Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Ox

This would be the 5th race in the Runfurther series and my 5th race too! I have not yet decided whether or not I can do the Grand Slam. In August will I be around for LTof B or on the continent getting ready for the GRP? In the autumn will we still be here for me to enter Jedburgh or will we be off to New Zealand? and is it worth going to the Isle of man to run 30 miles?
Still for now it is The Ox and back to the Dorset- Wiltshire borders. I say back to because I spent about 4 years in Shaftesbury as a child and so have some fond memories of the area. I have played on Win Green, walked along the drove roads, explored the woods at Tollard Royal, spotted Fovant badges and more.
After our recees earlier in the week I was concerned about how much hard surface there was and the fact I do not own any road shoes and had left my hokas at home. I even spent some time on the pre-race evening wandering around in different shoes trying to decide. There is not all that much tarmac but the lanes are hard and stony.

Very few sections were grass and there was almost no mud. Locals were bemoaning the hills but for those of us from the north it seemed like every hill should be runnable and none were big and steep making it worthy of a walk. We spent the afternoon reading, relaxing and soaking up the sun as we hydrated on Win Green hill.

Mid afternoon we moved round to the event centre at the lodge house to the Rushmoor estate and Tollard Royal golf course.

The camp site was already in full swing and we quickly spotted Andy Splatcher in the field. It was very laid back and we joined him quickly. Once his tent was up Bob, Andy and I went to put up the flags, banners and display boards.

The registration etc was outside and so were our boards so I am glad it was dry. The ground was rock hard from lack of rain and great flints in the chalk soil but we eventually got all the flags up. We met the organiser, handed over Clif bars and registered. It was not long before Dick arrived and also Carmine plus a whole bunch of Mercia/ Newport/ Shropshire runners.

The Dark Ox runners set off on their 6 miles at 8.30pm and many were back well before it was dark? I was concerned that our route had too many options for short cuts but was persuaded that the organiser would have this in hand and anyway we had timing chips on our shoes so surely they would know if corners were cut. The cool eventually drove us indoors and to bed.

Morning dawned with thick mist but gradually this lifted and it seemed it would be warm and sunny. Even though the course was marked out I was glad I knew the route and so could judge how far I had gone and what sections were coming up. As we had made all our RF preparations the night before we seemed to have masses of time to socialise before the 8.30am start. We herded together near the finish for the briefing and then out onto to road to start. A drone flew overhead filming the early stages. I knew it would be fast and flat and I was not proved wrong. After a few hundred metres of road and then track we were off in the woods.
This was actually our recee
I spotted Chris D and Carmine shooting off ahead and on one descent Splatcher came past me for a short while. I spotted Kate and we ran together for a while chatting. After 4 miles we left the woods and climbed to the first drove road where we followed a mixture of tracks and lanes to the next woods.

All was going well but the speed suddenly caused my 'toe problem' to flare. Andy had stormed away leaving Kate and I to wonder what he was on, now I had to let her pull away too.

Then another lady came by. Before 10 miles and in a lovely wood I suddenly found myself on the floor. I guess I tripped. Immediately my whole right arm was sore and there was blood from several cuts around my elbow. Not to worry- you don't run on your arms. Then I tried to stand up. I had hit my head but could not figure out what was wrong at first. My thigh had landed across a big tree root and it had given me a dead leg. For minutes I could not even stand up and for the next 8 miles running was a real trial and not pleasant. I tried not to cry. Other runners were lovely and concerned as always. the one who made the difference was Mercia Jon who made me laugh when he asked 'Is there anything I can do?' When I replied 'No, thanks.' His reply was 'not even a piggy back?' I had to try after that and was so glad of his company. I spent the miles from 10-18 trying to sort myself out and make up all the places I had lost while I lay on the floor or hobbled. Around here the 3rd lady passed me too. Oh well. The strange loop in the middle of the race came and went and I slowly settled into a better pace. I was eating a drinking well and things were improving. I was not looking forward to the big drove road heading west after 21 miles but several things cheered me up. First at the CP I was told I was 3rd lady- surely a mistake, but no, the next CP confirmed it. Second I ran most of it with Jon. He was great company and we chatted and both tried to push the pace and get the miles done. It was a real shame that he started to cramp and I lost his company but this was not before we started to catch up and pass other runners. Finally I took lots of pain relief (something I should have done earlier) and was able to ignore the bumps of my fall.
A shame the runners did not see the Fovant badges
Towards the end of this big track the marathon runners joined us and so there were even more people to try to catch - always a motivator I find. As we left the drove track and descended on softer paths I made up places and started to feel good.
It would have to be a very narrow car
Before the last big climb I took more paracetamol and spotted Splatcher just ahead. He was tiring- not surprising after such a good run of 100 miles at Apocalypse just the week before. I stomped the uphill and overtook him and others. I knew there were only about 4 miles left and some of those were a wonderful grassy ridge that dipped to about 800m shy of the finish hill. A quick check of my watch showed I could easily get under 6 hours so I even managed to run most of the last hill. I crossed the line to find the prize giving underway and no time to go to get the spot prizes.

 Kate was nowhere to be seen and I was shocked to see the 'young' lady be given first place? But I had been told I was 3rd so how could this be? Surely Kate and the asian looking girl were 1st and second. I hoped neither had pulled out injured. It seems the younger girl had 'got lost', wasted lots of time, cut out a chunk to make up for the lost miles, told a CP she would run a few extra so her garmin showed the correct amount and so had run across the line as first. I could not see how anybody could get lost on such a well marked course and could not believe she did not confess at the prize giving. She had cut out several miles and not been through at least two CPs. I complained to the RO and he gave me 3rd prize of a framed certificate and a flagon of cider.

 I then found Kate and he promised to sort it out and give her 1st. Tonight the results show Kate 1st, the others 2nd and 3rd and me 4th. The 'cheat' now has a time including seconds but I have no idea how it was arrived at as the timing chip would show her to be first.

 It is a shame this took the edge of the event for me and others. There is so much about the event that is really good and the marshalls were great. Chris D is not in the results at all yet and all the Mercia/Shropshire crowd were moaning about aspects of the organisation. Hard to believe the RO paid for timing chips but only used them once, at the finish and at no point had marshalls taking numbers out on the course. It would be a good safety measure and could prevent short cutting. Bob was also mad that they ran out of water and would not get more 'because there were not many runners left now'. He paid the same entry fee and needed the water just as much. We did get a rather large medal and interesting T shirt but I think I prefer a meal as we cross the line. The golf club let us use their showers and so I got to wash off the blood and wash my hair again! We had a great evening sat in the field chatting away before we camped again ready for the long drive home on Monday. Bob has now done 4 races in the series and I will have good points from the race. Need to get ordering the RF reward for 4 races gear!

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