Monday, 22 March 2010

A day at the races

The third week of March saw the cold spell end, Winter recede into the memory, days of glorious sunshine. And the morning of Saturday 20th saw grim cold rain in preparation for the Ultimate Trails Cartmel Trail Race.

My first impressions of races is often formed with finding the course, and I have to say that the organisers had done a fantastic job of signing cars towards the car park which also took us away from the village, which can easily get congested. On arriving, the race registration was well signed and everything just seemed generally
well organised. A couple of food vans were in attendance, and Pete Bland Sports were providing the opportunity to buy running wares.

The rain stopped just as the trail race started (the runners in the Challenge event had already been out on the 18km course for an hour) from in front of the racecourse grandstand, but the underfoot conditions were still very slippery. There were several starters in road shoes, and I've no idea how they made up the first of the off road climbs. The course was superbly marked and marshalled and the scenery was stunning. Being a competitive soul, I tried to get up the many climbs overtaking as many people as I could, a tactic that started to backfire after about 7kms when legging it up the inclines was beginning to take its toll. A much better idea would have been to measure the early climbs, but then I had no idea what the profile of the second
half of the course was like (it was actually a bit flatter).

Out on course, there were a couple of water stops, but no warning (at least none I saw) that they were coming up. The only drinks available were water (squash would have been a nice additon) and the first stop had chocolate covered Kendal mint cake for refuelling. Inside the final kilometre was a nasty water splash / river crossing which was pretty much knee deep on my legs (And they're quite long) and seriously cold. At least it washed some of the mud off! A final dash over a wooded hill and down into the racecourse brought us
to the finish, exactly where I'd started 1 hour 37 minutes before.

I learned a few things from doing this race:
  • Controlling your speed while running up hill for long periods of time is hard. Backing off the pace on long climbs takes a different sort of effort to sprinting up shorter ones.
  • My offroad descending skills are negligible. I kept having to back out of descents when others were passing me. I am much better at road descents.
  • The Americans can't make shoes to cope with Lake District mud. My Montrail Highlanders ended up losing grip in multiple places around the course.
My only complaint would be that there was little to no direction after the race was finished - runners had to find their own way to the tent where the goody bags were being handed out. In view of the events on the course (see below) I think that this was probably a result of circumstances rather than an oversight on the behalf of the race organisers. But it's a race I'd return to.

A runner had to be airlifted from the course during the race after a serious.  At the time of writing, their condition is unkown but I wish them a speedy recovery. The race marshalls should be congratulated for their attentiveness and quick response in this situation.

Ultimate Trails

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