Glaisdale Rigg, North Yorks Moors, 2nd March
After 'will we, won't we' moments, two Mikes and a Jan parked up in Glaisdale village, North York Moors, for another muddy encounter across boggy moorland in the twelfth race of NEHRA winter series. The race starts and ends with steep gradients, lots of bog on Glaisdale Moor, aim for checkpoint at trig 326m, descends through heather, tapes easily missed here, crosses dale, steep climbing into 'Narnia' plantation. Then more bog ... at least the weather was kind to us, though mist at trig. The Esk river provided much needed leg/shoe washing facilities.
Mike B leads his age category by only 22 points, so will be under pressure to stay ahead of rivals. Mike H. enjoyed the route, said it was tough, and we all agreed we still had Saturday's legs on. I'd managed to pass my rival over bog and descent, but no legs for plantation climb. I'll need a couple more top finishes to secure series winner FV60.
Sobering thought; Sue from Scarborough joins FV60's in summer series, goodbye my first places. She finished seven seconds behind Mike H. Watch yer back, Mike!
Such a Perfect Day, we're glad we spent it with Striders!
Harrier League, Alnwick, 1st March
Mudman & Mudwoman
No less than 50 Striders ran for their club at the Alnwick HL on Saturday and what a happy, purple clad family we all made! As well as the runners, there were around another 20 supporters (other striders, plus family and friends) having a great time while cheering their runners on and generally enjoying the wonderful setting. The day was dry, bright with occasional cloud. The course was in excellent condition: some mud but mainly dry and fast! What more could you want?
To mark such a day the Women's team smashed their previous record by fielding no less than 23 runners even though one or two regulars were unavailable through injury. There were welcome returns to the fold made by Stef Barlow and Lindsay Tarn and some fierce, determined performances throughout the team. None more so than by Helen Tones who flew to the front of the field and stayed there, although losing a shoe part way round, and finishing in an excellent 5th place. Well done Helen and congrats on your promotion to the medium pack! Fiona Shenton roared back to her form of old finishing 2nd Strider home in 28th place thereby gaining promotion to the medium pack yet again. Competition for the 3rd Strider place couldn't have been closer with Mandy and Claire racing together for the line. Mandy's mantra of "get yer heed reet" must have made the difference as she just pipped Claire over the last couple of yards!
There were battles a plenty throughout the field with Striders well involved in the 'mix'. One marshal was moved to remark "ooh you Striders, there's zillions of you!" Those zillions put in some notable performances including Sarah and Lucy finishing well up the strong field and taking the fallen tree in their stride. Anita continues to improve with every race displaying the grit & determination required, while Jacquie, although forced to limp downhill, showed a similar amount of 'guts' by getting round to the finish. Well done to the Striderettes, the team equalled their best position of the season (5th place) and while not impossible, relegation is unlikely so long as we turn out in our zillions at the final Wrekenton Fixture!
Striders men were also there in force with 27 of them lining up to start - including Mike Elliott for the first time. This was probably the strongest team we've fielded all season and it got its just reward finishing in 4th place - a season's best and making relegation most unlikely. Rob Everson was the star - leading the team home by finishing in 28th place & thereby gaining promotion to the medium pack. Well done Rob - you deserve it for all that hard work & we're proud of you! Will Horsley too had an incredible run from the medium pack overhauling all his team mates, except Rob, and, in spite of his dodgy home-made number, securing 37th place. Jerry came in next, passing Adam near the end, with Paul (from the medium pack) and James (with a strong burst on the final lap to take him past me and Gibbo) making up the other counters.
But as we all know it's not just about the 'counters' and, as we've come to expect, there were some fine performances throughout the highly competitive field. Striders old and new did well including Dave Halligan, working his way higher up the field with every race, Marc Jones showing the form we know he's capable of and Mike Elliot putting in one of the bravest performances of the day in what is a challenging race environment with 'no hiding place'. Well done Mike - you did the club proud!
It was a grand day out, not just for the runners, but for their families and supporters as well. Andy James enjoyed his day and now knows why 'his' bus was in such demand. Stef Walker can't wait for next season when she too can join in the fun and thanks to Katy, Carolyn and Camilla for coming along to shout encouragement while injured. What a day, we can't wait for the 22nd!!
Note: more excellent photos at the links below, from Dougie and Carolyn. Ed.
|1||Graeme Cook||North Shields Poly||36:32|
|256||Richard Hall the Elder||46:24|
|335||Marco van der Bremer||49:53|
*M Medium pack - 2m30s handicap.
*F Fast pack - 5m handicap.
|1||Stephanie Dann||North Shields Poly||28:09|
*M Medium pack - 2m handicap.
Fountains Abbey parkrun, nr Ripon, 1st March
A handful of Striders turned out for the very first fountains Abbey parkrun.
It's a 5 minute walk from the car park down the hill to the Abbey where the run starts. The run was delayed till 9.15 because people were still queuing to get parked. There were roughly 375 people that had taken part this morning in beautiful surroundings which was a 2 lap course around the Abbey, with lovely weather too.
It's only 50 minutes on the motorway from the Carrville interchange - well worth a visit.
Haweswater Half Marathon, Bampton, 2nd March
I really enjoyed this last year but didn't feel I'd done the course justice with my time. I didn't have a huge blowup, was still first Strider home and considering last year's winter training wasn't too disappointed with my time but I just thought I could do better.
Having said that, John Hutch and I had done 10 miles steady on Friday night, I wasn't able to resist the lure of the inaugural Fountains Abbey parkrun, couldn't miss Alnwick XC - obviously - so it was with a little trepidation I stood on the start line.
I needn't have worried, all the hills I remembered from last year weren't that bad, the leaders didn't storm past the other way until nearly half way and I could count the ladies up ahead of me in only double figures. Even the climb just after halfway wasn't so bad as you had stunning views of the lake (reservoir? [Correct: that was Manchester's water supply you were running past. Ed.]), the gods had kindly put on a light, cooling drizzle and you got to High Five the Striders and others coming the other way. When you got to the top, there was even a following wind. I mean I've heard of downhill sections with a following wind, often dreamt of them but am pretty sure I've never come across one in a real life actual race before.
Just as I was starting to flag at about 10 miles, a very nice lady, Jane, came up alongside and explained that she'd seen my vest with Alister on the back before at many races but had never managed to beat me. Here then was a perfect opportunity to gallantly escort the lady home. Whilst encouraging (hopefully) Jane, I was also encouraging myself and working as a team we picked off quite a few others as well as picking up the pace until we got to the final bend, about 100m to go, just over the humpback bridge. There Jane shot off as I encouraged her and when I stopped my Garmin I was very pleasantly surprised to discover I'd knocked about 6 minutes off last year's time. A quick stop to fill my new mug with a warming coffee and it was back to cheer the others home. Unfortunately the rain had worsened and I was cooling rapidly, so I had to go back inside the village hall to get changed and warm. I made it back out to catch most of the ladies - John, Alan and George all safely home, Bill none the worse after his recent knee-knack and Jill and Jacquie struggling valiantly in.
