Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

July 2nd: The Ultimate Trails 55k - Ultimately Enjoyable.

The drive up to the lakes was crap. I had planned on arriving in Ambleside for the Ultimate Trails 55k with plenty of time to park, register, get a good meal in me and watch the Welsh play Belgium in the Euros. Plans are great, plans rock, but when a third party gets involved they tend to go somewhat awry… In this case with major delays around Birmingham and through the Manchester area I had 3 hours added to my journey, so getting to the event base to register by the 8pm deadline was becoming even a remote possibility. Without having eaten lunch I was forced to dive-in to some services on the M6 in Lancashire to grab a burger to eat as I drove the rest of the way to the lakes as I was unsure of getting to my destination before the pub kitchens of Ambleside closed.

The route for the following days travels.
Fortunately I arrived as darkness was falling and pulled into the parking area for the event - a field next to the local football club - which was nearly full already.

I dashed across to the church hall to register just before it closed - a very professional effort with a full kit check and photo ID session to ensure you are who you claim to be, before you were issued with your timing chip. At least with this done the pressure was off for tomorrow morning and one less thing to worry about… Plus being there at the last possible moment it meant no queuing either.

Retiring to the pub I settled for a couple of beers and to catch what little was left of the game (Wales continuing their remarkable performance in the tournament by beating the Belgians) to kill some time before heading to the start line for the 110k race, listen in to some of the briefing before clapping-off the runners on their midnight start… Before hunkering down in the back of the van for the night.

The start of the 110k race.
All refreshed after a decent kip I woke at a relatively civilised time to get ready for the 11am start - much later than I’m used to kicking off a race!.. It really was a case of killing time in the morning, all keyed-up and excited to go, fired with a desire to give a good account of myself this time after my disappointing display at the Jurassic Quarter a few weeks back.

I attended briefing with everyone else, which unsurprisingly was not a million miles different from what I heard of the one for the 110, so it was just a case of hanging around in the ‘pen’ with the multitude of the other runners - around 500 of us to be precise, all of us eager to get going.

Milling around just waiting and waiting for the start!
Ambleside had been severely hit by the flooding in the area over the winter just gone and during the height of the floods the park in which the event was based was a good 10ft under water - something that was impossible to fathom from just standing there on the lush grass - ok there are 2 small rivers either side of it, but nothing that could make you think of how such a volume of water could arrive and swamp the area… A truly sobering thought, but also amazing in how the area has recovered so rapidly to the point there was no visible sign of the disaster that befell the place mere months before.

Eventually we were off - all of us dashing out of the park and on to the mean streets of Ambleside, crossing the one-way system ready to ascend out of the village, where within about a minute of starting everything ground to a total standstill! Heading up the narrow street leading out the east of the village, a delivery driver had parked blocking the road. The van had just enough space either side for one person at a time to squeeze through so we were all held here slowly passing through the gap Indian file before we were able to start moving again, climbing the long and winding road towards the beckoning green hills.

Feeling like we're leaving civilisation behind.
Soon the tarmac of country lane gave-way to trail and the impression of being out in the wilderness was upon us as the unrelenting ascent continued over the first 4 miles of the route until we hit Kirkstone Pass. Once here the trail levelled-off it was a huge relief for our aching calves to have some respite before the pay-off for this hard work in scaling 1,500ft. As we passed through the parking area for tourists driving past to admire the view, we had our first feed station of the day; its gazebo trying to offer some shelter from the darkening skies threatening rain and from the rising wind.

Hitting the wilderness.
Crossing the car park there was the slightly confusing and bizarre occurrence of a fell race starting at the other end, with lots of bemused club runners arriving as the masses passed-through, all looking very worried about this continual stream of eager well kitted-out racers mingling with them in the car park as they tried to register and keep warm for their race, some of them panicking thinking their race had started and having to be talked-out of joining-in with all of us with another 30-odd miles to go on our jaunt!

Heading through the pass.
Out the other side of the car park and we were presented with a fantastic descent through the pass for a very runnable and enjoyable 10k to the Glenridding aid station.

