Exe-rated runners!

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

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Mud-loving Harriers excel off road

Last weekend saw 3 Harriers representatives race at two different, but equally tough, off road events in the South West. Close to home, the off-road loving duo of Jon and Lorraine Croome were over in the East Devon village of Dalwood for the annual running of the Dalwood 3 Hills Challenge race. Coming in at 10 miles but packing a whopping amount of climb into what most competitors would argue is actually 3 1/2, if not 4, hills, rather than the advertised 3, this is a fun and friendly but extremely tough multi-terrain event. It was good to see Jon back to his running best after a long lay off with injury. Clearly he has still been keeping himself fit with his cycling as he managed to finish 12th overall and 2nd in his MV45 age category in a time of 83:04. Conditions were extremely muddy and extremely windy this year, just to add to the difficulty, making Jon's time all the more impressive.

Wife Lorraine was, as ever, not too far behind, fighting her own personal battles in the ever-competitive ladies section. On the day she had some very stiff category competition from local off-road specialist, Lin Lascelles, so she did well to hang on to the 2nd FV45 spot and 56th place overall in a time of 1:42:04.

The Croomes certainly seem to have a fondness for this event as they have run it several times now and don't appear to be put off by the hills... maybe the excellent bacon butties on offer at the race HQ at the finish is what keeps luring them back?!

Meanwhile, down in Bodmin in Cornwall, Mike Musgrove was lining up for an off-road half marathon that is run around the grounds of Lanhydrock House and Respryn woods. The race is organised by Cornwall Fire and Rescue Service and so, as a fireman, it instantly attracted the attention of Mike who wanted to show those Cornish boys that the Devon brigade are an equal (if not better) match for them!

Mike reports that he did not taper for the race and ran it on the back of a heavy pre-London marathon training week of 80 some miles. Nevertheless, he says that he still felt strong in the race and, although he found the hills a bit hard going as he hasn't been doing much hill running of late, he had a strong and comfortable run. His time and position certainly reflect this as he finished an incredible 3rd overall, not bad considering he has now recently entered the vet 45 category. He was a comfortable winner of that section and also claimed the honours of first fireman home with his time of 85:39 for this tough, off-road 13.1 mile course.

Mike will now forgo racing for a while as he continues his build up towards London where he hopes to have a fully functioning timing chip this year and challenge his marathon PB of 2h50.

Well done to all 3 Harriers - we hope the mud washed off ok!

Mike receiving his prize for 3rd overall and first vet 45.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Harriers top vets at new relay event!

A dozen Exmouth Harriers (3 teams of 4) were at Central Park in Plymouth on Sunday 16th February for a new Relay event organised by West Devon’s Armada Running Network. This event was to replace the annual Plymouth Hoe 10 mile race, which couldn't go ahead this year due to traffic and licencing problems. The relays followed the format of the now familiar Erme Valley event, held in July every year, but had the added advantage of being contained within the park and so in a traffic free environment. There were four legs of 2 ½ miles on an undulating route around the paths in the park. The sun made one of its increasingly rare appearances on the day and so runners, marshalls and supporters alike were able to benefit from the balmy conditions; however, it also meant that this lured the world and his wife to the park, meaning that there were plenty of perambulating Plymouthians and their dogs to dodge.

This time it was the turn of a male veterans’ team to be in the limelight. The over-60 quartet of Steve Merry, Phil Bater, Dave Eveleigh and Nigel Dupain recorded a total time of 77:39 to finish 39th overall of 48 teams and 1st in their age category. Although they had limited opposition, the old adage of 'you've got to be in it to win it' very much applies here as it should not be underestimated how difficult it is in a club the size of Exmouth not only to find 4 runners of this age category within the membership but a) to find 4 that are available on the day and b) to find 4 that are both available, fit and niggle free. In the case of Steve Merry, the event marked a welcome return to racing for the first time for some years, and for Phil Bater, for some months. I did try to helpfully point out that the first one back is always the hardest and they can only get easier from here on in, but a very red faced Steve did not seem to agree as he exclaimed, "You are assuming there will be a next time?" Well, we hope so Steve; please stick at it!!

