Reports 2018 - Ravens Runners London

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Race Reports for 2018
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18-01-18
Surrey XC Champs Race Report
First one of these - I'm sure I'll manage to put it in the wrong place or something... I raced in the Surrey County XC championships on Saturday for Herne Hill (first claim club). The champs were set at Denbies Vineyard. Given that it had been raining all week and Denbies is pretty much on the NDW I was expecting a veritable mudbath. Thankfully the course was actually relatively dry as the cold weather meant that the ground had been frozen for the earlier races. I'll usually race in a vest in just about any conditions. 5 seconds after stripping down to my vest I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and put my long sleeved top back on with a buff and gloves. With a new pair of Inov8 X-talon 220 trail shoes in club colours, the long sleeve top ruined my colour co-ordination but was definitely the right call. The course is 3 undulating laps totalling approximately 7.5 miles. I lined up at the start line with clubmate V50 and 4-time former winner Dave Taylor who is still running pretty well despite running his 5km PB of 13:44 almost 20 years ago. I went out far too hard up the first hill, trying to keep a couple of my club-mates within elastic band distance and after about a km or so I was struggling. Blowing hard and with people starting to stream past me. Each loop involves climbing until the half-way point (with a few quick drops) before a long descent on a straight to a u-turn where you head back uphill for about 600m before another long hill and then rejoining the finishing straight for the only flat bit of the course. Towards the end of the first lap I started to get my breath back and feel a bit more confident. Tim Bowen from Dulwich who I've dueled a few times came past me and I managed to hold on to him as we started the second lap. Things were looking up. On each descent Tim moved away from me, but on the next hill I was catching back up. Better yet as we came off the halfway point and started the long descent - we were starting to catch the string of runners lined up in front of us. We carried on with this ding-dong battle all around the second lap. The second lap was 15 seconds slower (14:30, 14:45) but I was moving well now and starting to feel a bit stronger. Just one more lap to go... and we were consistently catching athletes. Including Wayne Bell who I knew was in reasonable shape before Xmas. A quick "come on Wayne" and we were off on the third lap. The third lap I was starting to pull away from Tim on the uphills rather than having to play catch-up. We were catching an older Thames runner and a Strider of Croydon runner who looked to be struggling on the hills. As we caught them - I pushed hard to get past and started to feel STRONG. I accelerated into the next dip and drove up the second to last hill. I knew they would all be in hot pursuit on the long drop to the u-turn so I flung myself forward and tried to push. I knew I was breaking away but needed to get a gap. I went around the u-turn (this time around not entangling myself in the tape) and tried to run as hard as I could up the final hill without knackering myself for the run in. The legs were getting heavy at this point but I could see a final Thames runner ahead and focused on him and not the chasing pack. By the time I crested the hill - I, a bit like you dear reader, was tired and just wanted this to be over. I was closing on Thames but he remained stubbornly outside of the elastic band range. Turning onto the finishing avenue, this section was far softer underfoot than the rest of the course. Feeling like I was running on cushions I managed to haul my body across the line for 36th place and having put a good 10-30 seconds on the various chasing athletes. The splits per lap were 14:30 (~50m short), 14:45, 14:45 (~100m longer). Next up is the Surrey League this Saturday and the 15km monster of a Southern at Brighton at the end of the month. Surrey County Champs - 36th place, 44:00
Bryn Reynolds
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18-01-18
Tokyo 5K
Ran the usual Tokyo 5K on my business trip. No Jensen Button again. During my warm up I realised my calves were really tight and I had obviously not recovered from a stair reps and steep hill reps session on Wednesday evening.  Racing at the equivalent of half past Midnight did not help. The course is hilly and was quite windy. 2 young guys zoomed off. They finished in 15.45 and 16.45. I could not catch the guy in 3rd (he is a sub 2.40 marathon runner). I was 4th in a disappointingly slow 18.42 but was protecting my tight calves.
