Mouth-to-Mouth 2016

It’s always nice to do a new race, and Mouth-to-Mouth was another new Sussex Trail Event that the boys had added to their portfolio for 2016. It was the final race of quartet  marathon distance races, the medals of which join together in a nice ultra-medal.

Held at the beginning of December, this was a race I’d been considering, and only decided to do about six weeks before. After reccying the last half dozen miles or so before the day I knew I’d made a good choice.

The race started at many of the other Sussex Trail Event starts – Shoreham-by-Sea. There was the usual race briefing, followed by the gathering by the start next to the Adur River. The first Mouth…IMG_1056

The weather was looking kind – not too cold, no rain planned, and the ground wasn’t too muddy. We had to endure the dreaded slabs on the west side of the river next to the airport on the way out – so nice to get them over and done with at the beginning of a race for once!

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Running with friends, Neil D, and Michael (HHH) – photo courtesy of Jon Lavis

I settled down into a nice relaxed pace, running with fellow BHR runner Neil Dawson, and spent the first half of the race talking previous races, views of the downs, farming,  and anything else that cropped up. Anything really, to keep us off the thought of running! Before long, we were at the foot of the Downs, ready to turn west towards Chanctonbury. Up the hill we went, past the pig farm.

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We continued on up the hill, right at the road, and continued to follow the South Downs Way. Past Chanctonbury Ring…IMG_1059

…and down into Washington. Neil and I managed to lose each other after we both had a comfort break on opposing sides of the path, and a quick flurry of text messages revealed that he’d carried on assuming I was ahead, while I waited for him! I had to catch him up!

The next few miles included that nasty hill out of Washington – short and sharp –  followed by the lovely descent from Kithurst Hill down into Amberley.

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Gloves on! Photo courtesy of Jon Lavis

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The race then joined the Arun river, where the rest of the race is run on one or other side of the bank.

IMG_1069.jpgI managed to catch Neil as we ran through the woods south of Amberley, as we reached the bridge. It’s a lovely, over-engineered bridge in the middle of nowhere, which bounces as you run over it. A bit unnerving for some, but I quite enjoyed it!IMG_1071

From then on, it was the race to the end. The views down the Arun are quite beautiful on a sunny day, and the race day this year was very kind to us. We saw Arundel Castle in all its glory.

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A quick scoot through Arundel town itself, and we were back onto the openness of the Arun estuary, making our way to Littlehampton Marina. Be warned, the river meanders quite a bit, so you may think you’re nearer the end than you are at times as you seemingly make snaking turns from left to right; and to cap it all off, once through Arundel, you seemed to be running into the wind, no matter which direction you seemed to be going!

And finally, the bridge was reached – under we went, through the car park, and the finish line. Made it, Mouth-to-Mouth!

Once again, the Sussex Trail Event team has produced a lovely, challenging and picturesque route, worthy of anyone’s time and trouble. The cup of tea at the end, as always the perfect finish to a race.

So, the usual questions:

Would I recommend? Yes!

Would I run it again? Yes!

Is it worth the fee? Absolutely!

Is it a PB course? Nope!

Is it a negative split course? Yes, it could be.

Any downsides to it? Not really, all I’d say is reccy those last few miles so you know what to expect – they’ll mess with your mind if you don’t!

Until next time… thanks for reading, and enjoy your running!

Thirteen The Hard Way

Thirteen the Hard Way. A good name for a race, I thought as I signed my name up for it. That, and the Steve Roberts designed advertising, depicting a particularly characterful sheep!

13THW was another of the Sussex Trail Events races, and was a new event for 2016. Two more reasons for me to run the race. STE races are always well thought out, but still low-key and well organised, and I think there’s a little kudos to be able to say “oh yeah, I ran the first edition of that race”…

The other reason for running it was – it started a mile from home! No worrying about parking, getting a lift etc., just roll out of bed, put the shoes on and amble over. Maybe some clothes too.

On the day we awoke to a wonderful sunny day. A touch of wind, but warm. This was late August, and we’d had a summer. The last remnants were still around, so as I left my house at 7:30, it was already 18-20 degrees C. I managed to help a few runners (in cars) to the start, justifying my refusal to accept a lift from one of them. Well, I wanted a warm up anyway.

The route is a basic there and back – from the field at base of the downs next to the Tank Tracks, we run up the fabled tank tracks, turn left when you hit the South Downs Way, pass the Ditchling Beacon, and continue along the top of the escarpment until we reach the Black Cap gate. Turn right (south) at this point, and continue following the South Downs Way all the way to Housedean Farm. A quick stop (or not) at the aid station, and back the way you come, ending at the bottom of the Tank-tracks.

