Goodwood 2015

I’d been looking forward to Goodwood this year, especially as my last race (an attempt at the Downslink Ultra) resulted in a DNF when I pulled out at 21 miles.

Goodwood is the first Sussex XC League race of the winter and is a 2 lap undulating course through the woods of the Goodwood estate. Its billed as 5 miles but I think it comes out at just over 4 and a half – leading to some rather flattering times. I came into this race feeling well trained but unable to shake a hamstring problem in my left leg – the same problem which caused my DNF 3 weeks prior.

After meeting my teammates in Tuff City I had a gentle jog of the top field followed by a thorough warm-up whilst the girls races were on. The ground seemed pretty firm, no mud to be seen but soft enough to warrant my Inov-8 X-Talons.

teamtuff

The clock ticked over to 2:30 and we made our way to the start line, as we got into position I spotted a chap from Worthing Striders who ALWAYS beats me by a couple of places, “you’re my target” I told him. He looked at me, totally bemused, he has no idea of the mental torment he’s caused me over the past year or so, this time, I was determined to beat him if nothing else. I found out his name (Andy), and lined up directly in front of him to hamper his start. It was either that or trip him from behind.

The gun went off, the watches went beep, and the thunder of feet across the turf sounded like The Grand National on TV. I did my best to relax and not get caught up in the mad rush to the first corner like I usually do. I heard my team-mate James chuckling away as I passed him just before the corner, he’d realised at this point that he’d been less in control of his start than he’d planned and something was definitely awry if he was ahead of me & Tom!

lap1

Andy from Striders eased past me as we dropped into the woods but I stuck to my race plan, of taking the first lap steady and trying to do even or even negative splits. Teammate Tom had moved about 50m ahead and I knew he had a similar plan to me, I was also concious that Tom is much quicker than me so if I was reeling him in, I was probably doing it wrong. So I reigned it in a bit on the flat sections, kept my cadence up and my breathing easy, said thank you to the fellow Tuffs cheering us on from the sidelines. I’d noticed that I was catching Tom on the uphill sections and as I went through the halfway point I drew level with him, we had a quick chat, he was feeling good on the downhills so we ran together for a while at a good pace. As the course dropped into the woods again we overtook people for fun, flanking them on both sides and reducing them to tears (I imagine). I started to gain a few meters as I’d seen my nemesis Andy further ahead and I felt now was a good time to make my move. I tried my best to make it seem like i was barely breathing hard as I went past him and if I’m honest, I felt really good. This was going to plan.

I approached a sharp right which then goes into a steep drop, the fastest point of the course, quite technical and requires quick feet. A Phoenix runner in front of me came to what felt like a complete standstill, I nearly flattened him! I danced round, almost into the trees and managed to squeeze past without shoving him to the ground – downhill running is a real skill, and he either didn’t have it or he was using that section to catch his breath.

lap2

I pushed on and had a strong 4th mile, this was mostly uphill and I opened up 30-40m on Tom at this point, the Phoenix runner I’d gone past a few minutes earlier was clearly better going up as he came back past me with half a mile to go. I hung onto his tail, knowing I’d catch him on the quicker parts of the run-in, I heard some words of encouragement from Phil B on the sidelines and gritted my teeth for the finish. Phoenix and I battled over the last few hundred meters, surging past each other until I finally nailed it on the sprint finish. Turned out this guy was at least 15 years older than me so I can’t call it my proudest moment but I’m pleased to have gone quicker again in my 3rd outing at Goodwood.

My finish time was 31:13 and i finished in 77th place. Almost 30 places higher and 2 minutes quicker than last time. The winner was Chris Zablocki, a 2:18 marathoner who completed the course in 24:00 exactly. This was a new course record and is truly mindblowing speed for a middle of the pack racer like myself.

Finally, Andy from Worthing Striders – if you ever read this, I apologise, its nothing personal, lets race it out again sometime!

2thumbs

Advertisements

Brooks Sussex XC League – Race 1: Goodwood

Back to Sussex and its time for the Brooks Sussex Cross Country League. The first fixture was on Sunday at Goodwood racecourse. This is my favourite of the four races as it takes in some nice woodland tracks rather than just skirting around fields.

As always, when the gun went, everyone flew off the line in the manner of Usain Bolt. Myself included. This meant that I had a cracking first mile and then faded badly. However, I did manage to achieve the honour of first Tuff home which was cool. And I also set a new PB, smashing almost 2 minutes off my time from 2 years ago, finishing in 32:58.

The quality of the field in these races is impressive; I averaged 7:13 per mile and only finished in 104th place. I’ve got work to do to keep up with some of these guys.

The X-Talons were brilliant for this race, definitely better than my New Balance would have been, and just as good as a spike.

Red Bull Steeplechase 2014

WOW!

Without a doubt – the best (and hardest) race I have ever been a part of.

It’s taken 2 weeks for my legs to forgive me, and I only managed 12 miles of it.

I arrived in Castleton just before 8am, there was frost in the fields and a thick fog in the Hope Valley. I was starting to think I’d brought the wrong kit with me as I only had shorts & a vest. I could see huge green/brown mounds obstructing the horizon ahead of me, and I burst out laughing, on my own. These were real hills. Not like the ones we have in the south. These were the kind of hills you climb, not walk. The realization of what today was going to involve hit me and I knew I was out of my depth here.

