6th October 2018Crooked Tracks Wiltshire
Wet, cold, windy, wet, overcast, did I mention wet?
“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.”
Dr Seuss, The Cat in the Hat
|The dry bit|
Standing in a marquee, waiting for the brief, as the rain starts to lash down outside hopefully has not become a trademark of Crooked Tracks races, but it's edging that way. The forecast for the race day had predicted rain, every forecasting website, weather broadcast, soothsayer and Sharman said it would rain and on the walk from the car park to the start they were all proved correct. I quickly booked in, said hello to my friends helping with the race organisation before returning to the car for my kit, yes I should have brought it down on the first trip but the hill climb warmed my muscles for the journey ahead. Once again I was crewed by the very able Caroline Watson and, unlike Maria Harryman, she tells me how well I am doing and not "you've slowed down".
As the minutes ticked away until the 9am start it was apparent that something was not right. The medical cover was running late and without their attendance, the race was not going to start. We huddled in the marquee as medics finally arrived and Neil (RD) checked they were here for the race, once confirmed we were encouraged to leave the shelter for the race brief and at 9.24 the race was started, straight up the first hill towards the car park again.
|About to start - using the minimal approach|
|Climbing up from the A303|
|Arriving at CP1 (7.8 miles)|
At 10.6 miles, east of East Knoyle, the course turned southeast, through Newtown and on to Wardour, getting conveniently turned around in the ground of New Wardour Castle, a country house and former school, continuing south for a mile before heading west to Old Wardour Castle and checkpoint 2 at 16.7 miles. Again, Caroline had arrived in plenty of time to swap my soft bottle and supply of food but didn't stop me eating from the luscious spread supplied. As I was about to leave the checkpoint, FAC OFF elites Richard Corp and Roger Devereux turned up and after a man-hug, I set off again before I got too cold.
|Old Wardour Castle|
From Swallowcliffe the route loops around a field and heads towards the A30 then it doubles back almost on itself. At this point, there was a lack of yellow route markers and a group of runners stood looking for inspiration or divine intervention, in substitute for both I checked my GPS and led the group to a yellow marker some 100 metres up the trail. Tape and route markers used on races are often removed by walkers thinking they are tidying up, blown away by the elements or even removed by landowners. Most of the route was well marked but at a few key points, the marking could have been more prominent. The yellow tape was also hard to spot at times in the low light and autumn colours. Both points are already high on the "lessons learnt" list.
From the A30 the track headed north, downhill onto a narrow road until reaching checkpoint 3 at 22.6 miles, located in the pub car park of the Compass Inn, Sutton Mandeville. Again, the food and drinks on offer were outstanding. I looked around and decided today I need something more substantial. I filled my face with peanut butter and jam wraps and then back to Caroline's car to swap bottle. The rain had finally stopped, so I towelled myself off and changed my top and cleaned my glasses! The sports glasses are way better to run in but still need polishing once in a while. I felt a lot better for the quick change, added a pair of gloves and set off, almost the wrong way. This was another point where the signs could have been better, even the GPS seemed unsure. As I stood there Caroline appeared and pointed me in the right direction. Cheers, Caroline! Many people made that same error.
|Somewhere in the woods near Teffont Evias (apparently)|
From the checkpoint, we headed northeast across fields to Teffont Evias, looping back down to Lower Chicksgrove where the path leads north, up through the old RAF Chilmark site, with Danger signs on either side, the fenced-in path is a mile long and flat compared to most of the run. The fenced path ends at around the 27-mile mark and the route turns sharp left, heading west and back towards Ridge, picking up the same route as we had started on. The route then heads southwest, looping a field, before crossing another. Although I couldn't see the finish marker on my watch, a quick check of the ETA told me I was very close and I almost got distracted and took a wrong turn, the two girls that had been on my tail for the last mile had shot off at this point down the wrong track. I shouted to them and headed off in the right direction.
Climbing up over the last hill I spotted the car park ahead and knew it was all downhill from there, no seriously! At the carpark, I turned south and could even see the top of the marquee in the distance, I let the hill do the hard work but opened up as well as I can after 30 miles. I kept pushing, not wanting to check if the few runners that had been behind me were anywhere close, just run. Then I spotted Caroline part way up the track, shouting encouragement at me. With my few spare breaths I asked if anyone was near me? There wasn't, I had achieved my aim of only letting one person pass me in the last 10k.
I crossed the line, finishing (by my watch) in 6:13:54, and considering the conditions and it was only two weeks since Snowdon I was happy with the result.
After the race, a vegan hotpot was available with bread and butter, washed down with sweet tea! I had second helpings and cake. Luckily Caroline had managed to park close to the finish so I got changed and headed back for some more cake and tea, before hugs and farewells to my friends and crew.
|Chatting with Neil (RD) - what a guy|
|An undulating course|
112 started and 102 finishers. Finish time 6hrs 13 mins 54 seconds = 41/102
Ultimate Direction Waterproof Top, Asics dual skin shorts, Decathlon fleece tops, Saucony KOA ST, Naked Running Band
Tailwind, marmite wraps, peanut butter and jam wraps/sandwiches, fig rolls and flat coke.
Totally and utterly! The area is beautiful, the route is both challenging and delightful, a multi-terrain course that twists and turns through some of the most truly outstanding scenery in the South West. The food laid goes well above and beyond many races I have attended and the staff could not have been more helpful. Neil is aware that the course marking needs some attention for next year, but as an inaugural 50k race I have to give it top marks. Yes, some of the staff are my friends, but they are well aware that if the race had been a stinker, I would have reflected it here.
Neil stood on the finish line, in the wind and rain, and greeted every runner back through the arch. Only when the last runner finished did he allow for the volunteers to start packing up and the marquee to be taken down. A friend and a gentleman, thank you for your brilliant races. See you in January for a few hills!
Strava - don't laugh