Exe-rated runners!

Exe-rated runners!
The successful Harriers team, en masse, at the Erme Valley Relays, July 2013

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Run RAB-bit, run RAB-bit, run run run!

Run RABbits, run RABbits, run run run,
Go climb that mountain just for fun fun fun!

No, I haven't gone mad, this little ditty is just to set the theme of the weekend of 24th/25th September, in which 9 Exmouth Harriers made the long trek up to Bethesda in North Wales to participate in the RAB Mountain Marathon. Amongst them was Terry Oldham who has written the following report which gives a real 'flavour' of the event and what our intrepid 9 Harriers had to tackle over the two days!

‘What you doing here then?’

'Taking part in a Mountain Marathon', I replied.

‘Where’s that going to be then?’, was his next question.

‘On a mountain, isn’t it!’, his friend interjected.

Well, the local teenagers wandering around the Dyffryn Ogwen school playing field in Bethesda, North Wales, as it was turning rapidly into a camp site, may not have been the brightest buttons in the box, but I could not deny that mountains play a role in a mountain marathon. And at the RAB Snowdonia Mountain Marathon on the 24th and 25th September, 2011, that role was as principal lead.

My exchange with them occurred while I was trying to erect, (no sniggers there!), David Backway’s tent, in a gale blowing down from the mountains that form such a dramatic backdrop to Bethesda. However, at 9 pm, it was dark, it was raining, I had never seen Dave’s tent before, and I was trying to engage a group of teenagers in conversation made difficult by their strong Welsh accents. I could see that this weekend was going to be about challenges.

For those that are not familiar with the sport, this is essentially a giant orienteering course played out over two days with an overnight camp in the middle. All competitors have to carry all that they need for the camp, including food, and return to the finish with their kit (minus the food!).

So, add to that a course that can take you over 26 miles on each day, with an extraordinary amount of climb, then this is something not to be taken lightly. It has to be said that the elite runners are usually the only ones who cover this sort of distance. For those classed as ‘standard’, then the average mileage is about 13 to 15 miles each day. It will come as no surprise that I was in the ‘standard’ class.

There were a large group of Harriers at the event, with Bob Keast, Paul Champion, Sue Wilkins, Dave Backway, Katie Comer, Lorraine Gilson, Jon and Lorraine Croome, and me, Terry Oldham, all on the start line on the Saturday. The weather on the Saturday morning had not improved much from the overnight strong winds and rain showers, so a challenge indeed.

Lorraine Gilson and I formed one team and we were joined throughout the event by Dave Backway and Katie Comer who formed another. Dave and Katie were new to the sport and so wanted to see a master at work. Why they were running with me I am not sure.

It is difficult to describe the terrain and the competition, and so I hope that there will be some photos to accompany this report in due course (there now are: see below! (ed.). They at least will show the terrain but may not give you full sense of what it is like to try and run over. The rocks and stone are slippery when wet (it was raining), the peat bogs are, well, peat bogs, there is tussock grass, heather, streams, rivers, and very steep ascents and descents. So, running was reserved for the occasional burst unless you were one of the stick thin elite runners who appear to be able to run up and down anything and have x-ray vision.

As for the competition it is all about points and gaining as many as possible in the time available. The first day gives you 6 hours and the second day 5 hours. If you go over the time limit you start to lose points and if you are more than 30 minutes over you lose all the points.

During the day you have no idea how any one is faring save for your own team (or two!). I have to say on the first day we also had no idea of how much time we had, which may explain why we finished about one hour early. I think we were having a Zen moment and so rejected all external goals, or something.

Anyway we had the benefit of choosing the prime location on the camp site, which in itself was in a prime location. A beautiful valley with a river running through it, which was helpful given that that was where we had to get our water from. By this time the weather had turned around to a warm and sunny afternoon and evening, and we had the pleasure of being able to sit in the sunshine and hear the tales of ‘who did what’ that day.

Sunday morning dawned warm and bright and so it was back to the hills for day two. On this day we took on the ‘external goals’ and actually knew what time it was and what course we wanted to attempt, so much for ‘Zen and the Art of Mountain Marathons’.

My route choice took us up the steepest way out of the valley which involved crawling up part of the hill, and who was it who said that the direct approach is not always the best? However, going up steep hills was what we did for most of Sunday and what a great day it was. We four really got in to the swing of it and actually scored some points too. We also got the timing right finishing with a long downward run in to the finish with just 5 minutes to spare.

I am pleased to say that all the Harriers returned intact and to a warm welcome at the finish. As for Dave and Katie I think they are now converted to the sport given that they were discussing the next event (even though still covered in peat bog and sweat, that was just Katie) only a few minutes after the finish.

So, thank you to Bob K and Paul and Sue for inspiring Lorraine and I to return to the hills and for introducing Dave and Katie to the delights of the electronic dibber. Don’t ask!...'

