View from the Back of the Pack by Dave Webb

JUNE 2012
The big event of the past few weeks has been the club’s annual Johnny Kipps run, but I will start elsewhere, with the London Marathon. The 37,000 starters included five of us from Maiden Newton Runners. Richard Rider relished his first Marathon, and was beaming happily at the finish, while Lin and Martin Lascelles sped round the course so that they both clocked sub-3 hour times. Lin was the 2nd lady in the 45-49 age range, an achievement which is both astonishing and thoroughly out of keeping with the spirit of our club. Charlie, meanwhile, started to wish that Micky would emerge from the crowd to give her a lift on his bike, as he had done on one of her training runs, but still finished in a good time, and is already starting to wonder about doing it again. She has asked me to pass on her thanks to all those who sponsored her for Children with Cancer UK; so far she has collected £2,000, with more to come. For my part, my first words on finishing, after several minutes of gasping and cursing, were ‘Never Again’. The first 16 miles or so went OK, the next 4 were a struggle, and the last 6 miles were decidedly unpleasant. I knew that Jackie and the boys would be watching around the 25 mile mark, so I forced myself to keep running till I saw them, and then to carry on to the finish.
I was therefore not expecting the headline in my newspaper the next day, “Dave Webb is surprise choice for Olympic marathon’. On closer study, however, it turned out that the selectors had not chosen a middle-aged jogger from Dorset, but my 30-year old namesake, a chartered accountant from Leeds. I will though keep my diary clear for August 12th in case I’m needed.
Our April meeting may have been the first time, in our 27 year history, that we found ourselves seated in the corridor between the bar, scene of a noisy and popular pub quiz, and the skittle alley, occupied for the evening by the British Legion. Our meeting was then punctuated by the questions of the quizmaster, such as: Can polar bears jump? True or False: the earth and the moon are the same age? What farmyard animal is used to search for truffles? How many strings on a ukulele?
My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, was keen to answer some of these quiz questions, so I dropped my planned running topic and instead asked him to explain the origin of the 5 Olympic rings. He confidently announced that they represent the doughnuts that are presented to the first 5 finishers, correcting my long-held belief that they symbolised the 5 continents involved in the Olympics.
I must move on to the big event of recent weeks, the Johnny Kipps. This is an annual club run, in a 6-mile circuit from Wynford Eagle via West Compton and Eggardon. We have run it in all weathers, from sizzling sunshine to this year’s tempting combination of strong winds and heavy rain. 11 hardy runners turned out to compete for perhaps the most prestigious prize in sport, the coveted biscuit tin, and for the first time it was won by a non-member, one Dominic Taylor from Sydling. Our quick-thinking chairman, Phil, overcame this technicality by awarding Dominic a year’s membership so that we could offload the biscuit tin to him without infringing any club rules.
Finally, I must mention our new Monday night runs, aimed at those who don’t want to go so far or so fast as the Tuesday runners. Meeting outside The Chalk at 7pm each Monday, these are already proving popular and bringing new members into the club. Which country is the largest producer of cheese?

MAY 2012
I am writing 2 weeks before running in the London Marathon, so my thoughts are turning to last-minute race preparations. We have already done our last long training runs which, in Charlie’s case, ended with her hurtling down the hill from Sydling on the back of Micky’s bike (possibly practising for an unusual finish in London on 22 April). The final weeks before a marathon are known as the ‘taper’ phase of the training programme. This phase is the one that comes most naturally to Maiden Newton Runners, since it involves running less and eating more. The idea is to scale down your running efforts, so that your legs are fresh on race day. At the same time you need to increase your food intake, sometimes known as ‘carbo-loading’, to ensure you are not running on empty. The purists would also avoid alcohol in the last few weeks, but in our club we are always careful not to take things too far.
Another part of the marathon build-up is to enter some races during the training phase. On March 25 there were 5 club members running in the Yeovil Half-Marathon, which was treacherously scheduled for a 9.00am start the morning after the clocks went forward. Despite the club’s proud tradition of incompetence, we all succeeded in arriving on time, although I discovered that my clubmates had taken some innovative preparation methods. Andy had walked from Cattistock to Sydling for a pub lunch the day before, downed 2 or 3 pints, and walked home. Pete, meanwhile, had also agreed to Dan’s suggestion of entering the Night Runner, which started at 7pm the previous evening. At some point he realised that he had signed up for 2 races that began within 14 hours of each other. He did well in the Night Runner, finishing 8 miles at about 8pm, in 8th place. He also took the precaution of getting up early to eat porridge, so that he stood on the start line at Yeovil less than 12 hours after finishing his previous race, with only a few hours’ sleep to refresh him. Not surprisingly, Pete found the latter stages of the race somewhat trying, ‘especially the last 10 miles’. I should also mention Charlie, who set a new personal best for the half-marathon of 1 hour 49 minutes, despite the hilly route; I think she was mainly relieved to have beaten Micky, her husband, who also ran this year, despite his dodgy knees. Finally, Richard Rider put in a good bid for the coveted ‘King of the Hill’ crown which is awarded to the runner with the quickest time up Hendford Hill, getting into the top 10 times for that part of the course. And I must mention that, on the same day, one of our new members, Alison Ambrose, ran her first marathon in Barcelona, in an impressive 4 hours 19 minutes.
Still on the theme of pre-race activities, this month’s running question is ‘What is the best thing to eat before a race?’ My co-panellist, Mr Les Knott-Bother, was keen to go first and declared that he has a long-established tradition of eating a big fried breakfast before a race. His answer surprised me in several ways until I realised that he was talking about Sunday mornings while he waits for the Grand Prix on the TV. For my part, I favour a big bowl of Dorset Cereals Simply Delicious Muesli* about an hour before the start.
I must end by sending good wishes to Mike and Di Ashworth who have moved to a new job near Salisbury, leaving a big gap in our club. Mike’s amiable absent-mindedness will be hard to replace, though we will do our best.
* all sponsorship deals willingly considered

Thursday, May 10, 2012

‘A Marathon Moment’

Wow – thank you Maiden Newton Runners for giving me the opportunity to do the London Marathon in 2012!  Running around in the darkness before BST, it didn’t really hit home what this wonderful day would involve emotionally.

