On the way home from the race, I was chatting on the phone to Lolly, who had stayed at home with our daughter. She asked me how the race was. “You go up, then down, then up, then down, then up a lot, then down, then up, then down, then up a steep hill, then down, then up, and then you finish.” If you’re short on time, that’s the race.
Okay, okay, there’s a bit more to it than that. For me, this race has been a long time coming. Since picking up a knee injury back in January, I’ve had a long road to recovery. I did manage a 10k when we were over on the Isle of Man, but it proved a bit of a false start, and it has taken me another two months to get back out for another. The idea for this race was reasonably simple: get out, run a hard 10k and see how my knee does. The secondary aim was to see what sort of shape I was in. Although I’ve managed to do a few parkruns in the last month or so, I didn’t really have a real idea of what sort of time I could do. Before the race, I tentatively set myself a goal time of around 46 minutes, but that was before I found out quite how hilly the course was. My expectations quickly adjusted to “anything under 50 minutes”.
As well as being an excited return to racing action, Crewkerne was the first time I was using Event Clips to attach my race number. I have to admit, I was a little concerned about them: I was very suspicious about how well they would stay attached. But, I have to say, they were both extremely simple to attach (once I’d taken my top off, at least) and stayed on without a problem. I’d definitely recommend them to anyone who races regularly.
Although I wasn’t aware of any club-mates taking part in the race beforehand, I briefly met Helen (@Happy2bHp) in Race HQ, and then as we were all making our way to the start line, I saw Clive, and we had a bit of a chat. Between Clive and Matt (@bodwen) from Minehead RC I learnt some interesting things about the course, most importantly that although a lasso course, you had to keep running past the start line to reach the finish line. This was valuable information, as it prevented me repeating my embarrassing trick of hitting a sprint finish too early, like I did on the Isle of Man last year.
Despite an announcement that the first man and first woman to reach the top of the hill at the start would receive a prize, I opted for a gentle start to the race (there was never any danger of me beating Kieran to the top anyway!) I was a little rusty at maintaining a race pace, and spent the first few kilometres passing and being passed by the same cluster of runners. However, after a while we all more or less settled into our positions – by which I mean I sorted my pacing out!
The course was run almost entirely on country roads, and climbed out of Crewkerne for a couple of kilometres before looping around the villages of Merriott and Hinton St George, and then coming back down the first two kilometres. As a result, when I was coasting down the first long steep descent, rather than enjoying it, I was instead coming to the horrific realisation that I was going to have to run back up it later. Still, hills are good for you. Or so people keep telling me. The sole drink station was just after the 2 kilometre point, meaning that there were drinks at roughly 2 and 8 kilometres. Stupidly, I misremembered there being another drink station at around 6 kilometres, and opted against a drink at the first station. I rued that decision.
Once the 10k route split off into the loop, the course dropped gently into Merriott, a pretty village that I didn’t pay any attention to at all. Unfortunately, as all runners know, what goes down must come up again, and the course then rose gradually to Hinton St George, another extremely pretty village. It was very much a gentle climb, but as such, the type that you keep trying to run hard along, with the result of slowly tiring you out. You know, even more than normal in a race! From Hinton St George, the course undulated for a while before reaching that final (well, not quite) big climb. By this point we were steadily catching and passing some of the 5k runners, and encouragement was being yelled both ways.
By this stage, my legs had basically had it. I still had energy to give, but my calves and thighs were struggling. I dropped to a walk for about 10 seconds up the hill, but I managed to stay in the touch with the Yeovil Town runner that I was with. Dropping back down the next hill, the climb from the start of the race, my leg muscles, which would normally be helping to control my descent, had given up, and I basically “fell” down the hill in a mad arm-waving running motion. (Okay, I might be over dramatising this, but it felt pretty out of control.) That descent took us back to the start line… but of course there was still a bit left. And of course… it was up hill. Still, it was nearly the end of the race, and only a short dash to the top, followed by a sprint around the corner to the finish.
Wow – what a return to racing in Somerset! I’d known for a while that I was going to be well under 50 minutes. But as it turned out, I was under 46 minutes: 45:35!! So, some work to be done to get back to PB pace, but I’ve got an idea of where I am now, and more importantly, the confidence in my knee to do it.
Some plaudits have to be given now: the race was exceptionally well organised by Crewkerne Running Club: the course itself was very well laid out, and even included signs showing where each Strava segment started and ended. Personally, I wasn’t about to start segment hunting during a race, but it added an interesting element nonetheless. Similarly, the “king (and queen) of the mountain” is a fun feature, even if one I didn’t have a chance of winning. The water stations were very well organised for a local race like this, and although I would have preferred bottles to cups, I appreciate there is a significant difference in cost. All the marshals were very friendly, which always provides a bit of a boost, particularly in these smaller races. So, would I recommend it? Definitely – just get some hill training in first!