Race Reports

Snow, Slips and Cyclo

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Sunday 12 February 2012, Great Walstead School

Still not sure how the three of us got persuaded into doing our first cyclo cross event; something to do with Steve Mac thinking it would be a good idea to have a team representing the Mid Sussex Tri Club and we just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time. 

Mark Smith from the Crawley Wheelers kindly showed us the course the day before, which really helped familiarise ourselves with the snow, ice, mud, tight corners, Dougie's dip and the odd tree stump!  The only thing missing was the other one hundred and thirty two riders.

Morning of the race dawned bright but very cold - oh, what to wear! So we layered up, with me trying to match my colours - which in the end didn't matter as we were all a lovely mud colour by the end. Andy and I arrived with plenty of time to spare, to calm the nerves, which got worse when we saw how professional the other guys were looking, on their cyclo cross bikes and skin suits. I decided to break the reflectors off my mountain bike, in a desperate attempt to fit in. One team member even had a bell on his bike.

Oh, but where was our third team member? A thermos of soup in hand, Mat turned up 30mins before the start, all smiles until we pointed out it might be a good idea to familiarise himself with the course, so off we dashed to the woods.

There we found Steve, Kay, Tim and an old man under a blanket, which turned out to be Kevin trying to keep warm. They did a grand job of lap counting. Off dashed Andy and Matt to recce the course with 15 minutes to go.  Five to go...where are they?  Round the bend they appear with Mat stripping off, so Andy and I make our way down to the start and position ourselves at the back of the of riders. One minute to go, where is Mat? On the phone to his wife giving directions to the event before a swift handover to Dougie who finished off his conversation! 30 seconds to start ..where are my team members? Peeing in the bushes! Beware of yellow snow.

We're off and any nerves have now disappeared as we head round a field covered in snow, desperately trying to stay on our bikes as by now the route is really slippy. Into the woods and we try to navigate a load of hair pin bends which lead us into our first drop followed by a sharp turn to the right up a quick climb into more bends. We twist and turn on snow and mud until we get to a great little downhill bit, were we could pick up some speed and smile at Ant who was taking some great pictures.

Right hand bend and we are at Dougies dip, for me this was the best bit, straight into the drop no brakes and the speed carries you out the other side, just missing the tree on your right. I think I even got some 'air'! Round the corner someone leaves a tree across the path!  Off the bike, carry it over the tree, back on and we're on the home straight and then do it all again (x4).

The course was really technical and made all the more fun by overtaking riders, very slippery conditions (rumour has it Mat fell off three times!), trackside bonfires and Tour de France style drums and tooters!  A great day out and a huge recommendation to others.

For the three of us, being our first cyclo cross event, it was fantastic fun, made all the better with the support from the club, the sight of all those familiar faces spurned us on. 

Jean Fish, Andy Jenkins and Mat Record

 Photos here


Marrakech Marathon 29/1/12 Race Report

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The Results: A top class international field produced a marathon winning time of 2:08 with 21 runners doing 2:18 or less. Any one of those would have won the Brighton marathon. The top 50 runners were finished by 2:45 and they were virtually all from Ethiopia , Kenya and Morocco. Jim Graham was the 98th man (the 4th British male runner) by finishing in 3:11, just a few seconds outside of PB.


The half-marathon race started 30 minutes before the marathon and the winning time was a sensational 1:01:59. Helen Graham was the 359th woman home in 2:17 (including time spent in a mid-race comfort break) which is MSTC best half-marathon time of the year (so far). 


The web-sites and results on the internet are mostly in French, so it is a bit tricky to work it all out. Race numbers went to around 7,000 but that seemed to combine half-marathon and marathon. Therefore, the event is tiny compared to London Marathon and about half the size of Brighton Marathon. There appear to have been fewer than 700 marathon finishers with the majority of runners doing the half-marathon.



The experience: The easyjet flights and transfers from Gatwick to the superb hotel "les Jardins de la Koutoubia" were a doddle (www.lesjardinsdelakoutoubia.com).


We chose to organise the trip and race entry ourselves rather than use one of the marathon tour companies. As a result we paid the same in total but got a much better hotel that was just half a mile walking distance from the race start/finish. Collecting race numbers the day before from the expo was easy and great fun as it coincided with a kids race that day.


Marrakech is a culture shock (in a good way) for a couple from Hassocks. A cross between "Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Arc" and "Carry on Follow that Camel". Shouldn't have been such a culture shock because Carry-on-Follow-that-Camel was filmed on Littlehampton beach. Like Littlehampton, Marrakech feels like it hasn't changed much for centuries (except the horse-drawn carts in Marrakech have rubber tyres now). There was plenty of exhaust fumes from 2-stroke mopeds to remind one this is the 21st century.


Following the race we had a swim in the hotel pool then a nice wander in the Marrakech Souk (markets a few hundred yards from the hotel). Within minutes we had got live snakes wrapped around our necks and were being demanded to pay money for the privilege. Mayhem. It was frantic and amazing doing a little shopping for souvenirs.


