Tag Archives: Peter Bell

Les Foluees de Trois Clochers, Callac to Plumelec, Brittany France, Wednesday, July 5, 2017

14 km / 8.7 miles

Peter Bell

The Morbihan area of Brittany is a quiet rural area of France, famous for cheese production and the legends of King Arthur. An area riddled with ancient and more modern history. A village where I regularly run through during training is only a few miles from this race and was the site where 4000 Breton Resistance fighters took on the might of the Nazi army in World War 2. They were led by Captain Pierre Marienne who parachuted into the secret base nearby as a member of the Free French SAS. They harassed and tied down the occupying force after D-Day before Captain Marienne was eventually captured executed and laid to rest near Plumelec Church, the same village where my race would finish.
This route was my first international race back in 2011. Twenty minutes drive from my French in-laws home, it was long overdue that I show my European credentials and contributed to what was one of the most diverse and challenging races I have ever been involved in.

In 2011 my preparation could not have been worse with weeks in Paris and associated holiday distractions getting squarely in the way of training. This time I was not about to make the same school boy error. This was very much part of the marathon training plan and was on the back of an 11 day run streak.

The concept of the Trois Clochers –the three Steeples, is that you run past the landmarks of the three village churches. Many a direction in France is given via a certain church, whereas in the UK it tends to be given by a certain pub. An amusing and telling cultural difference. This was the 15th year of this particular race and I was more than happy to be involved.

I soon discovered they had changed and lengthened what was already a tricky course. It’s an exceptionally undulating course rising from 80 to 160 metres. This may not sound like a lot but it’s the ups and downs, the associated change of pace and terrain that are the killers. Starting at the beautiful turreted chateau of Callac and down into the village, along a thoroughly hilly 7 km and up to the Church at St Aubin. Running from there the route takes you on an undulating experience through village, field, track and woodland ending at the Plumelec sports centre. This was where previously I had been awarded with my ‘Saucisse frites’ dinner and was I looking forward to repeating that part of the race more than the running itself.

After my registration armed with a certain friendly doctors medical certificate the free bus took us from the number pickup at Plumelec to the start back at the chateau. I knew French races were well organised and popular and this was no exception. With around 250 participants squeezed into the courtyard of 150 year old manor house it was striking to see how the majority of the participants were mostly my age. The younger age group who are normally my torment on every Park Run seemed absent. Not that I had any illusions of winning anything they all looked a dammed sight fitter then me. They were clearly immune to the temptations of salted butter, cheese and baguette. I on the other hand, was not. However this was strictly part of the bigger training plan and I was there to do my best with a focus on the end goal, sausage and chips rather than on a new PB.

Ce Parti. We were off out of the chateau and into some woodland. Happily very soft foliage underfoot to ease my aging knees into. I tried pacing with a few likely looking people and hooked onto some of the older runners from my adoptive French town of Malestroit. However I lost them turning into Callac village on the rise past the first spire. Then the famous sudden drop down and out of the village to the small shrine to the Virgin Mary and up the hill. I wasn’t averse to asking for a bit of divine intervention at this point as I saw the forthcoming climb. It was a generous hill, you know, the type that keeps giving, giving and giving. Just as you thought the generosity would end the hill would give you some more. Finally after about a 2.5 KM things started to level out as we passed the road junction on the approaches to St Aubin.

As I passed through the village I found myself unable to keep pace with 2 grannies. They were very fit grannies clearly from that local village. Only on the slightest of closer inspection of these two characters was it apparent they had dressed to impress in old lady drag outfits complete with pop out boobs. Which they popped out at every occasion!
Climbing again out of the village we took a steady downhill onto a grassy farm track. I looked across the rolling Brittany hills. The sun was descending and the scene picturesque with tiny fields separated by mini woodlands. It was then I realised what goes down will likely go up again. I wasn’t wrong and I didn’t wait long. Twists and turns, grass and gravel, tarmac and torment would it ever end? I was finding it tough going despite weeks of tempo, distance and hill training.

Then on the final rise the church spire of Plumelec rose above the a- maize-ing popcorn fields on either side of me and I waited patiently to be drawn in by the aroma of a barbecue sausage.

