Hobbit up a Hill – A Runner’s View of the Gibside Fruit Bowl Trail Race

Report submitted by Neil Capstick

Overall Score (out of a possible 35)

 

25.5

   

PB potential

0 – the only way you are going to get a PB here is if it is your first ever race or you are jammed full of illegal substances

Atmosphere

5 – lots of encouragement and shouting

Organisation

5 – seamless

Scenery

4 – hard to beat and probably amongst the best in the UK

Value for money

3.5 – good shirt, no medal but not an expensive race

Beginner friendliness

3 – you would need to be comfortable running the distance regularly

Club support & social

5

   

In short

A tough, physically demanding run set in the beautiful North Durham hills

In full: Even though still nowhere near fully fit I had to enter the Gibside Fruitbowl Race. It is only two miles away and so is within the Shire boundary and of course – us Hobbits just love, love hills!

I nearly didn’t run it though. I had run Darlington Park Run the day before and it had not gone well. I posted a poor time, was passed by a guy pushing a buggy but worst of all I had developed a pain in my right hamstring.

I decided to fortify myself with……………..drugs. Mrs C has some industrial strength painkillers and so I took those, did 30 minutes stretching and then was out of the door – Tantobie’s answer to Linford Christie. (Mrs C said I was more like Tony Christie but her opinion is invalid.)

I arrived with around 45 minutes to spare, passed pleasantries with a few people and soaked up the atmosphere. Car parking was painless and well marshalled. All was good.

Then we were off.

Now this race has a fierce reputation for hills and so I thought I had better take it easy at first. Hills, hamstring and other things beginning with H needed to be treated with utmost care. I started from almost the very back of the race so as to keep out of any hill related accidents and plodded on. Mile one though is very flat and it was very tempting to go a little quicker. I felt strong and fit and had to reign it in. Mr Garmin said 8:56 for mile one – going so steady was killing me. 1.5 miles in and still no hills: was this a massive Bounders joke, and there were actually no hills?

Then, like Vesuvius emerging from the mist, I caught sight of the first hill. It climbed for almost a mile and rose 370 ft. That said, it was early in the race and remember Hobbits like hills! I actually covered mile two in exactly the same time as mile one which is remarkable considering how steep and long it actually was. There is something about hills that gives you a great feeling of achievement. Providing they are not too steep, and this one was not, you can really dig in and eat away at the elevation, and the feeling when you have conquered it is difficult to replicate, though I did have a similar sense of achievement the night I ate 100 Jaffa cakes in one sitting.

Immediately that you finish the “up” there is a down, and it is a good old canter for about half a mile. The downhill stops and rises very, very suddenly though, no flat running in between, no gentle handshake and an introduction like “Hello, my name is Mr Hill, mind how you go”. No, just straight into a mile long climb that takes its toll on legs and lungs. This time I slowed by a minute.

I was going well though and still felt strong. I could have gone a little faster but was mindful of everybody saying how brutal the course was and something sinister about “the hill at the end”. I had no problems with my injury niggles and was running pretty well. My only real problems concerned my footing and the downhill sections.

I was wearing Saucony-Go Anywhere-trail shoes. I think they were a little too trail as every now and again, when running on stone or a hard surface, they would slip a little. I think I need a pair in between these and pure road shoes. This did not help the downhills either and I had a couple of glute clenching moments as I hared downhill. I have only just begun to run fast downhill. Many runners, and I used to be one, slow down a little and take it easy when faced with a descent. I have learnt to make the most of the downhill section. I still take a breather but certainly push on much faster than I used to. These downhills were very steep and on least two occasions I just had to freewheel and hope I didn’t fall over: the grip on the shoes was so poor, I simply could not stop.

The hill that showed me Gibside was a real contender and not just a jumped up street fighter arrived, without warning, just before mile five. Oh my word, how we laughed about it afterwards. (Not). It was short and very painful, so painful that I almost walked – but Hobbits don’t walk!

