Shoreham Woods 10k (aka Sore-ham Woods 10k)

Apologies for the awful pun but it does say it all, was a bit of a killer this one! I’m not blaming the after effects of the big one for how tough I found this race, it was tough in it’s own right. This race had the lot; hills, mud, scary descents, hills, spectacular views, epic beards, hills. The only thing lacking was a goody bag, but I knew about that when we booked it.

After parking in nearby Polehill Garden Centre (where we used to take my Nan for a morning out, which always ended with egg mayonnaise sandwiches and ice cream –  some of which didn’t get in her eyebrows, bless her) me and Claire wandered through the drizzle to the start of the race. We were slightly later than planned, as we had managed to leave the house without our Garmins!

Yes we had a little cool bag of food, alternative trainers options, spare safety pins even but we hadn’t brought the one thing that would validate the whole adventure! I know we could have run without them, but my arm would have felt weird and more importantly we wouldn’t have been able to brag about it on Strava after. So as we realised just before we joined the M25 Claire pulled a gloriously squealing 180 (she didn’t really Officer) and I dashed in and out of the house, probably to our neighbours bemusement early on a Saturday morning, and we were back on track.

This race was a bit slap dash all round really and as I have bored you with previously I wasn’t feeling quite ready for it. But we had paid our money, and for Claire it was going to be the furthest she had ever run, let alone raced.  It wasn’t the time to go off half arsed – it was full arse time.

We knew the course was going to be hilly and challenging from the video of last year’s race we had seen, but the drizzle (which the BBC had somehow failed to see on their expensive radar screens) was going to make it even more so. 11357027_10155866219425012_8213122345814787410_oThe course was a small-ish loop to start, which we then started to repeat before going off on a much bigger ‘loop’ of about 8k that jagged back all over the place and through the woods and generally up, down and all round the place.

There was a fair few people milling about and the general feeling was one of coldness in the damp air and from those that had run the year before an aura of dread and stares of gut-wrenching fear. Lovely. Tension increased with Claire having to wait about 20 minutes to use the ladies loo, and then as we scrambled to drop our bag off and get to the finish line in good time her Garmin decided to lose sync. Thankfully we had a bit of time to stand with her wrist in the air and anxiously wait for it to re-sync. We found a spot that wasn’t directly covered by trees, and along with another runner who I peppered with nervous jokes, finally got it locked on and ready to go.

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Can you see the fear?

Claire was understandably nervous before her first run over the distance, and only her second ever race outside of parkrun. I too was feeling a little unsettled and under prepared. (My distraction meant I even forgot to tighten my Garmin, meaning my heart rate data was completely out for the run. I really wasn’t cooking with gas that morning…) I think I was unsettled partly as I felt under prepared training wise, but mostly as I didn’t know if my legs would have anything in them to tackle what we knew would be a hard race.

There wasn’t much to do though but wait for the off and wish Claire good luck. I pushed a little to the front in the hope of avoiding getting caught behind any slower runners, which always seems to happen to me at races. This would also mean I could avoid any passive-aggressive screams of ‘Can I squeeze by?’ as I smash children and old people out of the way for a 2 second advantage. I’m sorry, I can’t help it. But I’m trying to do better.

After a bit more waiting and a quick ‘3,2,1’ we were off – we all streamed across the footbridge over the M25 and were into the woods. Luckily I was well placed to skirt round a few people and then find some space to find a good rhythm. My 10k PB is just under 42 minutes, and although that was some time (and a lot of training ago) I knew that was well out of sight with the difficulty of the course, but the rain meant I had to scale my goal back even further. I thought I would aim for 45 minutes odd, or 7:15 minute pace. Ha! How naïve I was, if only I knew the travails ahead…

The going underfoot wasn’t too bad at this point, just a bit muddy and uneven with a few slopes to keep you concentrating and just the one steep-ish hill to get you blowing a bit. We were running on dirt tracks though the woods, with the occasional spot that opened out. I had passed a few more people, and been passed by one other runner I think, and we were nicely strung out along the route. The leaders were long gone and I never really saw them after we had crossed the footbridge over the motorway.