Our vet 60 team give us the finger(!) as today they were number 1!
L - R: Nigel, Steve, Phil, Dave E.

The Senior Women’s team were a very creditable 3rd, claiming the female bronze medal, and they placed 27th overall in 70:53. Cathy Newman recorded 15:15 for her leg, the second fastest female leg of the day, with new member Sarah Jackman, running her 3rd race in 3 consequetive weeks and more than proving her worth to the team, ran 18:12. Lisa Hatchard, helping the team out though not at full fitness due to an injury sustained whilst swimming, did 19:04 and Carly Miller anchored the team home, fending of a closing Tamar Trotters lady, to secure the bronze medal in 18:22.

Our senior ladies team placed 3rd overall.
L - R: Lisa, Cathy, Sarah, Captain-Carly

Our senior men's team were 4th overall but were in fact the 2nd club team, 1st and 2nd places being taken by carefully selected scratch teams. Berihu Tesfay gained 50 seconds on the eventual 3rd placed Torbay A.C. team when he ran the fastest time of the day of 12:39 on the final leg (50 seconds is impressive over just 2.5 miles), but he ran out of the distance needed to overall the South Devon based outfit, ending up 25 seconds adrift. The total time for this team was 54:34, the other three runners being Tony Hatchard who lead them out with a swift 13:28, captain Adam Miller on the second leg with 13:57, and Mark Cox on the third with 14:30.

Our senior men's team, who finished just out of the medals in 4th, despite all having solid runs and Berihu posting the fastest leg of the day. Next time ay lads!?
L - R: Berihu, Marc, Adam (Captain), Tony

It was a great event and one that was really enjoyable to watch as you can see the whole event unfold and the positions change with each lap. Hopefully it will continue to grow year on year.

Photos to follow shortly: check back next week.

Les nets category win at Exeter Half!

Sunday 16th February saw the third running of the Exeter Half Marathon. This is not the Great West Run but a 3 lap route of the full First Chance 10k course, down on Exeter Quay, organised by Iron Bridge Runner. Whilst this is not the most inspiring of courses, it is certainly a course with PB potential, given the right conditions. Unfortunately, it is also a course that is prone to flooding (it's on a flood plain after all!) and once again this year, the winter storms coincided with the race date. However, the organisers had at least learnt from last year and had a 'Plan B' course measured up and ready to go this year, which they reckon made the course even faster as it was run out-and-back on the tarmac and avoided the slightly slower section on the gravel track. Despite the previous bad weather, conditions on the day were perfect - clear skies, sun, not too cold, no wind, and so the weather Gods in part smiled upon the race!

This year, four PB-seeking Exmouth Harriers were amongst the eventual 251 finishers. Of those 251, the male-female split followed an increasing recent trend in races and there were only 13 more male finishers than female. The first Exmouth Harrier home was Chris Dupain. Chris has been training hard of late and producing some promising times and performances at the weekly parkrun 5ks at Killerton and so he was hoping to be able to challenge his PB of 88:26, set on this same course in 2012. On the day, this didn't quite happen and he finished 6 minutes adrift in a time of 94:06 for 45th place. However, he will have plenty more opportunities to better than time and challenge his PB later this year as he has already entered 5 more half marathons, choosing to concentrate on this distance in 2014. 

Ben White took Hannah Bown's place at the eleventh hour as Hannah was unable to run following a virus, however, the results still appeared under her name at the time of going to press, but we can confirm that it was Ben in 72nd place overall in one of his best times for the distance, 98:50, being just 3 minutes shy of his PB set in 2011. 

