Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Vasque series race 7 - Osmotherley Phoenix 33mi. Sat 04/07/2009

The weather had just cooled down a few degrees from its high at the peak of the heat wave, but it was still into the 20s C and rapidly warming up, sunny and humid as we waited for the 9am start. Osmotherley (a quaint and picturesque North Yorkshire village with just three pubs – always judge the size of a place by the number of pubs – already had a carnival atmosphere with the bunting strung across the roads and the stalls set up in readiness for the start of the summer games in the afternoon.

This was the 7th event in the Vasque / Runfurther series, the previous one (Marlborough Downs Challenge) being 7 weeks previously, so some serious athletes were in evidence again. Jez Bragg was there, ‘fresh’ from his third place finish at the Western States Endurance Run 100-miler on the previous weekend.

The hooter was blown and we were off up the lane and soon onto trails across beautiful undulating countryside. For those who felt sufficiently energetic, most of the course is eminently runnable. I was still recovering from my dehydration session of the previous week and trying to keep dehydration at bay again this week, so completion was my first priority and speed my second.

Early on in the woods, wasps/hornets stung several people. I was one of them. By the time I felt the burning sensation on my left breast, the perpetrator was nowhere to be seen. Over the space of the next half hour the burning increased and changed to a just-punched, bruised sensation that clamped my whole chest. I feared my breathing might be affected next. Thankfully it wasn’t. Within the hour it had subsided and was forgotten about.

There were three routes – 33, 26 and 17 miles. The Vasque event was the 33-miler, which took in 9 Check Points. Some of the navigation across fields would have been tricky were it not for the line of trampled pasture that led to the next field boundary, stile and so to the next. Being well back in the field certainly has its advantages.

At one point while running along a sandy trail with the odd rock sticking up out of it, my left foot contacted one of them in a violent manner from which recovery was impossible. Within a second I was sliding along the trail, hands out and stripping the skin from underneath my left arm. Within another second I was on my feet again and checking in front and behind that no one had witnessed the clumsiness. They hadn’t. Phew. My secret’s safe.

A minor navigational error approaching CP3 wasted 10 minutes or more, but I was soon on my way out of the checkpoint and up the next hill.

The plod up and over Black Hambleton was a long drag. I was truly thankful for the water drop at the self-clip point on the moor, since my water had run out already from the previous checkpoint. By the descent towards Osmotherley, running was not coming easily to me. I ran down to the final self-clip at the footbridge, and then came the short sharp climb up the other side with the wooden handrail. It was hot, humid and stagnant down there in the woods. I suddenly became light-headed and my vision went black. I had to hold onto the handrail for a few seconds for all systems to return before continuing. Several others were affected the same way at that point. It must be low blood pressure after running down to the bottom and suddenly stopping for the self clip. I climbed up the narrow path and descended into Osmotherley to the sound of smashing crockery and jollity amidst the summer games. My time of 6:51 was 6 minutes slower than when I last did this in 2006. Now if I hadn’t made that foolish navigational error….

I spent a good while afterwards relaxing on the grass with other runners and the village’s free-range hens, supping tea and eating the delights provided by and purchased from the locals at the Village Hall. Jez was still there. He had only gone and won, just one week after his podium finish at Western States. That's a full house of 4000 points from AT LEAST 4 wins in the Vasque / Runfurther series. If I'm not mistaken he is the first person to achieve this. There's no stopping that running machine. Well done Jez. Mission accomplished. You can relax now (for a bit).

I had booked accommodation for Saturday evening in the Queen Catherine Hotel, where rehydration and refuelling continued, accompanied by much chilling out. It was a grand end to a grand day.

A few pictures are here.
Seven down, five to go.....


  1. I can't believe you were out running a 33miler one week after WS100!!! Nick you are insane! I read somewhere that is takes a day per mile to recover fully from a race which in your book should of meant over 2 months with your feet up!!! haha i love it!

  2. A day per mile?! A day per ten miles sounds more like it. All that rest and I would go off the boil. I'd have to start from scratch again. More than one week off and I notice the edge, blunt though it may be in my case, disappearing fast.