Friday 10 February 2017

Kent Fitness League 2016/17: Blean Woods

Match 6 of the 2016/17 Kent Fitness League cross country season was held at Blean Woods, Rough, Common, Canterbury. It was my second outing at this venue. The first being a year earlier at the finale of the 2015/16 season where I was taking part in my first race for a number of months.

The parking situation here is not ideal and pretty much involves arriving early enough to grab one of the roadside spaces on Rough Common Road. Once I had found a spot, I headed into the Village Hall to use the toilet - some people get changed in here, but I wanted to keep my jumper and trousers on until the last possible minute.

The approx 8.4km (5.2 miles) race starts and finishes on Moat Sports Ground which is adjacent to the woods. After a little warm up with my daughter, me and my Dartford Harriers team mates gathered for the customary pre-race team photo.

dartford harriers [photo: eden]

The opening section of the race features 1.5 laps of the perimetre of the sports fields. The last time I was here, the fields were very boggy in certain sections, but this year they were much dryer. I started out at a slower pace than I had done at the last few races because I wanted to try out a pacing different strategy.

By the time I made it into the woods, I felt very quite adrift from where I would have usually expected to have been. The course undulates as it works its way through the woods. Underfoot varies between regular muddy trail paths and slightly firmer, stonier paths. I had chosen to wear my cross-country spikes despite previously writing that ' a really aggressive pair of trail shoes would have been ok for this course'.

start [photos: 7t]

As I followed the course around, I remembered why I wrote that. A fair amount of time was spent on the harder surface paths and I did my best to stay to the edges where there was a little more forest debris for my spikes to grip onto. On the other hand there were also sections where I was actually really pleased that I was wearing spikes.

I had a few dodgy moments where I almost rolled my ankle. This was mostly caused by my spikes slipping on tree roots, of which there are a lot and stepping in puddles that were covering uneven or boggy ground. I'd say that out of all of the Kent Fitness League courses, this one possibly has the highest risk of causing an injury. However, it was also a lot of fun.

into the woods [photos: esther / eden / dani]

I continued to make progress through the field of runners, and made it through the half-a-dozen or so small water splashes around the course. During the race I found myself in the company of a couple of team mates and that really helped to keep me motivated to keep pushing as hard as possible.

For the first seven-or-so kilometres, I was feeling pretty damn good. But for the last kilometre, I suffered from a stitch, which made it very difficult to push as hard as I would have liked as I reached the exit of the woods and had to negotiate half-a-lap around the playing fields.

back on the playing fields / finish [photos: esther / dani]

Before I knew it, I had crossed the finish line and managed to hold off any attempts by competitors to snatch my position at the finish line. I worked my way along the finish funnel and was quite amused to be handed raffle ticket number 73, which was exactly the same position that I had finished in at Nurstead Court just a week earlier.

The full results had been processed and published by the end of the day and my club had, yet again, won the combined competition, making it 6/6 wins for this season. I had recorded the course using Strava on my phone and you can see the course data, here: KFL Blean Woods 2017.

post-race [photos: dani]

As I had run this race the previous year with a diminished fitness level, I had wondered how much quicker I might be able to make it around the course. It turns out that the answer was 6 minutes and 13 seconds faster, which I really wasn't expecting, so it was really nice to come away with a new course best time [36.27] by such a large margin.

Official results: KFL Blean Woods February 2017 Full Results

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