Leonie Clitherow reports:
Canncok Chase Trig Point Race
After all the excitement of a muddy fell race on New Year’s Day I was quick to sign up to my next off-road adventure. This time it was the Cannock Chase Trig Point Race on January 5 th, which has an estimated distance of 16 miles (27km), considering I haven’t run further than a half marathon before (only on-road) and as the race entry was a fairly last minute decision, I certainly hadn’t done any more training than consuming vast amounts of cake and chocolate over the festive period… Oh and the small matter of it being navigation event between various trig points around Cannock Chase: I can barely navigate around a supermarket (I once got lost in the Tescos at Five Ways, it was a very traumatic experience) let alone a large expanse of moorland. Never fear…I had the useful assistance of the only other BvH runner to take part in this event: Simon Goodwin, who is far more capable at map reading than I am.
Lining up to start the race it was clear that this was not a fun run event judging by lots of fell running club t-shirts and some serious looking backpack-wearing competitors. I was definitely feeling the odd one out! Because this is a navigation event we all had to carry maps of the area with the 6 trig points we had to visit (in correct order) marked clearly. We were also given ‘dibbers’, which are small devices you strap to a finger and then poke into a sensor at each trig point, apparently this is standard practice for orienteering events. This is doubly handy as it gives you your individual times for each leg of the route as well as keeping track of everyone’s positions (you get a nice print out of your times at the end).
The route to each trig point was not too difficult to work out; the hardest bit was sticking to the correct path and not taking turns too early. There’s no sign posts or marshals (except for on the trig points themselves), so potential for getting lost is fairly high, although unlike a really wild fell race in the mountains you’re never far from civilisation if the worst happens! The paths were lovely to run on, mostly grit paths, with very short stretches of road (depending on the route you choose) and no deep mud (disappointing lack of mud in my opinion…!) and some lovely views on route.
The first section was a gentle climb most of the way to the first trig point and then a relatively flat, long section where some speed could be built up (not that I managed that, I was attempting to save some energy for the point when I exceeded half marathon distance!). A long downhill then took us to a rail and road crossing where we had 2 minutes to get between two check points at either side of the crossing. There was also a handy water station here, which was essential before I could tackle the very steep climb up to the next two trig points. Fuelled by a couple of jelly beans I ran the first part of the path, before slowing to a walk as it got steeper (thankfully so had the runners in front). This section was the hardest part, with a steep climb to trig point 4, followed by a steep downhill and then another climb to number 5. After that there was a slightly tricky (but fun) path to skirt around the out of bounds motor- and mountain-biking area before dropping once more to the road and rail crossing. After this it was the long hill I had enjoyed running down: a very different experience struggling back up it that’s for sure! Sometime around the top of this hill was the half marathon distance and the time my legs started to really ache. The last section of the race is a very gentle gradient and if I hadn’t done 13 miles of running already it would have been an easy finish, instead it was a bit of a battle between my head and my protesting legs, but I was glad of the long downhill finish. Crossing the line after 2 hours 37 minutes of running was a really fantastic feeling and although my legs were seriously achy I was pleased to have managed the distance (around 17
miles in total with the route I followed). After staggering across the line and limping back to the club house, where race registration was based, it was time to tuck into the free soup, cake and cups of tea! All in all a great race and a nice change to the standard road run, having done the distance and survived it’s now time to find another long(er) off-road race…
Check out the race via this link: http://www.merciafellrunners.org.uk/node/214