Strongly recommended, though we're now into March and I still haven't had a medal for a race in 2014!
Golden Fleece Circuit, South Cave, East Riding, 1st March
Melanie and I did this one last year and quite enjoyed it. I say 'quite' because there seemed to be a few long straights which I usually find a bit dull. However, apart from that, it was an enjoyable day out. Typical LDWA event, lots of friendly people, cheap, lots of food at the checkpoints and a basic meal at the end.
Last year I struggled a bit, I think I was just tired. I also didn't know the route and the last two or three miles surprised me (it surprised a friend this year and he has described it as like going through a portal to Switzerland!). This year, I was going to be on my own as Melanie didn't want to risk her recovery by doing too much too soon. Also my longest run since the Hardmoors 30 on 1 Jan was 15m, so with both of these things, I expected to struggle again.
It started cold and misty, but villages, attractive churches and checkpoints appeared regularly. There was no pain in my calf, so all was good. I managed to rescue about eight people who missed a turn and ran and chatted with them to the next checkpoint where the 17m route parted from the 27.5m route. They all went off on the 17m route and suddenly there were very few people about. In the mist this was a bit eerie, but after about two and half hours the sun had burnt off the mist and it started to warm up.
I was remembering the route well and I was enjoying it, the long straights didn't seem as long as I thought they might be. There was hardly any mud. I was walking the long uphill stretches but that had been the plan all along, I didn't want to risk doing any damage to the calf and I was after time on my feet.
Switzerland arrived and went by without too much difficulty and I was soon back in the village hall. Nowhere near as exhausted as I had been last year and much to my surprise, only a minute slower.
A lovely way to spend half a day !
The Full English!
English National XC Championships, Nottingham, 22nd February
Saturday saw the highlight of the X/C year - no, not the Prudhoe Harrier League but the English National X/C Championships! This year's event was held at the scenic Wollaton Park on the outskirts of Nottingham and Striders were there in force fielding teams in both the Senior Men's and Senior Women's races as well as being represented in the Junior Men's race by Adam. Unlike last year it was a fine, breezy spring-like morning when we pitched the brand new Striders tent in the shadow of Wollaton Hall a very impressive country house. The tent was fairly impressive too and it soon became obvious that our Khyam Sports Shelter must be the tent of choice among running clubs as we were surrounded by dozens of them! But ours, of course, had been pitched the best of all!
We had some time to kill before our races kicked off so we set off on a course inspection. This showed the ground to be surprisingly dry, apart from two or three extremely muddy sections one of which had a stream running through for good measure. There were a couple of hills as well but nothing too high and there was also an obstacle across the course (a novelty in these H&S conscious times) in the shape of a rather large tree trunk. We then took up a position at the 'water jump' to watch some of the junior races and to identify the best 'line' through the quagmire! Those poor muddy children - what would their mothers say?! Anyway, they helped us spot the 'driest' route possible!
Adam's race was first up and the quality of the field became obvious from the gun as the front runners tore up the first hill. This race was 10ks worth of fast x/c interspersed with challenging sections of 'mud, blood and beer' (from 'Boy Named Sue' - remember?). Adam didn't resort to any 'kicking and gouging' but he did take an inside line through the quagmire thereby ending up fairly plastered in smelly, dark grey, liquid mud for his trouble! Apart from that he was undamaged by the experienced and put in a good performance.
Next up our six Striderettes joined a record field of 703 for the Senior Women's 8k race and what a sight they were as they were unleashed by the starters gun - incredible and testimony to the strength of women's x/c in England today! Katy was first to show but an injury forced her to pull up on the first lap much to everyone's disappointment not least her own. This left Rachel T to lead the other Striders around the second lap. Following Rachel came Fiona S with a fine return to form following her recent enforced lay-off, Mudwoman with her usual determined performance, Lucy Cowton making her debut at the Nationals and delighted with her tee-shirt and her first time counting for Striders and then Jan - a veteran of the Nationals and an example to many younger women including the very many she beat on Saturday! Well done to you all for a fine performance and as one of the few full teams representing the North East!
The last race was the Senior Men's (12k). A slighty reduced Striders team of eight men joined the 1649 other club runners in the starting pens waiting for the off. Shouts of encouragement including the 'Shipman Roar' were heard just before the gun set away the huge field - like a medieval army on the charge - it felt a privilege to be part of it. At the top of the first hill I remember looking down at the field in front of me and thinking "how on earth did all those get in front of me"! I felt I was running well but a 'purple presence' in the shape of David Gibson soon appeared on my shoulder and we kept swapping the 'lead' for the first two laps until David eased away on the final circuit & I could only 'keep in touch'. The course's 'obstacle' was easily 'hurdled' but the mud proved more of a challenge; sticking to the shoes like lumps of glue it just sucked the strength out of one's legs. A wide line through the quagmire meant just one foot in the gloop was sufficient to see you safely through although others preferred to swim! Close behind David and I was Simon showing a welcome return to x/c form on his Nationals debut with Graeme next to finish in a determined fashion. Mike Hughes and Matthew Crow did very well to 'count' for the first time (Matthew in his first 'Nationals') and experienced veterans Mike Bennett and David Shipman put in fine, determined performances for their club - one of the few from the North East to field so many runners - well done to everyone and thanks to all the Waltons, Terrys and Hughes' who were there to cheer us on and provide cakes!
... and Adam Walker:
Yesterday was the national cross country championships at Wollaton Park, Nottingham. I had travelled down on my second claim club's (Durham's) coach with some other striders on a sleepy 2 and a half hour journey down with one services stop, on which I was 'Banned from fast food products', great, Woodall Services has a McDonalds, Burger King, KFC and Doughnuts, mother of all temptations, sigh, a sandwich will do. Arriving at the venue, to a giant park, with Wollaton Hall as the main feature standing at the top of a hill I would soon run up, the entire grassed area bathed in sunshine. A HUUUUUGE contrast to last years snowy and testing conditions of Herrington park last year, it was almost too hot! After successfully avoiding to help both my clubs put their tents up, I jogged over to the barriers just in time to see my friend Markhim fly past in 11th place on his first lap in the U15 boys race, another short jog over to another section of the course to wait for him to come around the corner in ... 2nd place! A few screams at him to keep pushing on, he looked remarkably easy. just about managed to sprint over to the finish in time to watch him jog in to a silver medal, he only wanted top 10. Awesome run from the machine of a boy that is Markhim Lonsdale.