Terry Oldham.

All together now: WHAT IN THE BLUE BLAZES IS AN ELECTRONIC DIBBER? (And most importantly - is it legeal?!)

Pre-event carbo loading in camp!

Just a small hill to start with...

Beautiful Welsh weather for the event!

Slippery when wet! Terry and Lorraine pick their way over the wet rocks with intredipation!

Chairman Bob Keast leads his fellow Harriers through a river crossing

A peat bog! This stealth-like silent killer lay waiting in ambush for Katie to pass and then sucked her in, up to her waist! (Luckily Lorraine was on hand to mount a rescue!)


Monday, 26 September 2011

It's not called 'The "Tricky" Warren Trek' for nothing!

Actually the race is called the 'TrickEy Warren Trek', so named after the farm located at its starting point in Somerset, but the 'tricky' element still applies!

To see Mark Thompson run on Woodbury Common, he bounds along so effortlessly, in fact, like a feather-footed fairy!, that you'd think he'd been into this running lark all his life, but not so! In fact Mark only took up running five years ago as a means of overhauling a less-than-healthy lifestyle. Who'd have thought that he'd turn out to be quite a natural at it? Probably not Mark himself after his first tentative club run 5 years ago...

Mark Thompson writes:

'It is now 5 years since I first ran with Exmouth Harriers on a Thursday evening in an attempt to change my unhealthy lifestyle. That night there were only two other runners, Ray Elston and Bob Woodall. The run that night took us into Lympstone and up through Red Barn Lane. It appeared I was 'eating their dust' as both Ray and Bob constantly had to stop and wait for me to catch up. It was only a couple of years later I realised Ray was approaching his 70th birthday and Bob his 60th. I was determined to improve.

Improvement came slowly but the harriers were very encouraging, most notably Ray Elston and Richard Selby. This year I have been placed in the top ten in 6+ races but never quite making the top 3. On Sunday I ran the Trickey Warren Trek (a very tough and hilly 10k off-road event in the Blackdown Hills, near Taunton). The weather was challenging, with heavy rain showers making the course difficult to negotiate. There were many steep climbs and fast descents. On starting the race I tripped within 50m and grazed my hands and knees badly; I got up and continued to run. Unlike other races the leaders didn't pull away and for the majority of the run I was in the leading pack of three. This was unchartered waters for me and I am sure I didn't handle it particularly well! I came 3rd and the results will be on Teignbridge Trotters website shortly.

In every race for every winner there are many many more will never even get close to knowing what that might feel like. I'm pleased that with the help of the Harriers, I’ve got this close, if I can do it anyone can!'

Mark's time was 49.31, just 18 seconds behind the winner, David Hawes. That a 10k race should be won in a time of over 49 minutes gives you some idea of how darn tough this course is!

Well done to Mark, a much deserved and long overdue top 3 placing. Surely it's now only a matter of time and perseverance before he tastes victory?!

Mark's wife has now joined the Harriers too and has graduated from the beginner's running course with ease and is building up towards running the Bicton Blister Lite event in November. We wish her luck with her training and hope that her surge into running is as successful as Mark's!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Harriers Phear the pace at the inter-club handicap race!

Sorry for the cheesy pun in the title of this posting, but it's to introduce our club's new idea of running a regular, probably monthly, inter-club handicap race. The trial "run" of this event took place last Thursday night (15th September) in Phear Park, Exmouth, opposite our club HQ.

The idea is the brainchild of club chairman, Bob Keast, a.k.a. 'the man with the stop-watch'! He is the chief time-keeper and overseer of fair play (checking no overly competitive Harriers had been out in the park beforehand planting devilish booby-traps to gain the advantage over their fellow club members etc...!)

So, how does it work?
The idea is a simple one: before the race, competitiors give a selection of recent race performance times to Bob and from these he ranks all competitors into order, based on the likelihood of them finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. He converts the percentage difference in performance between competitors into a time and from this time he calculates the staggered start. With me so far...?!
Competitors then start at these pre-calculated intervals and must complete 3 laps of Phear Park (about 1.8 miles in distance).

So, what happened on the night?
11 brave soles turned up as guinea pigs for this pilot run. If they had recent race times they had already given these to Bob, if not, Sandy Bay time trial times or else just plain guess work was used to calculate the stagger.

Roger Riggs was the first to start rightly, follwed by Scott Jordan who had given 2 rather conservative times (come on, the Sidmouth and Totnes 10ks are hardly representative of a runner's usual 10k time!!). Next were the evenly matched pairing of Dawn Teed and Lorraine Gilson, shortly followed by Terry Oldham, Rory Devine, Dave Wright, Richard Bishop, Eddie (making guest appearance) and Tony hatchard. Then, last but not least, Dave Stone was the last runner to start, 5 whole minutes and 26seconds later... well, that's what you get for being so darn fast!!