Simon LeMare
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18-01-18
53-12 Cross Country League – Ipswich
I ran my first race of the year and first XC since November in the 53-12 League this week held at Ipswich and hosted by the Jaffa’s.  The league isn’t the highest standard in Essex but it’s ideal for the smaller clubs like Witham RC. I planned to run the start conservatively as I generally go off fast and try and hang on only to be overtaken mid-way through the race by a few runners.  So naturally I sprinted off up the hill but as we turned the corner I eased off and settled into a steady pace.  Quite a few people then overtook me through this first mile but I stuck to the plan and I don’t think any-one else overtook me after this point who I didn’t then catch again.  I felt pretty good at this point so I starting making a few surges to overtake people and after about 3 miles I found myself in a position where I was quite a distance behind the person in front but there was a pack chasing behind so I stepped it up a bit and succesfully increased the gap behind me and was comfortable with about mile to go that I would at least not lose any places. I then pushed a little to see if I could bring the guy in front a bit closer, at times it felt like it was working so I tried to keep up the pace but it was difficult to tell, however as we ran through the last field I saw that the guy I was chasing had overtaken someone else so this guy then became my target as I assumed he was flagging.  You could see the finish about ¼ of a mile away at this point and I caught a glimpse of one of my teammates take someone on the line with a sprint finish, my target was getting closer but I was running out of time so as we turned the corner for the last 100m I put on a full sprint to see what the guy had… he looked behind him at me but must have had nothing left in the tank because he didn’t speed up but I wasn’t taking any chances and held my sprint right to the finish line to finish in 30th position out of 193.  I was pleased to have run the race as planned and to run pretty consistant splits and a fastest final mile, with average of 6:14 for an XC course.
Scott Darney
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18-01-18
XC - Writtle (Chelmsford)
This race was a pretty decent learning experience for me and one that should prove valuable.  I had decided to go out fairly quickly but got carried away and ended up going out faster than was sustainable and had to ease off at around a half mile to three quarters of a mile in.  Lee and then Mick came past me so I had obviously gone out too quickly if I was in front of them! I had made the wrong choice of footwear, going for trail shoes rather than spikes.  The course was quick in places where it was firm but in others was a little slippery.  There was a particularly tough section where it was very muddy and was I would guess about a quarter to a third of a mile out and the same back again.  I was slipping around on it a decent amount on the first lap, but on the second lap with tiring legs and the soles of my shoes pretty much clogged up I was all over the place.  I took a tumble on here and carried on running this muddy section as fast as I could but had a few people in spikes pass me at about double the snail speed I was running!  Even the slightly slippery mud was proving problematic on the second lap where spikes I think would have made a difference; at one point I slipped and grabbed a wire fence to stay up which turned out to be barbed wire and I was lucky to get away with a few small cuts.  Once we got back onto the firmer ground I managed to pick up the pace but could tell that my legs were tiring.  About 300 yards from the finish there was someone catching me, I managed to pick up the pace a decent amount but didn’t go to full speed as wanted to save a little for the last 100 yards to try and pull away; had a bit of a gap coming into the finish and managed to open it up with a sprint at the end. Lessons learned – a) choice of footwear – if someone says that trail shoes should be okay and caution you that there is a small section of concrete, if you think it may be muddy still go for spikes – a course recce would have been a good idea to get a sense of what I would be facing, b) going out a bit quick is okay but going out unsustainably hard is not okay! I finished 73/207 in 34.01.  Think I could have finished a few places higher if I had worn the right footwear and paced the first mile more sensibly. Some impressive performances from other Ravens who I will let report separately.
John Crawley
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18-01-18
I ran a very similar race to John, except that I started slowly and then slowed down.  The muddy bits were shocking.  Good job I bought some 15mm spikes.  Bad job I left them in the office.  I lost about 5 places each time we went into the morass, to finish 82 in 34.45. Still being positive I beat at least one fellow geriatric who beat me in the Essex Champs last week. Reports awaited from Mick, Lee, Alex Hardy and Dave Butler.
