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Sunday, 9 June 2013

North Downs Way recce with Phil and a blog redesign

This weekend was all about the preparation for the SDW100 next weekend. I wanted to book a hotel, begin getting together kit and supplies and organise the logistics for the event. Knowing that Mrs UB was off to a baby shower and that the weather was good, I was happy to be invited by Phil to recce the North Downs Run 30k which was his weekend comeback run after injury. (possibly caused by our last long run together, although probably not my fault) Phil picked me up in his awesome new and extremely fast car and we sped off to Gravesend in North Kent.

It was time for a proper road test of the "Dorothy" Haglofs/Asics shoes that I purchased last week. These bright red incarnations are light and I wanted to test their longevity on hard packed open trail and wet wooded paths. My prediction was just about correct as the woods were muddy and the open chalky trail was hard-packed and flinty. We donned race vests loaded with fluids as there would be no stopping off on the route as I wasn't aware of any shops. Quickly onto the trail and out of Gravesend was the glorious rolling hills of the North Downs. Most of the peaks at the Thames Estuary are 450-600ft so nothing huge but there was never much flat, just undulations. I surprised myself as I recalled much, although not all of the trail from running the race 4 years ago.

The theme of the day soon emerged as we chatted away and stopped fairly regularly to check the OS map as we were yet to hit the well signposted North Downs Way (NDW) stopping off for some photo opportunities along the way. Well, who could resist this? After Upper Bush we dropped off a steep escarpment into Lower Bush in one of those brakes off-brain off moments that bust the quads. We could have been anywhere, no sound of roads, few habitations and the sound of us two chuntering away and birdsong.

After traversing a few fields we headed into woodland and realised after a couple of kms that we had taken a wrong turn. Locating ourselves quite quickly at Hatch Hill by the oddly named Gag Plantation, we cut across a wood and joined the NDW as it opened out onto rolling chalky hillside. A very slow walk through a field of cows with their calves (from my experience 4 weeks ago!) and up to Luddesdown and Cobham. A dreamy run through grassy fields and open vistas took us back to crossing the A2 via an orchard and country park. We had to keep stopping for map references as we had gone off the beaten track.

Finally, before we reached the end there was a moment of oddness. We were stuck in a field that was overgrown with nettles and thistles up to about waist high. The only way through was through a garden of a very posh barn conversion. "'Scuse me, all sweaty and innocent looking, but can you tell me" and we were promptly let though the garden gate of said barn conversion by the family that were about to eat lunch. A close shave. One final photo opportunity that could not be resisted to round off the morning run and then it was back to the car and then back to London for cider and ale based refreshment to round off the day with our better halves and Eric and Cheryl. Great last little bit of training and a reminder to relax this week. Mrs UB has kindly assisted with my blog redesign to update it's clunkiness. Many thanks

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