Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Trionium Bath Hilly Half

If you're based in the South of the UK and have not had the pleasure of running in a Trionium event, then I'd recommend you look into them. Ran by a patriotic Dr Rob, the events seem to combine hills, trails and carrots. And singing. I'm not around for the next event (the New Year's Day Knacker Cracker 10k), but I'm looking forward to their Leith Hill half marathon in March 2014. more on the Bath Hilly Half here.

The preparation for the half

  • Me: "Honey, where are my leg thingies?", "I had them on my last run", "No, why would I leave them somewhere on a run?". "Found them, they were rolled into a pair of shorts".
  • Honey: "Idiot".

As I've been doing more and more running and sporting events I decided to put all of my running crap in a single box so that it's all in the same place. This was a revelation of organisational genius to me and one of which I'm very proud. I just haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet.

The start

It was freezing at the Bath Racecourse. And apart from my nipples piercing into my folded arms, the registration was pretty simple. With my number installed onto my short leg (allowing for easy change of tops - another moment of sheer genius) I was ready. 30 minutes early. With my nipples growing ever more vicious I trundled back off to the car and stuffed myself silly with a Clif bar and some Haribo.

For some reason I had completely forgotten whether I needed any food for a half marathon. I've been doing so many different distances recently that I couldn't recall even the basics. I was even confused by whether to wear a vest and top, or just the top. In the end I settled for a vest, top and a light weather jacket (!?).

On the start line Dr Rob called out the race instructions, sang the traditional God Save our Queen and all the while stood there in his magnificent Union Jack running shorts.

And with a Mayoral count-down (no really), we were off. And off pretty fast for a hilly half marathon.

The pace, ping and the fine cadets

I checked my watch after a starting lap of the racecourse and noticed we were all collectively flying along at 04:10 per km. Pretty awesome. It didn't let up either and we rushed the first hill and descended down the other side.

And that's when my calf pinged and everything came to a stop. Bugger it. 4 km in and I'm stopping already.

For the next few hundred metres it was Stretch. Hobble. Stretch. Wobble. Make it to the flat bit and stretch proper. And that's when I met the Cadet twins.

  • Army cadet twin 1: (frightfully concerned) "Are you OK? There's a first aid station at the top of the hill"
  • Army cadet twin 2: (panic stricken and concerned) "Are you OK? There's a water station at the bottom of the hill"
  • Me: "Typical!" I joked, but they didn't laugh. "Thanks, but it's just a cramp lads, my calf just tightens up a lot. I'll be fine"
  • Army cadet twin 1 + 2: (now near critical fainting mass) "Hope you'll be OK" (I swear they were ready to pat me on the head for their comfort as well as mine) "there there, it'll be OK".
All credit to them and their support though. I gave them a nod each time I passed them and said thanks.

The painful bit

With other runners now coming back up the hill it was obvious that this was a 'down and up' turn on the hill. This was great because going back up the hill allows me to stretch my calf out with every other right step. I pathetically limped and lolloped down the hill and looked forward to the up. My calf was tighter than I expected and I had to power off with my left leg and dab with my right. I must have looked like I had one leg shorter than the other.

Garmin elevation chart
But the real pain for me is not going fast. I love attacking the hills and sprinting the downs. I want to feel alive, feel drained and know that I'm pushing myself as much as I can. Injury sucks.

It was however really nice to see lots of people out supporting us on the run. I tried to high-five a kid and I think she rejected the offer because I was partially limping. Clearly I wasn't putting in enough effort.

Dropped out of no where

After maybe 15 minutes the severe calf pain was subsiding, the hills were doing the trick. My calf was well stretched and I was able to take longer strides and take more impact on the right leg. And that's when the fire began building inside and I was going to drop th... "what the hell", from out of no where a lady shoots past and drops 5 of us. She smashed the downhill, full stride and no fear. YES! That's what I like to see! And naturally like the dog I am I gave chase smiling all the way :-)

I mustn't laugh, but I hadn't noticed a guy who had dropped
his shoe in the mud puddle until I saw the video (as above).

04:00 > for the mud fest
I caught her just before the next downhill and offered my praise and encouragement for a terrific show. And then, buoyed by the motivation and inspiration, I set off full stride for my own display. I was flying, hard bare-foot trail shoes booming on the ground as I zoomed past some unsuspecting fellow runners. I was alive and loving it. And then, and then well I realised I'd overdone it and there was a great wall of a hill ahead of me. Probably the biggest hill on the course too. Nice going Seanie. You tit.

I recovered with a cup of cold water at a water station, thanked the crew (always thank the crew) and made my way up the hill. The leg pain made its presence known again and never really went away at all during the entire event, but it was workable.

Second lap and barefoot musings

Second time around I was fine on the downs and I powered the up. But I did wonder how much my new trail shoes had affected my run and the ping.

I've worn bare-foot shoes for over a year now. I wear them to work and when out and about. I've done a few short runs in them as well. And because they were cheap, no sorry, that's an utter lie, because they looked awesome, I bought a pair of Vivobarefoot trail shoes (Amazon, £44.99). I'd ran 7 or 8 miles in them before and they performed well in both terms of comfort and trail grip. With the confidence they worked and by my reckoning a half marathon wasn't all that much more.

Vivobarefoot Neo Trail
I'm not sure how much they affected me, but my calves are still on fire two days later and I have a huge bruise on my right shin. Perhaps a little too much too soon? Well, legs, you better be ready because in two weeks you're doing an ultra with them!

I was also aware that I stuffed up my attire. I'm a cold weather person and I love running in the cold and yet I started with 3 layers? Next time, just bring the one layer and run faster. I ended up carrying my jacket around with me for most of the course.

Pinched from the Trionium Bath Hilly Half web page because it's so pretty

The course

Would I recommend this as a first time half marathon? Not at all, but if you've done a few then it's a hearty challenge. Trail shoes helped and so does a good washing machine. I didn't get that dirty, but I will need to hose down my shoes before I put them in the wash!

What's nice about the course is that it's rolling hills. It certainly wasn't technical or challenging nor difficult to navigate. Overall it was a straight forward race to run and only your fitness and effort affected how fast you went.

The supporters and the volunteer marshalls were all brilliant and it's worth saying thank you to them each time you pass by.

Highlights of the day

  • Great parking (it's a highlight when you're nearly 30)
  • Easy registration (I'm becoming such an old fart that this is a highlight)
  • The huge hill at the end (moar!)
  • The short and fast hill in the middle (I love these!)
  • The eye-wateringly fast descents (I really couldn't see for most of it)
  • The rolling English countryside views
  • The jester at the top of the hill (not completely sure whether he was apart of the organised run)
  • All of the Army lads and ladettes who supported us
  • Particularly the twins (I hope they've recovered)
  • Dr Rob and his to attention posture as he sang God Save the Queen (majestic)
  • The chunky medal at the end and the tech-tee with my name on the back
I'd happily run it again!

Garmin data for the geeks.