The race was different with no energy drinks but just bottled water at irregular intervals (carry your own bottle I suggest). No energy gels but oranges, dates, figs and raisins on offer. The middle of the marathon had a 5-mile section with no feed stations and running through busy city roads competing with traffic and pedestrians. It is actually possible to get lost even though the runner in front is just a few metres away. The road closures get a bit less well enforced once the elite runners have gone through (I'd have had those Ethiopian Olympic Team runners otherwise..honest). However, the course is flat and has no annoying hairpins or switch backs so definite PB potential. The temperature was a pleasant 13-15 degrees during the race plus there was some shade from palm-trees and the ancient city walls.


BAR 13 Portsmouth Coastal Marathon 18th Dec 2011


The final race of the season brought out 8 hardy athletes for a bitterly cold race on the coast. Good preparation does not prevent all problems however and Rob was fighting off a sore throat, whilst Steve was recovering from a gastric flu bug which hit just 8 days before the race, leaving him unable to eat for 4 days. Medical advice suggests it is not good to race in those circumstances. What do those doctors know anyway?

Most race organisers understand the 'smell of fear' concept. For those who don't I would not suggest going near any nearby toilets just before a race. This race was the exception, there were virtually no toilets. In fact it turned out there were more massage ladies available after the race than toilets beforehand. That didn't stop Kev, who was into the ladies like a shot when the opportunity arose, barging desperate women out of the way to shed a few pounds before the start. The rest of us looked elsewhere and found a toilet block, but the cold water feed had frozen so there was no flush! Did we give up and look elsewhere - NO - stack it high, flush later! I can only imagine how bad it got.

The race got underway at 9.30, with the air temperature still below zero. The course is about as pancake flat as it is possible to be, but for all that this was a tough race. One third of the course was pavement or tarmac, one third was gravel tracks which were not too bad apart from the puddles, and the other third was downright cross country. It was those sections which made it hard. There was mud, narrow slippery wet paths, rock strewn paths, shingle beach sections, and grass and large puddles. You could get back up to speed on the good bits only to have another strength sapping section to knock you right back. In addition there were no marshals except at the (very good) feed stations. When you are tired it is too easy just to follow the person in front, and whilst it was generally easy to follow the course there were odd sections where it was easy to go wrong. I don't think any of us got round without errors. Jim certainly went wrong about 4 miles from the finish, and there was one section where the entire field went wrong. A steep path on this section finished at a river edge with a 4 metre drop into the water. I wasn't expecting it and had to pull up sharply to avoid going over the edge. The race times illustrated how challenging it actually was. Only 8 people finished under 3 hours.

Jim, Steve and Kev stayed together for about 4 miles but then Jim pushed up the pace and dropped the others. By the half way mark he had a good minute advantage over Steve, who was as far ahead of Kev. Rob decided to pace Rachel round because of his bug and Emma was taking the race at a sensible pace whilst Kay and Julienne were going along steadily.

The views and terrain of this race were quite amazing and I can quite understand why it was voted in the Top 10 of 'must do' marathons in the UK. There were marinas and harbours, marshlands and parklands, rivers and estuaries as well as the seafront views. However when it comes to the second half it becomes apparent that most of the view is a patch of ground just a few feet ahead of you as the fatigue starts to set in, pain starts to intrude and the real challenge of marathon running hits home.

Jim was probably the only one who wasn't feeling it too badly. He always looked strong and powered through to finish 29th just under 3h15m. Steve did get Jim back in his sights at about 22 miles, but then an old problem with his right knee suddenly triggered. It was like turning a switch from running strongly to being in severe pain and virtually being unable to put the right foot to the floor. This led to a comical running action of lightly stepping on the right foot and doing an exaggerated left stride to try to keep the pace up. It worked after a fashion but cost him 30 seconds a mile. Frustratingly it cost him a few places, including the second lady who was being dragged round by what appeared to be a husky! He was still delighted with 38th place and a 3h17m finish, and can only imagine what he could have done without the bug during the previous week.

It turned out Kev had dropped back for a reason. He has done 3 marathons this year and was very well prepared and fit. Sometimes however you just know it is not going to be your day, and this was such an occasion. He realised he was struggling and sensibly backed off in the second half to finish in just under 3h34m, still a very respectable time.

Rob and Rachel continued running together for most of the way, although Rob did find the cold weather and constant reminders of water a bit too much for his bladder, resulting in him stopping three times! Rachel however was running superbly and was on target to be way under her PB. Similar to me though, she suddenly hit problems at about 22 miles and from then on was really struggling. Nevertheless she remained a full 5 minutes inside her PB at the finish for an excellent time just under 3h46m. Rob, gentleman that he is(!) did manage to get a time 3 seconds faster, although clearly he didn't really get out of the comfort zone all the way round, and he even included his comfort breaks. They even managed to befriend an odd bloke called Dave!

Emma was running a steady pace and thought she might be able to break 4hrs. Her PB is 3h51m but it was 10 years ago so sub 4 would have been quite a feat. Like Rachel and Steve she also ran into problems late on and really suffered. She even went through a phase of wondering if she would finish at all but soldiered on for a 4h11m finish. As a training race for her true goal of the Brighton Marathon in April though, this was an excellent performance.

