Running for the pies

Running for the pies

Monday, 6 January 2014

29th December: Gut Busting Blues

The first time I’ve done a double header and a fitting end to a monster year of running in 2014: part 2 of my Blues Brothers 10 Miler.

This second instalment was the Winter Gut Buster over in Mortimer & Silchester. It was the same course as the one I had run last year, although this time around I had been more organised and entered properly rather than having a wait-list place on the day.

With the beautiful sunshine all day for yesterday’s Brutal, the clear conditions had prevailed overnight producing quite a hard frost with sub-zero temperatures.

Driving the short journey from home to the overflow car-park at Wokefield Park, where I had been allocated a parking space with bus transfer to the start, I lost control of the van on black ice on one of the country lanes: As I went around a right hand bend, the back stepped-out and I lost control… Fortunately I reacted as you should (this is not the first time I’ve had a skid in a car) and was fortunate enough to regain control before I hit the hedge at the side of the road.

I say its not the first time, the worst time I had was when I was caught by a gust of wind and aquaplaned off a motorway in France at around 70mph, flying off the side and barrel-rolling the car through 540 degrees through the air before landing upside down and then rolling a couple more times on the ground for good measure. The end result was this:

Just a couple of scratches.
A bit of panel-beating and she'll be fine!
Anyway, back to the running!

Just as I parked-up I watched the transfer bus pull away, so figured I’d have a bit of time to kill, so I had my pre-race brekkie of a Cliff bar and drank some energy drink before half-changing in the back of the van. For the Brutal I had forgotten to wear my support shorts, but I came-out of the run unscathed - I wear them to support my right groin muscle more than anything, but with minimal lateral movement exerted when running, unlike in football, it seems I can easily survive without them, so I decided to do without them again today.

When I saw the bus pulling in to the estate I shoved the rest of my gear in my bag I made my way to the queue, taking my seat with everyone else once the doors opened.

A 10 minute ride and we were at the race-base of Butlers Lands Farm and I went through the registration process before looking for a place to change, only to be informed on inquiring that there was not one, so I snuck in to a barn behind a tractor and turned from fat bloke in to Blues Brother.

Milling around I bumped into Dennis ‘Carthorse’ Cartwright - of the ‘Den’s Got the Runs’ blog, and we were able to have a chat about what he’s got coming-up. He was using today as a training-run ready for the Enigma Winter Double - two marathons in two days the following weekend!

As the clock ticked its approach to the 10am start everyone gathered in the farmyard for the safety briefing. Just looking around it was easy to see that there were far more people than the previous year. Today was the Gut Buster’s third time of running and word has certainly spread!

Huddling like penguins to keep warm at the briefing.
With the organisers saying that the field is nearly double from what it has been previously and the interest was for plenty more places if they could have offered them. Looking at the attire of my fellow runners, there seemed to be less in the way of pavement-pounders out for a change of scenery that I saw last year and more in the way of ‘serious’ runners shod in trail shoes. But then again after the quagmire conditions last year, I think people would have heard what to expect on the course.

After the briefing we were ushered around the corner for the start and we were all off.

The throng behind me!
I set off at what I thought was a reasonable pace, but turned out to be quite a pace!.. Both the 10k & 10M races had started at the same time and although I was towards the middle of the field, it seemed like I was trying to just hold-on with those around me, which at the time I put-down to tired-legs from yesterday’s Brutal.

As I was fighting my way up the first hill, a figure appeared on my right shoulder and enquired if I was who I am… I turned to see a familiar face - someone who I had not seen since I was 19, which makes it pretty much as long since as we were old back then! I knew Tania back from schooldays in Yateley, and at that point in her life, she really wanted to get in to running cross country, which I was getting in to at the time when back from uni, so I agreed to take her out on to the trails at Blackbushe to do a couple of miles. Its amazing to see how far someone has come from being a reluctant teenager exhausted after running for around half an hour - these days Tania has several marathons under her belt as well as plenty of other races at shorter lengths and is now getting her pace up for an assault on the CTS South Devon half marathon in Feb, supported by her husband who is also a keen (and quick) runner… I tried for all I was worth to keep-up with Tania’s pace and to have a decent chat, but my being a fat-bloke got in the way and I had to make my excuses for holding her up as I really couldn’t keep the pace going for much longer and needed to throttle back, plus I did not want to ruin her race - and with that she shot-off in to the distance en-route to her finish of 7th female!.. Sorry Tania, I probably cost you a place or 2 but it was good to catch-up, albeit briefly, whilst I was struggling to breathe and talk at the same time… and fair play for spotting me through my fancy dress as well!