I then stripped down even more as I was too hot! I had a backpack filled with winter wear that would be only a waste of space as it turned out! A jog around the course with some friends. The course is weird for a national championship: very, very good underfoot for 90% of the course, almost too good. For example, in one place the ground was so hard that it resembled concrete more than mud. However, once you leave that hard stretch, the conditions underfoot soon turn into a bog that could easily be mistaken for a black hole with the amount of shoes it claimed that day. Length of spikes would make no difference in mud like that... stilts wouldn't! This bog continued for a fair way before coming to a big puddle, before returning to hard ground again. A change of spikes are definitely in order, 15mms were a mistake! In regard to hills it was uncharacteristically easy for a nation level race. Only one noticeable hill up to touching distance of Wollaton Hall itself and then immediately back down onto a slant, and then what seemed like an endless downhill. Logs had been placed around the course to add extra difficulty but these weren't as much of an obstacle, rather a bit of fun.
Time to get warmed up! Was a bit niggley at the top of my right quad and in the same place at the back of my hamstring/glute befor the race I should add, but this gave me no trouble throughout the race.
|1||Steven Vernon||Stockport Harriers||0:39:30|
1657 finishers. Men's Team 107th of 127 (6 to count).
|1||Gemma Steel||Charnwood AC||0:27:42|
427 finishers. Women's Team 47th of 83.
|1||Jonathan Davies||Reading AC||0:31:15|
Snake Lane 10, Pocklington, 23rd February
Early start given it was 100 miles away. I headed over to Kate's house for 8:00 as she had kindly offered to drive given that if I actually completed Snake Lane I was extremely doubtful my legs would work after! Not a bad morning weather wise - no rain. On the way down we talked about 'why we were doing it' - as in 'WHY do we put ourselves through it!' and had long discussions about what to wear (long sleeve, vest, tshirt and vest, tights or shorts). I forced a banana down (was feeling sick with nerves) Kate tucked into a jam sarnie. So we arrived at 9:40 having only taken one wrong turn which HANDS UP was my fault. We parked and headed down to the rugby club and conversed with fellow striders and the smell of bacon butties!
11.00 we were queuing to race. This is when the nerves and doubts really kicked in. We were off! The bleeping of Garmins filled the air. The wind was behind us so I spent the first mile removing hair from my face and kept myself at a steady pace. Mile 2 everything started to ache and the finish was such a long way off. Mile 3 still aches and pains but was looking forward to the water stop at 4. Mile 4 no water stop and wind directly in the face so opted for a energy gel. Mile 5 WATER and more full frontal wind. I figured I'd come this far without stopping so I may as well continue. Mile 6 and 7 were my fav, I felt euphoric and even the gravel/dust blast of constant wind didn't dishearten me. Reached the White House and a left to the top of the hill to reach Mile 8 ... !
Greeted by a marshall 'two lonely windy miles to go' just what I needed to hear! Mile 9 .... The end is near! (Thank God) I spotted Kerry in front and we trundled along the home straight together. At the 200m to go point we both gave are last push and were cheered in by striders and other finishers, Kerry steamed ahead and I crossed the line 10 seconds after: 1:46.02
Collected my mug, water and a banana and walked over to our supportive team of purple.
Most definitely my furthest and hardest race so far but a nice relatively flat 10 mile road race. Perfect choice for my first 10 mile race.
Absent Friends Trail Race, Billingham, 16th February
This is the second time I have run in this race. The first time was back in 2010 when to be honest I didn’t do much running but one of my close friends Emma Johnson, Ann’s daughter encouraged me to take part. My memories of that day were lots of mud, ruined trainers and painful legs! That day I completed the race in 57.11. So I was hoping to do a bit better this year!
Race day was beautiful and you would think this meant perfect running conditions but no the order of the day was MUD and lots of it!!! I stupidly thought it couldn’t be muddier than last week at X Country. Of course I chose to wear my brand new sparkling clean trail shoes for the occasion much to the amusement of others! Let’s just say they needed a good shower when they got home!
Yet again Striders were out in strength with 15 of us taking part. Before the race started there were the customary pre-race photos then onto the start line we went. Before the race began there was instructions about the route, followed by a few words from Barry Johnson, Ann’s husband. Today was made more poignant in that it was the 6th Anniversary of Ann’s death. A minutes silence was then held.
The start of race was part way up a hill (this year the race start was brought forward to make it up to the 5mile mark), which quickly led to a very muddy field. Initially I tried to dodge the puddles and mud but soon realised that this was just the start of a very muddy course, and if I stayed upright I was going to be very lucky! My lovely trail shoes were very quickly clogged up with mud and grass. Following a period on very sludgy grass there was a period on a dry ish trail which was a welcome respite from mud. However this did not last long and we were soon trudging through mud again which lasted almost the rest of the course. Towards the end of the course there was the dreaded hill! I attempted to run up the hill but soon discovered as soon as I took a step forward I was sliding back down. In the end I gave up and walked up the worse part until I came up to a bit where I could grip onto. It was a relief to get to the top until I realised that what comes up must come down! I watched a few runners go down in front of me then took the plunge myself expecting to most probably end up at the bottom on my backside! Luckily I got down the hill unscathed and it was onto to the last part of the race which thankfully was on gravel. As I came towards the finish line I was greeted with shouts of encouragement from fellow striders who had already finished which helped me muster up a bit of energy for a sprint finish! I quickly joined some of the other striders to shout the rest of our guy’s home. Once the last strider was home it was time for the well earned goodie bag of the much promised mars bar and PINK t-shirt!
Graeme Walton was first strider home, quickly followed by Jon Steed. Katy Walton was first female strider home but most impressively crossing the finish line as third lady finisher! Well done Katy you did us proud! Kirsty Anderson was second lady strider home, matching the position of her soon to be husband! The rest of us followed in with very respectable times given the tough conditions. A special mention also goes to the ladies completing their first 5mile race today – you did brilliantly and should feel very proud!
Well done everyone!
Hardmoors Osmotherley Half-Marathon, 16th February
Having heard about the Hardmoors races from other Striders I was a bit curious and the Osmotherley half seemed to be good practice for other longer off-road races. The interest for this particular race was at an all-time high with around 400 pre-registered entrants in total for the full and half marathon and the 10k and no entries on the day. The weather had been quite foul and we received an email to say that the organiser, Jon Steed, had done a recce of the course dressed in merino layers and sealskin mittens, which apparently was just right for the conditions higher up the moors. I was a bit short of sealskin mittens but hoped I would manage with my woolly layer. It turned out to be a beautiful sunny day, just a bit chilly when I was waiting outside the Osmotherley Village Hall with fellow Striders Danny and Jerry, who both were doing the half as well (Anita and Mark D. were running the 10k and Sue J. was doing the full marathon – and Dave R. and Flip were marshalling along the half/full marathon routes). Danny was more high-tech than the rest and carried a headlamp-like video camera so that he could watch highlights of his running days when getting too old to race. Being closer to my pension days than Danny I should probably have brought one as well but I will have to do with showing my race reports to any future grand-children. I had considered dropping out of the race as my quads and hamstrings were rather sore after various hilly runs earlier in the week, but having paid £20 for the experience I had decided to do it anyway, albeit as a slow training run.