Seeing other runners in front of you disappearing around the bend and still climbing has a massive effect on your will to keep going. This hill was the Mike Tyson of Gibside, but like Mike, it was eventually beaten.

As suddenly as Mike had arrived, he was gone and there was another descent. I made good time and at the bottom there was a good old stretch of flat running alongside the river. It was nice to be on level ground for the first time in about three and a half miles but this stretch was quite windy and the wind did steal a few seconds from all of us. The wind even managed to steal a woolly hat from a runner’s head and plonk it precariously close to the river. The runner actually went back for it – ha! Loser, another position place up for me was my thought on the matter.

By now I had tired. My legs belonged to an 80 year old who wanted them back and they were complaining very loudly. I had no option but to slow. That said, it was my fastest mile at 7:50.

Just around now my Garmin shivered on my wrist and told me, with a breezy smile, that we were at mile six. I had overhead race organiser Amanda say the race was closer to seven miles than six, but even so I figured the pain would come to a stop soon. How wrong can a Hobbit be!

Mike Tyson was but a memory now because what loomed before me was the Floyd Mayweather of hills. Lasting no more than about one tenth of a mile, this colossus rose about 130ft. I was also about to make a terrible, earth shattering discovery and the world was about to fall out my bottom – Hobbits do walk! Defeated and battered I walked up the hill. Floyd defeated me…this time.

Once up the hill I had nothing left. The final straight was just under half a mile long and ever so slightly downhill, but I had nothing left to give and just ambled toward the finish line, a broken corpse and a shadow of the runner who had stood less than an hour ago at the start line.

Gibside 1 Hobbit 0

Support and running groupies

The support was fantastic. I had so many cheers I thought there was someone else called Neil running behind me. (Thinking about it there maybe was). I am sorry for not acknowledging you at the time but as a new member I do not yet recognise everyone. Plus, sweat in the eyes does not help one to distinguish faces. Thanks though, it was all terrific and much needed.

The course

The course was very clearly marked and the marshals placed at exactly the right points. The marshals also cheered a great deal and must have lost their voices by the end of it. Thanks to you too.

Tee Shirt

This is ace and I especially like “Brought to you by Blackhill Bounders.”

Refreshments

I am not sure how many water stations there were but on short runs like this I don’t think you need lots anyway. Can we have hot pies next year?

Time

Runners are always keen to know their times and the race results were posted quickly.

I had a Chip time of 59:11 which I am more than happy with considering the hills, wind, lack of training and lingering injuries.

18th Gibside Fruit Bowl

Thanks to each and every runner, volunteer, and supporter, at Gibside yesterday. You all played your part in another successful Fruit Bowl Trail Race.

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The race was won by Dominic Munnelly of Tyne Bridge Harriers,with a chip time of 40:52. 2nd place went to Martin Barwood of Chichester Runners, with a time of 41:15, and Michael Barker of Sunderland Harriers was 3rd, with a time of 41:26.

First lady was Jane Hodgson of Morpeth Harriers, with a time of 46:21. 2nd place went to Elaine Lesley of Jarrow & Hebburn AC, in a time of 49:32, and Hannah Shillitoe of Heaton Harriers was 3rd, with a time of 49:55.

Thanks must also go to

  • Our co-hosts, The National Trust
  • The Race Officials
  • Northumbrian Water
  • Start Fitness
  • Results Base
  • The Red Cross
  • Mother Nature (for the magnificent rainbow that was on show all morning

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Full results are available here

Information for Gibside Marshals

Please can you all be at the start/finish area for 8:30am on Sunday morning, for the marshal briefing. Try to car share wherever possible, and park off the Gibside estate, as all on-site parking is for runners only. There is some parking on Stirling Lane, in Rowlands Gill, just off the Derwent Walk.

If you haven’t already volunteered, and are free, we would be very appreciative of your help.

See you all on Sunday.