Essentially, I was lucky and thankful to have the opportunity to run it because I missed the ballet last year (it was done in dusted by May – so get on-line quick for 2014!)  Charlie Spencer and I were the only two who wanted the club place.  So we agreed to help each other, by getting a charity place as well.

On a chilly run to celebrate New Year (well, we are a running club!) I quizzed the Phil, the club chairman upon what the expectation was of me; he said ‘none – just turn up at the start line!’  Now this is easier said than done, because there are another 40,000 or so trying to do this at the same time, on the same Sunday morning in the same far corner of London!  The other bit of advice gained from Lin, Martin and Dave was ‘get the miles done in training’.  Needless to say, this is hard too, but it proved fundamental in the end.

 Although a major task in the 3 months beforehand, the training enable me to literally enjoy and remember every mile ran during the race, for the faces and sites seen, and music and cheers heard, and not the pain endured.  I’ll skip the training bit to the fun bit, but is worth mentioning that we live in a beautiful country.  It was joy to explore the paths of Dorset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, Southampton and even Slough (!) during the training.

Established in 1982, the London Marathon is fantastically well organised; from publishing advice and tips a month beforehand, organising an exciting expo in London in the days before race; to markers with clocks at every mile, and food, drink and Vasoline provided when ever needed, and the fact that you get your bag handed to you within minutes of finishing!

Getting to the Start is nerve-racking, especially if it is a new experience, and if you have a track record to cutting it fine to the start of races!  And having a pee beforehand was a tough test of nerve in itself; 30 minutes in a queue leaving 10 minutes to throw the bag in the lorry and find the relevant section of the Start before 09.45!  It could all go very wrong, and being surrounded by fellow runners all feeling the same ‘uneasiness’, it was easy to strike up conversation and hold each other’s bags whilst we warmed up.  Filtering into the Start was seamless, and everyone around me was beaming, probably because like me, they had made it!!

It was not until passing under the first mile banner that the relief hit me, and I was able to enjoy myself.  I’d been keeping this quiet, but I had sustained a knee strain during the last weeks of training, which hurt when I walked.  In the last 2 weeks of training, I cycled instead to rest it, and it was only after running a few minutes did the jarring go.  The rest is history!

During the race, the music and party atmosphere was just sensational; an electric charge beamed out of the top of my head throughout.  The Caribbean sounds of South London just transported us to the second half of the race, where they say the race really starts.   Then the sights of London begin; the Shard, Tower Bridge, the City, etc (even the Institution of Civil Engineers at mile 26 – don’t tell me you missed it?!)  And whatever one thinks about bankers, they had a great party going on in an intimate amphitheatre of Canary Wharf’s steel and glass, and it was amazing to run though and experience.

It started to get harder after the City, and the quads started to pull after 17 miles.  However, my pace was steady and I was on track to get my target time.  So I remembered all the training I had put in, focused on my action and dug in.

One thing that is hard to do is spot loved ones in the crowds.  Looking at faces, they appear to look through you in the main because they are looking through for their loved ones.  ‘June’, the lady dressed as a Cheatah, and Super Mario brothers 'Mario and Luigi'  received the majority of casual support in our section of runners.  On mile 23 I got mine – friends Steve and Rachel gave out Neanderthal shout and eye contact was gained, just when I needed it!

Now runners were starting to pull up 50 m or so; either walking, stopped by cramp or those that had fallen.  This was unnerving, and the mind started to wonder; did I tie up my shoe laces properly?

Another thing that was surreal was the tunnel under one of the bridges on the Embankment before Big Ben – we descended from the Strand into darkness, and then silence.  Only the sound of panting runners and pattering of trainers echoed off the walls.  These few minutes allowed us to compose ourselves, check the hair, and practice the victory celebration.... then we rose up the ramp, the crowd fringing the edges of daylight above, and the sound returned.

I got over the line in under 3.5 hours (ok, 3.29 so I cut it fine!) which was my goal.  Behind the scenes at the Finish, it was eerily silent again.  Here, we were able to collect our thoughts, and give mutual congratulatory glances at each other, and even shed a tear!  The hum drum soon returns though, when we filed out from behind the fencing to join friends and family.  Here, I met with Dave, Lin, Martin and Charlie and we shared our stories.

I am very thankful to Maiden Newton Runners for giving me the place, not least Charlie; and for supporting me on some of the long runs during training.   It was an electric day, one that I’ll remember forever and comes recommended!

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Poole Runners Summer Series - Race 1

Last night Martin and I headed down to Upton Park near Poole for the first 3.5 mile race in the summer series organised by Poole Runners.  Although we have enjoyed a couple of seasons of the winter series of 5k races also put on by Poole, it has taken us a while to get around to the  summer version - although summer was not a word you would readily use to describe the weather last night.  The setting could not be faulted - the park is lovely - the cold, gloomy weather was anything but.  The race started at 7.30 and I was getting worried that I would need a head torch, there was never any question about whether or not to wear gloves!

Our expectations were low as we lined up at the start - our legs are still in post marathon recovery state and I had a disgusting snotty cold as further excuse for poor performance - but we had decided a race would be a good boost to our rapidly declining fitness levels and so at 7.30 we joined in the headlong rush from the start line, conveniently situated next to the toilet block in the car park!

Despite this inauspicious start the rest of the route was lovely as we turned, almost immediately, onto a pleasant tree lined track to begin our first lap. My legs felt light and strong and I set off at a brisk pace keeping Martin well within sight for most of the first mile and a half. There were some tight turns and muddy bits, not to mention a few tree roots and then a section of easy running along a board walk with the lake to our right. I was very aware of a female rival breathing down my neck on the first lap and just before we re-entered the car park to begin our second circuit she passed me but then seemed to slow down.  As we ran down the tree lined lane for the second time I overtook her and she seemed to fade and drop away.

