Game on … BAC’s ladies’ team in the hunt to retain Three Counties Cross-Country crown

Biggleswade Athletic Club once again made a splash in the Three Counties Cross-Country season, with the ladies team – defending champions in the league – hauling themselves into contention with an outstanding showing at the notorious Croyland Park event in Wellingborough.

With two key members of last season’s victorious ladies’ squad – Elaine Livera and Juliet Nayler – having moved on to pastures outside BAC, taking a fourth successive Three Counties title always looked a tall order, but after a solid fifth-placed team finish in Dunstable, thanks to scorers Hannah Broom (first female finisher in the race), Emma Bailey, Natalie Morgan and Kathryn Juty, Natalie Garner put in a fine showing in Wellingborough to help BAC to a share of first place alongside the host club.

Though Broom was fourth female this time around, she was soon followed by Morgan in ninth, Bailey 10th and Garner 13th which proved an impossible set of results to beat. However, Wellingborough & District AC’s quartet matched the points tally with finishers in third, fifth, eighth and 20th places. The combined performance, helped ably by those further down the field bump other teams’ scorers down the standings, means BAC’s ladies now sit in third place. They are one point off North Herts Road Runners in second, but four behind Wellingborough who have now taken first two races in succession.

The Croyland Park route has undergone various alterations in recent years but it can always be relied upon for the most challenging water crossings of the season. True to form, many of the runners present found previously smooth progress decimated by a dunking in the icy brook, and even those at the front of the field weren’t immune.

Broom in particular took a wonky stride or two she immediately regretted as she nosedived into the murky depths, before recovering her composure to get her race back on track.

Former club chairman Nigel Bush was another of the unlucky ones, his rival-assisted stumble, fall and borderline bog-snorkel gleefully captured by the safely-layered-up hordes waiting by the bank for muddy action shots. Still, despite now being in his 70s, Bush didn’t beat about, and he was up, out, gritting teeth and back in business almost immediately. In the end he was just three overall positions away from making one of the point-scoring slots himself. He allayed fears about his plight post-race, saying: “I’m OK – it was a very nice early cold bath! All part of the fun of cross-country but I think the Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers runner who ‘took me out’ owes me a beer!”

On the men’s side eight runners score points, and the club’s veterans stoically filled the slots – BAC were one of two clubs to have scorers all aged 35 and over, and the only club to have two over-60s competitors in their top eight. Nick Haworth (48th) was first home, with Rob Morgan (69th), Marcus Davey (76th), Charlie Arnold (120th), Malcolm Steward (144th), club chairman Damien Pitts (155th), Neil Harvey (184th) and Ian Grimwood (210th) taking the squad to 11th place out of 13 clubs – the position they now sit in the league after two races. The combined team – factoring in men’s and women’s results – was eighth on the day, and now lie in sixth place overall.

Letchworth’s Standalone Farm is the next venue for runners to contend with on 16 December, always a reliable source of mud and mayhem for all attendees. As veterans and newcomers attest, cross-country is seriously good fun, tremendous winter training and almost incomprehensively addictive. Keep an eye on the BAC forum and members’ Facebook group for more information, and feel free to ask any questions.

Wellingborough XC results (combined overall standings)

Final position | Name

50 Nick Haworth
71 Robert Morgan
74 Hannah Broom
80 Marcus Davey
114 Natalie Morgan
127 Emma Bailey
130 Charlie Arnold
141 Natalie Garner
163 Malcolm Steward
177 Damien Pitts
217 Kathryn Juty
220 Neil Harvey
272 Ian Grimwood
275 Nigel Bush
297 Simon Strong
317 Jennie Day
335 Juliet Grimwood
363 Gareth Saynor
364 Julie Spavins
(404 runners finished)

Gareth Saynor re-enacts Day of the Dead. Photo by Nick Spavins
Part two of season nine of the Walking Dead will air from 11 February. On-set photo thanks to Nick Spavins (with apologies to Gareth Saynor)
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Four to the floor … BAC hit roads in pursuit of club championship honours

Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes lined up to take one another on at two recent races, with the Fen 10 in Wisbech and St Neots Half Marathon doubling up as club championship events and yielding four different names for the trophy engraver.