Dates for your Diary

Derwnt WalkHead Torch Pub Run – Tuesday 21st October

Starting from Ebchester Station at 7pm, this will be a predominantly off-road run of appoximately 5 miles. Head torches are an absolute necessity, and depending on whether the weather has been dry, or wet, trail shoes may be an advantage. Afterwards, join us for refreshments and a natter in the Derwent Walk Inn.

 Annual Remembrance Day Run to High Cup Nick – Sunday 9th November

On Sunday 9th of November there will be the annual Remembrance Day run from Cow Green Reservoir, across the fells to High Cup Nick, stopping at 11am to place poppies and hold a two minute silence to remember those who have died whilst serving their country.

 This is quite a challenging run of approximately 14 miles, but it will be ran at an easy pace, with plenty of stops to take in the scenery – mainly across fells and moorland, using parts of the Pennine Way. Please come prepared for the terrain and possible adverse weather conditions, with trail shoes (or old trainers), plenty of layers and a waterproof. Also, bring a change of clothing for afterwards as you will get wet and muddy! Legend has it (as some people are yet to see it for themselves, as it’s often shrouded in fog), that High Cup Nick is a massive glacial valley on the edge of the Pennines. If the weather is in our favour, it is a pretty spectacular view.Poppies 
 
As it will take roughly an hour to get to Cow Green Reservoir, it will
 be an early start. Meeting at 7.30am at the old Queens Road Surgery car park, in Blackhill. We usually stop off at the Langdon Beck Hotel afterwards for refreshments, so bring some pennies, and more importantly… don’t forget your poppies!
 

Christmas Headtorch Pasty Run – Friday 5th December

The next Pasty Run to Gibside will take place on Friday 5th December. Meeting, as usual, at Shotley Station at 6:30 pm. to run along the Derwent Walk to Rowlands Gill. There may well be a group running from the sports centre also – further details to follow.

Headtorches, or headlamps will be required for this run. There will also be a tailrunner/bike, to ensure  no-one gets lost or picked off by creatures lurking in the woods! We’d like to give this run a festive feel, so dig out your Santa hats and fairy lights.

As usual, please leave your pasty choice in the comments, or see Sara. There is a choice of Cornish, or cheese and onion.

NEHL Cramlington – Saturday 11th October, 2014

Report submitted by Neil Capstick

A Hobbit runs up a hill

I have always avoided cross country. Not because I thought it wouldbe hard – all running is hard – or at least it’s as hard as you make it. No, I avoided it because I was under the misapprehension that it was only two miles or so. It seemed a lot of time and effort for two miles. Plus, I don’t run to keep fit, I don’t run to meet people, I don’t run to clear my head and I don’t run to de-stress. I run because without running I am a really fat little ginger bloke and two miles does not burn many calories! It’s why I run long distances: calories, calories, calories.

Getting there and parking up.

I had a little trouble finding the venue, 50 minutes of trouble to be precise, and stumbled across the Lend Lease car park just as I had decided to head home. It was perhaps a 10 minute walk from the car park to the race venue and there was more than sufficient parking at £1 per vehicle.

Pre-race

I didn’t know what to expect but was impressed with the organisation, although three Portaloos for about 1,400 people is not good!

The team tents were in the centre of the course and so you had to cut across the actual course to gain access to the team tents. I thought this a little odd but to be fair it was fairly easily navigated.

I found the Bounders tent and obtained my number from Mr B, pinned it on my shirt and after 30 minutes or so joined the assembly for the team photo.

I had spoken to a couple of the old hands about whether to go for spikes or trail shoes (I had brought both). The consensus was that either would do but that it could be a little slippy in places. I opted for short (5mm spikes). The decision was not particularly scientific. It was simply that I had not previously run in spikes and so I figured that a relatively dry course would at least provide an opportunity to see if there was anything I needed to change and if they would be comfy.

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The Race

As I approached the start line I knew that I was going to become intimate with pain. For so many reasons, I should not have been running this now and would have been better off waiting a month or so.