Robin McCoy
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18-01-18
Had a great race for a change! We had been warned by the “starter” that there was a tight 180 degree turn 300 metres into the race and that we should tuck elbows in (read that as  get a fast start to avoid the crush). It worked out a treat and I ended up relaxing behind Scott Rice for a mile or so before a fellow Springfield Vet came past and got me revved up again. Then after a couple of miles, the Essex Vet Road Racing champ (Andy Lowe) came past me. I had done my research on him and figured that he shouldn’t be finishing too far ahead of me (which he has all year). I tracked him for the next 2 miles where he seemed only a bit more comfortable in the mud. He started overtaking again and I nearly let him go, but dug deep to track him towards the last 400 metres. With 200 to go, I gave it one last roll of the dice and it paid off with him finishing a comfortable 2 seconds behind. Best placing in ages of 33rd! I was still buried down in the Vets in 7th I think. Over to Alex, Mick and Dave Butler….
Lee Martin
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18-01-18
I also made the same mistake as John by wearing off road shoes, which slowed me down in the very muddy section of the course. Did have some new shiny spikes with me (one bright yellow and one blue shoe) but didn't want to get them muddy! Good weather on the day for racing. Course was very flat but the mud slightly worse in places than at the County race the Saturday before but easier overall as it was 4K/1 lap shorter so only 2 x through the mud not 3! I started slowly as usual and tried to work my way up the order though the muddy section seemed to open up bigger gaps in the field than usual. Kept plugging away to finish in 104th place in stone of 36:06. Felt I had a good run overall in my quest to get back to a reasonably competitive level.
Over to Mick....
Dave Butler
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18-01-18
Like Dave I also have a newish pair of spikes, one bright yellow and one blue shoe, unlike Dave I wore my spikes !! The spikes were a problem when crossing the tarmac path and for the stretch of running along the same path but I managed to run on the grass alongside the path and have therefore only twisted a couple of my spikes. The main advantage of the spikes came when we hit the muddy stretch where I was able to keep going at the same speed and overtake a number of runners that were slipping and sliding all over the place. The best approach when hitting muddy stretches in cross country races is to keep the forward momentum going, ie carry one running fast, the spikes help with this as you are up on your toes more, once you start slowing down you start to get bogged down in the mud and can easily grind to a halt. I enjoy courses with short (up to a mile) stretches of mud as you can keep the speed going, course where it is mud the whole way are much tougher as eventually you slow down and it becomes a slog. Anyway as far as the race was concerned I thought Lee and I had started at the correct pace, we avoided the crush at the first couple of corners, but then I saw John in front of us !! We eventually caught him within the first mile as he started to tire a bit. I managed to finish in 44th place, beating a number of my rivals, overall a very pleasing race and I had no problem with the groin muscle pain that kept me from running the Essex Champs the week before
Mick Butler
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18-01-18
Sorry for the late report but I was off yesterday with food poisoning… I think it was a dodgy mussel!! I ran my first Essex XC race for Orion since my injury back in August.  I have raced a couple of local XC races and a 10 miler so I was starting to feel back to my pre-injury pace. I ran in my new pair of Brooks spikes which are multi coloured with one being bright yellow and the other blue… I thought Phil would have had a few choice remarks about my footwear as he was always impressed with multi-coloured football boots (sounds like Mick had the same spikes on)!!  They were excellent and I really felt like I maintained some grip throughout most of the race.  I also managed to run on grass by the side of the road so didn’t feel at a disadvantage in spikes. XC seems to suit me as I go off hard and then just hold on for as long as possible!!  I felt strong at the start and maintained a good pace throughout finishing in 18th place in 30.33. Orion were pushing for the chance to win the league but we lost out to Havering who had three runners in the top ten so I think our chance has now gone. Not sure I can make it out the rest of the week and I probably shouldn’t run today…
Alex Hardy
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18-01-18
York Brass Monkey – HM
