Tag Archives: LDWA

Sevenoaks Circular

This was the 44th edition of the LDWA Sevenoaks Circular, and i’m embarrassed to say it was my 1st.

The start was at 8am. After an early breakfast I left home at 7am and was parked up, registered and enjoying a cup of tea by 7:30. This event is so local I don’t know why i’ve never done it before. With a 24 hour race coming up soon, i wanted to have a good 5 hour run under my belt and get in some steady pacing. Obviously hilly and muddy trails are not exactly terrain specific training for running laps of a track, but are a lot of fun.

The start / finish is at at West Heath school, and after a short road section the route heads into Knole Park. I had been chatting to some friends at the start, but i was being more aggressive with my pacing, aiming for some early 8:30 miles before the route got too muddy so pushed ahead, just behind the lead runners.

After Knole Park the route headed out to the East into the open country side and dropped downhill to Ightham Mote and then Shipbourne Church.

Shipbourne Church

We then started to loop round to the south, across the Fairlawn estate toward Hildenborough. My daughter has her riding lessons here, so i recognised this section as we crossed Riding Lane and headed towards the A21. This is about the lowest point in the entire route, and i knew there were a couple of big climbs coming up, so i took a gel in preparation. I was running with a couple of other guys – one in long sleeved top and tights and the other in t-shirt and shorts. They were following the route on a gps watch while I had the paper route guide, so between us we had no navigation issues.

Perfect prep for the track

The second checkpoint was in the village hall in Weald, and then the route starts to climb up Wickhurst Road. I walked the steeper sections, and eventually reached the summit and then there was a long steady descent through Mill Bank Woods. A runner caught me here (red shirt man), and told me this was a good downhill stretch, and then flew off into the distance. The weather had been glorious all morning, with bright sunshine and light winds. However as i ran into Dryhill park it clouded over and started raining. This was the third checkpoint, and after topping up with some water, I grabbed a bag of mini cheddars, aiming to eat these on the big climb to Knockholt.  We had caught up with red shirt man at this point, and leaving this CP found another (T-shirt man) who was running towards us having gone the wrong way. Briefly there were five of us running together, but by the time we reached the A25 road crossing two had disappeared and I was back with the two guys i’d been with since CP2. Dashing across the main road was a bit scary, but we were soon running through Chipstead. I was surprised how tranquil the village seemed, being so close the M25/M26 motorways. Over the motorway bridge and then we ran towards Chevening Church.

The guys i’d been running with slowed for a walk up this gradual incline, but i carried on, knowing it was going to get steeper very soon. After the church there is a brief section across a field, and then it is steeply uphill to the North Downs Way. My legs were burning as I hike up here. I’ve done very little hill training this year (with Crawley and GUCR on the schedule it’s not been a priority) and paid the price. Eventually I was at the top, and joined the road into Knockholt.

The checkpoint was in the village hall and had some great looking cheese and tomato rolls, so i helped myself and set off to walk and eat. As i left I saw the guys i’d been with earlier running passed the CP, so called them back. I’d caught three runners in the CP, (red shirt man and two I’d not seen before) but they caught up with me as i enjoyed my snack and strolled down the road. However I started running again soon after and ran with them down the road only to see T-shirt man heading towards us!

Back on the North Downs Way and two of the runners stopped to walk, so now I was running with only red shirt man, and we were playing leap frog with T-shirt man. He was using his phone to navigate, and had done the Knockholt loop clockwise to our anti-clockwise, and was now heading down the field on the other side of the hedge to us. GPS is useful, but you still can’t beat written route guides.

The three of us ran into Duncton Green together and then through the nature reserve. As I caught sight of the Knole Acadamy (a large secondary school), i realised we were going back into the centre of Sevenoaks for the last couple of miles. While it was still rural and secluded I stopped for a toilet break, and then ran up to the main road. I could see red shirt man followed by t-shirt man, but they were powering up Bradbourne Road and I couldn’t catch them.

Although I had a vague idea where i was, it wasn’t until the route directions took me through a wooden door into Knole Park that I recognised the location. There was now only a couple of miles left, but all gently uphill. First through the park and then onto the road. I could see the two runners ahead, but hadn’t the speed to catch up.

Finally the school was in sight, and I jogged up the drive to the main building and the finish. I’d been hoping for 5 hours, but given the muddy conditions i was very happy with a 5:07 finish and third place.

P.S. I’ve been vague with names in this blog, mostly because I didn’t know the names of the guys I was running with. However after checking the results, I realised they were all called David, so using their names would not have improved the narrative.

1st place David in 5:06

2nd place David in 5:06

3rd place David in 5:07

 

 

Winter Tanners 30

After taking it easy in December and not racing, I thought I’d start the year with a fairly gentle event, and registered for the LDWA Winter Tanners.  I ran this in 2013 – the event was cancelled because of the snow, but the route had been published so I met up with Allan and Jerry in the car park and we ran it together.

However this year it was a beautiful sunny morning, and I ran with a friend from work (Richard’s blog is here).

We met up in a car park in Leatherhead and made our way to registration. By the time we were checked in and started running it was about 8:45, and promising to be a fantastic day. It was cold but not frosty, and the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. I started with my jacket on, but after 30 minutes, stopped to remove it and pack it away. It had been fairly wet in the preceding week so I has expecting a lot of mud, but actually there were only a few sections that were bad, and most of it was easy running.

This year’s route took us south over the North Downs and on to Leith Hill before swinging round to the West for a few miles and then returning to the North Downs Way.

The view from Leith Hill was spectacular. I’d not been there before, and had expected the climb up to be far harder, but the route we took led up a gradual incline so by the time we realised where we were, we were almost at the summit.

 

I enjoy the LDWA route instructions, and once you get used to them the navigation becomes fairly straightforward. We only had one diversion, when we followed another group, but after a hundred yards realised we were on the wrong track and turned back. However the instructions also provided much amusement:

Route Instructions

Rich: “That track felt a lot steeper than 10 percent”

David (after lengthy pause): “That’s a compass bearing, not a gradient”

I’ve no idea what he thought this meant: TR & in 400Y, at WM & path junction, FR (320º) down BW.

After Leith Hill there was another climb to Pitch Hill, and this was hard going. We had to stop for a breather at the top, but a handful of my chocolate coated coffee beans soon had me perked up and ready for a few more miles. At Checkpoint 4 we caught up with Robert , who Richard knew and his friend Mark who was running his first ultra. They were just leaving the CP when we arrived, but we caught up with them as we ran down the hill to Tanners Hatch and then ran with them for the final few miles into Leatherhead.

30.5 miles in about 5:45 (I forgot to stop my Garmin at the finish!) and good fun.

The route

The route