As we started the first little loop again I passed a few Canicross runners (people who run with their dogs) who very kindly moved to one side and made lots of room for us to pass. However as I passed one pair of runner and dogs, a largish dog performed a snarling lunge at my left arm, which nearly made my heart pop through the roof of my skull. The lady apologised and the dog didn’t get within a metre of me, but it gave me a scare and got the adrenaline (and digestive system) pumping. I may have even screamed a little bit – sorry, exclaimed in a very manly way – that he could leave my Garmin alone. If I heard right after the lady was telling her friend she was calling it a day and taking the dog home, to think about what it had done and how disappointed she was in him…

After that relaxing interlude I carried on and we split off onto the bigger second loop. This started off in a narrow field but then was back into the woods but on a more undulating and twisting path, with a much narrower trail to follow. By this point I had another runner about 25 metres ahead and it didn’t sound like I had anyone close behind, so I decided to try and use him to pull me along as my pace had slowed a bit. I tagged on to the runner in grey but never got close enough to overtake him at this point, as he seemed to accelerate in response to me crashing about behind him and this new pace felt quick enough.

We went through a couple of clearings that gave quick glimpses of the lovely views out across the Kent countryside, before we were plunged back into the murk of the forest. There were a couple of steep down hill sections here were you really had to watch your step and a couple of times I felt myself slip about.  Then there was some stiles to negotiate which we hadn’t been briefed on so were something of a surprise, but it was just a case of crashing in and out of them as quick as you could. There were marshals at all of these giving plenty of shouted warnings and advice. In fact all along the route the marshalling was excellent, offering encouragement, clear directions and warning of tight turns or exposed tree routes etc. They had even spray painted the worst trip hazards in a lovely pink to make them stand out.

Then at about half way it came into view… the Mountain of Doom! {((THUNDER! LIGHTENING! Gasps of buttock-clenching terror!))} It started off as a steep-ish climb which then levelled out for a bit, before going almost vertical (Strava had the gradient at 17% at points). It was like someone had thrown a wall of mud up across the trail. I struggled on at first and then decided to think clever and walk it. I knew it would be just as quick as trying to run it and would hopefully prevent the worst of the damage to my legs. It was knackering just trying to keep to a fast walk though. The runner in grey kept plodding on determinedly but I wasn’t sure that was the best idea; he only finished the climb twenty meters ahead of me but must have expended a lot more energy than I did.

As we neared the summit it was an act of will to get running again and my breathing was very laboured and my legs were full of lactic. Eventually I got going again and mercifully there were a couple of down hills to get my breath back. It also gave me a chance to catch up and pass the runner in grey, who had either slowed with fatigue from the climb or I was just that bit quicker picking my way down on the downhill bits.

I also caught up with a magnificently hirsute gentleman who I had slowly been catching up with since the scaling of the Mountain of Doom {((THUNDER NOISES!))}. His beard was full and lush and was a heart warming sight to see as it bounced about as I slowly closed. We were side by side as we went down a steep downhill bit and met a guitar playing marshall (why not?) who directed us to a sharp left that begin another steep climb. This one wasn’t as bad as the MoD, but was still a bit cruel. The Bearded Wonder even felt moved to say ‘We aren’t going anywhere fast’ to which I said (gasped) we should stay steady and keep some energy for the downhills. He said something like he was even worse at those, I tried to laugh but just a strangled snort came out.

Then we came to a long downhill, and another stile, and I pulled away from him. I think it might have been mostly because I had better grip. With the Bearded Wonder fallen back, I was suddenly on my own. I carried on, trying to keep a good pace but I could see that my average pace was now nearly 8 minutes a mile and was getting closer to a 50 minute finish. With about a mile or so to go I entered into a thicker part of the woods and it suddenly got very dark and even more overgrown than previously. It was just the right side of spooky to be alone in the woods; crashing through the overgrown trail and peering through the mist to spot the next bit of red and white tape and the route back.

Suddenly the woods ended, the sky appeared and I was trying to keep my feet as I rocketed down a steep incline. The trail was now arrow straight and went down through one field, a gate in a hedge and straight up another hugely steep climb! Gits! And having to pass through the gate meant you had to check all the speed you had built up on the way down, before you started back up the other side. Double-Gits! As I climbed up the slope a few spectators were there at the top shouting encouragement, which was much needed and appreciated. Cries of ‘Almost there’  kept me moving forward, as did the fear of anyone catching up with me and the hope I might catch up myself with a runner in orange ahead.

Then I was back in woods again and the wheels came off. I had worked too hard going back up the slope and should have gone up in a lower gear, but adrenaline and finish line fever had got to me. And if I’m honest I gave up. I wasn’t completely gone physically, but I was mentally and I just wanted to rest. I slowed and started to walk up yet more undulations. The runner in orange faded off into the distance but thankfully I couldn’t hear anyone gaining on me.