Finishing times for club championships are recalibrated based on age-gradings, which serve to level the playing field across the various age groups, and in some cases seeing some enormous leaps up the standings for those in the veterans’ categories. As a result, despite Rob Morgan being first BAC finisher at the Fen 10 in a superb 1:03:36 (22nd overall), he is young enough to be Charlie Arnold’s son, and so the evergreen Arnold (59th overall) saw his finish time of 1:10:02 heaved down to an age-graded mark of 55:29, meaning he took the title by over two minutes. In fact Marcus Davey (24th overall), who finished 10 seconds behind Rob, was also promoted ahead of him due to his comparative lack of youth.

Chris Clarke and Charlie Arnold in St Neots. Photo by Rachel Stott
Charlie Arnold, pictured right alongside Chris Clarke in St Neots, took the 10-mile club title in Wisbech. Photo by Rachel Stott

The Morgan household had plenty of cause to cheer in the women’s standings however as Natalie was first BAC female home, finishing in 89th position overall and taking a new personal best of 1:14:02. She said: “This race was a new one for me. I had heard from other club members who had experience of the race previously the course was a fast, flat one but quite open and could be quite blustery. The first few miles I took steady, working on maintaining my pace and conscious to keep a bit in reserve for the last potentially windy section.

“I made good progress throughout and for the most part felt reasonably comfortable. Before I knew it I was at mile nine and began to up the pace for the finish. Although not still, the weather on the whole was rather kind, with the strong winds never really materialising in the end. As such, a good race with a new PB of 1:13:45 and a finishing position of ninth woman overall.”

Attendance at the 10-mile race was slightly scuppered as it had been a late substitute for the club’s traditional championship race, the Swineshead 10, which announced it would no longer be taking place from 2018. Happily, the club’s 13.1 challenge in St Neots went ahead as planned, though runners would perhaps have preferred a degree or two more on the thermometer and markedly fewer icy crosswinds on the various sections of open landscape.

Hannah Broom. Photo by Rachel Stott
Hannah Broom in the St Neots half. Photo by Rachel Stott

Despite feeling under the weather, Hannah Broom backed up her stunning recent form from the Great Eastern Half-Marathon, where she took 13 minutes off her personal best to break the much-desired 1:30 barrier by nearly three-and-a-half minutes. In St Neots, she was just 17 seconds outside her new PB, and took the title of club champion.

Though unable to overhaul Hannah, Natalie was thrilled with her showing, as 1:35:30 marked her own milestone: “The St Neots Half Marathon is most definitely my favourite half, in fact I’d say it’s my favourite race of all the differing distances I’ve taken part in over the years. The course is undulating in parts and I like the challenge it brings, but most of all I like the last three miles – it’s downhill so helps those tired legs! My approach was to simply enjoy it, no pressure and no expectations. Added to this, the weather conditions were perfect and the BAC support crew were on top form, with cheers aplenty.

“All-in-all things really did come together on the day for me, I made sure to keep focused and be strong to the end and, yes, I did come away rather enjoying it. The icing on the cake – bettering my PB from 10 years ago by over two minutes with a finish time of 1:35:30!”

Marcus Davey. Photo by Rachel Stott
Marcus Davey on his way to the club champs’ crown in St Neots. Photo by Rachel Stott

Davey took the men’s crown, his 1:23:02 leapfrogging first BAC finisher Steven Baldwin’s 1:18:56 once age was factored in, while Arnold was unlucky not to double up on 10-mile and half-marathon titles as his grading took him just 16 seconds outside Marcus’s.

Green Thumb Fen 10 results

Position | Name | Time (Age-graded result)
22 | Robert Morgan | 01:03:36 (00:59:45)
24 | Marcus Davey | 01:03:46 (00:57:34)
45 | John Stott | 01:08:21 (01:02:42)
59 | Charles Arnold | 01:10:02 (00:55:29) Male Club Champion
89 | Natalie Morgan | 01:14:02 (01:10:43) Lady Club Champion
173 | Clark Skerratt | 01:21:53 (01:01:15)
197 | Ian Grimwood | 01:24:14 (01:04:15)
287 | Maria Merridan | 01:35:19 (01:26:10)
303 | Juliet Grimwood | 01:38:44 (01:22:51)
(359 finishers in total)