Most of the second loop was really hard work as my legs began to protest at the misuse they were suffering but it was made slightly easier knowing what lay ahead and although I was expecting to be overtaken at any moment I managed to hang on to the lead in the ladies race despite another challenger appearing on my shoulder.  The finish funnel came into view much sooner than expected as the race did not finish where it started and Martin was there encouraging me to sprint in for an unofficial time of 22.34.  He had finished over a minute ahead in 21.23 and although the results have not yet been posted I suspect he will have been the first V55 finishing as he did somewhere in the top ten.

All things considered a good result and we are already looking forward to the next one!

This is a really excellent race and a very pleasant way to spend a Friday evening, especially if the weather is more seasonal!  Here is a link to the rest of the series just in case anyone is tempted:

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Last Horner Water 11?

Take some of the less demanding bits of Stagger, some of the best running tracks from the Seaview, some of the magical river sections of the Drogo and a bit of scenic moorland road and you have the Horner Water 11. Add a clear blue sky to a chilly spring day, attach marker tape to a few trees, provide a water station and lots of marshals,and you have all the ingredients for possibly the best race of its kind in the country.

Runners seem to drift almost by chance to an isolated Somerset beauty spot. Part of me didn't want to write about this race, to keep its secret safe among the lucky few who know. Summoned by Fred Hagan to an imaginary start line, we posed for a group photo. Fred then warned us of the highland cattle with huge horns that stood their ground menacingly as the course was laid. Lesley seriously considered a DNS as she remembered the terrors of the comparatively tame cows at Haselbury.

We set off along an enchanting track beside the burbling Horner Water with its ancient woodland. Birdsong filled the air and all was well with the world. This race sneaks up on you and it becomes more demanding - the first half climbs from 198ft to 1545ft, with a tiring section across the moor. We were then rewarded with a steep downhill 3/4 mile road section with good views, before returning to tracks, moorland and woods. I loved the seriously narrow, steep, slippery gully strewn with tree roots as described in the course notes and wondered how Lesley would fare on this section.

All too soon we were back on part of the outbound track and heading for the finish. By all accounts the distance is about 10 miles and I was very happy with my time of about 84 minutes. In true Seaview style Minehead RC had provided a stupendous array of sandwiches, rolls, cakes, pies, biscuits etc for the runners. As I settled down on the grassy bank to a huge slab of date and walnut cake it was obvious by all the blood and dirt that several runners had taken a tumble.

Lesley came home looking strong followed some minutes later by Graham Newton of AVR. He is an excellent runner in his own right but today ran with his daughter who was over from Ecuador.

Given the countryside, the distance, the challenge, the weather and the special dedication of Minehead RC, this was probably the most enjoyable event I have ever done.

Thursday, April 12, 2012



Just a few short weeks ago I got an E mail from Charlie Bladon (MNR long distance cyclist) asking if I was busy over Easter? As a most of you know I struggle with the written word at times, but I really should be able to type “Yes sorry I am busy”

Instead I managed to sign my self and two good friends up to joining Charlie and a fellow AUDAX member Andrew (more about Audax later) to a 24hour 400KM ride, just to get a Weatherspoons breakfast in York.

Any concerns/fears we had, were pushed a side by Charlie’s confidences is our ability! As the date drew closer, Charlie’s organisational skills swung in to action with E mails of maps and instructions, including attempts at explaining AUDAX rules (being French there were plenty of them, but they could be changed when or if required!!)
Below is a list of the stages we would follow, from leaving MN at 8.00am on Good Friday. You will note the 400km has already stretched to over 450KM (that is 270 miles in old money)

Leg km Climb m Climbing (meters per km)
Maiden Newton 0 0 0
Bradford on Avon 76 920 12.1
Cirencester 53.8 396 7.4
Moreton in Marsh 44.07 481 10.9
Leicester 96.53 556 5.8
Newark on Trent 64.4 288 4.5
Thorne 72.35 264 3.6
York 46.74 117 2.5

453.89 3022
Actual quotes from Charlie’s Emails

“The route gets progressively flatter as we go on, which will allow us to make up time if required. As you know I am not built for hills so don't want to go off too quick, but am more than happy to sit on the front on the flat. The last 200km are appeciably easier”

“Controls: For the audax virgins amongst you, you need to understand that one of the joys of long distance cycling is sitting on a bag of coal / logs outside a 24hr service station at 3am eating a Ginsters pie washed down with crap coffee. I very much hope to be able to provide this experience for you”.

Below are the had hand picked refuelling points along the planed route

Bradford on Avon there is a Sainsburys
Cirencester has a choice of Tesco or MacDonalds
Moreton in Marsh: Esso garage
Leicester: 24hr garage / cafes
Newark on Trent: 24 hour garage
Thorne: 24 hour garage Texaco
York: Weatherspoons.

Something else to note for later, we had one member of the team who will not shop at Tesco and anther member who regularly preaches how bad Mc Donald’s are.

As you will all know the weather was great leading up to the Easter holiday, but then Snow fell as far south as the midlands just two days before we were due to set off. This looked to be the perfect excuse for backing out, not a chance. Charlie assured us the snow would be gone and as we were avoiding high ground it would be fine!

True to his word, we may have had a frost but in MN at 8.00am on Friday the sun was shining. It appears the paper shop is used to Charlie coming in at strange times to get his Audax card stamped before setting off on, what to most are mad journeys. But the sight of 5 of us all getting our cards stamped before heading off to York seemed to cause quite a stir among the locals still half a sleep collecting their papers,

Not being able to say NO has seen me take on a number of strange events, so I should have just taken this one in my stride. But to be honest it wasn’t until we were about ten hours in, that I stopped looking for reasons to turn back and accepted the challenge.