Vive la ‘Saucisse frites!’1 mile to go! Yet the course hadn’t finished with me yet. The final phase before the village run in was through woodland. However this was like Houghall wood on steroids. Half a mile of twists, turns, jumps, roots, rocks and many other joys before we hit tarmac.
I was happy to pick up some speed rising through the village to the final steeple. Plumelec church was now in view and my thoughts turned briefly to the grave of Captain Pierre Marianne as I sped past the bar where my wife had patiently waited, drink in hand, to snap my photo as I ran by. I turned the corner to the final run in where I sprinted the last 200m with one thought in mind.

Vive La France! Vive la ‘Saucisse frites!’

Foulees Stephanoises 10K, Saint-Abraham, Brittany, France, Sunday, August 4, 2013

Peter Bell

As always I was determined to keep racing as best I could and with a decent problem free run at Lampton a few weeks before I discovered a little 10k race just down the road from the in-laws house in France. I thought there’s plenty of time to train when on holiday so was confident that I would be in top shape leading up to this. However my preparation could not have been worse or better which ever way you look at it. The week before the race was spent in a beautiful French Gite in the Loire Valley with 35 degree heat. This resulted in long lazy days eating French patisserie and doing next to nothing including a 10 day break with no runs…ooopps. Well it’s the holidays!

With race day upon me the whole family rocked up to be introduced to the completely alien (to them) world of running. This was, as all French races are, superbly organised and the local clubs were out in force including some friendly faces I had met at Easter from the ‘Escapade de Malestroit’ running club.

Peter on tour ...

Setting off from the village sports field a grey day broke into baking sunshine. As always I charged off at top speed for the first mile until I realised I was going far too fast and it wasn’t a park run. Turning the first corner the view opened up to reveal the stunning rolling wooded hills of Southern Brittany. I was still setting myself too fast a pace at 6.5 min miles and needed to slow down. We crossed through the little hamlet of Rochefort to the cheers of the locals. Clearly this race was a big event in the calendar of the sleepiest corner of France. Then I turned onto a rough farm track. With maize fields on either side there was no shade therefore cover from increasing sunshine was non existent. The heat was energy sapping and crippling. I was noticeably slowing as I came onto the road to head back to the village for the first lap of this 2 lap course. I continued to slow as these rolling little rises on the course seemed like mountains in 28 degree heat. I needed to pull myself together and get into some sort of regular pace.

A quick loop through the village, past the bar with the tantalising cold beers outside and up the hill to the start point. Then past my own two personal cheer leaders who had spent the morning making a “GO Daddy GO!” poster, I continued for lap two. This was clearly going to be slower as I found my rhythm at about 8 min miles. But still the heat was agonising and however many cups of water went over my head it wasn’t going to help and I just turned my thoughts to finishing. Continuing to slow I was pleased to be nearly finished, rounding the village square for the second time. Climbing the last hill I tried to find shade wherever I could. But the hill just seemed to go on forever until I finally entered the sports field to finish in a somewhat disappointing 50.40 far behind some super fit veterans who made up most of the competitors. Well it was a start and simply made me realise fewer Croissants and more running equals better results next year. Time to eat a crepe and have a cake. Training starts again tomorrow.

Malestroit Half Marathon, Brittany, Saturday, April 13, 2013

Peter Bell

I had missed this race in my wife’s home town for a few years but with an early Easter I realised I would still be around. This was due to be my first competitive race for 8 months after some medical problems last year so with a few good park runs under my belt I thought I would give it a whirl. To be honest the preparation for this wasn’t great. With the frozen arctic wastelands of Durham having sapped a lot of enthusiasm in March I hoped to pick it up in France. I planned to test out my slowly improving French by jumping onto a Sunday run with the ‘Escapade de Malestroit’ running club and they were very accommodating with a select group of us dodging through some 11 miles of woodland trails that looked like they were last used by the resistance in WW2. I was finding it tough and was well off the pace with a growing niggle in both hamstrings. I decided then to avoid further injury I would rest until race day and hope for the best. I always had a PB in mind as I had done the Great North Run in 2011 in 1 hour 41 so I was hoping for a fast flat course running at about 8 minute mile pace.