But then we were off. After around 100 yards I knew, without any doubt, that it was a mistake. My ankles and feet were not ready for this yet. Two years of being incorrectly encased in support shoes and with inserts, meant that every deviation from “flat” was like a razor blade in my ankle and Achilles. Like an inmate from an open prison on a day out, I looked for an escape route. Could I duck out early and save my feet and legs? No, there was no way to get out. I was stuck in the middle of the pack and so I had to carry on. With luck I would be able to pull out after lap 1.

The laps are long. Two miles of undulations with one real climb, but the worst thing about laps is seeing others coming in the opposite direction. On the first lap this is not too bad but on lap 2 you know how far it is and it is unbelievable that other runners are so very far in front of you. Even if I cut across the track and missed some of the course out they would soon leave me behind. The other demoralising element is when the medium and fast pack runners come flying past. How on earth do they run that fast?

The course was not muddy, it was not windy and it was not raining. In fact the course was dry and the sun was shining very strongly. This was not so much Cross Country, but more Mildly Irritated Country.

On the second lap I wanted to walk up the only real hill. I had to have a word with myself. I carried on running but if it had been a training run I think I would have walked. I was feeling pretty bad at this point. I start all of my races slowly. I struggle with my breathing and it takes me around 2 miles or so to get into my rhythm. It’s why I prefer the longer distances and why my times are marginally better for the longer races. I had expected that after the first lap proceedings would be as normal, but it was not to be. I was averaging around 8:15 minute miles which on reflection for XC was not too bad for me, but it felt tough, very tough.

I did begin to pick up about half way around the final lap. This was good. More like the days of old I could feel myself getting stronger, but alas, this time it was too late. I ran on and suddenly spotted a very old guy wearing a Bounders Vest. It was Stoo and he is indeed very old (exactly six months older than me!!) It gave me a much needed target and I set off in an attempt to chase him down. The trouble was that I needed to make up about six hundred yards and I kept losing sight of him. I ran on, up the walking hill again, round a tight left hander at the top and then I could see him. I was within 150 yards. I strode on and hammered it out along the flat and relatively near the finish was ready to go past. Trouble was, just before the finish straight, which is slightly downhill, the course swings at about 90 degrees right and goes uphill. I eased off: there was no way I could get past him on the hill.

We cleared the brow of the hill and I could see the finish line clearly. I decided to kick and sailed past Stoo and another guy. Trouble was, I completely mis-judged where the actual line was and had to watch as both of them came back and passed me – hey ho, what a gonk!

Then it was a walk back to the tent to change.

Support

The support was great. The Bounders ladies and juniors were in fine form and must have needed some Strepsils after the race because they shouted so loudly. There was support from others too, including some from my old club TBH. I don’t know the names of all those who cheered but thank you whoever you are – it was much needed.

Summary

  • The support was great
  • The race was well organised but poorly signposted (even though over 1,000 other souls found it easily)
  • The course was not really tough in terms of climbs
  • In my non-professional opinion don’t run XC if
    • You have weak ankles or
    • Dodgy hamstrings or
    • Tight calf muscles or shin splints
  • The atmosphere was great with spectators cheering on other clubs and not just their own
  • I found it a little boring running three laps, but that may have been because I was so near the back and was passed by so many better runners
  • I wore 5mm spikes and should probably have used my trail shoes as the soles of my feet felt some sharp jolts on some of the harder ground

Whilst reflecting about the race on Sunday I had more or less decided not to run again and that XC was not for me. As the day wore on though this did change. I was incredibly disappointed with my position – 517th from 590 with a time of 50:42 – and I think that, coupled with the sore ankles made me feel sorry for myself.

Will I run the other fixtures? Probably. My ankles and return to fitness should continue to improve and a calorie is a calorie after all!

Perkins Great Eastern Run – Sunday 12th October, 2014

Report submitted by Nicola Gloyne

The Race

Perkins Great Eastern Run (Peterborough Half Marathon)

Overall Score (out of a possible 35)

 

28

PB Potential

5

Atmosphere

5

Organisation

5

Scenery

2

Value for Money

5 – great run, t shirt & medal for £23

Beginner Friendliness

5

Club Support & Social

1

In Short

A well organised, fast, flat half. Great for a first timer!!

