It's amazing how things turn out and how things conspire against you at these things. Way back when (2006) I DNF'd at Grizzly when my trusted Walsh PB trainers fell apart in the bog. This inspired The Tale of Grizzly Torment peom that appears on their website in which I promised to go back and take revenge. The following year I had to miss the race when it was moved to September following the MSC Napoli running aground at Branscombe. So in 2008 and 2009 I returned and put in mediocre performances, neither performance helped by my decision to give old road shoes with very little grip a proper send off in the mud and generally treacherous conditions.
This year I decided that I'd actually get some proper footwear deserving of the course. Several people recommended Inov-8 shoes to me, but getting hold of a pair to try on down here seemed almost impossible. Ironbridge Runner in Exeter did eventually call me to say they had a pair in for me to try, but I'd been waiting 3 weeks by then and it was too late. With two weeks to go I was still no nearer getting a pair of shoes so I bit the bullet and bought a pair of Walsh's online, having had two pairs before I was confident in their fit and more importantly their grip. They duly turned up and I took them for an hours plod over Braunton Burrows to try them out, everything seemed fine although it was hardly a testing workout.
We got down to Seaton in plenty of time (unusual for me) and it was a glorious day, quite possibly the best weather I've encountered in my 10 years of racing there. It was still bitterly cold though and there was just enough of a breeze for the cold to seemingly cut through whatever you were wearing. I got back in the car where it was warmer until it was closer to the start time.
I headed to the start (wearing extra clothes that I could pile onto Shelly before the off) and met up with Steve from the A Mile With Me podcast. We had a little chat as we made our way to the Start Line where I also bumped into a bunch of old friends and training pals from Tiptree Road Runners, 23 of them had made their looong annual pilgrimage from the East Coast of England down to the South West for the race. So once again I found myself right at the back of the field as the race started and did I care? Not a bit. I know it's really a rediculous place for me to start but sometimes I'd rather just say Hi to a few friends and do a bit of catching up than worry about losing a minute or five to the front runners. It's not as if I've trained and tapered for the race, heck I'd done 3hrs on the bike the day before.The race started and we gradually moved towards the start line where I set my Garmin going. The initial loop along the beach and then back along the promenade was packed but most people stayed high up the beach, I ran down by the surf where the pebbles seem smaller and more solid underfoot. By the time I'd crossed the start line again I'd already moved well up the field and was passing the nutcase dressed as a Dalek when Shelly saw me with the camera - nice one pal ;-).Gradually I worked my way through the field, occasionally catching, chatting and passing people I knew. It soon became apparent that I had a problem though! For all the shocking weather we've had this year, for all the snow, rain, gales etc the previous week had been very dry and the sea breezes had made the ground very dry and HARD!!! Many of the paths and fields were like ruts of solid concrete and my Walsh's, specially designed to grip in the wet, soft, boggy stuff were a waste of time and after only 4 miles the constant turning of my feet meant the heel tab was starting to rub - not a good sign with 16miles of rough terrain to go! That was the tale of the race really, on the flat sections I was good, on the uphill sections my lack of strength showed itself, on the downhills and those sections where your feet are at non-normal angles I developed blisters but still I carried on moving up the field little by little.
Finally the Finish Line was in sight, I passed one last runner on Seaton Beach and the race was over for the day. After starting pretty much dead last I'd moved up to 34th overall in 2:50:21 ( 2:48:48 on my Garmin), happy with the days efforts and more than happy to finally be able to take my shoes off. 3 days later and I'm still hobbling around like an old man due to the blisters. Still, we live and learn. Next year maybe I'll think a bit more carefully about my shoe choice. There were three boggy sections of the course where my Walsh's were invaluable, but for the other 19+miles a normal pair of road shoes would have been plenty good enough. On any other (wet) year the Walsh's would have gained me minutes and probably left my feet unscathed, this year though........... Ah well, it's all good fun in the end.