Scott took the victory from Roger Riggs in second. Bob then lost count as everyone else stormed in close together in a blanket finish, all finishing within 10-15 seconds of each other, suggesting the calculated handicap was pretty accurate and the concept worked well!

If everyone is interested in making this a more permenant fixture on the monthly calendar, it's been suggested by Bob that we would make it into a mini-league, with the first runner home each time getting 10 points, second 9 points, third 8 etc. and perhaps have a 1st/2nd/3rd trophy at the end of the series, with a runner's best 3 places (and points) out of a possible 5 to count. What do people think...?

The competitors complete a warm up lap before the first, of what will hopefully be a whole series, of club handicap races in Phear Park.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

And round, and round, and round and round: Exeter 10'000m track champs

What goes round and round and round and round? Answer: a runner taking part in a 10'000m race on the track. To be precise, they go around the track 25 times and so the event can be just as much a mental battle as a physical one.

This did not deter 2 Harriers, Andy Johnson and Dave Eveleigh, from signing up and towing the start line of the Iron Bridge Runner organised Exeter track champs on Wednesday (14th Sept). With nearly 50 entries, the organisers were able to stage 2 races, an A race for competitiors predicted to run around or under 40 minutes, and a B race for those with times over 40 minutes. The A race was won by the consistently good Shaun Antell of Bristol and West AC in a time of 31.52.98 - such was his performance that Antell managed to lap everyone else in the field at least once! Top woman, in fact the only woman in the A race, was SWRR's veteran Karen Cook, clocking 39.42.36.

Andy's times have been gradually improving throughout the course of the summer season, and with the series of 5k races behind him that sharpened up his legs, he ran a very respectable 41.35.7; good enough for 5th place in the B race and 2nd V/45. Dave Eveleigh's goal for the race was to get as close to the 47 minute mark as possible. Not only did he achieve this but he also managed to dip under, running 46.58.2 to claim 15th place in the B race and 5th V/55. Our 2 Harriers left the track feeling giddy with excitment at their performances... or was that giddy with dizziness from running around in 25 circles? Who knows!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Yo yo, it's Yeooooooooovilton 5k calling!

Tempted by the prospect of clocking his fastest time of the season on an uber-flat and fast course, Roger Rowe headed over the border into Somerset to run in the final race of the Yeovilton 5k series. The following report is courtesy of Roger:

'Cool with a wonderful setting sun... this is what running is all about. The final race of the 6-race series is always fun, the culmination of much effort both by the organising club (Yeovil Town RC) and the competitors. I always intend to run the whole monthly series, but this year all I have managed is this final race due to the early season injury problems I encountered.

It was a pretty big field, and I set off at an extended lope feeling my way at a much higher pace than in any race this year; with doubts about whether or not I could sustain it for 3 miles! But the second kilometre marker showed that I was running a very even pace indeed, so I simply settled down to concentrate on 'keeping up the pressure'. Kilometre 3 and 4 both saw virtually exactly the same splits, and in the final rush I sought to up the pace to the finish (and did, but was overtaken by 3 or 4 in the last 100 metres).

The time? 19:50, sixty-one seconds quicker than last week's 5k in Exeter, and my swiftest paced run (6:24) in 2011. Pleased? Certainly, even when I discovered that I was only 2nd Vet/65 (by 3 seconds). MUCH better to run well and be beaten than to win and run less than well. WAVA percentage was 84.86% -- certainly well inside the top 10 overall.

I drove home feeling the visit was very much worth while. As virtually always in Yeovilton the lone Harrier -- pity, it's the fastest 5k course in the country; not a contour line anywhere!'

Roger R.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Emma and Adam brave Bristol!

Two Harriers, Emma Dupain and Adam Miller, braved the crowds in Bristol this Sunday as they travelled up the M5 to tackle the very popular Bristol Half Marathon. Adam reported that the weather was quite warm and the course was quite windy in places. The course takes runners out of the city along the river Avon, passing under the Clifton Suspension Bridge. After about 4 miles the route turns around and heads back towards the city. The last 5 miles wind round the city centre with lots of crowd support on the streets.

Although entries were down on last year, around 15'000 signed up for the event with around 11'000 of those predicted to have completed the 13.1 mile course.

These figures make Adam's run, chip timed at 81.33, all the more impressive as he finished an incredible 98th! To come in the top 100 of over 10'000 runners is an incredible achievement. All the more so when you consider that the race was also staging the UK half marathon championships, which will have enticed a good quality field amongst the UK athletes. Adam explained that he enjoyed the run but he hasn't been doing many long runs of late and so he really started to struggle to keep his pace up in the later stages of race: a struggle that is etched into his face in the photo below which was cruelly snapped in the closing stages!!