The first stage went well to plan and we enjoyed refreshment at Sainsbury’s Bradford on Avon, I think this was the first time Charlie tried to assure us some of the worst climbs were now behind us, if any of you have driven out of Bradford on Avon towards Cirencester you would question that comment.
On we went to our next stop at Cirencester where the group split for our refreshment between Tesco’s and McDonalds.
Two stages down we made the decision as traffic was light, to take the direct route straight up the Fosse Way. This was the first sign we got that Charlie really did not like hills, if you have never been up the Fosse way. It is best described as a roller coaster; there is some stunning country side perfect for view from a nice soft top sports car or motor bike. But for a push bike it meant a lot of hard work and the average KPH (mph) dropping quite quickly. We eventually arrived at the Esso station in Morton in the Marsh, only to find their coffee machine was broken. Undeterred after refuelling we set off slightly behind schedule, for the longest stage of the route. This meant continuing along the Fosse Way all the way to Leicester, the route continuing to undulate all the way. leading to statements from our leader along the lines off “I am never going to use this route again” followed by “don’t worry the route is flat/down hill from Leicester to York”. This led me to question why people always say they are going up North.

By the time we reached the outskirts of Leicester it had started to rain and we were well in to the night. Passing several takeaways in the hope of finding somewhere we could get inside and have some hot food, we continued further and further in to the city centre with no sign of a McD or similar. Eventually a Tesco express was spotted, with a call “stuff my principles; I need something to eat and Drink.

We must have been a sight, 11.00pm 5 wet and weary cyclists clutching hot cups of coffee and stuffing down food like we had not eaten for days. But we seemed to be invisible to all the locals heading for a night out, I can not imagine we were a sight you regularly see at this time of night.

I think it is fair to say heads had started to drop a little at this point, but we were still optimistic of making up time and making it to York for breakfast. After all it was going to be flat all the way now!!!
Next stop Newark on Trent, unfortunately we had not got far before an unseen pot hole cased a double puncture. Working in the dark, cold and wet conditions, the repairs could not be compared to those of a formula one teams. But with a team effort we were on our way again, still no sign of the promised flat roads. After what seemed like hours of constant climbing, we were reward by a down hill run in to Newark. Unfortunately signs that say 24hours don’t seem to mean 24hours. The bright lights of a newly built 24 hour Asda lead us only to a locked door. We did manage to find a fuel station which was open, with a very help full assistant who willingly served us coffees though the night hatches. Not once questioning what the hell we were doing at 2.30am.

Only two stages to go, one long stage to Throne followed by a short stage to York, but there was some sort of 22 hour rule which had to be included.

22 hour rule: We are required to get a stamp at 22 hours. I am hoping this will tie in with Thorne, but if not it may be a case of an ATM receipt wherever we may be. 25km must be completed between hours 22 and 24.

The leg to Throne started badly when we got off route (that means lost) followed by yet another puncture. We did have the luxury of street light this time, so time was shaved off our last effort. We eventually got back on route (knowing where we were), but had lost quite a lot of time and what a surprise, done a lot more climbing. At 5.00am we reach a junction with the main A1 which just happened to have a service area. Very cold and very wet, an unscheduled stop was agreed, more principles slipped as we tucked in to a McDonalds breakfast and reviewed our options.

If a support vehicle had been available at this time, there is a strong chance we would have been on our way home. This not being an option we would have to go on. A review of a damp map, showed we still had about 20 miles to Thorne, followed by a further 28 miles to York. This would put us in York at best around 10.00am; this was not helping to incurring the team back on their bikes again. As I mentioned earlier AUDAX has many rules, but it seems they can be changed to suite your situation.

Lesser distances: The rules allow for us to complete 20% less than the previously submitted amount subject to a minimum of 360km so as long as we do 360km we get validated, as as long as we still have a 22 hour stamp.

This gave us the option to take a direct route to Doncaster instead, only a mere 22 miles away. 22 hour stamp gained, it was 6.00am and we were off. All we had to do was make Doncaster by 8.00am and we would have completed an Audax 400km event. The light of a new day was breaking and the rain was clearing, added to that we seemed to have actual found a flat route at last.
With the worst behind us and the end (well Doncaster) getting ever closer, I must have start to switch off, as I found myself almost falling a sleep while still riding. Stopping for a quick power nap was not an option, so the next best thing was to take to the front and pick up the pace in an effort to wake up. Not sure this was much appreciated by all the team but it worked for me and it got us in to Doncaster Station bang on the 24 hour allotted time. Where son James who had left Dorset at 4.00am to ensure he would be there to pick us up and claim his breakfast, unfortunately Doncaster Station had no breakfast facility so this had to wait until the first service we came to on the M1 (thanks James)

To sum up
We completed 24 hours on a bike
We covered 400km (242miles)
But we did not make it to York

Am I bothered we did not make it to York “no”
Will I be joining Audox any time soon “no”

That said I enjoyed the adventure and the team spirit. I am still left wondering what you have to do before the body finally says no enough is enough.

Thanks again to Charlie for all his efforts in arrange everything.
But before you ask I am busy next Easter.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Night Runner

Night runner tactics: by Dan

1. Wearing a hi-vis vest (and pink socks!) to blind following runners can seem like a good tactic, but can backfire. I was blinded by the reflective tape of the runner in front. I would normally be happy to tap along behind, but it was so annoying that I felt obliged to 'blast' past and get sufficiently far ahead that I would not get overtaken again for a while, before settling back into normal pace.

2. A good head torch is essential, but it doesn't matter if it's not your own. I was stuck behind some annoyingly slow/cautious runners on the narrow downhill rocky/rooty/steppy section. No overtaking places, so I had to shine my torch for them so that they could speed up!

3. 'Stealth mode' - when sufficiently ahead of the runners behind, sneakily turn down the power on your torch. Hopefully they can't follow and will waste just as much time as you manically zig-zagging across the fields searching for the way-markers.

This was a great event - roots, rocks, mud, beach, and a massive climb up steps just before the last charge across fields to the finish.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breakfast in Rhayader

Last weekend saw the Westgates in Wales for the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 mile race. This was the third time we have based ourselves at our favoured B&B at Ysbyty Ystwyth for the races in the area. 1pm on Saturday is a very sociable time to start a race; gives you the option of a late night before, a reasonable breakfast and the chance for the weather to warm up.

