Monday, 19 January 2015

Kent Fitness League 2014/15: Minnis Bay

Match 6 of the 2014/15 Kent Fitness League (KFL) took place at Minnis Bay on the Isle of Thanet in the north-east corner of the county. The Isle of Thanet is predominantly a flat area of low lying land which was once separated from the rest of mainland England by a combination of waterways which formed the Wantsum Channel.

isle of thanet and wantsum channel

This channel had largely dried up by the 16th century and the remaining watercourse at the northern end is now known as the River Wantsum. Interestingly, assuming the image above is accurate and I've got my geography right, the area that is used for this fixture would have been completely underwater just a few hundred years ago - which explains a lot about this race (it's a wet one!). As a note of interest, Thanet was temporarily returned to an island for a few days following the North Sea Flood of 1953.

This was my fourth race wearing the alternating light and dark blue hoops of the 93-year-old Dartford Harriers AC and I'm very proud to be part of this historic club. It was also my first opportunity to try out my cross-country running spikes which I picked up in Decathlon for £35 a few weeks beforehand. I was going to use 12mm spikes but the ones I had didn't have the hex key nut which meant I couldn't tighten them properly with the supplied key, so I went with the 9mm spikes that came with the shoes and they seemed to do a decent job at keeping me upright and speedy.

welcome to minnis bay [photo: 7t]

The main pre-race items to attend to were;

Car parking: There is ample free parking along the seafront.
Toilets: In the car park near the start line (just toilets, no bespoke changing areas here)
Cafe: There is a cafe/restaurant just next to the toilets.

The race started and finished on the grass area adjacent to the beach – I've heard that when the tide is out the race starts down on the beach itself. This year the high tide was at 8.58am and the beach was still underwater as we reached the 11am start time. As this race has a number of water features I decided that it would be too risky to wear my phone or Garmin. So for the first time ever I ran naked.

trying to get the shoe laces just right [photo: dani]

At 11am we were sent on our way (video of the start - thanks, dani) and we headed westbound along the seafront with the Brooksend Stream to the left and the sea to the right. There was a section early on which featured a tarmac path, but there was enough grass on the right hand side for runners in spikes to run on. However I found that I had naturally drifted to the left where the grass verge was narrow and bumpy.

I eventually managed to get across to the right hand side but was disheartened as I felt like I had lost a number of places. Once we reached the end of the path, the terrain became better suited to the spikes and I began to get used to running in them. Being right next to the sea there was always the risk of getting a battering from the wind but apart from being quite cold, the wind didn't really cause me any problems.

and they're off [photo: dani]

The terrain here was very wet and featured a chain of large, cold muddy puddles every few metres. At around the 3 kilometre point, the course met with the River Wantsum and we continued to run along the seafront until we reached Knock Point (4km) where the course turned left to head south taking us away from the sea. The southbound route continued for another kilometre along the top of a berm, which was muddy but dryer than the first section had been, until we reached the train line which runs from east to west.

Now just over halfway into the race, it was time to head eastwards and head back in the general direction of the start/finish. From 5 kilometres to 8 kilometres, with the exception of a short twisty section at around 6.8km to visit the five water ditches (dykes), the race followed the straight-as-an-arrow path to the north of the railway line where a train, which sounded like a jet fighter, came thundering past from behind and scared the life out of me.

during the stampede at the start [photo: dani]

There had been a few days of heavy rain in the weeks leading up to the race so the five dykes were well stocked with plenty of muddy water. Before the race I had imagined them being extremely cold, but on the day the water didn't actually feel cold at all; if anything they were warmer than the air temperature and the five separate crossings were over within a minute or two. The worst thing was that my gloves got wet and that meant that my hands felt colder for the remainder of the race.

during the splashy 'out' section [photo: funk dooby]

At 8 kilometres the path took a slight left turn over the Brooksend Stream and headed back towards the seafront along a nice muddy single track path for part of the way where we re-joined the opening 1 kilometre section to head back to the start/finish area. This time the part along the tarmac path was slightly different as we were directed away from it to run over three lumps - I think they are usually referred to as sand dunes, but they were muddy, definitely not sandy. It was a fun and enjoyable section to throw in right at the end.

1 of the 5 dykes [photo: mick wraight]

After this we were back on the grass start/finish area for the final sprint. I headed into the finish funnel and worked myself around to pick up my finishing position raffle ticket, which I was pleased to see was number 36 - much better than my previous effort a few weeks beforehand. I was pretty cold so I headed off to get changed into my dry clothes (I am finally getting better at this cross country post-run stuff!).

As I didn't wear any GPS technology to track my run, I don't have any split times, strava segments or the course profile to analyse and you know what? It's actually really refreshing. So until the official results were published I had absolutely no idea of my finishing time. Looking at other runner's GPS data the course was 9.7 kilometres (6 miles) in length, and for the record it was pancake flat with the exception of the odd short, sharp incline to climb over a berm or something similar. I definitely felt much more confident on the slippery mud wearing the spikes and I'm looking forward to the last match of this season's league in a few weeks.

post-run - looking a lot cleaner than i actually was [photo: dani]


Finishing position: 36 / 361
Finish time: 42.16
Team result: 3 / 18

(the full results can be found here)

Links to my other blog posts from KFL fixtures in the 2014/15 season:

Match 1: Knole Park (did not take part)
Match 2: Swanley (did not take part)
Match 3: Oxleas Wood
Match 4: Fowlmead
Match 5: Nurstead Court
Match 6: Minnis Bay
Match 7: Blean Woods (did not take part)

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