Monday, March 24, 2014

CTS Sussex Race Report

Friday night the weather promised to be sunny throughout - hurrah

Saturday morning we woke to a lovely blue sky spring day - hurrah

What we didn't realise was how cold the wind chill was, drove 2 hours to the coast and got out the car to have the warmth sucked out of me, so I chose to put on everything I owned whilst we registered and see what happened before I decided what to actually wear for the race!!

The venue for this Coastal Trail Series was the world famous Seven Sisters

Or to be exact the coastal path along them and some in land walk ways. I don't call these events "Races" as such as they are, as the organisers title suggests, "endurance" events... they are never going to be "PB" events, but they always guarantee amazing coastal views and usually some lung bursting climbs and thigh-blowing descents. Even "just" the 10k (which was 12.5k on this occasion) is an endurance effort, as for the half, marathon and ultras... well probably slighlty barking..

My plan for the event was to;
(a) ENJOY myself - especially remembering to take in the views
(b) WALK up anything which was either too steep or promised to be long enough to warrant a walk rather then run
(c) RUN LIKE A DOG down any hill - pinning my ears back and going for it (I did however try and keep my tongue in my mouth rather then lolliping around like a dogs).

I went in to the event pretty fresh having not done any Swim,Bike or running since Tuesday... (long days at work and feeling a bit wobbly led me to having a lazy Weds, total break Thursday, and busy Friday). So definitely feeling fresher for the days effort compared to the Ringwood Rabbit a week last Sunday.

The start was close enough to the car park to be able to register and wander back and leave all our warm layers in the car. I opted for t-shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, light jacket, buff and gloves to start with to help combat the biting wind.

We (the 10kers - all the other distances had begun quite a bit earlier) lined up along a narrow grassy track for the off... run back to the car park, through that then up a track to head on to the coastal path - the start was a bit congested, then spread out well up the track only to be thwarted at the top by a kissing gate - so the inevitable stop and wait as we all took our turn to go through - which was ok as gave you some time to get your breath back! Having negotiated that and another gate we found ourselves on the coastal paths, with clear skies, the views were thrilling - white cliffs and menacing seas or miles ahead! Beautiful! Despite my pre-race decision to run like a dog down the hills I found myself at the first couple taking it very very carefully - they were slippery mud on chalk and very steep - so decided better safe then sorry. We had a couple of cliffs to go down and up before turning right and heading in land. Almost immediately with the wind behind you it felt very warm - everyone around me at this stage started taking the odd layer or two off, myself included.

Buff, gloves and coat came off with the coat holding the others and itself wrapped around my waist. We were quickly (it seemed) at the first check point, I dibbed in and then grabbed myself  4 nice little jelly babies.. YUMMY!

Soon and another kissing gate later I DID get to run like a dog down hill through a field - had I realised it was like some sort of rabbit hole minefield I would have perhaps been a little more cautious! As it was a sprinted down to become an semi-out of control, arm wheeling, long legged middle aged woman avoiding rabbit holes in a manic sort of fashion... type of person.. the rabbit warren soon gave way to a chalky incline which you could only do single file - which meant walking as people ahead were.. and I was fine with that. Exciting chalk alley we got to the corner of the field and came across not a kissing gate, not a fence stile but a wall... which had steps up and over... but still a wall!... Needless to say this was single file so we queued up and over that... next more down hill!

RUN LIKE A DOG! Only to have to have to put the brakes on sharpish as we were on single track and the woman in front was phaffing with her headphones and not paying much attention (although was moving)... Found an oppotunity to pass and pinned back my ears again... this time to be thwarted by a gate - why do gates always have to swing towards you when you are running down hill like a dog?!... Anyway - that section was fun.. .through another kissing gate and back to the lane we ran up at the start... 8k done and we were sent back up hill towards a lighthouse and away from the finish line.. I was glad I had (a) been expecting this - because I had looked at the map and (b) knew beforehand that the race was 12.5k, not 10k - this fact caught a lot of people out.

Anyway - uphill (walk), downhill (RLAD), as we came over what I thought could be the last hill only to see another cliff ascent ahead... ah well... RLAD down and then bimble up ... thankfully most of this section the wind was behind you so even when you were walking you were definitely getting a helping hand! We reached the top and the split point - 10k turn and all other distances went onwards (on more like upwards).

