Sunday, 16 September 2012

Three Shires Fell Race

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Having the northbound M6 closed from Lancaster to Junction 36 didn't help much with stress levels prior to arrival at Hodge Close, about 10 minutes before the race was supposed to start. Luckily the race was postponed by 30 minutes, otherwise I envisaged chasing around after an already departed field of runners.

This was my 7th running at the Three Shires. Based on previous results, I was expecting to run around 2:18.

Summary of previous times:
2002 - 2:19:32
2004 - 2:17:07
2005 - 2:16:36
2008 - 2:11:32
2009 - 2:11:49
2011 - 2:23:46

When we finally got away at 11:30am, it was glorious sunshine and pretty much perfect running conditions.

Race Start - Photos: Pauline Charters
I set off medium hard along the track to Wetherlam, and reached the fell gate just inside 14 minutes. After crossing the gate, I decided this time, rather than following the crowds in front, to take a steeper more direct line, and was immediately followed by Gary Thorpe and Dan Duxbury both of Ambleside AC, which gave me some confidence I'd made a reasonable decision. As I climbed higher, at every opportunity I worked my way leftwards onto to higher ground which eventually brought me out onto a path of sorts, that lead to the summit of Wetherlam.  This definitely felt faster than the routes I'd taken in previous years, and brought me out right behind a group containing John Hunt, Jon Deegan and Chris Robinson who had all been well ahead at the start of the climb.

I chased this group to Swirl Hawse, but on the climb up Prison Band was caught by quite a few runners including Gary Thorpe, Mike Robinson and Richard Mellon. I reached the summit of Swirl How with Chris Reade but he pulled away on the descent. Just before the final drop to Three Shire Stone I was also caught by Dan Duxbury and James Archbold.

The climb up Pike o' Blisco was spent chasing Dan and James. Halfway up the climb I was reeled in by Jasmin Paris. I managed to stay just ahead of her, and we slapped the summit simultaneously before she turned and legged it across the summit rocks far faster than me.

On the fast technical descent to Blea Tarn I was caught by Ross Litherland and Adrian Davis just before the intake wall, and nasty descent through bracken and rocks. I jumped past Ross on this section, but then we ran up to the start of the final climb up Lingmoor together.  After faffing around for gels and dropping the contents of my bumbag, and Ross helping me get my act together, he took off in hot pursuit to catch Jasmin.

I was impressed how quickly he opened a gap, and I tried to catch James and Jasmin before the Lingmoor summit cairn. I was couple of paces behind Jasmin, so just relaxed and thought I'd follow her route off, but halfway down she veered off course into bracken, allowing me back in front, so I now had her right on my heels.  At the top of the zig-zags I told her it was quicker to batter straight down through the rocks and bracken. Once through the intake gate, I said she might as well go in front since I could tell I was holding her back, but unfortunately she promptly fell straight into the mud and lost a few metre, so I was no back in front as we hit the final track. I knew that after my 1-mile track race on Thursday, I could hammer out a pretty good pace from here to the end. So managed to reach the finish holding position in 2:16:08 for 23rd place.
Three Shires Race Route

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Millport 10-mile Road Race

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This was my 4th attempt at the Millport 10-miler. My first race was in 2007 when I clocked 56:25 in reasonably windy conditions, and for last year's race I staggered round in 60:56 in storm force winds, where you could hardly stand up on the far side of the island.

I had hoped for calm conditions today, but it turned out pretty breezy, with heavy rain forecast for later.

Being chased by George Taylor at the start
The race started with a hooter almost before everyone was ready, and trundled out of Millport at a fairly pedestrian pace. I was surprised after a mile or so that there were only 4 runners in front, running as 2 pairs, and vaugely thought about trying to catch runners 3 and 4, who were Steven Reid of Ayr Seaforth and Billy Richardson of Irvine AC. But I also knew that after mile 5 we would turn into the wind, and I needed to keep something for the 2nd half.

In fact I didn't need to worry about sitting in 5th place for long since Stuart MacDougall reeled me in and passed me quicker than I could latch on. I was then just waiting for Crispin Walsh to catch me as well, which happened around the 3 -mile mark, as Cris, Colin Thomas and George Taylor all caught me at once.  I tried to slot in behind Cris and Colin, to match their pace, which was faster than I was comfortable with. I knew that Crispin had run 1:14:57 at the Glasgow Half last Sunday, so this felt like race suicide trying to stick with him from Mile 3 to 4, knowing that we weren't even half way.

After Mile 4 I backed off a fraction, since I didn't have the confidence to keep battering out 5:48 miles, plus as you turn around the top of the island you are then heading back into the wind, which just gets stronger and stronger as you run down the west side of the island. From mile 8 to 9, the headwind was getting pretty strong, combined with cyclists meandering around in the middle of the road, made this a tough section.

Turning onto Millport High Street for the final 400 metres

Just before Mile 9 I was suddenly caught by James Wales of Dumbarton. It was far too windy to have heard him coming, and also too windy to attempt to drop him again. So I ran along just behind for a few hundred metres, before with about a kilometre to go I made my move. I wondered if I'd gone too soon, but knew the run in from here, and thought it would be good training to push myself hard over this distance.
Millport 10-mile Road Race - the finishing straight

Over the slight crest, and relax and stride out down to the high street. Then it's just 400 metres to the finish, where if you put in the effort, there's no chance of being caught. So the end result was 58:54 for 8th position.

Ellie, Benjamin and I then jogged back to the ferry slip and arrived back at Largs just before the heavens opened.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Glasgow Parkrun #189

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Having just jogged the Ben Nevis Race last weekend in a personal worst of 1:56:09, and 3 weeks ago running my slowest ever time on the Glasgow Parkrun course with 18:02, I decided today to make a bit more of an effort.

The weather at Pollok Park was pretty much perfect for running. Dry, mild and no wind. Scanning the startline I saw that my main challenge would come from the ever-improving Stuart MacDougall. I knew that he'd finished first 3 weeks ago, but I still thought he might be beatable if I played my cards right.

Head to heads with Stuart

My main plan was not to overcook it at the start and then hopefully still have some strength left for the second lap. So we launched off at the start with Stuart taking an immediate lead. I started fast, but tried to hold back a fraction. After the first kilometre I still had Ross Mackenzie more or less alongside, so I surged a few times to open a gap.

Once over the hill at the end of the first lap, I tried to concentrate on catching Stuart, who appeared to be coming back a fraction, but I didn't quite have the resolve to fully commit to closing the gap. I tried to keep up the pressure, just in case Stuart slowed on the final hill, but as we caught our way through the crowds of tail-enders I lost sight of him, so for a few moments there was nobody to chase. It is quite stressful trying to get past the slower runners when they show no signs of keeping to the left, so I tend to find this section takes all my concentration just to avoid barreling into the back of people.

Once we were at the right turn down to the finish, Stuart was too far ahead to catch, but I thought I might as well keep the effort going to the line, especially seeing as Benjamin and his Grandmother Jennifer were waiting for us. I hadn't bothered looking at my watch once during the run, so was pretty surprised to find out I'd run a course PB of 17:11, finishing 6 seconds behind Stuart who had also recorded a PB.