After a difficult few weeks following Chester marathon I started getting back into full swing of training. I’ve decided to mix up the races I do over the next few months; the first of these was a go at something quite different for me; Dovedale Dash, which Hannah was doing with her local club. It’s a prestigious event dating back to the early 1950’s and is based in a rural village in the southern Peak District area. It’s a fell race, though a lot muddier than ones I’ve done up North. The weather on the day was very warm and sunny; above 15 degrees. With the exception of my two years at University in Alabama, I’ve never done a race in November that was this warm. The course is roughly 4.5 miles and is famed for it’s river crossing in the first mile; runners have a choice of going over the stepping stones or taking a straighter line through the shallow river.
I was lined up along with a thousand or so other runners (I couldn’t believe how many people did this race!) and then we were off down a steady descent of around half-a-mile. My recent lack of off-road racing was clearly evident as I couldn’t get anywhere near the top 10 on the descent. As we came up to the river I was still trying to fight my way through and decided to ignore the stepping stones, choosing to charge through the river. It was here where I had a spot of bother; in my haste to get to the other end I lost my footing just as I was about to jump out, I lost my footing and went sprawling into the banking, I also seemed to momentarily get my foot struck. Even though it was probably only a couple of seconds, it felt like I was on the deck for ages! I immediately worked my way through and was soon in the top 10 and after another mile I had managed to get myself up to second place. I was almost tempted to pass the leader, Stuart Bond at one point, but he responded well to the pressure I was trying to put him under. There was a sharp hill with a tricky descent on a camber and I conceded around 30 yards. I was still hopeful of closing the gap again as there was still a mile to go, but to his credit, he never let up and increased his lead by a few more seconds to win by 25 seconds in 27:11 for his fourth win. I was happy with my run and can have no complaints.
Next up was the Podium 5k on Saturday evening 7th November. I had been training well, but speed was still something I lacked. I knew I had my work cut out against Phil Sesman, boasting 5k form this season that’s far superior to mine. There was also Chris Steele, who beat me at the last Podium and the vastly improved Rob Danson from Wesham. The race got off to a steady start and I was almost comfortable, though a slow opening kilometre lap slightly outside 3 minutes explained that. Sesman really put his foot down on the next lap and I was battling to stay in contention, but by halfway I was 100 yards behind him and the Liverpool Harrrier, John Ashcroft. It was enough to keep me comfortably ahead of the rest of the field and I was still moving well, going on to finish 3rd in 15:03. I was very happy with the performance in windy conditions and wasn’t that far behind 2nd place in the end, Sesman won by a comfortable margin. If it wasn’t very windy, I could have been reflecting on a sub 15 minute run, but I guess that will have to wait until next year.
I was back up to over 100 miles-per-week and getting in regular sessions at the club on Tuesday evening, we’ve got a good nucleus of runners at the front; along with myself, there’s Karl Billington, who’s had a great year and pushing us close are Tim Raynes and Joe Monk, with Jack Hindle not far behind as well. We almost had a full strength team going into the Liverpool Euro Cross Country Trials (Incorporating the Mid Lancs League) and had the added bonus of having Loughborough resident, Rob Warner turn out for us. It’s a flat course and recent weather made it muddier than usual. I got off to a poor start and must have been outside the top 100 in the first of the three laps on the six mile course. I moved through quite well and then the familiar faces started to appear! I moved past Rich Burney and James Douglas in the middle part of the race and spent the last couple of miles battling with Matt Barnes and Dave Norman. We seemed to be picking off a few runners that were slowing and I was wondering if this would be enough for top 50. The pace really picked up in the last half mile and I was losing track of runners I was passing and getting passed by, in the final straight of 200-300 yards I was going hell for leather, but not really picking up anymore places. Dave was right alongside me and Matt Barnes seemed to float past of the both of us effortlessly, I saw another couple of vests go past, but held it together finishing just ahead of Dave Norman and Rich Burney. I later found out I was only 70th ! The standard certainly seems higher than when I did it nine years ago, when I comfortably finished in the top 20; though I will readily admit I was better at cross country then. Rob Warner and Karl Billington weren’t far behind and we finished 2nd team in the Mid Lancs, backed up with excellent runs from Jack Hindle, Shaun Livesey and Chris Davies.
Later that evening I had the honour of awarding trophies at Barlick Fell Runners Presentation Night near Barnoldswick. They’ve really taken the Lancashire running scene by storm and only formed three years ago. Our Senior Men’s team managed to beat them at the Liverpool cross country race, but we’ve probably got to put a few more wins over them before we can level the score! I’m sure there’ll be a healthy rivalry between us for many years to come. One topic of amusement at the presentation was the notorious “DNF Award”, going to the senior runner who drops out of the most races; all taken in good spirit I might add.
The following day the dodgy left ankle struck again; I was doing my usual run home from work; nine miles in and I went over on it badly, I don’t even know if I caught it on anything. I was in the middle area of the pavement and my left foot just flicked over on the outside as I landed on my forefoot. That put an abrupt end to my run and I was thankful that Hannah could pick me up from a nearby Tesco, as there was no way I could continue on foot, let alone run! I almost went 12 months without having this problem reoccur, so it’s disappointing and frustrating that it’s happened again after all that time. It’s taken a few days out of my training, denting a key training week, but hopefully it still gives me a chance to get my act together for Ribble Valley 10k. We shall see…