However on Saturday morning I still felt tired, ate too much for breakfast and the weather could have been better. We have driven over most of the course on previous visits and knew what to expect: a daunting 3 mile climb on a mountain road soon after the start was preying on my mind. The car park at the leisure centre was full but there were plenty of free places in the town. We registered and tried to relax in the car. The sky was blue on one side but a bit grey on the other. Still felt a bit uneasy. Fat local man came out of his back gate with wife. “Too tight to pay for the car park, look you” he called out for all to hear. “F*** off, the car park was full up, you div” I replied out of the open window. It’s probably best Fat man didn’t, or chose not to hear. Ignorant fat man with his fat greasy breakfast every day.

With that off my chest I felt a little better, but still slightly annoyed. Then the skies opened and heavy, driving rain splashed onto the seats as I tried to hurry the windows shut. It was no consolation Fat Man was getting wet. We were going to run 20 miles up a mountain road in March in Wales. It could easily drop below 5 degrees with hailstones, was really tempted not to run. Dressed for the run with helly, club vest, rain jacket, gloves, water bottle, energy bars and car key – not exactly running light, but the race notes advised to come prepared.

To the start, the rain has stopped and there is a minute’s silence for a race organiser who died a couple of weeks ago. We’re off - feeling better now – a quick circuit round the town, then out and up. My target time 2hrs 50mins at 8.5 min/mile pace or at worst 3 hrs at 9min/mile. These are carefully considered targets, on Monday I did a hilly 16 miler at 8.66min/mile and struggled. On race day you expect to do better and multiples of 8.5 or 9 are quite easy to work out over 20 miles even when the brain starts to fade.

Go steady, long way to go. Who’s that old boy ahead – Cheddar running Club, he’s about my age, catch him up and break my vow of running in silence, well we’re both from Somerset in a foreign land. The injection of pace to catch him has woken my legs and I move on past. Through the town and onto the mountain road; feeling good but always do near the start. Uphill now, three miles, take it slow and make up time later on the downhill. Go past some runners, others go past me as they get into rhythm. Teignbridge Trotter goes past, I think she’s a sub-3.5 hour marathoner; stay slow, take it easy draught behind anyone, cut the corners. Long, long slow plod up the hill; I don’t believe it someone has just gone past and cut straight in on me, I have to change stride and still narrowly avoid clipping their heels- would have served them right- they had the whole road to run on! Thought about saying something but notice they’re wired for sound; what’s the point- can’t you enjoy running without being wired for sound? If I were race director I would ban running wired for sound- especially on roads with traffic.

Press on; getting warm now, soon at top and 2nd drinks station and my pace is still about 8.5 mins/mile-very happy. Stretch out on downhill and run with and then draught behind a long haired bloke. Turn off mountain road, downhill, over bailey bridge and start our long journey round the lakes [these are really a series of reservoirs in the Elan Valley created to supply water to Birmingham]. We have driven this route several times but running really picks out the undulations. Mile markers come and go, not feeling too bad, scenery couldn’t be better, weather good for March but still got all my gear on. By about 12 miles try and convince myself I’m not tired, got to keep going, got to beat Lesley! Down the hill, round the corner, stretch the pace, keep going. Think of big breakfast on Sunday, sausages, bacon, egg, beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. Down the hill, round the corner, keep on going. Pace is still good- sub 8.5 mins/mile. Reservoirs are familiar, dams sturdy and huge as if built by giants. Roads winding, undulating, some good downhills, keep going.

Ahead a couple have slowed and I will catch them- they are refuelling. I don’t believe it- she has taken her energy gel wrapper and walked to the side of the road and bent down and placed it on the ground! I don’t understand- is this some local ritual- to anyone it must just look as if someone has selfishly discarded rubbish in an area of outstanding natural beauty! As I approach my mouth won’t stay shut, “thought you could have taken that with you”, I snap. “Yes” she replies. YES!! – What sort of reply is that? Maybe she is from somewhere very foreign. I cruise on past leaving them to their sticky thoughts. Keep on going, down the hill, round the corner, think of big breakfast.

Set my sights on an old shaven-headed boy (probably my age), and gradually close the gap. What’s all this – he keeps looking at his left hand – he seems to have some sort of clock in his palm! Well why not?! Go past him and begin to regret having said anything to litter-lout. If she comes back past me she might make some sarcastic comment like “feeling a bit tired, are we?” This is not going to happen, keep on going, down the hill, round the corner, think of big breakfast, be positive. Begin to think perhaps it might be OK to be wired for sound; I might like to listen to Leonard Cohen, soothing and steady for a long run!

In this area a church, a school, a chapel, a mill, some shops and twenty farms and cottages were submerged by the filling of the reservoirs. The poet Shelley stayed here in 1811 and 1812 before the flooding, writing about the “most divine” and “highly romantic” scenery. It really does beat running in Street!

At about 16 miles the route coincides with part of the Elan Valley ten mile race we did last year. Lovely rocky sides to the left and water to the right. I’m feeling good, the sun comes out, and my jacket comes off, keep on going. Can’t be bothered to tie jacket around waist, but holding it in fist it keeps unravelling. Catching lady runner ahead, feeling good, then not feeling good, need toilet. Have to stop to wee on the rocky wall, Shaven head with clock in left hand goes past checking his timepiece. Pack my parts away, no time to worry about dribbles, got to catch timepiece man. Familiar road, Elan Valley visitor centre on right, downhill, straight on, think of big breakfast. Sharp right, round marshal and bollard. So tired and resent running round bollard instead of cutting corner. On, on, catch lady runner again. She stops dead, encourage her – “keep going, you’ll get under 3 hours”. As I go past I think perhaps that may not be encouraging, especially if she was hoping for 2:30.

