Thursday, 2 September 2010

Ragleth Inn Race 25/08/2010

This was the final race in the Summer Series, and having missed three of the five previous races I was desparate to make it, despite having only been out once in the previous month due to a virus.

The rainy weather didn't put me off as I drove over to Little Stretton after work. In fact I was hoping that the rain would put some other runners off and reduce the field size a little which would help me maximise my meagre points return in the series. (I should explain that the scoring gives the winner 125 points in each race and each successive runner a point less, so I'd only scored 29 points in the Caradoc Classic even though I'd run a fairly good 69%, but had picked up 52 points with a less convincing 64% run at Pontesbury because of the smaller field).

Anyway, the race route went from Little Stretton straight up Callow, then down to the head of Grindle Hollow to rejoin the main path around Grindle to the twin trees at the south east end of Barrister's Plain. From here there's a steep descent into Barrister's Batch, and then a thin path leads down Callow Hollow past the bottom of Grindle Hollow. A few trees mark the start of the very steep reascent of Callow, and the outward route is retraced from the summit.

This all sounds very nice, but only the first half of the initial ascent ascent is runnable (at least for me), the big descent off Barrister's Plain is very slippery when it's wet, the path down Callow Hollow is thin and very slippery with a drop of about 20 feet into the stream, and the reascent of Callow climbs about 100m at a gradient of around 30°! The rest of the course was merely a bit slippery...

So it was a case of struggling up the first ascent, which went quite well, and I managed to keep up with Lightning and not get too knackered. I lost a little ground on the short descent and traverse to the top of the big descent, then decided to go for it in the light of how much time I seem to be losing on the downhills. This just meant that I fell over sooner than many of the others on the descent. Three very fast glissades (OK bum slides - it's only a glissade if it's controlled and on snow) later and a shouted warning to one of my fellow competitors, I hurtled across the stream to pick up the path down Callow Hollow.

Normally I enjoy this kind of single track and can move almost at full speed, but this was horrible. There were some really wet slippery sections, overhanging trees, and the ever present threat of faceplanting into the thick gorse 10 to 20 feet below the path and lining the rocky stream bed. I was almost relieved when the route turned to reascend Callow, but by this time had lost maybe a minute on Lightning and the other guys I usually chase.

I lost more on the ascent, being overtaken by one chap and pretty much running out of steam two thirds of the way up, but did recover quickly on top and took two places as the hill rolled over into the descent.

Coming down was ok until we reached the path (which is usually a doddle). However even this was pretty slippery, and Cliff Larwood (Telford Harriers) was hot on my heels. I put in a couple of spurts on the bits I thought were least slippery and managed to haul myself across the line 4 seconds ahead of Cliff.

I'm relatively pleased considering the total lack of recent training, but I could have probably moved a bit faster from the summit of Callow to the top of the big descent and down Callow Hollow (fear was a factor here I'm afraid). The main learning point (thanks Steven Cale for your advice and well done on the Series win) was that if the Organiser says it's slippery, he's probably not joking, and full-on fell shoes rather than trail shoes would help!

All in all this was yet another fun evening out - thanks to all involved with organising and marshalling.

Hopefully I can add a photo later...

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