St Neots Half Marathon results

Position | Name | Time (Age-graded result)
23 | Steven Baldwin | 01:18:56 (01:18:56)
53 | Marcus Davey | 01:23:02 (01:15:19) Male Club Champion
71 | Paul Cooke | 01:24:16 (01:19:37)
82 | Nick Haworth | 01:25:42 (01:20:58)
92 | Hannah Broom | 01:26:50 (01:23:59) Lady Club Champion
120 | John Stott | 01:28:52 (01:19:16)
186 | Chris Watson | 01:33:14 (01:21:03)
217 | Charles Arnold | 01:35:12 (01:15:35)
227 | Natalie Morgan | 01:35:30 (01:31:13)
228 | Robert Morgan | 01:35:31 (01:30:15)
420 | Malcolm Steward | 01:42:34 (01:36:54)
455 | Damien Pitts | 01:43:42 (01:42:55)
529 | Robin Lewis | 01:46:50 (01:34:29)
547 | Kevin Goody | 01:48:12 (01:27:32)
577 | Neil Harvey | 01:48:37 (01:29:31)
613 | Andrew Bruce | 01:49:52 (01:33:51)
641 | Sarah Geeson-Orsgood | 01:50:56 (01:45:57)
645 | Clark Skerratt | 01:51:45 (01:23:39)
839 | Ian Grimwood | 01:57:15 (01:29:33)
842 | Frank Mcloughlin | 01:57:20 (01:38:28)
850 | Stephen Atkins | 01:57:28 (01:31:29)
898 | Andrew Hedley | 01:59:18 (01:40:07)
986 | Ian Clayton | 02:03:56 (01:47:44)
1013 | Sally Jones | 02:05:08 (01:58:37)
1016 | Juliet Grimwood | 02:05:14 (01:45:06)
1017 | Vicky Berry | 02:05:15 (01:45:07)
1049 | Maria Merridan | 02:07:25 (01:55:11)
1210 | Simon Strong | 02:16:31 (02:02:48)
1246 | Matthew Lewis | 02:19:25 (02:19:21)
1307 | Ros Bodi | 02:26:59 (02:03:21)
(1384 finishers total)

Breaking 1:30 … Broom bursts through barrier at Great Eastern Run

Nine BAC runners took to Peterborough in mid-October to compete in the Perkins Great Eastern Run, a day which turned out to be particularly fruitful for the club secretary.

Hannah Broom writes:

It was absolutely chucking it down with rain on a Sunday morning – yep it was race day! I was going to try to beak 1hr30mins for a half marathon. I have been training really hard for a few months, being careful what I have been eating, weight training in the gym to recover from my shoulder injury and sticking like glue to a personalised training plan written specifically for me by Coach Paul Davies at Biggleswade Athletic Club and this was a good test as to where I was and if my ambitious time was possible. What the hell, I would still have to run a long run today even if I did not take part and I had already paid for this privilege, and you get a nice T-shirt so I was going to Peterborough no matter the weather.

Paul Cooke made me start near the front, sliding in behind the elites and fast guys, I did not want to, I was too far forward, we almost had a fall out, I was nervous, I should not be this far in the pack, but Paul insisted I should be there due to my recent performances … We were off.

The start is a little bumpy, it is narrow and twisty, you just have to go with it, through the town and out the other side. I got in with a group of guys and hung on to them, let them take the bumps and set the pace. A quick look down at the watch, no good, I did not believe it, the buildings in the town were messing with the GPS so I decided to run to feel and stay with the small pack I was in. Out the town, away from the buildings, a quick check, oops too fast, so I drop back a little and settle down and settle in to what felt like a good steady pace that was manageable. I had forgotten about the rain.

I was having a great run, I felt comfortable, I was chatting to other runners, I high-fived the kids and had a little boogie with the Heart FM stand, we were half way and I felt great. I was ignoring my watch, it said I was going too fast, I thought the rain was messing with it.

At 10 miles, the pack I was with started to make a surge, I decided to go too, we all moved on, it was quit twisty, up and down curbs trying to maintain the racing line and then I spot her, a girl, the competitor in me is out, I realise I am gaining, I got nearer and realise there are three girls. This is no longer a training race for me, it is now a race. The competitor is out, that is three female places I can move up so I overtake all three in quick succession, I am moving way too quick and way too early but what the hell, lets see what happens, I felt good and it is good to test the boundaries sometimes.