Across another bailey bridge and gently downhill through the Elan Village built in 1909 to replace the wooden village which housed a thousand workmen and their families during the dam building. This is good, I am now catching time-piece man, don’t pause, go past, keep going, stay ahead. This is bad, very bad, a nasty, evil stomach wrenching, leg torturing hill at 17 miles. Work hard, not too hard, think of breakfast. Top of hill, a strange finger post which shows the village of Llanwrthl at 4¼ miles in both directions! Who cares, we only have three miles back to Rhayader. This is good, very good apart from the damn jacket which keeps unravelling, refusing to stay constrained in either fist. More downhill, round the corner, keep going, think of breakfast. Lady oriental runner with long ponytail goes past; she looks like she is out for a Sunday stroll, don’t try and keep up with her.

Two miles to go and I give myself a pat on the back – the time 2:29:40. I can afford to fade badly and clock two 15 minute miles and still beat my lower target finish time of 3 hours. But I don’t want that, I want a sub 2:50 finish, downhill, round the corner, smell the big breakfast. Now catching a Mr oriental runner, he looks a bit more than tired, cruise on past. Turn right onto main road, oh no, another hill, “don’t worry only one mile to go from the top”, the marshal says. It’s not fair – a hill at 18.5 miles – not fair but keep going. Well I never, I spot long-haired bloke that I draughted behind on the mountain road some fifteen miles ago. What’s this, a supporter has got out of his car and is pacing Mr Long-hair, surely this can’t be allowed. This spurs me on, and I assume the draught position again as we climb the hill, wait my turn, and cruise past him down hill. Less than a mile now to Rhayader, not far, round the corners, taste the big breakfast. No, no, no another hill. I forgot the final hill through the town to the finish. Never mind, go past a very young runner – could be my grandson. He’s not stupid, he can recognise an old git when he sees one. I might be smiling, running tall and looking good but he knows I’m done! He changes gear and I say “well done” as he flies past. Not far now, keep smiling, pretend it’s all OK, you are SWRR, the supporters are clapping, keep going up the hill, round the corner, then the very last corner, smell the finish. 2:47:14. Very nice. Lesley not far behind 3:08:03. Excellent. I’m sure she has it age-graded.

Don't wait for shower at B&B and go to leisure centre. This was not without some hilarity- lads in changing room discussing the race. “Bit like the Vyrnwy”, said one. “But Vyrnwy is flat and only 13 miles” said another. “So it’s like Vyrnwy without the F****** hills and F****** miles” said another. “Well it’s got the water the Vyrnwy” replied the first. Game set and match. Much banter ensued as someone dropped something in the shower and it probably wasn’t safe to bend down at that moment.

B&B Sunday, breakfast booked for 8:30. Lesley suddenly shaking me awake, quick it’s 8:15, get up, get up. Can’t be, still tired, what’s up? Oh sorry, wrong time it’s only 7:10. Ah bliss, an extra hour in bed- better than a small premium bond win. Now for breakfast. Gently first, healthy orange juice, steady now grapefruit with yogurt. I can hear sizzling, smell frying and now Angela and Peter appear- large platter for me and large platter for Lesley. Big breakfast 2 leek and pork sausages, 2 rashers of prime bacon, fried egg, baked beans, tomatoes and mushrooms. Savour and enjoy slowly, wash down with pot of coffee and finish with toast and jam. Might be a long way to go for breakfast, but it was worth it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Street 5k - A Farewell Race

Not only was this the 138th race in the 23 year history of the Street 5k winter series, it was also the last race which we had the pleasure of running with Mike and Di..........for a while at least.

Firstly knowing my passion for meaningless statistics as you do, I must tell you that this was the 37th Street 5k that Martin and I have run since our first outing there in January 2005, or in other words we have run the 1k loop of the town centre 185 times - each. This was also the first race I did after I broke my hip - recording a tear inducing 28.05 in November 2005 when I finished about three from last. If I only hadn't stopped on the fourth lap and burst into tears I could have gone sub 28! It's also the only race where I have managed to fall over and sprain my ankle....before the start!

The point I'm trying to make (slowly) is that Street is a race that is dear to our hearts and it was entirely fitting that we had a chance to share it with Mike and Di before they temporarily escape the clutches of Maiden Newton Runners. It was a night when I was proud to be part of the Maiden Newton team - not only Martin and I, Mike and Di, but also Charlie, Richard and Lesley, Dave Carnell and Dave Butt with Jane giving welcome vocal support.

To the race, finally. Having got out of my sick bed the previous evening to droop around at Mike and Di's leaving party, I was in slightly better form 24 hours later. As usual Martin headed off into the distance but the surprise element was Dave Butt charging off after him and opening up a useful lead on me. Dave Carnell was obviously having some difficulty adjusting back to the tarmac from the slippy stuff after his outing at Butleigh on Sunday and I passed him on the first lap but the other Dave stayed stubbornly ahead and it took me until lap four to finally haul him in and pass him. My next target was the leading lady and although I managed to catch her I left it a bit too late and could only sprint across the line on her shoulder recording a time of 19.17, one second slower than her.

The rest of the team finished one by one and the times will all be posted on the results page of the web site but I have to make a special mention of Charlie - last time I lapped her and then ran her last lap with her after I had finished. This time I barely had time to get back down the High Street to run in with her and she finished very strongly knocking 44 seconds off her previous time, absolutely fantastic and boding very well for a good run in London next month.

Off to the presentations where Maiden Newton runners managed to pick up a thing or two and then to the pub for post race festivities. Luckily I have five witnesses to Charlie's rash statement that she intends to run the Grizzly next year...and she hadn't even had a drink!

It was a fantastic evening and the only sad part was having to say fare well to Mike and Di at the end of it. It's been a pleasure and a privilege to have them as club mates and friends and I know that I speak for us all when I say that they will be very much missed. We all wish them the very best of luck and happiness in their new life.

And don't think moving to Wiltshire is going to stop us from tracking you down one of these fine summer evenings....we know where you're going!!