In full: I did this run back in 2012 for my first half marathon. My friend lives in Stamford about 30 mins drive from Peterborough. She had entered it so I thought, why not, lets give it a go. Because it was the first ever half I did, it feels a bit special to me so for the third year in a row I made the journey down the A1.

My sister was doing this one as her first ever half marathon, recommended by me, so we met in the beautiful village of Ryhall to take over Helen’s cottage for the evening.

My alarm went off just after 7am on race day. I knew immediately that a pizza laced with chillies, 3 large glasses of red, and half a bottle of Cava the evening before hadn’t been the best idea I’d ever had. My head felt quite fuzzy and my stomach, well the less said about that the better.

After a couple of Paracetamol, a shower, 3 pints of water and a Greggs pasty, I was starting to feel normal again. It was clear by now that the forecasters had got the weather wrong and it looked like we were in for a glorious day.

We arrived in Peterborough at about 9.15am and parked up. There were loads of parking spaces and we got parked quite close to the start. The start area was already very busy and there were lots of food stalls and entertainment for those friends and family who were just there to support.

At about 10 o’clock we popped our bags into the baggage area and went to stand in our appropriate pens. I opted for the 1hr 45mins and Jaq queued in the 2hr one. At 10.30am prompt the race was under way. We filtered out of the pens in order and jogged the short distance under the start.

In short, this isn’t the most scenic route I’ve ever done but it’s not a bad one either. You go right through the city centre and along past the parks and wind your way through residential streets. It’s very flat and to my surprise I was managing to keep my pace to just under 8 minute miles. I haven’t felt very strong or fit recently and I doubted very much I’d be able to keep it up.

The sun was shining and there was a lovely cool breeze and I was enjoying myself though, so I thought I’d just keep it up as long as I could. There has always been plenty of support along the route, with people gathering outside their homes to cheer you on along the way. Even last year when the rain was torrential! One family had set up huge speakers in their garden and were blasting out music, and children lined the sides of the roads wanting to slap the hands of the runners as they passed. Once or twice, total strangers shouted ‘well done Blackhill’ and that helped me along the way. By mile 7, to my surprise I was keeping up my pace and didn’t feel too bad, although I’d thought the chillies might have been coming back to haunt me once or twice, the cramps had passed and I was more than half way.

It was mile 9 before my legs started feel tired but I was so close now and for the first time I thought I really can beat my time from last year. It’s just 4 miles! I pushed myself and kept looking at my watch, willing my legs to go faster and keep the pace under 8 minute miles. At mile 11, one of the elite runners had walked back from the finish and was cheering people on, just 2 miles left to go. My pace had slowed slightly but I knew I didn’t have far to go. I checked my watch as I passed the 13 mile marker and came round the corner to see the finish line. I could do it! I pumped my arms and pushed myself as fast as I could and stopped my watch as I crossed the line. 1hr 45mins 5secs, I’d done it! It was only 30 seconds faster than 2013 but I knew I’d given everything I could and I was so pleased with how I’d run. I hadn’t given up!

I got my t shirt and medal and went to pick up my bag and headed back to the 13 mile marker to cheer Jaq on through to the finish. I didn’t have long to wait and she finished in just over 2hrs 2mins. She’d really enjoyed the run as well and was over the moon with her time for her first ever half marathon.

I’d recommend this run to anyone. Whether you’re looking to get a PB or trying to pick your first half this is a great little race. It’s well organised, friendly, flat and well supported and it’s growing every year. I’ll be back again in 2015 and who knows, I might even beat the 1hr 45 min mark next time.

Kielder 10k – Saturday 4th October, 2014

Report submitted by Caroline Murray

The Race

Kielder 10k

Overall Score (out of a possible 35)

22

PB Potential

3

Atmosphere

4

Organisation

4

Scenery

5

Value for Money

4

Beginner Friendliness

2

Club Support & Social

0

In Short

Beautiful scenery with a few undulations

In Full: While the rest of the competitors were being bused in the three of us walked down the hill from our lodge to the start. Much easier, and no toilet queues.

