Sunday, November 17, 2013

Leeds Abbey Dash 10k 2013

Believe it or not, this was my third race in as many weeks. Two weeks ago I ran the Deepdale Dash 10k and last week it was the grueling Goathland Trail Marathon. I wasn't planning on making it a hat-trick of races but couldn't resist the temptation of a flat, fast and local10k race.  I just hoped that a week of rest after a marathon would be sufficient for my legs to recover enough to run a 10k.

So, once again, Zoe and I jumped in the car and set off for another race.  Two weeks ago it was a one hour drive south to Barton Upon Humber, last week it was a one hour drive north to Goathland and this time it was a one hour drive west to Leeds.  It's great to be able to travel around Yorkshire trying out races and seeing different parts of the county.  

With 10,000 runners, the Leeds Abbey Dash 10k turned out to be a big race.  I'm pleased to say that the organisation was fantastic and everything ran without a hitch.  We soon found ourselves on the starting area and feeling very excited. After missing my 10k PB by a matter of 7 seconds at the Deepdale Dash a couple of weeks earlier, I was hoping to snag one here as this was a much faster course. Just hoped the legs would hold out.  

Once under way, I soon found my form and clocked the miles off. My pace was good and the legs felt fine.  The course was indeed flat and perfect for a fast time.  It was basically an out and back along a river valley through the centre of the city.  I reached the 5k turn around point in 20mins 30secs.  I turned for home and focused on maintaining my form.  My legs were coping fine and my confidence began to grow.  The last mile arrived and my legs were finally reminding me that they had run a marathon only 8 days earlier but I demanded that they hang on.  Not long to go.  The finish line soon came and I crossed the line in 41mins 28secs. A PB by 40 seconds!  Elation flooded my mind and the pain was gone.

Zoe P ran a 42min 54sec time. Her second fasted 10k and felt pretty happy too.  This was a great 10k race. Flat and fast, well organised and an exciting atmosphere with 10,000 runners. We will be back in 2014 but with fresher legs next time! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hardmoors Goathland Trail Marathon 2013

The Goathland Marathon is part of a series of races based in the North Yorkshire Moors. The Hardmoors race series is comprised of distances ranging from 10k all the way up to 160 miles.  This race was just the 26.2 mile marathon distance, or so we thought!

The North Yorkshire Moors is a National Park in the north of England.  It's one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the United Kingdom. It covers an area of 1,436 sq km (554 sq mi). The moors are made up of sweeping hills, dales, valleys and inland headlands. Much of the terrain is made up of peat bogs, bracken and standing water.  What better place to run a marathon!!

Zoe and I love a challenge, so we were looking forward to testing our metal in this race.  Being a Yorkshire lass, Zoe had some running and hiking experience on the moors but it was my first time.  I have lots of trail running experience under my belt from my time in Canada but the moors would offer a whole new challenge.  We knew that this would be tough but decided to just focus on trying to enjoy the experience and get to the finish.

Our hopes for dry weather were realised as we set off on the drive north. We were rewarded for the very early start with some stunning views as the dawn was breaking. The race began in Goathland, which was just a quiet village located in the moors until a TV series called Heartbeat came to town.  As a result, the village is now a popular tourist area, especially in late summer when the huge expanse of heather is showing its beautiful purple flowers.  We arrived at the race HQ at the village hall which was buzzing with runners and volunteers.  There were some very tough looking runners who looked like they were no stranger to the North Yorkshire Moors.  Veterans of the Hardmoors race series for sure.  We felt a little nervous of the challenge that lay ahead.  The weather was chilly but dry and not too windy. Relief!  

We readied ourselves on the start line at 9.00am along with 100 other runners.  Just before the start, one runner was given an award as this was going to be her 100th marathon, most of which were ultras! Another runner was recognised as this race would include his 1000th Hardmoors race mile.  We were in the company of greatness. Then we were off and running.  To say the pace was steady was an understatement.  Even the hardened vets were taking it easy. The first part of the race lead us out of the village and down into a river valley.  A nice easy start but I was feeling a sense of impeding doom for what was to come. 

Even before we reached the end of the first mile, we started to climb.  Soon we were into the open and rugged moorland and the terrain become difficult.  As well as the steep ups and downs, the ground under foot is constantly changing too.  One minute it is firm, then it's rutted and uneven, then it's soft and unstable and then it's wet and muddy bogs.  Add in the bracken, the large volumes of standing water and the many streams to cross, the moors offer extremely challenging and leg sapping terrain. We just took our time and tried to keep a steady pace going, walking when we were climbing up steep inclines and running the rest.  The views were amazing and we were taking a few snaps with Zoe's camera along the way.  The weather was constantly changing too. One minute the cold wind was blowing across the area and our hands hats and gloves were on, then we were running in a sheltered area and the hats and gloves were off.  They were on and off several times throughout the duration of the race!  