Peter at the start. The French have a saying “il pleut comme vache qui pisse”- it rains like a cow urinates! As I awoke on race day it was doing just that and the wind was howling around too. At 2.30 I went to pick up my race number. I managed to bluff my way through the obligatory doctor’s fitness certificate that all French runners must produce and then started warming up. And I needed warming. It was wet and freezing. The turnout was low as a result as there were certainly no fair weather runners. At 3.30 some 300 of us set out to start on what, for some, was part of their qualification for the French national championships. Running at 7.5 min miles was the target and I was easily doing that as we pulled out of the sports centre across the river and out of town towards the village of St Congard.

The route was along a road that in places resembled a river and it was not long before a race number malfunction slowed me down as I readjusted the safety pins on a very soggy ‘15’ sign. At park run distance I was going strong at 23.30 mins. On track to maybe get my new PB. But the wind and rain was coming in all directions. It got no better! At 10k I was on 46 minutes and still flying with not a single mile over 8 minutes. I was very happy as there was no sign of the stomach problems that had previously dogged me. Then at seven miles we turned into a village and started a short climb up a woodland road. It was then that disaster struck. I now know what the saying means when runners ‘hit a brick wall’. My legs just turned to jelly, I ran out of steam completely and my times plummeted. I tried to keep going up what would normally be a gentle climb but this was becoming torture and I was struggling as I came to 9 miles on a very exposed hill. The rain and wind continued which is more than I felt like doing. Times were now around 10 minute mile pace and everything was coming to a grinding halt! I dropped down to the village of St Laurent and with a bit of water and a slice of orange I got a bit more energy but it wasn’t really enough as I crawled the last 3 miles. The thought of the chocolate eclair I skipped at lunch, waiting for me in the fridge, was all that was keeping me going. I passed the cheese factory at the 20k mark and hobbled onto the final part with thoughts of only finishing.

Crossing the line in 1.53 it wasn’t my worst but it did show me I’m still a bit off the pace as yet. Still that was not going to stop me tucking into my eclair. Delicieux!

Bramhall parkrun, Manchester, Saturday, June 30, 2012

Peter Bell

Bramhall Hall is a 14th century Tudor manor house in Bramhall, near Stockport Greater Manchester. The house and its 70 acres of landscaped parkland with lakes, woodland, and gardens are the setting for what is an exemplar park run. I arrived early to get maximum warm up and stretches done and to prepare for a performance that was to shape some of my thinking to defer my Great North Run place. After a short jog through the park to the start I realised how beautiful it was. From the Tudor mansion house on part of the route to the Lakeland track and woodland climbs. This was looking good! With ten minutes to go I saw this was certainly a big event. It looked like there were around 400 people in attendance and they even had their own running club the Bramhall runners. More importantly this was a huge family event with one ten year old completing his 50th park run. Then they announced we would be lucky to catch him as he does it in 20 minutes!

Facing the start we set off up the first hill towards the mansion house. I was nailing the hill no problem but recognised I was going way too fast so held it back to 7 minute miles. The route looped past the house and around the lake. Dodging the duck droppings we headed into some woodland. The gently undulating and slightly muddy track had a few tricky climbs but I was still going strong. Looping back to the lake there was a huge crowd of well wishers to cheer us on as I crossed over the stone bridge and passed the house for the second lap. I started to pick off a few slower runners something I hadn’t done for a while and battled my way forward through lap two of the woods. With the finish in sight I started to slow as the last hill hit me like a train! Still it was down hill to the end and I didn’t have much left in the tank. It wouldn’t be a sprint finish but a finish it was as I passed the line in 23.20. A couple of minutes away from my PB and an average of around 7.45 minute miles. Still, it was a step in the right direction. Walking back to the car I was approached by an elderly lady who asked “Good time?” my reply was “Not too bad!” North run training was back on track!

Thirsk 10, Sunday, March 25, 2012

Peter Bell

Ten miles was not a distance I had ever raced at so this was going to be something a little different for me. So when Sue Jennings kindly offered me her place, in true Yorkshire style, I jumped at the chance of a freebie. My partner in crime, Kathryn Sygrove was going to accompany and we blagged a last minute lift with Louise Miller and Victoria Tindale.

