Exe-rated runners!

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

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Blog takes a break

Hello to all the faithful Exmouth Harrier blog followers. Sorry to disappoint you but I'm off on holiday tomorrow and don't intend upon going near a computer whilst there so there will be no updates for the next few weeks. I realise that this is a massive blow as there is absolutely nothing of note on the calendar around the end of December and beginning of January to distract you from your withdrawal symptoms and I know you would all be sat indoors over the next couple of weeks with a cup of cocoa in hand, reading this as there's nothing else to do. But you'll just have to wait until early January I am afraid and try to find something to amuse yourselves in between times!! ;-)

On a serious note: wishing all the Harriers and all the blog followers a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Let's hope 2013 is another successful one!

20 Harriers take on (and take over!) Killerton Parkrun

On Saturday 15th December, 20 Exmouth Harriers headed to Killerton House to participate in the weekly Parkrun that is staged there. Many members have already been seduced by the charms of this fun, friendly and FREE weekly run, but other Harriers had yet to give it a go. So our newly elected men's team captain, Adam Miller, suggested at the AGM that we all target the run en masse this week, and so a date was set and it proved to be a very popular idea with 20 members all pitching up, armed with their barcode and ready to run!

The route is an undulating 5k through the grounds of Killerton that includes some fields, a wooded section and some farm tracks. We were hoping at the start of the week that a spell of dry weather would dry up the course and that seemed to be the case... until the 24 hour-long downpour that occurred yesterday totally saturated it again. So the Harriers had to contend with a lot of mud on the route, particularly on the 2 field sections at the start and finish of the race, which were extremely boggy.

Despite these conditions, however, some good times were still posted and there was even the odd PB set by runners who had participated before. Adam Miller, recently crowned as the Harriers Male Athlete of the Year at the Harriers' annual award do last week AND also recently crowned as Parkrunner of the month for November 2012 by the Parkrun organisers, proved his worthiness of both these titles, finishing as first Harrier and 4th overall on the day in an exceptionally high quality men's field. Guest Harrier, Berihu Tesfay, won the race overall, just out-sprinting Exeter Harrier James Denne at the very end. These were everyone's times and placings (first timers indicated F.T. and new Killerton PB as PB).

Berihu Tesfay: 1st in 17:09 (F.T.)
Adam Miller: 4th in 18:29
Tony Hatchard: 7th in 19:25 (F.T.)
Ellie Sutcliffe: 8th (1st female) in 19:36 (PB, by 1 second!)
Andy Johnson: 15th in 21:54
Roger Rowe: 22nd in 23:09
Terry Oldham: 24th in 23:18 (F.T.)
Dave Eveleigh: 25th in 23:20
Bob Keast: 26th in 23:28 (F.T.)
Carly Audritt: 31st (8th female) in 24:00
Lisa Hatchard: 36th (11th female) in 25:09 (F.T.)
Dawn Teed: 38th (12th female) in 25:19 (F.T.)
Lorraine Gilson: 39th (13th female) in 25:21 (F.T.)
Finn Musgrove: 42nd in 25:31 (F.T.)
Mike Musgrove: 43rd in 25:33 (running with son Finn)
Alison Milborrow: 52nd (15th female) in 27:21 (F.T.)
Nicola Crook: 53rd (16th female) in 27:33 (F.T.)
Diana Richards: 36th (18th female) in 27:53
Les Turner: 62nd in 29:20

81 finishers. So Harriers made up 1/4 of the total field today!! Go us!

The before photo...

...and the after!

Mike paced his son Finn around his first Parkrun and he did amazingly well: under 26 mins and he's not even 14 yet!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Mike is top vet at the inter-services XC series!

Mike Musgrove emerged triumphant as the top vet athlete after a series of 6 challenging cross-country races that have taken place over the last few months at various venues throughout Devon and Cornwall. Participants were representing their respective "service", with Mike, from the fire service, battling it out alongside runners from the police and the various armed forces branches.

Mike reports having had some particularly good battles over the 6 races with Pete Waumsley, of Tamar Trotters, but running for the Royal Navy, and Stuart Hall, winner of this year's Bicton Blister race, also representing the fire service.

The terrains varied and incorporated a mixture of multi-terrain, trail style courses, in addition to the more traditional cross-country track, run on multiple laps of fields.

As the series wrapped, Mike was announced as the victor overall in the vet categories and placed high up the overall rankings as well.

Jon Garrity nets 2nd spot at Haldon

Also on Sunday, on what proved to be an extremely hectic day on the Harriers racing calendar, with members racing at 4 different events, Jon Garrity headed to the nearby Haldon Forest Country Park to participate in the Haldon Forest Festive 10k. Participants were encouraged to dress up in Christmas themed fancy dress for this run around the Dawlish Coasters' Forest Flyer 5 course, so although billed as a 10k, it was in fact a good mile under that distance. Nevertheless, there is a substantial climb back up the forest to the finish line that still makes this a fair test of endurance.

Jon has been running really well of late and has been staying on top of his persistent calf problem to get some quality training miles in. He found himself running in a pack of 4 runners heading up the field for most of the race, including local S.W.R.R. rivals, Ian Pang and Andy Jones. Towards the end they all started to test each other and push the pace and it proved to be Andy Jones who handled it best, taking the victory, but Jon was only 20 seconds adrift in 2nd place in a time of around 35 minutes.

Today he jets out to Lanzerote for a week's training at the winter season training venue, Club La Santa. Ooh, get him - elite! He plans to benefit from the daily track coaching sessions, in addition to taking his bike and hitting some of the scenic high roads around the volcanic island. With temperatures currently at 20 degrees, he'll definitely appreciate escaping our current cold snap and will hopefully return refreshed and armed with a good base for the New Year.

Harriers wrap up as the final round of the 3k also wraps up!

Four Exmouth Harriers were on the track in Exeter for the final round of the Ironbridge Runner 3km Series.

The temperature was low enough to see frost forming on the track surface, leaving runners without spikes short on traction, particularly on the bends.

Les Turner ran 14:42 in the D Race and picked up the overall first prize for Men Over 65 for the series. 

Carly Audritt was 10th in the C Race in 13:24 but unfortunately, having been forced to sit out the second round in November due to illness, she was unable to post the 3 times that were necessary in order to place in the series. 

Also in the C race, Dave Eveleigh tried but failed to get away from rival Dave King who tracked him all the way to the final straight before pulling away to win comfortably (third in 12:06 to Eveleigh’s fifth in 12:12), but Eveleigh was second overall in the 55+ Men’s section for the 3 rounds.

Andrew Johnson worked especially hard in finishing 10th in the B Race, his time on the track-side clock showing an impressive 11:51, though officially he was given 12:01. 

The whole event, four 3km races and a mile run for younger athletes, as well as presentations was very efficiently completed in an hour and a half so that runners could get out of the cold and get warmed up!

Mark does the Full Monty!

10 miles, 10 hills, 1 Mark: The Full Monty Cute 10!

On Sunday 2nd December Mark Thompson, one of a number of Exmouth Harriers who specialise in Ultra Marathons and off-road events, took on a race over 10.5 miles, a distance 20 miles or more shorter than that of some of the events he has completed. This was in Somerset near Montacute, close to Yeovil, and was entirely off-road. This is always a popular race that sells out one month in advance. 

The race organisers, Crewkerne Running Club, would appear to rely on two publications. One is an O.S. map to pick out hills - this course including one for each complete mile - and the other seems to be a bit of creative wizardry as they seek out a race title that will stick in the memory of potential participants! Hence Mark was competing in “The Full Monty Cute Trail Race”. 