Dan Morley made a rare racing appearance in 58th, and put in what appears (according to his Power of 10 profile) to be a new Personal Best of 96:45. So although he has been away from the racing scene for a while, he certainly hasn't been slacking off on the training front. Can we expect to see more from him later in the season? We hope so! 

Les Turner, now an Over 70 Veteran completed the 13+ miles in 2:13:05 for 208th place and, in so doing, claimed the top honours in this category. Although, ever the sportsman, Les was keen to point out that this victory came at the expense of his category rival and fellow club mate, Mike Keep, who was several minutes up on Les when he swerved to avoid a female runner heading back on the other side (one of the perils of a narrow out-and-back course that is also open to members of the public with dogs, bikes, scooters and unruly small children!) and, in so doing, aggravated an on-going knee injury and was forced to retire from the race. We hope the injury is not too serious and Mike is soon back on his feet and posting some more impressive times, but well done to Les for his run which saw him finish in front of 43 runners, all of whom were younger than him!

Harriers hanging onto 3rd spot in the Westward League

Exmouth Harriers men's and ladies' teams continued to mount their sustained challenge on the Westward League Cross Country status quo last Sunday (9th February). The women were 7th before this latest round, which was the 5th of the 6 in the series, and after it had clawed themselves up one space to 6th. This was largely due to us being able to field the largest ladies squad after the local Exeter event in December, with 5 Exmouth ladies taking part and earning valuable points. Although there are only 3 counters each round in the ladies section, subsequent finishers are by no means dispensable: they play a vital role in bumping members and potential counters from rival teams down the pecking order and thus limiting their points, so this really is an all round team effort. With two Plymouth teams ahead of them and the final fixture being in that city, the Harriers' ladies can expect to finish the season in 6th place overall as long as we close in a complete team on March 2nd.

The Men’s team had their second highest points total of the winter, which was only good enough for 4th place on the day in a competitive team turn out, but enough to keep them in 3rd place overall. A final position higher than this is highly unlikely as the gap between the two front running teams (Cornwall AC and Bideford AC) continues to grow, but turning out a full team at the final race is vital to ensure that “this season’s surprise package” maintains a podium position. Not forgetting that Exmouth is a considerably smaller club than all the other clubs that currently feature in the top 5 berths, our lads can be justifiably proud of acquitting themselves so well.

This Sunday the women raced for 5km on an extremely demanding course near Bovey Tracey. Show choice at this venue is always a difficult decision, as parts of the route are on grass but others are on muddy, stoney tracks: multi-terrain or fell studs seemed to be the preferred option over spikes for most of our athletes. 

Individually, Cathy Newman continued to outshine many of her (much younger) female rivals and was once again a comfortable 1st FV50 and 7th female overall (of 62 finishers) in just 20:49. Next in was team captain Carly Miller, who deserves credit for her part in the revival of Cross Country racing amongst the ladies at Exmouth Harriers, 29th in 24:38. Carly was closely followed by newcomer, Sarah Jackman, 31st in 25:01. Sarah has recently joined the club on the recommendation of her friend and fellow hockey player, Emma White, and is thus far proving to be a real asset to us with her willingness to try out new events and her show of true team spirit. Then came long-time cross-country stalwart, Dawn Teed, who was 39th in 26:11 and, like Cathy, running in the FV50 section and closing in on a potential podium finish if she performs well at the final round in Plymouth. Dawn has also played a big part in Exmouth harriers increased participation in this somewhat neglected branch of running and this was shown by her commitment to the team in opting for the team cross-country event over her own individual ambitions and missing out on the 4 Trigs, which she dearly loves, and which was held on the same day. In 44th place (26:45), came another veteran and another runner with a gutsy performance, and this was Nicola Kelly, playing a vital role in keeping other team members at bay.

