or A Race of Three Thirds
Report by Nik B.
My first race report. It’s long enough to rival Hana’s reports and it’s all about meeeee! And it’s taken far longer to write this than to run the actual Grizzly Cub!
It seems that every time I shell out some cash to enter a race event, something falls off and I end up watching on jealously from a marshal position or sulk at home on the sofa. Imagine my delight when, just a few weeks before the 9 mile Grizzly Cub race, I run a glorious 7.7 miles around the Great Flat Lode Path in the dark after work. The furthest I’ve run since my last injury in October. Hurrah!
Then imagine my horror as not only do I finally succumb to a winter fluey cold three weeks before the race, meaning I don’t really manage to train much more, but I also then experience a repeat of it, five days before the race. Weep.
Still, what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger, right?
So Sunday, 7am finds Colin and I climbing into Rob Standing’s trusty VW minivan and on the way to Seaton, via Kingsley Village. We pick up Helen (Grizzly veteran), Chrissie (Grizzly virgin) and Lee (ARC Gold Buckle brandisher) and we all head off to Seaton. This is a lovely pre-race prep – lots of happy running chat in the back of the van and not actually having to drive ourselves (thanks again Rob!). I can’t help but miss the fantastic facilities we used to have in Seaton when we would stay with my father in law, a mere five minute walk from the start, with a lie in on race morning, hot porridge and tea in the kitchen and a hot post-event shower. Such a shame he moved to Hampshire!
We park in my father in law’s former neighbour’s drive (still with me?) and she very kindly invites us in for TOILET (review: nice and clean, plenty of toilet paper, octopii everywhere) use, which is much appreciated. I scoff some overnight oats and change into my trail shoes, put on my tutu and attach various necessary running paraphernalia about me. This includes my giant phone for Strava tracking, photo taking and calling for a taxi if needed, my handy handkerchief for the rainbow coloured nose runs and a couple of laminated memorial photos of friends we lost last month to tie to the Grizzly Memorial tree on Branscombe beach.
The weather is good running weather, cool, overcast, a little breezy. Some rain is forecast around 12pm.
There is much faffing, in particular from Colin, who, despite definitely packing them, can’t find his contact lenses. (You also need to ask him where he’s left his passport lately, a not running-related story, but he’s not going to live that one down for a very long time!)
Eventually we head off to Race HQ as Rob has decided he needs some energy bars to go with his gels. We spot the rest of #TeamTutu on the green outside, who are all running the full Grizzly (20 miles), including the Lesser Seen and Very Broken Bird Watts, Lovely Luke, Speedy Simon and No Nickname Neil, all resplendent in their various tutus. Some photos, faffing and chat occur.
We head on down to the sea front, stand about by the roundabout for a bit, see some more TRCers including Sue, Sandy, Juliet, Karen, Andy, Sue2 and Claire, take some more photos. Three TRCers, including me, are doing the Cub this year. A quick goodbye to Colin and then we’re off down to the middle of the start pack and plunge in there, picking up final #TeamTutu member Amazing Alun on the way.
The Start – all good!
There’s some chat on the tannoy, then the Town Crier is on, reading a poem (I think, I can’t really hear much through the nervous chatter that surrounds me and my ears are a bit blocked from my cold) then he wishes us luck and rings a bell and then we’re off. We shuffle slowly forward and eventually break into a slow trot across the start line, then a jog and eventually a running pace as we get down onto Seaton beach and the first ¾ of a mile on the lovely shingle. The noise of some 2,500 runners running on shingle is incredible and deafening, but I am smiling! This is great!
300m in – not so good!
About 300m of shingle later I start to feel a bit rubbish. Then very rubbish. The relief of the end of the shingle as we turn through Axe Yacht Club’s boat yard and head back towards the start line is short lived. I still feel pretty grim and we’re running on flat road. If I were just out on a training run, I’d have returned home for an early bath at that moment. I consider the fact that at less than a mile into the race I think I will DNF, for the first time ever. Bird looks at me and asks me where my happy face is. Oh dear. Not good. I blow my nose. Hard.
