Saturday, 18 September 2010

Stretton Skyline Race 12/09/2010

Leading the Early Starters up to Pole Bank - I'd just have made the cut-off!
(Photo by Phil Johnson)
Another pleasing progression this, with a long race that didn't leave me feeling completely drained - I've been able to train properly since the race.

I took the early start option with about 15 other runners, starting at 10:30, because I was concerned that if I went hard enough to make the cut-offs at the first two checkpoints I'd run out of steam later. I'm glad I knew my way around because there was only any direction signs at the roads (i.e. in Little Stretton).

I tucked in behind Linda Edmondson of Wrekin Roadrunners from the start up Cardingmill Valley and passed her just before the waterfall. I mucked up the navigation out of the side valley a little and stayed in it right until the road (very boggy) instead of cutting right, but this evidently didn't slow me down much because I had a good lead at the Pole Bank checkpoint (CP1 - round about 0:33:30, so I would have made the cut-off). The section down from here via the Callow path to Little Stretton is superb, and I took it fairly easy, recovering from the climb, until I saw Al Tye on the final descent into Little Stretton and blitzed it a bit for his camera. I was really enjoying the novel experience of being at the front!

Descending into Little Stretton
Photo by Alastair Tye (

Crossing the main road, I started to walk (fairly rapidly) to conserve energy, and kept to the same speed all the way up Ragleth Hill. This is very steep but the main ascent, even at the walk, only takes five to ten minutes. Rob Brown of Chepstow Harriers was fairly close behind me here, but must have faded worse than me later in the race. Still if I could do this when I'm V60 in 5 hours I'd be happy enough.

I reached the top of Ragleth and CP3 (about 1:13:00) still in front and set off along the ridge. About a third of the way along I heard running steps behind me and turned to see Steve Cale storming along. He was already 200 or 300 yards ahead, had caught my 30 minute head start up in about 45 minutes of running. Steve went on to win by miles (20 minutes actually, so around 3 miles!).

I mucked up the descent from Ragleth, seeing the frontrunners going off well to my left, and got "pulled" over that way from the route I'd recce'd into the wood. I had to cut through about 200 yards of low branches and rough ground to get back onto the route I'd recce'd, losing a minute or two.

From here it was a straightforward descent to the Sandford Road waterpoint (CP4) where I refilled the bottles. The route then picks up the downward route of the Caradoc Classic in reverse to climb Caer Caradoc. I suffered a little bit on the long steady climb across the field and up the lane, but pretty much managed to keep running, and then started to walk as I went through onto the open fell. This felt a longer ascent than Ragleth (thankfully it is) and I was being overtaken by a lot of runners from the later start at this point. I passed the summit checkpoint and jogged down the other side, but was being passed easily by people descending much more confidently than me... Must work on that!

I lost touch with the guys in front of me and was a little disoriented when I reached the road at Comley, also struggling to make sense of the map because I'd come out at a different bit of the road than I'd expected, so had to hang around for 2 or 3 minutes waiting for someone who knew the way to the checkpoint. This was just round the corner!

The ascent of the Lawley was a bit of a nightmare - I kept moving, but at a pretty slow rate. I was really glad to get to the top and felt pretty good (for the last time in the race) coming back down. I managed to run/jog all of the field section across to Gogbatch, only getting passed by two or three more runners, but by the time I got into Gogbatch I was pretty much struggling aerobically.

I had to force myself to walk the whole ascent up to the Portway and was really disappointed with this, but every time I tried to even jog gently I had no breath. On the top David Gould from West Bromwich (I'm usually there and thereabout with him in the short races) went past me (he was on the early start too), and also a couple of ladies (Sally Mawhinney and Rachel Dearden) who were on the main start. I just had nothing in the tank. I walked most of the half mile to the Mott's Road junction, but fortunately looked around just at the checkpoint and noticed that Linda from Wrekin RR was only about 40 yards behind me - where did she come from?

I really wanted to finish as one of the best from the early start and so I pushed myself very hard on the steep descent, built a bit of a lead and passed Al with his camera at the ford. I wasn't looking so good now.

Last steep bit of descent on Mott's Road
Photo by Alastair Tye (
Crossing the stream at the bottom of Mott's Road - getting a bit ragged by now!
Photo by Alastair Tye (
The last mile and a bit down Carding Mill Valley was desperate - I just kept running but couldn't get far enough of Linda to relax until I was across the road and running the last 100 yards into the finishing field. Even then I was hoping we didn't have to do a lap of the field!

In the end I'm fairly happy with my time 4:16:34 - this was 68% of the leaders so will be a reasonable scorer for me for Mercia's champs. I'd predicted 4:10 to 4:30 so it was towards the upper end of that expectation.

I felt like I'd done better than at Exe to Axe in the Spring and I'd probably only walked a few hundred yards on the flat. However, without the couple of navigational errors, and with more of an aerobic base (the virus I had in August means I had less miles and less base fitness going into this than for Exe to Axe) I think I could go sub 4 hours. I must also work out how to work my watch so I can record the splits a bit better, but I did note the times at CP1 and CP3 so I know if I run the first section the same next year I won't be timed out.

1 comment:

  1. Good account. I hope next year this is on a different day to the Peris. I'd like to have a go.