Up the first hill - Tania's arm to my right as she cunningly hid behind the fella in green as we approached the photographer!
As I eased-off the pace, I found I really did not have too much choice in the matter anyway. With the icy conditions overnight, the tarmac on which we were running for this stage was slick with the cold stuff and at times everyone was struggling to stay upright - trying to pick a path through the worst of it or attempting to run on the narrowest of grass verges on the road side. With most people sporting trail shoes, the grip you get on the ice is even less than normal as you only have the tips of the lugs on the sole contacting the ground, so you tend to do bambi-on-ice impersonations whether you like it or not.

Around the icy bend just before the ford.
As we arrived at the ford there was the choice again of going on the narrow bridge or through the water. Naturally I chose the wet option even though I would not need to queue for the bridge this year, but if you’re going to be getting wet and muddy, you’re only postponing the inevitable so through the water I ploughed without breaking stride.

Hitting the wall.
Up the hill from the ford and soon we were at the walls of Silchester and around the city walls we went, although this year we did not do a complete circuit around them, instead cutting through the main street through the middle of the city and back out past the llama’s.

Glowing Llama!
Crossing the denuded sprout field, the going was a lot easier than last year as only sometimes did your foot sink down to the ankle rather than all the time, and after traversing this it was another road section up the hill to the split for the 10M & 10K.

Just after the split I found myself yo-yoing positions with a girl called Tiffany. Before her superior pace allowed her to pull away we naturally got to chatting about running and it turns out we're both down to do the Classic Quarter ultra in June. Today was her first foray back out running in an organised event as she builds-up her fitness levels ready for the terrific undertaking that will be the Classic Quarter. She was persuaded to go for it by one of her friends as it is on her birthday! What a way to celebrate - getting a finish in an ultra under your belt, surely a birthday you would not forget in a hurry. Good luck in your training Tiffany and hopefully I'll bump into you at the start in June.

Hitting the long and winding road section.
The next section of the course was exactly as I remembered it from last year: the longest road section of short steep undulating hills. This part last year had me suffering from my wearing of new trail shoes not yet fully worn-in. A year on the same shoes have been well and truly worn-out having seen me through a good few marathons and have proved awesome on the softest of ground, but unfortunately they are now nearing the end of their life with the seams to the side of the toe splitting on both sides on both shoes. They are now going from race to race awaiting their fate.

The long hard slog across the soaking fields made-up the last couple of miles. Seeing the farm and the finish line on the horizon, and hearing the tannoy welcoming the finishers home I remembered that its a tease… You think you’re going straight there, only to divert away and then skirt around the edges of the fields before it relents and you turn for home. At least time I was prepared for the energy sapping incline through the cloying mud that this section is and I managed to keep myself on a pace to get to the finish in one piece… I may not have won the race, or come any where near winning the race, but at least the man on the tannoy congratulated me as being the winner of the fancy-dress race... If they were to have had one!

With my medal around my neck from one of the marshals and my timing chip taken from me, I made a bee-line for the mulled-wine and mince pies available for the finishers. Scoffing one and savouring the warm spiciness of the wine I made my way back to the finish to clap home fellow finishers.

I had realised whilst running that Carthorse had not passed me during the race so he would surely be appearing soon and sure enough a few minutes later he crossed the line and after he’d composed himself I congratulated him and enquired how he had found it - and the smile on his face said it all! He was surprised at how quick he had managed to cover the course - well ahead of the time he thought he would have, and the same was applicable for me as well.

I finished 7 minutes faster than I ran the course last year in a finish of 149/259 so a decent 58%... My assault on mid-table mediocrity carries-on apace!

The Gut Buster event is well organised and a great fixture to have on the door-step just before New Year's. With how popular it is getting I am wondering how they will be able to cope if they are going to grow it further, and if it is already at capacity then it will become one of those events that you need to book your entry as soon as they open as it will sell-out quicker by the year.

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