Saturday, 17 November 2012

Dirt Half Challenge 2012

So I finally got my racing shoes on again, this time for a trail half marathon. The race was the dirt half challenge in Leighton Buzzard. I quite fancied something a little way from home and in new running surroundings. As it turns out, half the course is on the canal towpath of which I spend a good portion of my training on back home on the Basingstoke Canal. The rest of the course was great though with some good interesting woodland trails with testing undulations, tree roots and muddy terrain underfoot. The route was fantastic along with the organisation, but it was a bad day at the races for me.

Race HQ

I'm probably being a bit hard on myself because I went into this race believing I could bag a PB...I was a minute off! My previous PB though was at a road race so I guess I should not expect to be as quick on the trails.
On your marks...
The first half of the race is quick. I managed to get towards the front and although the route picks up the narrow canal towpath soon into the race the pace was quick at the front. Actually for me the pace was too quick as I clocked up the first three miles with 7:15 minute mile pacing. I stopped briefly at the first water stop to take a gel early to fuel me later in the race. I slowed a little for the next few miles but kept a good pace going on the flat terrain. The towpath is well maintained and consists of a narrow tarmac path with grass verges either side to allow for overtaking.

The second half of the race was more demanding as we headed into the countryside. The terrain changes to muddy paths and woodland trails and gets more undulating. There is also a steep hill to get up. It was this hill that cost me. I hate when I'm forced to walk in races or even in training but that was  what i had to do today. My thighs were burning, I'd set out too fast and now I had thrown the towel in. I managed to run part the hill but lost a couple of minutes, it was then I thought 'sod it' I'm just going to slow down and enjoy the rest of the race. The next stage of the race was great, some quite technical trails with fast down hills and tree roots to mastermind and the route continued to be undulating. There were also muddy fields to run through which continued to sap the energy of my legs.
Muddy fields ahead
 The route then picks up the canal towpath again for the last couple of miles. I got chatting to a fellow runner which was great to distract from the tiredness as we exchanged stories and times of previous races. Nearing the end I asked her what the timing was (my endomondo app on the phone shut down after the first few miles) We were at 1:43:00 with a quarter of a mile to go. With this news I instantly sprinted off with my PB of 1:44:50 still an outside shot. I fell short by a minute and my fellow runner deservedly sprinted past me to the finish. I congratulated her for a great finish (Grrrr!) collected my medal and headed straight to the fine spread of cakes that had been laid on by the organisers.

Rather than beating myself up about missing out on the PB, I tried to constructively learn from the experience.
l  I had not given the course enough respect.

l  I had not done enough hill work recently ( Something I used to spend a lot of time on.)

l  I need to work on strengthening my quads and core, both of which felt weak and were tested on the trails today.

I've not had a bad race before. Every race I've run I continue to improve on my times but for the first time I haven't. From that point of view its been a great race as I've learnt a lot about myself.

I will definitely be back next year, the organisation, facilities and race staff were great. The course was great and so to was that table of cakes waiting at the finish line!





  1. Hi Ian! What a great blog to read! I have just read it out to my husband who was looking after the children whilst I enjoyed myself on the same run! I was that lady you ran the last few miles with and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing stories with you! I hope I didn't hold you back from getting your PB and you certainly did sprint off when I told you how long we had taken so far! My intention was to try and catch you and help you sprint that last bit (I always get told I sprint finish by the David Lloyd Redway Runners I run with - my signature I guess - lol! I guessed you were chasing a time but if like me, it was the first time you have ever just enjoyed the experience and taken in the scenery rather than gasping round the whole race, take it as that! It was a brilliant day and thanks for making it special for me too! Jen x

  2. Hi Jen, Brilliant, thanks for finding the blog. Sorry for shooting off the last quarter of a mile but when you told me the time of 1:43 I suddenly thought of the PB. You certainly did not hold me back for the PB, chatting was a great distraction from the tiredness. Your sprint finish was impressive :-) Will definitely be back next year. Thanks for the comment. Are you on Twitter? Great running community on there.Keep in touch...Ian