Kay got into trouble with a stitch relatively early. Clearly that makes proper running almost impossible so she had to resort to power walking and jogging. Husband Steve was trying to support her by riding round the route on his mountain bike, but wandered off somewhere towards Chichester and had to return to base to wait for her there. She finished, still smiling and cheerful, in 5h25m, probably looking in better shape than the rest of us.

Julienne had her usual steady pace. I did feel quite sorry for Darren at the finish, waiting in the freezing cold. On a positive note he always knew how she was doing because of the stream of text updates. She finished in 5h48m which I have huge respect for because it is an awful long time to be out there working hard.

Once we had finished most of us had a massage from the 'Pompey Pummellers' - I have to say it was the most painful post-race massage I have ever had, and easily the most effective one. She found every knot - although it felt like it was all knot with a bit of leg underneath. The difference it makes is staggering. The next day you can walk virtually normally - incredible!

Special praise must go to Tim and Claire who came to support, and stood out in the cold along with Darren and Steve Mac. However painful it is doing this sort of race I always prefer to be taking part rather than watching, if only for that sense of relief and achievement at the finish.

Men WINNER 2h51m29s

Jim Graham 3.14.48 13.39% 10points

Steve Alden 3.17.07 14.94 9

Kevin James 3.33.59 24.78 8

Rob Hoodless 3.45.50 31.69 7


Women WINNER 3h00m54s

Rachel Baker 3.45.53 24.87 10points

Emma Goodhead 4.11.03 38.78 9

Kay McMenamin 5.25.15 79.79 8

Julienne Stuart-Colwill 5.48.12 92.48 7


Author: Steve Alden

BAR 12 Brighton 10k, 20 Nov 2011

While Barns Green is well known for its wind and rain, it seems that the Brighton 10k is usually bright and sunny. This year was no exception making superb racing conditions.

Of course this wasn't enough for some, with Rob, Rachel and Claire electing to cycle down for the race. Altogether 15 MSTC athletes were running although there may be others who did not enter as MSTC. For the first time more women than men from the club were racing (8 v 7).


Those who have raced here before know that it is quite a boring course but it is pretty flat and therefore quite fast. However now that there are 2700 runners it is getting a bit crowded!


We actually had 2 MSTC athletes right at the front of the field, with both Mark Jordan and Callum Murray riding mountain bikes to keep the road clear for the leading runners, although Mark was having some trouble blowing his whistle and shouting at the same time.


Steve Crocker showed the pace that has been evident on Thursday evenings to be first home in 38.39. He still felt he went off too fast and that he could go faster if he paced himself better. Not a bad effort for his first club race though. Steve Alden was not far behind with his quickest 10k for 6 years in 39.16. Rob Hoodless faded a bit at the end but just crept in under the 40 minutes in 39.58.


Rachel was first lady home from the club with a comfortable PB in 43.48. Second was Tamsin in 47.18 although she felt she could have run faster. She has been training well so I am sure her times will come down.  


I didn't see Dave Leadbitter but he ran well to finish in 45.03, comfortably ahead of Colin (46.17) and Steve Mac in 46.38. Peter Clarke completed the men in 49.13.


Julie Williams continued her good form with a PB in 56.08 to finish 3rd lady with Kay Mac in 57.24. A very hot and thirsty Claire finished in 64.23. There are no drinks stations around the course and on a warm day she really suffered. Jules got round in 65.27 nearly a minute behind Emma (64.36) who lost a BAR point by starting too far back. Rose Ryan had a gentle run round in 75.49 encouraging another runner.


Rob and Rachel then cycled home with Callum and Mark but not before stopping in Ditchling for tea and cakes - the best conclusion to a social ride!



MEN WINNER:   29m52s


Steve Crocker   



10 points

Steve Alden




Rob Hoodless




Dave Leadbitter




Colin Chambers




Steve McMenamin




Peter Clarke









Rachel Baker



10 points

Tamsin Clake




Julie Williams




Kay McMenamin




Claire Cresswell




Julienne Stuart-Colwill




Emma Alden




Rose Ryan






 *Note: Ant Bliss always writes a good blog on the races he covers view the brooks one here.



Author: Steve Alden


Bike and Neighbourhood Plan Consultation Haywards Heath


The ride organised by Haywards Heath councillor Richard Bates is an opportunity to explore a circular on road route around the town's boundary - known as its Bounds.

The ride will start at 10am from Haywards Heath Town Hall on Saturday, November 26, followed by a coffee break and a discussion from 11am.

The discussion can be anything you wish to raise about cycling locally and it is intended to respond to the Neighbourhood Plan Consultation by creating a cycle network which could be implemented using Neighbourhood Planning gain funds.

There will be a mapping exercise to identify key routes and major crossing points and where cycle parking is needed. This is part of the Mid Sussex Cycling Campaign promoting cycling in Mid Sussex - formally under the umbrella SPOKES.

For further information contact Haywards Heath Town Councillor Richard Bates r.bates111@btinternet.com