Saturday, 26 June 2010

Cotswold Way Relay - Chipping Campden to Stanway

Climbing up out of Chippy we run beside rich green dock leaves and cow parsley, flowers set at crazy angles like spinning plates on sticks. Seventy of us or thereabouts, at the beginning of a day already starting to broil, stringing out along the path that leads up to Dovers Hill where the annual sport of shin kicking takes place.

The late great Ronnie Barker retired to Chipping Campden to sell antiques for a hobby. It's a place that is likely to have featured on the lid of many a chocolate box whose richness of heritage - for me - tends boil over into acute tweeness. A place of yellow limestone, thatched roofs and clipped box hedges. You would not be surprised to meet Miss Marple sleuthing among the blooming roses. The shin kicking - to me - speaks of an engaging and mildly anarchic underlying local spirit (and taste for zoider).

It bodes to be a swelterer and I'm relieved to be getting my stage out of the way early. Everyone takes the road instead of the footpath at one point so I feel ok about using my local knowledge to take a direct line along the old drovers lane known as the Mile Drive. I make a few places by doing this before we have to go into single file to cross fields of motionless unripened wheat.

Fall into conversation with Keith a vet 50 from Pewsey Vale and an ex army PT instructor with a marathon best of 2hrs 50 something and we bez down into Broadway from the tower together and then out and up the hill on the other side.

The long sections of track, white and bright, come and go - they're a less inspiring section of this leg. Then I open it up coming down through the dingly dell valley leading into Stanton and overtake the guy ahead. Keith's on my shoulder.

Stanton is just insanely twee.

Through the parkland trees that surround the village of Stanway. Keith seems to have dropped away. There's not much left in the tank as I dig deep and push it along the last short road section to the finish in front of the grandiose gates to the Big House. 1:33:19, 18th overall. Team wise (Almost Ultimates): 28th out of 74.

The Cotswold Way relay is run by Bath AC. The 103 mile route is divided up into 10 sections. It's not a baton-carrying style relay, each leg starts as the lead runner from the previous leg arrives. It's worth doing if only for the pre-race briefing delivered with military precision and well worn but nonetheless funny jokes.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Recent runs

On the back of Eddie's Triumph up to Chippy was a bit scary - especially when he went wide on the way up Fish Hill. We were recceing the first leg of the Cotswold Way relay together and had a great time of it in the heat of a lush English summer's evening. Felt a bit tired by the end.

Another night, the sandy lane loop with Mike - went at it a bit hard but was pleasantly surprised to be able to just about keep up.

Cotswold Way relay this weekend...

Monday, 14 June 2010


A while ago I contacted 'Four Winds', through his blog and he kindly outlined a route for me to try next time I was in Devon.

From the busying car park, I trotted up to Haytor rocks and paused for a while watching a pair of climbers. Heading down to the old quarries I stopped to say hello to impassive ponies. Took an an old tramway for a bit before going off piste to an impressive cairn, distinctive cattle and the unpeopled promontary of Black Hill, where I lingered over the views for a good while.

Dropped down through unfurling bracken stalks to the Becka Brook and then picked up a trod that petered out and came back again further up the slope.

Stopping, starting, pausing. No hurry - taking things in.

Off piste again, I wobbled over a bit of bog then through gorse before taking a look at the quarries of Holwell Tor. Was quite taken with couple of lichen coated cracklines that looked to have good potential for esoteric top roping.

Running out of time, I sped up on the way back over to Haytor and streched me legs on the grassy descent back to the start.

No barefoot running this time...

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Cleeve Cuckoo 2010

It's a fine, fine race this one. Only five and a bit miles, but run on the soft turf of Cleeve Hill on an evening after work it's got all the ingredients needed to leave you with that knackered glow of post race buzz. Low key and informal - I like that.

This was my third running of this race, but I was least prepared. The motivation had been taking another nose dive and the fascia band in my right foot was painful; I hadn't dragged myself out for a run for well over a week. Still, any excuse to pop a brufen...

A fast pace south along the top of the scarp, using the gradient to pick up speed when we can. I'm doing some heavy breathing in time to some rhythm or another and my lower legs just feel dull, but as we turn uphill towards the masts I count the runners ahead and realise with surprise that I'm in tenth place.

The stronger guys start coming through soon enough though, but I'm digging-in, trying me best and I overtake a few on the familiar descent down to the wash pool. The climb out the other side from here is quite steep and drawn out higher up and I resort to power walking towards the end in an attempt to gather some breath back.

A few heavy drops fall begin to fall. I could do with a downpour but it's holding off...

Then pick up the pace again. Pissed off about losing places. It feels like an awful speedwork session - that shaky sense that everything is about to flop. Do I like doing this? Right now I'm not sure, but I am convinced all of a sudden that I could run better if I had more upper body strength.

Overtake two on the way up the last hill to the trig. Emit a loud 'uuuuurrrrgh' on the top in response to the way my body's feeling.

Then it's the long turfy descent back to the start and I make a place back only to lose it again almost straight away when we get onto the track. A Gloucester runner over cruises past. I know I won't catch the guys ahead but hammer it as hard as I can anyway.

Over the line and throw myself down on the grass to get down to some serious oxygen absorption.

The pint of guinness and salty crisps hit the spot during the prizegiving and later.

A great evening17th overall. 6th MV40. 36m42s. Last year was 39min ish.

Stop press:
A recent photo by Mike. As you can see, running is not a glamourous hobby!!