Cannock Trig Race 6th January 2013

Since the disappointment I had had with the Tour De Helvellyn race, I was both apprehensive about the Cannock trig race (what if I got lost again) and excited to be doing another race. I wasn't expecting an amazing time as 16.64 miles (my final distance) is short and fast. I was happy to use it as a speed session and hoped to finish somewhere in the top five or so ladies.

The race design is that you go from point to point including four trigs and you get there taking which ever route you want to take using your own navigation skills. Ahem.  There is no marked or set route and so you can choose your own path of which there are many. This year the weather was remarkably mild and the course relatively muddy and slippy in places because of it. A dibbing system had been introduced again adding a slant on previous years. My route choices may not have been the 'best' or quickest however I've had the pleasure of some remarkable runners, Gareth Briggs and Anthony Bethell to help me along with it on recce's and lucky for me I bumped into Simon Webb (who I'd not met before) on the Chase a couple of weeks ago. He is an amazing orienteerer and ultra runner and he willingly parted with his brilliant knowledge of the Chase and some of the route choices that are quicker and more direct. So armed with a fairly good idea of the route I was going to run, I took the decision that under no circumstances was I going to follow anyone else. Easier said than done when everyone blasts off in all kinds of directions. Gareth and I traveled together and looked forward to a great day out.

Start - Milford Common - CP2 Rifle Range
It's a short walk from the cricket club to the start so allowed plenty of time to get there and mooch around on the start line. Dibbers cleared and we were soon off. I took the path/route towards the old start, one of only half a dozen people to do so it seemed and so already my confidence about route choice went a lil wonky, however I carried on reminding myself that I was sticking to my route plan. A short contour around Broc Hill and onto Hollywood drive. It's a drawn out climb, all runnable before a magical decent to Serbrook valley. I'm presuming the stepping stones are across Ser Brook somewhere, I've not seen them yet. A sharp ascent before swinging a right to the CP2. Great support and encouragement at the trigg and was told by a welcomed verbal spectator that I was first female. I was shocked, not only had I taken a different route than most of the other 130 ish runners, I was leading lady in a short race. Whoop, lets get a wiggle on then :), I knew it would be short lived however I was enjoying it nonetheless.

CP2 Rifle Range - CP3 Moors Gorse Crossing
I came off the main huge track towards the rifle range buildings and took a path which brings you out in front of the buildings as opposed to behind them. Through the forest  past the campsite and on to Marquis Drive. This was the first bit of road and I knew that here is where most folk would do their overtaking as I'm not really that fast on the road and so I prepared myself for the inevitable. Remarkable, I held my position, however I did catch site of another female legging it from the woodlands. She'd not taken the road from Flints corner, she and the rest of the field (it seems) had cut through the woodlands to come onto the tarmac further down Marquis drive. She was going strong and I said said goodbye to my first place position as she practically drew parallel with me, yet, rather than speed off, she tucked in behind me. Bloody hell I thought, talk about pressure to keep up the pace then... 'come on, I'm on the road here, why have I got to run fast on the road'.. whining to myself. So with super strong woman behind me we stayed on the main track all the way to Morse Gors crossing. Dib in before crossing the railway line, cross, then cross the road under the direction of marshals and dib again on the other side. You were allowed 2 minutes time differential to get across the road before the clock starts ticking again. This was introduced to reduce the risk of having to play frogger with the cars/vehicles as runners attempt to cross fast, as it's a busy road. I didn't understand the 2 minute thing and I still don't now!

CP3 Morse Gors Crossing -CP4 Castle Ring
I stayed on the main path from Morse Gors until seven springs and then saw a couple of chaps bear left sticking to the drive whilst I took the track on the right, hit the road and joined the 'heart of England way'. The only heart I could think about was my poor ticker thumping hard to try and shake super strong woman. Then I realised I had, she was gone. I believed she'd probably swung a left when the chaps did at seven springs and was relieved that I could take my foot off the pedal. Then I reminded myself that I'm in a race and there'll be none of that taking feet off, it's a 'short one remember'. The sharp incline to Castle Ring is a section that I walked and faffed briefly. It was here that the front runners came hurtling down. It was great to see them, it's not often you get to see the leaders in a race, so to see them doing their thing was a treat. Gareth Briggs, my taxi driver for the day came flying down, he finished third male and was seriously focused. I've never ran with such a focused person, again great to see. Thumbs up to each other and I pushed on. I took the left hand path by a white and red pole, through the forest and came out directly by the steps of Castle Ring... hallelujah! During recces, I'd not mastered the ring very well and was pleased that It all turned out ok now. Ode, a chap I met on the Tour De Helvellyn race came passed on his way back down, I was tucking into a gel, and had slowed right down, 'COME ON HEAD UP AND STAY STRONG' he boomed at me... so I did, thanks Ode. I reached the top dibbed and legged it back down through the forest on the same path. Super strong was only about 30 seconds behind me. Jeez, she's strong, so I dug in my spurs and flew down the descent from Castle Ring, to say I hurdled the felled tree which lay blocking the path is a bit of an exaggeration  however .. you catch my drift.

