Monday, January 27, 2020

Race Report - Pewsey Terminator

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After a somewhat disappointing winter of training and a DNS at the Wokingham Half Marathon, I kept my entry to the Pewsey Terminator, a mostly off-road 12 mile cross-country course with 410 metres of evil (and I mean evil) climbing, pretty quiet.

I certainly didn’t expect to win the darned thing.  I just wanted to put myself firmly in the hurt locker and get comfortable with being uncomfortable again.


Cross country has never been a strength of mine. But, as they say, work on your weaknesses!  And since I’d never run the race before (combined with the ridiculous hills which all but the very best are forced to walk) there was no expectation of time or performance.

I did have something of a dilemma when it came to footwear.  Cross-country spikes were out as the first and last kilometers were on roads and there was hard pack dotted around the course.  Had the trails been hard, the choice of shoe would have been easy, the Skechers GOBionic Trail – a minimalist shoe with a not-overly aggressive sole and lots of flex for good grip.  But the trails weren’t dry, they were sodden.

It was a toss-up between the Skechers GORun Ultra and the (now discontinued) original GOTrail.  I chose the latter as it has a slightly more aggressive tread pattern that I thought would perform better in the wet mud.

And so on Sunday morning we lined up for a slightly chaotic start and then hit the road for the first 1,000m until turning off into the fields.  My first kilometer was dispatched in 4 minutes dead, which felt ok at the time, but was probably a little hot for my current fitness.

As soon as we hit the mud, things slowed down but I was managing to keep pace with the group around me.

After about two miles, we came to ‘the bog’ an area where you first plunge into a stream and then climb out through thick mud on the other side. The water was freezing cold and the mud sapped energy from the legs.  Things weren’t help by going straight into a small climb out of the mud!

Then it was onto the canal where familiarity led to a bit more confidence and I put down a reasonable pace before turning off and across more fields.  At about four and a half miles in, we started a long slow climb in a gulley filled with sticky, slippery clay.   It was strictly single-file, which I was pleased about as I didn’t have the energy to overtake anyone ahead and it made me feel better about not letting anyone from behind overtake!  My shoes were already beginning to struggle, so I tried to stay to the side of the gulley, in search for better grip.

At the top of the gulley, the race had an evil trick in store for us all. Instead of turning onto a perfectly good road, they made us climb (and I mean climb, as in on hands and feet!) up a bank to join another trail at the top. I’m not sure I’ve ever moved so slowly with such a high heart rate!

Onto the top and it was relatively okay until we hit a downhill section which again featured lots of slippery clay.  I just didn’t have the confidence to push on (feet slipping with every footfall) and I could only watch the guys ahead extend their lead.  At the bottom we took a sharp left turn and despite warnings from the marshal about it being slippery, I fell right on my arse. Classy.

I clambered up having lost a few more places and then made my way along the bottom of the field before the next climb – one that I and everyone around me was forced to walk.  It was heartbreaking, but I knew everyone else was in the same boat.  At the top we did at least have a short downhill run before heading across the top of the ridge, which was again super-slippery.  I guess the first 10 or so guys probably were okay, but given 50-odd runners had trampled the trail before I got there, it was just slick and narrow.

Another confidence-killing downhill before another climb and another land on my arse.  I was getting really fed up now. I was losing placed because I was unfit, but I was also losing places because I couldn’t stay upright!

The final hill (another walk) was up to the Pewsey white horse before running (sliding, falling arse over tit) back down.  Finally, we were onto the flat and I started to make up a few places as we ran back towards Pewsey village.  There was a final last sting in the tail as we were diverted away from the road to ‘clean our shoes’ in the river before the last 1,200m or so.  I admit I didn’t know the route and so wasn’t sure how much further there was to go, so tempered my desire to finish strong and instead played it safe until I could actually sense we were within reach of the finish line.

I could have picked-off the guy ahead, but if I’m honest, my heart wasn’t in it.  I was pissed off with my performance, annoyed at how unfit I was (am!) and that I couldn’t stay upright in the slippery stuff.  Then he came to a sudden stop on the finish line and I almost took him out… oops.  I took a lowly 70th spot out of 451 finishers. Not one for the wall of fame...

So. I have completed my first Terminator. Or is that I’ve been Terminated?  I can’t honestly say I ‘enjoyed’ it much, but I do feel at least like I’ve a) set a benchmark for next year (I will be back…) and b) given myself some pain.

Lessons learned.  Despite thinking I was being conservative, I went off too hard. I didn’t account for how energy-sapping the mud would be.  Also, while I am a MASSIVE fan of Skechers shoes, the one shoe they are missing in their range at the moment is a proper aggressive off-road racer. Maybe I can help them fix that!  And finally – it was still a good day out. Still 19.2km in the bag and a damned good stint in the hurt locker (actually I might still be there… oww…).

Thanks to the race organisers and well done to everyone who raced.  To the guys that won, I just wish I had your fitness and technique! Chapeau…


Now, back to multi-sport racing… ;) 





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Matt Fisher runs - so it's all his fault! He pretends to be a triathlete, but really he is a husband, father and company VP. But he has raced for the GB Age Group squad a few times and is a two-times qualifier for the IM70.3 world champs