Its been 5 years since I last did this race, and I’ve always fancied another go at it. Its a great little multi-terrain event, run by Just Racing at Irchester Country Park.
This was race two of a series of races at Irchester, a 5k loop through the park taking in quite a few steep inclines and a whole heap of mud! There are three races that all start at the same time – 5k (one loop), 10k (two loops) and 15k (three loops). I had chosen the 15k as I am in training for the 20 mile Grizzly at the beginning of March (20 miles of multi-terrain hell in Devon). Not really the high mileage I have been doing, but the most on offer today and I fancied getting an early race in this year.
I decided to try my new trail shoes today as even though I know not to try new shoes when racing , I figured this was really just a training run and I have limited time before the Grizzly to wear them in. Was just a bit sad my shiny new Inov-8 Roclite 295 were about to be christened royally in mud, snow and water!
It was a bitter cold day and I arrived about an hour before the start (1000 gun). Probably a bit too early as even though its really well organised you are still hanging about in near-freezing weather. I got parked really easily and had a wander around. I decided a nice warm cup of tea was in order so I went to the conveniently placed burger van. I don’t usually drink tea before a race, and I did slightly regret the diuretic effect, but I did feel much better for a warm drink in me!
Anyway, the race you say? We convened at the top of a muddy hill for the start (funny watching people pick their way around muddy bogs they were about to run through in 5 mins!) I met a fellow Harrier, we didn’t know each other but you naturally gravitate to the yellow running top. She was running the 10k and had done race one a few weeks earlier so knew what to expect. I think we were two of only three Harriers there, which is a bit unusual given the event is only 30 mins from Bedford – come on Harriers, its a cracking event right on your doorstep!
Anyway we were gabbing away, and the gun went off! So a quick good luck and we started – fighting our way through the crowds as we all slip-slided our way down the bank. Its a funny course as its broadly “undulating”, apart from the steep 200m long bank you have to run up about 1km from the start. Its funny watching the field as it hits the bank as its extremely slippy up there and all of a sudden the pace slows down!
Anyway, safely up I settled into a rhythm. Its mainly gravel trails (probably 60% of the course) so although off-road its not too bad until you hit the boggy bits – which are quite “challenging”! Special shout out to the Roclite’s here – for their first trip out I was mightily impressed. They are quite light so don’t feel cumbersome on tarmac / gravel and yet they have great lugs on the bottom so I felt really sturdy on the muddy bits. I have to say its a world away from the last time I ran this course – five years ago I was still using old road shoes for off-road running, being fairly new to it. This was the course that convinced me then to go for trail shoes – believe me when you try and go round a 90 degree bend and your feet decide to carry straight on you realise the benefits of decent tread!
Anyway, the course thinned out on the second loop as the 5k runners started to finish so you really began to get a sense of the field you were up against. Mind as you see the leading 15k runners coming past you on their third loop it can be a challenge to stay positive!
I took a gel at the end of the second loop. I would not usually bother for this distance (around 9 miles), but I always carry one just in case. The end of each loop is quite a technical section with twists, turns, a small muddy hill, standing water and the wind in your face. It took a bit out of me so I decided to have the energy boost, which I was glad of.
By loop three you don’t really have many people left as the 10k runners finish and the field spreads out. I was following a tall female runner for the whole of the last loop – she was running really well so I figured I should hang on to her. Part of me hoped I might be able to overtake but she was too strong. I did however notice in the last mile sounds behind me and as I went round a bend I glanced back to see someone hot on my heals. My competitive nature kicked in and I really didn’t want to be overtaken having come this far. So I put a bit of a spurt on and motored up that last technical section before sprinting for the finish. I was welcomed by name into the finish funnel by the guy on the loudspeaker, which was nice except he said I was from Wellingborough Tri, not Bedford Harriers! I better email them as I don’t want my amazing time of 1:16 to be attributed to the wrong club! (I think there was an error as I wasn’t on the podium with that earth shattering time!) Anyway jokes aside, I was pleased as that was 4 mins faster than my time on the same course five years ago.
All in all – it was a really good, if somewhat cold, multi-terrain event. As I say, on the doorstep, well organised, not too expensive and if you have kids actually a great one for the family to come along to as there is loads to do at Irchester Country Park. Now back to higher mileage again next week – four weeks till Grizzly!