Monday
Nov142011

Newcastle Town Moor Marathon - 30th Oct

Venue: Newcastle Upon Tyne Town Moor, 30th Oct 2011
Previous marathon PB:
3.15.53 (Abingdon 2010)
Target:
‘Good for age’ time (sub 3.15) Secondary objective to go under 3.10

Background of the event:
Having only it’s 3rd outing the Town Moor marathon is a small event with previous years having 90 (2009) and then 145 (2010) finishers. The venue suggested it could be a fast course as it’s where the Newcastle Parkrun is held which is a fast course in itself so I excitedly entered and then booked my bed and breakfast (with my folks) and set about planning my training. The race is organised by the North East Veteran Athletics Club (NEVAC) and they’re organisation couldn’t be faulted at all and at only £15 entry an absolute bargain!

Training: As the race was 5 laps I made sure my long training runs were structured around doing 5 laps of varying flat distances around Cardiff bay. The longest lap being 4.5 miles which meant my biggest training runs were 22.5 miles. So by the time race day dawned having to do 5 laps was merely standard routine.

Race Day: The venue, namely the Town Moor is a 350 acre patch of common park land that is within metres of the city centre (which is sometimes quite surreal as farmers graze their cattle (by law up to 800 at a time) on the land) and yet very green and open to the elements particularly wind so I was pleased on the morning to see calm and mild conditions although the forecast had suggested the wind would get up to 20mph Westerly by midday (and for once unfortunately the weatherman was right).

The Course:Being a 5 lapper (each lap was approx 5.25 miles). Organisers provided 2 feed stations (one at the start/finish point and a 2nd at half lap point.

I’ve attached the ‘Hi-Tech’ course map provided by the event, which included:
mile 1 = flat and easy
mile 2 = slight incline and into a headwind (which got strong on laps 4 and 5)
mile 3 = flat and easy
mile 4 = included a 400m incline (and then decline) on a dirt trail
mile 5 = flat back to the start/finish into a headwind.
Miles 6-26.2 repeat.

The Race: I reckoned, based on training I might be able to do around 3hr 10mins (depending on the course) so set my Garmin at 7.15/mile. Targets to hit were:

 

Target time (hr/min/secs)

Actual time

5 mile split

(min/sec)

Race Position

5 miles

0.36.14

0.36.05

36.05

30th

10 miles

1.12.27

1.12.13

36.08

29th

13.1 miles

1.35.00

1.34.56

 

 

15 miles

1.48.41

1.48.12

35.59

28th

20 miles

2.24.54

2.25.09

36.57

20th

25 miles

3.01.08

3.03.22

38.13

 

26.2 miles

3.10.00

3.13.11

 

13th

One advantage of being a multi lapper was that I could have a mate hand me feed bottles of my choice every lap, which is what happened.

First lap I wanted to see what the lap involved therefore made sure I stuck to my plan whilst quite a few sped off past me into the distance. Laps 2 and 3 I stuck to the task and gradually moved past a few. Starting lap 4 I was still maintaining my pace and feeling pretty good however the wind had picked up and we now found ourselves doing about 2 miles per lap into a strengthening headwind. Also by lap 4 we’d started to lap the runners towards the back of the field and therefore it got more difficult to be sure whether you were lapping or genuinely making up a position. However I was sure I’d made up several places on lap 4 and reckoned I was now lying about 20th.

The final lap dawned, the wind had picked up proper and several runners were throwing in the towel! I guess as it was a multi-lapper we were never far from a warm café with hot drinks and warm, dry clothes so the temptation to pull out must have been greater than in a standard point to point marathon. Anyhow I could feel my pace slipping but still seemed to be getting past runners fairly regularly. Once past one runner I was quick to look ahead to see the next target, however on entering the final mile which included a ¾ mile long straight flat path I could only see the white dot of a running vest way in the distance so reckoned that was it as they had a good half mile lead over me. So on meandering through some twisty paths in the final few metres imagine my surprise to be confronted by a runner about 30 metres ahead who seemed to have slowed (so much so I assumed they were about to start their 5th lap) to a crawl! It quickly dawned that he was in fact in 12th place as the marshals guided him towards the finishing side of the path. Unfortunately we were in the final 50 metres of the race and he put a final spurt on enough to prevent me from catching him and subsequently beat me by 5 seconds. Oh well I reckoned, nowt I could do although when the awards were presented I added a few more expletives when I realised he was in my age category and had grabbed the 3rd place trophy and very nice they were to!

