Sunday, 9 April 2017

Compton Downland Challenge

8 April 2017

This is one of my favourite races and takes place just 5 miles from my house. It links up a few of the routes I run pretty regularly and covers some tough ground. All in all it has everything I like in a race. This particular day was really sunny and approaching 20C which is hot for the UK at this time of year.

The course starts at Compton School and covers 20 miles and 1700 ft of climb. My friend Sue gave me a lift to the start, very nice of her as otherwise I would have cycled which I would have felt less like after the race! At the start we met up with a bunch of other Didcot Runners, Clare, Jon and Noel. It was lovely to see all of them and have a bit of a catch up with my old club. I also bumped into a lady called Max and her husband. Max is the sister of Marina who I ran half of NDW50 with last year. Max had been supporting her and offered me some pineapple chunks at a crucial moment of that run. I'd then bumped into her again at the start of Hampshire Hoppit and then again today. Lovely getting to know people in the running community!
The race started at 10 and it was already beautifully sunny and warm, though the air was fresh especially in shade. Perfect running weather though it got hotter throughout the day. First up was a loop of the school playing field, then off south of Compton towards the little village of Hampstead Norreys. I ran with Noel off and on through the first half of the race. I was trying to push a little harder to see what my legs could handle, but walked up the steeper hills and took photos. This is Noel.

Compton was his last long training run before London Marathon, so he was taking it steady.
The first half of the race is pretty undulating but runnable, but just before and after Streatley about halfway there are some monster hills which really take it out of your legs.

First there's a giant climb into and above Streatley, then a sneaky set of wooden steps just when you think you've recovered, then a bit after that a much longer and deceptive climb where more hill keeps appearing as you go round corners. It was getting much warmer by then too. I put my head down and marched up all the hills and tried to stay light and fast on the other side. My pace did drop a little in the second half of the race though.
The last big hill takes you towards Aldworth, here some very generous marshals had improvised a bonus water station which was gratefully taken advantage of. The third and final aid station was about a mile further on. I didn't carry any water in this race as even though I knew it was hot, experience told me I'd be able to manage fine and just to get on with it. It meant I could travel lighter. I also avoided coke at the stops, just having squash and water, which I think suits me better and avoids sticky coke mouth. I kept to handfuls of jelly babies and banana at the checkpoints and my energy stayed fine for most of the race.
After the last checkpoint I was on a bit of a grind, but just got on with it. When I reached the Ridgeway I got a big boost as I know that part of the course really well, and I could keep plodding on even though it was still very undulating.
Leaving the Ridgeway the course drops down towards Compton which you can see in the distance. There is one more little climb on the way which I had to walk, and a couple of people caught me here. Then it's just a matter of running through Compton back to the school and the finish.
My time was 3:24:07 by my watch which was a course PB of over 23 minutes. I was very pleased.
I waited around for the others and managed to get snaps of Noel and Sue finishing which was nice.

One of the bonuses of this race is that they provide lunch afterwards so we all settled down to a meal of sausage, quiche, chips and beans, followed by rice pudding and tinned peaches and lots of tea. Once we were done Sue gave me a lift home.
A lovely day out.

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