White Horse Half 2014

The best I could hope for at this year’s White Horse Half was to get in under 1:55 and after an outburst of moaning from my frozen shoulder over the last 10 days I wasn’t at all sure I could even manage that. I’d DNS’d the OX5 Run the previous weekend as I couldn’t face the ride out to Woodstock with my shoulder nagging away and stealing my sleep – the novelty of it not being non-stop painful long ago wore off. About time it just went away and left me alone!

Really not so bad when I arrived in Grove on Sunday morning though and I had a couple of ibuprofen to make sure then headed off to the start venue to dump my bag then a 5 minute wander to the start line. Despite thinking I’d run it last year I couldn’t really picture the layout which might have been because I’d not actually run it since 2011 and my memory is stuffed. I said hello to Maria who was marshalling and nodded to a few familiar faces then positioning myself about halfway down the field and we were off!

The first mile is a bit downhill if anything but I kept to the plan and resisted the temptation to chase the few runners passing me and was happy to keep the pace at 8:30 minute miles for the first half without feeling I’d overdone it. The country lanes were pleasant and the weather nice but the combination of my Asics Skyspeed ‘fast’ shoes and the farmer’s efforts to muck-spread on the tarmac made it all a bit slippery. I vaguely wondered if I was skating on residue left by the rain washing the previous day’s industrial smog out the air but this seems a bit far fetched.

About mile 7 we turned into the wind and I slowed a little. Not for the first time I managed to persuade myself I was on for a much better time than planned, 5 more miles 9 minute mileing was only 45 minutes! Pity there was 6 more miles to run I realised with a thud. I spotted Barry Cornelius who seems to be more often wielding a camera than running recently. He pointed said camera at me – later I followed a facebook post to his oxonraces website which turns out to be a fine resource.

White Horse Half 2014

Photo by Barry Cornelius

Mile 10 was difficult. There was supposed to be a water station somewhere about here so I ate the gel I was carrying and tried to keep up the pace as we turned into an increasingly strong wind and a gentle uphill. My Garmin let me know I was slowing to 9:30 pace yet I was pushing as hard as I dared. Too much of this and the 1:55 target wasn’t going to happen. The road turned downwards and my pace went upwards, the water station appeared, then we were back in Denchworth to turn south for the final couple of miles.

Knackered now the railway bridge was a challenge and mile 12 seemed to have it in for me as a sharp pain on top of my right foot caused me to stop twice to search for a stone or insect or whatever before discovering the tongue of my shoe had worked it’s way round allowing the edge to rub me up a sore bit. I adjusted it and tried to pick up the pace a bit for the last mile managing to regain a couple of the places I had lost stopping.

End in sight and Maria encouraging me to sprint for the line which I pointed out I thought I was already doing. 1:54:16 323rd of 485 so no records broken but I hit my target and was about 3 minutes faster than when I ran this race in 2004 as my 1st half marathon – I was much fitter then but didn’t have a clue how to pace myself.

Mugshot

Mugshot

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Wendover Woods Orienteering

We took a trip out to Wendover Woods on Saturday 15th so I could make a fool of myself at another orienteering event. This was another in the Thames Valley Orienteering Club’s Saturday Series where I suspect they make allowances for the inexperienced and foolhardy. I opted for the ‘light green’ course again – navigationally challenging but not as long as the ‘green’.

I registered and collected my map and emit card, proceeding to the the start control without peeking at the map so I could feel I’d done it properly. Bipped my emit on the start then located control number 1 on the map and, even though it wasn’t far away, carefully aligned the compass for direction and off I went. The paths didn’t seem to be in the right place and the clearing I was looking for wasn’t evident. I arrived at the ‘Go Ape’ activity area yet I thought the blurb said we weren’t to go in there. Retraced and had an experimental detour into the woods to no avail. This wasn’t going well!

I headed back to the the start and from there just followed the paths and land features ignoring the compass, the penny dropped and I realised I’d aligned the compass in the wrong direction and had been heading north instead of south. So over 13 minutes to find the first control and my confidence somewhat dented.

Getting my act together I made good progress for the next 10 controls, checking the terrain on the map and navigating the longer route along paths if it looked difficult or using the map and going direct where white or light green suggested I could run. Number 10 was tricky but it was well hidden and there were various other people who also appeared to be puzzled. Number 11 was tough as – despite going the path route – the little, tapering-out, path I was looking for just wasn’t there and I eventually found the control after 13 minutes using the stumbling about in the undergrowth approach. Over an hour gone and still 5 controls to find, I wasn’t going to make my appointment with Jane in the cafe!

Wendover Woods Track

12 and 13 were not a problem and 14 appeared to be a case of follow the wide track up the hill then take the first wide track on the left only I didn’t see said track and ended up at the top near the start. Having obviously overshot I decided to follow the top track then drop back down but the path back down didn’t seem to be there. I looked carefully at the map and realised I’d gone way too far and retraced then back down the wide track and on my right I spotted a disused forestry track with a tree down across it’s entrance. Clambered over the tree, then another one not far down the track which was quite big and I more fell off than climbed over. Then another! Time to admit defeat I thought and turned uphill to where I spied a narrow track that would surely take me back to the top near the start. On my right were a couple of pits which was what I was supposed to be looking for so I thought it worth a quick check and there was number 14, a bit over 21 minutes that had taken.