The men’s race was won in 2.55 and the women’s race in 3.25. The field had a high percentage of veteran runners with 103 of the 127 finishers being vets (the oldest in the 75-79 age category). Results don’t show how many dropped out although entries numbered 202.

Overall Conclusion: The Newcastle Town Moor marathon is a very friendly, cheap (only £15), intimate flat event with a definite PB potential (I proved that). Organisation by the NEVAC was excellent and the support from the marshals was superb. Trophies were handed out for overall 1st, 2nd and 3rd and also for every 5-year age category above 35 to 1st, 2nd and 3rd in male and female.

Getting to Newcastle is pretty easy with flights from Bristol costing about £60 return (flying from Cardiff is a lot more expensive). You’ll be spoiled for places to stay as the venue is virtually in the city centre so is within 5 minutes walking distance of many B&B’s. If using a car parking is free and again is within 1 minutes walk of the venue.

(You Tube video link attached for ‘part 1’ of the event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TS1XHvT_d0A

Dave Proud

Tuesday
Nov082011

Cake cake cake and no dust. Perfect weather Perfect Race.

The Friday Journey:

Snowdon Group plus two trees.We left Cardiff around 2pm, and started on our way up to Snowdon.  (Note to self next time, runners hydrate before marathons, so ask in Brecon does anyone need to stop.)  We slowly arrived in Builth Wells, and had our local market and bathroom stop.  Many grateful runners! Oh yes and the cake had already started. Countless varieties of cake were produced and great carbo loading the day before. By 4:30 ish, we had stop number 2, and only 70 miles to go. Great, it cannot be long now, and then the roads got narrower and narrower and narrower. Thankfully all roads were leading to Snowdon, or rather there seemed to be a procession of cars going that way, anyone would think there was a big event on rather than an easy Saturday marathon!

I have to say top marks to Dave Williams for driving the difficult last 2 hours to Snowdon. Well done. We arrived in darkness in Llanberis but there was nothing dark about the race registration. All very efficient and speedy. (and it did stay open till midnight if you really wanted to work all the hours and arrive late) If you had done last year's race you could get a t-shirt or hoodie for bargain prices.(Worth considering next year's race.. oh I'm tempted already). We dropped everyone off and arranged to meet for dinner.  

A quiet dinner due to a little matter of the race the next day although we all put down our expected race times for the next day in sealed envelope, a pint to the closest to their time. Libby wasn't there so we let Claire Phillips put down Libby's time..(Libby was too busy getting herself ready!)

These were the predicted times and the actual times. Lots of people in the pub running and everyone sharing experiences about the race and what to expect:

Simon 3:59 (3:48)
Clare P 3:15 (from Port Talbot) (3:17)
Dave W 4:07 (4:06)
James 3:55  (3:31)
Libby (predicted by Clare) 3:20 (3:27)
No. 96 or large chilli (Mal) 4:15 (3:59)
Rich 3:58 (DNS, Richie was ill Sat)

Race Day:

The author approaching the finishWe woke early, had time for breakfast at the hotel, a nice race start time (10:30), lots of people in hotels running the races and lots to talk about and I did change my mind about 5 times about what to wear.(Well I have to get my colours coordinated ) Seriously it  is important. Well I eventually decided shorts, thermal top and rain shield (a good choice for me, make the right choice for you if you do this race) as I kept all of it on for 23 miles.

On race day there was a bus around Llanberis. We walked the mile from the hotel to the start, left our kits in the tent and walked to the start. Go to the bathroom at the registration area as there are no toilets that near the start. A very relaxed start, lots of people talking, chatting, many Croups runners, and Cardiff clubs.  It was very wet and windy but no one really cared.   "and, what was that the start?" Oh yes, well better start running then! That was the most relaxed start of a marathon I've ever done.

Started with a big Les Croups first mile talking away, enjoying the on route support as you leave Llanberis. The first mile is flat then you climb and you climb and you climb. I ran with Libby and we started slow, (a very good plan) so did as it seems all Croups (good plan guys). The rain was horizontal on the hill as we climbed towards 4 or 5 miles, a big big big (and big) thanks for Stu's support at the top of the hill as he shivered. It was great to see a friendly face at the top,  thanks for the support.

Then the race does downhill for a while and then off-road. It's lovely off-roading with great views and everyone enjoying it chatting away. People are running speedy but still really enjoying, also on the way many bikes supporting the race, cheering on their runners and the other runners too. At about 9-10 miles we met Tom from the North (his first marathon), and he ran with Libby and myself pretty much all the way. "I'm only planning on about 3:45", well he did 3:30 so well done.

