So a race morning when you over sleep by half an hour is not a good start. Nor is not being able to find your favourite running bra. At least the rush meant I couldn’t dwell for too long on the race ahead.
It was the morning of The Slaughterford 9 – a race that I swore I would never do again after I last ran it 3 years ago. The race that contributed to an injury that led to me missing 5 weeks of training for my first marathon in London 2012. Nevertheless I thought it was time to give it another go, not least because the morning saw the area covered in freezing fog so I never got to see the views from the top of the huge climbs.
The runners and marshals were as friendly as you’d expect from a small race, and my jazzy socks got plenty of complimentary remarks.
The stream we have to wade up in the last mile wasn’t as cold as I remembered – I could actually feel my feet as I climbed up the hill on the otherside. The steam WAS deeper though, stepping down into knee deep muddy water is a challenge. Wading along the uneven bottom when you can’t see where to best put your feet is more of a challenge, and how they made it go deeper as you went along is a secret only a sadist would know. The cold water reached my shins, knees, thighs and just as it hit gusset-level I heard a cry of “oo my undercarriage” from up ahead, which made me laugh.
The final steep hill was as much a killer as ever, and then it was the final slope to the finish line. I originally ran this race in 2012 because I’d had massive race t-shirt envy. Seeing as I got paint on my original shirt I was looking forward to getting a new one. Imagine my face when I saw that this year’s t-shirt was pink.
Regular readers will know exactly how I feel about the colour pink, as did the man I was running next to when I spotted the colour (apologies to him for my language).
It had been great to see Mr. B&T pop up around the course three times to cheer me on and take attractive photos, but it was a close run thing as to whether I was more pleased to see him at the finish, or the Mars bar I was handed.
After a cold nearly-a-mile walk back to the car, I was most pleased to see his car with it’s heated seats. Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood wouldn’t approve, but I can highly recommend heated seats on a soggy bottom.
After a new PB at Cricklade Half last month, I had a feeling my next race might be a new PW. It was the Bath Skyline 10K organised by Relish Racing. The first in a series of 4 races, a key selling point was the great medals – a set of 3 interlocking medals if you complete 3 races with a single extra medal if you only run one or as your final fourth medal.
The race was supposed to be based at Bath University’s Sports Training Village. However due to last minute changes everything was down at the start line with only toilets available in the Sports Training Village. These changes were posted on Relish Racing’s website but nowhere else. There were people wandering around before the race who obviously didn’t know where they were going. Fortunately it’s easy enough to spot and follow other runners on occasions like this, and one family stopped me and asked if I knew where they could register. Maybe an email to all entrants would have been a good idea?
Down at the start we were told we were being split into two starts – men and then women, again at the request of the University. I could overhear groups of people who’d been planning on running together discussing this and they were obviously upset.
At five past eleven most of the men (and a few speedy women I think) set off and then about 10 minutes later a whistle blew and the rest of us set off. Well, the people at the front set off, the rest of us shuffled forward slowly towards the start line, shuffled slowly over the start line, and finally managed to slowly start to jog. This first part was really congested as there were several hundred runners all trying to run along a very narrow path. We all came to a halt as the route took a sharp right turn after a bridge, and as we entered the woods we stopped and queued at every steep section up and down, at every muddy section and at every narrow section.
Things only really improved on the second lap when the runners had spread out. Then I had a chance to run at my own pace and yes, I confess, I did still walk up the steep climbs in the woods but I did my best impression of a mountain goat on the steep descents. I also had a chance for a better look at my surroundings.
For a race called “The Bath Skyline 10K” I had been hoping for glorious views down over the city of Bath. What we actually got was the back of the University accommodation blocks (concrete), followed by some woods (nice), the edge of the golf course (bemused golfers), and finally a section with a view as we ran past Sham Castle (great but would be even better if it wasn’t foggy).
I was pleased with my own running as I managed to push on where there was space, and ran all of the slopes (apart from the really steep bits in the woods) including both accents of the long steady slope up from Sham Castle. I passed several people here so I’m sure the hill training I’ve been doing paid off.