The course comes off the road and twists and turns through what feels like the longest footpath in the world. 400m to go reads the sign, one lap of the track, I can do this, I keep pushing and then I can see it and it is a sprint finish for the line, I overtake another three men on my charge for the finish. I absolutely cannot believe that I have broken my goal not by a few seconds but by 4 minutes, giving me a finishing time of 1hr 26 mins! Turns out watches are right after all!

I had beaten my previous personal best by 13 minutes, I was 20th female finisher (including the elites) and yes I am still smiling to myself!

Results

180 Paul Cooke 1:25:10
204 Hannah Broom 1:26:33
438 Charles Arnold 1:34:36
1027 Kathryn Juty 1:46:59
1494 Andrew Bruce 1:56:00
1742 Stephen Atkins 1:56:41
2116 Sally Jones 2:03:59
2614 Vicky Berry 2:19:26
3059 Rosalyn Bodi 2:26:34

Ups on the Downs … Hannah hoovers up at opening Three Counties cross country

Biggleswade Athletic Club kicked off another Three Counties Cross-Country season in fine style, with Hannah Broom – a key member of the club’s award-winning women’s team of recent years – coming away rewarded as first female finisher.

Dunstable was the setting for race one of five for the 2018-19 campaign. With two other members of last season’s squad – Elaine Livera and Juliet Nayler – having moved on to pastures outside BAC, it was a new-look scoring quartet in the points for their club. Hannah took the reins in superb style, showcasing the results of her recent hard work and intensive training under the gaze of coach Paul Davies. Her first place in the women’s standings was followed in the team-scoring stakes by Emma Bailey (11th female), Natalie Morgan (14th) and Kathryn Juty (53rd) as the team finished fifth.

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Hannah Broom digs in. Photo by Nick Spavins

On the men’s side, where the first eight runners over the line score for their teams, Steven Baldwin was first home for BAC in 22nd place, followed by Marcus Davey (66th male finisher), Rob Morgan (72nd), Nick Haworth (75th), Paul Cooke (86th), John Stott (124th), Charlie Arnold (129th) and Neil Harvey (214th). The team came 10th of 13 clubs.

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Steven Baldwin, first BAC finisher. Photo by Nick Spavins

Hannah said: “Last year we did the course the other way round. I actually really liked it – I was just in a lot of pain with my arm so did not have a great run … so this course owed me! So this year, we were off down ‘Heartbreak Hill’ to start. My recent performances have given me some confidence so I put myself quite far forward. It is a narrow start so a good position is key.

“The field opened up a bit and I could see a lady from another club a little way in front. She is a good runner, better than me, so I decided if I keep her in sight then I am doing well – so I pressed on.

“A steep uphill … round some more twists and turns, some steep sharp up and downs and then I realise I am gaining on her … Another steep hill, somehow I am now right behind her, step for step …. how did this happen?

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Team BAC have their game faces on. Photo by Nick Spavins

“I have forgotten the hill we are climbing, I just concentrate on her. Another turn and into a field, another hill, somehow I am passing her and I realise there is not one but two girls and somehow I am passing them both … how? These are very good runners. I panic a little I think I am moving too fast, we cross a field and round a burnt out car, it feels surreal, there is one guy in front a little way off otherwise I would not be sure where I was going! I know I need to keep pressing, those ladies will be trying to maintain their position, they know I shouldn’t really be this far forward and I will most probably start to lose pace soon as the lactic acid builds in my tired legs.

“I have no idea how far back the other ladies are but I just keep pushing, a guy from another club lets me pass, encouraging me, what a champ. I can hear the finish, where the devil are you? We break through the trees, I can see it, I am now praying that they do not overtake me now, keep pushing, my god there is nothing in these legs, I cross the line! I have won my first race and I am delighted! Giles, Bev, Rachel and Stephen are there to congratulate me! People are pointing at me and saying that was the First Lady as I walk past, I feel like a celebrity. I am now off to cheer in my other teammates!”

Maria Merridan wasn’t just a debutant in the Three Counties league: “This was my 1st cross-country! I placed myself at the back of the pack thinking I might disappear down a ditch never to return. I’ve run quite a lot off-road, but racing this terrain was a much tougher proposition. I was mighty pleased to see the finish line with legs beginning to give up rather than my heart. Looking forward to going through the ordeal again soon!”

