Tavy 7 – report

The Tavy 7 is a road race that takes place on the edge of Dartmoor not far from my elderly mother’s home address, so it allows me to indulge in my love of running and then fulfil my social and domestic daughterly duties (it’s autumn so it’s leaf sweeping).  It’s a guilt free race.

Earlier this year if you follow my race report ramblings, you will have read that I completed the Tavy 13, but only after providing first aid to a poor young girl who had collapsed with heat exhaustion. As a result of this, the race committee gave me a free place at the Tavy 7 as a thank you, so there is no way I could refuse such a generous offer. Initially the race date was going to clash with one of my favourite races, The Redruth Rotary Clubs “Great Flat lode”, but due to building work at their race HQ (Redruth Cricket club) the race was cancelled, so Tavy 7 it would be!

“Husband who plays golf” is also a dab hand at hedge cutting, so with our sheep trailer attached to car, running kit and gardening paraphernalia loaded, we head up the A30 to Tavistock and the Parish of Sampford Spiney.

The race start time is a very relaxed 12 noon, which is made even more relaxed due to the clocks having gone back an hour giving us an extra hour in bed. Mind you it didn’t make much difference to me, as I didn’t sleep at all well as my body thought it was in the tropics. Hormones!!!!!!!

Having such a late start time does though provide me with the dilemma of what food to eat pre race and at what time? I stick to my usual porridge and soft fruit option, but once at mother’s with a couple hours to spare, I decide to indulge in a mug of freshly brewed coffee and TWO dark chocolate covered ginger biscuits. Once consumed, I started to question if they would settle/digest in time for the race. It was too late to worry about this now, the deed was done, calories consumed and they would either swish around my stomach in time to my foot fall or not.

So with husband up a ladder, hedge trimmer at full throttle and mother’s shopping put away, I set off on the ¾ mile walk to the race HQ/start area. I walk along a steep narrow leafy lane and pass a very nice old manor house where a famous photographer lives. I then cross a cattle grid and enter the field on my left where the race start and HQ id located.

The Race HQ is a small marquee/tent used for registration purposes, and then there is another one for cake and coffee sales plus two more for the purpose of Ladies and Gents changing. There are two flags marking out where the race starts and finishes and as you enter the field a row of green cubicles for the purpose of emptying your bladder/bowels (I know, too much information). These cubicles of the portable variety have a hand written sign on them, showing the two on the left for men and then the rest to the right for women. Does anyone take any notice of these signs? No not at all, much to the disgust of the other ladies in the queue with me. The men also have the option of another cubicle set to one side which is a urinal.

I test out the said green portable toilets and the queue for them is fast moving. On opening the door I find that they are spotless, odour free and even have a hook on the back of the door, on which I can hang my kit bag. There is toilet roll of the soft variety and hand sanitizer for us to use. The only thing missing is a mirror in which to check the state of my “Essex facelift”, well half facelift as I don’t have long enough hair to get the full effect.

I go for a little wander as I have time to kill and spot Jenny from Launceston, so we share a hug and a few words. Then I spy “our Diane” walking into the field who has arrived not with “8 pin Colin” but another female running companion so TRC now has a team, Fab! I also spy a couple ladies from Tavistock running club who I met at The Plymouth Armada Half, so go over for a chat. I explain that this is home turf for me, with my mum living under a mile away, and point to the church we will run pass, saying this is where my dad is buried, I was married and the kids were christened. I then said that I always wave to dad as I pass by.

“Oh is he going to come out and cheer you on?” she says.

“I hope not” I reply “seeing as he’s dead”

She feels embarrassed, but I’m creased up with laughter.

So with race number collected and pinned to my vest, bag dropped off at (the tent I missed out earlier in this report) the baggage tent, it’s time to move towards the start area.

Throughout the time I have been in this field/race venue, there has been a happy and very upbeat male on the Mic. He has been keeping us up to date with the weather, who has entered and where they have come from, and now he is commentating on the man bent over, who is, in good “Hasher” style, sprinkling a line of Flour, where the start line should be. We are told that it is organic, biodegradable and most importantly Self Raising flour. He goes on to add that as its self raising flour we must be careful we don’t trip over it. A few people titter.

Start time arrives. We all line up behind the line of SR Flour but I can’t make out what was being said over the mic due to too much chatter and frivolity going on all around. The grass is rough underfoot and the main target at the start of this race will be staying upright.

5,4,3,2,1 and we are off. Garmin activated and I’m about a third of the way back from the front runners. The ground underfoot is soft and in need of being grazed by live stock, but then again, if that had occurred before this event, then we might have had slip hazards as well as trip hazards, and falling face first in a cow pat is not my idea of fun. Up ahead I can see another TRC shirt this time on a male runner. I don’t think we have ever had more than two TRC runners at this event before.

As we leave the field we turn left out onto tarmac and the road that runs alongside Plaster Down which is to our left. The bracken growing there has turned a rusty brown and the grass is bright green but sadly the sky is grey. There are cars parked alongside this section of the road (overspill from the race car park a little further down the road). The road is wide enough to take all 339 of us runners and the verges are soft. One unfortunate male ended up going A over T having caught his foot on the verge and did a very graceful roly-poly on the grass to my right. No apparent injuries sustained, his dignity was slightly damaged, but he got up, brushed himself off and continued forward and onward in his quest to complete this race.