Starting the descent.
It was on this descent I saw a runner in front drop one of her poles, so I stooped to pick it up and give it back to her and recognised the face of someone who I had met back at Fort William where she and her friend had been as underwhelmed by the pre-race pasta party as I had!.. Today was a training run for her in anticipation of her crossing of the Atacama - a 7 day race across the dessert! Her running buddy from Fort William was also here today but already out on the course on the 110k race.
Picking a path.
Continuing the descent everyone seemed to be following the same path which was causing bottlenecks, so I decided to take a slightly different route off to the side which made me soon realise why no-one else was doing the same as I ended-up knee deep in a bog just a metre or so off to the side of the main path - at least I faired better than one lady on the main path who tried to cross a boggy bit only to face-plant into the watery mess, properly submerging her head and all the way to her chest, fortunately with no damage other than a bruising to the ego.

Fording one of the many swollen mountain streams.
Marveling at the contrast of the lush green of the grass, the slate grey of the exposed rock and matching sky I drank in the scenery as I descended to Patterdale, passing plenty with my downhill speed who had passed me before as I toiled on the ascent dragging my belly up the hillside. Even the on-set of the first downpour of the day did not phase me and it came down heavy, but at least it was warm rain so not too dispiriting… Although once on to the flat tarmac of the valley floor I began to feel the exertions of these hard 2 hours of effort to get to the first proper point for a break as I had to make the metronome tick-over at a constant to get me to shelter.

A bit grim, grey and soggy on the valley floor.
Reaching the aid station they had been incredibly cunning: the timing mat for the race was inside the hall rather than outside, so all runners had to enter and be funnelled past the food and drink that was lain out for us, all the while being visually assessed by the medics - This was a really clever touch as it forced people to make a conscious effort not to take on board any food or a warm drink. Those at the head of the race would have been able to pass through without too much of a time loss before the masses arrived to choke-up the area - so it works for the elites as well as it does those of us just out for the challenge.

The start of the next climb out of the aid station.
I had ignored the first aid station with it only being at 4 miles so I thought I’d have something to eat and a cup of tea whilst here, but none of the scran initially took my fancy; I was not over enamoured of the thought of peanut butter, jam or ham (I was not enamoured Sam I am) but then I saw a cheese and onion sanger - and I mean the cheapest sangers you get in the supermarket kind of cheese and onion and all of a sudden I knew I just had to have one (or three!) and it was the best tasting goddam thing I have ever eaten - it really went down a treat and boosted me immensely - I knew then for the rest of the race I would be hoovering cheese and onion sangers at every opportunity!.. It became an obsession. I just wanted to run as hard as I could to the next aid station to get my hands on the next helping.

The wind and rain setting-in, the hail started soon after!
Out of the aid station and the climbing commenced: away from Patterdale leaving Ullswater behind in the distance whilst following the path westwards just to the south of the mighty Hellvellyn that towers above… It was as I attempted to run up a section of the incline for a change that I felt something shift at my back and turning I saw my backpack had opened and my waterproof had spilled-out from it. I stopped to pick it up, thankful I had noticed in time and debated packing it or putting it on for the sky was looking like it was about to burst once more - so I made my choice; stowing it tightly and ensuring the zip was firmly closed and carried on my merry way… Sod’s law: five minutes later and I had to stop again to get it out and put it on as the heavens carried out their threat and opened for another biblical deluge, with the wind rising to a near gale the higher we climbed driving the rain in to our faces… 8 miles this leg was between aid stations with no cover for us. You were exposed the entire time to what the elements were throwing at you as you traversed 1,500ft of climbing over the first 5 miles and 1,800ft of descent in the final 3 and a chance for a breather.
Ruthwaite Lodge and its surrounding sea of green.

This climb over Grizedale was long and slow with the wind howling, unable to look up a lot of the time through the rain and even hail blasting you in the face if you were to raise your head… I’m sure this stretch looks absolutely stunning without the low cloud and being able to look up around you, but today you were not really able to see or savour a great deal… Until you turned around as you reached a small plateau by the grandly named shuttered shepherd hut of ‘Ruthwaite Lodge’ and saw what you had climbed. Its a pretty awesome sight.