The aid stations were a blessing. Friendly faces offering coke, water, flapjacks, cookies and jelly babies. Apart from these wonderful volunteers and the occasional hikers, there weren't any other people on the course. We definitely saw more sheep than people in this race! The miles were coming and going with constantly changing terrain, views and climates.  Wet feet, dry feet. Hats on, hats off.  Climbing upwards, descending downwards.  Nothing remained the same.  Probably the hardest thing was inability to run in a straight line for more than a few metres at a time before having to step out of a rut, leap over a stream, avoid a deep puddle or pulling your foot out of peat bog.  
Finally we got to mile 20 and we were starting to feel like we were nearing to end.  Fatigue had set in and we were looking forward to the end.  However, we were feeling good.  Then we found ourselves climbing up the most boggy, water logged and rutty section of the whole race. And it went on for almost 3 miles.  It was horrendous, my legs turned to jelly and every step became painful.  It felt like we were on an SAS endurance test, could we survive and make it to the end? Just then, out of now where, this young girl ran past us, full of energy and far too cheerful, told us that the course was actually 27.5 miles instead of the usual marathon distance of 26.2 miles. Then she skipped off and proceeded to disappear in the distance at a super human speed. This was demoralising to say the least but we gritted our teeth and slogged on.  
After what seemed like an eternity, we could finally see Goathland in the distance.  It was now agony, I tried walking a little but this hurt more than running. So we kept running, slipping, stumbling and moving. We just had to keep moving! Then we were on the road heading towards the village hall. It felt strange to be back on a hard and flat surface again, our sore legs cried out but the end was near.  We reached the finish line in 5 hours 18 minutes.  It was sheer relief!  We stumbled into the village hall and were welcomed with a table laden with hot soup and home baked treats.  We found ourselves a couple of chairs near a warm radiator, sat down and ate.  We had made it, just! 

The Hardmoors races certainly offer an almighty challenge and are super well organised. Total respect to the people who complete the 110 and 160 mile versions, they are damn tough runners!  We will do another race in the future but next time with some training on the moors! 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Deepdale Dash 10k 2013

For me, running in some local races is an integral part of settling into my new life in the East Riding of Yorkshire.  This includes big races like the inaugural Yorkshire Marathon but also some smaller low key races put on by many of the local running clubs. One such race is the Deepdale Dash 10k organised by Barton and District AC.   

On a sunny but very windy Sunday morning, Zoe and I bundled ourselves into the car and drove the 40 minutes south and across the Humber bridge to Barton Upon Humber.  The race started and finished at a school in the middle of the town.  We quickly realised that there was a super friendly atmosphere and everything was very well organised.  Lots of smiling faces from volunteers and everything close to hand.  We noticed lots of racers there from other running clubs from near and far. 

After a good warm up, we were lining up to start along with 300 other runners.  The weather was chilly but dry and sunny.  However, the wind was very blustery and could come into play as we headed out of the town and into the dales. Then we were off and the first half a mile was down hill.  Zoe was ahead of me and we were galloping at a rather speedy pace, too fast but I knew it would soon settle down as the course turned uphill as we headed out of the town.  Zoe and I decided to run our own race this time but I knew she would give me a run for my money!

Once out of the town, we were running through the undulating countryside of the dales which might explain the race name. The rolling landscape allowed for fantastic views, beautiful English countryside in the Autumn sunshine. The first three miles of the course lead us up and down several hills with a strong side wind had been blowing across us. The noise of runners race bibs fluttering against our chests was the predominant sound. However, this cross wind wasn't affecting my pace and my legs felt strong. I had passed Zoe towards the end of the first mile but knew she would be hot on my heels. 

Then we turned a corner and hit a flatter section with the wind at our backs. It was a relief to be on an easier section but then another corner and a short but steep downhill. The four mile marker was the start of the longest climb of the race, over one mile of constant uphill and also into a strong headwind too! I gritted my teeth and dug in but my pace was slowing as I neared the top.  The five mile marker was the top of the killer hill and then it was downhill for the last mile and back into Barton Upon Humber.  I ran as hard as I could in an attempt to make up lost time on that last climb and headed for the finish.

The final few corners and roads lead us through the town and then back into the finishing area.  I crossed the line in 42mins 14 secs.  Although I missed my PB time by 7 seconds, it was a hard course and also a windy day too. So I was really pleased with my time.  I finished 47th overall and 12th in my age category.  Zoe crossed the line in 44mins 6secs bagging her 8th lady overall and 4th in her age category.  Impressive running indeed! 

The Deepdale Dash was a blast.  Great organisation, warm and friendly atmosphere, scenic course and a good challenge.  It's a keeper!

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