He describes the first two ascents as “monsters” with a rope being needed at one point on the first. Mark was 33rd of sell-out field of almost 250 runners (that’s top 15%) and was timed at 91:18 (and that’s an impressive 7mph over this taxing terrain).

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Some cracking performances at the Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10k!

On Sunday 9th December there were 4 Harriers making their way up the M5 to Weston-Super-Mare (love that name!) to take part in the Weston AC organised 'Wyvern Christmas Cracker 10k'. Sometimes just referred to as the Weston 10k, this is an extremely popular race and each year the 2000 places sell out far in advance of the race. Cathy Newman, Berihu Tesfay and Mike Musgrove had already signed up long ago, but a last minute place, courtesy of Cathy's brother who couldn't run, came available and was generously offered to and eagerly accepted by me, Ellie.

The race is almost entirely flat but half of it is run on the vast expanse of beach at Weston, which slightly slows the times. Also, this year, there was a truly ferocious wind blowing in off the sea. Luckily for the stretch along the beach, it was a side wind, but it was still debilitating to your average speed, and on the occasions when you turned into it head on, it was like hitting a brick wall.

The performance of the day undoubtedly goes to Mike who had an absolute "cracker"! He felt strong throughout, despite the blustery conditions, and he ran himself into 7th place overall (out of 1605 finishers!) in a chip time of 36:01. This is only 8 seconds outside of his PB, so, given an all tarmac surface and less wind, he would likely have obliterated his 10k time by about a minute. He was also a comfortable winner in the MV40 category and picked up a silver tray and a Mizuno shoe voucher for his stellar performance.

Berihu was using the race as a fast leg stretch and tempo run and not aiming to go all out as he is still taking things steady after a calf strain last month. He ran with eventual 4th placer, Pete Monaghan of Torbay AC, for a while, before settling into a steady rhythm and eventually crossing the line in 5th place in a time of 35:26.

Cathy and I started off running shoulder to shoulder for the first mile and both of us were looking for a good race, having been so closely matched at the XC the previous week. After about a mile though, Cathy drifted off the pace and I didn't look around to see where she was, expecting her to be there within striking distance, until the final turn for the finish, when I was surprised not to see her behind me. It turns out she was starting with a cough and a cold and she had difficulties clearing her throat and this effected her breathing, she even had to completely stop at one stage to clear her throat, but it never came right the whole race. So in the end she finished in a time of 45:59 - apparently a PW, even eclipsing the time she set for 10k at 7000ft of altitude in Eithiopia. Poor Cathy had targeted this race to get under 40 minutes before the end of the year, having narrowly missed out by 2 seconds at the Dartmoor Vale 10k in October. And she was certainly on form and more than capable of it had she been fit and well. Bad timing of a cold and the run meant that Cathy had a day at the office that she'd rather forget. But we know it's only a matter of time and finding the right course before she gets well under 40 minutes again.

I was very relaxed about this race, having raced the previous day I had no expectations on myself and was just viewing the race as a bonus and aiming to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did! It felt like the time flew past and I never got to that point that I almost always get to in every race, the 'why the hell am I doing this?' point! I felt comfortable throughout and so was pleasantly surprised to duck in under 39 mins, 38:55, and to sneak the 3rd spot in the female race and 18th overall.

The organisation of this race is second to none and the atmosphere is superb. The motto of the race is: no tinsel, no time, and every runner is asked to either wear fancy dress (it was in fact Santa who came 2nd in the race!) or to at least wear a token piece of tinsel. All of us would highly recommend this race for someone looking for a fun, fast, flat 10k to round off the year!

Mike (1st MV40) and Ellie (3rd female) with our prizes

What a caper!

On Saturday 8th December, 3 Exmouth Harriers were in the village of Cockington, near Torquay, for the 7.25 mile multi-terrain Cockington Caper race. Organised not by a running club but by the Barnabus Sports Trust, who promote sports events and coaching by way of demonstrating and applying their own Christian beliefs. The organisation of this race is extremely thoughtful with the route being designed so that it forms three separate loops that keep bringing runners back through the HQ at Cockington Forge and cricket club, making it interesting for the spectators whilst also providing a boost to the runners as their friends and family can keep cheering them on.

 This year the organisers had added another extra cheeky bit of hill at the start, sending you right up to the top of the first field, taking the overall feet of climb for the 7.25m to over 1600ft: more climb than the Drogo! The going under foot was also muddier this year and was a bit of a slog in places.

I, Ellie Sutcliffe, did this race last year and, after leading it until the 7 mile mark, got overtaken by a much stronger Wendy Urban of Torbay AC on the last big climb with 1/4 of a mile to go and got run into 2nd. With that in mind, I wanted to go one better this year, so I climbed hard and tried to pick up speed along the only flat section of the course between miles 5 and 6 and, at this point, I found that my time was up on last year.... and then I went off course!! That'll teach me to just blindly follow the guy in front, assuming he knows where he's going, and not to look out for the tape and markers myself! We found ourselves in the middle some bushes and brambles and the path suddenly came to an abrupt halt. He started to shout 'help', and I started f-ing and blinding a little bit, thinking that I could be about to concede my lead. Fortunately the Torbay runner, who was some 100m behind me before I went off course, appeared up above us in the woods and responded to our cries and so we then knew where the  real path was. Instead of back tracking, I opted to beat my own route through the bushes and I ploughed on up the steep, brambly woodland ravine to pop out like a goafer back on track and I put the hammer down for the finish. I estimate I lost about a minute - although it felt like more at the time! - and so I finished 12 seconds slower than last year but 1st lady and 12th overall in 59:13.

Lisa Hatchard had a superb race. She is really starting to show a talent, and definitely a love, for these tough, hilly multi-terrain races. She started off at a sensible pace and after the first loop, of 2.5m, as she came back through the HQ, she was lying in about 9th in the female race. However, she kept strong to the end and kept battling on up some of the really steep climbs and picking off other female runners as she went. By the finish she had clawed her way up 5 places and finished as 4th female overall in 1:13:03, just missing out on 3rd by 30 seconds, but she was first in the FV35 category and gained a trophy and her choice of 2 different running accessories for her efforts.

Alison Milborrow is also enjoying her off-road running and backed up her fine performance at the Templer 10 with another solid run here at Cockington. Although she stated beforehand that she was not racing it but just treating it as a training run and aiming to enjoy it and take in some of the scenery without having to watch her footing the whole way round, as you do when you race, she still finished well up the field in 129th place overall in 1:27:48 and had indeed managed to enjoy herself.. unlike Lisa who said 'never again', but we're sure that she will change her mind once her legs have recovered!!

The fab 3 ready for the off at Cockington Forge!!

Lisa coming through the HQ area at the end of the first loop

First FV35 at the XC last week, 1st FV35 at a multi-terrain race this week!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Harriers toast a successful 2012 at the annual awards dinner and dance!

On Friday 7th December, Exmouth Harrier members ditched their usual lyrca shorts and technical tee-shirts and got glammed up in party dresses and snappy shirts and trouser combos (well, unless you are Dave Stone!!) for the club's annual dinner and dance and award presentations.

The evening got under way at 7.30pm at the Exmouth Rugby Club with every member being bought a free drink, courtesy of the club, to raise a glass to another successful year on the running front. As they approached the bar and waited for their drinks, members were able to admire the displays of newspaper articles written about themselves and their performances in a collage put together by Harriers' press man, Dave Eveleigh. En masse they amounted to a good amount of success stories and showed that although we are a small club we punch well above our weight! Members also received a free copy of the 'Exmouth Harriers Year Book 2012', which Dave Eveleigh has been working tirelessly on for several months and which details each member's individual achievements as well as highlighting some of the key team performances and club events that have taken place over the last year. This seemed to go down very well and members were soon engrossed in the text and the venue turned more into a library than a party hall for a few minutes whilst members laughed and grimaced at their own photos and gasped at some of their fellow Harriers' former achievements and PBs!