I ran this yesterday. Having lost fitness over December (colds, work, family life… usual excuses) and then upping mileage for the last 2 weeks having started marathon training, I decided to treat this as a 10 mile race and run the first 3 miles steady. Being in York, it was a very flat course and yesterday was the perfect weather for long distance running; cool and dry, albeit a little windy. So off I set at a disciplined pace of c.6:30’s – not getting dragged into the frantic start, which resembled something more like a 5k! Hit mile 3 in 19:50. Felt pretty good, so off I went picking off runners one by one, which does wonders for motivation (nothing worse than being constantly overtaken!). I was hoping to do the 10 miles as close to one hour as possible. At halfway the clock was showing 42:15, which meant I wasn’t as close to 6’s as I would have liked to have been, so moved it up a gear. There was a headwind as we turned at halfway and made our way back into York. Interestingly, looking up ahead of the field, I could see pelotons of 5-15 people forming all along the course. It looked more like a bike race. Last March, I remembered being completely outwitted in a HM at Windsor, when I took the wind for most of the course whilst the pack I ran with huddled behind me and I couldn’t shift them. Not to be outwitted this time, I found the snug position in a peloton for a couple of minutes or so, before leaving it and pushing on to join the next one. Worked my way up the field using this tactic for most of the second half and crossed the line in 1:22:16. Pleased with my time. A couple of mins off my PB, but my second fastest HM time and a negative split of 2 mins. Did the 10 miles in about 62 mins (when you factor in the 0.1 of a mile). Next HM in March, where I would like to break 80 mins.
David Wilkinson
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18-01-18
Surrey League XC (Farthing Downs)
Having just about recovered from the efforts of writing the last race report, I had the third Surrey League XC this weekend. It's always a tough race at the Surrey League with a fast start and high quality field. It's a two lap, figure of 8 course. You start on a grassy field running on a camber and climb for a good few minutes before starting the first loop. I knew I'd gone off at about the right pace as felt good and comfortable and was in a decent position. I spotted Ben Reynolds (Stock Exchange / Thames ) and used him as my marker as he very rarely has a bad race. We then dropped sharply over a stony path which made me glad I was in trail shoes and not spikes. I lost a couple of places along here as I was slipping and sliding, I went over on my ankles a few times. After the stony path we pegged it through the valley before a sharp and steep climb back to the cross-over point before a long descent back to the finish. About this point I realised I was feeling good and pushed past Ben and started focusing on the runners ahead. Going up the climb I was moving well and took a couple more places before they flashed past me on the stony path again as I tiptoed my way down. I didn't lose ground on the final hill but didn't gain any either. As we entered the final stretch I pushed well and got past a couple more runners before two overtook me with about 400m to go. I started getting ready to try and kick past them at the finish but as we finished on a bend I struggled to get into the right position to kick past.
Overall I finished in 43rd position and third home for me team, average pace of 3:30 / km which for a hilly XC race is pretty good for me. Two weeks of 90+ miles in the bank for the year, two more now until Brighton and the 15km Southern champs.
Bryn Reynolds
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18-01-18
Minnis Bay XC
Also out in the mud yesterday on the North Kent coast, although this is the second year I have done this race, so was able to successfully negotiate the 5 water filled dykes without too much damage, unlike some people!
Marcus Elwes
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12-01-18
Kent XC champs.
So like a lot of the counties, this weekend was the Kent County XC champs. This race is held in a field by Brands Hatch race circuit and whilst is fairly boring with not much to look at is still fairly tough and makes for good racing. All I remembered from last year that this race was a struggle post Christmas. I didn’t set a lot of expectation just for some improvement. I set off by my own standards fairly conservatively as the first small flat lap all goes a bit hectic (1st Mile 5.26). Then after we had dropped down the hill and started to climb back up I noticed I was picking people off. (All that hill training wasn’t for nothing). Then just tried to settle in and get to the last lap of about 2 miles and then try to empty the tank. James Macdonald came past me half way round the second lap and despite his shout of ‘come on the Ravens’ then proceeded to pull away from me. Putting that down to his 70 mile weeks vs my 50’s. Managed to keep going and get past a few more with only one other runner getting by me on the last lap. Finished 34th in 43.25 over the 7.5 miles. That is 38 places and 3 min 11 secs quicker than last year. Can’t complain.
