Saturday, 19 March 2016

‘Grin and Bear it’ and a trip to France

‘Grin and Bear it’ and a trip to France
Saturday March 19th

A very busy week where the weather has been fantastic, very cold but very clear skies and sunshine, but today is cold and grey with lots of cloud.
The Grizzly!
Sunday the 13th dawned with a clear blue sky but quite chilly. Breakfast was sorted, jam sandwich to eat before the start made, bag packed with a variety of clothes for every weather scenario down at Seaton, decisions!! I prepared a couple of energy  bars[Zip vit] chopping into small pieces to make it easier to eat, putting them in small plastic bags, I made up a ‘Raspberry Buzz’ Tailwind drink.

I decided to wear my three quarter tights with a Paramo long sleeved top and my short sleeve Asics running top as it has great pockets, the weather forecast was excellent, cold but warm in the shelter from the wind.
I picked up my running partner for the day Rachel at the top of the lane, both of us quite nervous about the day, Rachel particularly so having a rasping cough and not a lot of distance training over the last few weeks, me, I was just nervous anyway, even though I felt I have put the work in over the winter.

We were really lucky on entry to Seaton, given a parking slot on the front, only a few hundred yards from the start. There was a real feel to the air in Seaton today, bustling with people in running kit and their supporters, as we walked down the front for the inevitable toilet break, the start was being prepared, we both bumped into people we knew and said our hellos, clearly nerves showing on both sides.

We lined up at 10:15 pushing our way to halfway down the field with the other 2000 runners. The sun was warm as we were surrounded by  hundreds of brightly coloured runners, a variety of dress code, shorts and sleeveless vests alongside long tights and windproof tops. The Town crier did his bit, the crowd responding to his chants, the atmosphere was brilliant.

!0:30 and we were off, watch go button pressed, the first 50 yards we had to walk because of the number of runners, we finally started to run as we crossed the line to cheers from the massive crowd, we turned left to hit the beach for the first mile, the sound of the shingle of 2000 runners on it a real ‘Grizzly’ sound. It was hard work as usual, trying to avoid the slow runners, others pushing past you, trying to find the best line, we were soon at the Axe Yacht club where we were back on the road and a circuit back through the massive crowds past the start line 1 mile covered already, only 19 to go!!

It was then up the first hill and on the road over to Beer, past a rock band playing outside someone’s house, and Elvis singing his heart out further along, the steep hill from Seaton Hole had everyone walking, partly the narrow road with so many people, but also very steep, bearing in mind there was a long way still to go. Down through Beer again massive crowds cheering us on a spectacular river of runners descending through the town. The next steep up hill out of Beer, we did manage to run the lower slopes before succumbing to the steep hill and again the crowd of runners. Over the car park and the first water station in the caravan park,  our plan was to take in water at these points as it was going to be a hot day, we also helped ourselves to our first of many jelly babies of the day. 

Up again and we were finally off road as we climbed to the summit of Beer Head, under foot was good, quite springy and nice to run on, the sea sparkling in the sun, a very slight Northerly breeze, we still felt good, looking forward and back at the trail of runners, we had no idea where we were in the field. Down through the familiar to us ‘Great Seaside’ , fortunately, the mud of last year replaced with firm ground, down we went to the split with the Cub run, we both agreed we were up for the full distance so turning right we were confronted with our first river crossing of the day, crowds again lined the banks as were plunged into the icy cold estuary, for a 20 yard wade with water at our knees at times, my feet were freezing as we exited the water back on to the shingle of Branscombe. Here there was a line of drummers, banging out an inspiring beat, astonishing that they kept this up all day!! On we ran up through the village along familiar tracks until we reached the National Trust forge, turning right we met another steep up hill on the road before an even steeper off road right turn up through a farm gate, we were still very lucky as underfoot was still good. The views over the valley as we ran around the hills of Branscombe were spectacular, the day was wonderful, the woods were all showing the shoots of wild garllic which gave out its wonderful fragrance as we ran through, this was a common theme as we continued through woodland sections of the run, it was very warm and after much up and down around the 10 mile mark we were on a section where we met the front runners coming the other way as we did a very steep circuit before plunging down to the second river crossing of the day to be followed by the dreaded ‘bog’ the water was icy cold once again, but! This time on exit we then plunged into knee deep thick slurry, which as it happened was quite warm! You soon learned to shuffle rather than lift your feet out of the gloop, to avoid too much splatter, yet another plunge into icy water followed and another gloop section, very slow at this point, taking turns through the deep bits to make sure you stayed on your feet. The final section of the bog was very thick, deep mud where it was hard to pull your feet out without leaving your shoes behind, a runner to our left fell and we struggled to lift her upright again, Rachel and I  developed a strategy of hanging on to each other to keep upright. Once out of the thick mud it was another plunge, strangely some runners were stopping to wash off the mud!!!
We squelched our way over more fields and came up against a very steep grassy bank, with a man dressed as, I assume Richard the third, complete with chainmail  chanting out a verse to encourage us. More ups and downs before hitting a trail that took in a food stop, flap jack, crispy cake, sweets, drinks etc. we topped up our energy levels with flapjack etc as we ascended once again.