Next up came the very popular 'cryptic film quiz', where members got together around their tables in team of 8 to try and identify 10 listed films from the 10 cryptic clues. The victorious team, with 9/10 correct, won a bottle of bubbles for their efforts!

Then came the part that any athlete welcomes: the food! All the hungry Harriers tucked into a buffet of hot and cold foods and then even found room for desert, before the room was called to order for the highlight of the evening: the presentation of the 3 club awards and the drawing of the London Marathon ballot places.

The first award to be presented was the 'Female Athlete of the Year' award. Chosen by members, based on a vote count, this award went to Hannah Bown this year for making an amazing come back to running after the birth of her 3 children. Hannah has been in the club for some years now, and has even won this award before in 2004, but this year she has returned stronger than ever and has been setting some new PBs and life-time best performances. Since June there is not a single local race that she has failed to place in and her massive PB of 1:27:51 at the Cardiff Half Marathon, that gained her a championship start at the London Marathon, was the culmination of several months hard work and dedication to her training.

The 'Male Athlete of the Year' award, again voted for by members, went to Adam Miller. Like Hannah, Adam has been in the club for a few years now and has been a consistent performer at races, always placing in the top 10% of finishers. But this year, he has stepped up his running even more and has been knocking time off his PBs at all distances throughout the year, including a marathon best of 2:48 in London, a 36:30 10k at Ottery in May, a 77 minute half marathon at Bridgwater in September and a 28 minute 5 mile and 5th place at the highly competitive Churston Flyer in October, not to mention all his first place finishes and PBs at the weekly Killerton 5k Parkrun.

Aside from personal achievement, both Hannah and Adam have also been key players in all the club relay and team events, with Hannah helping the ladies team to success at the Sidmouth Festival 10k, the Drogo 10 mile and the Devon County XC championships. Adam has assisted the men's team to victory in the Woodland Relays and the Parrett Trail relay, and has supported teams at Erme Valley, the Coast to Coast Relay and the Westward League XC.

Talking of 'team players', the final award of the night to be presented was the president's award. Chosen solely by Harriers' chairman, Bob Keast, this award reflects an individual's contribution to the club over the year and this year it went to not one individual, but a couple: Stan and Joan Mason. Bob explained that he chose them as the worthy recipients because of their continued efforts on behalf of the club, that range from supporting Lorraine on the weekly Wednesday ladies' night run (we won't stop to debate Stan's attendance at the Ladies' runs on here!!), to supporting the club with any key events, such as club races, the Coast to Coast relay, the Sport Relief Mile and many more. They never big-up their own efforts and so this award shows that despite the fact that they just quietly get on with helping the club in whatever ways they can, their efforts are not going unnoticed and are appreciated.

Tension in the room rose again as it was time to draw the places for the London Marathon from the club's ballot. The club was allocated 2 places this year and 3 members met the criteria and put themselves forward for a place. The 2 lucky recipients were Diana Richards and Dave Backway: both of whom were thrilled but also a little bit nervous to have been successful as this now means they have a lot of training to do between now and April!

Well done to all the award winners and the London Marathon ballot winners.

The mood now lightened once again as the kareoke song book came out and, as per usual, Dave Stone was the first to put himself up for a sing-song. In previous years Dave has had a free run on the mic' and Harriers have revelled in his David Bowie impressions, but this year there was a challenger to the Stone Throne in the form of the talented Richard Hawes! Unfortunately for Dave, Rich performs live music on a regular basis and is also a recording artist, so Harriers were lucky to be entreated to their own live performance. When it came to the dancing though, Stonie is definitely in a class of his own and took to the dance floor with his smooth-moves like a seasoned pro!

All who attended had a great evening and the club is looking towards a very successful 2013!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Exmouth Harriers ladies are Devon County XC champions!!

There was an impressive showing for Exmouth Harriers on Sunday (2 December) at the Devon Cross Country Championships, which were incorporated in the winter’s third Westward League fixture at Eastern Fields, close to the Exeter Arena. The club had eight finishers in both the Men’s and Women’s races and the Women’s team of Cathy Newman, Ellie Sutcliffe and Hannah Bown were crowned County Champions! They also gained automatic selection for the Devon team at the National Inter-Counties Championships in the New Year. Sunday’s route was winding, hilly and, of course muddy, but did afford plenty of opportunities for spectators to nip between different vantage points and offer their support. Scoring for teams in Cross Country is a simple matter of adding up positions but with the aim being the lowest score possible. On that basis the Exmouth trio scored 13, well clear of home club Exeter Harriers, who dominated the event as a whole, with their total of 34. Individually Cathy was 3rd overall and County Champion in the Over 50 Women’s category in a time of 18:54 for around 5km. Just one position and 4 seconds back, and picking up County Bronze in the Senior Women’s section, was Ellie with Hannah 6th overall in 19:40. Next in for Exmouth was Emma Dupain, 18th in 21:40, then Carly Audrit in an encouraging time of 22:29. Lisa Hatchard clocked 23:40 and was first woman over 35. Dawn Teed (24:15) and Nicola Kelly (25:20) were 4th and 6th respectively in the Over 45s contest.

In the Men’s race work commitments left Exmouth without a runner who could have picked up the Top 20 position which would have seen them amongst the team Medals there as well. Adam Miller was 23rd in 33:49 over just short of 9km and was 3rd Over 35. Marc Cox, still finding his feet on the country, was 27th in 34:38. Jon Garrity was 36th overall but 5th in the Over 40 age group, his time 35:58. Richard Hawes is proving addition to the club with this willingness to test himself on all surfaces. He was 45th in 38:01 and 9th in the very competitive Over 45 group. Jon was followed, in quick succession, by Chris Dupain (47th in 38:07) and Jon Toomey (48th in 38:08). These first six finished 4th in the team competition, 25 points behind Tavistock. Having steadily worked his way through the back markers Dave Eveleigh clocked 42:23 in 60th and recorded Exmouth Harriers’ third 4th place of the day, in the Over 55 category. However Jim Wyatt did go one better, with Bronze in the Over 70 age group of the County Championships. Competing in the Westward League, but not entered for the Championships was Lee Russell who was pleased with a better performance than for some time thanks to a solid block of training recently.

As regards the overall standings in the Westward Legaue, Cathy Newman is currently sat pretty in 1st place in the FV50 section, just ahead of local rival and another seriously talented vet athlete, Karen Cook of SWRR. Lisa Hatchard is now lying in 3rd place in the female over 35 category and ladies team captain, Dawn Teed, is also lying in 3rd position in the female over 45 category with 3 out of 3 appearances counting so far. Moira Glen is 2 places behind her after having to sit out this latest round due to injury. The women's team as a whole have hauled themselves up from 9th to 4th following this latest round in Exeter. If we can get a good turn out from our ladies at the remaining 3 events then we could even podium by the end of the series! 

The men had a really solid score to put on the board this round with 8 of them racing, but due to the fact that Adam Miller took on the might of all the other South-west clubs single-handedly in the first round in Redruth, the men's team are some way down the overall pecking order.

Just a small smattering of photos below to wet your appetite! Visit the Harriers Flickr page to see the full set!

Lisa Hatchard, running herself into 1st place in the FV35 race!

The victorious ladies' team: Devon County XC champions 2013!!

Adam Miller is prominent at the start of a very competitive men's race

Jon Garrity: the only Harrier to say afterwards that he enjoyed the race! And he raced the previous day at Otterton! We are impressed, you hear Jon, impressed!!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Otterton Reindeer Run re-routed!