The start was delayed by 15 mins, initially by the run-bike-run competitors, and then the announcement that there was an obstruction on the course – apparently the mountain rescue were having a barbeque (Christine and Lesley were on the bus that went to investigate)

After the delay we were off, and it wasn’t long before we all warmed up. The biggest climb is early on in the race, it is an undulating course but nothing that a bounder can’t handle! The weather was perfect for running and the scenery is second to none. This is my favourite 10k race, they’ve got everything right = a few hills, with a good few downhill to recover, then the last bit is flat for a good finish.

The only thing that let them down were the marshals, as they were very quiet. Unfortunately Lesley, Christine, and Mike S were on the run-bike-run course. Stephen still managed to get his photo in the paper though!

I highly recommend this run, and staying in the lodge with the hot tub was a great way to spend the weekend.

Peter Carson 50:08

Caroline Murray 52.11

Stephen Daglish 57.58

Photos to follow

Haltwhistle Half Marathon – 28/09/14

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HALTWHISTLE HALF MARATHON

Report by Gary Wallace

PB Potential: 3 (possibly four when the walking bit is sorted – which the organisers hope to do for next year)

Atmosphere: 3

Organisation: 5

Scenery: 1(not for me)

Value for money: 3

Beginner friendliness: 3

Club support and social: 4

In short: It’s not Redcar

I love flat, fast races on the asphalt. With that in mind I’d already eyed up the Redcar half marathon for the end of September. However, I’d noted on Facebook that a few club members were planning a trip west for the inaugural Haltwhistle half marathon the same day. The pre-race advertising promised flat and fast too, however I still wasn’t swayed. It promised a scenic route as well. I’m a big fan of heavy industry and I’d take the rusty orange particulate soaked views of Teesport over Northumbrian countryside any day (seriously!). So Redcar it was to be. .

Until a neighbour and fellow runner (Davey Goodfellow) knocked on my door and offered me his spot in Haltwhistle . . . for free (thanks Davey). Conscious of my occasional tellings-off for spending too much money on races (despite one race a month costing roughly the same as a monthly nail job) I graciously accepted.

Name swaps were sorted and a few weeks later my number arrived along with race instructions pointing out a section of the race where we would be required to walk. . . . Yes walk! The route went through somebody’s garden who insisted upon the runners walking over his grass. After a minor hissy fit I soon calmed down and began practicing my ‘quick walk’ technique.

Onward to Haltwhistle . . . the Bounders had an enormous presence. In a race of 200 or so there must have been 1/5 from Blackhill. The organiser was suitably impressed enough to give the club a special mention during the presentation. As were four of my work colleagues who were along for the race too.

For the race itself I had a goal of running sub 80mins. I’d done Edinburgh in May in 80.23 so was hopeful of shaving of that 23 seconds. It was cloudy but warm and humid and those who ran will recall the air was thick with little black flies. . Several of which were inevitably ingested.

I had a canny race. It certainly wasn’t flat. There was a steady climb on the route, which we then descended on the way back following the turn at 6.5miles. The scenery. . Well I didn’t notice any. I got round under the 80minutes and snatched a surprise second place . . . for which I won £30 during a rather awkward presentation afterwards. Not quite enough to turn pro but it’s a start.

As for the walk, well I think it cost me 20 seconds in total so no real loss. I’m told the alternative was to descend and then climb some steps . . . and I bl@@dy hate steps. They have no business being in races!

Final word to thank all the support from fellow runners and supporters on route. I flew through that first mile after the turn when passing all of you on the way back down. It was a real boost.

Here’s to next year. . When I’ll probably do Redcar again

Results: http://born4running.co.uk/ESW/Files/Hlt-Results-2014-Web.pdf

 

Recce for our Gibside Fruit Bowl Race

Primarily for the marshals, and anyone else who’s volunteered to help out on race day, the recce will take place this Sunday, 12th October. Meeting at 9:00am, at the Stirling Lane car park – just off the Derwent Walk, down the hill from Gibside.