Emma also put in another strong performance. The half-marathon seems to be her speciality event as she continually performs well, clocking times around the 95 minute mark. On this occasion she ran 96.48 for 868th place overall and 80th female; though she states that she has the best chance of running a PB when she runs with her sister, Hannah, alongside her! With Hannah having a break from competing for a while, Emma may either have to wait for her return or go it alone...!

Adam digs deep as the pain sets in in the latter stages of the Bristol Half

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Run Exe Summer 5k series: that's a wrap!

Cold, damp… dispiriting? Arriving at Flowerpot Fields alongside the River Exe in the late afternoon, it was raining. And after a day of showers, we all thought that this would be a wet one. Running around the course warming up, the wind seemed troublesome too. However, we were there… in good spirits… and ready to (at the very least) bring the Exe 5k Series to an end with a memorable race.

We were four… Jamie Palmer, Andrew Johnson, Dave Eveleigh, and Roger Rowe… each of us hoping to get close to our best on a difficult day.

Miraculously, the rain passed and the sky lightened just before the off, but the wind continued to blow down the course into our faces each time we returned from the long riverside path down to the Red Cow Crossing.

Jamie blasted off into the distance, vainly chasing Tom Merson and Shaun Antell (who finished 2nd and 1st), but was pleased to finish in a good 11th place in the field – 1st Vet/40 – in 17:44.

Andrew and Roger have been training partners for 25+ years, and have always been closely matched. Once again Andrew showed Roger a clean pair of heels to make it 3 out of 3 in their personal battle over the 5k Series. Andrew finishing in 20:10 and Roger 20:50. Dave Eveleigh – this summer fitter than for some years – completing in 22:19.

In the gathering gloom we parted and went our separate ways, glad we had braved the day. Here's to the next time...

Report by Roger Rowe.

Addendum. Jon Garrity also competed in the event but does not yet have an Exmouth vest, which would explain why Roger missed him! Jon only started running competitively earlier this year and since then he has been seeing some dramatic improvements with each outing.
In round 2 of the 5k he clocked 19.17 and in round 3 he improved this to 18.26. To knock almost a minute off a 5k time in the space of a month shows the speed at which Jon's running is developping and reveals there is a lot more to come!

There were no prizes for the individual rounds but there was a competition for the series over all. Each competitor needed 2 out of the 3 possible races to count; your two fastest times or your only two times if you missed a round.
The end of the series standings for the Harriers revealed that the event was won by second claim Exmouth Harrier, Tom Merson... hands up if this surprises you?!!
Jon Garrity finished 2nd in the V/40 category; Andrew Johnson took 3rd place in the V/40 category; Roger Rowe came in as top V/65 and, although I, Ellie Sutcliffe, was forced to miss the last race due to being back at work, I just managed to clinch the 3rd female spot.

Not forgetting to say well done to all the other Harriers who could only manage to fit 1 round in this summer: Mike and Nic Musgrove, Dan Morley, Jim Wyatt and honorary Harrier for the summer, Berihu Tesfay.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Hugh and Dawn tame 'The Beast'!

Hugh Marsden and Dawn Teed continued their "run" of tough off-road races this weekend by tackling 'The Beast'. As the title suggests, this is an extremely gruelling 13 miler which starts near Corfe Castle in Dorset and takes runners on a multi-terrain route which incorporates some beastly climbs and descents.

Hugh and Dawn took it all in their stride, quite literally, and reported having had "a lovely day out" (these were Hugh's words, however, Dawn may disagree!!) and "a pretty good day weather-wise. Nice views of the Dorset coastline... for those who had time to enjoy."

Although it is a almost a half marathon in distance, runners' times do not accurately reflect their usual half marathon times due to the topography of the course. That said, Hugh finished in 1.35.28 - a time which many club runners would be happy to call a half-marathon PB! - and in 20th position overall, out of 407 finishers. Under normal circumstances this would be enough to secure Hugh a win in his vet 50 category, but on this occasion he had to settle for 4th vet 50. To have 4 over 50 finishes in the top 20 / 407 is nothing short of amazing and shows just how high current standards are in the male vet rankings.

After expressing slight disappointment at being 7 minutes down on her time from 2010 at the 'Race the Train' 14 mile off-road race two weeks ago, Dawn set off to Dorset fired up to put in a good performance. And so she did! With a time of 2.09.43 she finished in 227th place, just outside the top 50% of finishers, and taking 12th place in the female vet 45 category: again this demonstrates that age is no barrier to many competitive female runners.

Hugh, who spends the winter months working in the Falkland Islands and South Georgia, felt very at home in this particular race as it happened to be a "who's who" of the South Atlantic, with the Governor of the Falkland Islands and the Chief Executive of South Georgia also running in the event, finishing in 97th and 23rd respectively... esteemed company for our two Harriers and reminding Hugh that his summer season is drawing to a close and it will soon be time for him to head southwards and join them!