Sunday, 22 July 2012

Woody's Toony Trot 10K

Grantham Athletic & Running Club

This was a Wednesday evening trail race hosted by the unusually named Toonies Express running club,  a multi disciplined running club based at Sleaford. The race was run across a 10k course, mainly off road from Woodland Waters Camping and Leisure Park. The race reminded me of the many mid week fell races that I used to race in the Peak District, simple races for a small entry fee and designed to make the most of long summer evenings. Despite good intentions the weather on the night was not good. "The jet stream is moving" so we are told, it was obviously not moving fast enough. I returned from work intending to cycle the 6 or so miles to Woody's. No sooner had I changed when the skies opened in spectacular style. I decided to cycle anyway. It was warm in that sticky kind of way and although I was going to get wet, I knew I wouldn't get cold. I set off for Woody's before 6pm and arrived some 30 minutes later.     

Many Grantham runners had turned out and we assembled for a team photo ahead of the race start. After the start, a part circumference of a Lake took runners into a wood which came out on a typical rural track. The tractor track was to represent the majority of the route thereafter. The tracks required runners to decide whether to run in either of the dug out tyre trenches or to run across the raised centre part which was perhaps flatter but often covered in grass. The tracks were not the only obstacle on this course. Race Director Smith had warned runners during the pre race brief of the many rabbit holes hidden under knee length grass on the tracks in the upper fields. I'm usually concerned about turned ankles so I took note. 
Within a few 'K' the tractor track gave way to a tarmac road. I was able to increase the pace, thankful for a bit of even ground. The route ran over the next obstacle, the railway track. Although the race brief included an assurance that the race had been planned mindful of the rail timetable, I was later to learn that Ben Hatherley's impressive performance included a wait at the barrier for a passing train! 

After the railway came more tractor tracks up a steady incline that carried on for about the next 3 or 4 K. It was often difficult to run on the uneven ground. I was passed on the climb by Paul Davidson of Grantham AC. Running cheerily passed he pointed in the direction of a distant telecommunications mast. "That's about the turn point" I was told "there's a steep descent at about that point". The mast seemed a long way away and for the first time I was able to get the race distance into perspective. I'd gone off fairly fast and was struggling with the incline and the uneven underfoot conditions. I had pressure from a runner behind. He was close enough for me to be able to hear his breath and yet the narrow uneven path meant he would have struggled to get passed. I either had to give way or increase the pace. I increased the pace at a time when I least felt like it. 

The telecommunications mast came and a few twist and turns later bought us to the top of the promised descent. I decide I would try and rekindle my fell running pedigree. I detached mind from body and catapulted myself down the steep tarmac path with arms held high a loft for balance. The technique worked as I managed to put distance between me and the chasing racer. The track evened out on to a road. It was a fairly straight road that was to continue all the way back towards the wood near the finish. I knew there were three Grantham runners in front. I looked ahead but couldn't see them. The nearest runner was too far ahead to catch and so it was a case of maintaining a pace so as not to be overtaken. Soon I was back in the wood just as the rain began to fall again. I exited the wood before the last half lap of the lake to the finish. I was glad to finish, it was a tougher course than I had expected and I think I had mentally shortened the distance in my mind. Stuart Sinclair had the best of the Grantham runners races to finish fourth in 43:31 after a dual between himself and the runner who placed third. Ben Hatherley continues to improve finishing 5th just over a minute later. Paul Davidson ran strong in 46:11 in ninth place ahead of me in 10th with a time of 46:56. Grantham running club dominated the ladies race with Catherine Payne winning in 49:53 and Helen Brown third in 51:26. A big club turnout prompted many other good performances. Full results here. 
After the race we milled about admiring our souvenirs. Finishers received either a coaster or a wallet emblazoned with the Toonies trade mark. The rain continued to fall as I walked to retrieve my bike from the back of Ben's van (thanks Ben). The van was also used as an impromptu changing shelter from the rain, allowing athletes to put on dry clothes ahead of a well deserved pint in the leisure park's bar. I cycled home at speed chasing the light and had to resort to pavements just before Grantham.   

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