There will be a full recce of the route, during which you’ll be shown your marshal point, and given any instructions you’ll need for race day. Don’t worry if you aren’t able to attend the recce, you will be shown on the day.

Even if you aren’t marshalling this year, familiarising yourself with the course may be an advantage for subsequent years, so please feel free to join us for a relaxed jog around, if you’re able.

Kielder Run-Bike-Run – Saturday 4th October, 2014

Report Submitted by Neil Capstick

A Hobbit away from the Shire

The weather forecast was awful and so I was not looking forward to driving for 90 minutes and then squelching 26 miles around the perimeter of the reservoir.

As a non-cyclist and de-trained runner I knew it was going to hurt, the only real thing in question was how much!

A year ago today I had just run the Berlin marathon and was just about to run the Himalayan 100 at 12,000 ft, but the 12 months in-between had seen me find an extra stone in weight and undertake no training, nada, zilch. My longest run had been 11 miles and my last run had been the week before at the Bounders Pasty Run, or Night of the Living Dead as I will always remember it.

There was added pressure as I had agreed to race three youngsters from my office. They were to do a leg each and was doing all three. I had foolishly joined in a bit office banter and “trash talk” and told them that not only would I beat them overall but I would beat them in each leg. I am 50, their ages are 30, 25 and 21. Gulp!

I woke around 6:30 to the sound of rain pelting the windows, marvellous, just marvellous. I had a quick chat with “my reason for living” and said of all the events I had run over the last two years I wasn’t actually sure if I could finish. She gave me a look that would have made a charging bull take up crochet and charitable works and so I slung the bike in the car.

The sun shone, I met the other guys, had some banter and more trash talk and headed off to the start.

The RBR sets off a little before the 10k, and so I barged to the front like a true warrior, flexing my pecs, staring people out and terrifying young and old alike with my race face. Fifteen minutes later and we were off. I was conscious that I had 26 miles to cover and so the plan was to take it easy. The course is a good one, well signposted, relatively flat and very picturesque. There is a bit of hill half way and another further on, but both are fairly easy and even though we had seen some recent rain the course was dry.

I was running like a gazelle—feeling hunted and wondering when I would be “taken down” by the young lion from the office. I knew I should not run fast as I would burn out, but it was sooooo hard to run slowly-I persevered but was finding it hard and then remembered my first wife and the dread I felt when I returned from work to her scowling face. It worked!!! My pace slowed, my breathing become more laboured and I began to sweat-Perfect.

It was a knocking bet that I would win the first leg as my office colleague was to running what fish are to chess. The only thing in question was by how much. I was aiming to run around 1hr 5min so as to leave myself some energy for the next two legs. The leg is just under 7 miles and to be honest is fairly straightforward, only two climbs of note and the rest undulating. My top tip would be to use the downhill sections to your advantage. I was amazed at the number of runners mincing on the downhill sections and losing the ground they had made on the uphill. Only one complaint really and that is that water was in very short supply, perhaps they were saving it for the marathon the next day!

I am not sure how you are supposed to time these things and if your transition time is added to your run or your bike. Anyway, I finished the transition and began the bike section after 59 minutes, this included a wee stop behind a tree and further trash talk to the guy who was doing the bike leg for them. Phrases like “eat my shorts”, “who ate all the pies” “and “see you tomorrow fat lad” were used and then I was off. Punching the pedals, I powered out of the transition –straight into a 100ft climb. Bugger….

I climbed it ok and began to settle in. I was climbing the hills but it was taking its toll ( I am no cyclist) and I was beginning to worry that I was burning too much energy ,but there really was no choice. Ascent, decent, ascent, decent and so it went on and on and on. This is a tough section but my trusty bike was in its element even if I was not. I had tried a couple of trips on my bike a couple of months earlier and found that my puny frame was struggling. So, I decided the only way to make life easier was to get a better bike. A grand lighter and I had a Cannondale 2015 Quick CX1 Hybrid and boy did it climb (the only change I made from out of the box were knobbly tyres). The Hybrid definitely aided my downhills and anything that was not uphill was eaten up much quicker than the mountain bikes, but the extra cog on the Quick even helped me climb. I reckon hybrid is the way to go for this race.

