Well Spring has well and truely arrived and we’ve been planting things and I’ve had my first sweating in a vest run of the year so it’s probably about time I posted something on this blog.
Orienteering wise the Chiltern Challenge at Penn Common late February was fun with me managing 69:47 for the Short Green course coming 30th of 70 starters (64 finishers). Jane and I did a stint marshalling a road crossing before hand and I was pleased to find the veggie chilli from the burger van was suitable for vegans so all in all a good, if tiring, day. Unfortunately I was pretty crap at both March and April’s Saturday Series events at Cutteslowe Park and Shotover. After I’ve started getting knackered my plan seems to leak out of my brain in between controls, that and some pretty basic mistakes with the map reading suggests I better go back to Light Green for the next event. (Well maybe not the next one as it’s University Parks so surely I can’t mess that up!).
Running is very slowly improving though I didn’t manage my hoped for sub 1:50 at the White Horse Half as the conditions were atrocious with a fierce wind and a soaking. I was pleased to persist and run all the way without getting despondent. We had a great Vegan Runners UK meet-up at Tring parkrun a few weeks back, a hilly course for a parkrun! There were 10 of us and we all went for a vegan breakfast and cakes at the Anusia Cafe afterwards.
White Horse Half (thanks to Barry Cornelius for the photo)
My frozen shoulder does seem to be thawing – very slowly though. I’m still paying £45 a session once or twice a month for James, my osteopath, to try and force a bit more range of movement out of it and to reassure me it is actually improving. Progress seems so slow that it’s easy to think it’s just not moving but I can now reach the picture rail in my room and can remember when it was a good 10 inches out of reach. So I plod on with the daily stretches. It doesn’t hurt much any more even when I give it a bad time so at least I don’t have to protect it all the time.
I think the previous time I’d visited Hill End it was as a school kid on an educational camp type of thing. Not sure how old I was but I suspect less than 10. I remember the impression of a big sort of wilderness with these wooden building spread out here and there, big enough for a little kid to get lost if he’s not careful. I remember the boys dorm (it wasn’t a proper camp with tents, at least not for us) being away from the main building and I remember something about frogs though not quite sure what. Mostly I remember some sort of tuck shop and my parents having given me a bit more spending money than I really needed so lots of sweets. I think I had a good time despite being stuck with all the other kids!
So over 40 years later Jane and I rolled up for the first on the Oxford parks sequence of TVOC Saturday Series orienteering events. We got there good and early as Ben Green is offering training before the Oxford events and I reckoned I might well benefit from this. We met Ben and, along with about 5 others, jogged up towards the top of the hill on a dry but slightly foggy morning. Fortunately Ben noticed Jane had run out of steam so we walked the last bit.
Ben worked on two techniques with us. Map and compass alignment was particularly useful to me as I’d taught myself with a rather old book and the whole process of turning the compass on it’s baseplate etc seemed to be a right faff – it seems orienteers don’t really do this and just hold the map so the route is the way they are facing, lay the compass straight edge along the route then rotate their body (map, compass and all) till the north arrow aligns with the map vertical grid-lines then hold that position and run. We also did some work on pace counting to estimate distance covered, I already attempt this where there are long paths etc but it was useful to practice more.
I paid a bit too much attention to the map alignment and not enough to my feet and the wonky, muddy, terrain and went flying at one point. I crashed down on my right shoulder – held my breath waiting for the pain – and it never came. In fact no after effects at all, my shoulder may well still be stuck but doesn’t seem to be at all delicate now.
The actual event went pretty well though it took me a few controls to get used to the scale of the map, at 1:3500 instead of the more common 1:10000 I overshot a couple of the earlier legs. I managed 54:02 for the Green course with enough energy for a sprint to the finish but was not far from the back in 37th place of 43 starters (41 finishers). Saw Howard Waller while I was waiting for download and he had fallen foul of the brambles which laid thorny trip wires over many of the paths, he was filthy and looked more like he’d been doing one of those ‘tough mudder’ events than orienteering 🙂
It’s Thames Valley Orienteering Club‘s annual Chiltern Challenge this Sunday so Jane and I have volunteered to do a shift on one of the road crossing before our run. They are expecting 500 participants over 9 different courses so should be fun!