Looking down Grizedale.
Catching my breath here I struck-up a conversation with a fellow racer Sinéad as she grimaced her way towards me up to the hut… As we pushed onwards passing the tarn and up to the highest point of the whole course, I couldn’t help but chuckle about the back-pack she was wearing - now both my girls when they were younger used to love Dora the Explorer - with her brightly coloured back-pack that stores all wonderful things inside it to help with her escapades… I couldn’t but help myself and pointed out to Sinéad that she was in fact Dora the Explorer, which in the midst of the exertion and minds addled by fatigue, hunger and pain whilst being battered by the elements seemed to amuse… And having a couple of kids of her own (or ‘wildlings’ as she says), she certainly got the point of reference.
Crossing the Tarn.
Typically, once over the top of Grizedale, the weather began to change with the wind dropping to a mere breeze, the rain suddenly stopped and the temperature rose along with the humidity, just in time for the steep descent to the valley floor and the aid station at the school in Grasmere.

The descent commences
With the clearing of the weather you’d have thought that progress would speed-up significantly, especially with the descent - but unfortunately with all the rain the going underfoot was a bit tricky so careful was the watch-word with the risk of a tumble down the side of the hill - it doesn’t matter how much money you spend on your trainers, all of them are pants on wet rock!

The lake at Grasmere.
As I descended alongside ‘Dora’ we got chatting with another racer who turned-out works with the dad of one of the guys I played footy with. Once we hit the valley floor and the road it was a couple of miles along the black tar way till we hit the aid station with just over half the race completed… Cheese & onion sandwich time!.. I was dead chuffed to find some more there and washed it down with one of the cans of Red Bull I had stashed in my pack for this aid station and the last one of the day.

Out of the aid station and we were off onto the last of the ‘big’ climbs, up and over Silver How before hitting  the relatively benign loop from Chapel Style, through Elterwater & Little Langdale as we covered some of the common ground shared by the Lakeland 50 course but in a different direction for the most part… On this section we caught-up with a couple of Dora’s running buddies from her Radcliffe Athletic Club so there was more conversation to divert.

Closing-in on the last aid station of the day.
On the final third of the loop, descending through Wrynose Pass, nattering away with Dora, I was not paying full attention and my right foot slipped off the path. The trail here has a ditch on the right side, so my right leg ended in the ditch, with my left knee crashing fully down with all my weight behind it onto the gritty hard-packed surface… I couldn’t help but yelp with the pain - I knew it was not good on impact as the electric bolts of the shock and pain shot through my whole body… I decided immediately to adopt my normal coping strategy with a bad cut of not to look, ignore it and get moving again whilst the adrenaline is still strong and prevent things seizing-up with swelling. The good thing was we were descending so I was able to run/ hobble/ walk the rest of the way to the aid station along the reverse of a majority downhill route I had walked in May, arriving at the school in Chapel Stile, where I was safe in the knowledge of having got there with no ill effects and necking some paracetamol I would be ok to carry-on to the finish…

I sat down in the hall for more cheese & onion sangers, a cup of tea and some Red Bull and stretched out my leg in front so I could see what I had done - fortunately it was just a bloody mess that had oozed in to my calf sleeve all the way down to my sock and aside from seeing a fair bit of broken skin I couldn’t really tell what there was and how many stones I had gathered in it was well, although it must have been quite tasty as a lot of people were commiserating me at having to bail from the race at this late stage with an injury like that - so I just put on my best ‘Black Knight’ from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and insisted it was just a mere scratch and off for the final 10k stretch I forged alongside Dora.

Loved that I only noticed the stack of stones long after taking the photo.
The last leg started off with an easy tab along the flat through Elterwater before the final climbs of the day up on to Loughrigg Fell then over it to our final destination… Fair to say we knew we had it made with only at worst a 2 hour walk to the finish, so the thoughts were now on our timing and getting to the finish before darkness fell.

As we made our way in the fading light across the final couple of miles before the drop in to Ambleside and the finish, I joked to Dora about us making good time and how we stood a decent chance to get in under the 10 hours mark, so if we passed her husband coming out to meet her just before the finish she would end up just waving ‘hi and bye’ to him as she charged-onwards focusing on the finish… And sure enough about a mile from the finish, just before we descended to the park in Ambleside, Dora saw her devoted hubby wandering towards us in the gloom - she briefly slowed to chat with him as he jogged with us before she kicked-on for the tape and the bowl of soup and a roll that awaited.

