Tag Archives: Chard Road Runners

Chard Flyer: race report

As the first race of the Somerset Series each year (and let’s face it, being on New Year’s Day, there will never be one earlier…) this race has been on my radar for a while. Two years ago I signed up for it but was ill and so didn’t run. Last year, I was more interested in running a parkrun double. Truth be told, this year I was more interested in running a parkrun double too, but as Lolly wrote about in her last post, she got too pregnant, and we realised it wasn’t going to be a sensible idea.

So what are the pros and cons of running on New Year’s Day?:

  • Con – New Year’s Eve. Staying up until after midnight drinking is hardly great race preparation.
  • Pro – New Year’s Eve. If you don’t stay up until after midnight drinking, you’ll probably do better than most.
  • Con – New Year’s Eve. That means if you want to do well, you might have to avoid staying up until after midnight and drinking.
  • Pro – You get to clock up some miles on the first day of the new year, which is a great way to start.
  • Con – Christmas. All that food and drink and merriness is not great race preparation. And, with no disrespect to the Chard Flyer, if you’re taking Christmas easy to prepare for this race, you’re probably doing life wrong.

I actually ticked the ‘pro’ box for New Year’s Eve – having a toddler, and being sad, meant that I was tucked up in bed at home before 10, rather than partying hard through the night. My race morning didn’t start especially well though. Despite assuring Lolly more than once that I wouldn’t forget anything, particularly my Garmin, even though I was leaving my preparation to the last minute, I forgot my Garmin. Thankfully, rather than being of the ‘I told you…’ persuasion, my loving wife instead undertook an hour’s round-trip to bring me said watch. Much to the disgruntlement of our daughter, who quite specifically declared that she wanted to stay at home, and didn’t want to watch Daddy running.

Posing with the club

We had a decent club turnout for this race, which also forms the first of our Club Championship, and so there were plenty of people to mingle and chat with before and after the race. My main concern before the race was how many layers to wear – it was pretty damn cold and wet, but I tend to overheat in races. Initially I went for the club vest over t-shirt approach, but a particularly heavy shower saw me run back to the car to switch to a long-sleeve base layer instead. This, it turns out, was the wrong decision.

Anyway, as usual, I’ve blathered on for ages before even getting to the run itself, so I’ll get on with it. I knew that the first couple of miles were mostly downhill, then there was a tough uphill, and then it was mostly flat with a gentle climb at the end. So I planned to take it reasonably easy early on, and use my energy in the second half of the race.

Ha, like that ever happens! I covered the first two kilometres in under eight minutes, as we descended down out of Chard and alongside the reservoir which we were to loop around. Ostensibly, this is a road race, but a lot of the course is along tarmac paths and back roads that aren’t necessarily in the best condition underfoot. It’s definitely a course for road shoes, but you have to have your wits about you. The race follows route 33 of the National Cycle Network, which runs along the path of the old Taunton-Chard railway line.

We scaled about 15 steps to climb back to the road, and then the hill began. I’d done my research before the race, and so I knew that the ascent went on for about two kilometres, and so settled myself in for the long haul. Being a Somerset Series race, there were plenty of people around that I recognised, and I felt that I was in about the right place, but I didn’t mind if a few of the went past me up the hill – it isn’t my biggest strength, and I’d rather save my energy. (Genuinely, this time.)

As it turned out, with the exception of one particularly good climber, we all stayed pretty much in position with few significant gains made by anyone. One slight annoyance on this hill was the marshal who declared “drinks at the top” while we were about a quarter of the way up. I know he didn’t mean it to, but it sort of suggested that it wasn’t going to be much further to said drinks, even though it really was. The hill had a small false summit about three-quarters of the way up, which was a little disheartening, but soon we crested the hill and were able to take on some water.

This being a road race, I hadn’t really expected my recent trail downhill specialism to have any effect, but it turned out that the Chard Flyer has a particularly steep downhill section, and though it is on road, it was that steep that it played to my advantage. I passed a fair few people on the half mile descent, but mostly, I just enjoyed it!

Unfortunately, there was still about two and a half miles of the race left. The course remained mostly flat as we passed the reservoir on the other side along some paths that gave the course a nice off-road feel, though the terrain remained solid and friendly. I was beginning to struggle now; the ‘easy first half, reap gains in second half tactic’ having fallen by the wayside during the first half. Which was a shame, because I’d have quite liked that plan in the second half…

This picture does somewhat oversell the race scenery…

As it must, given that we’d dropped down towards the reservoir at the start, the end of the race climbed back up into Chard, twisting and turning a little through industrial estates, residential streets, and some paths. I wasn’t really aware of anyone that close ahead or behind me by this stage (quite a familiar feeling late on during Somerset Series races) so it was hard to judge my effort levels. Other than to say that I didn’t feel like I wanted to put much more in! Still, I soon recognised that we were back near where I had parked, and therefore the finish line. A little spurt got me to the end, though it wasn’t enough to overhaul the runner that I had finally caught sight of ahead of me.