We head along the seafront and up the first hill which goes up for a really long time. Elvis, who was on the hill last year, has been replaced by some drummers. I “woo hoo” at them, which brings on a coughing fit. Bird coaxes me up to the top without slowing to a walk and we head down the other side. Even on the downhill she is having to do all the talking. A most unusual situation.
We, along with everyone else around us, walk up the next hill. The boys are loving the #tutu attention. In fact I discover, if you shout “tutu” they will all perform a team pirouette. I raise a smile at this. We run downhill into Beer where the large crowds are cheering us on. Cheers of “Go Truro” and “Love your tutu!” Magic. Still not feeling good.
We run then walk up the next hill out of Beer towards the caravan park and mile 3 and I have an epiphany. In fact I have two: I need to Just Slow Down and No One Cares if I walk up all the hills. So I urge the rest of #TeamTutu to run on, stop for a drink and a jelly baby and start walking up to the top of the fields around the caravan site. I turn round to admire the views and the fact that I am not last. Yet.
Right at the top I start running again where it’s pretty flat again. I listen to the chat around me and plod on. I’m starting to feel better, both physically and mentally. Maybe I can do this! I thank the lovely marshals, I eat jelly babies. I blow my nose a lot.
We slither slowly down the fields and a very sticky, muddy and flinty enclosed path and then some more fields onto Branscombe beach and mile 5ish where the Cub runners turn left and the Grizzly runners turn right. I wonder at this point if I could marry my trail shoes. They are so grippy that I am wafting past others who are sliding about all over the shop. Normally I am like Bambi on ice when I get to slippery conditions. I wish my walking boots had the same treads.
All good again!
I tie my photos of my friends Mike and Ian on the Memorial tree on the beach, take a couple of snaps, shed a tear or two. I grab some jelly babies and run along the beach. The path hewn by others ahead takes us across the mostly hard sand so it’s a much easier surface to run on than Seaton beach. I’m over half way now. In fact, I’ve run 16 miles according to the sign on the beach. Apparently. Only another four to go. I CAN do this. I am smiling again.
We head into the undercliff and the windy, muddy coast path that leads to The Stairway To Heaven. I manage to squeeze past a couple of runners who, inexplicably to me at least, are doing their best to avoid getting muddy by edging slowly around the deep muddy bits. I splash through and run a bit more.
I spot the vicar (possibly Bishop) sipping from his hipflask and preaching: “You have something working against you”, me: “gravity?”; him: “you have something bad inside of you”, me: “yes, a horrible lurgy” and then we’re climbing slowly up The Stairway to Heaven. The climb seems shorter than last year’s Cub and the numerous other times I’ve climbed it. The well placed photographer, who captures you hyperventilating and sweaty, right at the top, asked me if us Truro runners had come on a bus: “Yes!”.
And nearly all bad again!
At the top, lots of flat and I’m back running. I really can do this. I relax and start to enjoy it. I relax into it so much that I trip over a blade of grass, carelessly left on the path and fly forward through the air. My legs and arms wheel around faster and faster, hoping that somehow I will right myself and finally, after what seems like half an hour of falling towards the inevitable, I save myself from the full faceplant I was expecting and I’m properly upright again. The woman in front of me hears my violently shouted expletive and hysterical laugh of relief and checks that I’m ok.
We follow the coast path mostly down and around, into the caravan park above Beer where I’m offered a gin and tonic. Well that’s what the marshal told me it was. I have a good drink and I snaffle some more jelly babies.
Down the steep hill into Beer my old friend Mr Right Knee ITB reminds me that he doesn’t like steep downhills and I hobble past all the cheering crowds, grimacing and feeling slightly embarrassed that I’m not allowing gravity to really help my cause. I do run up the first set of steps to make up for it though.
Up and over and then down the next steep downhill into Seaton Hole. At the bottom I have a chat with a lovely runner who tells me some of his Grizzly story. I walk up some more hill, then run. Finally I’m at the top of the long run down into Seaton and the finish. I hope that Right Knee ITB will behave and it does. I AM doing this!
The finishing straight
I feel really good. I am grinning now and I float past a few runners on my way. I can see the finish line so I pick carefully down the last hill, Right ITB all good, and then put a little effort in on the final straight. I won’t push it though. I need to not collapse on the finish line. Just a gentle waft in would be good.