Monday, March 05, 2012

Blog with no race

Sunday 4th March saw the Westgates at home in bed. Raising myself on my left elbow I could see from the window the eight sided pond. The rain was still hammering down – the first substantial rainfall for 33 days, so quite a fortuitous decision not to race today. The pond was getting a bit too full as there is no overflow pipe. During construction I decided not to install one for several reasons:
a) There might be a small chance that a baby fish might get swept down a tube in heavy rain
b) The tube outflow might stain the paving
c) The tube might be a weakness in the rendering and concrete walls.
For those who are interested I empty the pond by manually placing the outlet pipe from the filter into a length of downpipe which can be conveniently run onto the lawn or into the greenhouse as required. For those of you who are completely uninterested you could suggest a new prize category for the AGM – most boring blog of the year.

Anyway with no racing on Sunday, in fact no training at all for a week, there was plenty of gardening to do. It’s surprising how much time training and racing takes up, and I can see how appealing it might be to downsize and concentrate on running. On a slightly worrying note, in less than two weeks time I have the 20 mile “Round the Lakes” race in Wales and the longest run these tired little legs have managed this year is 13.1. This could be another one where Lesley leaves me behind

Monday, February 27, 2012

Babcary 7.5 mile race x 2 +2 = 17

by Martin
Our Sub-3 Training plan called for a 17 mile run at "long run pace" this Sunday, but for some reason we decided we needed to return to Babcary to swell the numbers at that excellent race. Last time we did it was in 2004 and we were training for a marathon that year too, so then we ran the course a second time after the race (which Lin won), but the major drawback was that by the time we got back over an hour had passed, and we had missed the prize presentation and more importantly, the cakes. Previous experience has shown that the average time for other greedy runners to polish off the best cakes after a race is 30 minutes, so that even if we ran at full race pace afterwards we would still have to do no more than 4 miles, meaning at least 4.5 miles to be run beforehand. That is what we planned to do, and so we started 75 minutes before the race, running up the first hill out of Babcary. After a couple of miles we were both feeling strong, so we decided we might as well do the entire course, and only have 2 miles to do after the race itself to complete the 17 miles.

After 4 miles and a couple more hills, we were both feeling the miles in our legs, and rather wishing we had turned back at 2.5 miles, but by then we had passed the point of no-return, so we pressed on. By the time we finished, we were well warmed up, but more tired than we had planned. Hopefully, there would still be enough in the tank to do the race justice. We chatted with Dave Carnell, Richard Westgate, and Clive Harwood while waiting for the race to start. By now, the fog was starting to burn off, and it was warming up nicely.

The race got under way and we were off again up the hill, about a minute a mile faster than the first time. I was still feeling pretty good by the time we reached the 2 mile mark, in just over 12 minutes, on the heels of a V50 rival, Nick S. At the time I thought he was in first place for the V50 category, but it turned out that there were another 2 even faster old geezers ahead of us, so I needn't have felt so bad as Nick slowly pulled away with my legs feeling heavier as each mile passed.

By the time I reached the final hill back down into Babcary, I was well behind Nick, and another guy, but still ahead of my main goal which was to beat my previous course best. I sprinted for the finish line to get in just under 47 minutes in 7th place, very happy with the result. Clive just pipped me into 4th place in the age-graded results, but we were both well behind the winner John Shapland who, at 58, finished 3rd overall with an age-graded 89% - in another league.

Anyway, back to the race, Lin finished a couple of minutes after I did, slightly disappointed not to beat her previous best, but still a very good result, first lady, and she ran at a faster pace than her last 10k race, despite the extra warmup lap.

Dave C finished in a further minute or so, closely followed by Richard, but by then we were off back up the hill for a mile out and back. We were changed and in the cake-line in time to grab a slice of excellent cake and some coffee which we took outside to enjoy whilst we basked in the unseasonably warm sun, chatting with friends and waiting for the presentation. We enjoyed it so much that I think we'll probably be back next year, unless we decide to return to the Dalwood 3 Hills 10 miler - too many races, not enough time!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Inca Trail

Richard wrote:

Continuing our theme of trying races we haven’t done before, Sunday saw the Westgates at the 7.6 mile multi-terrain Inca Trail race at Ilchester. For the second week running Lesley got the start time wrong. There was I striding across the playing field trying to work up a sweat when Dan came over looking at me in a puzzled fashion and asked if it wasn’t a bit early for a warm up! I had wondered why there were only half a dozen cars in the park.

After resting up in the club house I took a second warm up and headed for the start. It was cold and bleak at 3 degrees C. The ground was frozen with a slime of gooey mud on top. They say conditions here have been different every year – in the club house there was an excellent picture of someone sprinting through the floods in a previous year.

Memories of the race are a bit blurred as I spent a lot of time concentrating on keeping up a good pace without slipping. There were lanes, muddy droves, stiles, gates, a short steep grassy hill, fields, and a long grassy run alongside the River Yeo – very reminiscent of leg 3 of the Parrett trail.

I did enjoy this race and had a few personal battles with other rivals. A great bonus was the steaming hot shower afterwards. Talking of which – another early attempt was made at the coveted disrepute award. In the showers a Yeovil runner asked “Guys have you any ideas how we could improve this race?” I immediately replied “well you could get rid of the naff mementoes”, not realising that they were lovingly hand-crafted by someone toiling late into the night trying to raise money for a needy Peruvian charity!

Once again Lesley triumphed in her age category beating off exceptionally stiff opposition which included a trio of Ethiopian athletes who had come halfway across the globe in search of gold. ( LW: In reality the only rival in my age group also won an award for coming last.)

Now read on for Dan’s memories.................................

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Sartorial Dilemma - The Inca Trail‏

by Dan

On leaving the warmth of my car it seemed a very wise idea to have put on my (very manly) tights for this event. It was just over freezing and the marshals told me that the route was very icy. I also had a long sleeved top under my club vest, gloves and ridiculous looking ear-warmer band-thing. Other runners had different ideas, ranging from shorts and vest to coats and woolly hats. About half the field were in that hideous lurid day-glo colour of Yeovil Town Road Running Club, and most of the others had one or more items of a similar colour (presumably in homage to the host club). I was resplendent in silver Maiden Newton Runners Vest (Rachel says it's grey), coordinated with blue and orange top, red and black tights and yellow and blue shoes. I'm lucky to have a 'capsular' wardrobe.