On Saturday 1st December, Exmouth Harriers had three representatives in the main 10k Otterton Reindeer Run race, although many second claim Exmouth Harriers were also running as Exmouth Belles.

The race had to be re-routed due to the recent flooding that led to the Otter bursting its banks, so the river bank trail had to be avoided by sending the runners through an adjacent field. Of course, running through wet, boggy, muddy and rutted fields is much harder work than running on a neat, compacted, flat gravel path, and so times from this year's race were considerably down on other years and shouldn't be compared.

Jon Garrity had a very fine race considering he was also about to compete in the Devon County Cross-country championships the following day, and he finished a very commendable 11th overall out of the 196 finishers in a time of 44.42. The results do not distinguish between the different age categories so we don't know whether or not Jon won the battle of the vet 40s, but he will have been in with a shot.

Exmouth Harriers' chairman, Bob Keast, is totally at home off road, thanks to his ample training on hashing nights and in mountain marathons. He posted 55:46 for 72nd place overall.

Susan Hill made up the trio of Harrier performances, sploshing her way around the course to a time of 66:15 and 140th place.

The overall winner was Laurence Bolam of the host club, Sidmouth, in a time of 39.33. An unattached runner, Jo Whitfield, won the women's race, 20th place overall in 47.58.

The fun-run, which is usually a small, subsidiary race run alongside the main 10k run, was almost as popular this year, with 163 finishers. What is so fantastic to see is that almost all of those participants were children, and most of them under-12s. Exmouth Harrier off-spring made a large contribution to that number, with Mike and Nic Musgrove, Martin and Diane Richards, Rich Hawes, Hannah Bown and Lisa and Tony Hatchard all encouraging their children to have a go. These made up most of the Lympstone Primary School running clubs entrants, who, under the able training of Mike Musgrove, are really showing some early talent and promise for the sport. One of their runners actually won the race outright! All the juniors ran brilliantly and gave it all they had, with littl'uns as young as 7 - in the case of Rich's son - beating many of the under-17 athletes! Hopefully we were witnessing the future of the Exmouth Harriers in action here. We'll be having to start a junior's section soon to make sure they don't get spotted and poached! ;-)

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Comer's Corner: Exmouth Harrier on Tour, instalment 2

Instalment 2:
La Paz to Buenos Aires

Having survived the Worlds Most Dangerous Road on my last update, my second trip kicked off with another drama. Our first days drive from La Paz was supposed to end at a homestay in the local community of Livichenco, however all did not go to plan. The evening before we were due to leave the local guide contacted us as there was a miners strike in Challapata, which we needed to pass through to get to Livichenco. The strike involved burning tyre pyres across the road, the general throwing of rocks and military intervention. Based on this information we had to make alternative plans and so drove straight through to Potosi.

Potosi is the home of the most revered silver mines in Bolivia, and was the source of much of the Inca and Spanish wealth in the area. The ‘red mountain’ is actually a volcano and is mined for many different minerals. Black silver is now the most common silver strain found. Visiting the mines was an experience! The health and safety is second to none, with a shouted warning to watch the 200m deep hole on the left! Not quite the UK but is fascinating to see. The miners bring gifts of 97% alcohol, coca leaves and cigarettes to the devil in the hope that if they appease him then they will be safe for their shift. I also visited the mint museum to learn how the different Bolivian currencies have been made over the years. The city is not a typical mining town. There are some stunning buildings, and beautiful streets – all overlooked by the volcano. Well worth a vist!

After the extra day in Potosi we set off for Uyuni. The drive was beautiful, with the landscapes including desolate canyons, soaring mountains and eventually a vast white plain stretching beyond Uynui, surrounded by mountains. The evening was a relaxing one with a visit to the Extreme Fun Pub to sample some cocktails. Unfortunately for me my passengers also ran a sweepstake as the latest ‘Katie’s Challenge’ and paid for me to try the ‘Extreme Drinking Challenge’ which included 10 South America shots (one being six shots in one!!) being consumed as quickly as possible. The record: 35 seconds held by another Dragoman driver. As most of you will know, my tolerance for alcohol isn’t great at the best of times! My time: 66 seconds so a very credible attempt followed by instant drunkness and quick dash to the bathroom!!

Day 6 was our visit to the Uyuni salt flats on local jeeps. Feeling a little bit fragile (I insisted on having the windows down in the jeep!), we visited a salt processing business before being let loose with the cameras to play with the famous optical illusion salt flat photos. Hours of fun! We then visited fish island, which is made of coral. The salt flats used to be a sea, and as the water evaporated so the levels dropped and left the coral island exposed above the salt flats, now covered in cacti. Returning from the island we found a hole in the salt which turned out to be about 18 inches thick, and some natural springs coming up through the salt. The day finished with a visit to the train graveyard where we had another ‘Katie’s Challenge’ – this time to get from one end of the train to the other, without ever touching the ground. Mission successful!

Day 7 took us on the first days drive across the Bolivian Altiplano with local guide Braulio navigating to make sure we didn’t get lost. There are no maps or signs up there!! On the way through we visited the Valle de la Roche (Valley of the Rocks), which is a fascinating collection of rocks statues, sculpted by the winds. It was another day of vast landscapes, incredible lights, where llamas, alpacas, vicunas live in abundance, and our first rhea (small ostrich) was seen. We stayed overnight in a local refugia in a village called Ville Mar where we received a warm welcome with traditional Bolivian music.

The following day I was up early to dash up a mountain to watch the sunrise over the village, before setting off once again across the altiplano. The first famous stop was at the Laguna Colorado, a lake which is red in colour due to the mineral content and where flamingos can be seen in abundance. More incredible landscapes lead up to hot bubbling geysers, and a hot spring for lunch where we had chance to have a very quick 5 minute skinny dip (it was meant to be a paddle but it was just too tempting!). Finally passing the Laguna Verde (Green Lake) we crossed the border from Bolivia to Chile into San Pedro de Atacama and our hostel. San Pedro is an amazing place with a real Bohemian feel to it. Whilst there we crossed paths with another Dragoman truck - cue a crew night out for a catch up! Back at the hostel we caught up over a few more drinks and made friends with four Chileans who were just brilliant and patiently helped teach me some more Spanish (one was called Manuel!).

We spent day 9 enjoying San Pedro de Atacama, and took the passengers out to the desert and into the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) to see the sand dunes and rock formations, finishing with a desert sunset. One slight glitch when our passengers did a ‘truck swap’ from Yana to Elle and we went to the next stop, only to discover that a passenger had managed to get left behind in the toilet. A quick dash back and Priscilla (not joking) Queen of the Desert was recovered in time for us to get to a stunning sunset!

Day 10 involved a long drive day, crossed the border from Chile to Argentina and passing through the Argentine Salt Flats. Temperatures started at 8 degrees over the pass, followed by a steep descent through beautiful scenery to arrive at Salta and temperatures in the mid 30’s!!

The following day wasn’t a great day for me. I spent the morning in the very glamorous toilets at the truck park feeling terrible in 37 degree heat!! Steve eventually sent me back to the hotel at lunchtime, so spent the afternoon doing paperwork under the fan in the hotel reception which was the coolest place I could find to flake out!! By evening I was feeling well enough to join the group for a walk through the beautiful, vibrant city to sample the famous Argentine steak which was simply exquisite. Unfortunately I didn’t feel well enough to finish it, at which point the waiter insisted that I drink a Chilean speciality, Fernet, to settle my stomach. Made with herbs collected from a Venezuelan river, it tasted as bad as it sounds. I can’t say it settles my stomach, but it would work well as a cough medicine!

