Forum vs Dartmoor Discovery: Blame the dinosaur!

It was T Rex’s fault. Several Forumites had taken part in Dartmoor Discovery 2004, and I wasn’t the only one who retreated home from Devon that June to lick my wounds, having found out the hard way that 32 miles is not the same as a marathon with a 10K tacked on to the end. Especially when it’s in the Dartmoor National Park.

Then in October, T Rex started a thread for Dartmoor Discovery 2005, and subtitled it “Unfinished business”. Put like that, it becomes a challenge, doesn’t it? T Rex, Trinity and I sent in our forms, and started working out how to do better than last time.

As the months passed, more Forumites joined us, including Ultra-virgins like Lexi Tate, Dunnarunner, Treforest Gump, Dips and Running for Beer. Winter became spring, and the miles were packed in. I did four marathons in the build up to Dartmoor, three of them at slightly easier than race pace, and one with a two-mile warm up beforehand. Lots of half marathons, again, not always at race pace, fitted in between.

Others had different training plans. Lexi Tate ran over 30 miles in one day in three separate runs. For some of us, the training was the tried and tested. For others, it was a brave new world.

As spring passed by, I started to resent the way this one race had come to dominate my thinking and planning for the whole year. I’d finished in 6:11 in 2004 and I couldn’t see how I could knock very much off that. I was always so tired. The truth is that I was looking forward to getting it out of the way and returning to “normal” running.

Last year I’d raced with Trinity, and we planned to race it together again in 2005. We knew that we would benefit from one another’s moral support.

Running for Beer, Treforest Gump, Shades, Dips and CarolR

How could we get under our time from 2004? We could spend less time at the feed stations. We could also walk less. We were surprised at how much we had walked last time and were determined not to repeat the experience. So firstly we had to become stronger, but also we would set off more slowly than last year.

The plans went well, and Trinity even won her age category at one of our warm-up races, the Halstead Marathon. But in the week preceding the event, taper madness set in and doubts surfaced. We had planned to run at about 10-minute miling, but I suddenly felt that wouldn’t give us time to walk the really steep bits and get within six hours. At almost the last moment we amended our optimum pace to 9:45 per mile. Our target was to beat our 2004 time. Anything else would be custard on the treacle sponge.

Race day dawned, and it was a perfect day for running. We gathered in the centre of Princetown village, all trying to keep warm but pleased to see old friends again. Soon it was almost 9.30 and as we lined up on the crossroads, the klaxon sounded and we were off, nervously, for 32 miles of Discovery.

The pace, of course, seemed easy, and there was plenty of chatter during the early miles. The 125 or so starters soon thinned out, and by the time we reached the first major climb, at about the 10K point, we had spread out even more.

Trin and I ran the first two 10Ks in around an hour each, and then the third one took longer. This was fine because two significant hills are part of this particular stretch. The challenge was to pick the pace back up again in the fourth 10K.

And that’s exactly what we did. We found we could accelerate a little. We also found that overall we felt good about the race, about ourselves, and about being alive. It was beginning to look as if our rudimentary training plan, and schedule, might be working.

As we approached 25 miles I was feeling great, but somehow knew it couldn’t last. We were walking up some of the steepest hills, but nothing like as many as we had in 2004. When we reached the top it was taking me a little bit longer each time to get going again, and almost imperceptibly, Trin pulled away from me.

Robtherunner, Lexi Tate

The marathon point was another huge landmark. My split time was 4:29. I didn’t have a clue how long it had taken me the previous year but I knew it was slower than that. And although I was slowing I still felt good. I got a second wind and as we turned onto the main road towards Postbridge, I was able to pick the pace up, and caught up with Trin, who was waiting for me at the drinks station.

Then disaster struck. I bent down to pick up a sponge and although I didn’t realise it at the time, that’s when the rot set in. The dreaded cramp started and would continue to torment me through the final five miles.

After Trin and I exchanged a few words about how we only had five miles to go and we had ages yet before we’d be over the previous year’s time, Trin started running again. I tried, but very soon I had cramp in both calfs and both thighs. I was in agony, but I pressed on.

All the while Trin was pulling away from me. I had a little bit of a fight for a place with MetroGnome but he was too strong for me and he too pulled away.

Then I began to feel the cold, and was grateful for the thermal shirt that I’d been carrying with me. I even put on my gloves for five minutes whilst I heated up again. At around 29 miles I had a third wind and seemed to be catching up with Trin once again.

In the last couple of miles there is still some climbing to do, and I soon slowed. My mind was working three ways: part of me was dreading moving because the cramp was coming and going. Part of me was thrilled knowing that I was going to whup my time from 2004, and nothing short of a thunderbolt was going to stop me. And another part of me was willing Trin forward to the finish, pleased that she hadn’t waited for me and hoping she would realise her potential on the day.

