Sunday, 10 February 2013

Caythorpe Dash 2013 - Windy, Wet and Plenty of Mud

The Caythorpe Dash is a friendly, off-road half marathon now organised by the Parish Council. It cost £20 to enter the event which in my view is a bit steep. That said, I did have the opportunity to enter in advance for a £5 reduction. Races generally seem to be getting more expensive which is a shame if it deters entrants. I suppose the bottom line is that we have a choice. I exercised mine by handing over the entry fee so that I could punish myself through 13 miles of cold, wet, muddy Lincolnshire territory, there's never any sense involved in these decisions
Race Route
Snow had been forecast to coincide with the start of the race but at 11am in the quaint village of Caythorpe, Lincolnshire only rain fell from the sky. It was cold and wet, the kind of wet that hangs in the air all day. I've run this event under its previous banner, "the Caythopre Canter" today's event was run across a slightly amended version of the previous route. There was a low key race start after which perhaps 150 or so runners set off from Caythorpe through Stubton, Gelston, Hough and back to Caythorpe. 
I started at a reasonable pace in the knowledge that the second half of this event is harder than the first. I watched as Stuart Sinclair, another Grantham runner shot off in the distance. My legs felt a bit heavy and lazy after a long training run the previous Thursday but the legs improved as the race progressed. Most of this route crosses rough tractor tracks and ploughed fields. The tyre trods on the tractor tracks which run parallel with each other were very muddy and the raised grassy part in between was similarly slippy. There is a skill to be used on these events in looking ahead to see the least muddy line whilst at the same time concentrating on your next footplant. Generally I preferred to take the route of the runner in front. 
Leaving Caythorpe
By Stubton my initial laziness was gone and I started to pass runners in front. At an extended section I could see perhaps six or seven runners and it seemed ambitious to try and pass all of them but the theme of today's race was that I felt steadily stronger as the race progressed. On the way to Gelston there was a nightmare of a hill. The track rose steadily at an incline which on a better day would have tested my ability to keep running. Today it was a quagmire of ploughed mud. Every step forward meant either a slip back or a slip to the side. The clods of mud gathered like a snowball around each foot.  Again I watched my companions in front in the hope that they had picked the best line. I managed to pass another on the incline but only because the runner had come to an unintended stop ankle deep in the sludge. 
I was more than grateful to reach the top and emerge in the village of Gelston. It was good to see Tracy,  I wearily asked where I was, "Gelston" was the answer. I was non the wiser, I should have know better than to ask where I was in a place that I don't know. I was later to learn that as I wrestled up the nightmare hill, Stuart Sinclair who had sped off earlier was wrestling a dog a few minutes in front. The dog had emerged from a yard and run alongside Stuart before turning on him. Thankfully the K9 had gone by the time that I passed the same place a few minutes later and Stuart escaped injury. 
Top O''Th' Hill
From Gelston a short section follows to Hough. The route continues to climb but along a more respectable path and a less severe incline. There was a gaggle of spectators in the village. I refused water, keen to hit the last section as hard as I could. The route crosses a grave yard. In more later news I was to learn that first placing Alan Oliver of Sleaford Striders (and last week's winner of the Rauceby Ripper) took a wrong turn after the church yard and ran a fair way in the wrong direction off the course. The "diversion" cost him the race win, I understand that he was a fair way in front at the time when he went the wrong way. Alan was understandably knarked off when I spoke to him at the finish. A consequence of having the talent to lead is that you can't follow those in front which can be a big handicap on these rural events.         
I ran on down the slippery cobblestones towards the even more slippery wooden bridge. I had just passed two more Sleaford runners and as I ran off the wooden bridge I heard someone come to grief behind. One of the runners that I just overtaken slid clean off the wooden bridge. The bridge had no sides and he duly ended up in the stream! A quick query back confirmed that the runner was ok. As I glanced behind I got a momentary picture of the runner scrambling back on to the bridge which now seems funny (because I know he was alright). 
Stuart and I
I had by now passed my intended targets. There was about two miles left to run up another gradual grassy incline back to Caythorpe. I hadn't expected to see anyone else up in front and I was surprised when I glanced ahead and saw the familiar green strip of Grantham Running Club. It was Stuart Sinclair and sadly he'd blown up. Stuart was a fair way in front and I doubted that I'd catch him but  Stuart's was having a bad day, first the dog and now a blow up with less than a mile to go. I passed and offered as much encouragement as my laboured breath would allow. We crossed the final muddy field and I was grateful to reach the first tarmac road in Caythorpe. The final climb had taken it out of me and I hoped the route back through the village would be short. A few twists and turns and a shuttle down a passageway bought me to the final stretch to the finish. I think I finshed fifth (time and position tbc) and I collected a medal before greeting Stuart. I was grateful to finish today, I think we all were The race had been run in tough underfoot conditions requiring endurance rather than speed.
Any bad taste of the entry fee was off set to some extent by the excellent tasting food. Runners had the option of two delicious home made soups. I had carrot and corriander. Followed by Lincolnshire sausages served hot dog style with or without onions. Finally there was bread and butter pudding with custard, apple crumble or tart. The bread and butter pudding went down a treat. There were showers in the village hall which are always welcome and especially so today given the conditions. I chatted to the race winner, an American Air forceman based in the UK. Other Grantham runners returned to take part in the post race fun all grateful to be away from the cold outdoor conditions.     