I headed for the finish line, pleased with how I’d run and keen to get my hands on the first medal of the series. I crossed the line and – oh look – a queue. I could see the Race HQ tent ahead so I was confident I’d soon get some water and my medal. After waiting and shuffling forward, more waiting and more shuffling I reached the tent only to discover that the queue actually made a U-turn, doubled back on itself, and then made another U-turn before finally reaching the promised land of the tent. It took at least 20 minutes to get to the front of the queue and finally grab a cup of water and a couple of slices of orange. I was then told they had run out of the first medal in the series, confusingly given another medal and a chocolate bar, and told they’d post the proper medal out later. I was really cold and fed up by this point as my warm top was back in the car and I’d been waiting all this time just in sweaty running clothes.
As I quickly walked back to my car I was feeling quite disgruntled about the whole race. I rang my daughter because I was now going to be late collecting her from a friend’s house, and when she asked how it had gone I told her I’d have to have a think about it..
So after a couple of glasses of wine on Sunday night and several days to think about it, I’m finally feeling slightly mellower about the race. The shuffling and waiting on lap one meant I actually managed to run negative splits over the two laps of the course (by nearly 3 minutes) – something I’ve never managed before. Parts of the route were lovely, and I’ve never raced on such steep hills before so I did feel pretty hardcore (for me!) The atmosphere was good with plenty of smiling faces and encouraging marshals. I believe the problems could be solved fairly easily with a few little tweaks to the organisation of the race. I’ve made my suggestions below:-
1. E-mail any last minute changes of venue, registration and start details so runners can make the appropriate arrangements before they arrive.
2. If you aren’t allowing people to register on the day then you know exactly how many runners there could be, and therefore how many medals to bring.
3. If you separate out bag reclaim from the finish line funnel of water /chocolate /medal collection then runners will be able to clear the area more quickly and won’t be stood waiting for over 20 minutes for a drink of water.
4. Chip timing is really reasonable nowadays, and would mean runners could start off in more and smaller waves whilst still recording an accurate race time. This would help reduce the queueing on the first lap resulting in a smoother race all round. The problem of running negative splits I’d have to solve on my own!
Having already entered all four races in the series, with my mellower head on I think I’m looking forward to the next race next month. I’m interested to see what the ‘B’ course is like (apparently it’s harder than the ‘A’ course we ran on Sunday). It will be interesting to see if the organisation is any better by then. Watch this space …
I decided it was time to run up and down some hills in the woods. Well it was Thursday and it wasn’t raining. Amazingly it wasn’t a mudfest, it was stunningly beautiful with the trees just beginning to change colour and the first sun for days. As I ran down the little lane to the woods, the sky was huge with awesome clouds. I wish I’d had a decent camera with me, but my phone did its best to capture it.
The path through the woods was wet and slippy, but very quiet with just my puffing and panting disturbing the peace.
I did find a little lost soul in the woods, so if anyone’s looking for them, they’re stood on a gatepost waiting for you.
The best bit about runs like this is looking at the stats afterwards. Not pace, that’s always frighteningly slow, but the elevation profile.
So as a keen geocaching family, its always exciting to see a new geocache* pop up close to home. Even more exciting to see one just off one of my running routes. Slightly less exciting that that particular route is the muddy and hilly one I usually only brave before the annual ‘Marshfield Mudlark’. Add in the fact it has been torrential rain for the last week means that you would have to be seriously deranged to be looking forward to this.
So that’s why I set out yesterday, on the first non-raining day for a week, aiming for the woods and the river. Because its a long walk to get down to the By Brook here it is usually very quiet, and apart from the 2 dog walkers I met, the whole area was silent apart from the river and the birds. Despite the clouds, the deserted farm simply looked sad and abandoned, rather than eerie and spooky.
It’ll be this way, then
Despite my mud warnings, the path wasn’t too bad. Squelchy in places, but nothing a good ‘wade’ couldn’t get through! I was wearing my shorts as I thought if it was really muddy it was easier to hose my legs off when I got home, rather than struggle through with wet and muddy trousers.
As I got closer to the cache location I had to pull my phone out to follow my progress with GPS. Crashing through the woods, I found the obvious spot and then spent around 10 minutes rummaging in the undergrowth getting muddy hands and knees to match the rest of my legs. Found the tupperware, opened it up, and discovered that I had got the FTF (‘First to Find’) and my reward was a little silver cup. Lack of a pen to write in the log book didn’t hamper this intrepid geocacher (that’s what twigs and mud are for!)