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I did have to get off once but that was because as I approached the biggest hill in the race, the guy in front of me veered across the track forcing me to brake sharply. This took all of my momentum and I did not recover. (He was probably from London or another foreign land, you know what they are like). It was on this hill that I heard a particularly loud cry behind me. I often hear crys from behind me even in everyday life and so there was no way I was going to stop! It turned out some guys chain had snapped on the ascent. I think his crown jewels took a pounding, which would explain the yell, but either way his race was over.

After that it became really interesting. It turns out that pedalling full pelt downhill is quite good fun. A couple of female competitors slowed me down a little as they were a little nervous going downhill, so I just kicked them out of the way down the gully. (Ok, I waited behind them, but I wanted to kick them in to the gully) It was really quite exhilarating and like nothing I have experienced before and I will definitely be giving it a second go.

After the helter skelter of the middle section there are quite a few miles of undulating ground to cover, not easy, not hard, just miles. In the early sections there had been a lot of overtaking and shouts of “coming through” and “to your right” but all that had died down as everyone had settled into their natural order.

I had about four miles on my own. Lost in my own thoughts I almost suffered and involuntary evacuation of the bowels when a girl came through from nowhere shouting “coming through”. More like follow through I thought as my heart settled down.

The weather up to now had been kind but then, just as I reached the only really exposed part of the whole race, the heavens opened. The rain stung my arms but worse, it really affected my body temperature and I felt cold for the first time. This probably only lasted for a mile or so but it felt much more and sapped me a little.

Then that it was it, a few more gently climbs with one monster within a couple of miles of the finish and the bike leg was over. Including the transition I had covered the bike leg in 1hr 26 minutes. I was disappointed as I had hoped to do it faster but those hills had hammered me-more cycling next year.

My disappointment was soon forgotten though as, bike flung aside like a lemonade at a Bounders night out, I tried to run. What the *&^%! Ok, so maybe I should have tried this side of the race before and perhaps cycled and then tried to run but I say again what the *&^%! My first steps almost made my hit the floor, I stumbled, and conscious that people were watching, made a show of attempting to run. My calves were roaring like a lion on speed with a thorn in its wottsits and my quads were screaming for mercy. Eh, how can this be, I was fine on the bike, what’s going on. I set off on convinced that I would never finish and muttering about stupid legs, stupid race, stupid bike and an old man like me does certainly NOT have to do this sort of thing on a weekend.

Runners were streaming past me and I had to resist the temptation to pick up a branch and club them as they passed, this was so disheartening. Don’t they know who I am!

Mr Garmin tells me that my first mile was 10:40 but then the pain began to subside and my legs began to work. About time I thought. Mile 2-4 was much, much better and I was actually getting faster when the sign for the final 400 metres leapt out at me. I stopped, reapplied my make-up, adjusted my clothes, combed my hair, put a smile on my face and swung around the corner and on to the final finishing straight to thunderous……………nowt….where was “My reason for living” to cheer me on? Had I not run like a god, cycled like a hero and finished off like an Olympian? Where was my bird? No matter, I ran on, crossed the line, picked up medal and T shirt and got changed.

Turned out that the love of my life had stayed at transition 2 to see the office team change over and turned up almost 70 minutes later!!

I beat the office team by around an hour and 20 minutes but at the time of writing don’t have their individual times so I don’t know if I won each leg-I think I did but my final leg was a very slow 38 minutes for four miles-not my finest hour.

Overall, I would highly recommend the race to runners. Don’t worry about the cycling element, give it a go and enjoy it but probably best to practice a few transitions too!

PS: Anyone know a good divorce lawyer?