Now all there was to do was RLAD about 2k down hill - WHOPPPPPEEEEEEEEEE! It really was fun, and I didn't twist my ankle in any rabbit holes either!

Gave it my all in the last few hundred metres, regardless of the headwind. Finishing in 1hr 23mins 11s. NICE!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ringwood Rabbit Race Report

A nice bright morning saw us leave early for the 1.5hour drive down to the beauty of the New Forest last Sunday (16th March) to take part in a really well organised event ran by the local Scout Group.

Drawn to the race by the name and location we weren't disappointed. A fair valued race to enter, with the option of purchasing a race t-shirt if you wanted .. I think this is a good option as often you get t-shirts included which just end up not being worn... and particularly good that you could also choose your colour!!

Anyway - to the race..... the first race outing of the year. Given I had had one of my biggest if not the biggest training week in over a year (ok it wasn't that much but was much for me) I wasn't expecting much and given the offroad terrain and expected undulations I was hoping to take it kind of easy for the first half then speed up and hope to come in around about the hour mark.

The start/ finish location was at a campsite in the middle of the forest and due to lack of sufficient parking spaces for all the competitors they had a shuttle service running from a school about 1.5miles away - which worked well.

About 20mins before the race started a group warm up took place - which started off with the usual start jumps and lunges but when it got to burpee star to pressup to star jump I thought that was a bit much! After that we were herded to our respective start areas (there was a 5k and 10k race race going on), with the H&S warning to avoid the cow pats which were down the lane as they were slippery!!

At about 10:30 the man at the front shouted "GO!" and we shuffled up the lane until there was enough room to break into a little jog.

The route was fantastic - we started on tarmac which soon turned to unkept road and then to a fire track into the forest. The faster runners quickly broke free and everyone spaced out nicely so there was plenty of room. Despite the recent flooding the track was pretty dry (normal trainers were fine for the terrain). As we headed into the forest we say a few of the New Forest Ponies huddled under a tree... the path continued to meander upwards and generally I was comfortable as intended, even during the inclines... Until that is we got to the hill around the 4k marker... this was a cheeky beast... and named "corkscrew hill" by Popey as it kept on going up, steep, you'd hit a bend thinking it would be the top - except it wasn't - and then went up again.. and repeat... many people were walking this but despite the temptation to do so I decided not too.... having finally got to the top we broke out of the forest and found ourselves at the top of a great expanse with views for miles - it was a gloriously sunny day! Across this top we came past the 5k marker - hurrah I thought!!! Also thought it must be down hill from now onwards - surely!!.... Despite the unseasonal warmth I decided not to worry about taking in or pouring any water over my head .... and headed back into the forest from some shade and welcome down hill... my theory for downhills is not to use them as recovery but run as hard and as fast as I dare! Having some targets in sight I quickly sped up.... which was a mistake as it turned out my legs were actually MUSH from the previous days 2hr45 ride and 15min run.... I discovered this around the 8k marker when we turned a corner to find a short steep cheeky little HILL... MEH MEH MEH! My pace dropped, my legs whined and my brain said PAH... and so I walked ... for about a minute... as my hamstring shouted abuse at the gradient... broke into a jog again towards the top only for my hamstring to say no.... up the next rise it was down hill back on to tarmac, up a short bit of road before a right turn back into the lane and heading to the finish line!! The hamstring was fine when back on the tarmac so with my head high I paced myself into the red zone, having seen my time could still be in under the hour mark, I turned into the field withe marshall on the corner telling us we had 30s to make it under the hour... clearly I dipped at the line!!

PLACED 45/ 94 (Women's results)

You can see how "undulating" the course was below - the lines on the right side of the elevation graph are my walk intervals!!

Phewy! Having wanted to "take it easy" I definitely managed that until the hill at 4k.. then I definitely took myself way out of my comfort zone - but it was such a wonderful location, the marshalls were plentiful and super... I was very pleased to make it under the hour. Worth a revisit I would say! After the race we had a quick clothes change i the camping site showers before queuing for the shuttle bus back.

Rather then coming home via the motorways we meandered our way up the A and B roads. We came across a few packs of New Forest ponies roaming the lanes around the forest. Despite the fact it hadn't rained too badly during the last week or so the flooding we saw on our way home was still fairly substantial... it is going to take some time before some communities are back to where they should be I would say.