The men’s event was close to 6 miles and contested by 116 athletes. Once again, there was an impressive piece of front running on display from gun to tape with Exmouth's own Tom Merson covering the distance in a sprightly 34:21. Providing he turns out to the last event in Plymouth and puts in a fairly decent performance, he will surely soon be crowned as the winner of the league. The very experienced cross country runner, Tony Hatchard, was 11th in 37:17, posting his highest individual placing of the season thus far and showing that his personal improvement curve is continuing to bend in the right direction . Stalwart Harrier, Dave Stone, was 3rd man over 40 and 24th overall in 39:12, and looks good for a podium position within this category. Adam Miller always had Dave in his sights as a good target to try and hang onto and the invisible piece of string that holds these two together is seemingly getting shorter as the rounds go on, with Adam finishing just behind his club rival in 26th and 39:19. Marc Cox finished 47th (41:36) and Jamie Pearson, on a welcome return to the team, was 57th in 44:00.

Some superb photos, showing the event in its true muddy and rain soaked glory, can be viewed here on Pete Newman's Flickr page:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/97050275@N02/with/12467025183

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

4 Trig(ger) happy Harriers bag 16 trigs!

It would seem that the Four Trigs event is all about doing the sums: 4 Trigs + 4 Harriers = 4 Trigger Happy Harriers bagging a total of 16 trigs: the maths is simple. A couple of years ago, however, Scott Jordan got his maths badly wrong; either that or he was trying to reinvent the basic rules of natural logarithms and argue that 2 = 4. Nobody fell for this or believed him of course and we all saw through his, admittedly creative, but rather convoluted and ultimately doomed attempts to cover up for the fact that he just got plain lost and couldn't find the last 2 trigs. Hence, a nickname was born.

After injury forced him to withdraw from his planned 2013 campaign to override his error and reassert his reputation, he returned with even more fuel on his fire this year to bag all 4 of those unruly trigs. He was even spotted on one occasion by yours truly on what we believe to be one of many Sunday morning rekkie runs of the route that he has undertaken to ensure that he would not be thwarted in his quest to rewrite the history books and erase the name '2 Trigs' from them.

And so the day came. Scott-still-2-Trigs-until-he-can-prove-otherwise-Jordan lined up alongside 3 other Harriers who were there to witness his feat and act as adjudicators to ensure that he did not simply go out and bag the remaining 2 trigs that he missed last time and thus take an unsportsman-like short-cut to balance a 2 year old incorrect equation. These 3 Harriers were Terry Oldham (no stranger to this event and someone who has, over the years, amassed enough trigs to almost break into treble figures), Ben White and his wife, Emma. All 3 had their own reasons for running the event too, mostly because it's just a darn good, low-key, low-cost friendly race, and because it is also fantastic Grizzly training to boot (for which all 4 Harriers are also entered).

But back to our main man on this occasion: S-T-T-J. He set off down that Sidmouth promenade like a man possessed. He homed in on that first trig on High Peak like a kestrel hawk homes in on its prey: focussed; determined... with just an ever-so-slight look of obsessional madness in its eye! From there on he relied on gravity to get himself back down off the trig at high speed and, with equally dogged determination, he was off and onto the next trig. Tally-ho! In fact, he was so dedicated to his task that he ditched the camel-bak drinking bladder in attempt to lighten the load; much in the same way as an aircraft dumps fuel in order to lessen weight and be swifter of flight. He didn't consume so much as one drop of liquid on route, so focussed was he. (Disclaimer: this is not recommended as an ideal fuelling strategy, particularly not for a race of this distance and difficulty. Any actions taken were done so by the runner himself based on calculated risk and are in no way representative of the views of the club as whole...)

Heading onto trig number 2 through Harpford Woods and something truly astonishing happened: two other directionally-challenged, map wielding competitors from the South West Road Runners Club homed in on our 2 Trigs and selected him as a guide to show them the way! Clearly they had not heard of his reputation, nor had they read the nickname emblazoned across his hoody that he wore at the race HQ prior to the start, in which he vaunted the nickname 2 Trigs as a form of textual mimicry, perhaps intended as a reverse-psychological battle-cry? Had they have known, they would surely not have chosen this particular mast upon which to pin their navigational flag of hope?