Ullswater from the climb over Grisedale.
Crossing the line safely under the 10 hours and very happy with the day’s running we were presented with our medal and finishers shirt before going to the food truck to collect that promised welcoming bowl of hot soup and roll to consume in the ‘finishers enclosure’ marquee.

Enjoying the welcome hot meal with Dora and her Radcliffe Athletic Club friends I was eventually peer-pressured in to getting my knee properly checked-out as it was not ‘just a scratch’ as I was trying to pass it off as. I thought discretion was the better form of valour on this as I was outnumbered by 5-1 so I walked over to the medical tent and for the first time ever used the medical facilities as provided at an event.

Chatting with the guy as he set to work cleaning out my knee, he informed me the week before he had been crewing on the medical team for some promo filming that Strava have done in the lakes about ‘kudos’ and doing things together, so I’ll have to look out for that!

His official professional verdict on the knee was ‘it’s a mess’ and needed to be properly stitched, probably in double figures. As he scrubbed away at the open wound he couldn’t believe I was not reacting or even flinching, let alone moaning in discomfort as most people would. I explained it is not me trying to be macho, but purely because of a lack of nerve endings in that knee from a previous footy injury and I genuinely was not feeling it… As my body was cooling down having stopped moving after 10 hours on my feet, combined with the temperature dropping as darkness fell, I was beginning to noticeably shiver, so the doc advised me to go away, have a shower, get changed in to something warm and return for him to do another clean-up.

Taking his advice I enjoyed a good shower in the Ambleside FC changing rooms and sauntered back for round 2. When the doc had finished he reckoned there was about a dozen stitches worth of injury as it was a diagonal laceration across the entire knee-cap. He reiterated I needed to get it seen-to properly at A&E and made me promise to do so before leaving his charge - he asked what my plans for travel were so I told him I was intending on driving back tonight. Reluctantly he said ok to that but to get it stitched as soon as I got back to Basingstoke, if I was to reconsider going tonight he told me where the nearest A&E was to Ambleside.

Having been patched-up I took myself off to the pub for a beer and to watch the end of the footy - not the best of games ending in penalties - before retiring to the van and a kip fully dressed in the sleeping bag as I was struggling to warm-up, with the plan of leaving around 2am to get back home.

Waking in the dead of night I got in to the driver’s seat and started the engine to go home - I managed about half the distance across the field before the van became bogged-down in the churned-up mud from others leaving before me following the deluge Ambleside had experienced for the best part of the day… And at this time in the morning there was no chance of getting out of the mud and away - I tried wedging bits of old wooden fence under the wheels for traction but that did not help get a grip, so I was stuck… I was certainly not getting to A&E either back home or anywhere in the Lakes!

A good night’s sleep and I was awake and eager to get off home at the earliest opportunity, but I had to hang around till lunchtime following all the presentations before the organisers could spare some bodies to help push me out of the mud and I could get on my merry way… By the time I got home after an uneventful drive the window of opportunity to get my knee stitched was not looking good - from experience I’ve been turned away from A&E as once a wound begins to scab they are loathe to interfere with it, so it looks like it’ll be slowly healing from the inside out… Fingers crossed it will be fine for the year’s ‘A’ race, the Lakeland 50 at the end of the month.

Listening to the entertainment as we awaited the presentation.
I really enjoyed this run, which has already become my favourite having knocked the Glencoe marathon in to second place for the overall experience and atmosphere, although Glencoe still edges it on the scenery front. It was great bumping in to ‘Dora’ to while-away the miles on the trail, and it says a lot about her tolerance of motor-mouthed idiots that I did not bore/wind her up to the point that a justifiable homicide seemed a good idea!.. The course was well marked with no wrong turns taken even where the 55 & 100 courses joined and split, which is always a bonus, and I thought the organisers had made a very clever conscious decision over the aid stations and the timing mats.

