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Posts Tagged ‘Chevin Chase’

Back in November, I took part in the Leeds Abbey Dash 10K for the second time. I didn’t write a race report at the time, probably because I wasn’t too thrilled with my performance. Well, I’ve avoided it for two months now. Time to give it a mention.

The weather was crappy. It was really cold, so cold that I couldn’t think straight and didn’t want to leave the warm shopping centre we were waiting in and go to the start line. The race started in Leeds city centre, ran out to Kirkstall Abbey, and back again. It’s a notoriously dull, but fast, race. It’s one of the flattest courses in the area (which is mostly hilly).

Last year I managed it in 40:57. I was aiming for sub-40, and was disappointed to fall short. It was my first proper 10K though (the only one I had done before that was on a beach so my time wasn’t comparable), so I was happy enough. I figured I’d return a year later, with more training under my belt, and smash the 40 minute barrier.

It wasn’t to be. A summer of very little training due to injury and an avoidance of speedwork meant that not only did I come in at over 40 minutes, I was actually slower than last year. I ran it in 42:31.

Matt did it as well, having got a taste of racing after the Donadea Forest 10K. He did great! He ran it in 45:28. For someone who is not a natural runner (or so I thought… the Chevin Chase proved me wrong!), that was a great time. He plays cricket from April to September, and when the season is over he usually takes up running and trains for the Chevin Chase, before putting running on the back burner again and focusing on cycling (his first love, apart from cricket) and training for the start of the season. So considering the race was in November, and he had less than two months of training under his belt, he did really well.

At this point, I would add a photo. But the race photography was shockingly bad! Every race I’ve taken part in (including the Great North Run, which is the world’s biggest half marathon), there has been at least one good quality photo of me, and usually lots. The Abbey Dash is a big race with plenty of photographers and the previous year there were loads of me. This year there were only two, and in both I was obscured by other runners. The ones of Matt were slightly better, but not great. And there don’t seem to be any photos of two other people we know that did it at all. Which is so unusual, especially for such a large race.

Can you tell I’m disappointed?

Anyway, I have vowed to do more speedwork and try again next year.

Speaking of trying again… I also did my first ever Chevin Chase! I had been looking forward to this race, because it was the one that inspired me to take up running. I was supposed to do it last year but a nasty cough stopped me. I had been looking forward to it for months. I had high hopes. Despite a long break from training over the summer, I was optimistic. And when my injury returned after the Abbey Dash, I remained optimistic while I rested up for a few more weeks.

On the morning of the race, all optimism had disappeared. Standing on the start line with Matt (who had been training his ass off!), I felt a sense of foreboding as a strong wind blew around us. My legs didn’t feel strong, I hadn’t been training on hills at all and my injury was still hanging around.

The first couple of miles is all uphill, and it’s a bitch. I could feel Matt breathing down my neck, which wasn’t a good sign – I’m usually way faster than him. As we ran into the forest, I began to feel nauseous – seeing as the run is on Boxing Day, after a day of eating sweets, chocolate and a big Christmas dinner, this isn’t surprising. I also began to develop a stitch, which worsened to the point of me slowing down and running with one hand clasped against my side.

As we ran out of one section of the forest, across the road and into another, it wasn’t getting any better. Usually in race photos I look strong, like I’m barely exerting any effort at all.

This time was notably different (I’m the one in the blue top)!

 

 

My form is all over the place! Oh yeah, and I’m being overtaken by a guy in a suit!

By the time we reached the big hill that is notoriously difficult, and reduces most people to a walking pace, I was totally spent. I ran up it, but slowly enough that Matt, who had lost me for a while earlier in the race, gained on me again and nearly caught me up. And he was walking! The last mile or so is all downhill, ut there are to stiles to go over which usually get congested. It was at the first of these that Matt caught me up while waiting to climb over. He overtook me afterwards, and when I caught him up again at the second stile, I gestured for him to climb over first seeing as he had been ahead of me. After that I lost all motivation, and he flew ahead. I could always see him, but running into a ridiculously strong headwind, his large frame enabled him to power away down the hill. He’s got more natural speed than me over a short distance, so I was doubtful of my ability to catch him up.

I think if I had known how close we would be at the finish, I could have sped up and overtaken him, or not allowed him to overtake in the first place. But I felt rubbish, and I was also totally shocked that he was beating me.

He crossed the finish line first, and I followed 12 seconds later. My time was 56:35, for a hilly route that was just short of 7 miles. I tried to be as happy as possible for him, while secretly seething! Of course he’s enjoyed his gloating time over the last week.

I’ve resolved to run the route every week between now and December, so that I can run it again properly and royally kick his ass!

Really, I need to keep this injury at bay and get back out on the hills, and doing some speedwork. Then I can try again in the Abbey Dash, and try again in the Chevin Chase. And maybe run times that I feel proud of.

But you learn. Nothing in life is perfect. And I can’t run every race perfectly. I think 2011 has taught me that it’s okay not to have a great race – you just learn from it, and work on coming back stronger.

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With only two months to go until the Chevin Chase, I’ve decided it’s time to step up my training and get back out on the hills. The period of time that I had off due to injury over the summer has affected my leg strength, I think. I’m finding it harder to run over trails and up hills, and I don’t have the same confidence that I used to have when running up steep inclines. Back in the spring I was running between 14 and 18 miles every Sunday, beginning with a big hill, running up a hill in the middle and ending on the same hill that I started with.

