Sunday 24 June 2012

Bredon Bash 2012

Every year I look forward to the EVRC's local invitational fell race, the Bredon Bash.  We start in picturesque Elmley Castle, run up to the top of Bredon Hill to the tower, and then come back down.  It's around 5.8 miles and on a sunny day can include some stunning views.  Alternatively, the mist can drop in and you can hardly see your hand in front of your face.  This year's edition, as with much of the past few weeks, was conducted under heavy cloud, steady rain, and a strong wind - horrible for the volunteers, but perfect for a fell race!

With the abysmal weather and entries only taken on the day, it wasn't much of a surprise that only 49 hardy (foolish?) souls from area clubs and villages entered.  Having enjoyed a stellar year so far, my main goal was to take some time off of my time from 2011.  The ankle deep water and mud in places would make that a bit more challenging, but the descent is usually more forgiving when the going is soft to swampy, so I just made sure my shoes were well secured and headed out at the front of the "chasing pack".

The local speedsters shot off the line and were out of reach within the first half mile.  There were a couple at the back of the lead group I hoped to pick up before the end, but my main goal was to hit the hill at the front of the mid-field finishers.

Once we had left the road and made our way through a field of tall wet grass (thank goodness for triple-knots!), the slippery ascent began.  I've run this route in most weather, but haven't seen the mud so deep for a couple of years.  Those in road shoes would have to pick their way gently to the top.  Those with more aggressive outsoles could run, although it was best to avoid the narrow "path" that had become more of a quagmire.  There are a couple of sections on the hill that I normally have to walk due to burning calves, but these were fewer and shorter than I'd previously managed.  I hit the top of the hill in 11th place, but with plenty to do to make sure I got my new course-best time.

The run along the top of the hill is gently undulating, and normally not too soft underfoot.  This day was no different.  The mud wasn't overly deep.  It was, however, frequently covered by several inches of water.  I usually try to avoid stepping into something whose depth I can't identify, but knowing the track helped me to go through many pools without too much worry, and I never had to worry about hot feet!

I reached the turnaround point still in 11th place (caught one, lost one) and gutted it out back to the top of the descent.  By now, visibility was incredibly poor as we ran in the low cloud.  However, with the wet path, I could hear the splashing runner behind me getting closer.  I hit the muddy descent at full speed, hoping to lose my pursuer as I ducked under branches and high-stepped through tree roots.  I don't like getting passed on descents, especially ones that I know well enough to race through even in these conditions.  But, with half of the hill left ahead, I was chasing.  Together, my erstwhile shadow (if only there'd been a light source!) and I chased down my clubmate Mark (he's generally quite a lot faster than me, but his shoes weren't cooperating with the terrain).

At the bottom of the hill, I checked back to find another runner closing fast.  When we broke free of the mud and back into the grassy field, I opened my stride to put as much space behind me as I could.  I'd managed to keep that 11th place for most of the race, and was far more interested in 10th than I was in 12th!  By the time I hit the final road section, I had closed back in on the runner ahead, and could see that he had left most of his energy on the hill.  With just under half a mile to go, I went for broke and put in an effort designed to overtake and also ensure I stayed ahead.  The speed sessions over the past few months have been paying off, because I still felt OK, even though it turns out I was running at my 5K pace (it's a bit downhill).

With some good runners to race against, I managed to keep my 10th place, but more importantly knocked a little over 40 seconds off my previous course best.  I finished wiped out but with a big smile.

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