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Gareth Saynor ‘enjoys’ the Dunstable scenery. Photo by Nick Spavins

Gareth Saynor, who hit the big 5-0 this month, was philosophical about his chances beforehand: “I was press-ganged into running this and to be honest, mud and me don’t really get on! At the start I felt a bit of a fraud surrounded by the elite runners of the club and slightly overdressed.

“It started off really well and I felt strong, even after the first few hills and the dreaded mud and water didn’t materialise. However about halfway the big hill swept into view and I had to walk. I managed to struggle to the top and enjoyed the downhill stretch, only to be met by another hill, then another, by now I was mostly walking.

“Then I saw the finish line with the rest of BAC shouting encouragement and managed a sprint finish.” He was rewarded with 442nd place overall. “Now, for some reason I am looking forward to the next one!”

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Julie Spavins poses for her photographer husband. Photo by Nick Spavins

Just four places back was Julie Spavins, having her second taste of XC action in Dunstable. “My aim was to finish further up the field since I’ll never make it to the front!” she said. “Even in reverse this was a tough course with what felt like more ups than downs. The hills just kept appearing around corners and everyone around me joined in a united ‘groan’ …And even though I was last BAC in, I did manage to be considerably further up the field, and on my own timings I was over five minutes quicker than last year. So a real sense of achievement for me!

BAC next take to the infamous Croyland Park in Wellingborough this Sunday, 25 November, for race two of the season, scene of many flying leaps over water hazards, and muddied heads, shoulders, knees and toes over recent seasons.

Dunstable XC results

22 Steven Baldwin
51 Hannah Broom (1st female)
70 Marcus Davey
76 Rob Morgan
79 Nick Haworth
91 Paul Cooke
133 John Stott
138 Charlie Arnold
143 Emma Bailey
155 Natalie Morgan
267 Kathryn Juty
269 Neil Harvey
302 Nigel Bush
339 Ian Grimwood
354 Simon Strong
356 Robin Wynde
389 Juliet Grimwood
395 Jennie Day
407 Maria Merridan
442 Gareth Saynor
446 Julie Spavins
(483 finishers)

Race rewind: Magnificent Seven tear up trails in Ampthill

Nick Haworth writes:

Blue skies and a somewhat unseasonably warm October morning was the setting for the annual Ampthill Trophy cross country race at Ampthill Park.

The Ampthill Trophy is the third and final event organised by Ampthill Flyers – the other two being the Flitwick 10k held back in April and Marston Forest 5k held back in early June.

Having previously managed to secure the ladies team prize for both races, the ladies team were determined to make it a hat-trick.

Killer and Hannah at start
Hannah and Charlie at the start.

Dating back in one form or another since 1974, the venue has seen a number of distinguished athletes compete including former Biggleswade runner Rodger Wadeley (winner in 1986 and 1987) and Sir Mo Farah (winner of U15 in 1997). Dave Brown and Ken Prior were also known to be regular competitors in the race in their earlier years.

Representing the club this year were seven brave athletes aiming to emulate their forebears along with almost 300 other athletes from all across the home counties.

The course itself is made up of two and half circuits of open grassland and meadow with some thickly wooded sections and steep inclines – a total of 10k but unusually for a cross country had a water station – just as well as it did seem rather warm.

Underfoot the conditions were dry causing runners some concern as to whether to risk running in trial shoes or opt for the lighter but less comfortable spikes. In the end nether choice really seem to matter as a combination of occasional damp ground favoured some whereas the spiky chestnut casings benefited those in harder trial shoes.

The start was a downhill charge.

While Emma Bailey and Natalie Morgan battled with each other over the entire course some of the Biggleswade runners seemed to positively enjoy the experience – despite the obvious discomfort of fellow athletes.

Hannah Broom said “the hills were brutal – all I could do was hold on and try for the best – the end could not come soon enough for me and I was pleased to cross the finish line in 4th female position and was delighted to see my team mates in close succession meaning we secured the ladies prize again – a hat-trick was secured.

Ever more competitive and following on from her super effort at the Great Eastern half marathon was Hannah Broom who managed to scoop the Female V35 award. This performance combined with efforts from Emma and Natalie managed to win them the Ladies Team award ahead of Flitwick Flyers and Bedford Harriers.

ladies medal time
Hannah, Natalie and Emma take their team awards.