As I trundled on some more spectators came in to view and started shouting all kinds of well meaning encouragement. Out of sheer embarrassment I started to run again and as I passed them, and acknowledged them with a sheepish wave, I saw the end really was close. Suddenly my legs were back and I picked up the pace. I was back on the footbridge and closing rapidly on the runner in orange in front. I tried to catch them before the line but they were a good few yards clear, but I saw on the helpful clock at the finish line that I had just got under 48 minutes for the run.

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You had to go up a hill for water even after the finish

It was over! I managed to keep walking and remove my timing chip (which was on a Velcro strap on my ankle, a first), collect my medal and then try unsuccessfully to get some water out of the water butts they had lined up for us (user error I’m sure). I wandered off with some other finishers to get my bag back, nab a large piece of cake and moan about the hills and the general unpleasantness of trying to go up, as well as forward. Mutterings of ‘Never again’ could be heard from the finishers behind.

I wandered back to the start/finish line to wait for Claire. I was a bit worried about her as it was a seriously tough race, and perhaps not the best one to run your first 10k at! As I waited the drizzle continued and I was suddenly freezing, so I donned all the clothes I could find and tried to huddle up. More runners streamed through and I clapped and joined in the shouts of encouragement as people lunged for the line. One guy deserves special mention for a relentless surge to just get inside the one hour mark which left him almost unable to stand as he finished. The number of finishers began to dry up however and I was getting more worried for Claire.

Well I shouldn’t have! Just as I was beginning to think about walking across the footbridge to find her ,Claire 11958197_10155866218975012_4105208178429093194_ocame storming into view. I started, probably a bit too loudly, screaming ‘Come on Claire!’ and some of the spectators joined in the cry. Either on hearing us, or seeing the finish line, Claire suddenly burst into a sprint finish and tore across the line 11953517_10155866220765012_6528814744064322083_olike a banshee! It was easily a quicker finish than I had managed and was downright impressive, I nearly didn’t get a picture of it she was so quick! She paid for it though and was off her feet when she crossed the line and made it only more few yards before deciding a nice sit down was in order. I probably didn’t help things by jumping around and talking at her when she just needed a minute to recover, but I was so proud she had finished the race let alone had the strength to give it the beans at the end. After a bit of meditative breathing, and being left alone by me, she was back on her feet and claimed her medal and a drinks bottle given as a spot prize (which was a nice touch).

We stayed around for a little bit at the end to see if they would print off Claire’s section of the race and get her place and time, but we got cold before then and went and got Claire some well earned cake instead. My result was put up as I waited at the finish; a very pleasing 14th place and an official time of 47:50. But I was only 2 seconds behind the guy in front – if only I hadn’t walked! Only myself to blame… (For those interested you can see my Strava data of the run here)

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Thanks to the couple who took this for us, I hope the one I took in return was ok!

Post race we rather tiredly wandered off back to Polehill, where we meet up with my mum (who had selflessly been waiting around shopping as she wouldn’t have been to see much of the race without a four-by-four or wellies). She kindly got a sausage bap for us both and we had a proper sit down and a natter. It was a nice way to celebrate the race, although we had stiffened up somewhat when we tried to have a walk round after…

Overall it was a good race. More interesting than your average flat, road 10k and with the challenging terrain all the more satisfying to finish. Claire did brilliantly and I think it may have sowed the seed for another 10k in the coming months, although perhaps a bit flatter (and smoother) so she can smash her new 10K PB to bits! For me I was inspired to enter the Kent Roadrunner Marathon next May – not entirely sure why! But sitting watching the athletics with my feet up that afternoon I decided to. It looks like fun and very well organised etc., and a good place to hopefully get a PB. Especially if the Jeskyns Challenge I have in January proves a bit too challenging to set a fast time, this may prove a good goal to follow up with. Although 16 laps of a Cyclopark may get a bit boring…

Right, I will finish now. Sorry to have gone on, this has ended up taking three days to cobble together for some reason and expanded to over 3,000 words somehow!, but thanks for reading if you got this far. Cheers, Adam

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3 thoughts on “Shoreham Woods 10k (aka Sore-ham Woods 10k)

  1. Pingback: My Weekend’s running | be back in a bit, have biscuits ready

  2. Pingback: Beckenham Charity Trail 10k | be back in a bit, have biscuits ready

  3. Pingback: Oliver Fisher 10k 2016 | be back in a bit, have biscuits ready

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