Back on the road the next day, this time we headed through a stunning valley, visiting a natural volcano-formed amphitheatre en route. Think of the photos at the entrance to Jordan and you’ll get the idea! The size and scale was incredible, and it made a fabulous backdrop for our lunch stop. Afterwards we continued on to the wine region of Cafayate and a campsite with some incredibly friendly dogs who kept escorting our passengers into town and back.

The following day I was back to feeling ill all day. Got drugs and slept in a patch of shade at our campsite as it was simply too hot anywhere else in temperatures reaching 35 degrees. In the afternoon the Andean ‘El nino’ wind picked up – strong hot winds rushing down from the Andes as the hotter air near the ground rises forcing the air down off the mountains, on this occasion creating a sandstorm. I woke up with sand coating everything including my eyelashes!! Sadly I wasn’t feeling up to sampling the wines form the region – this is an experience I have to save until the next time I do this trip.

Day 14 I was feeling better and we were back on the road, heading towards San Peteros estancia near Cordoba. A long drive day, again through stunning scenery and the Quilmes region. The Quilmes tribe was one of the last to be ousted by the Incas and the Spanish due to the nature and situation of the valley they lived in. Passing through Taffe de Valle and down the valley it is easy to see why – the area is incredibly inaccessible! Leaving the mountains we hit the agricultural lands of Argentina. With the impressive Andes to our right we had a long trip South towards Cordoba. Arriving at the Estancia just before dark, we had a warm reception from our host, Kevin, including an invite for wine tasting and cheese.

The estancia visit basically involved two days of horse riding. I was riding a lovely little mare called Reinita, who apparently is a very good polo pony although I wasn’t lucky enough to try out her skills. Led by Gauchos, we were taught how to lasso. I have discovered that I can catch firewood, as I caught the practice tree twice but the bullocks are safe from my rope! In the evening Steve and I ran an empanada class, teaching out passengers how to make a local speciality found throughout Argentina, accompanied by yet more wine.

The second day involved more horse riding, this time with a lunch stop at a beautiful waterfall and natural pool for swimming. Very cold but refreshing! The afternoon saw the group split with the more experienced riders having the chance to let off steam on the way back to the ranch house which was great fun! In the evening the ranch owners provided the most incredible barbeque – my expectations have risen and barbeques will never be the same again! Different cuts of steak, empanadas, salads, fresh home made breads, and more of the local wine. It was delicious!

Back on the road, we stopped in Cordoba for a few hours to allow our passengers to explore the city and have some lunch. Sadly, due to a lack of parking, Steve and I had to ‘borrow’ a bus stop and took it in turns to run and grab some lunch whilst ‘loitering innocently’, ready to make a quick get-away from a policeman if necessary. Fortunately we avoided all fines and made good our escape, heading south east towards Buenos Aires and an overnight campsite with some very friendly mosquitos!

An early start saw us arrive in Buenos Aires by lunch time, allowing passengers time to explore the city. Here I had my first experience of a ‘cambio man’ – not usually recommended but due to the current economic situation in Argentina cambio men give a much better exchange rate than the banks and you can get 1/3 more pesos for your dollar. I spent the last day of the trip in the truck park, washing all of the camping equipment and food storage. With the local Boca soccer team playing at home, celebrations were widespread, spirits were high, and the atmosphere in the city was electric. Out for our final group meal and some sad farewells to some of the members form the trip. Others are continuing on with us to do the leg from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro. Watch this space for more updates to come!

Warning: envy inducing photos follow!!

Katie, making a splash!

Katie found a kindred spirit who likes a good old natter as much as she does! ;-)

Katie with one of her trek groups (possibly in the Atacama desert - is that right, Katie?)

A mountain above Quito, Equador, that Katie climbed... on her "day off"!!

We are loving hearing all your news and seeing these amazing pics - keep them coming Comer!! (And stay well!)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Bicton Blister another resounding success, despite the floods!

Despite a week of torrential downpours and severe flooding that saw some other races in the local area cancelled, the Bicton Blister and Blister Lite races, organised by the Exmouth Harriers, went ahead as scheduled. The damp conditions on the course did not dampen the spirits of the 484 runners who took part across both the main 10 mile race and the shorter 4.5 mile 'lite' option.

The runners faced a challenge just getting to the venue with road closures in place due to flooding around Bicton College, where the races start and finish. A thigh deep, 50m long puddle that had engulfed the lane out the back entrance of the College meant that a last minute re-routing of the race was needed, with runners being directed into a neighbouring field to avoid a dunking, and this before they even got to the off-road section of the run!

Due to the course being saturated and very boggy throughout, conditions were tougher than ever this year for the runners and this was reflected in the top three mens' and womens' times being 3-4 minutes down on previous years. However, the animated post-race banter suggested that all the participants had enjoyed the taxing, undulating course, which keeps runners guessing throughout as they twist and turn around the pebbly paths of the beautiful Woodbury Common, tackling a variety of terrain and natural obstacles.

The main 10 mile race was won by Stuart Hall of Devon Fire and Rescue Service in a time of 1:04:38. Stuart is a previous winner from 2010 and has also placed 2nd and 3rd in recent years. He also took away the top veteran prize. Lee Turner of Torbay AC was a strong 2nd place in 1:04:45 with club mate Simon Longthorpe claiming the 3rd spot in 1:05:15.

In the women's race, visiting runner Clare Miller from London Heathside took the spoils, clocking a time of 1:18:23 for 36th place overall. All the more impressive is that she completed the run in road shoes as a friend had entered her for what she thought was going to be a road race! Talented local veteran runner, Caroline Hewitt of Tiverton Harriers, grabbed the 2nd spot and top female vet, in 1:21:39 and unattached runner, Joanna McKenzie, made up the top three in 1:22:17.

In the 4.5 mile 'Lite' event, Christian Hewitt of Tiverton Harriers stormed to victory in 30:14, with unattached runner Sam Leary 2nd in 30:51 and Tavistock AC member Harrison Baker 3rd in 32:00. Exeter based South West Road Runner, Clare Hodgson, won the women's section in 36:03, with team mate and super-veteran runner, Karen Cook 2nd in 36:57, and another talented, local veteran athlete, Maggie Hunt, 3rd in 37:36.

With most of the Harriers tied up on marshalling duties, there were just a handful of Exmouth representatives running. In the main race, Marc Cox, nursing a slight foot injury, was the first Harrier home, in 39th place overall in 1:19:07. Nicolas Brown did 1:32:46 for 143rd place; Susan Hill 1:51:17 for 315th and Jim Wyatt ran 1:54:11 for 336th place and 2nd man over 70.

In the 'Lite' race, the participants of the successful Exmouth Harriers' beginners' running course were bravely tackling their first race. This not being the easiest race for a first attempt at competitive running, they all did superbly to finish in well under the hour. Catherine Gentry completed in 45:51 for 33rd place; Joanne Hollywood-Tucker was 38th in 47:22 and Jan Maker was 50th in 50:53. Having fun and not taking the race too competitively was stalwart Harriers' member, Lorraine Gilson, running with her son, Gareth, and daughter, Sarah. They all finished in 59 minutes and returned very wet and muddy with big grins on their faces!

Thanks must go to everyone who helped to make the event a success, including Harriers and their families who marshalled or did the time-keeping and results, the Exmouth Cadets who also helped to marshal, Bicton College for the venue, Sidmouth RC for the loan of some of their time-keeping equipment and St. John's Ambulance who, fortunately, were not kept busy on the day and had time to have a cup of tea and enjoy the atmosphere!

Some of the proceeds from the race will go towards the Wukro-Devon Running project, which the Exmouth Harriers support, and which helps to fund financially poor, but talent rich athletes in Ethiopia.