Emma summed up her experience as “relentless hills and unseasonably warm for cross country – but wanted to give it my all for the girls team, which we all did! So proud to be in the running club and looking back I even enjoyed it a tiny bit.”

Results
19th
Rob Morgan 43.20
25th Hannah Broom 44:25 (V35 champion, 4th lady)
45th John Stott 47:17
48th Charlie Arnold 47:24
57th Emma Bailey 47:57
58th Natalie Morgan 48:00
184th Ian Clark Skerratt 61:58

Tri-hard … BAC’s Baldwin grinds to earn GB vest in St Neots season-closer

Steven Baldwin writes …
My first couple of triathlons of the year hadn’t quite gone to plan, I’d failed to perform at the level I’d hoped I was capable of. But I’d then backed those up with a second place finish at Hitchin Sprint Tri and sixth place at “Calfman” Triathlon in Olney so I knew my fitness levels were in a good place. I was determined to use that fitness to complete a last block of training, a final push towards one more big performance.

It had been pointed out the final St Neots standard distance triathlon on 2nd September was a qualifier for the 2019 European Triathlon Union (ETU) championship in Weert, Netherlands. I had completed the first St Neots Tri back in May (Although the venue was changed to Grafham Water) and it had been a disaster; the water was still freezing so I was shivering with cold, I had a mechanical issue on the bike and by the time I hit the run, I’d completely run out of energy and motivation.

Refusing to be put off by my previous experience, I decided it would be an opportunity to test myself against a high-calibre field so signed up at the beginning of August and paid the £10 fee to register my interest in ETU qualification.

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Steven’s suited up and ready to go. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

The race was based at Riverside Park, St Neots and I had been to the event registration the day before to collect my goody bag (timing chip, race numbers and swim hat). This gave me peace of mind that on race day I’d have very little to do other than dump my bike in transition and get to the swim start. Walking around transition is always an intimidating experience, seasoned triathletes tinkering with their time-trial bikes costing more than most would spend on a car. Although I largely block them out and focus on my own race it’s worth being nosey, you may pick up a few little time-savers.

Swimming has always been my achilles heel. Although I had basic swim lessons as a kid, it never went any further than that. Since starting triathlon at the tail-end of 2016, I’ve taught myself front crawl and gradually improved. To begin with, I could barely swim a pool length without feeling out of breath and having to stop.

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Triathletes take to the Ouse. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

The St Neots swim was a one lap course up and down the Great Ouse, setting off in multiple waves of approximately 100 competitors per wave. The race starts with the usual chaos as everybody jostles for position, limbs getting thrown all over the place. I always choose to start wide and steer clear of the scrap to avoid getting pummelled. Thankfully the river current was minimal although it definitely felt tough when making the turn to head back upstream. Unlike previous races, I didn’t push myself too hard and just focused on not letting my form drop. As you can’t read your watch while swimming, it’s difficult to know the pace you’re going until you exit the water.  I was astonished when I stopped my watch to see a swim time of 27:04, almost 5 minutes quicker than I had managed at Grafham Water!

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Photo courtesy of Nice-Tri

I quickly stripped off my wetsuit, put helmet on and on to the bike, all in the space of 57 seconds. Getting transitions right is key and a great chance to make up time on fellow competitors. In the lead-up to a race, I’ll always get a few practice transitions in to ensure it goes as slick as possible.

St Neots has a fantastic bike course and they’re roads I’m very familiar with. It’s a not-hilly-but-not-flat loop out through the Staughtons which you complete two laps of for a distance of 45km (5km more than normal standard triathlon). As it was an ETU qualifier, the event was sold out and this really showed on the bike leg. In the early stages it was very difficult to find space on the road and stay clear of peoples’ slipstreams. Following a fellow competitor too closely is known as drafting and can lead to time penalties and even disqualification if you’re caught doing it.

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Steven during the bike stage. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

Those who follow my training on Strava will know I do a majority of my bike training indoors on a turbo trainer using the online application Zwift. This allows me to get a much more structured workout than if I was to just go out for a ride. It’ll tell me the power I need to produce and for how long, all from the comfort of my own home without any worrying about traffic, etc. It helps me understand how hard I can push on the bike but still at a sustainable effort. Since I started using Zwift, I’ve seen my bike speeds go up and up. I covered the bike course in 1:13:41 which equates to 22.6mph (or 36.4kmph) average, an approximate 1mph improvement on Grafham (approx 3 mins faster).