Chris Tuck
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12-01-18
Herrington XC
This took place not far from me on Saturday (a fixture of the North East Harriers League). Given how much I enjoyed my first XC outing at Richmond Park the other month, thought I’d give it a go. Still haven’t got round to joining a club up North yet, so entered on the day as a guest. It’s been fairly damp up here lately, so I was expecting muddy conditions, but by the time I arrived for the 2.15pm senior men’s race, a full day of racing had turned the course into a complete mudfest. I set off with the slow pack, at a fairly conservative pace. The course headed out for a half mile into the park and then it was 3 laps before the half mile back. It was pretty tough going throughout. Even in dry conditions, it would be a difficult course – very up and down. The mud was relentless and there was barely a blade of grass left on any part of the designated route. Every stride was about pulling your feet (and sometimes ankles and shins) out of the mud. Gaining momentum was impossible, even when running down slope – any momentum sent you downwards into the mud, not forwards. Anyway, after letting 50+ past me at the start, I started overtaking people half way round lap one. I carried on overtaking others and avoided being overtaken until a few from the fast pack got me towards the end of the final lap, to finish 19/484. The course was just short of 6 miles according to my watch. I had a cracking time. Loved every minute of it and can’t wait to do the next one.
David Wilkinson
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5-01-18
Gloucester 10mile
This morning I took part in the Gloucester 10 mile race as I am up visiting my mum and her and my brother we’re both taking part. This race starts on an industrial estate before heading out in to the country lanes for 2 laps then back. I went out a bit quick going through the first mile in 5.13 but with the strong wind decided watching mile splits was a waste of time. Got my head down and pushed on. Got past a chap in front of me for 5th position but then coming down a hill at about 7 miles he got back by me. With all the eating and drinking and lack of running I didn’t have much to react so thought I’d just keep him in site and hope for a second wind. Although this came after mile 8 it was never enough to catch him. So finished 6th in 57.22. Which given the conditions and celebrations I will take. Having travelled all this way I was a bit surprised to see the winner was from the cottage training group (Battersea Park training group) and second place was Belgrave. Winning time about 52 mins. Anyway another year done.
Chris Tuck
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5-01-18
Lamberhurst New Year's Day 10k
A not overly early (10.30am) start tempted me to make the short journey to Lamberhurst yesterday for their New Year's Day 5k / 10k race. The course is one or two loops from the village hall, taking in the National Trust's Scotney Castle.  I opted for the 10k race, with participants of both distances subject to heavy rainfall - some for longer than others but at least it wasn't overly cold. I felt pretty good until the first of two climbs on the second loop, but managed to keep going and put in a couple of 6+ minute miles amongst four 7+ minute ones to finish in 28th place (202) finishers with chip and gun times of 44.03 / 44.08. A finishers medal of a champagne bottle was a subtle reminder of the previous night's excess but I was nonetheless pleased to have completed my first race of 2018!
Kevin Cockram
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5-01-18
I ran the Santa Barbara Resolution 10k yesterday. I set off at 6mm and then rapidly declined to set a PW of 40.11.  Apparently the air quality is still poor after the fires in California, the aftermath of which is very clear from the freeway. Or it could be the side effects of the excellent local “Raven Mad” beer I was drinking the night before!
Robin McCoy
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5-01-18
I was at Lloyd Park yesterday for the first part of a New Years Day double header and saw a Ravens vest out front. I looked at the results afterwards to see it was Jonathan Pontin. I recognised him from some of the sessions but have not actually yet said hello. Apologies Jonathan if you are reading and well done. Good to see a Ravens vest at the front of a parkrun.
Marcus Elwes
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