Jim Wyatt makes a splash at the stream crossing!

A squadron of Exmouth Belles (many of them 2nd claim Harriers) face an added obstacle at the stream crossing!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Exmouth Harriers storm the castle!

On Sunday 18th November, 8 Exmouth Harriers made their way to Drogo, the last castle to be built in England, for the South West Road Runners organised Drogo 10 mile. The race in fact measures in at 9.6m but this is scant recompense for the severity of the hills that are contained within it. There are 3 in total, each of them monsters, and collectively they bring the total height gain run on this course to 1480ft: roughly half the height of Mount Snowdon! They are also extremely steep and quite technical in places: I witnessed no less than 2 fallers on the first steep descent down the valley in mile 1. Small wonder, then, that when the results for this race appear in Athletics Weekly, they often do so under the "fell" section as opposed to just "multi-terrain".

The hills are not the only challenge on this course, the nature of the ground underfoot also adds to the fun! Stoney tracks, mud, a stream, tree roots, amassed piles of fallen leaves and a stealth cattle-grid that appeared out of no-where that runners had to hurdle all combine to make this course an energy sapping one. Sounds like the stuff of night mares and yet almost 500 runners, including 8 Harriers, signed up raring to tackle all that the Drogo had to throw at them.

Half of the Harrier entrants were made up of Dupains! They are the local running scene's answer to the Waltons and when one signs up for a race there are usually others there in back-up! Top Dupain on the day, although now using her married name Bown, was Hannah. Hannah is in the form of her life at the moment having returned to running from pregnancy stronger than ever. She ran 77:00 dead (although she is adamant that her Garmin in fact clocked her at 76:59!) which gave her 61st place overall and 3rd female. Since June this year she has managed to place in the top three at every local race she has competed in! Brother Chris also had a good run. Although he doesn't compete regularly and cannot train with the club due to his work commitments, he always puts in solid performances when he does rock up to a race. He took 86:25 for 143rd place overall. Emma also had a very fine run, especially considering that her and her foot had had a nasty run in with a hockey ball the previous day and the hockey ball came off best! She just missed out on finishing in under 90 minutes, clocking 90:10 for 198th place. Completing the Dupain line-up was Nigel-'Pops'-Dupain who took the number off Ben White at last minute. He had a very solid run and enjoyed the wonderful views on the course on what was a superbly sunny autumn day for running, clocking 96:45 for 258th place, just outside the top 50% of finishers.

First Harrier home on the day and improving upon his time from last year by over a minute and setting a Drogo PB in the process, was Mike Musgrove. Mike took 70:04 to complete the muddy 9.6 miles, securing him 18th spot overall (8 places higher than last year) and 5th MV40 in a very competitive field, in which the winner, Ceri Rees, came from this category. And all this despite having a slightly pulled calf muscle which he sustained at an inter-forces cross-country race in the week. Impressive stuff! Those hills sessions with Berihu have clearly paid off!

Next in was myself, Ellie Sutcliffe. This was my first time running the Drogo and armed with advice from Terry ("get yourself to the front and the right on the start line", "don't go too hard up the first hill, save some in the tank for later", etc! - Thanks Terry!), I set off expecting it to be a hard slog! My main competition was Jo Meek from Tavistock, I have never beaten her - never even come close! - but maybe today could have been the day?! So I sidled along the start line to tuck in just behind her. This turned out to be a futile exercise as she descended the first hill like a mountain goat and I never saw her again until the finish! Nevertheless, I finished less than 2 minutes behind her, which is closer than in previous races, so I was happy with that. I took 74:42 and came 46th overall and 2nd female.

There were perhaps two stand-out performances of the day, these being those of Scott-2 Trigs-Jordan, who knocked 5 minutes off his time from last year, and Dawn Teed, who slashed almost 10 minutes off her 2011 Drogo time!

2 Trigs is a master descender and uses his nimble, speedy, fearless descending skills to great effect to gain time on the opposition. He covered the course in a time of 80:37 for 82nd place. He also proudly boasted at the finish that he didn't walk any of the course, not even the (in)famous Hunters Path Hill: a huge achievement in itself!

Dawn is now into the early stages of a marathon training schedule and if the massive improvement on her Drogo time from last year is anything to go by, she is going to do very well at the Falklands Marathon in March 2013. In fact, Dawn's times have improved over several of the races she has done this year and she is running really strongly at the moment. She finished the Drogo in 97:48 for 266th place overall.

The eighth Harrier in was Jenny Wood in 344th place overall in a time of 1:45:02. Unfortunately I do not know Jenny so cannot say if this was a good performance by her standards or not, but it was certainly a good performance by Drogo standards and given that there were 486 finishers, she placed well up the field.

The icing on the cake for a great day at the Harriers' office was that in the announcement of the team prizes, with 3 to count for the female team, Hannah, Emma and myself took the top spoils! We were all very happy with our winning wine and wouldn't mind more of this team victory lark, so on on to the Exeter XC ladies!!

All the next photos, until stated, were taken by Jon Garrity, 400m from the finish (hence why we all look knakcered!). Thanks a mil' Jon, they are great!!

Mike Musgrove

Ellie Sutcliffe

Hannah Bown

Scott Jordan

Chris Dupain

Emma Dupain

Nigel Dupain

Dawn Teed

Winning female team: Hannah, Emma, Ellie

Monday, 19 November 2012

Dave Stone in a sprint finish for a podium place at the Cornish Marathon

In his own words Dave had been "sensible this time" in his training and final build-up towards the Cornish Marathon this year. After the Dartmoor Discovery he took some time off from hard training and from long runs before starting to build up towards the Cornish at the start of the Autumn. So he went down to the neighbouring county on Sunday with confidence that he would perform well.

This is one of Dave's favourite marathons and he usually manages to run it every year, including last year with a stinking cold and when it probably wasn't advisable for him to have run! He also performs well at the race year on year and is a former winner of the event (2003) in addition to having achieved several other podium places over the years.

This year though Dave really had his work cut out as there was some very stiff competition on the start line for him to wage battle with, all of them Cornish athletes. Justin Thomas of Cornwall AC was away and gone from the start and took a comfortable victory in 2:40:13: a superb time on this hilly and exposed course that starts in Pensilver and works its way around Bodmin Moor, taking runners past Jamaica Inn on route.

Second place was also a done-deal with Daniel Alsop of St. Austell Running Club posting a swift time of 2:48:39. But the race for the third and final podium spot was fierce and down to the wire, with our Dave and St. Austell's Duncan Oakes locked in an over-40s battle!

In a track race or a road race over 5k or 10k even, you expect to face a tussle for the line to decide the final top three placings, but there can be nothing more frustrating after 26.2 miles of running than to miss out on a podium spot in a sprint finish, which is what Dave unfortunately experienced on this occasion, being pushed down into 4th in a time of 2:51:42, missing out on third by just 12 seconds. Gutting.

Dave did, however, manage to come away with the top MV40 prize as the third placed athlete, Oakes, was in the MV45 category. Dave can also take encouragement from the fact that this was a course PB for him by a clear minute, so there is ever reason to think that he can return next year and run well and get himself back onto the podium. Well done Dave!

