Monday, 6 July 2009

Challenge in the Cheviots! (PART 2)

Well then! Where were we? Ah yes, at the start of the Chevy Chase in Wooler. Lets have an equipment check. Brooks Cascadia 4 shoes - "check". Brooks Glycerin socks - "check", Brooks shorts - "check", Brooks base layer top - "check", Run Geordie Run t-shirt - "check"!

I was quite relieved to finally get the run underway and it was quite a good start compared to my practice run start with the first 5.5 miles done in 01:14:43. The scenery was breath taking in the baking hot heat but I tried not to get taken in by it too much. Concentration on the immediate 4 feet in front of me was needed if I was to push on and beat that 6 hour cut off time!

It didn't take me long to figure out that the good thing about not being at the front of the pack was that there was a canny well trodden path to follow. I didn't have this luxury on the last practice run.

5.5 miles took me to the base of The Cheviot or The Cheviot Knee as it is called. It took almost 40 minutes to do the next 2 miles to the Cheviot summit. This was quite a hard slog with a slight head wind and the hunger pangs really set in half way up. As soon as I reached the checkpoint at the summit I decided to have a 5 minute sarnie break. Katy had made me some peanut butter sandwiches and they went down an absolute treat. I also took on board an energy gel and some electrolyte tablets. I set off down the other side of the Cheviot and then up to Hedgehope Hill where I reached the 10 mile point with 03:05:12 on the clock. "That's the hard part over" I thought. I was ever so pleased at having made a much better job at climbing down the Cheviot than my last attempt.

The next 2 miles to Langlee Crags took almost 40 minutes but by now I had a very wide grin on my face knowing that with 8 miles left to go and 2 /14 hours left on the clock I had a great chance of success. One thing quite apparent at this stage was how strong I felt. But then I suppose you would feel strong if you'd ran over 1000 miles in the last 35 weeks. With 12 miles of the most difficult terrain and elevation I'd ever faced done, I really didn't feel that much less energetic than at the start. I had the same feeling at the 14 mile checkpoint at Brands Corner. I made it here in 04:08:48. By now I realised that I was almost certainly going to finish under 6 hours and, if anything, I was guilty of taking my foot off the gas a little.

I made it to Hell Path, the 17 mile point, in 00:04:57. By this point I was all out of water and there were emergency rations only at the Hell Path checkpoint. I decided that there were probably a few thirst runners behind me so didn't take on any more water. The climb back up Hell Path in the direction of the finish line back at Wooler was accompanied with lots of signs with quotes and sayings on. The one that sticks in my mind was "If you're going through hell, keep going. - Winston Churchill.". I thought this was a really nice touch and made that mile go by quite quickly as I was concentrating on reading all of the signs.

The next 2 miles (18 and 19) were very straightforward and I continued to fell very good about myself. The only problem now was that my Garmin GPS watch had died a death. Perhaps it was the heat that caused the poor thing to pack up on me. Me and it have been through nearly 4000 miles together. Now I've rarely experienced the kind of thirst that hit me on the last mile. The sudden feeling of dehydration hit me like a ton of bricks. Boy was I thirsty! I got close to the finish when I met Ian Harding who had come to see if I was ok. Ian had finished in 03:19:45 but had had a few problems navigating the course and was disqualified as a result of missing a checkpoint. I was gutted for him but then quickly asked "Does that mean I beat you?". "Yes!" he said, "and you have my permission to tell everyone at work and write about it on your blog". What a scalp! This is the same Ian Harding that finished 2nd in the Ovingham 10k last Wednesday and the same Ian Harding that smashed the Druridge Bay 10k record in May. But seriously! I'll be dining out on this one for years to come! My running pals at Northern Rock aren't going to hear the last of this one in a hurry!

The final few hundred yards were done with a massive sense of relief. My final time of 05:32:42 was well within the dreaded 6 hour cut off time. I was very impressed at being handed a print out showing all of my split times at the finish line. I was so thirsty though and headed straight for the drinks. 5 cups later and I was still thirsty so I filled up my Camelbak and supped on that until I had my fill. In all of my excitement I had to go back and claim my very stylish Chevy Chase t-shirt. Another one for the collection! Very nice! Even nicer was the buffet that Wooler running club had put on. I had a couple of lovely sarnies washed down with tea from a proper mug. You don't get this at the end of many races! Brilliant!

On reflection, I think I ran the perfect race for my style and ability. The amount of effort in each section was just about right and apart from the dehydration near the end I couldn't believe how good I felt all the way round the course. This was in stark contrast to the practice run 3 weeks ago.

Talking to Ian today, he has already vowed to have a crack at this race again next year and put right the wrong of being disqualified. Will I be joining him? Absolutely! Count me in.

For a full list of split times and some excellent photos please visit the Wooler Running Club website.