Speaking to the organiser about the problems with the parking, they were pretty miffed by it themselves - there was a large hard-stand parking area that they had used in previous years under lease but this year they had been denied the use of it by the owners who instead insisted they had just the field to use whilst they provided no back-up or assistance to get the vehicles in or out - so hopefully this is something that will not be repeated. Besides this, what I will do in future is to park on the hard-stand to the side with all the camper vans to prevent a repetition, especially as I now have knowledge of the event and will hopefully arrive in plenty of time.

A big thanks to the medic as well - this was the first time I have had to use one at an event - I know they are there to be used, its just I felt a bit of a plum for being such a muppet for needing to use one.

For the record, my time over the 36 miles was 9:47:20, placing me 270/449 finishers, so I was really happy with that especially when I was so near the bottom of the Jurassic Quarter field a few weeks back!

Doing the 'moose' for the camera.
Oh and in enjoying this day out in the lakes so much despite the crappy weather, at the presentation Dora and myself were chatting about a return for the 110 next year… Its definitely an option. And to finish-off here’s what the knee looked-like after 2 weeks - yep it was a lovely oozing mess for a while from the plasma as it healed from the inside out - it fair put people off their pints down the pub the Thursday after!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Monday, 23 January 2017

June 25th: Comparative Waffling.

Anyone who has read this blog or who has spoken to me in real life will well know I do enjoy a good waffle, as well as liking a munch on the food-stuff of the same name.

There’s plenty of people out there who swear by the ‘Honey Stinger’ brand of waffles when it comes to endurance sports and keeping themselves fueled.

Having seen and sampled them on my travels I have noticed they seem to be identical to the ‘Northwood Caramel Waffles’ available off the shelf in the Lidl supermarket chain, so I thought I’d look in to the two of them by means of comparison as I have energy gels/ jelly.

So here be my Honey Stinger Waffles vs. Lidl’s Northwood Caramel Waffles comparison.

Lidl's waffle offering.
A Honey Stinger.
From the above pictures you can see that they are both very similar in appearance to the point you might think they had been made in the same factory!


You cannot buy the Lidl waffles individually as you can the Honey Stinger, but at the same time it is not cost effective buying Honey Stingers individually so I have based this on a box of the former as sourced on eBay to a pack of the latter off the shelf from the supermarket:

Honey Stinger: £22.99 for a box of 16
Lidl: £1.20 for 8

Nutritional breakdown per waffle:

                   HS             Lidl
Size            30g            40g
Calories     160Kcal    195Kcal
Fat              7g              7.6g
Saturates     3g             4.8g
Sugar          14g           14g

Extrapolating the figures above, for the cost of £0.15 of an individual Lidl’s caramel waffle, compared to £1.44 for an individual Honey Stinger, you get a 30% heavier waffle, giving you 22% more energy, with a slightly higher fat content.

Basically, for 1/10th of the price of a Honey Stinger you are getting something that is superior in all the vital numbers if you are looking for in an energy blast… Ok the sugars that are in the two are different, one being caramel syrup, the other honey, but unless you are racing at an elite level or have specific dietary requirements, then the Lidl’s ones must surely be the way to go based on the punch it packs!

One thing that Honey Stinger have over Lidl is they offer a variety of flavours they offer, whereas Lidl's are only available as caramel - but if you're like me and enjoy caramel then there's no issue on the flavour front!

If you were to buy 16 Lidl waffles (2 packs) then you are spending almost 1/10th of the price of 16 Honey Stingers and getting a bigger blast per item when it comes to fueling, plus you can just venture down the supermarket and get hold of them rather than waiting a few days for a mail-order delivery... For me this is a no-brainer.

Eat waffles.
Drink beer.
Run far.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

June 18th: Hoppit!

To be brutally honest I was not in the best of shape getting to the start-line of the inaugural Hampshire Hoppit trail marathon… Since the Jurassic Quarter a month ago I have been out for the sum-total of one jog. Partly it was work-load issues, but mostly it was through the state my knees were in after the race. I was troubled for a good week with aching and pain inside of them and a tender right hamstring that I have been nursing since March.

As such I had taken a near total break to allow my body some recovery time… The flip-side of this was I knew I would not be in any condition to push for a decent time and I was prepared to be hurting in the days afterwards!