In the end, I finished in 42:06, good enough for 26th, and sort of a new PB. Sort of because, 1) I’m not completely sure that it was full distance – my watch said 9.8 km, though obviously GPS isn’t all that accurate. 2) During the Bristol Half Marathon, my first 10 km was somewhere in the region of 41:30, and my overall average pace during that race was quicker than my average pace in this race. So, yes, it was a PB time for a 10k race. But also, I can do better. Which is good. The Stoke Stampede the following weekend was supposed to give me a shot at proving that (and maybe, just maybe sneaking in under 40 minutes) but unfortunately, I had a cold, and didn’t run.

Me, looking gorgeous, at the end.

 

Wambrook Waddle: race review

After running better than I had expected at the Glastonbury 10k, the focus was on building up my mileage. Though I would like to set some short distance PBs in the near future, my main focus remains on an autumn half, so I don’t want to start introducing too much speed-work if it’s going to compromise my endurance efforts. Hopefully soon I can find a nice balance between the two.

However, in the mean time there were the next two club championship races: the second Yeovilton 5k race and the Wambrook Waddle. It’s reasonably fair to say that there are few races that could be more different: Yeovilton is a flat, fast, road 5k, while Wambrook is a hilly, technical, trail 10k.

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The smiling Running Forever group after Yeovilton.

Going into the week, my prospects didn’t seem great. After my Sunday run, I was starting to get bad knee pain, and so I was pretty concerned about running on it. I skipped my planned Tuesday run, and drove out to Yeovilton knowing that I might have to be a spectator. My warm-up run, roughly one mile, was completely pain-free, and so I made the decision to race. Despite having been raining most of the day, by the time the race started the sun had come out, and it was really quite warm. Nonetheless, I had a good race, managing better (though still pretty bad) pacing than last time, and improved to 20:44. Still about 30 seconds slower than my best, but a 20 second improvement on last month, so I’m still hopeful of beating my best this summer.

After Yeovilton, my knee continued to trouble me, though it had been fine during the run itself. I was more wary of Wambrook, knowing that a hilly course would be more likely to be problematic, and so I had a discussion with my physio about what I could do to minimise any trouble. He recommended a few exercises, some kinesiology tape, and Voltarol gel. I continued to avoid my other planned runs, and so I arrived for the race not really sure if I’d be able to complete it. Like Glastonbury, this was a race that I hadn’t done before, but I knew a fair bit about as Lolly ran it last year. Or at least, I thought I did – turns out that nothing really prepares you for this course.

For a full description of the route, you’re probably better off reading Lolly’s report: she describes it well. But succinctly, it is a beautiful, but very challenging course. The hills would make it difficult enough, but the terrain is very technical and varied. There are descents on grass, loose stones, solid but wet stones, and ascents on all of those, plus bog. And trust me, there is little that is more draining that running up a hill through a bog. Three river crossings, a scramble over a fence (no stile), and even a couple of short stretches of road!

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Beating Clive to the first river.

The race starts with a sharp descent to the first river crossing. I’m better than average at trail descents, and so I was happy to fling myself down the hill and see what happened. Apparently, one of my club-mates, Nigel, took this one step further, and was aiming to be the first runner to the river. He didn’t quite manage it, but I was a little surprised to see him ahead of me when I passed him at the start of the climb after. As is typical of these Somerset Series races, I knew a lot of the people around me, and was able to use these to gauge how I was running. Which told me that even after the really, really, really long climb after the river, I remained further forwards than I would have expected. I was just behind the first woman (Jo from Minehead), and one position ahead of another of my club-mates who normally beats me by a minute or two, Clive.

On the second descent, Clive took a bit of a tumble behind me, but got back up again quickly, and then passed me on the next climb, when my calves really started to complain. The first four miles of the race are by far the hardest, and judging myself against those around me, it was the section from miles three to four on which I lost time. I think I simply wore myself out so much on the first two climbs that my legs went. I dropped back a fair bit on a descent through a field, in which I simply didn’t trust my legs enough to run as I normally would, and I dropped straight to a walk on the hill after it. After that walk, I actually stopped at the drinks station to finish my whole cup, a rarity, particularly in a 10k!

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I really struggled with this section of the race.

The last section of the race was run primarily through fields or on decent paths, and once I had recovered slightly, I was able to start catching up to those that had passed me. On the final hill, I passed two runners, but wasn’t able to close down the gap to Clive in front. In fact, on reflection, my own position didn’t change at all from the picture above on the left, struggling up the hill. The two runners in red passed me shortly after this drinks station, but they were the pair I passed near the end. So I guess overall, we just chose to put effort in at different points of the race.

In summary, I loved this race for many reasons, even if it was really hard work. I love running off-road, and this race just cemented that fact. The tricky terrain was brilliant fun, and although this route as a race would probably benefit from being a little less hilly, the hills add to the rewarding nature of the course.

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The smiling Running Forever group after Yeovilton.

Next up: Wells 10k (29/05/16)