Thursday, 18 June 2015

Trionium Midsummer Munro 2015 race report

I'm not sure what happened, but I was in a bit of a daze the whole way around. I think maybe because I had recently run the North Downs Way 50, along some of the very same paths, I was expecting to run an ultra and therefore plod along and switch off. Don't ask me why, I really don't know. I just remember being very surprised that the event had ended and I was collecting a medal.

I love medals. And Trionium always have a good one. I also love the t-shirts they give out too. Good quality and I really like the added touch of including everyone's names on the back. This year we also got a small bum-bag, which did make me laugh. I told myself "A bum-bag? This isn't the 80's people, who would ever use one of those?" as I begun placing all of my bits and pieces into it and marvelling at why I hadn't thought of it before. A real keeper for my next run to help manage the essentials before and after a race. Fashion be damned!

Proper bling
But I digress, I really should be telling you about the run. This year the start was a little different. We started at the top of Box Hill, in the Old Fort car park. I had no idea there was such a significant car park up there, no did I know about the cafe. Or the hundred plus cyclists raging up and down the hills. I'll certainly have to come back with my own road bike.

I've done it again! Back to run. So we started by the Old Fort and then instead of heading out and taking a left to the steps, we headed right and then down the hill by the Zig Zag road all the way to the bottom to where the start and finish usually was. In a way, this new route was almost as cruel as the steps. Filled with energy, and with the assistance of gravity, the horde of eager runners sped down the first hill like a bat out of hell. We even ran all the way back up too and of course inadvertently blew ourselves up before we'd even begun.

I made a mental note that this would be a long hard run and so decided to pace myself. I'd learn later on that I probably need another mental note to turn the speed back on too.

Anyway, the steps, as ever, were cruel and delightful in equal measure. I took the wise course of only running most of the steps and allowed the traffic to slow me to a walk to gather my breath and then to 'speed' away once there was a gap. I was particularly delighted to see that the chap in first place was only just returning to the stairs as I was at the bottom. Not too far ahead I thought.

The Midsummer Munro 2015 route - view Garmin trace
The cooler weather was certainly welcome. Starting at 08:05 meant the sun was yet to really come out and that meant I could run harder without blowing up. I still needed water at every stop for the first half, not for hydration, but to cool myself down. But a gentle shower later on kept me cool and allowed to chug away up and down the hills.

One benefit of an out and back route is that you can work out in what position you are. At the half-way point I was in 40th place and I was happy to stay there. I recorded every time someone took over me, and I them. Whilst I was happy with 40th, I didn't want to be 41st (who likes odd numbers?) and so kept pushing. And with only a few KMs to go, and feeling really great, I should have shot off and made a mark, but I didn't, I plodded along and bided my time.

The second time on the steps was easier. I walked more of it, breathing hard in the humid air and allowing even gentle traffic to slow my progress. I still made a good go of it at the bottom of the steps, 'rushing' past a few unsuspecting runners. I was expecting others to make a break for it, but nothing came. I made up the 10 places pretty much on those steps and then cruised into 30th place at the finish just around the corner.
The two steepest points at either end were the 222 Box Hill steps

Oh, and whilst I was running into the finish, I saw that someone had dropped an energy gel. I hate that. We're trail runners, we're meant to be better than that. It's obvious it wasn't done on purpose, but we should take better precaution to not drop our stuff and litter. So, as I ran by, I reached down to grab the gel and at that moment, at that very moment, both legs decided to spasm and cramp. Like a puppet I hopped between both legs over the last 50m to the finish. Terrific.

Peace. Photo credit: 'Gaz'
Having had issues with my car on the way to the event, I had to leave pretty quickly, but it was nice to see that everyone who had finished were still milling around and clapping as other runners came in. I would have liked to have stayed and met a few of the runners. Especially those who I had passed and was giving mental credit to for running a particular part so well, or pacing me, or making me laugh or whatever. Alas, til next time.

And there will be a next time. Being honest, the event wasn't too hard this year. I could have tried harder and next year I certainly will need to because it's that time again for the Picnic Marathon!