My race went well; I started near the back as is normal practice for me. Starting near the back means I pace myself at the start and don’t rush off too fast. Also gives me the psychology of passing people later on, thinking I’m a speedy boy…

And so, out of the start field, turn left towards Clayton, and then left again up the Tank-tracks.  I’ve done them many times before. It’s a bit like Ditchling Beacon for cyclists – it’s a local challenge to run up them non-stop. So I kept my cool and relaxed up the first third. The path is quite narrow for the first part, until you get out of the woods, then it opens a little. At that point there were a few people walking, so I continued my progress up the hill, slowly passing people.

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Photos courtesy of Jon Lavis

I had no idea where I was in the race when I reached the top, as I was really just concentrating on getting to the top, but as I got there I felt pretty good, all things considered. It was a warm day, and this route had virtually no shade. I pushed on, knowing there was a water stop at the top of the Beacon about a mile and a half away.

I took on water, and then settled into the route: Street Hill Farm, followed by Black Cap, then turn right and shortly later left into a lovely downhill towards Housedean. Halfway down I started wondering again where I was in the race. No-one had passed me since hitting the top of the Downs, and I hadn’t passed anyone either. We were fairly well spaced out, and as I knew it was a there-and-back, I knew I’d be able to check my position based on the number of runners running towards me.

It wasn’t until we were near the woods that Paul Sargent passed me. Local legend, and race leader, he had the usual smile on his face, and looked strong. I started to count – two, three, four, five… by the time I reached the bottom of the hill, and the aid station at Housedean, I’d counted eleven runners. Wow! I was at the sharp end! Jay McCardle, one of the RDs gave me some encouragement; a work colleague (his cousin) was also running the race, and I’d passed him on the way up the Tank Tracks. “Go on! You can do ‘im” grinned Jay as I set off back up the hill.

My work in pacing a friend in the SDW100 a couple of months earlier certainly paid off at this point. It’s a particularly stiff hill coming back out of Housedean, and I was able to pass a couple of runners, while I power-walked up the hill. It was good to see my local club runners out there as we passed each other and gave encouragement.

The hill up to Black Cap was tough that day. Hot weather was to take its toll on people. Three of us traded places as we went up that hill. Although I’ve run it all many times, today was just too hot, and there was no real breeze in the valley. I had to walk, and so did the runners around me. I felt the signs of over-heating and took heed, rationing out my water as I went.

As we got to the top of the downs again, what little breeze there was helped cool me down, and I was able to start running again. We went through the Beacon, took on more water, and pushed the pace up a little more. I managed to drop one of the other runners for good, and felt good, knowing what was ahead.

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I got to the top of the tracks feeling good, just the hill to go. Halfway down I was met by the sight of someone on the ground surrounded by one of our club runners, and a couple of other friends. “It’s Paul!”, he said to me as I ran past. I carried on to the bottom, grabbed a medal and a cup of water then made my way back up. Apparently, Paul had been leading the whole race, and found climbing out of bushes by a couple of walkers, cut up and a little delirious. A couple of friends who were there to spectate saw him and rushed to his aid. Air ambulance then appeared, and he was whisked off to hospital for tests.

He’s fine now and made a full recovery, winning races again, and generally being an inspiration to us runners at club. But I haven’t really thanked him for dropping out and give me my first top ten race finish 🙂  Thank you Paul!

So, the usual questions:

Would I recommend? Yes!

Would I run it again? Yes!

Is it worth the fee? Absolutely!

Is it a PB course? Nope!

Is it a negative split course? Not at all!

Any downsides to it? None for me. I love the area, and love the route. And not because it’s near home. (Well, maybe a bit…)

Until next time…

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ps. all photos courtesy of Jon Lavis – local runner and brilliant photographer. Thanks Jon!

 

Marathon Weekend. Sort of

This week has been interesting. It’s been a week since I took the plunge and decided to get a place on the SDW50. Why? Well, I’m still not sure. As one of my running buddies said, “it’ll be a laugh!”.

My plan for this year (formulated in the autumn, but still too late to get a place) was to do the NDW50. Living 2 miles away from it as I do meant that I run a lot of the South Downs Way, so I thought it might be nice to run the North Downs instead. However, by the time I’d finished prevaricating I was much too late to get a race place. The waiting list was also full.