The beginning of the race was uphill along tarmac, later changing to a dirt track and then mostly following the Cleveland Way. The race was more of a trail race than a fell race, often good underfoot and with more of a mixture of running abilities amongst participants. The route was marked throughout with yellow ribbons so it was impossible to get lost, in theory anyway (more on this topic later). There were also seven marshalled check-points with water and food (mainly Jaffa cakes and jelly babies). Dave R. was marshalling on the half marathon today, so it was good to see a familiar face along the route.
The moorland was in its most striking winter colours of crimson, pink and different shades of green with views down over flatland with slowly spinning wind turbines in the distance. The sun was on its best behaviour and the woolly layer started to feel a bit excessive. The route was an out and back one to Carlton Bank where the landscape was a bit more rugged with flagstones arranged along the Cleveland Way, slowing down the pace a bit. After turning back, my quads and hamstrings started to play up more and I had to walk the last 5-6 miles. I was feeling a bit annoyed at this, but decided to just enjoy the walk rather than worrying about the pace. Surprisingly enough there were lots of fast-looking runners coming up behind me. It turned out that a big group of front runners had done a 3-4 m extra loop as the yellow ribbons seemed to be directing them elsewhere. I managed not to get lost, although was discussing the correct route with another runner along the way. He wasn’t really bothered anymore if he went down the wrong route as he had got side-tracked so many times already.
After a bit more walking in the mud and then down a tarmac road I was back in Osmotherley. I decided to run the last bit with a bit of limping involved and then finished off in the village hall where tea, coffee, sandwiches and cakes were being served. All finishers got t-shirts and medals, so the race was reasonably good value for money. I may do one again but only if I’m injury-free at the start...
Commondale Clart, North Yorks Moors, 16th February
5.2m / 722'
The Commondale Clart, very aptly named this year!! I have done it in winter and summer previously but was still apprehensive given the monsoon rains lately. No surprise then that the run was dominated by long stretches of mud, bog and freezing cold puddles/plunge pools which froze the feet from the moment we stepped off the road onto the moor. Fortunately above ground it was remarkably pleasant, sunny, still and even warm at times so overall a good place to be for a Sunday morning run and no regrets about driving so far for a relatively short race.
For the uninitiated the course itself is a circuit starting and finishing in Commondale, next to the pub, long, steep climb on road out of Commondale to start, followed by a long drag up and across the moors, before a fantastic gradual descent on tracks, sharp left turn on a little wooden bridge and then across and down through heather to a stream, then back to road into Commondale for a short, steep downhill finish.
Me, Mike Bennett, Mike Hughes and Jan Young had travelled together and met Shaun at signing in, regrouped in the pub afterwards where the preoccupation was over which route people had followed. Several of us hadn’t swerved far enough left after the trig point, as advised to do by the race organiser at the start, resulting in a tiring trek across heather and bog rather than following a muddy trail. For me it was a dilemma, thought it was a wrong/different route to the one I could recall – seemed much further too!! But surely the twelve or so folk I could see heading up the fell in front of me must know where they are going, so I better follow them. Wrong call entirely. Jan had had the sense to cut across the right way and made good progress as a result.
Shaun came across some grouse shooting butts somewhere, which he hadn’t passed on previous runs, so don’t know where he got to [Made the same mistake as most of the field, it seems, at the trig point. Doh! Ed.], but that’s one of the features of the Esk Valley series, some markings occasionally, no marshalls, a recognisable route for most of the time, but every now and then you get to a point where you are just not sure, if there is no one close, or in my case you can't see where everyone has sped off to, then you press on and hope your directional senses will win out!! Give them a try if you have never done them, excellent value and EOD.
Prizes went to Mike B and Jan for winning their age group, so well done to them.
Carnethy '5', Pentland Hills, 16th February
6.2m / 2,500'
We left Durham early on what has become something of an annual pilgrimage to this race for Geoff and myself since 1990 when we then ran for Sunderland Poly. The sky was grey and for most of the drive heavy rain persisted so we knew for sure we would not have dry feet, however, the race start time was 2.00pm and the weather forecast was for light showers which would fall as snow on ground over 300m and some brightness for the afternoon so we drove on with some optimism. We arrived at race registration (Beeslack School, Penicuick) at 12.15 with plenty of time to collect our numbers, have a chat with fellow fell runners from the north east and make a clothes selection for the day. The weather was still pretty miserable with low cloud but at least the rain had stopped.
By the time we arrived at the start the sun was shining, all the tops were clear and the blue sky had lots of white fluffy clouds. The Pentland Hills looked beautiful as they were snow-capped. We gathered on the start line and a round of applause was given for all involved in making this race possible with a polite/joking request for all to run as fast as they could as it was freezing on the tops for the marshals. We were off to the usual mad dash across the low boggy start to get a good position before the narrow track began. My dash was not what it should be and things slowed on the narrow track. Then the steep ascent up the first hill Scald Law - I felt strong on this and was gaining places. I had adopted my usual fell runners crouch position due to the steepness of the hill although my lack of height means my head spends a lot of time around other runners calfs, thighs and buttocks. On exiting the sea of legs on the shoulder of the hill I was grabbed by the strong biting wind and started travelling sideways rather than forwards! I reached the first top turned and faced the next challenge descending the rough ground covered with a couple of inches of slushy snow so, along with others, I ran, slipped and slid down the slope. The next three tops in the race followed the usual pattern for me gaining places on the up and loosing on the downs still the sun was shining and, apart from my frozen feet, I was warm and having a great time.
From the top of the 4th of 5 hills in this race is where you drop down into the valley. Another descent through slush, snow and tussocks saw myself and most around me making gentle thudding noises as we made full body contact with the ground on more than one occasion. Now a flat stretch so still some energy in my legs to run through bog and ankle deep mud as fast as I could and to stay upright. My feet were by now a little warmer but felt like cold flippers rather than feet. A marshal on this section had enlisted a snowman as extra help and support - I smiled and thought of Juliet Percival. There is a sharp little descent to Logan Burn and in today’s underfoot conditions there was no point in me trying to run it so I did my version of the skeleton bob and overtook others doing the same so I reckon I was going at a similar speed to Lizzy Yarnold! All around me were in touch with their inner child making whoops of glee and laughing.
