On Sunday, I ran the Rough & Tumble 10-miler, a local trail race. When I say ‘ran’, I’m being a little ambitious…it was flipping tough. The race takes place in the RIDICULOUSLY pretty village of Milton Lilbourne, about 20 minutes from home.
The local organisers bill it as ‘ one of the toughest multi-terrain races in Wiltshire’ and it definitely was! I made the mistake of watching the course video a few days before and it struck fear into my heart (watch it HERE and click to 3.12 for a few seconds!) My ribs were still a little sore from falling last week and so I was really quite nervous about this race. Luckily we were blessed with great weather – about 5 degrees celsius and it wasn’t windy or raining! Also, the race started at 11am which allowed a bit of a lie-in, a good breakfast and a calm start to the day!
The starting area was much busier than I’d expected but super-organised. Number pick-up was fast and easy, bag-drop took seconds and there were hot drinks and (I think) bacon sarnies in the warm village hall. I met up with Alex who I’d found on Instagram a few months ago and who I’d met IRL at the Avebury 8. We were about the same speed so decided to run together, with the clear understanding that either of us could run on ahead if they wanted to, with no hard feelings. I also met up with several other members of my running club – this race was the first in our year-long points league! It was really nice to see so many familiar faces!
The race briefing was funny and before long, we were heading off down the lane. My legs felt heavy straight away, but I was sure they’d warm up. And within a mile, we were on the trails (aka the grass fields) and we started up the first of three really tough hills. We walked up the steep bits and ran the bits we could and eventually got to the top and enjoyed the long steady downhill, chatting all the way.
The second hill was easily over a mile long and slightly too steep for most people to run. It was along a narrow trail with little space to pass, so we got into a line of people hiking as fast as they could up to the top, where it opened out onto a field and became very runnable. My legs were already tired, more tired than I was expecting at this point.
At about Mile 5, we entered a wonderful grassy field with sweeping views and a long, gorgeous downhill that Alex and I really enjoyed. And then we got to the bottom and saw a short but very steep little climb with a curious sign saying ‘That’s not a hill’. ‘Whatever!’ I thought, clambering up it slowly. Definitely felt like a hill to me. And then, at the top, I saw it.
A short plunge down into a valley and then the biggest, steepest, nastiest hill I’d ever seen in my life. I said a rude word but it had to be done, so we slipped down the drop and started the climb.
Heck it was brutal. Everyone was gasping, pausing now and again for breath. I’d take a few steps up, pause, breathe and keep going. Quite often I had to use my hands to climb and I was so grateful that it hadn’t rained lately because this climb on slippy mud would be treacherous. (Later on, I tried to calculate the gradient of the climb and my best effort says about 23% for 0.25 miles).
Eventually we got to the top (smiling through our teeth at the photographer) and walked a few minutes to steady our heart rates before starting what can only be called a sad shuffle along the ridge. The views, when I glanced up, were beautiful.
The drop down from the ridge was slippy and a little risky and then we ran on up a field, down a field and then along a seemingly endless collection of fields. It was mercifully flat, if not slightly downhill, but I felt like I was running on empty the whole time. At about M8, we turned onto a lane which climbed gently but steadily for about a mile and the death-march to the end began for me. Alex realised she could potentially go below 2 hours (this was her third time at the race) and, as agreed, she slowly edged away from me!
The final mile ran down a gully-trail again and then along some more fields until I saw the finish line in the distance. I literally had nothing left in me and I really wanted this to be over and finally it was, with Alex and my MRC teammates cheering me on from the sidelines! I’d run it in 2:04, which was far from impressive but I’m proud of the mental toughness I had to keep plodding along to the end.
The post-race shenanigans were great. A cool medal…
…a reunion with my puffy jacket for warmth and a warm village hall selling hot tea and the best bread pudding I’ve ever had in my life, seriously! We took MRC photos, Alex and I took selfies and then I got changed out of my cold, sweaty kit into dry clothes and slowly took myself home to my boys.
This was a really well organised race. It was very friendly and the race director was funny. It was incredibly well sign-posted, there were plenty of friendly encouraging marshals, medical staff on the route, two aid stations (water, jelly-babies, fruit pastilles) and a horde of race photographers to capture those
agonised grimaces happy smiles. The staging area was really well-organised and smooth, there were LOADS of portaloos and cake, hot drinks and bacon sarnies at the end. I cannot fault the organisation and I think the race cost me about 14 quid.
The RD had a great way of making sure people hung around for the awards ceremonies; he had three gift vouchers for free shoes from a local running shop that he raffled off at the end. As a result, he had over a hundred people applauding the whippet-like winners! Nice work.
I’ve not had a good race performance for a year now.
This isn’t particularly surprising given that I’ve done no real speed-work for a year now but I’m unimpressed with myself. I’ve been eating relatively low-carb since New Year and although I’ve succeeded in shifting those bonus pounds (!) I wonder if I need to up my carb levels a little? Is that why I had so little energy? Or was it a mental thing? I definitely wasn’t in the right head space for this race and wasn’t particularly for Avebury either.
In any case, it was a little depressing to be so slow from the start and to have so many people around me looking so much more comfortable throughout the race. I was really grateful to run with Alex for so long – the company made the world of difference.
This week I start training with my new coach with the goal of a 1.49 half marathon. I can’t deny I’m kind of wondering how on earth I’ll get fast again, but I’m going to give it the best possible shot I can. Let’s see what happens. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.