An enjoyable run for me at this year’s Chalgrove Festival 10k on May Bank Holiday Monday. Jane wanted a look round the festival so we drove out making it an easy day what with the 12:00 start. I ran in Vegetarian Cycling and Athletic Club vest for a change as I hoped to meet new club member Geoff – in fact we somehow managed to miss each other but still two VCAC vests present is good. 52:16 223rd of 441 overall which was a good bit quicker than last year and a seasons best so happy with that.
Thanks to Barry Cornelius for the photos – oxonraces.com
Jane and I have decided we rather enjoy this orienteering lark and after a chat with a member who also does the Oxford parkrun sometimes I thought why not join the club. So it was as new members of the Thames Valley Orienteering Club that we made our way to Brill (on the hill) on 12th April to experience the somewhat different terrain of scrub, bumps and hollows left by centuries of clay digging for the local brick industry.
Despite being somewhat sleep deprived and achy courteous of the blooming frozen shoulder I decided to go for light green again and necked an energy gel before the start so at least I’d have some sugar left in my brain if I ended up taking ages again. Jane decided to up the stakes and go for the orange course where she was more likely to encounter other grown-ups. There was a new IT system being experienced in the registration tent which resulted in a bit of a queue and a wait before we got going just after 11am.
My first control seemed to be somewhere behind me facing the start but remembering the 13 minutes I’d spend heading 180 degrees in the wrong direction at the start of Wendover I took a moment to check the compass properly – then I realised the thing in front of control number 1 on the map was the car park by Brill windmill so I got there in 3 minutes using the follow my nose approach.
I was going well till number 8 though number 5 had been tricky hidden by a little pool at the bottom of a steep, muddy drop as it was. 8 was just on the other side of an out of bounds area with buildings but I think I made the mistake of overestimating the distance and also failed to check direction so ended up behind the wrong group of houses. If there is one thing I failed to learn from years of audax riding it is that the best thing to do as soon as you realise you’ve gone the wrong way is to stop, work-out where you are, and make a cool headed plan to get back on route. Instead I tend to opt for the ‘it must be over there somewhere’ technique which is probably why number 8 took me nearly 16 minutes to find while the longest any of the earlier controls had taken was under 5 minutes.
9 was a doddle but then a repeat performance for number 10 which took 13 minutes as I made some pretty basic mistakes such as following a road where the map showed a vehicle track etc. 13 was interesting as the thin but unbroken line of darkish green was indeed ‘impenetrable’ and, after going right to the bottom of Tramhill to find 12, I had to go most of the way back up again – huffing and puffing before I decided to walk instead – just to join a path that took me back down the other side of the dense hedgerow to where the control was.
The remaining controls were not too hard to find though non were what I’d call obvious. After 19 me and another chap could see the ‘Finish’ sign 100m away so without a glance at the map we just ran straight to it, I’m surprised I didn’t get a nasty rash from the ankle high stinging nettles on route! 1:11:18 was my eventual time with about 42 minutes actual running according to my Garmin. The 3.1km becoming 3.4 miles. I placed 16 out of 20 starters and 19 finishers so a marginal improvement over Wendover but still much room for improvement. I reckon if I’d got 8 and 10 right I’d have been 20 minutes quicker.
I couldn’t find Jane at first but it turned out she was in the loo in the pub when I’d looked for her there. She managed a more impressive 16th of 29 starters, 25 finishers on her debut orange course finishing in 46:28 and almost achieving the ‘Orange standard’ (whatever that is). Wittenham Clumps next for us if the weather looks good!
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.
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.