Sunday, December 29, 2013

Stoke Stampede

This traditional Boxing Day race has been moved to the first Sunday after, which makes sense, I suppose, although it means that we no longer have much excuse for not doing a fast time at what is a reasonably flat course. Situated in the middle of the Somerset Levels you would expect it to be even flatter though, and there are a couple of undulations of about 50 feet, so it is not a super fast course like the Easter Bunny at Yeovilton. But its fast enough, and its also a nice, rural route, with few cars, and only a few puddles this year. Like the last time we ran it, 2 years ago the weather was perfect, managing to catch the middle of a rare patch of nice weather in the middle of a horribly wet and windy spell.
We arrived an hour early, to make sure of a good close-in parking spot, but were nearly frustrated and forced to park over a mile away because coming from the west instead of the east to avoid potential floods, we encountered three separate sets of  marshals directing traffic to an emergency car park miles from the start because the usual parking field was completely waterlogged. Luckily, experienced hands that we are, and without a shred of conscience we bluffed our way past them, first pretending to not be runners, then promising to pick up numbers, and return to the remote parking field, then finally, refusing to stop at the checkpoint, instead shouting "just going to register" out of a partially opened window, and pretending to be deaf  to the cry of "parking is back that way". The reward was to arrive at a half-empty car park, next to the village hall, 20 yards from where we picked up our numbers and more importantly attended to various personal matters involving certain paper products and soap.
We then changed and waited in our car for a relaxing twenty minutes watching the weary hordes trudging in from the car park 2 villages away to collect their numbers, before making a final pre-race pit stop and heading out on a warm-up loop to the start half a mile away. Near the start we met Lesley, and briefly chatted, keeping our distance to avoid the cold she warned us of. Then we completed our warm-up running past the start and along the course past a stream of runners heading to the start. After a while we met our friend Jim and ran back with him to the throng where as always it was a pleasure to chat with him, and before we knew it, it was 11 am and after waiting a minute or two for a few stragglers to arrive there was a very short briefing and then the hooter got us underway.
As usual the initial pace was fast, although it didn't feel hard, but after a couple of K we hit the first, and main hill on the course, and the pain started. I was maintaining target pace, but just beginning to doubt if I could keep it up for long, however after overtaking a couple of runners on the way to the top, I felt better as we started back downhill around the loop to the 3k point, and then past the start again and another couple of kilometres before the next hill and the next test of my resolve and fortitude. This is always the hardest point on the course because it seems like a long uphill slog to the farthest point and 7k mark, this time I hung on fairly well, and reaching the turning off the main road (coincidentally near the distant location where the marshals had been directing people to park) I made a sharp left and commenced a welcome downhill stretch with less than 2 miles to go.

In previous years I have faded badly on this stretch, but this time things went better. First I reeled in a couple of young guys in Taunton shirts, then as I passed them at about 8k I was overtaken by a female runner who turned out to have won the race last year, and who said something which sounded vaguely encouraging like "don't let these youngsters beat you", but could equally have been "don't let this old git beat you". I couldn't actually make out which it was, but chose to take it as encouragement to me anyway, and picked up the pace a notch, pulling away from not only the guys, but the lady, and managed a last mile fast enough to finish just under my target time of 39 minutes.

Lin was not far behind, in a respectable time too. Strangely we had both run an undulating 10k course at a faster pace than a dead flat 5k, 4 days before, which goes to show that on race day, with a bit of competition and motivation, you can go a lot faster.

Both chuffed, we ran back up the course to encourage fellow Maiden Newton Runners John, and then Lesley, with whom we ran back to see her finish just under 50 minutes, a really good effort considering her status as a recovering cold-sufferer.

We waited around half an hour for Lin's honourable mention as 3rd female veteran, but none for me, there being only a single Vet category, so no chance for someone as old (and/or slow) as me! But never mind, I'm always happy to bask in Lin's reflected glory. Anyway, another fun race under our belts, and time to head circuitously out of the village en-route to a celebratory cup of coffee and slab of Christmas cake at Lin's parent's house 10 miles down the motorway.


Lin said...

Did anybody else get the impression that Martin might have been slightly drunk when he wrote this race report or was it just me? Anyway another nomination gained for the Bringing the Club into Disrepute award for 2013.....flagrantly disobeying selfless volunteer marshals trying to get everyone parked appropriately tsk tsk tsk!!!

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