Standish Woodland Chase
13th August 2017
Having completed the Cranham Boundary Chase the afternoon before I (and several others) were set to take on the second leg of an off-road double-header. I’d picked up a bit of a tight hamstring muscle during the first of these races, but my main concern was getting my kit washed and dried in good time.
In terms of the problematic muscle, I opted for a hot soak. Unfortunately I overfilled the bath with scalding water and had no means to partially drain it without dipping some part of myself in to reach the plug (the retaining chain having fallen off its mount). Cue a rather long wait for the water to cool to a level that wouldn’t reduce me to peeling like an onion.
I didn’t have the greatest start on Sunday either. Driving over to meet a colleague for a lift to Standish I stopped to put some air into my car tyres, only realising that I had left my wallet on top of the air generator when we were about to set off in his vehicle. The wallet was retrieved later on, some honest soul having handed it in (faith in humankind maintained!), but only after I had dashed back to the service station in a panic, found said wallet gone, called the appropriate providers to cancel my cards, informed the police of my stupidity… oh, and taken part in the race that I’d actually set out to do, of course.
The Woodland Chase itself is made up of a long stiff climb from the bottom of Horsemarling Lane, to Standish Woods, two undulating loops of the woodland and the return back down the way we come up. Each loop starts at the entrance to the woods at the top of Malden Hill and follow the Cotswold Way along a steady ascent towards the car park at Haresfield Beacon. Just before we reach that entrance we turn, almost doubling back on ourselves, and descend again. An undulating section follows before a short but stiff climb to complete the loop.
There were plenty of Almosts in attendance, as was the case at Cranham yesterday. Partly because both races are included the club race series, but also because they are both very good routes – if you like that sort of thing! As the start was sounded, a sea of purple amongst the field set off, most of us I expect mentally gearing ourselves up for that inevitable climb towards the woods.
I went off slowly, with the above in mind but was managing to pass others as we made the ascent. After a mile, or so, of road, we turned onto a track and continued to climb towards the wood. Approaching the entrance to the wood (and a water station, where I’d grab a quick gulp) I found myself alongside Steve. Together we made our way through the first part of the initial loop but as we approached the highest point in the race I found myself easing away. As I was feeling quite good at this point I simply carried on!
Another water station was placed at the ‘U-turn’ where I grabbed another quick gulp before starting the longish descent. Depending on how bullish you feel about downhill running you either make up, or lose, ground on others around you. Many years ago I would have probably charged past others. In the present day I seem to be a little more circumspect.
‘Bottoming out,’ I then endured the next kilometre or so; a rather undulating and, in places, stony stretch of woodland track. This appears to be my least favourite section, in that I go from running smoothly to finding it a real effort just to keep the legs turning over. Consequently I found myself losing ground on the runner immediately ahead of me.
Sticking it out, I did manage to keep him in sight and passed him as we made the short climb to complete loop number one. All that was left to do was repeat, and return. Easy enough, in my mind. Not quite so straightforward, according to everything south of that mind.
Loop two was not so different from loop one, apart from me being a little less fresh! Allan caught, and passed, me as we approached the top end of the loop. I caught Ingrid as we dropped to the section I was dreading but dug in and stayed with her to the end of that loop.
It is, overall, a great route though and it felt almost a shame that we were now exiting the wood to commence the long downhill return to the finish. Back through the field and down the track that would take us back onto the road Ingrid was treading a little carefully. Having spent most of my effort in the wood, I followed suit.
As we hit the road we were able to run a little more freely (though not quite as freely as one individual who drew up alongside us, paused for a moment, and took off) so, plugging away as the road levelled off with about a quarter of a mile remaining, we completed the race together.
With a run as good as that one, it’s difficult to know whether you feel a sense of relief or regret that it is over. Over it was, however, and my lack of relative condition was apparent in that I was over five minutes slower than I had been last year.
The club as a whole was more successful though; the girls following the boys’ achievements from Saturday in winning both the individual (congratulations to Amber) and team (plus Patricia and Ingrid) prizes.