Trinity, Richk

Finally, I got to Princetown and I dragged myself into the village. I heard the announcer call my name. I turned the corner to the finish line, and saw Trin, Lexi Tate and Jen, and others, all smiling and as pleased to see me as I was to see them.

I crossed the line and slowly ground to a halt, more in the manner of a large supertanker than a fit runner, but I didn’t want to stop sharply and make the cramp worse.

As I waited a while, catching my breath, T Rex came in a couple of places behind me. I wanted to wait to see how the other Forumites had done but a chill in my bones urged me to wander off to the hotel for a shower, a hot drink, a lie down and a snack.

It didn’t seem long before it was time to go to the pub for the post-race celebration. Everyone was so happy! Even T Rex, who still really doesn’t think he’s finished his unfinished business, was happy. It was great to be a Forumite that evening. The virgins were thrilled to find that they could do it after all, just like the rest of us had promised they would.

Time for the presentation. There were lots of names I’d never heard of doing times I wouldn’t dare to even dream of, so I wasn’t really listening when Trinity’s real name was called out. But it was. She’d won her category of FV40-44! We had a winner from the Forum, and everyone was delighted, because we all knew from our own experience how much work had gone into that achievement.

Talk of the Forum reminds me that there are two Forumites I’ve not mentioned so far. Pashka is a Dartmoor Discovery regular who can’t keep away, regardless of how much training she’s done, or how little. This was one of the how little years. Pashka knew she hadn’t prepared properly for the event. So just to make sure that she had something to occupy her mind during the long time she was going to be out there she took time out to clear up the rubbish that the runners had dropped during the race. There wasn’t a great deal, because most of us had remembered to leave our rubbish close to the feed stations, but there was some, and I’m sure the rest of us are grateful to Pashka for doing what she did and hopefully helping to ensure that the race takes place once again in 2006.

Finally, there is Adverse Camber. To the surprise of most of us, he turned up on race day morning, and spent the entire day taking photographs, cheering and encouraging and cajoling, and giving people lifts (after, not during the race!), before driving back to Weston-super-Mare very late in the evening. The following day he downloaded his photographs and some video he’d taken and put them together, with a soundtrack, in a lovely souvenir of the day, which was online for us to find when we all got home later in the day. AC deserves a lot of credit for helping the Forum enjoy Dartmoor Discovery 2005.

I can't write about this event without paying tribute to Phil Hampton and his friends, supporters and sponsors. Without them there would be no Dartmoor Discovery. We all owe them a huge thank you for all the work they put in, particularly Phil for whom I imagine this is something of a 12-month event.

The marshals are all helpful, friendly and encouraging, nothing is ever too much trouble. Those of us who take part are able to enjoy a wonderful event because of these generous people.

What next? Well I’m never going to knock another 30 minutes off my time again. But already I can see how I might shave a few seconds off here and there, and if I can avoid cramp towards the end of the event, that would be a big help. So maybe, just maybe, I might go back next year. Or 2007.

Like the dinosaur said . . it’s unfinished business!!

Thanks to Richk and Adverse Camber for the photos

Forum results

  Time Name Club Age Cat Min/mile Cat Place Race Place
1 4:30:46 Robtherunner Taunton A C Male Vet 40-44 08:21.9 3rd 12
2 4:46:35 Slinger Royal Manor of Portland AC Male Vet 45-49 08:51.2 2nd 23
3 4:53:19 Lexi Tate Hogweed Trotters Men under 40 09:03.7 11th 27
4 5:23:51 Dunnarunner Teignbridge Trotters Male Vet 50-54 10:00.3 4th 58
5 5:26:42 Deadbeat Wimborne A C Men under 40 10:05.6 22nd 60
6 5:35:57 Trinity Hogweed Trotters Female Vet 40-44 10:22.7 1st 68
7 5:37:06 MetroGnome Istead & Ifield Harriers Male Vet 45-49 10:24.9 10th 70
8 5:40:33 RichK Hogweed Trotters Male Vet 50-54 10:31.3 6th 77
9 5:43:04 TRex Vegetarian Cycling & A.C. Male Vet 40-44 10:35.9 13th 79
10 6:04:24 Mrs Mac Road Runners Club Ladies under 35 11:15.5 3rd 90
11 6:04:24 Mr Mac Road Runners Club Men under 40 11:15.5 28th 91
12 6:06:49 Treforest Gump Road Runners Club Male Vet 40-44 11:19.9 15th 93
13 6:33:05 Shades Womens Running Network Female Vet 45-49 12:08.6 7th 107
14 6:36:51 Dips Brighton & Hove Running Sisters Female Vet 45-49 12:15.6 8th 109
15 6:53:38 Running for Beer Westbury Harriers Men under 40  12:46.7 34th 116
16 7:33:39 Pashka Womens Running Network Female Vet 50-54 14:00.9 2nd 123