Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The Steyning Stinger

The Steyning Stinger is one of those off road trail marathons where you no it’s not going to be easy with the hills elevation gain of 2,871ft and the maximum being 826ft and elevation loss of 2,864ft . Throw in the typical cold and rainy weather that goes with this time of year and you know you have a good challenge on your hands. There is also a Half Marathon option too.Both races have a hard core following who come back year after year to compete in them. I first ran the Stinger in 2012 a very cold and wet year, I was glad to finish. It took 10 minutes for my hands to get some feeling back so I could undo my trainers. I noticed quite a few people where suffering from hypothermia after the race that year. So why you may ask would people keep going back!

It’s a well organized event with a great bunch of volunteers who are out in all sorts of weather to support the runners. It’s really friendly and you get a fry up at the end.  Which is something to look forward to at the end.All for a very reasonable  price. And you now get a medal. Before the medal was introduced you used get either a shot glass or a mug. You can still by the mug you used to get for £2.00.

Race day I traveled over with my friend Mark Dean, one of the race organizers of The London 2 Brighton Race by Extreme Running.  Mark is a barefoot runner and runs in Luna sandals. It was amusing to see the stares he was getting from some of the other runners when they saw what he had on his feet.We knew it was going to be very muddy out there today and here was Mark in sandals and shorts! 
 Race HQ is situated in Steyning Grammar School. There was a buzz in the hall as we entered  to register. We met up with friends and chatted to Jonathan and Jane Wilkes. Also my good friend Gary Mckivett.  I also saw Louise  who I have met on a number of runs as a Volunteer. It was good to catch up and see what we all had planned and how we was feeling about the day.
Mud glorious Mud I am in the middle.

At 8.20 we made are way to the start. It was very muddy and gave just a taste of what laid beyond. As we crossed the start line at 8.30 we were soon slowed by mud that had been a grass bridleway / path and was now just a churned up mess that was hard going. Turning into the next field we were all running in the least muddy place we could find, this in turn was becoming very slippery. We turned right into Mouse  Lane. This heads up to Wiston House where you turn left and we was into another muddy path. The next 2 miles after this was the same with plenty of mud. I was I was keeping a nice pace of 9 min/mi here and I was feeling good. The trail was on a slight incline. At mile 3 after going through some woods I found myself on the South Downs way.

I remembered this part from last time. I remember getting to some more woods nearby  before coming into Washington. It was a steep down hill section here that was muddy and slippery also there was the added danger of tree roots to avoid.  It was not so bad this time. It was when we came out of the woods and into a water logged field that was the issue. My trainer was nearly sucked off my foot with the mud and water. There was not much point in trying to keep your feet dry today! I reached Washington 4 miles at 38 minutes in. I was now averaging a 10 min/mi pace now. Which I was I was happy with. I was hoping to maintain this till halfway then start to push more if I could. Going through Washington I knew where I was. This was mile 54 of The South Downs Way where I had dropped last year in the SDW 100. 

After Washington you cross the A24 and follow the Southdowns way again.After passing through some woods you are onto your first sting ( Hill ) A long slow one. It is a track a mixture of chalk and mud.I was still going good here and had a slow trot up it as others did. Some where walking and conserving energy. My pace at this point was 10.17 and the climb was around 300 ft ascending up to 700ft. It takes it out of you going up here. But I like the challenge of running a hill.
The first Sting!

After this was a nice down hill section. The weather was good. Sunny and a little fresh with wind on the more exposed parts. I am glad I had a jacket on as later I would be grateful for it. I was drinking and fueling fairly good on my usual snacks that I take. The course follows the SDW till just after 6 miles and then you hang a left and follow a footpath with various twists and turns. The course is always well marked and apart from the well stocked aid stations there are marshal's on course to direct you at some tricky points. Mile 8 I crossed the A24 again then passed a farm. I was looking for  a toilet as my tummy was starting to rumble. From mile 8 to 10  I come face to face with the second sting it starts at 305ft and ascends to 823ft. I found this one a bit harder but my pace started to slow here. This was  because I needed a loo break. I was trying to ignore the churning in my stomach.

After mile 10 I started to head down  hill again which was good. This carried on gradually with some flat for the next 5 miles.At mile 12 1/2 we started one of the first loop sections. This goes around Hill Barn Golf course. Its not bad at this point there is a nice downhill section that is covered either side by trees. The loop around the golf course is just over 3 miles and once around the other side you have quite an incline that starts at mile 14.72 it goes from 150ft and the elevation gain is 450ft. It is chalky slippery and the rain and worn a gully out of the path that is there. So not easy to run or hike up.

I took a gel at this point. One that I do not usually use. And by mile 14  I had to stop for a loo break. My stomach was  still bad but I kept punching on. It was just about getting the race done now.Any hope of a PB for today had gone out the window. Feeling a little relived I carried on. It was quite windy now as the course was a bit more exposed once I had come off the Hill Barn loop. The course takes a right at this point and head's along a chalk path bridleway that has open fields on either side. I was feeling pretty miserable now what with my stomach. There was an aid station up ahead that I remembered from last time. I ran straight through shouting my number. I always carry my own supplies and had enough water. I was using my Salomon S Lab 12 set. A nice race vest.  I often forget I have on as it is very comfortable. I crossed the road here called Titch hill and headed down hill for the second loop which comes onto Steepdown. I have raced here before on a 5 mile course. I remember it being very hilly race.
Hard going!

After the loop it is back across Titch Road and you head back on yourself. Just after 21 miles you turn right. There are marshals here to point you in the right direction. It was down hill so I tried to pick up my pace a little. But I was still on a go slow.  I was busting to go a loo again. I had no toilet paper and things where pretty uncomfortable. Runners trots is every runners night mare. As I was running downhill I realized I had my buff on my head! It was a light bulb moment. I found a quite place and found some relief. The buff was nice and soft also :-) I disposed of it a bag and got rid of later. 

Minus my Buff!

Just after 21 miles you hit the last sting. It rises from 224ft to 640ft with some flat bits. I cannot remember much about this bit. I was feeling pretty pissed off by now.  I could not even run down the last hill as I was  feeling so uncomfortable. Andy and Mark passed me at this section. I was now having one of those races where I was thinking what the hell are you doing! The last couple of miles were different from last time I had ran the stinger. I did some walking in the last mile. It got muddy again at this point which did not help. The last 800 meters where just horrendous. Louise who I had been talking to at the beginning  passed and I wished her well. She encouraged me to run which I did thankfully and managed to get across the finish line in a few seconds under 5 hours. The medal and breakfast soon made up for the misery of the second half of the run fade. And I thought today was just not my day!  I will be back next year!
The Bling.
Job Done!

Mark with his Breakfast!

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