Where this section of road merges with Jordan Lane to our left and another lane that leads down to Grenofen, I spy a convoy of vintage tractors heading our way. There are red ones, grey ones and the occasional green ones.  This is going to be fun, as we are now all travelling in the same direction on roads that aren’t closed to traffic. It’s a bit like the A30 at Temple on a Saturday in the summer.

As I’m running at a reasonable pace for someone my age, I’m starting to suck in large amounts of Diesel exhaust fumes full of carcinogenic particulates, as these beauties are pre catalytic filters. The smell takes me back to my childhood when my dad owned a little grey Massey Ferguson tractor and would give me rides in the scoop on the front. Luckily the tractors pull over to the nearside allowing us runners to carry on in clean air and before too long we reach Warrens Cross, where we are encouraged to turn right towards Pew Tor and Sampford Spiney.

That’s mile one out of the way and just as I’m settling down into a comfortable pace I watch three very fluffy sheep dart out from the right hedge right into the path of the runners ahead of me. The runners manage to dodge/weave around the sheep, but the sheep are not looking too happy. They have that demonic look in their eye and I’m sure they are going to give it another go at felling us all. Phew, I pass the sheep safely; hopefully a farmer won’t turn up with his 12 bore to shoot us all for sheep worrying. Fingers crossed then!

Water station No 1 arrives, I decline as although I’m sweating like pig and not a sheep, the air temperature is pleasant to cool with a slight breeze from time to time. My security hanky is being employed for brow mopping, but I don’t feel the need for liquid replenishment just yet.

The road now has a very slight upward gradient all the way to the Kennels where the hounds are kept. It’s just enough to slow my pace and make the legs feel heavy. To our left we have open moorland and Pew Tor, a favourite stomping ground of mine. The road then winds around to our right passing Sampford Spiney Parish Church. I wave to my Dad and check to see if his grave isn’t too overgrown and note the Alpaca’s in the adjoining field all looking up to see what all fuss is about, as we merrily jog pass.

The road now has a slight downward incline, so I pick up some speed, not that you men would have noted any difference. No pulling G or throwing up, because I’m really pushing or anything, just a slight increase in speed that I can detect. I have been once again playing cat and mouse with two female Okehampton runners. On the downhill I go ahead and then on the uphill gradients they overtake. I push on, as I know that we will turn right passing the entrance to Sampford Barton farm where the road will once again take a slight downward gradient before the one and only real slope upwards and even that one is tame by Devon and Cornwall standards.

The Okehampton girls now overtake me, as my pace has slackened due to the incline. They look younger than me, so I tell myself not to worry about this, it was inevitable but there is also about 2.5 miles to go, so who knows what may happen.

The water station we passed on the way out has upped table and moved from one side of a Y junction to the other. There are nice friendly faces handing out cups of water, but once again I decline. There will be plenty of time to drink at the end of this race, I can’t afford to waste time stopping to drink water plus I have never mastered the art of drinking or eating on the move.

Mile 6 arrives as we turn left at Warrens Cross and head for home. I’m running with the Okehampton girls once again and there isn’t much distance between the three of us. The younger of the two pulls ahead followed by the second one. I try to keep up with them and tell myself, I have less than 8 minutes left to run. Then my head starts playing games, the do I or don’t I game. Do I just carry on and let them beat me? Or do I give it a go? Time is running out and before I know it we are at the 400m to go mark. Time to make a decision girl!

As we turn towards the gate I finally decide I must give it a go. The younger female has sprinted off and she is too fast for me but both myself and the second of the two ladies are almost side by side as we run through the gate into the field. To my right a friendly face appears, calls out my name and cheers me on (another Tavy runner I met at the Plymouth Armada Half). I dig really deep, I think I’m 15 again and I go for the sprint finish. The grass feels soft and springy under my feet and it’s like floating on air. I’m flying and somehow I cross the line 1 second ahead of the other lady. Wow, this Old Croc has some life still left in her, I feel elated, I shake her hand but I also feel like I want to throw up. Breathe deeply and all will be OK and thankfully it is.

A cup of water, a banana and the race memento T-shirt collected, I spy Nigel and then Diane and her friend. We grab a team photo before I head back to mothers for a 3hr cool down session of leaf sweeping to take my mind off any post race aching legs. Oh and I bagged a PB, as did “Our Diane”, fantastic!

So all in all:

  1. Car parking. Free and plentiful on open moorland.
  2. Race HQ. Not good if it is raining as the only place to shelter would be in your car.
  3. Toilets. Very good indeed. Cleaner than a lot of public toilets and did what they were supposed to do with fast moving queues
  4. Marshals. Pointed us in the right direction and you could not get lost.
  5. Route. Scenic and flattish. The uphill gradients are slight apart from one minor hill, so this is a course with PB potential as long as the wind is blowing too hard.
  6. Memento. A nice technical T.
  7. Will I run this race again? Probably, as the atmosphere is really wonderful, everyone is so friendly and as it’s so close to my mother’s I would be mad not to……….unless it’s pouring with rain!

10 out of 10 Tavy 7.