Tag Archives: Weald

Weald Challenge 50km – the third time

I ran this race in it’s first year (2014), and again the following year. In 2016 I was there, but supporting Sarah who was running. Last year I ran GUCR, but decided for this year it was time to come back.

It was a beautiful morning when I left the house, and I’d been offered a lift by David Milloy who was running, so could relax as he drove down to the start.

Registration was quick and simple and we soon lined up for the race briefing. All the pre-race communications had warned that only the half marathon route would be marked, and the 50km runners would need to navigate (a run book and GPS files were provided). However during the briefing Stuart told us he had marked the full route, which was great news, and meant I would need to worry too much about navigation.

8am, and we are sent on our way. I set off at an easy pace and had decided to run on feel rather than check my pace on my garmin. In fact I ignored the watch for most of the run, only checking once an hour, so was very pleased to make it to half way, and the highest part of the route up in Ashdown Forest, in the time I had predicted.

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Running across the Forest with my support team

This meant Sarah and the children were there to cheer me on and offer to fetch me an ice cream from the van in King’s Standing car park. The weather was still perfect for running so i declined on this occasion. An hour or so later when it had warmed up, i’d have happily accepted.

After about 3 hours of steady running, it really started feeling warmer. I was carrying two 250ml soft flasks, but one was leaking badly, so I could really only carry about 250ml. I made sure i stopped and drank at the next check point as well as refill the flask.

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Temp chart from my Garmin Fenix

I’d planned to meet Sarah again at the Blackboy’s Inn, but shortly after leaving CP4 and climbing up to the road I saw Claire Milloy waving at me and then heard Sarah call out. A runner had collapse by the side of the road, and they were looking after her.

I later discovered this was the leading lady who was suffering badly with cramp. In the end she had to withdraw, and Sarah drove her back to the finish.

Shortly afterwards I caught up with a couple of runners from the half marathon race, and from the top of the next hill I could see the church steeple at Chiddingly. It was still some way off, but once I saw it I knew there was only of couple more fields to cross before the end.

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Crossing the final field – race on

The runner in front had twice looked over his shoulder at me, and I assumed he was struggling. If I see a runner looking back, I always take this as an invitation to race, and I knew once we hit the road for the last section I would have a chance to push hard and catch him. The last stretch is about half a mile but seems further as you have to run up the hill to the start line and then carry on for another couple of hundred meters to the school. I pushed hard, and manage to catch him with a hundred meters or so to spare, and then power passed to the line.

My Garmin says I ran the last half mile at 6:43 min/mile pace.

 

 

 

I’m very glad I did as this meant i once again managed a top 10 finish!

My 3 Weald Challenge Results

Times

Slower but still in the top 10.

Pooh Country – High Weald Challenge 50k

This is a new race, organised by Stuart Mills, that starts and finishes in Groombridge. As this is only 5 miles from Tunbridge Wells, it was an obvious choice to enter it. I know many of the trails the race route follows, but also get to discover a few more local trails. With the event only three weeks before the Autumn 100, I was not planning on racing hard, but aimed to use it as a good long training run to assess my fitness.

I arrived at Groombridge Place with Richard shortly after 7am, and we quickly registered, picked up our race numbers and a copy of the route map. It had been a clear night, and although the sun was shining and promising to warm up later, it was still very cold so we quickly retreated to the warmth of the car. I had decided to wear shorts, my club vest and arm warmers, and carry minimal kit (phone, map and water) in a UD waist belt. As a result I stayed in the car until the last possible minute, keeping warm, before joining the race briefing. After some instructions from Stuart we made our way across the field and then crossed Station Road to the start line.