Back in the upright position and still a lot of work to do with the final ascent up Carnethy Hill. Steady progress up this one and still managing at this point to overtake one or two people. As I go up this last hill I have time to think of many different fell running friends over the years who have run this race and for those who may do it in the future. I then hear someone calling my name so I am spurred on by fellow NFR member John Telfer and push on to the summit taking in the magnificent view of the Firth of Forth as I go. Here we go the descent starts gently so doing okay and not many runners around me as the descent steepens I begin to hear the approach and a what feel like a tsunami of runners pass me despite my best efforts. Last effort across the field to the finish unable to regain any places greeted by cheers from Geoff and others from NFR.
We catch the bus back to the school, have a shower followed by a school dinner and lots of cups of tea and biscuits. Even the drive home was pleasant seeing the moon rise, as we drove across the moors, coloured red and orange until it was high in the sky shining silver and bright - a great end to a great day.
Will we return next year? What do you think?
Wadsworth Trog, Hebden Bridge, 8th February
Five years ago I ran this race in awful conditions on a tank that was near-empty to begin with, starting way too fast for my abilities; it nearly killed me. Literally, 'lost in the snow, light-headedly giggling at the recognition that I was rather hypothermic and might not survive the day' nearly-killed-me. Two years ago I ran it again, in similar conditions but with a better plan for the race, a much more even pace and a decent breakfast; it went a lot better and I managed to enjoy it in parts. Catharsis was achieved. I didn't need to go back. Harrier League clashed. There were GP points on offer. Lie-ins are nice. I went back.
The Trog is widely-recognised in the fell-running world as a good early-season test of winter fitness maintenance, as well as being a well-contested race at a distance rarely encountered this early in the year. On paper it's not too threatening, with the first and last miles on roads and footpaths around Old Town, between the peaceful narrowboats, bakeries and coffehouses of Hebden Bridge and the edge of the moors. That leaves only 18 miles of proper fell-running, which really isn't a lot, especially when you look at the map (see link below) and see that it lacks the crags and packed contour lines of the Lakeland fells.
The first of these 20 miles was indeed fast, taking us on the road down the valley, onto a footpath and over a stream. This was our first warning of what was to come (unless you'd payed attention to the weather forecast, which in honesty was a much better warning for the prepared. I assume)- it was in spate, pouring peat-tinged water over the stepping stones and into previously dry shoes. Things became enjoyable here, as I'd started near the back of the pack and began to gain places as we climbed back up the valley and onto the moorland, with farm tracks and well-worn, albeit boggy paths providing overtaking room and good footing. CP1 at High Brown Knoll, which lived up to its name by being an elevated, wind-blown lump of earth covered in dead grass, was quickly passed and CP2 followed after a rapid descent that was not always as controlled as it should have been; on slopes this steep, sodden peat is no easier to stay upright on than snow.
"Come in," she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm!"
Harrier League, Wrekenton, 8th February
Mudman & Mudwoman
Another great turnout by Striders at Saturday's Wrekenton HL saw 44 purple clad mud lovers giving it their all on the tough wind ravaged course!
The senior women's field of over 200 runners included Denise Benvin and Lucy Cowton making determined HL debuts for Striders with Lucy carrying her trusty i-phone around the course! The women's two lap course included four hills and Camilla powered up all of them to lead Striders home for the first time at the HL. She was pushed all the way by Jules with the 'lead' changing hands a couple of times before Camilla narrowly prevailed. Claire came in close behind to finish as a counter for the first time, to the delight of Coach and daughter (no, that's not a pub!) particularly as Fiona S, Fiona K-J, Mudwoman and Katy were hot on her heels!
There were lots of other brave and improved performances including Katy's surge from the medium pack, Barbara's first HL since her bad fall on a cobbled road and Anita's wonderful improvement on her previous HL. Well done all of you and thank you for representing the club in this great competition! The Striderettes finished 7th on the day thereby keeping our heads above the relegation zone.
The huge men's team (25 in all) included two debutants - new Strider Mark Payne and the not so new Strider Gareth Pritchard! Both did themselves, and the team, proud with gutsy performances on unfamiliar territory. However, it was the 'baby' of the band Adam Walker who led the team home - just managing to hold off Will Horsley who made a truly impressive surge from the medium pack! Jerry ran well and Rob continued his impressive form of late to count for the team as did Gareth, on his debut, and Mudman in spite of Graeme's close attention!
Others continue to make steady progress on the mud and over the hills (six hills this time) including Dave Halligan and Michael Tait. They, and many more, will soon be pushing the counters. But there were many more who were happy to turn out and represent their club and compete against our rivals. This was rewarded by a very close 5th place finish for the club on the day - our best of the season so far! Well done to you all and thanks to all those who came along and watched, cheered us on and took photos - what a great day out!!
The end of the 'great day out' was marred somewhat when Striders fell victim to the storms! Our trusty 'shelter from the storm' (the club tent) was caught by a vicious gust while Mudwoman and I were packing up the club flag. It rocked violently and then 'took off' vertically, tearing away from its guy ropes, and flew for 15-20 yards before we dove on it and brought it to earth! The poor old thing was ripped in a number of places and has parted company from some guy ropes and other anchor points. It was a faithful friend, may it rest in peace!!
|1||Carl Avery||Morpeth Harriers||33:51|
|72||Will Horsley||39:43 *M|
|291||Tom Reeves||44:24 *M|
|360||Marco van der Bremer||47:12|
*M Medium pack - 2m30s handicap, *F Fast pack - 5m handicap.
|1||Emma Holt||Morpeth Harriers||28:32 *F|
|66||Katy Walton||31:18 *M|
*M Medium pack - 2m handicap, *F Medium pack - 4m handicap.
Mad Dog 4 - The Good the Bad and the Pugly
Maddog10k, Southport, 9th February
I always take my running kit on holiday. Doesn't matter where. There's always the chance of a run, or even better, a race. I nurture fond fantasies of running a race in some far away exotic place in my Striders vest and writing an ever so nonchalant, do this sort of thing all the time, race report. However, given some of the parkrun tourist reports we've had lately you'd have to go intergalactic nowadays if you wanted to win the accolade of Strider who has raced the furthest away from Durham.
This holiday was no different. I packed my kit. But this holiday was a biggie - we were going to a game reserve in South Africa for a fortnight, so, realistically, I should've realised that the chances of a training run would be limited. Or at least, quite literally, short-lived. Sure enough it became immediately clear that a jog round the local bushes would probably result in meeting some scary wild animals. And I'm really not very fast. I think a Cheetah would have the edge.
