|Coming into Moors Gorse - pic Colin Williamson|
Zoe isn't sure whether she's going to throw the gel
back up or wash it down.
We started with an inefficient route choice over the hill by the start instead of round it (my fault, although I enjoyed a minute or two chatting to Paul Cadman before he got his proverbial in gear). Then Zoe's ankle (she'd buggered it in a fall on a road tempo run three days earlier) started to play up, so a couple of biref stops to sort that left us well down the field at the first checkpoint at Rifle Range.
We ran reasonably comforatably down to Moors Gorse, passing a couple of folk, and getting a gel down just before the railway and road crossing. This year Bob, the RO, has introduced SI timing and to ensure everyone's safety a 2 minute allowance was made each way so folk didn't have to race across the railway and busy road. We made the most of it, taking a minute to have a drink and sort kit before starting the climb towards Beaudesert. I had a very momentary nav stutter about two hundred yards before the road crossing.
On the way up from Beaudesert to Castle Ring the faster runners were flying down the hill towards us and it was nice to shout up friends and get encouragement as the passed. One of the nicest bits of longer races is points where the route doubles back and you can do this (I'm thinking of the Lawley and Earl's Hill on the Longmynd Hike too). We walked a bit of the climb to Castle Ring - I could have run but Zoe's ankle was really giving her pain on the steeper bits of ascent. Still this was a good leg and we were overtaking people, a few at a time.
We ran well back down to Beaudesert and on to Brereton Spurs, Zoe setting a cracking 8:00 pace on the road so much so that I was wondering how long it would be before she dropped me. Just as this somewhat unpleasant thought crept into my mind, the road kicked up and I was able to bring all the hill triaing to bear and catch up. We took the marked route down from the spurs and a Mow Cop couple passed us just as we merged - I reckon as a pair we'd have been quicker by the road in hindsight as Zoe wasn't that quick down this rough kilometre.
Back at Moors Gorse we took another drink and a quick passage over the road (thanks Tom) and railway (thanks Network Rail) meant we could rest for 30 seconds before dibbing to start the next (and toughest) leg. This takes runners up from Moors Gorse, past the Visitor Centre, down to the head of Sherbrook Valley and then up to the Glacial Boulder trig. The climb out of Moors Gorse isn't steep but it's tough after 11 or 12 miles of running. We ran the first half and hiked the second half, passing a few runners en route. Hitting the longest road section Zoe was quickly on the pace again, and as I was feeling quite good we took it in turns to lead and made a cracking pace for the next 2 km. I got the nav right on the drop into and climb out of Sherbrook Valley and we were at the boulder quite rapidly - this was our best leg, about 50th fastest of the 133 runners.
We were passing people fairly thick and fast by now, coming across a tired looking Andrew Brooke just after the control. I gave him some encouragement and we set off hard to the incline and down that. We were about 4 minutes from home with 5 to go before the target time of 2:30 when I made a horrible nav error at the bottom of the incline and instead of going straight on down the final section for some reason I thought the pool was on the wrong side and went right instead. This gave us an extra quarter mile and a steep 130' of climbing that no-one else had to do. We lost nearly four minutes and 15 places, finally finishing a bit deflated in 79th equal place, 2:32:17.
Never mind, lesson learned. We'd run fast enough for a 2:30 finish, so job done there, and we'd each only lost a couple of points in the Mercia champs (in a race which probably won't be a counter for me, and possibly not for Zoe).
Resolution: do the race again and aim for 2:25 or better. Reccie the start/finish properly, and also sort out the section through then campsite etc between the Rifle Range and The visitor centre car park where I only got the right line by following others. I've marked my race maps with the correct route since finishing because reading the map is easier if you know instantly which path you are intending to take!