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!!
UN-CHIPPED FINISH TIME: 59:39.57
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.