Nonetheless, despite a series of lacklustre parkruns and a two week hiatus in my running I turned up in Southport for my 4th Maddog 10k, optimistic that I would, despite all the evidence, pull something amazing out the bag. I had also, cunningly, decided to avoid the whole park and park-and-ride shuttle-bus stuff by cycling from my parents-in-law's flat to the race start. I arrived nicely warmed up and stress-free. The race started right on schedule and I settled in the shelter of the congestion, satisfied in the knowledge that there'd be plenty of time to put the foot down later when I got into my stride. A sharp left onto the seafront and straight into the wind. I tried to remember what Allan and Ian said about cutting into the wind on the track, but whatever I did just seemed to be met with a squally blast. Plus my nose was running and I was paranoid about how to address that particular issue without causing a major incident.
The 3km marker appeared and I took a glance at my watch and got a nasty surprise. I'd been prepared for a slowish time but assumed I'd still be comfortably sub-50. But now for the first time in 5 years it was looking like I was heading for a 10k time where the first digit was a 5. This was really most disagreeable. I tried to lift my pace a bit, but my pace was not for lifting. Still, when we hit the 5km marker we would turn round and the wind would hit us in the back. Sure enough, it was like cresting a summit on the bike and free-wheeling. I slipped into the big ring and increased the pace. There were lots of bands and music this year and I began to feel a bit more upbeat as I hoofed it back to the finish, confident that even if I didn't PB, I would at least be sub-50.
Across the finish line and a glance at the watch. No, that couldn't be right. That couldn't be right at all. There had to be some mistake. I checked again: 52:29. I did a bit of that rueful-headshaking routine that you see top sportsmen doing, as if to suggest that there was some other sinister shadowy reason why my time was what it was. But it didn't change anything. It was still there, beautifully pixellated. Nearly 5 minutes slower than last year, and a 5-year PW.
Stockton Winter 5K Trail Race #6, Preston Park, Stockton, 2nd February
What a beautiful day it was to be running the sixth race in the Stockton 5k trail series at Preston Park! The sun was shining and birds were tweeting and the air was cool and calm. I set off early to collect Ann, Kerry and Denise to make sure everyone had time for their pre-race kosi coffee! Not that I'd have one, it makes me feel sick. Once there, we were soon joined by more Striders, the biggest turnout of purple yet in this series I think.
We all should have been warming up and focusing on the run ahead, but instead we used that time to get a group photo on the snake in the park (or rope without a head!). At least we have our priorities right!!! The pic ended up getting loads of 'likes' on facebook so well worth it!! After that important job, we made our way to the start line, ready for a couple of laps around a very pleasant and scenic route. It had started to drizzle by this point and there was a big grey cloud looming that I prayed was just passing. Vicky Fawcet sounded the air horn to start, and we were off. There were a couple of muddy patches around the first corner but not too bad at all. I was running well, actually very well, striding right out, overtaking people and everything!! Then it dawned on me that this was the downhill section! Oh well, that lead on to some decking which I found quite kind to run on and managed to enjoy the lovely view across the lake.
I knew from my first trail race here that there was a canny little hill waiting for us around the next corner so started to slow down a bit to conserve energy!! It wasn't half as hard as I remembered and I trotted up with ease (actually was dying but you know what I mean!). Managed to spot and smile for the camera man just as the route took us on to the tarmac and prepared myself for lap two ... by slowing down a bit more! The second lap was actually the best as I was joined by Sara Porley who did a great job of encouraging me up that (tiny) hill and all the way to the finish. As I passed the last corner there was an almighty roar of support from the purple crowd and I found that extra little something that made me sprint like a crazy lady to the funnel. Followed very quickly by a bout of dry heaves and Kerry having to hold my hair back ... I just ooze class me! Turns out that's what makes me feel sick, not the coffee!!
I joined the rest of the team to cheer the others over the line too and there were fab results from everyone. Afterwards we headed to the conservatory for Vicky to announce the winners and give some spot prizes. It turned out to be a blooming good day for Striders too, starting with Will Horsley being first across the line followed by completely cleaning up in the prizes! Honestly it was embarrassing as Strider number after Strider number was called out!!! Alas, despite smiling and standing at the front, I came away empty handed. I've since been commenting on Facebook and have paid Vicky a few compliments to see if that helps my chances at the next race!!! Which incidentally is on 9th March at Ropner Park. I really do love these friendly, well-organised, reasonably priced races. Hope you enjoyed reading my first race report! I tried to Google some long words and running terms to use but couldn't be bothered :)
Liversedge Half Marathon, Roberttown, West Yorks, 9th February
I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m not a great trainer and when training for a marathon I need a series of building races to lead me up to it, otherwise I simply don’t do the work. One of my ‘favourites’ is the Spen 20 which is set in rolling West Yorkshire, basically out and around the M62 services at Hartshead Moor. I know if I can knock this off in relative comfort in early March I’m well set for a marathon in the Spring. Unfortunately there’s a clash this year which means I can’t do that, but I did know that Liversedge Half is run on a lot of the same course and I know that Jill Ford ran this last year.
Unfortunately when I went to enter it was full. Still I sent an email to the organisers, Roberttown Road runners and asked them to bear me in mind if someone dropped out. They duly did as someone had and I was in – the only problem was it was the day after the Harrier League Cross Country and the Striders ‘Christmas’ beer and curry night. Doubly cheeky I even managed to scrounge a lift – chatting to a regular racing rival of mine, Mark Doctor of Alnwick Harriers, he mentioned that they were going down on a coach, as for reasons lost in time one of their runners always went down and it became one of their club trips and they were kind enough to pick me up at Washington services on their way down.
The coach journey passed quickly, partially due to the quiz which they organised on the bus – my team’s knowledge of song lyrics and nursery rhymes meant that we won. As we drove down the motorway however we passed through some horrific weather - violent rain and gusting winds – not what you want to see on the start line of a hilly half.
That was however what we got, and after a quick if crowded registration – understandably not many runners wanted to hang around outside in the cold and rain – we were off to the start line. After a (too?) quick first mile downhill, normal service was resumed with what I expected – a long drag uphill to the windswept moor edge, just as I was getting my bearings, we didn’t turn where the spen 20 does – continuing along a road before a quad shredding steep drop. I couldn’t really enjoy this as it was less than half way in and you just know there’s only one way you can go from there – back up. Sure enough there was a steep climb which I’m very proud to say I didn’t walk on. Towards the end I got chatting to a few runners, thanks particularly Guy of East Hull Harriers who I’d met before, and Paul of Saltwell who I hadn’t and that helped to take the edge of the last section – at last back onto the Spen 20 route and familiar territory. One sneaky last hill and I was back at the Start/Finish crossing the line just as the race clock ticked over 1.45 – job done and a huge confidence boost after a lot of miles this weekend.
A fab long sleeved T-shirt with the course profile on it was the reward and a well-deserved beer was next. I’d really like to thank Mark and Alnwick Harriers for their company hosting me on what was a much quieter journey home on the coach.