51 seconds after climbing off the bike, I was out on to the run course. The course comprises of four laps round Riverside Park, very flat but with long sections of grass. The previous weeks training with “BAC fast” had been aimed at locking into the target race pace, Paul Davies suspected this would be somewhere around 6:05-6:10 per mile. This target turned out to be bang on, without even looking at the watch I found myself running in this range. It was a largely uneventful run, just holding the target pace, passing plenty of slower runners with only one person overtaking me in return. I completed the 9km course (1km short of official distance) in 34:55, giving me an overall time of 2:17:50. It is difficult to compare triathlon performances because courses are rarely accurately measured but I feel this was comfortably my best to date and a fantastic end to my season.

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Steven fights to the finish. Photo courtesy of Nice-Tri

The ETU qualification process is quite complex and would put anybody to sleep. Long story short, I didn’t get any automatic spot as I was outside the top four in my age group. However, as my time was so near to the age group winner, I was able to get a rolldown (or fastest loser) place. So next June I will have the honour of pulling on a GB tri-suit and competing at the European championships as an Age-Grouper (amateur).

I hope by sharing my experience, anybody considering getting involved in Triathlon will act on it give it a go. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to enter an event and I haven’t looked back since. For me it all started with a 29:14 Parkrun in 2015 and now I get to represent Great Britain as a triathlete, it’s actually crazy! You never know where you might end up.

Roll on Weert 2019!

Llamas, bulls and batons … BAC’s team of 17 take on the Round Norfolk Relay

Damien Pitts writes …

A team of 17 Biggleswade Athletic Club runners, along with a group of dedicated supporters and back-up crew, headed to the east to take part in the annual Round Norfolk Relay last weekend. This was the 14th year for the club taking part in the 17-stage, multi-distance and varied terrain race around the Norfolk border, which covers over 197 miles.

With dozens of teams from around the country, the relay begins on the Saturday morning at Kings Lynn, goes along the Norfolk coast line to Great Yarmouth and then heads inland, all the way back around to Kings Lynn, where the relay finishes on the Sunday morning after several overnight stages. After torrential rain, headwinds and mud last year, competitors were relieved to find kinder conditions to contend with.

Ian Grimwood prepares for stage one
Ian Grimwood awaits the big 6am start

BAC’s treasurer Ian Grimwood was left doing maths of a different kind, calculating how early he needed to get up to be fully fuelled and ready for stage one’s 6am start. With wife Juliet taking the final stage, they bookended the race stoically. Ian’s 16.32 mile leg took in sunrise and fine early-morning scenery on the way to Hunstanton, where he handed over to Charlie Arnold.

Charlie’s stage offered a wide variety of underfoot challenges, with sand, mud, grass, tarmac, wooden sleepers and corn fields all playing a part. Yet he battled brilliantly on the 13.75 miles to the hamlet of Burnham Overy Staithe, finishing a superb five minutes quicker than planned. His time was 22nd best of those in attendance, with the 21 ahead of him – and a great many behind him – being substantially younger than his 62 years.

There he handed over to Deb Bryant, whose shorter stage of 5.76 miles was offset by the fact that a huge chunk took place on leg-sapping sand en route to Wells-next-the-Sea. In spite of this her time of 47:13 was extremely strong – 27th best overall – but she was extremely glad to see the stage four changeover, where she handed the baton over to Chris Watson.

Andrew Hedley has run stage four for the last few years and is famed for his love of the llamas visible on the route, but although he was disappointed not to run the stage this time around, he was happy that Chris got to see them. For his part, Chris put in a superb performance on the 11.14 miles to Cley, ending with the eighth-best time overall.

Stage five was Andrew’s llama-free destiny this year, notoriously the most challenging of all the stages, as it starts with a few miles of a shingle beach and then throws in a few monstrous hills towards the end for good measure. In spite of his, he manfully withstood everything the 10.81 miles to Cromer, and still managed a smile at the end.

There he met Gary Baldwin, who took the baton for the 7.9 miles of stage six towards Mundersley. He narrowly missed making it into the top half of the stage standings, but his efforts made up some valuable time for the team.