One highlight of the day as we came over the brow of the hill to see the ‘Fountain Inn’ and hear another rock band playing, we ran through the Beer garden which was brilliant, very large crowds cheering us on through a narrow tunnel of people, real exciting and inspiring atmosphere, we needed it as we had completed approximately 13 miles of steep hills up and steep hills down as well as several river crossings, and several deep muddy bogs.

Round the corner from the Inn another up, out of site of the crowds once again we all started walking again as another uphill, took us to the cliffs above Branscombe, we were now on familiar ground and knew we were on our way home, roughly 6 miles to go. We dropped down to Branscombe once more, a handful of jelly babies and cups of water before crossing the icy water of the estuary for the last time, once again, my feet were freezing and as we hit the shingle of the beach once again, they felt very heavy. We were very lucky this time along the beach as the sea had washed away the shingle at a good level to reveal a sandy beach, which was much easier to run on than the shingle, this was the first time in many runs along here that it had been like this, I think the low tide also helped. Tiredness was creeping in here, so a gel was consumed as a precaution before the stiff climbs up the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to come and the final last 4 miles or so.

As usual a ‘crocodile’ of runners walked up the hill, Rachel giving me [ and others] a run down of her beef hot pot she had in the oven for her return home later, its amazing how the thoughts of food takeover, perhaps it takes the mind off the pain you are undertaking. Over the top of the S to H, and over through the caravan park, more water, more jelly babies!! The descent into Beer was once again a delight, crowds encouraging us once again, before the steps up out of Beer had us walking once again, I always find this section very hard as we had completed probably about 16 miles so far. We were now back on to tarmac which I find difficult on my now tired calf muscles, particularly my right one. On we went along the road back into Seaton, seemingly a long way on the road, we could see the finish down on the sea front and as we entered the park before the final descent to the finish a number of runners we overtook earlier [standing at the trail side looking completely done!!] came past us, clearly pushing to the finish, I think we must have lost about 10 to 15 places along here, but we didn’t care, we had made it, both excited at finishing the run, we finally entered the finish straight to the cheers of the very large crowd, and the final entry to the finish was welcome, we had done it!!! We both felt very elated, but both very tired, my calf muscle now very sore and Rachel finding her toes very painful. 19.36 miles recorded on my watch and 4 hrs 6mins 41 secs had passed since the start!!
A well earned bottle of water and a couple of bananas as we crossed the line and of course pick up our ‘Grin and Bear it’ tee in a very lime green colour this year [ not a nice colour!] another to wear on my spin classes. A fantastic run, course and support, I really enjoyed it even though quite tired and my calf was pulling a little.

On return to my car and before I took my shoes off I had a text from my son who informed me of my time and my finishing position, apparently he had been tracking me as we all had chips in our numbers, so he knew where I had come and how long before I did. Amazing technology.

Our finishing positions according to the website were:

Rachel 827th out of 1402 finishers with a time of 4h 6m 39 secs the 185th lady and 39th out of 108 for her age category [ F45 sorry Rachel for giving your age away!!]

Me 828th out of 1402 finishers with a time of 4h 6 m 41 secs the 643rd male and 8th out of 22 for the M65 category.

The winner did 2h 17 m !!!!

I was pleased with the results and thought we did well; many times we had to walk because of hold ups, etc.  So another Grizzly completed will I be back next year? I probably will apply as it’s a good incentive through the winter and it is a lovely event, made even better with the fantastic weather on the day and the brilliant organisation, everyone was friendly and the Marshals were excellent, great atmosphere all round. It was particularly nice to have a running partner.The question is will my partner up the lane enter again???

To be continued………… my trip to France


  1. Great run and a great report Ian. I like the way you and Rachel ran together for mutual support and encouragement. Hope you've both got over your little niggles. Well done the pair of you... Cheers!

  2. Thank you for your kind comments Gordon. It was a lovely day out, hard, but really enjoyed it.
    Rachel did well as she had little distance training and being a primary teacher with a family was always short of time. Bit different to my semi pro status!! We've both agreed next race ' herepath half' off road half marathon in October and the enter the Grizzly again for next year! We never learn do we!! Strangely the niggles have all disappeared??
    Notice you are getting out in the hills, huge respect to you. Have a good Easter.