I was alerted to the inaugural Hampshire Hoppit a few months back by CTS running buddy Luke when chatting about something to do in June that was different to the South Downs Marathon. An ad for it had popped-up on his Facebook so he messaged me and in no time I’d committed to this event as my June marathon… As an added incentive, it promised if you finish instead of a medal you would receive a commemorative pint pot filled with a bespoke brewed beer from the local Loddon Brewery to drink in celebration of your accomplishment.

The Hoppit, has a choice of either half or full marathon organised by the local Basingstoke & Mid Hants Athletics Club over the hills, fields and country lanes north of Basingstoke in a circular route from Kingsclere over the famous Watership Down, round to Hannington where they TV mast dominates the skyline for miles around, then back to the start.

Looking up the hill to the Hannington transmitter.
I drove with LSS & Heidi the short distance to Kingsclere where we were efficiently marshaled to a parking space a little way from the event base on the gallops of the Park House racing stables owned by the parents of TV sports presenter Clare Balding.

Crossing the gallops.
In the car park I bumped into Barry Miller, who’d just finished 2nd in the Grand Union Canal race a couple of weeks before - the race is the 145 mile length of the canal from Birmingham to London! I teased him about chasing the win today with the distance being merely a Sunday training run for him - which he laughed-off saying there’s ‘far too many young whippets for that’!

A trek of about a mile across the gallops from the parking and we were at the marquee to register, generally mill around under the strengthening summer sun and prepare for the off in a bubbly atmosphere that was bordering on a party.

Milling around ready for the start.
Both the marathon and half marathon were corralled together and unleashed on to the course at the same time. Initially it was a half mile dash down the gallops to the foot of the steep ridged hill the Hannington TV mast sits atop, a TV mast that in 2001 famously ‘died’ during England’s 5-1 defeat of Germany in a World Cup qualifier in Germany when the game was 1-1!

Galloping down the gallops.
As soon as we all left the gallop the field ground to a halt entering the woods. Unfortunately there seemed to be a lot of pavement-pounders amongst the runners who were frightened of a couple of stinging nettles that were hanging over the single-track path and had stopped in panic trying to figure a way around them rather than ploughing-on through! Eventually we were moving again under the cool shade of the leafy canopy until we turned a corner to leave the estate and we were faced with the climb straight up the hill on to the ridge.

The ascent.
Unfortunately there was a stile close to the summit so everyone had to stand and wait in line to cross that, so the entire field for both races was stretched-out along the side of the hill single file waiting to get over it under the beating sun - I suppose at least we did not have to make any attempt at legging it up the impossibly steep side on which we stood.

In the queue at the top of the hill.
Once atop the ridge and in the welcome slight breeze you gained from being up high we were off and running over the flat pasture, with the field able to spread-out with all the runners up to speed - although it was not possible to tell what race people were in, so the person in front you were running hard to keep up with could have been running the half marathon and after a couple of miles when the course forked right and left for the respective races, it was soon apparent that the majority of those runners in front were veering left for the half course!

As we kept to the ridge-top we could see off to our right side the area that gave the name of the book Watership Down, although at this time of day there were sadly no rabbits to be spotted.

After a couple of miles of the wide grassy plateau we descended to the well hidden A34 and the subterranean crossing of it, passing along the memorial stone to aviation pioneer Geoffrey de Havilland set where he flew his first home-made aeroplane - his family having been local to the area with his father the vicar for the parish.

Swaying in the gentle breeze.
This stretch of the run seemed to be continually downhill and changed from the grassy hill-tops to the farm trails, green lanes and ‘B’ roads that led us around the southerly section of the course… It was along here I encountered a freshly deceased rabbit - not being far from Watership Down and its tale of migrating rabbits looking for a new mythical home, I commented to my fellow runners that ‘Fiver had not quite made it to Efrafa’.

The unfortunate Fiver.
With us now in the midst of summer the first of the poppies were showing their heads amongst the fields of barley and wheat, the sharp red a notable counterpoint to the soft greens that shimmered with the crops moving in the gentle breeze.