Northern XC Champs, Knowsley Safari Park, 25th January
Once again my poor long suffering family got dragged to another run, to once again cement their opinion that I am not quite a full shilling. Except this time they wouldn't be wrong, it was my first ever cross country race and I was a bit nervous but I awoke to bright skies, a good start so I thought and that's what it was, as it went downhill rapidly. The journey from my parents to the Safari park only took 10 minutes so we had plenty of time for a cuppa before collecting numbers etc, luckily we had a seat before the heavens opened with both rain and hail and there was standing room only in the restaurant. Number and time chip collected off we went in search of the racing except anything short of wellies would have been described as inadequate foot wear so we didn't wonder too much which was just as well as it started chucking it down again and we quickly went for yet another cuppa.
By the time it was the senior women's race (the 9th) the rain and hail had diminished to only light rain but the course had seen 8 prior races, once you had plodded through the mud to the start it didn't look to bad till you got to the top of the hill, then it was just a sea of mud that was in many places past your ankles. I had to rescue my shoe on a couple of occasions and did think that when I got home I would stick some duck tape in my bag for next time.
I did consider calling it a day for the middle 7 km but as I was there I might as well finish and the race was luckily only 8km for us women, although I wasn't amused when I could see the finish line and realised that there was a huge loop to do before I could cross it and it was up a hill to add insult to injury. However both myself and most of the field made to the finish. Although next year I think if the competition is at the Safari Park we should get paid for creating the perfect landscape for hippos or mud fish. I did spare more than a thought for the senior men who had to follow us for 12km in once more deteriorating weather. This was my first XC race but it won't be my last I am sure.
That’s Lyth, Kendal, 26th January
Despite frequently proclaiming that I have no intention of doing a marathon anytime soon, I don’t think it was too hard back in the summer for Jules to persuade me it would be a good idea to sign up for something just short of a marathon at 24 miles long. So eager was Jules, in fact, that she was on the start line wearing the number 3!
Susan and Geoff informed us several times that they had always had good weather for this event in the past. But that was of little condolence as we stood outside the scout hut (Kendal first!) in Kendal in the dark at 8 am in the rain ... knowing that it had already been raining solidly for a whole week (and I imagine the whole winter!) beforehand and so the ground would be sodden ... and also knowing that the higher we got, the wind would add to the rain. But, I do believe we were all smiles, even though I was a little apprehensive about the weather and about being able to carry my legs around such a distance (17 miles is the furthest the poor wee things have endured previously).
The first 6 or 7 miles to the first check-point actually passed quite quickly. I was a little bit worried about the spritely pace that Geoff was setting, but decided it was probably just my legs trying to get going. The malt loaf and flap jack provided a much needed energy boost! But by CP1 I think we were all drenched through, despite being dressed in full Gore-tex! Mind you my newly-purchased waterproof socks were holding out well – my feet, amazingly, were the only part of my body with dry patches on at the end!
After CP1, we ascended onto the highest point of the route, Whitbarrow Scar. The climb was not too bad, although it was evident that I cannot walk as fast as Geoff and Susan! Was a bit exposed up there though, and my water-laden gloves were not keeping my hands warm AT ALL! Was very glad to descend and head towards CP2, where tea and biscuits were consumed and hand resuscitation was successfully performed. By this point, 14 miles had been covered and I was feeling much more optimistic about being able to manage 10 more, especially as the toughest section was over with. From this point on, however, my legs were getting more and more tired with every half-mile!
CP3 seemed to come very quickly after the second. This was in someone’s garage and more sweetness was consumed! Now only 6 miles left to go. After boldly announcing on leaving the check-point that I was going to beast out a 10K PB, all I could manage was to get slower and slower! The last 4 miles were pretty damn painful and all my hinges were hurting! But spirits were high, especially as a bit of sun finally started to peep through! I went over the last stile onto the road into Kendal in OAP fashion and tried to give some welly and overtake a few people during the closing stages! As usual though I started my sprint finish waaay too early and ended up pretty much hobbling into the scout hut at the finish! Was very chuffed to have completed it and still be running at the end! A lovely, friendly event and the scenery must be great when you can actually see it! Despite the weather, I think we all had a good day! Would definitely consider doing it again!
Brass Monkey Half Marathon, York Racecourse, 19th January
Striders who know me will know that I am not usually one for the roads but that I have been turning up for some of the club's classic road races over the last couple of years: GNR, Brampton and the GNR again! This year I decided to tick off the Brass Monkey, though given the 90 minutes I spent trying to access a crashing Knavesmire Harriers' website it was nearly a write off before I even started. Having managed the almost impossible, to get just one entry into the race - no more, no fewer! - I joined 20 or so Striders on the bus to York very early on a cold January Sunday morning; a similar number made their own way there. By the time we got to York the forecast "sunny periods" hadn't arrived and so I prepared for a wet run. But, by the start, it was a bit warmer than at home and so the thermal came off and my gloves and hat were left in my bag. In fact it was probably pretty ideal: the cold side of mild, overcast, light drizzle and no wind.
I'd not really prepared for a half marathon relying instead on it being a comfortable distance for me. In fact several days cross-country skiing the previous weekend, including a very tough 15km of a disastrous ski marathon, had taken their toll. I hadn't realised quite how much until about halfway round the Brass Monkey lollipop of a course. Muscles that really shouldn't ache when running started to ache, muscles that I only ever seem to use for skiing but muscles that were still complaining. It made for a very painful final six miles. What probably made things worse was that everyone says this is a potential PB course. No wind, no sun, and nicely cool just added to that potential, a potential my brain didn't want to waste even if my legs did. So I punished my legs more than I probably should have, but I did get that PB.
For those who have not yet done this half marathon, the course is a mix of minor and more minor roads. I'd say it's as flat as a pancake but the bridge over the A64 is a nasty little climb when your legs are tired after 12 miles of pounding the roads. It's well marshalled with three well-placed water points. There are some great patches of support as you pass through a couple of villages and there is fantastic support at the finish, well there was by the time I finished. There's even a bit of wild life to see, about half way round a weasel darted across the road in front of me carrying something like a vole in its mouth.
Once we were all in and changed - and it's great to be able to get changed in the warm, dry comfort of the race course main building - it was back on the bus for Shipton. It was a short bus trip to the Dawnay Arms for Sunday lunch and a couple of very welcome pints, then a longer sleepier bus trip back to Durham. A tiring but enjoyable day, but one my legs are not going to let me forget just yet.
|1||Matthew Peirson||Holmfirth Harriers||M||1:10:19|
|19||Jilly Woodthorpe||Barnsley AC||F35||1:15:57|
|1045||Richard Hall the Younger||M45||1:54:36|
|1349||Christine Anne Farnsworth||F60||2:16:23|
Winter Fan Dance Race, Brecon Beacons, 18th January
A few months ago a friend mentioned he was going to do the Winter Fan Dance Race, billed as a gruelling 24km non-navigational race over 2 sides of Pen Y Fan the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons. So I thought, yeah I'll have a go at that. So we set off on Friday for the long car journey to Wales with the requisite 36lb Bergen and Army boots packed.