With my little silver cup stashed in my waist belt I set off for home, all the way back up from the river (the route goes up 100m in 1 mile. Is that steep? It felt it!)
*If you don’t know what geocaching is, its basically a treasure hunt using GPS. It has been described as using technology costing millions of dollars to find tupperware hidden in woods. Sounds geeky (okay – it is pretty geeky!) but its a great way to get out into the countryside and find paths you never knew existed!
I had been dreading this race for weeks, ever since I entered it in fact. I had wussed out of entering it for the past 2 years, and in December 2011 decided this was the year I would do it. It is, after all, the closest race to my home. In fact I regularly run part of the route of the race as one of my ‘short’ routes.
So why so scared?
Well, this race has a formidable reputation. Just beyond where I live is a very steep valley which I avoid when I run because its just too steep. And muddy. And I’m sure wild animals live out there. In fact the stretch of the route that I run is the track where I was attacked by a ‘psycho pheasant’ last year. Proof! The route of the race goes right down to the bottom of the valley, back up part way, even further down then practically vertically up to the finish. An uphill finish – how cruel! In between all these hills the route is mostly off-road, which at this time of year means lots of mud. Oh, and the 100 metres along the over-knee-height By Brook is, erm, refreshing to say the least.
So, it was with very mixed feelings I arrived at race HQ, and parked in a muddy field, with the temperature at 1C and gazed around at the fog. Not so much of the view-admiring to day then!
See – I did make it there – and I have a rather cool race number to show for it!
The race went as I’d expected. My family had cycled from home and cheered me on around 2 miles, complete with my hat which I’d inadvertently left at home, but which I no longer felt the need for. At about 3 miles we ran through Slaughterford itself, and on seeing my friend who lives there I managed to drop off my gloves as amazingly even my hands were warm by that point. After that, the hills started. My trail shoes were rubbish – I slipped and slithered up (and down) the muddy hills (although to be fair – everyone else was as well, so maybe it was just too muddy even for trail shoes!)
Although I was running on my own, there was a group of about 6 of us running at around the same pace so we did chat a little when we had the breath to do so. I was glad of the company, as the fog meant I completely lost my sense of direction and after Slaughterford had no idea where I was. I was extremely appreciative of the marshals. I’ve never been so pleased to see a hi-viz vest appearing on the far side of a field through the fog. They must have been freezing standing still for so long, but were all cheering and encouraging. Hoorah for them!
The stream-wading was breath taking. Literally. I’m not good at cold water, and the gasps I emitted as I got in must have been highly amusing for everyone else. It was a mud slide down to the brook, but fortunately the stream bed was stony so no chance of slipping once I was in. The limbo under the over hanging tree branch was a nice touch, but the quagmire as we got out of the stream was shoe-suckingly-tastic.
The final hill was nearly too much for me. Even walking up it I had to stop for a second to catch my breath. It was lovely to see my family again at the top, waiting to accompany me up the final hill to the finish line. I even managed to run this last bit (just in case there was a photographer at the finish line!)
So it is with pride that I am (still) wearing the T-shirt that I really did feel I earned. However I think I need to make an addition with a permanent pen under it, saying
So Week 4 Run 3 in my schedule said “40 Mins Hilly”. I chose this route – do you think that is hilly enough??
Pleased with 3.13 Miles in 33:50, as it really is a steep hill on the way back up. No more runs now until Sunday, when I face the notorious ‘Slaughterford 9’ race. That’s going to count as my Long Slow Run for the week, as although 9 miles probably isn’t quite long enough, I can guarantee it will be slow! Looking at the amount of rain we’ve had this week so far (coming down again now as I type) I’m thinking snorkel & flippers might be appropriate gear.
Still, keep thinking life’s all about new experiences so really have to do this race. Its certainly the race that’s closest to home, and will certainly be an experience. Not necessarily an enjoyable one, however. Another new experience I’ve volunteered for is writing a race report for Women’s Running magazine. Not for the Slaughterford 9 (don’t want to put anyone off) but for the Bath Half Marathon in March. Sounds less muddy and less tiring than Slaughterford 9!
I will return after the race and let you know I’ve survived … hopefully!