So revitalised I ran up the top, found 15 and the nearby finish and bumped into Jane returning from the cafe having fortunately remembered to get another pay and display ticket for the car. 1 hour 42 minutes, 21st out of 24 starters and 22 finishers. Not very good at all but I thought I’d dealt with most of the controls efficiently, it was just the cock -up at the start and the extended hunt for 2 of the 16 that had slowed me so much. I think there is hope for me yet and looking forward to the next one.

Jane meanwhile had finished 20th out of 35 starters on the yellow course and even beaten 2 grown-ups (though they may well have been escorting youngsters so she’s not let it go to her head.)

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Oxford Charity 10k 2014

The Oxford 10k Charity Fun Run – to give its full title – was originally supposed to take place on 26th January in Cutteslowe Park. Unsurprisingly it was postponed to 9th March due to the flooding but as the date approached and the park continued to be so soggy that even the parkrun had been rerouted and cancelled on occasion I wasn’t convinced it was going to happen. The week before we got an email saying it had been relocated to Tilsey Park in Abingdon, the venue for the Abingdon Marathon, so a sunny if breezy morning saw me cycling south for the race.

My shoulder has been moaning away and keeping me sleep deprived, though not in any way as painful as it was last year, so I wasn’t expecting to run fast. The course description – 4 times round the track followed by 4 times round the park perimeter and a final lap of the track to finish – sounded like a recipe for confusion. I went to collect my number but it seemed to have gone walkabout so I was issued a replacement, 498. For the first time this year I decided to run in just the vest, it really was warming up nicely!

I stood out the energetic looking warm-up as the last thing I wanted was some lady trying to get me to wave my arms in the air. The announcer asked that we left lanes 1 and 2 of the track for the fast folk so we didn’t block their progress I realised I was maybe too far to the back even for me. Then we were off.

The track was congested but fast, some poor chap went flying when he ran into a warning cone in one of the middle lanes – don’t know what it was warning of but in a crowd of 160runners it was obviously a hazard in itself. I passed a lot of slower runners on the first couple of laps, some seemed to have ignored the request to stay out of the fast lanes. Soon I was disturbed to see several of those I’d passed already started on the perimeter laps. It hadn’t been made particularly clear (though was obvious when you thought about it) that we were to count our own laps so it was a bit of an ‘honesty race’. I’d run 7:31 for my 1st mile and was deluding myself that I might carry on with similar – ha ha! Was that 2 or 3 laps I’d done? I thought I’d read a lap was 500m but surely it should be 400m? Best do another to be sure! It was evident from they way I was overtaking the same faces all over again once I’d left the track that I’d done a lap too many.

The perimeter laps signalled a big change in terrain, some damp ankle length grass followed by a steep bank demanding legs of different lengths. I got a lot slower, resorting to keeping my miles under 9 minutes, and also rather warm so was glad of the drinks station and even tipped a cup over my head on the 3rd lap. The faster runners charged past us, I saw the winner back on the track and heading for his finish, I think I was just starting my second lap. I passed various strugglers and a few reduced to walking.

As I split off to rejoin the track after my 4th perimeter lap a marshall was asking if we’d done all 4. A bit ironic as my Garmin had just clocked up a full 10k. Getting back on the track was like reaching the top of the hill and starting down the other-side. I managed to speed up a bit for the last bit and settled for 54:36 including my extra 500m, 80th of 168 overall I think. A fun morning in the sun and thanks to MCC Promotions for managing to run the event in the face of the weather and venue problems.

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Brighton Half 2014

I’d entered the Brighton Half an age ago as it seemed there was going to be a big vegan presence. Rubbish that I may have been recently, I’d used this as a focus for some training and – while my target of scraping in under 2 hours seemed uninspired for a distance I could run in 1:45 2 years ago – it was a bit of a boost to be reminded by my ‘purple’ start race number that when I’d entered I’d apparently put 2:00 – 2:15 as my expected time.

As a ‘tune-up’ race (well alright because I couldn’t resist it) I did a orienteering event up Shotover the day before. Went for ‘light green’ this time and while I took a long time again – 1:06:36 for a nominal 2.8k turned into an actual 5k – I made an attempt to do it properly and managed 9th out of 11 finishers with 3 disqualified. 25 minutes ‘stopped’ time according to my Garmin so I obviously need to learn to think quicker!

So Shotover done with mid-afternoon I was off to Littlehampton where I spent a comfy night in the Travelodge before scraping unexpected ice off the car and driving the last few miles to Brighton where I caught the special bus to the start by the seafront. Thousands of runners milling about, I bumped into Matt Woodman and Peter Simpson then deposited my bag before heading off to the ‘purple’ start area – after a bit of a warm-up we were off.