The runner who I chatted with earlier pushes past my left ear. RIGHT! I’m not having that! I speed up. Sprint finish it is then. And I pass him and speed over the line finishing in 01:57:35. As I grab my banana he congratulates me. I thank him, adding “I’m not usually competitive!” as usual. I collect my very lovely finisher’s t-shirt. Got to love those shirts – no distinction made on them as to whether you ran the Cub or the Grizzly and I can wear an XS!
I’m so pleased to have made it round I chat somewhat hysterically with TRCers Sue2 and Claire (sorry!) who have finished the Cub ahead of me and indulge me. We do photos. They’re fortunate that I manage not to cry. I reckon I could run another couple of flat miles. Easy.
Cake and finishers
I walk back to the van to retrieve the four kg or so of cake I made and promised to other Grizzliers and then head to the roundabout to watch the finishers come in. There are some brilliant finishing efforts. Some people look fresh as a daisy, others can barely move. I spy some great fancy dressers too – nice to see Mr Trump and his Mexican friend again, the bees, some Mudcrew runners with bear ears.
We spot Rob and Lee hurtling down the final hill. Rob apparently has some sort of red mist descend and sprints past a tormentor to race over the line, first home for TRC, closely followed in by Lee. Sue2 points out Colin to me. Embarrassing having to have your own husband pointed out to you, particularly as he has (to me) such a recognisable gait. I swear he was loitering behind a lamp post. He doesn’t do sprint finishes but as he runs by I see he’s videoing his finish on his phone.
I head to the finish to check the first aid van for Colin. Rather amazingly he’s not actually at the first aid point and it takes a while and two phonecalls to locate him. I spot #TeamTutu’s Alun who’s just finished and congratulate him. I spy Colin and discover that he’s managed to not go faint at the end of the race nor require medical treatment for injuries. The first time in many races!
Back at the roundabout Juliet joins us, retired and broken, having been taxied back with some other broken runners. I give her some cake. I eat quite a bit of cake myself.
I miss Helen’s finish. Sue, Sandy, then Karen and Andy roll in, looking like they’ve just started the race, good smiles. I miss Chrissie’s finish too. Liz arrives at some point. I force cake on all these people.
I spot the rest of #TeamTutu coming down the hill. In my excitement I trip up on a traffic cone and almost send myself flying into their path. They join hands and I get a fab photo. So pleased for the very stubborn Bird who refused to let her injured fat ankle stop her from running the 20 miles she’d trained hard for.
I offload the last of the cake on to Bird, who will never refuse cake, and we head back to the van for a bit more faffing and the drive home.
Later that evening I watch Colin’s videos of the other parts of the Grizzly course that us Cub people don’t see and I think that it looks like even more fun and maybe, just maybe, I should aim for 20 miles and the Grizzly next year. Without breaking myself, of course.
Well organised and very well marshalled race
- A lot of fun, although I think more people should dress up for it!
- Very friendly and supportive runners
- Lots of cheering locals and supporters
- All the jelly babies you could ever need to consume in a lifetime, all in one race
- Lots of hills, lots of mud/bogs/shingle (particularly for the full 20 mile Grizzly, less mud/bogs for the Cub)
- Finisher’s T-shirt is a great design this year
- Toilets: there are quite a few around, the Race HQ ones had massive queues apparently
- Another good reason to do the full Grizzly: the local firebrigade are there to hose you down afterwards!
Massive thanks to the Grizzly organisers and marshals. It’s such a fun, well organised and well marshalled event, even if you’re feeling a bit poorly. Thanks for all of the encouragement from everyone, in particular Bird who said as she sprinted up the hill out of the caravan site “don’t beat yourself up my lovely” which really helped. Thanks to Rob for driving us there and back and thanks to my fellow van dwellers for the van chat.
Thanks finally to the tiny part of my brain that told me to slow down and that I could do it, really. I’ve learned a lot from this race – how quickly a run can go from good to bad to good again and how I shouldn’t give up but re-evaluate the situation and adjust effort accordingly.
Thanks also for taking the time to read this, if you got this far!