Huge thanks to Rob, the team and the volunteers that put in the effort to make really great and unique event. Really thought this group had been the best volunteers yet!

Learn more about the Trionium Midsummer Munro event
Garmin trace for the Midsummer Munro

Monday, 1 June 2015

Bedgebury Forest mountain bike trails review

On a recent family holiday near Hastings, UK, I Googled "Mountain Bike Trails Hastings" to find something to fill a day with. You can never be too sure what the trails will be like, whether it's tamer than you'd imagine or perhaps too extreme. Fortunately, Bedgebury Forest trails are a good solid red that's as fast and as fun as you make it.

Getting there

Bedgebury Forest is easy to get to from the M25, junction 5 and there's plenty of parking. There's a fire-road right from the car-park which takes you to the start of the trails so it's easy to get stared. Parking is £10 for the whole day, which is pricey for what I usually pay, but £10 on a day out for new trails was worth it. I waste more money than that at the cinema for less fun.

Post code: TN17 3SJ

The car park is a pay-to-leave, so when you rock up, park, get the bike out and get riding. Don't faff with the tickets just yet.

The trails

I didn't see any blue trails whilst I was out, but even the reds, and the one black I rode, were quite tame. If you can ride a regular blue, you can ride a red here.

I did two laps of the red and they took around 45 minutes each. The navigation between the different trails is first rate and it was very obvious where I needed to go next. All the trails have names, but apart from Cardiac, which I only remembered because a few guys were in awe of how difficult it was going to be (it's not that hard), I've since forgotten them.

Actually no, the first trail was called Genesis, but it was closed for repairs (May 2015) so I didn't get a chance to ride it. Oh and I also remember the last trail too, Cake Run, which is aptly named because it takes you right back to the start and towards the awesome café.

Anyway, back to the trails. There's lots of variety here. Hills, flats, tight and twisty, flat out fast and a bunch in between. They've even got rocky sections, which on a tall Cannondale Trigger 29er is more faff than fun. I loved some of the trails; blitzing down the chutes and railed the berms. I had heard the berms were quite small for the speed, but some of them were massive and I had no trouble flooring it and staying gripped in all the way down.

Beginners are welcome

There's not much in the way of jumps along the trail and anything jump worthy can easily be rolled too. Perfect for beginners. In fact, there were a lot of people out with families and kids. Give them space and they're fine. There are plenty of places to over-take and fortunately everyone was kind and wise enough to let me pass once they realised someone was behind them. Oh wait, there was a really odd section that had a few large jumps (3 feet), but they seemed really awkward. You'd have to hit them flat out to take-off from one and land on the other and then repeat it immediately and then straight into a berm. It looked awesome, but I just ended up rolling the jumps. It just didn't make sense in the context of the trail.

The black run

Laughable really. It's not a black run, but I remember reading that they had to classify it as such because there's some 'air-time', which constitutes a black grade. In reality, the 'jumps' are now so worn in that you can easily roll them. Still, it was a fun little chute.

The café

It's a decent job with a great view of the lake and plenty of seating. They also have a tonne of places to plant the bikes so you don't have to lean them up around the place. Nice touch. Food looked nice, but I opted for a cold drink and a delicious ice cream. Pricey like the car park again, but meh, it was ice cream.

Bike hire and store

I didn't go in as the place was heaving, but there's a bike shop there that hires bikes and says it sells equipment. It didn't look massive, but I'm sure they'd sort you out if you had an emergency, or direct you to the nearest bike store. If you just want to get a bike and ride, then this place is perfect. Book in advance though, most bikes were gone when I was there (Bank Holiday weekend mind).

Would I go again?

If I was in the area, sure I would. It's a place where you can get faster and hit the line a little better each time. I'm in doubt that there's probably hidden trails too, so it's worth exploring and asking the bike store for info.

I live a good 90 minutes away, and for me, it's not a place I would specifically travel a 3 hour round trip to go to again. Where I live, Wales is a 4 hour return trip and that makes much better sense.

In summary, definitely worth a ride if you're in the area.