The day started at 0530 hours - OK, it actually started at 0000 hours, as every day does, but for me I was only conscious of it from 0530 hours. With kit check done and a dump complete - did you need to know that? - it was to the auto-mobile and the drive to sunny Minehead. The two hour plus drive was uneventful and I pulled into the car park well in time to collect my race number - 63 - and await the arrival of the coaches - as in vehicle type things. As you can see from the route, shown below, it's a point to point race so the coaches get us runners to the church on time - Contisbury Church. This year, a couple of my fell running buddies turned up - which was nice - and at 0900 hours we jumped aboard the transport and shipped out. Right, that's enough of all that boring $£!t on with the race detail - which too might be a bit boring but then you can choose to read or not.
I started towards the front, wanting to get a good start without forcing myself to go too quick too early. After the first couple of miles I found myself in sixth place and stayed there for a few miles. A bit further down the path a trio of Westbury runners came flying past, they had good momentum going and eased away. That dropped me to ninth.
Then a mile or two out from Porlock Weir I was tracking a Team Bath runner while a GWR runner edged past the both of us but didn't manage to pull out much of gap. Somewhere along the lines I think I over took some other runners but my memory is a little hazy. For a mile or two we ran fairly together until I managed to 'cheat' my way past at a turn when the other two weren't sure of the way - I didn't feel too bad because I did manage to pull away from them both in the end and so I don't think it affected the result.
The run across the flats was steady as I tried to lay down a good pace. I could see a few runners ahead but didn't really manage to make any inroads - but not for want of trying. It was just on from there and into the last of the climb of any significance that I did my damage and pulled out an uncatchable lead on those behind while reeling in a couple of runners ahead. At the time I wasn't sure of my position but I knew I was right up there.
Sadly, by the time I got to the top the next runners in my sights were just tiny dots in the distance and my sniper scope didn't have the magnification to have any realistic chance of catching them. With only four or five miles to go I would have needed to up my pace fairly fantastically - and that just wasn't going to happen. Up to then I'd run a fairly conservative race but when the end comes and fatigue sets in, she sets in pretty damn quick. I soon began to run out of steam.
Once I started the descent into Minehead - still with a couple of miles to go - and as mentioned above, my feet started to overheat. To be fair, by then my legs were wasted and my heavy footed running style wasn't helping any. I just about managed to keep one foot going in front of the other but the final half mile was highly uncomfortable - and not to mention, bloody slow.
I crossed the line in a time of 2 hours 46 minutes and 45 seconds, a whopping TEN minutes quicker than last year! Now I know for such a long race in both distance and time that doesn't sound much but when you consider that it equates to about 30 seconds per mile then you realise it's actually quite a lot. (I should say, the '17' in the title of the race refers to the 'as the crow flys' distanace, the race is actually just a fraction over twenty miles on foot with a fairly lowly 3,000 feet of ascent).
I'm really pleased. Now I know I didn't quite win - as perhaps, I thought I could but 4th - yes, 4th - isn't that far off and considering my time this year was faster than last years winning time then all in all I didn't do too bad. Perhaps my mojo is on its way back...
And well done to Fred and Minehead Running Club not to mention all the marshals for putting together another fine race. This race continues to be one of my favourite races ever.