No matter, a merry band of three had joined forces to unite as one homogeneous unit, all sharing one common goal: to get to the next trig point at Fire Beacon hill. (Am I the only one thinking that an idiom that contains the word "blind" in it, twice, springs to mind here?)

Meanwhile, a little way further back, a doggedly determined trio of Harriers were also making solid progress, up and down some of the steepest terrain in the area and getting ever nearer to completing their goal. They were also having a bit of fun along the way and generally chatting and enjoying the views. A couple of miles ahead, the mood was quite different: 2 Trigs was charging down the other side of East Hill strips like a raving banshee. No time to enjoy the views; he still had 2 more trigs to get.... meaning, he was now entering what was, for him, previously uncharted territory: did these other 2 trigs even exist? Were they just mirages, put on the map to taunt him but that didn't exist in reality? How could they exist in reality: he had not been able to find them on his previous attempt!

Anyway..... I could wax lyrical here all day and pad this out into what has the potential to become a 'best-seller' in the small but niche market of running themed books. 'Feet in the Clouds', 'Born to Run', 'Mathletics', and now: 'Mathletics, the sequel: 2 Trigs becomes 4'. In line with the best works of literature, this one has a happy ending. It ends with the final image of a triumphant Scott tearing down Salcombe hill and sprinting along the Sidmouth sea front to the finish line of the 4 Trigs race and posting a phenomenal time of 2:51:14 for a very impressive 12th place overall (out of 94 finishers) on an event that covers 16 miles and contains 3000ft of climb. Even more impressive though, he had located (and got the stamp to prove it!) all 4 trigs and had even successfully guided other runners around the course in the process. Like all eponymous heroes though, Scott is eternally modest and was keen to downplay his superb achievement (2h51 on this course is NOT hanging about). His only comment: 'I was thinking all the way around that course, "ha! I'm not gonna be 2 Trigs anymore"'. Quite right, you aren't Scott. But the problem is, you've got the nickname sewn onto the front of your hoody now and we would hate for you to have to go to the expense of purchasing a new one with '4 Trigs' on it, so, for the sake of your wallet, I think the nick-name had better stay!

As for our supporting actors in this canonical work of literary brilliance, they all acquitted themselves superbly too and finished together, sharing 53rd place and a time of 3:32:28. Sorry to have given the limelight to one person on this occasion, but your efforts did not go unnoticed and you were vital to substantiating that the whole event took place as reported and thereby validating Scott's claim to be part of the legitimate 4 Trig bagging Trigger Happy Harriers team!!

An impressive backdrop for an impressive performance: start of the 4 Trigs race and Scott-2-Trigs-Jordan is already well placed and focused on the task ahead (3rd from right)!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

It's February: it's Fulford Five time!

Yes, February is upon us already and that means one thing: it's time for some Fulford 5 fun!

Fulfords Estate Agents first became involved with Exmouth Harriers when they supported Harriers member and erstwhile Fulfords' employee, John Watson, in his Paralympian exploits some 30 years ago. They first starting to support the annual Exmouth 5 Mile road race in the early 1980s. Lots of local businesses support sports events and teams in their area without actually asking for very much in return. However, if participants and spectators came to a subliminal conclusion that this particular sponsorship suggested that Fulfords was a business that is “in it for the long run” that would probably be something of a reward for their generosity! The Harriers are also grateful to their continued support as having their name behind the event allows the continued use of alliteration in the race title; a popular linguistic tool when according names to races to ensure that they are memorable. If Fulfords pulled out, we'd have to change to the Exmouth 8k!

The Harriers are also pleased to continue their association with the Wukro Project which is helping young Ethiopian athletes access opportunities to progress that are not normally easy to obtain in their remote part of the athletically talented but financially impoverished East African nation. The Fulfords Five event is one source of a total annual sum of £750 contributed by Exmouth Harriers which helps maintain the project.