  1. Paul, thanks for the great summary of the Caythorpe Dash! I am that US Air Force Airman, who due to the unfortunate off-course trek by Alan Oliver, was the first to cross the finish line. Indeed he was about one minute or so in front of me near the 10 mile mark, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at the finish and was declared the winner. I appreciate the organization of the event, and in particular the warm soup and tea afterwards, as the weather was a touch unpleasant. Nearing the end of my time in the UK as I will leave this summer, I will miss the great running communities across the island.
    Chris Bennett

  2. Paul

    Great summary of the race. I used it to test myself coming back from a bad ankle injury and it was certainly a test for it. Sleaford half next week?

    Can you tell me how you got access to photographs or were they taken by a friend?

    Thanks, Paul

  3. Thanks Chris

    Great race or "good job" as i think might be appropriate! I read a review of your London to Brighton which was interesting and I see you placed well there too.

    Enjoy the rest of your stay. I hope to run in the States someday...

    1. Thanks Rushi, London to Brighton was my first race beyond a 50K and I really enjoyed the experience. I for the most part have moved on from road marathons, and find the trail experience much more rewarding. My goal for 2013 is 20 '13s'......that is 20 races of 13 miles or more. With that, the Sleaford Half next weekend is on my diary.

      Perhaps I will see you there, and also in the states some day as well?


    2. Good luck at Sleaford - I'm doing the Belvoir Challenge but I might come to Sleaford to watch.

  4. Paul - Thanks

    Good luck at Sleaford I did it last year but this year i've entered the Belvior Challenge instead. Its a race i've been meaning to do for a while but always missed the closing date.

    My partner took the photos. I noticed a few photographers on the route but I haven't seen anything online.

  5. Hi Paul sorry for last d reply Internet problems . I done a reccee on saturday from checkpoint 7 to the end . Tough underfoot indeed waterlogged , mud , deep mud flooded paths and rocks . I clocked 55.5 miles on garmin with 9898 feet of accent . Did kast 15 miles in Darkness. Felt ok througout .but tried to run yesterday and my foot has swollen up probly due to the rough terrain on Saturday hope its not a SF

    1. Wow it sounds tough. I suspect there was more hill than London too? That terrain is bound to slow us down. Hoping your foot is recovering. I'm doing the Belvior Challlenge tomorrow.

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  7. Apologies it was checkpoint 8 lucket my starting point

  8. Good luck with belvour . Yes the hills are big even from the last checkpoint to the end you climb 200m in about 1.5 m . A steady first half with extreme caution is paramount