The route starts on Corseley Lane and follows the road until just after the Forest Way trail. Here the route turns right onto the Sussex Border path. As there is a stile where you pick up the trail, I wanted to be near the front to avoid the bottleneck, so I started right at the front, and quickly settled into 7th or 8th place, letting the leaders pull away a little. I know this section of the route reasonably well, and had the GPX file for the route loaded to my garmin Fenix, so the map was tucked away in my pocket. A couple of miles later I saw most of the lead group scrambling under the fence and back into the field I was in. They had clearly taken the open gate as an invitation to the adjacent field, rather than climb the rather hidden stile onto the correct path. Ten minutes later and the lead group had once again pulled clear of me, and I saw them climbing a stile at the top of the field. I was fairly certain this was wrong, and when I got to the stile I checked the way markings. Sure enough they had gone the wrong way, so I called them back before setting off on the correct trail. As they caught and passed me for a second time in Buckhurst Park, I joked they might just be quicker if they slowed down and ran with me.

Arriving at the first checkpoint (Withyham Church) I saw Andy, a friend from the Tunbridge Wells Harriers, who told me the race leader had come through about five minutes before. A quick drink and I started up the Weald Way path. I’ve done some training on this section, and it’s a long uphill drag from the church all the way up to the top of Ashdown Forest and King’s Standing Clump. We had been warned that the route would only be marked in a few places and we would need to follow way markings and navigate from the roadbook and map. However Stuart and team had done a great job marking the route over the forest, and all the little junctions were well signed. As I reached the summit and turned right onto the Vanguard Way, I was caught and passed by another runner. I followed him for a bit, over the road and into Gills Lap car park and then along passed ‘The Enchanted Place’ from Pooh’s stories, but had to stop for a call of nature, and when I stepped back on the path he was out of sight. This was after about 12 miles, and I didn’t see another runner until I caught up with him again at mile 30. Trail ultras can be a lonely sport, but I really enjoy being out on good trails and with the beautiful weather I was really having fun.

Just started

Just started

After crossing Pooh Bridge, and then climbing up to CP2, I was directed down a path I had not run before. It eventually took me to the Royal Ashdown Forect golf course. I don’t like running on golf course much. Too many hungover hackers firing wayward golf balls all over the place. So I kept up a good pace here, trying to put it behind me and was soon into Forest Row and CP3. The volunteers were excellent and topped up my water bottle, and once again Andy was here encouraging me on.

After Forest Row there was a gentle climb, and then through a camp site, where a friendly group directed me in the right direction “This way! The other runners went down there then all came back again…” Kind of them to let me know, but their car was rather blocking everyone’s view of the path.

With 20 miles run I was still feeling good, which was good, as at this point the route crossed the Forest Way again. If i’d been feeling bad, i’d have been tempted to take a short cut and follow the flat easy route back to Groombridge. Before long I was in Hartfield, and heading back to Withyham Church. Although I knew it was still  over 8 miles from Withyham to the finish, I was now back on familiar paths, so psychologically this felt like the home straight.

As I ran across the field from Withyham towards Forest Way and the river, two Roe deer ran across the field in front of me. I’d not seen much wildlife around, but seeing these convinced me the runners in front must be some way ahead by now. There is only really one big climb in this section, and that starts as you cross under the railway line and then run up to Stone Cross. I had to slow and walk the steep section here, but knew that from then on the route was easy, except from the short section in the woods on the Tunbridge Wells Circular path.

I had thought Withyham Church was the final checkpoint, so it was a pleasant surprise to find another one just after Fordcombe. I paused for a coke and some fruit, then set off for the final few miles.

The section round the back of Langton Green is always a little frustrating. There is a sequence of double gates and stiles that break up your rhythm, and interrupt your flow. However eventually I reached the Ashurst road, and knew there was only a mile and a half to go. At this point I saw another runner ahead, and knowing the trail is single track down through the woods, I picked up the pace to pass him quickly before the steep drop down into Groombridge.

Once on the road, it was a short run down to the church and then across the final field, before a finish in front of Groombridge Place. 5th place in 4hrs 23 mins. The time is a new best for a 50k, and more importantly it didn’t feel like I had destroyed myself in the process. Hopefully I’ll be in good shape for the Autumn 100.

In addition to a medal, every finisher gets a great pottery mug. So after the race I filled my mug with the free coffee and sat down for a while to chat to the other finishers. I think everyone agreed it had been a really well organised race on a beautiful route.

Groombridge Place

Finished in 5th