The Chevin Chase is a particularly special race for me. It was while standing up on a snowy hill with my dad and nephew on Boxing Day, waiting for my brother, sister in law and Matt to run past, that I had the idea to start running and maybe sign up for the race the following year. I was a few weeks into recovery, and had the feeling that almost anything was possible.

I took to running so quickly that I ended up running in five races before I got anywhere near to doing the Chevin Chase! In the weeks leading up to it I started to feel excitement at the prospect of finishing my first year of running the same way that it began – up on that hill, on an icy festive morning – only this time I would be taking part myself.

But it wasn’t to be. A few days before Christmas I started to sniffle, and then sneeze, and then cough… and by the day of the race, I was struggling to even walk up to the finish line to cheer on Matt and my dad without wheezing and spluttering, never mind run the course.

This year, I’m determined to take part. And I want to do well, too. I’ve seen the results from previous years, and they’re good… so I’m not expecting to win or even place in the top three. But I’m just going to train really hard and do my best, and I’m hoping to maybe surprise myself.

The great thing about the race is that it takes place in an area that is right near me, and that I often train on. But I didn’t know the exact route, and so Matt and I decided to run it together today so he could show me. That way, I could train on sections of it or do the whole thing to get a feel for the course beforehand.

I was hoping it would be a sunny day. The Chevin is a beautiful area of woodland situated high up above a valley, and on a clear day you can see for miles. Seeing as Matt is a slower runner, and we set off with the aim of sticking to an easy pace, I decided to take my camera and try to snap some pretty photos along the way. It turned out to be a grey morning, although the sun came out later on.

I took photos anyway because I really love it up there and I often find that when I’m running through a particularly beautiful area, I want to photograph and document it. My runs, especially the long ones, often feel like adventures. And they sometimes feel like my little secret, because no one else is there with me and I’m out exploring forests and trails and paths. I don’t think photos can do the beauty that I see on these runs justice. But I still want to take them, because I feel so lucky to live in such a stunning area and I really want to capture it.

 

 

We started by running about 2 miles from our house to where the start line would be. From here, we began the ascent towards the Chevin. The first couple of miles are a gradual uphill climb, starting on the road and then turning into trail. Eventually we reached the woods.

 

 

Matt ran ahead when I stopped to take photos. In this one he looks a little crazed!

 

 

The middle section of the run is mostly flat, with a little downhill. Of course this means that you have to climb up again later! I showed Matt how to run downhill like a fell runner – windmill arms and try not to think too much! I pelted at full speed down a couple of the descents.

 

 

You can just make out the valley in the distance, but it’s not all that clear here because of the mist.

The steepest part of the course comes about two thirds of the way through. Apparently most people walk it, but having done Hellrunner I felt confident that I should be able to run up the whole thing. Matt told me to go ahead and meet him at Surprise View. “Run to the top and turn right”, he told me. I wasn’t sure that I’d know where to turn; he assured me it was obvious.

 

 

After running for a little while, I spotted a wooden post that marked out a path to my right. “This must be the right turn”, I thought. I also felt a little smug; while it was certainly not easy, the first portion of the hill was nowhere near as bad as other people had made it out to be.

Apparently Matt had overestimated my navigational skills (he should know not to do this… the first time I ran alone on the Chevin I managed to run right off the path and into the middle of a steep, slippery hill which was impossible to run down but which, having already run about 10 miles, I didn’t have the strength to run up. It was getting dark. I stopped running, stood still and began to cry. Eventually I found my way out by running through a tiny path and jumping down a wall into a car park, where I began to recognise my surroundings).

I quickly realised that this couldn’t be the right path, and I ran back down it, shouting for Matt. There was no reply. I noticed that after levelling out for a few metres, the hill continued further along. I realised that I was probably not at the top of the hill, and so I continued running.

Turns out the second part of the hill is where it gets really hard, and although I made it to the stop without stopping or walking, I did stretch the definition of ‘run’ to include a clumsy, slow stagger as I tried to lift my legs over the rocks and progress up a gradient that was steep enough to warrant having steps built into it.

Upon reaching the top, I saw Matt waiting for me.

“Only you could get lost there!”

 

 

The clearing at the top of the hill is known as ‘Surprise View’ because, well, the view is a bit of a surprise when you get there (unless you’re a local who is already familiar with it, in which case it isn’t remotely surprising but it’s certainly a nice sight).

The mist is obscuring the view in this photo, but if you look closely you can make out the fields and trees in the distance. It’s hard to see just how high up it is unless you’re there.

 

 

Instead of running back towards the finish line, we took a different route home. As we picked up the road I tried to up the pace and we settled into a nice rhythm. It felt comfortable for me, and although I wanted to go faster I stayed with Matt. It turns out he wasn’t feeling quite as at ease as me! But I pushed him to speed up with a few hundred metres to go, with the aim of getting the pace of that final stretch under an 8 minute mile.

My legs are surprisingly sore now. I guess it’s been months since I ran that far (apart from Hellrunner). I need to start upping the distance of my long runs again. I haven’t felt any shin or calf pain in a few weeks, and I think that’s a good sign. I’m going to try and do at least 10 miles on a Sunday from now on, and I think I’ll do those runs on the Chevin. My speedwork and hillwork will also be done there, using the toughest parts of the course. Within the next few weeks, I want the distance of my long run to be around 15 miles.

After I had showered, I quickly threw some more muffins in the oven (using the rest of the ingredients that I saved from yesterday), before heading over with my sister to see our parents. I took muffins, and we shared them out and ate them with coffee.

As I predicted yesterday, it was the perfect accompaniment to a delicious muffin. And the ideal reward for a delightful run.

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