We were slowly picking up the pace throughout the race, at 13 miles I looked at my watch. First time in the race (thanks for the advice Richard S well noted!) and perhaps my 10 min/mile pace plan didn't quite happen (1:45 ish)  I must say the village around 12/13 miles was lovely and we had really good support. A testing climb out after 13 miles but worth it as you then have a rewarding flat and then downhill/undulating section until around 20 miles. I later checked and my fastest miles were 17 to 21 before the hill at 22 started.

I managed to keep up with Libby until 22 miles as we passed maybe 100 people from 4 miles (maybe more). Very enjoyable starting slow and picking up the pace late. At 22 miles you have a testing hill and you actually turn into the wind so the challenge is tough.  I was still passing people but Libby and Tom both  picked up the pace and finished strong putting 4 minutes on me (or more i think) in about 3.5 miles. Considering I was still passing people,  that is really good running. I enjoyed the climb from 23 to 25, not 24 as some people told me ;-) ,but it's not a time to be out of energy.

If you do this race save energy for the last 6. If you're walking you will be cold and it's not a race to be cold in. Enjoy the views, and it is lovely. Sadly Richie S could was ill and not up to racing, but he was a top notch supporter at 23 miles. Seeing 2 Croups and a friendly face on this race supporting really made a difference to me.   The downhill from 25 to 26.2 is very steep, like Castle Coch but part off-road. Not for the faint hearted (and it was hailing at the top). Still enjoyable with enthusiastic support at the top and I realised fell runners taking photos - downloadable for free.. (London Marathon - please take note).

I finished in a 3:31. Very happy. The really moving thing I noted at the finish were runners doing the last 100 or so metres with their kids holding the hands.  It was really good to have "this is James the Bruce from Les Croups" a bonus at the time, not that they did say that, but i wouldn't have been surprised if they did as they were very welcoming and called out everyone's name! Really worthy of note is that Libby had negative splits on Snowdon Marathon and a quick time to boot, very good running.    

Post-race

The famous Pete's EatsAfter the race: hot tea and biscuits in the reception. NB this the place to meet then shower and warm up with food afterwards. Did I have 8 or maybe 10 cups of hot tea afterwards? All the locals providing it were very friendly.  Even with the hard rain at that point it didn't dampen the spirits. I'll be honest I didn't see everyone finish. I do wonder if Dave W was waiting in the pub to get his predicted 4:07 time ;-) but knowing Dave I'm sure he didn't as he is just a very strong runner and a great pacer. I was very lucky to see No. 96 (Mal F).. sprint to the finish to get sub 4. Mr Bolt watch out. Perhaps that tells me you had a bit more left Mal? Anyway well done. As for the others: great runs for everyone, especially Simon H - first marathon 3:45 ish, fantastic running.  Just to note the water stops were excellent (big sorry to the one stop lady who I knocked over all the chocolate then was unable to eat it)


We enjoyed the walk back to the hotel despite the driving rain, nothing to dampen the spirits after a hard, really well supported race, and such great spirit between the runners. Then to Pete's Eats for eats and beer. We all met up there, some of us ordered normal size meals, others ordered a meal for a running club, and perhaps it took a bit longer,  but then they were cooking a paddy field of rice and enough chilli to feed the whole of Les Croups on a Thursday night. So Mal or John Wayne (per the hat) needed to wait a bit longer for No 96 chilli and rice. Goodness, what that large chilli and rice would look like. Perhaps they knew how hard he ran and gave him a little (or a lot extra!). We had a great evening at the pub(s),  talking about the race and talking about doing in next year as people come back year after year.

To sum it up, this is why Snowdon  gets 12 out of  10 for me. It's a marathon that is really hard to beat for enjoyment.

1. If it is rainy it's better because you doing a hard marathon and it's part of the challenge.
2. the crowd are great.
3. the views are just fantastic.
4. the atmosphere is great.
5. water stops are really good and regular.(and as its often cold and wet you dont need as many).Water stops were better than the Berlin marathon.
6. a great group of runners from the best club on the planet always run Snowdon.
7. you get great cake on the travel up (usually) with the Club trip.
8. pubs are great in Llanberis.
9. you don't care about your time and you don't need a watch!
10. You can transfer your number up to about 1 month before the race  (then they print the bar codes).
11.It's on a Saturday so you can go to the pub Saturday night.
12. The whole area gets behind the race.

A lot of bigger marathons could learn from this one.