There was an outstanding performance in the women's race with Naomi Tier of Cornwall AC breaking the female course record, placing 6th overall, in a superb time of 2:56:24.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Winter 3k continues

Harriers were in action at Exeter Arena on Bonfire night last week, participating in the monthly Iron Bridge Runner organised winter 3k series. Dave Eveleigh brings the following report on the night's proceedings:

Noisy local pyrotechnics may have put the event at risk of multiple false starts, but they were not noisy enough to drown out gasps at the inaccuracy of the (presumably self-) seeding of, among others, the ‘D’ race winner who could have won the ‘C’ event by more than 30 seconds and even have finished 2nd in the ‘B’! Exmouth had three representatives and in the best traditions of sportsmanship our boys take their race allocations on the chin, that is “some you win, some you lose”. Les Turner, in his 70th year worked hard to finish the ‘E’ race in 16:16 but, once recovered from illness and injury will hope to kick on from there with a better time next month, when he should pick up a Veterans prize for the Series. Dave Eveleigh was in the bunch of the ‘C’ race and ran 10 seconds faster than in October (12:03 for 9th place). He now needs to finish 5 seconds in front of rival, Dave King (South West Veterans) to take the V55 overall award.  These races are graded on times, pitting male against female, young against old and in their vernacular Andrew Johnson was “well chuffed” to leave a string of talented male and female teenagers behind him, in taking 11 seconds off his October time, recording 11:51 for 3rd in the same race as Dave, leaving him just 1 second behind Jim Durston (South West Road Runners) his rival for the v45 title. So, a couple of exciting contests for Exmouth runners in prospect at the deciding round in December!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Comer's corner: Exmouth Harrier on tour, issue 1.

News just in from our roving reporter, Katie Comer, from her travels in South America. That Harrier vest has got off to a good start on its travels, as it is accompanied by proud owner Katie in Peru and Bolivia. Read on to hear of the vest's ventures right here in Comer's corner....

Cusco, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia, including trekking the Community Inca Trail

Having literally got off to a flying start (all 30 hours of it) things haven’t slowed one iota. With just one day to acclimatize, I was dispatched with 27 passengers to tackle the Inca Trail Community Trek, which is specific to Dragoman and passes through two communities where donations are made from every passenger. Over the years these donations have enabled the Communities to build schools and hire teachers, so the benefits are obvious to see. With visits to ruins Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “Sexy Woman”) and Pisac on the way, the first afternoon’s trekking to 3,700m proved to be a challenge as the weather changed. With snow, failing light, and altitude sickness to contend with morale was low with around a third of the campers. Fortunately dry clothes, copious quantities of coca tea, a good dinner and a good nights sleep meant everyone was ready for action and the ‘big’ day’s trek up to 4,700m the following day (and a leader who convinced everyone that it was a much bigger hassle to go back down… yes, that’s me!).

Day two started with fine weather and the scenery which had hidden the night before came out in all it’s spectacular glory – it was stunning. Snow capped mountains surrounded the Community of Cancha Cancha and provided a superb backdrop to commence the second day’s trekking. It was a long haul to the first pass. The better acclimatized members of the group managed it comfortably, while I found plenty to do at the back encouraging some of the less fit and those suffering in the altitude. Fortunately with the added help of the local guides we achieved a 100% success rate to the top which is apparently rare. I made the most of the opportunity to build a snowman at the top, although in spite of my best efforts the local guide, Yamil, was less keen to indulge me with a snowball fight and the passengers were just too relieved to get to the top. The weather had changed again, and a long but gradual descent with a good smattering of snow took us to the second campsite. The weather had cleared up by the time we got there and our Peruvian contingent soundly beat the gringos in a game of soccer but they definitely had an advantage at an altitude of 3,900m where it felt like our lungs were exploding at any speed faster than a walk!

After a very cold night, day three started with glorious weather. The group split at this point, with a shortcut being available to the third nights camp with some hot springs. I joined the main crowd, tackling another pass which we made in good time (Pic 6). The views were stunning and this turned out to be my favourite day on the trek. Seven hours trekking, spotting Andean geese, wild chincillas and condors, took us to the hot springs where we were able to relax in thermal heated pools until dinner. We also had the opportunity to purchase a couple of beers – imagine my surprise when they turned out to be 1 litre bottles! Two bottles and a few hours later a select few were back in the hot springs with significantly less clothing. This wasn’t really a problem until three security guards appeared to see what we were up to!

Day four started with a mild hangover, easily solved with a cup of coca tea. A final visit to the hot springs after breakfast set us all up for a beautiful drive from Lares to a short two hour stroll through a stunning gorge, where we also saw an aureolis of the sun. A final drive to Ollayantaytambo finished the last day of the trek and a very comfortable hotel! An evening visit to the ruins, followed by an insight into a traditional Peruvian house, complete with guinea pigs, ducks, cats and a dried llama foetus on the wall gave us some insight into how the smaller communities live.

The following day I waved my passengers off on the train to Machu Picchu with Yamil, and I took the local bus back to Cusco. The remainder of the day was spent at the very glamorous truck park getting to know Yana, my new 18 ton truck. The evening that followed was reminiscent of two nights earlier, just with more clothing, as celebrations were due and dancing on bars commenced!!

After another free day in Cusco we finally hit the road with 19 passengers (the remaining passengers were heading west to Lima), and immediately came across a road closure. Unfortunately Yana is just too big to manage the diversion turn required around the narrow Cusco streets, so some serious reversing and holding up of traffic was commenced. If anyone has ever experienced Peruvian drivers then you will know that this is an achievement in itself, especially as they couldn’t actually see the truck until Steve had reversed it 50m down the street. Problem solved Dragoman style, off we set towards Puno. A brief stop at Sillustani ruins (Inca cemetaries) en route saw us arrive at Puno at sunset where I finally managed to convince most of the group to be brave and try street food which was an instant success.

The following day started with a cycle-taxi ride to the shores of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. We caught a boat out to the floating reed islands of Uros where the local communities were incredibly welcoming and showed us how the build the islands, and the reed boats which they use to fish. Back on the truck, we headed to the Peru/Bolivia border and Copacabana for nightfall.

With two nights scheduled at Copacabana I was lucky enough to get the chance to visit the Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. The lake was so blue we could have been in the Mediterranean! The Island was beautiful, and held yet more Inca history with Puma rock being the reason for the naming of Lake Titicaca.

The final day of the trip involved a long days drive over the altiplano to La Paz, a bustling city seated in the basin of a valley, over-looked by Mt Illionis. I spent the afternoon exploring La Paz and signing myself up for some Gravity Assisted downhill mountain biking on the Worlds Most Dangerous Road the following day, which turned out to be almost 70km of adrenaline fuelled fun down a rather narrow gravel road overlooking a 300m drop with no crash barriers. The guides were brilliant, as were the bikes and I discovered an inner speed demon in myself, despite having never really been downhill mountain biking before. The opportunity to play on some 80 km/ph zip wires finished off the day perfectly!

Where will the vest venture next? Keep tuning in to find out! In the meantime, some photos to make us all incredibly jealous!

Katie and her truck. Is that a Grizzly t-shirt we spy?!

With a trek group on the world's most dangerous road in Bolivia. Should we be worried?!

Pink flamingos in Bolivia.

Katie keeping warm by a hot spring

Monday, 5 November 2012

Harriers have a dirty weekend...!

With 7 different races to choose from this weekend, or 8 if you include the trusty Killerton parkrun, Harriers were spoiled for choice when it came to selecting which events to enter. Before I get onto reporting how everyone got on, firstly a little topic for thought...

The second round of the Brooks Westward cross-country league was originally scheduled to be held next weekend, when there are no other races on the southwest calendar for it to clash with, but for some strange reason they moved it forward a week so it had to compete for entrants with the Sourton Scramble, the Yarcombe Yomp, the Templer 10, the Bideford 10, the Plymouth 10k and the Ilminster 10k. This is crazy! Surely a little forward planning and coordination between clubs would ensure a higher number of entrants and also mean that the quality of the competition is not so diluted? The Westward League would benefit massively from being on a weekend when there were no other, or very few other, races for it to compete with, as the incentive to make a 200 mile round-trip for what can amount to little more than 20 minutes of running definitely dissipates when there is also the lure of a good local race on offer on the same day, just down the road. I know of several people who would have competed in the Newquay XC yesterday, myself included, and who would have helped out their club teams, if it had been left on its original date of 11th November, when we hadn't already signed up for other races.