CP4 Castle Ring - CP5 Brereton Spurs
I stayed on the 'Heart of England Way' to the road before reaching the car park to the CP5. 'Well done' first lady you kept your place, it was the verbal supporter who was at CP2 earlier, she was great. I dibbed in and retraced my steps back through the car park.

CP5 Brereton Spurs -CP6 Moors Gorse
I was secretly pleased that the 'mountain Bike' zone through Regents wood was 'out of bounds' for the race as it had caused me no end of problems during recce's. Each time I'd ended up picking up a path that takes you towards Miflins valley and had emerged far too high up on the A460. So I ran from the trig point back on the road and proceeded to do what I said I'd never do again which was to follow someone. However, this time, I knew he was heading in the right direction when he cut through, on the right, off the road, through a woody area and onto Marquis Drive. The reason for the wobble? He'd cut through just a little sooner than I had done on my last recce. 'I've taken a risk and followed you, you've cut through early, are you confident that this is the path we need', 'I am absolutely certain, don't you worry' was his reply, 'good man' I responded. I was both angry and relieved. Angry with myself that I followed someone even if for only 30 seconds and elated that we were still on the right path. 

CP6 Moors Gorse - CP7 Glacial Boulder
The lovely marshal told me that I now have 2 minutes to play frogger.  Ok he didn't say that but did tell me 'you have two mins', I think he was just a little startled at my haste to get through the check point. I was startled at having to wait for what seemed ages to cross the road, so I faffed in my bumbag for a swig of isotonic and psyched myself up for the run up Marquis drive near Jockey hill. I ran all of it, over taking mountain bikers, 'first lady would not walk this hill Trace, come on', so I recalled a recce recently with Gareth who'd ran it all, I repeated his run and it got me up the steady climb. The recalling of occasions when I've ran with others, has got me through some incredibly testing times and I understand the importance of those occasions during races more than at any other time. I adore running alone for hour upon hour upon hour, in training, however, I adore running with others for hour upon hour just as much.

Another route choice decision (as I'd recce'd both), was to either stay low and take the path parallel with Parrs wood then take a sharp left turn when you get to the huge cross paths where there is a massive sign and take the sharp incline to the Glacial Boulder or, to take a left on to the 'heart of England way' again before taking a right hand path and then weaving my way through the paths and a steady climb to the boulder. I was confident that I knew which paths to take and so I fluttered my wings and moved consistently and steadily to the trig point. Now I was excited. How on earth had I managed to hang on to the lead? I was determined that I was going to put what I had left into the last section, If I've come this far then I'm retaining my place I thought, I visioned super strong speeding up, and well, so did I.

CP7 Glacial Boulder - Finish Milford Common
This run to the finish was awesome, my lil fairy legs were going ten to the dozen. I felt strong, I felt that I was giving my best and it was great. I retraced my path down Hollywood slade, only to hear a walker shouting to me. At least I think it was a walker!. He was stood on the higher parallel path (Heart of England Way) shouting, 'get high get high'. Firstly, I don't do drugs, secondly, oh no, you are not fooling me with your attempts to get me to wobble off my route choice Mr rambler. So I grinned and headed to the old start and bounded to the finish.

A grand race, wonderful conditions and a pleasing result.
First lady, 2:08:20

It was great to chat with Super Strong in the cricket hut later, she is a lovely, friendly lady Kathryn Morgans and a great great runner. She had forgotten to dib on the first dibber at Morse Gors crossing and only dibbed on the second one across the road, and as a result, rather than finishing second lady, where she was in reality, she had been penalised and ended up being third. She was cool about it none the less. 

Treats for winning


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