Entries open New Year's Day (I think) next year.

James Bruce

Wednesday
Nov022011

The OMM 2011 ("Who dares fails")

Race HQ - we joined the escape committee and headed for a TravelodgeFor such a small island, it never ceases to amazes that there are so many uninhabited chunks of wilderness in the UK. Discovering such places is one of the joys of ‘Mountain Marathons’ and some of us would be lost, or unable to get lost, without them.  The 2011 OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) thus took Wouter, myself and 3000 others in Breadalbane, an expanse of mountain moor in deepest, boggiest, Perthshire. Famed for being the most geologically active part of the UK it lies just north of the Highland Boundary Fault Line (Graeme D will like this detail). The race area was bounded by Loch Tay and Loch Earn and included lots of bumpy stuff (notably Ben Chonzie at 934m) and many timorous beasties. Even we saw red deer, mountain hares, stoats and grouse on our run.

Having done OKish in our last OMM, Wouter and I gave ‘boring’ B Class a miss, and entered the Medium Score event ('classic orienteering') the aim to find of as many controls as possible whilst navigating to and from overnight camp within strict time limits (6 and 5 hours respectively), the controls yielding differing points (10-40) according to difficulty. The small print also said something about time penalties but we had no such fears. More on that later…

Classic Tim wildlife photo (bumpy bits + red deer..)Based on two previous OMMs in Scotland, I was positively pessimistic, “Embrace the power of negative thinking” the mantra and, sure enough, a pre-race fortnight of snow/floods and a mild but wet SW front during the race made life interesting. What better way to sell more OMM kit? Race HQ also had character & Grand Designs, a decaying ex-WWII PoW camp (including original fittings) next to a nuclear bunker complex intended to house an emergency Government HQ - the perfect finishing touch as the rain lashed down, and we hid in the car at the start in our very own Armageddon. “Why?” the only question at such a moment. “We’re doomed” muttered Wouter in a perfect Dutch-Scottish Dad’s Army accent. And so it proved.

Day 1 lived down to expectations and we were soon wretched, cold and very wet. I was happy just to keep up with Wouter who, in-spite of recovering from a bug (he coughed and shivered wildly) was flying like his proverbial namesake. I stupidly ran in shorts and was scratched to bits by the vegetation. Luckily there were no ticks. Wouter looking Wagnerian on Day 2 (no rain!)Applying the ‘survival’ and 'pleasure' principles, we headed for overnight camp after just 4 ½ hours, finishing with a miserly 110 pts.  The campsite looked like, and was, a small flooded field in the lee of a hydroelectric power station. On some glorious summer day it had, maybe, looked much more inviting – today it looked liked the aftermath of Hurricane Catrina. 

But then the rain stopped and a bit of blue appeared (briefly, beautifully) so we quickly spread out soggy gear in the hope some might dry – this re-awoke the angry rain Gods immediately. We crawled back into the tent (2 x 0.9m) and prepared for 16 hours in a cocoon.  Luckily we’d bought ear-plugs, Jura and Talisker (single malts are lighter and yummier than post-race protein bars/energy gels).  Sleep came as frugally as the points on Day 1, hence maybe our failure to fully appreciate the (traditional) Scottish piper who awoke the camp at 6:00am and was greeted with the equally traditional Croups 'fecks and threats' chorus.  As my Grandfather (a Cork man) pointed out, the Irish gave the Scots the pipes 400 years ago but they still didn’t get the joke... 

red-up on porridge, and goaded by a younger Dallimore (Claire and partner won the Medium Score Ladies race at a canter results here) we approached Day 2 in a different frame of mind and felt confident (always dangerous). The map also looked promising, with many ‘big points’ on offer for those who dared. Within an hour we’d bagged 3 controls and 60 points (more than half the previous day’s score) but then came the BIG MOMENT in our race (every MM has one of these), ‘play safe or gamble’?  The obvious was a simple SE run-for-home, with a respectable score and the promise of an early finish, ideal prep for the nine hour drive back to Cardiff. Madness is contagious though, and we both keenly searched for a route North, then East, then South and a yarn spinning grand tour of at least 200 points. Spotting an exit road for a mad dash home should thing go wrong, we had a plan within the minute – it looked impossible, but "what the hell".  The true value of two PhDs was exposed, and whilst seemingly everyone else cheerfully walked/jogged home, we took off in the opposite direction, running strongly but very much alone down a long, curving, valley, with grouse shoot hides either side of us. Balaclava came to mind…

