Brent Knoll: race report

by Ben

I have previously taken part in the Brent Knoll Race in 2016, 2015 (when apparently I didn’t blog about it) and 2014. Last year I was injured, but went along anyway to take some photos and go to the Somerset Series presentation afterwards.

Due to illness, I’ve barely run since the Snowdonia Trail Marathon in mid-July, although I did manage to get around the Ash Excellent Eight in August. My monthly stats make some poor reading: I peaked at 131 miles in May, then was around 90 in each of June and July. Then… 29, 36, 18, 9. It’s not a great trend.

It’s been pretty rough: running is one of my main methods of stress relief, so without it, I’ve struggled. Particularly at a time when I’ve been feeling quite low anyway, because of being ill for such a long period. But: I generally seem to be much stronger now, so hopefully I’m through whatever it was, and can get back on with life.

Enough rambling about that – let me ramble about the race. Or at least the most direct pre-race. This is the final race of the Somerset Series. In order to qualify for the series, you have to complete eight of the participating races. I’d done seven. So, I resolved that I was doing this race, whether I could run, walk or crawl it. (Okay, slightly exaggeration possibly.) Given the aforementioned lack of mileage, it was clearly not going to be easy. For those not familiar with the race, it’s worth giving my 2014 report a read: it details it more than I’ll go into again. But I’ll let the Strava elevation plot give you an idea:

So… we got a bump coming up…

The basic race plan was to take it relatively easy, and just finish. So, obviously, I completely overcooked the first mile, cracking along at (quick-for-me-now) 7:16. I maintained much the same pace for the next half a mile. I then refer you to the above plot. I didn’t even try and run/jog/power-walk the hill. It was a trudge.

Trudging. (Credit: Neale Jarrett)

Let me tell you, I was loving it every bit as much as it looked. This is pretty much my favourite race. But it’s an awful one to attempt when unfit. And boy, am I unfit. Still, the first climb was managed without excessive drama (just excessive sulking). My pace dropped off completely from those around me after that exertion though; I started dropping back slowly through the field along the relative flat between climbs. The second climb acted as a leveller, with us all walking, before I dropped back further as we circumnavigated (well, nearly) the summit.

Finally! The descents! Those who know me will know that there is little in life I love more than a trail descent. I took this first one a little bit steady, as I was a bit unsure of how I’d manage, given my lack of recent running. I still managed to pass a few people on the way down, and make up for a fair bit of my previous rubbishness. Of course, once we were back on the flat, they all streamed back past me, but whatever.

On the second descent, I really let myself go, and perhaps for the only stage of the race, had a genuine smile on my face. Of course, once we were back on the flat, they all streamed back past me, but whatever! The rest of the race, about a mile-and-a-half, was just a slog to finish.

Lazy technique. (Credit: Daniel Anderson)

I was glad to finish, and not bothered at all about trying to put in a sprint finish. It was done, I’d completed my eighth race, and qualified for the series. Now it just remained to be seen if I had done enough to finish in the top ten? I’d been (based on points average) eighth coming into this race, but it all depended on how other people had improved compared to me.

While the race wasn’t a great experience for me, it was really good to get out and see the racing community. Being the end of season race, most of the familiar faces were there, and it was nice just to be immersed back into that. As well as that, both of my clubs, Running Forever and Minehead had good contingents at the race, so it was a nice, social occasion. Most importantly though (!) my attendance had paid off, and I finished ninth in the Series – another glass for the shelf!

Club swag!

So… what’s next? I honestly don’t know. I’d like to set down a foundation over the next few weeks, even if it’s just a couple of runs a week. After that, hopefully I can work on getting back up to pace. But first, I’ve got a cold to shift. [EYE ROLL]