What I didn’t realise was that the guys and gals at Centurion try to accommodate as many runners as possible, so by mid February, they’d managed to clear the waiting list, and had some places left to spare. I thought about for a moment or two, listened to the haranguing from a few running buddies, asked permission from my better half, and thought what the hell. So I’m in!

I’ve been sort of following a training plan inadvertently anyway. Darren has been dragging me around the South Downs for the past month as part of his own SDW100 training plan (which coincidentally includes the SDW50), so I guess I’ve been following a training plan to get me ready anyway.

This weekend was different though. While he had a race to do (Steyning Stinger – 26 miles of Downs and mud!), I had nothing. With SDW50 in mind, I decided I would run the first half (almost!) of the route, then head for home when I thought a marathon distance was in the bag.

But before this, Saturday morning saw us at the Preston Park Parkrun giving our speed legs a test. This is the first park run I’ve done since 2013, partly because I’m not that fast, partly because it seems a faff to get up on a Saturday to get up to run only 5kms. But, as I was curious to see what I could do, I went.

The weather could have been better, but was good enough. Wind assisted us on the back-straight, and the drizzle kept us cool (I actually didn’t warm up until the 3rd lap!) enough to give me and Darren a PB each. Both of us knocked around 20 seconds off, a 2% improvement!!!

On Sunday morning I parked off a side road near to Hill Barn recreation ground at a little before 8:00am under clear skies, having had the barest of breakfasts – a hot Ribena, a few grapes and a few cashews. I came prepared with two packets of crisps, two Nakd bars, a Soreen bar, and two woefully small bottles filled with salted water.

The route out of Worthing was quite straightforward, if a little ad-hoc: I had pretty much determined the route the day before as a rough guide but left it to memory rather than taking a map or plugging a route into my Garmin. I’d also worked out my route was a little shy of 24 miles, so I was hoping to ‘get lost’ a little on the way to increase the distance.

I started following the route for the WSFRL Hangover race until I remembered I could do it in reverse until I got to Cissbury ring, so cut a left as soon as the route presented itself. When I reached the ring itself, I headed north into the unknown. For the next two miles or so, it was new territory.

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This bit went reasonably okay. My map-memory was pretty good, until I reached the end of a left-turn which ended on a road which I didn’t remember on the map. Luckily another runner appeared up the road, and he helped me on my way, down to the A24 and back up to meet the South Downs Way just near Chanctonbury Ring.

It was just before there that I joined the Stinger route for part of the way (miles 8-11 I think), where I chatted with the Sussex Sport Photographer for a bit, and an ultra runner who was running the race for an arthritis charity. He himself had arthritis, and had only the year before completed the SDW100 himself. Big respect!

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I stopped at Chanctonbury to quickly take a shot of the breathtaking view looking north-east from the escarpment.

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And followed the route down towards the Adur.

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I’ve run the path above two or three times in the past month, and today’s view was stunning. Once at the Adur, I took advantage of the water tap to fill my bottles (and my belly!) with ice-cool water, and carried on.

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The rest of the run went fairly well until I reached mile 16. At this time, a few niggles had started to appear, reminding me of their presence every once in a while. In addition I’d been doing some calculations, and realised I’d be doing only about 22 miles. So, my mind was listening to my body, and the mental gremlins were asking me why I was doing this, putting doubts into my mind as to whether I could pull off a complete 50 mile run, when a 20 mile run was looking unlikely.

By the time I’d reached Newtimber Hill (which I might add is a lot shorter than I remembered), it seemed as though some of the niggles had giving up shouting, and the gremlins had gone off to rethink their strategy. I’d realised that if I could add a little loop once I’d got off the downs I could get myself to a possible marathon distance, so that became the plan.

When the time to make the choice came, I took the right-hand turn up to the top of the Tank tracks and the Bostall rather than heading left to the Jack & Jill Windmills. I got to the left-turn for the Bostall and headed down.

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Instead of going straight home, I took a wiggly route through Clayton, and back into Hassocks via the Cinder path, and back home round the back of Mackie Ave.

Quite a morning’s run in the end culminating in an enjoyable run.

Part of the learning process for me was:

  1. It’s a little tougher on your own. Running with someone really does help to keep out the demons.
  2. It’s interesting to see how little you can fuel your runs with, but I think a bigger water bottle for next time is a good idea!
  3.  Maybe review the salt tablet idea for the race.

Over and out, until next time!

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