Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Shouting Larmer, Larmer, Larmer, Larmer. . .

Well I can't remember if March came in like a lion or went out like a lamb however there was certainly a 'llama' in the middle, but more of that later!

The month started with some pretty chilled running, the longest for the first couple of weeks being 13.5km right at the beginning. The nights were still closing in early but there was by then just enough smudgy daylight to enable me to start squeezing in evening runs offroad as long as I didn't mind a bit of headtorch action for the last 5 or 10 mins!
I was still trying to stick to a low heart rate as much as possible, however I did give the HR monitor a bit of a work out when we encountered a 'rogue' cow while on a short heath run.
Now as many people who know me know, I really am not happy when it comes to dealing with creatures of the bovine persuasion, they are big, heavy, and a bit simple. Regardless of people telling me they are 'harmless' I just cant get out of my head the image of a dirty great lump of beef with hooves on thundering towards you and not being able to stop!
Hence you can imagine my increase in HR when the dogs and I have to wind our way past the resident group of heath cows that are usually only visible in the distance, who have decided the best place for them to be is on a narrow path, between us and the gate no less. And the light is fading and I have stupidly forgotten to pick up my headtorch so I don't really want to retrace my steps in the dark!
I was nervous enough but then one of the cows decided to face us down. I shouted 'Shoo!' (yeah like that's gonna do anything. . .) The cow took a step towards us, then another (Heart Rate increasing rapidly). Max decided the best course of action was to take a wide detour through the heather and gorse and left me and Daisy to it.
Daisy was of course trembling and wanting me to pick her up, so together we made a pathetic nervous pair.
The cow seemed to have taken a particular dislike to one of us, and charged!. . . . . .
. . . . Well actually to be honest anyone watching would probably have seen it just take a couple of quick steps in our direction, but fear blows things up out of proportion!

In the end I managed to skirt round it by going up a bank and on the way past actually managing to slap it on the backside (brave for me!) with the hope it would make it run away from us. I didn't stop to find out and me and Daisy made a run for the gate where Max was waiting the other side looking at me like 'Stop mucking about mum, what kept you?'
Once through the gate I looked back only to find the cow had hardly moved in our direction, but was just watching us (with clearly evil intent of course!)

Yes, yes, I know, pretty pathetic isn't it but i really really really am scared of them (horses - same size animal - no problem bizarrely), consequently this run is recorded a tad over dramatically as 'when cows attack' :-)

So from Cows to Llamas, or indeed Larmers, as the 15th March brought the Larmer Tree Half Marathon. This was held in the picturesque Rushcombe Estate at Tollard Royal on the Dorset/Wiltshire border and organised by my old friends, White Star Running.
Kevin was due to be running the 'Lovestation' at this, due to the regular lady Karen being away, and so true to form had put his heart and soul into making it a good'un, from carefully making sure he had the right people to look after the runners, to carefully selecting the right underpants to go under his 'White Star' kilt! Yes the kilt was back as it had caused a quite a stir at the Giants Head, but this time he had a special corporate black one with an embroidered logo! 

The selection of distances on offer in the Larmer Tree Races were a half marathon, 20 miles, or a full marathon. The 20 miles was included because it would suit a lot of people in training for a later spring marathon.
As mentioned in the previous post, my weapon of choice was the half marathon, and I was intending to race it as best I could, just to see what i could do.

The Race HQ and Start area was located at the Larmer Tree Gardens and the lovely people there were trusting all us trail runners with their delightful pavilion and attached dining area.
One of my favourite pics of the day is of a host of expensive but muddy trail shoes arranged outside the door of the pavilion, as one after the other runners arrived at the door, took one look inside and politely but hurriedly took their shoes off before venturing in!

The course was pretty epic too, I don't know what the other 2 races were like but the half route was quite tough, with hills, farm tracks, woodland, muddy fields and small villages in equal quantity, and at one point coming within a few hundred yards of the finish which was quite evil to be so close and yet so far!

Kevin and the aforementioned Lovestation were situated within about 5-6 miles of the finish just after all 3 races converged; for the half he was at about 8 miles after a nasty hill.
I could hear runners ahead of me had got to him before I could see it. There was a lot of laughing, shrieking and general hubbub.

When I arrived I got a big hug, but of course I didn't need to see the pants as I had already had a preview! The Ladies of the Lovestation were resplendent in their bright pink hoodies. Clare, Ruth, Di and Karen were doing a great job looking after everyone, ably assisted by Jim and Steve. I didn't have a lot but the Bucks Fizz was quite nice thank you!
I think Kevin was in his element playing to the crowd and had gone critical at one stage, even showing his underwear to passing hikers. . . .

And if you are wondering what all the fuss was about, these are the offending pants, and they caused what ended up being 'photo of the race' (below) to be taken by Clare.

Flashing the runners - poor Carolyn doesn't look impressed!
Towards the end of the race there was a nasty muddy trek through a wooded section, I think the local hunt had been through the day before and churned up the paths for us, so some of the mud was ankle deep in places. All part of the trail running experience of course but so difficult to run in and extremely tiring, so I was glad to eventually see the Larmer Tree Gardens driveway again even though it was an uphill trek to the flag lined finish.

The quality of the hot food and amazing dining hall provided by the venue I'm sure were not things most runners were expecting, but nearly everyone took advantage especially as the weather was cold and windy, and a hot meal indoors was most welcome!
However, I had promised to fetch Max & Daisy from Kevin after I had finished so I ignored the hot meal, got changed, and took a short cut (about a mile and a half) across a field to the Lovestation (If i had known this was here on the way round I might have been tempted to take it!), picked up the pups, had a quick chat, and returned the way i had come, to see if Nic had arrived yet as she was sweeping the half.
I had only just got back for about 5 mins and Nic crossed the finish line. She went off to get some food and get changed, but meanwhile Mark Smith had completed the 20 miler and was wondering when his wife Karen was going to be finished helping on the Lovestation, especially when she had been up since 5am which is when Kev had collected her. I informed him of the shortcut thinking he would go on his own, but instead he insisted i accompany him as 'the walk would do me good'.
So, dragging the dogs back through the field of sheep we returned to the Lovestation, kidnapped Karen so she could go home, and returned to race HQ once more (thus completing a total of a 6 mile walk on top of racing the half, talk about a cool down!) where Nic was wondering where the hell i had got to!

Anyway, in the end I managed to complete the half in 2 hours and 28 mins, which i am very pleased about given the hills and seeing as my flat road half time is 2:16. All boding quite well for the end of June. . .

The remainder of March passed without incident (no more cows thank goodness!) with a few more low HR runs, but of course I cant finish without mentioning little Daisy's longest run up to then at the very end of March of a grand total of 13km (or 8 miles in old money), which considering she was only 6 and a half months is quite something. Clearly another running dog in the making!

next time - April brings more than showers, with 2 longer runs out of my comfort zone in the company of faster runners and a bit of film making with a little Poole parkrun video (but no races for a change!).

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