The entire southern half of the day's route seemed to just blend in to one continual unremarkable meander through the agricultural countryside we are lucky to have in this part of Hampshire. Running was easy with even the climbs being steady, slow and not very taxing. It serves as an ideal introduction to a trail marathon for the worshippers of black tar running as a good half of the distance was on their favoured surface and with the baked-hard trail underfoot, even the off-road sections were more than passable with a pair of road running shoes.

With around 10k left to go we encountered the first major climb since leaving the grounds of the gallops as we turned northwards towards Hannington and the ascent back up the hill with the transmitter with the finish at the bottom of the hill on the other side.

Passing through the village we hit a plateau, the village clearing to reveal just flat fields with Buzzards and Red Kites circling above us ominously as if waiting to feed on the carcasses of any fallen runners. Venturing in to the fields we could hear an absolute chorus of bleats. The field on our left was filled with some very vocal ovines who seemed to be cheering us on. I couldn't help but stop to record the sound of them all giving it what-for!

Playing 'king of the castle'.

Turning the corner at the end of the field there was a sharp descent which I found a bit hard on my knees with all the pavement-pounding of the last 10 miles or so, however in no time we seemed to be climbing again and veering left as we circled on to the northern edge of the hill overlooking Kingsclere and the finish a mere couple of miles away.

Closing-in on the finish in yonder field.
Spirits lifted for everyone it was a simple jog in and descent off the hill and a final mile up the gallops to the finish line and the waiting LSS & Heidi who was going bananas at all the runners woofing like a thing possessed with all the excitement.

The finisher’s swag bag had within it a medal, 2 packs of crisps, a ‘Bounce Energy Ball’, samples of lube plus, some ‘Rock Tape’ kinesiology tape, a mini pack of Haribo. The best gift of all was what I had been looking forward to since I entered and was yours straight after the finish; the etched pint glass which was filled with the ale that gives the race its name… Those who finished the marathon received a pint glass and those who ran the half received a half-pint which I thought was a rather apt way to do things.

So much for his prediction of there being ‘too many whippets’ in the race: Barry finished 3rd… A successful couple of weeks endurance running by any standard!

As much as this run was me just ‘going through the motions’ and spending the time on my feet with the Lakeland 50 looming, by not putting much effort or pace in to the race, I enjoyed it as a gentle local jaunt in the local countryside. As it was organised by the local athletics club it was well managed and marshaled by people who care about what you are out there doing. The atmosphere was very friendly and from looking at all those around me the field was composed of mostly club runners from the local surrounding areas of Hampshire, Berkshire and Wiltshire, although there were plenty of other vests from farther afield to be spotted... Must have been the lure of free beer!

Will I be doing this one again? Certainly. On a purely logistical level it works better for me than the South Downs (although not as taxing a run) and I get the impression it will grow with every year it runs. The course is one where you can put a very good time down for a trail marathon as it is undemanding terrain underfoot and has few significant climbs to really slow you down... so long as the 2 pinch-points near the start are taken care of that force everyone to stop and queue as soon as you have started running.

As a first-time event there was an added bonus for all of us who ran it. Due to miscalculation on quantities of beer required, there were seconds to be had of the amber nectar - and thirds if you could manage, although I doubt this will be repeated for future iterations!

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.

May 29th: New camera!

Sod’s law this arrived on Monday after the Jurassic Quarter, but I have a new camera for capturing my exploits.

The engine on the previous Pentax waterproof ‘point and click’ camera was beginning to slow-down and the focussing was becoming somewhat erratic and quite time-consuming to work on automatic, which when you are running and want a quick shot proves problematic!

Searching on the ‘warehouse deals’ section on Amazon I found the Ricoh WG-30 waterproof, shockproof camera for a fraction of the RRP - the box had been dented so they were unable to send it as ‘new’.

Since the Pentax was purchased a decade ago the ‘brand’ has since been abandoned in favour of ‘Ricoh’, so in effect this camera is merely the updated version of what I am used to using… You never know, from now on the standard of the photography may improve as well ;)

Happily it sits in the pouch on the strap at the front of both my Camelbaks so no extra faffing required to carry and use it. 

Eat pies.
Drink beer.
Run far.