Plan was to start easy and try to keep my miles under 9 minutes throughout. This ought to be easy but I’d struggled to keep under 10 minute miles towards the end of the 13 mile training run I’d done a couple of weeks before and had been absolutely shattered for the rest of the day – it had felt more like I’d just run a marathon. Anyway I followed the convenient 2 hour paceman for a bit – entertained by his obvious urge to run a bit faster tempered by regular checks of his watch to slow down a bit. After a couple of miles I passed him though and was glad to find a bit of space appearing round me as the field opened up a little bit.

Up a long but steady slope for a mile or so watching the faster people descending the closed road in the opposite direction. A great drum band beating out a rhythm – Stix – then our turn to descend with a view of those behind. I had a half bottle of Lucozade at the 3 mile station and again at 6, it had turned into a beautiful sunny morning and I was working up a good sweat for maybe the first time this year.

Brighton Half 2014Tiring a bit around mile 8 I still managed to maintain sub-9s with the help of my Garmin. I felt a little queasy from the Lucozade so washed a gel down with a bottle of water at the 10 mile station which was just at the point where we turned back east and followed the promenade back to the finish. I was seeing a chance of finishing in 1:55 and come the last mile pushed as best I could speeding up for a fast (for me) finish but not quite – 1:55:12 3047th of 6924 finishers chip time – pleased with that though and a day later I feel ok and no injuries :)

Afterwards I met up with some of the 15 odd other – mostly much faster – vegan participants, many of them VRUK members. Despite my earlier queasiness a chunk of V-Bites carrot cake and a hazelnut latte went down a treat!

 

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Lost in the Woods

Following the fun orienteering in University Parks, and being as Oxford parkrun was cancelled to prevent us messing up their grass, I though I’d have a go at a ‘proper’ orienteering event that was on at Nettlebed the TVOC Chiltern Challenge. Jane decided to join me and attempt one of the easy courses so about 10:30am we parked up in the grounds of the Sue Ryder Nettlebed Hospice and entered our events. Jane went for the ‘white’ course, easiest apart from the ‘string’ course. I went for the ‘green’ being as that was what I’d done at University Parks. There were loads of people and we were allocated start times, I was lucky to get 11:17 as apparently the next after that was an hour away.

Equipped with our EMIT cards we headed off to the start 10 minutes away and found a bunch of experienced looking orienteers; a clock and some officials and a grid of big squares apparently one for each course with boxes for the next runner, a map and presumably the start box. Most people were pre-entered and called up by name but we sussed that the officials also called a start time. Jane already had her map and was off first. When my turn came I couldn’t see any control points on the map in front of me and was told jokingly off for trying to grab the marked map before we were officially started, I pleaded not having a clue what I was doing.

So we were off, only one for each course starting together so no chance of just tagging along, I got to the start flag and looked at my map realising that I had no plan and all I knew was we were heading south. I followed the others along the path a bit then got my act together and looked at the map – my first point wasn’t on this path, it was somewhere over to my right so with the aid of my compass I set off across a pathless bed of fallen leaves and stuff and somehow found it behind some bushes. For the next point I did the proper compass thing setting it so the arrow pointed my way when north was aligned and off I went – unfortunately the woodland in front wasn’t going to let me follow my line direct though. I got there after some messing about mostly due to it’s proximity to a road I could hear. Point 3 wasn’t far away and, once I’d worked out that the ‘v’ on the map meant it was in a hole, I found it. About this time I realised I’d not started my Garmin and also that I was taking an age to get anywhere.

And so on with various frustrations and repeated running towards and being passed by increasingly familiar faces who were probably not looking for the same checkpoint as me, often there were several points near to each other and you had to double check the number (which isn’t the same as the one on your map) to make sure the point found was actually yours.

Should take me 50 minutes – maybe an hour – I’d said to Jane. Ha ha! I’d spent nearly an hour when I set off from 9 on what looked to be a simple follow parallel to the road route through 10 to 11. Loads of people searching everywhere round here – I checked a dip to find the wrong number – thought I was cleverly following a path that would lead me to 10 but it wasn’t there. Here there and everywhere to eventually find 11 so followed back parallel to the road to find that elusive 10. Found the same wrong number again and was asked by one person where we were on the map and then by another if I knew where the wrong number I’d just found was. I was knackered and, having not eaten since breakfast nor brought supplies, was feeling the confusion of oncoming bonk.

I found 10, walking quite often now as the pathless terrain had taken it’s toll on my ankles, I rediscovered 11. 12 wasn’t far away and I sensibly followed the paths to get to it then 80 metres and the finish. Phew!

1:25:49 for a nominal 5k that I reckon I’d turned into a bit over 5 miles sounded pretty slow but I assured myself others must have found it hard too. The results for ‘green’ actually show me 58th of 58 – 7 minutes behind the 2nd last who was listed as M75 category. Perhaps I just aimed a little high and need to recognise the difference between ‘quite difficult’ green (University Parks) and ‘very difficult’ green (Chiltern Challenge). Also learning to read a map properly might help! Still great fun and pleased not to join the 3 who were DNF or disqualified :)

Jane faired better placing 7th out of 9 despite being 40 years older than all the other competitors.

 

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