This year’s Fulfords Five took place on its usual route over two laps through the heart of Exmouth and on the picturesque sea front on Sunday 2 February. Indeed, we were lucky to find a very small window of opportunity in the weather to allow the race to go ahead as the following day storms and tidal surges meant that much of the roite was under 3ft of water! As it was, near perfect conditions greeted the 261 finishers, of which 115 were women, with a light tail wind being behind them on the sea front, making for some fast times. 

Keen to capitalise on these ideal conditions was the popular and talented Exmouth based athlete, Tom Merson. Tom is regularly seen at local races in Exmouth colours in his capacity as a second claim member for his home town club, (he utilised his Bristol and West first claim membership to undertake challenges and to seek coaching opportunities further afield). Tom managed to retain his title from last year with another emphatic win, this time knocking 9 seconds off his 2013 time and also setting a new PB for the 5 mile distance with his time of 24:31. Runner-up was Jon James, who runs for Wells City Harriers: this a fair distance to have travelled, suggesting this increasingly rare distance (the 10k has taken over from 5 and 6 mile races in terms of popularity since the U.K. turned metric), is still very much in demand. Perhaps the outstanding male performance of the day though came from the Bideford based athlete, Jon Shapland. At 60 years old his time of 28:41 and this 17th place overall was a quality piece of running, gaining him over 90% on age-graded performance calculations. 

The outstanding female run (again allowing for an age-graded score of over 90%) came from Exmouth Harriers' own super-speedster, Cathy Newman. Cathy had a storming run to finish 2nd woman overall, just 17 seconds adrift of Tiverton Harriers' athlete, Serane Stone, who is 14 years her junior. Cathy was 29th overall in 29:52 and at 51 was a more than comfortable winner of the FV50 category. 

East Devon has a reputation as a retirement hot-spot, but four Exmouth Harriers who refuse to take to their settees and watch day-time TV or go for a sedate stroll along the promenade, all competed last weekend and are the tangible proof that age is no barrier to competitive running. Seventy-one-year-olds Mike Keep, making a welcome return after injury, and Jim Wyatt were 179th in 42:11 and 221st in 47:17 respectively. Just behind Mike was 75-year-old Mick Allen in 183rd place with a time off 42:31. Re-joining the club and, in his case, making a welcome return to racing after illness, finishing 231st in 48:16 was John Perratt who is now 76. In the days in which more and more athletes are continuing to run competitively well into their 70s and, in come cases, into their 80s, this quartet would make a cracking Over 70 vet relay team. 

With most of the Harriers members occupied with marshalling duties, there were just five more members who completed the race. Ladies' captain, Carly Miller was 107th overall and 20th woman in 36:04, around half-a-minute faster than in 2013 despite having to have some time off recently due to on-going issues with shin-splints. Sarah Jackman was 127th and 28th woman in 37:39. Andrew Johnson, now running in the MV50 category, was 60th in a swift 33:05. Richard Pyle ran home in 86th place in 34:40 and Roger Riggs (MV55) made up the team with 195th spot in a time of 45:33.

Well done to all the Harriers who ran but also a massive well done and thank you to all the Harriers, their families and friends, and to the Exmouth cadets who helped to marshall the race and make it another success. Marshalling road races in the these sad days of apparent increasing road traffic (and resultant road rage) is never easy and so keeping the runners safe is paramount. It was heartening to receive some lovely emails of thanks from participants who appreciated the highly vocal support of the marshalls. It was slightly disheartening to witness some rather aggressive displays of driving from some drivers on the sea front who clearly couldn't spare 1 minute out of their busy Sunday schedules to let the runners pass by in safety, but I guess that that is a sign of the times and we have not to let it spoil the enjoyment of our sport. *steps down off her soap box and bows out*  !!!

Start of the race, outside the Exmouth swimming pool and leisure centre on Imperial Road.