We almost tripped over the next hidden control (20) and whooped with delight when we hit our first ever 40 pointer. Overtaking other runners who'd earlier swept past us but then mis-navigated added to the fun and the impossible looked possible with two and a half hours still remaining for the ~15k run home. Easy for those of the ‘World’s Greatest Running Club’?  But then came soggy bog, a river crossing, then a long gully scramble, 10 minutes time wasted faffing about for a control, then tugging at heather as we hauled ourselves over ‘peat hags’, then crags, then the day's big climb before an even worse 5k rocky track descent. Alarm bells rang ever louder and I’ve never known time fly so quickly. Fatigue is almost forgotten when panic sets-in, but thrives when faced with despair. Run became shuffle and we grew more desperate as the realisation of ‘time penalties’ (2 points per minute late home) loomed.  The game was up by the time we hit our 'exit road' where we were greeted by an unexpected "OMM bus-stop" sign and a queue of retirees and fellow failures.

We toyed with the idea of continuing regardless, walking the last couple of miles and stopping for a pint in Comrie and finishing on a score of minus 10 squillion, but the Race Director (a nice chap who was driving the bus) and his two collies already had their work cut-out rounding-up stragglers like us. The banter on the bus back was of a high standard - someone asked if the Race Photographers would also 'do us a photo' as we disembarked, heads hung in shame. Being driven back in such a state to a WWII PoW camp seemed a rather fitting end to our audacious bid for glory...

A great weekend nonetheless - dare one say a 'classic OMM'??

Tim O'Sullivan & Wouter Poortinga 

 

Tuesday
Nov012011

The Minstead Stinger

I had a holiday planned for the New Forest so had a look for any races going on and found this lovely race in the heart of the New Forest. The instructions were to follow signs for Ocknell Caravan site which turned out to be way out in the sticks. Glad I allowed plenty of time as I had to slow down many times to allow horses, cows and sheep to pass by in their own time. Anyway, having found the race I lined up for the start feeling a bit nervous as 'Stinger' suggested it might be very tough. The start itself couldn't have been any more different to the mass start of the Cardiff Half the week before. The start line was in a big open field with 146 runners only keeping close to stay warm.

It was the usual fast start by many of the runners, but that didn't bother me and I settled into a comfortable pace waiting for the hills that never really came. There were a few climbs and 9.2 miles of off road is hard anyway, but it didn't compare to Pentyrch, the Roman Run or the Exmoor Stagger which I consider my hardest race.

Early on the race a marshall shouted out encouragement to me and called out "come on Peter". I hought they were talking to someone they knew in the race, but then as the race went on each marshall in turn did the same, but I knew it was me for sure as I was on my own.

I certainly enjoyed the unexpected encouragement and to be fair there were so many marshalls around and so many flags to keep you in the right direction that even I was confident that I couldn't go wrong.
I also had a huge surprise coming 6th, which is my best position in any race for about 23 years. I would have enjoyed the race anyway and as it was only the second ever running of this race I have to say "hats off" to Totton Running Club for putting on a very well organised and enjoyable race. Anyone finding themselves in the New Forest in late October should consider giving this race a go.

Peter Turnbull

Sunday
Oct232011

BUPA Birmingham Half Marathon

 This year was the first year that BUPA has organised the Birmingham half marathon. As BUPA always organise events well, and finding accommodation is considerably easier than at the Great North Run, I thought I’d give it a go.

As expected the race was incredibly well organised, had great support and course entertainment throughout. There were advised spots and big screens for spectators and the book indicated at what time they would expect to see different bib colours. The route was windy and went past Bournville which was nice. There was an abundance of water and Powerade stations throughout. The course was definitely not flat and there was a long incline from 10 to 11.5 miles was most unwelcome after I had battled with the wind for a good part of the run. The start was phased to reduce congestion and this seemed to be very effective. However the done side was that I met the front runners coming back when I had just done 3.5 miles and they were at 10 miles – a little sole destroying! At the finish goody bags were provided with a medal, t-shirt, Powerade, water, some food and a much appreciated Cadbury chocolate bar. There were plenty of facilities before and after the race and not much queuing. Bag storage was available and very well organised.

All in all a very good race and well worth doing, although I think you are unlikely to get a pb. My performance was a little disappointing due to a lack of long distance running post injury this year. However, I would consider a return visit.

John Sutherland

Ed's notes: Thanks and well done James - this presumably your result? (Bib no 3761, 1:31:55 Chip Time, 507th). Send us a photo and we'll include with this article.