Richard and Leslie eschewed Maiden Newton colours in favour of some other club with far more gaudy vests. They seemed very keen, starting their warm up 40 minutes before the start - until I spoilt their fun by telling them that the race started at 11, not 10.30 as they had presumed! Nevertheless, Richard had to make last-minute adjustments to his laces which made him the last runner to the start.

Richard was off like a rocket at the start, and I did not try to keep up. A few minutes in I was at the back of a fairly large 'pack' and was opening up quite a gap on the group behind. 20 Minutes in, Steve (of the famous running combo 'Steve, Donna, and sometimes their dog' - sorry guys can't remember your surname) caught up and overtook me. He was looking strong, but I managed to wear him out with the occasional 'witty' comment and was pleased to see that he could no longer endure my company and started walking when we got to the hill. The hill was challenging - I thought it was 'slippy' but was corrected by a runner from Frome, who corrected my bad grammar and told me that it is 'slippery'. Unfortunately the know-it-all failed to slip over and charged past into the distance - must have had a very strong finish as he was out of sight within a few minutes. Hope he's not reading this, or my punctuation will no doubt be found wanting ;-) I overtook Steve, put a bit of distance between us by throwing myself down the other side of the hill, and just managed to stay ahead of him to the finish. I think he may have slowed down to wait for Donna (who was in front anyway, I think), but whatever the excuse it was nice to finish ahead of someone who normally beats me. Marvellous Michael normally finishes just ahead of me, but today he was well ahead, seems to be on good form. Martin Chaffey and I often find ourselves battling around the middle of this sort of run but he had his hands full (literally) with family responsibilities and was not running.

It was a great route - fast and flat out, then to mud / ice, then up and down a hill and back. A gigantic medallion and warm soup to all finishers, and I made good use of the showers and changing rooms. All very civilised. I recommend the race, and look forward to having a go again next year.

Time? About an hour and 4 minutes.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Street 5k

by Dave Carnell

After my tardy time at the recent Humdinger event, I’m pleased to report that the February Street 5k went a whole lot better. Conditions were a little on the nippy side for a softie like me, but I’d had the foresight to don my secret weapon, l### j###s (partially redacted to retain secrecy), so I stayed nice and toastie.

Knowing the first corner is always an issue at this race, I decided to try a sprint down the hill to get ahead of the main pack so I could take the tight line on the footpath, instead of going across the grass and into the road like I normally do. Great idea, but the guys at the front go like crazy and don’t take any prisoners when it comes to a bit of squeeze, so it was all a bit dicey, but I did just about survive the corner.

I then had to back off to get my breath back and let the speedier troops charge on ahead. I confess that in the dark, knowing that that Harwood chap was disguised in Wells blue, I assumed he was amongst the throng disappearing into the distance so completely forgot about him.

After the climb back to the High Street (yes, I know it’s only a gentle upward slope, but I like them going the other direction) I managed to get some rhythm back and gradually stopped letting too many runners from overtaking. The next three laps passed without any great excitement until, coming back up to the High Street before the last lap, Nick Brooke came past. I’m used to seeing him waiting almost recovered at the finish but I like to try and wind him up a bit so gave chase for a while before the final upward slope got the better of me.

It was just coming up to the top of that final slope that Clive H’s notoriety did him a distinct disservice as I heard fellow Wells marshals egging him on, so I knew he was actually behind me – yiks! This hasn’t happened in a race before and I confess I knew Clive was not firing on all cylinders, so I thought kick, go and hope I could make it down the High Street to the last turn before I folded.

Hallelujah, I managed to keep going and finished just ahead of Clive and with a Street PB of 19:20. I was also tantalising close to catching up with Nick B again.

A good run for me and a slight pity that I had to rush away, turning the inside of my car into a sauna (thank heavens for screen heaters) and passing up a rare chance to goad some fellow runners, as well as missing out on my traditional coffee and a gold bar back at the hall.

One more event to go in the series – I can dream!

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Richard’s report:

Sunday 5th February saw the Westgates at the 20th Blackmore Vale Half Marathon at Bishops Caundle near Sherborne. Being first timers at this race we were very impressed. Organised by the BV Lions Club, what a great job they do – free parking at the start, food in the hall, toilets and portaloos, loads of marshals including police, frequent drinks stations, clear amplified instructions (for those hard of hearing) before the race and commentating at the end. Experience means they can accept up to 650 runners and do all this for £10 including a reasonable T Shirt. We thought it was a real bargain.

Following a week of sub-zero temperatures we were treated to a balmy 6 oC with sunshine. The 500 or so runners soon filtered off the playing field and into narrow lanes. Thankfully the only icy stretch was coned off and we set off downhill for the first mile. I made an effort to run conservatively as I had heard the course was undulating with the final mile re-tracing the hill we started on. With this in mind I tagged along with Jenny Mills for 4 or 5 miles, she runs at a very even pace and I felt quite relaxed. The lanes were largely traffic free and the countryside picturesque. I began to warm up a bit – enough to tip water over my head and neck at the drinks stations and decided to push on a bit overtaking some runners.

Some of the downhills tempted me into some speedier running but for the first ten miles I kept up a 7.5 min/ mile conversation pace. I enjoyed the challenge of keeping the pace going over the final bit and was very happy with 97:12. There were lots of familiar faces about but once again none from Maiden Newton.

Lesley: I have mixed feelings about this one. Set off at a fairly steady pace, and was joined after a few miles by Lesley Nesbitt from Yeovil, running with her brother. I have been in races with her on several previous occasions and usually managed to finish ahead, although it has been a tough battle sometimes. On this occasion she appears to have been doing some “Training”!! She also ran at “conversation” pace for the first ten miles, while I struggled to keep up, and then with three miles to go she just took off, eventually finishing some two minutes ahead. I must say I was a bit dispirited by my legs’ refusal to come up with anything and eased off the pace deciding to finish the race as a training run. I found the last mile particularly hard and was glad to finish in a time of 1:52:23. The runner in front of me inexplicably slowed and stopped just before the finish line giving me one place higher in the results.