This weekend we traveled a bit further afield to race, to the seaside resort of Weston-Super-Mare. Hello retro! 🙂
Paul and his best mate Simon did the race last year as part of their quest to do more interesting races, and they loved it so much they went back for round 2 and convinced me into it too. Not that I need that much convincing, I love a bit of mud me! I found out a few days before the race that their chosen charity is Muscular Dystrophy UK, a charity close to my heart following the death of my cousin Ollie age just 19 in 2012, so I shared my JustGiving page on Facebook and managed a few kind sponsors (see below for link).
The course is 10 miles of multi-terrain: starting on the sand of the first bay, progressing to tarmac, then a long stretch of beach along the second bay; after this comes a particularly boggy section before a challenging 13% muddy stony hill, before some respite along the top of the grassy headland; after the turn point comes a -13% descent down some steps before the flat return section along a back road and then a beach path; the final section involves a brutal switch-back climb which begins a mere 20% on tarmac and ends in a 40% off-road section in the woods, before descending back to the first bay and a sandy sprint finish. Easy peasy 🙂
After a yummy and nutritious meal of chicken, bulgar wheat and broccoli with toasted almonds cooked by Simon’s wife Rosie, and a good sleep in the world’s highest bed (think the princess and the pea!), we had a nice leisurely get-up on Sunday and plenty of time to get breakfast of coco-pops and a slice of toast down. I’ve come to learn that the runner’s staple porridge is just too heavy for me pre-run. So child’s sugary cereal it is 🙂 Just as we got out the door, Simon’s daughter who had been out at the local kiddy Parkrun was rushed back with a migraine, so after some emergency sorting out we got on the road and 45 minutes later arrived at the venue.
A quick warm up (ha! bloody freezing!!) and before we knew it, we were off. I managed to control myself during the first kilometer for once, although it seems quite quick considering we’re on sand. The runners spread out pretty early on, so by the time we hit the tarmac there’s no element of argy-bargy going on! A much more civilized way to race 🙂 The second sandy bay came around in no time at all, and it was a long, hard drag up the beach, against the wind. I think it’s harder when you have little perspective of how far there is to go, mentally more than anything. I’m a bugger for losing concentration in those circumstances, something which I suffer with during long swims. I have been known to accidentally do 950m in an 800m swim set..!
Next the boggy section, and it was pretty damn muddy! I managed not to lose my shoes or resort to walking, so I count that as a win. The stony incline starts with some steps – nothing like the 120 steps of Cliveden, but thigh-burning nonetheless. Several runners around me gave up and walked, I don’t like to do this unless I really really have to as I find it disrupts my rhythm, but I do make an effort to go steady to control my heart rate (which often has a mind of it’s own). I’m all about the pacing these days! We reached the half way point at the headland and I finally felt like I’ve got into a nice flow… until the downhill steps! I have a weird phobia of going down “foreign” steps (even stairs in people’s homes), so this is my idea of hell – they’re steep, muddy, made of concrete and there are only a few hundred people breathing down my neck… Somehow I hold my nerve and reach the bottom without incident.
Kate 1 – Climacophobia 0.
The route back is fairly flat for the most part, and there was a nice little bit of tail-wind to give our tired legs a well-received bit of encouragement. Just as we started the switch-back climb, I was running alongside a man who has been behind me for most of the run. He told me he had raced Tough Ten before and went on to describe the impending killer hill. Just as I thank him and he starts to accelerate away from me, he makes a cheeky comment about enjoying the view I had provided to him! I laugh and apologise for not being able to go faster. I do like a bit of short-shorts appreciation :p Once again I managed to run the entire hill, weaving past the walkers whilst trying to keep my heart rate below 180. Down the other side, and unfortunately I got stuck behind another lady who is taking a fairly controlled descent. If there’s one thing I’m good at in running, it’s letting my legs go on descents. Why fight gravity and free speed?! It was only wide enough for a single runner for the most part, so I had to choose my overtake carefully and disappointingly it came a bit late. Never mind.
We wound our way down to the promenade, and I managed to pick the pace up to 4:20/km for almost the last mile. As bum-appreciation man accelerates away from me once again, I don’t have much left in the tank for a sprint finish on the sand, but I do manage to hold my pace. I cross the line a happy bunny in 1:22:37 – two and a half minutes quicker than my goal time, and a quicker overall pace than Cliveden at 5:08/km, finishing 18th in a field of 212 ladies. Paul ran a commendable PB finishing 20th in a field of 426 men, and Simon smashed out a massive PB to finish 34th. We rewarded ourselves with a big plate of fish and chips (my only request) and a Bass shandy for old times sake. Happy days 🙂