I went and signed in and took a walk up the first hill towards Mam Tor – a sign here told me the name Mam Tor means The Problem. (The Problem being its too bloody steep!)

I went through a few warm up drills to loosen my legs up a bit and went and joined the rest of the runners at the start line.

start

The lovely chap with the moustache and the pistol got us underway and off we went. After about 400m of a gradual incline we headed off road and up Mam Tor. This was the part I’d been dreading – half a mile of bear-crawling up a mountain. It didn’t disappoint either. Every time I looked up it looked like we were still to come to the steepest bit. My Inov-8 Xtalon 212’s were brilliant here, not a single slip, they bit into the ground which was a mix of wet grass, loose earth and deep bracken. Worth every penny.

image_proxy_large

The air was filled with panting, swearing and heavy breathing and somewhere in the distance I heard the gun go off again which meant the womens race had started.

I arrived at the top and immediately got into a stride, choosing the grass over the wet stone path along the ridge. I was pleased with myself, I thought I’d conquered the hardest part of the course and that from here on in it was going to be easy…..how wrong could I have been.

It was up here somewhere that there was a Brass Band playing, I think they were at the top of another climb that it was impossible to run up, it had stone stairs carved into it that sapped the energy from your legs as you pushed yourself up each giant step.

Somewhere else on the course a lone bugler played the theme from Rocky to help get you across the difficult terrain.

After 4 miles, the first scoreboard appeared. I felt like I’d covered at least twice that distance already but I was happy  to see I was in 126th position. This meant that barring disaster I should make it through the 1st checkpoint in Bamford easily.

Shortly after this the course dropped into the woods and we ran along some of the most beautiful single track trails I’ve ever come across. Concentration was absolutely key, as some of the footing was pretty technical. Loose rocks and uneven ground on fast descents meant that I was pleased to get to the bottom in one piece sometimes.

Red Bull Steeplechase 2014.
That’s me on the left – the scenery was stunning

As we approached Bamford we came alongside Ladybower reservoir which was spectacular, and it made for some particularly interesting running as we crossed narrow bridges and hopped over huge stepping stones.

A mile or so later and I was sailing through the first checkpoint, my eyes tend to water a bit when running so I’m not sure what position I went through in. I saw a drinks station and grabbed a water and a 50/50 redbull/water. This may have been a mistake as I got quite a nasty stitch about 10 minutes after and had to ease right off for a few minutes.

I’d heard that the first stage was by far the hardest and was looking forward to some relief in stage 2. However, the first half was all uphill (and we’re talking between 10 & 30% here) and my lack of training in the last few weeks was beginning to show.

The scoreboard came up and I was in 136th position, with only 125 to get through at the next cutoff in Hope. As I rounded a corner I could see about 20 runners within catching distance going up the next hill and I started to count back thinking I could pick them off.

As we got to the top of the hill I could see the next 2 miles down into Hope, descending down a rocky single track pathway, along a field and a short road but all downhill.

I got through the technical bit just fine, even picked a couple of runners off here, but the downhill got steeper and steeper and my quads got more and more upset with me. At this point I knew I was going no further. My legs were screaming at me to stop and as we hit the road, a marshall told us to keep off the verges and stay on the road. All I wanted to do was run on soft grass, the studs on my shoes were hurting my feet, my quads were on fire and the verge was just sitting there looking all soft and inviting.

definitely not me! eventual race winner Andy Greenleaf here in 2nd place.
definitely not me! eventual race winner Andy Greenleaf here in 2nd place.

I walked a few steps and someone came past me with words of encouragement which was enough to pick me back up. A few minutes later there were spectators cheering us on so I knew we were closing in on the checkpoint. We ran down a couple of streets I nthe village of Hope before bounding up a couple of steps behind a café and under the Red Bull inflatable. The counter was stuck on 126 and there were a few people sat down looking exhausted. I was directed over to the goody bags where I threw on my Hoody and downed some Red Bull.

I was absolutely spent, I could not have run another step. No other race has ever left me feeling like this physically. But boy had I enjoyed it.

We boarded the coach that was waiting for us and made the short drive back to Castleton where a Hero’s lunch was waiting for us at The Castle pub. All the Hog Roast you could eat, all the burgers you could eat, and all the beer/lager/cider you could drink. (Unfortunately I was driving)

But before I made it there I was joined by the man I’d raised money to say thank you to. Ray and part of his family (Caroline, Lucy & Sean) had made the trip up from Birmingham with bottles of fizz, they’d just missed me at the start, but had seen us going up Mam Tor. Then they’d hung around the finish waiting for me to get back. We shared a drink and a chat until I felt human again.

So all in all, I made it through 12 hideously enjoyable miles and raised £1150.01 for cancer research. Not bad.

I hear its not coming back for 2015 but I’ll definitely be back for it in 2016, better trained and aiming for Edale.

DaveRunning_Pic

New Shoes Alert – INOV-8 X-TALON 212’s

I’ve bought some new shoes for the race, Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s. After a lot of searching and reading through reviews it was between these and the 190’s. I decided these would be a bit more robust and as they’re quite expensive I’d like them to last a while.

I’ve tried them out on The Downs and they make short work of steep hills. I’m impressed.

I’m hoping to use these for XC after the Steeplechase but unless it starts to get really muddy up on the downs I can’t see myself using these more than 5 or 6 times a year. There’s always the West Sussex Fun Run League to enter come January, I might get some more races out of them yet!

Anyway, its good to have a choice of trail shoes!