Gary Baldwin on stage 6
Gary Baldwin chauffered along stage six by Deb Bryant

In Mundersley BAC turned to the substitutes bench, as club chairman, team captain and timekeeper Damien Pitts was called into action for stage seven to Lessingham. With teams having to supply stage time estimates before the race, and prizes handed out for adhering closely to these (and a wooden spoon handed out to the team with the most inaccurate estimate), reserve runners cannot veer too wildly from those already submitted. Happily, this proved an opportunity to make up some time, and Damien controlled his pace to make up over five minutes for the team.

It has been a few years since the team has made it to Horsey Mill in the daylight hours, so everyone was taking the opportunity to take in the views, before cheering on Robin Wynde, who arrived to hand over the baton to Neil Harvey. Robin really enjoyed the stage, a touch over 7.5 miles, and both made up over four minutes while wishing there had been an extra half to play with so he could have caught the next runner.

Neil started his leg off in the daylight but finished in Belton in the dark. Although he had slowed over the stage, he was happy with his efforts over the 16.6 miles and thoroughly enjoyed the stage.

Famed navigator Nick Haworth took on stage 10 from Belton to Earsham. Prior to running the stage, he dropped his car off at the end of the 18.13 stage and got a lift back to the start. In theory the stage is a nice straight road, but somehow Nick he managed to guide Charlie to Lowestoft, over 11 miles out of the way, and indeed out of Norfolk altogether. Charlie even said that Nick was pointing out things that he passes on his stage, on the way to Lowersoft, which is even more worrying!!

Happily, once he had baton in hand Nick had slightly better bearings, and his 15th place on the stage made up five minutes for the team, before he passed on the baton to Paul Cooke to run to Scole. There, Paul’s superb run over the 12.45 miles was good enough for ninth place overall on the stage.

John Stott took on the 19.67-mile stage 12 last year, and was back on duty for the relay’s longest stage once again. The straight, long drag from Scole to Thetford is a real challenge, yet John managed to be four minutes quicker this year than last year to finish just outside two and a half hours.

Frank McLoughlin took on stage 13 again this year, just over half-marathon distance from Thetford to Feltwell, and he broke the two-hour barrier for the stage supported on a bike by Neil Harvey, who cut an interesting figure on two wheels thanks to his choice of headwear that looked more suited to an ice-hockey match than a cycle ride.

Vicky Berry took on a new stage this year, running the 7.27 miles from Feltwell to Wissington. Normally daylight appears on this stage, but this year it was saved for stage 15 for Julian Brunt, his first time at the relay. Although the start and finish of the 10.59-mile leg towards Downham Market are not the most scenic, there are some lovely views on the route.

Ian Skerratt on stage 17
Supersub Ian Skerratt on stage 17, aided by Robin Wynde

For the penultimate stage, the shortest of the race, Ian Skerratt was another fresh from the reserves, called up to the team two days before the relay. In spite of this he ate up the 5.49 miles superbly, and made up a couple of minutes on expected time too.

Juliet Grimwood on a bull-free final stage
Juliet Grimwood on a bull-free final stage

The final 11.73 miles were then in Juliet’s hands, along with fears of bulls in one of the fields she had to traverse between Stowbridge and the finish back at Kings Lynn. Mercifully, they had moved on, leaving her free to enjoy her run. Overall the team finished in 27 hours and 53 minutes, just over 11 minutes slower than their predicted time for the event. This placed them 49th overall, with 60 teams finishing the full race.

Full results and stage breakdowns can be found on the official site here

Stage

Mileage

Runner

Time (hrs:mins:secs)

1

16.81

Ian Grimwood

02:43:18

2

14.06

Charlie Arnold

01:44:22

3

5.76

Deb Bryant

00:47:13

4

11.14

Chris Watson

01:20:19

5

10.81

Andrew Hedley

01:55:23

6

7.90

Gary Baldwin

01:04:42

7

9.24

Damien Pitts

01:14:39

8

7.52

Robin Wynde

01:04:16

9

16.60

Neil Harvey

02:23:42

10

18.13

Nick Haworth

02:04:56

11

12.45

Paul Cooke

01:23:32

12

19.67

John Stott

02:30:35

13

13.25

Frank McLoughlin

01:59:44

14

7.27

Vicky Berry

01:06:37

15

10.59

Julian Brunt

01:43:38

16

5.49

Ian Skerratt

00:47:14

17

11.73

Juliet Grimwood

02:00:33