Anyway, that said, for the Harriers who did compete in the various races around the region, getting muddy and dirty was the order of affairs as the Exmouth runners all opted for the muddy, off-road races and gave the road events a wide berth. Here's how everyone got on:

Yarcombe Yomp

On the Saturday, husband and wife super off-road running team, Jon and Lorraine Croome, travelled to the eastern border of Devon to run in the Yarcombe Yomp. There are 2 distances on offer - 5 and 10 miles - with the 10 being 2 laps of the 5. Both the Croomes opted for the 10 mile and got stuck into a tough, extremely hilly and muddy but very satisfying race around the stunning countryside of East Devon.

Jon had a superb race to finish 4th overall and 1st MV45 in a time of 1:23:07. The winning man, Alex Todd of host club, Axe Valley, covered the course in 1:12:36: these times giving you an indication of how tough the terrain is.

Wife Lorraine also had a fantastic run to cross the line as 3rd female overall and to take a comfortable victory in the FV45 category in a time of 1:38:29. Winning woman was again an Axe Valley runner, Amy Greenhalgh, finishing in 6th place overall in 1:23:40.

The Yarcombe Yomp was perhaps one of the greatest casualties of a weekend crammed with races and the best argument for staging a race on a weekend with less fixtures already on the calendar as the 10 mile event only attracted 48 runners. With the effort that goes into organising and staging such a fantastic event, it really is a shame that entrant numbers were so low.

Templer 10

Although measuring in at the same distance as the Yarcombe Yomp (or thereabouts, as it's actually 9.7 miles in length, but that just doesn't provide the adequate alliteration to make a catchy race name!), the hill profile of the Templer 10 is very different, being almost entirely flat as it goes up the Teign Valley following the Templer Way before making a loop around Stover Country Park and then returning to the start and finish venue at the Passage House Hotel, Kingsteignton.

Although flat, the heavy rainfall the night before the race made the 4 miles of fields in this event a boggy, muddy nightmare! Difficult to know what shoe choice to make as this run is half on muddy fields and half on roads and gravel tracks, but those of us in road shoes certainly had a hard time of it in the field section as we fought to stay upright! It is, however, a beautiful route and another superbly organised race by the Teignbridge Trotters. This year 231 competitors completed the race that was won in the superb time, considering the conditions, of 53:56 by Lee Turner of Torbay AC.

I, Ellie Sutcliffe, won the female race in 1:04:15. Only 14 seconds faster than when I ran it in 2010 and back then I had only been running for a few months, so time wise not the best, but I think the mud and road shoe combo had something to do with that!

Lisa Hatchard had a very fine run, relishing the mud as she continues to enjoy her off-road trail races, crossing the line in 1:18:47 for 100th place overall, comfortably inside the top half of finishers. Frustratingly Lisa so so narrowly missed out on 2nd prize in the FV35 category by just one place and 10 seconds. Very hard luck Lisa! Work on that sprint finish and next time you'll 'av her!

Completing a trio of Exmouth performances was Alison Milborrow who covered the 9.7 muddy miles in a time of 1:33:11 for 180th place and who enjoyed every minute of it!

Westward League Cross-country, Newquay

In the ladies race Moira Glen, Carly Audritt and Dawn Teed picked up where they left off last month and continued to represent the Harriers female contingent with pride at the round 2 event of the league in Newquay. Although it also incorporated the Cornwall county XC championships, it did not attract a huge number of Cornish runners and so our Devon girls were able to impose themselves upon the field.

Moira followed up her fine run at Redruth with yet another 3rd placing in the FV45 category, despite having been laid off running for the past few weeks with a leg and back injury. She placed 20th overall in a time of 27:06 for the 6k route.

Carly again got stuck in to the muddy conditions and fought hard for those valuable points for the team, placing 37th in 29:49.

True team player, Dawn, rounded off the proceedings getting those final vital scoring points for the team and placed 50th overall and 9th FV45 in 32:37.

There were 58 ladies who competed in this round. Moira, Carly and Dawn have got the Exmouth team off to a superb start as they are now sat in 9th place in the team standings. Hopefully more female Harriers will now be able to come into the team and support them now that it moves closer to home on December 2nd, at Exeter Arena.

Adam Miller will have been grateful for some male company this time round as he was also joined in Newquay by club mates Dave Stone, Marc Cox and Jim Wyatt.

Dave had a very good run over the men's 9k course, finishing in a time of 36:21 for 13th place overall and 2nd MV40. And who beat him to top spot in this category? Hmm, a certain J. Ward. A familiar name and face, or rather, back of head view, to Dave as this is the same J. Ward who Dave chased around the Dartmoor Discovery ultra marathon in June!

Despite taking a comfortable victory at the Killerton parkrun the previous day, Adam was not showing any signs of fatigue in his legs at Newquay when he took 39:04 to claim 38th spot in a very competitive male race.

Marc Cox was making his XC debut and looking to stamp his authority on the Cornish and Devonshire field of runners. He placed 58th overall and recorded a time of 41:28.

Bringing up the rear was true team player, Jim Wyatt. Jim can always be relied upon to help out the Harriers in relay and team events and he found himself up against a superbly competitive MV60 field in Newquay as his time of 58:10 gave him 11th place in his category and 108th overall out of the 108 runners. Even though Jim regularly comes out top dog in his category in local races, the XC brings all the best runners out of the woodwork and age is but a number.

Berihu Tesfay was also making his Westward League debut but unfortunately he was forced to retire part way in due to tight calves. The cold weather and mud of Devon is proving to be a little different to the warmer climes and compacted, arid trails of Eithiopia and bringing its own challenges to Berihu!

Unfortunately 5 men are needed to count for a scoring team out of 5 of the 6 events. With 2 events down and only 4 left to go this means that the Harriers men, who are previous winners of the prestigious XC team trophy, will not be able to compete for the team prize this year.

There is, however, a team competition to be incorporated into the SW inter-counties championships at Bicton on January 6th. Adam has suggested entering a couple of teams and if we get as many people there as possible, even if you are not overly competitive and looking to place high up the field, just by taking part you will be pushing runners from other clubs down the field and helping out the Exmouth runners at the top end. The entry details are to be found here:

Cross country crew, innit?!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Struggle? What struggle? Not for the Harriers!

A race with the word 'Struggle' in the title immediately makes you think that it's going to be a challenge and a challenge is just what 3 of our Harriers wanted when they headed to South Molton in North Devon on Sunday to take part in the South Molton Struggle.

Measuring in at 7.8 miles this is a tough multi-terrain run that takes runners across the beautiful fields and countryside on the southerly edge of Exmoor, near Barnstaple. Conditions on Sunday were ideal, with a crisp, clear autumn day to greet the runners.

Jon Garrity had a very fine run in his first come-back race since struggling with a calf injury following the Bristol half-marathon in September. He took 52:09 to complete the tough, hilly route, giving him 14th place overall and 2nd MV40.

Ray Elston once again showed the young things how it's done by placing well up the field overall, 67th in 1:06:52, and comfortably 1st MV70.

The man who posed the biggest threat to Ray in the battle for the MV70 honours was his own friend, club-mate and category rival, Jim Wyatt. Jim too finished strongly, in the top 100 of runners, completing in 1:15:04 for 94th place and 2nd MV70.

There were 128 finishers and the race was won in an almost unbelievable time of 42:47 by visiting runner Tom Adams of Ilkley Harriers.