Saturday morning, 830am saw me and my mate, Tony McGonnell, at the Storey Arms Outdoor Activity Centre, in the howling winds, light drizzle (you know the stuff that gets you wet through....) unable to see the top of the mountain for the low clouds. After the safety briefing and minute silence for the comrades who has lost their lives in the various wars, we were off.
There was about 500 load bearing participants all setting off together, I found this a bit frustrating as the going was very slow making it difficult to find my own pace. The field broke up after about 40 minutes and I was off. The first checkpoint was Pen Y Fan, the wind was howling and it was too dangerous to stop for long so after a brief word we were off again down Jacobs Ladder, stop start down here as the wind was very strong and there was a danger of being blown off the hill. By now I was soaked through having not put my waterproofs on at the beginning, well you can only get as wet as soaking. At the bottom of Jacobs Ladder there was a stream that had to be crossed, nothing for it but to wade through - no other option. Following this was 150 yard scree scramble before following an old Roman road for quite a way past a lake. Cold now but soldiering on, checking people out as I passed them to make sure they were ok, one of the rules of the race is if you find anyone who is in trouble you must stop to help them otherwise risk disqualification, fair enough really in these circumstances in this terrain.Down another steep bank and across another river, fast flowing up to your knees because of the recent rains, then a bit of undulating terrain to deal with. Due to the severe weather they had a tent where you have to answer some questions so you can be assessed for your fitness to carry on and make sure you hadn't developed hypothermia then it was onto the turnaround point and checkpoint 2. Here they made sure again that you were ok and ensured you had a 10 minute break and something hot to eat and drink. And then it was off again to do it all in reverse.
Conditions had worsened by now, the wind was stronger and the rain had developed into driving rain making you stop several times up Jacobs Ladder so I didn't get blown over. Up the top of Jacobs Ladder then about a quarter mile on was stopped again to answer more questions to assess how we were doing to continue.
On the homewards stretch, a long downhill, then all of a sudden you can see it, THE FINISH! the red phone box at the Storey Arms. One fella got so excited he decided to run down, slipped and bust his nose all over his face - ouch!
Once through the final gate, gave my name and number, received the coveted Fan Dance Race patch then off into the hut for hot soup and sausage rolls - most welcomed after an arduous cold wet but awesome experience. My goal had been to complete in 6.5 hours, but looking at my Garmin I got 5 hours 7 min. Pleased with that. Bring on next year.
Cathedral Relays, Durham, 12th January
After the success of the Summer Relays I was delighted when our club secretary Katy sent an email around asking for interest in the winter event which is called the Cathedral Relays - the relay races are a great event to run in and also make fantastic viewing.
So on a bitterly cold morning I picked Katherine up and we made our way to the clubhouse just near the old Durham parkrun finish to meet our fellow team mates. I was originally in a team with Will Horsley and James Garland with myself taking the final leg.
As we approached the start there was no sign of either Will or James so it was decided that I would take the opening leg which was also the first race of the day (Male veterans) which would give James and Will more time to turn up. I’d had a second place finish at Tees’s barrage parkrun the day before so while I was nowhere near peak fitness it had given me some confidence going into the race.
I decided to start near the back to stop me going off to hard, I managed to judge the first part fairly well and when I approached the last 500M of the first lap I felt fairly good. Onto lap 2 and I could see a couple of lads from Crook AC some way in front of me so that was my target. One lung bursting and hideously painful last push and I finished just behind the lads from Crook AC . I was shattered but really pleased with my time 11:41.
At the finish I was greeted by Katy saying "well done, how do you fancy doing the last leg as well?" NO..... NOT A CHANCE.....
So 12 minutes later I was on the 3rd leg which understandably was a lot slower than the first! (12:31), it transpired that Will and James thought they were running the senior race which started later. The classifications were different for this race so they were classed as veterans not seniors but as I found out in the summer relays it’s a lot more work than people realise so I’ll take the opportunity thank Katy once again.
Speaking of our Club secretary she had a great battle with Rachel Terry which was great to watch. The performance and commitment of all our teams on a bitterly cold day was great and that shows that not only is our club growing but the standard of running is increasing which is fantastic.
Marathon de Bessans 10K, France, 12th January
I was over in France and this 10K caught my eye. Bessans is a beautiful little town nestling in the Rhône-Alpes. It's a wide valley surrounded by snow-covered alpine peaks. The 10K started shortly after its sister races, a marathon and a half marathon, and shortly before the children's races of 5K and 2.5K, there was also a "Just for fun" race, yes they did use the English! As I would be running the Brass Monkey in just seven days I decided that the 10K would be a sensible distance. The pre-race build-up was great, lots of commentary and the race mascot, some sort of devil-come-bear-come-bull, running around annoying people.
Bang on 10:00 the main field was off with the half marathon doing a hilly circuit of the valley, the marathon covered this loop twice. At 10:15, and part of a much smaller field, I was off on the 10K which took a very different route for the first 6K. It was a fairly simple course: a trail dropping down to the river and then following it to the halfway point, then a long steady climb with a couple of short sharp hills back to the finish. For the most part it was a gentle descent but there were a couple of very steep drops that were technically difficult. Just as I got to the 4K-to-go marker I joined the main field - they'd done 17K by this point! This was not easy to do with a pack of elite athletes hogging the trail. Rather than get crushed I decided to pause - it was just after a sharp climb - and let them pass and took a breather.
The next 3K was what felt like a never-ending climb but it did end - after 3K! - and as I crowned the hill the finish area was in sight. It was then a fairly flat course in and I crossed the line in a very creditable, for me, 45:23. Even the 10K competitors got medals - and a bit of tissue to wipe the sweat (or worse) off! After the finish line there was a whole array of nibbles and drink, the French do this so well. I had a cup of vin chaud (mulled wine) and some cake. After waiting for friends who were doing the half and the marathon to finish we all headed for a post race meal, pasta with the local cheese and fresh yoghurt, before the long drive back to Geneva.
After looking at my GPS log I noticed I'd hit around 30kph on that steep descent, that's some descending for me! Oh, did I mention that this was an XC ski race? No? Well, it was and I recommend that anyone who runs tries one if they can, they are great fun and almost always beautiful. My marathon race the day before on slightly different skis was a disaster, but that's a much longer story and I don't want to put you off.