It was clear from the drive down the day was going to be a scorcher and it was not long before we were catching a few rays. At quarter to 11 we were ushered to the start by officials straight from the Adolf Stalin School of marshalling who continually informed us of our lateness. Well these ladies do continually go to the toilet!

Then it was line up time on a little lane at the back of the race course. I had in my mind 1 hour 15 would mean 7 and a half min miles. Could I do it? Then we were off and I was trying hard to keep solidly at the right pace. The first 3 miles were pancake flat and Kathryn was right there on my shoulder. I had to keep checking on her as she wasn’t talking so I thought she may have been taken ill!

At three miles the first rise and I lost her as my pace continued Sub 8 minute miles. As we passed park run distance I suddenly felt myself slowing. Could I only do 3.1 miles fast? I just had to keep going and head down made it to the Busby Stoop pub. At this point all I could think of was the lovely homemade caramel slices they sell at the garage across the road. Concentration was waning and I hit the ‘brick wall’ with my time slipping to over 8 min miles. This was becoming a grind now and the sun was belting down.

I knew that we were on our way back to Thirsk but there had to be some sort of detour as it was only a couple of miles back to the town centre. It was not long before my curiosity of the exact route was satisfied by a pointless 2 mile dogleg out and back down some country lane. Cannot say many people enjoyed that, but then do we run for enjoyment or just some sort of twisted sadomasochistic adrenalin buzz. Back on the main road it was time to start picking the pace up and I concentrated hard in picking off as many people as possible. There was no way I was going to let anyone past without a fight and this tactic paid dividends as my pace increased. With a mile to go the racecourse was in sight and I was doing some serious adding up in my head to work out what I was due to arrive in at. I was praying the finish line was just inside the gate and thank god it was. I passed the finish line in 1 hour 14.57. The pace had been punishing but not crippling and I was quietly satisfied.

I sneaked around to the finish line the cheer everyone in and Kathryn arrived a few minutes later at 1 hour 18 with Louise and Victoria arriving around 1:32. Everyone was very happy with their times.

Another classic T-shirt meets the light of day. A good day was had by all. Now thoughts were turning to making the most of the rest of the day. Beer and BBQ, good plan!

Results

Pos Name Club Cat Pos Time
1 Yared Hagos Wallsend Harriers M 1 0:49:40
36 Claire Simpson Jarrow and Hebburn F35 1 1:01:08
235 Peter Bell M 1:14:57
300 Kathryn Sygrove F45 1:18:42
414 John Greathead M 1:27:53
436 Barrie John Evans M65 1:29:45
459 Victoria Tindale F 1:32:33
460 Louise Miller F 1:32:37
516 Christine Farnsworth F 1:44:34

533 finishers.

Abbey Dash, Leeds, Sunday, November 20, 2011

Peter Bell

At an ungodly hour for a Sunday morning Alister Robson knocked on my door. We were off to Leeds for the Abbey Dash, one of the fastest 10Ks in the country. I normally run this every year but it was a last minute number which got me out of bed this time! After a drive through some serious fog we arrived at the start to be greeted with 8000 other runners. This race is a big one and attracts clubs from all over the North. It’s a straight there and back and pretty flat hence why it called a dash as the speed you can hit has ensured a personal best for me each time. Last year’s time was 48:40 and I knew I could improve on that!

Stood at the start, Garmin at the ready, pre-race nerves started to build. I turned to Alister and said, “Why do we do this?” to which his reply was “because we can!” With those words ringing in my ears I picked out the first person who was running my 7 minutes mile pace. I quickly overtook her running comfortably at about 6 minute 50 pace. The fog had still not cleared and the road ahead looked bleak. Conditions underfoot were greasy at about 2 miles but still I was overtaking a few, determined to pick off as many as possible. The abbey appeared out of the mist shortly afterwards where I made the turn to come back.

I couldn’t see Alister but I knew he would not be far behind. Keeping an eye open for his famous fluorescent hat and gloves I was on course timewise and pushed harder to keep it going. Before I knew it I was at 5 miles and still powering through. The final rise up the main road brought the finish in sight. That rise had slowed me considerably with the Garmin reading over 8 minute miles. For the first time I knew what to do at the finish. Sod my stupid watch and run like hell. Head down I crossed the line in 43:50 mins smashing nearly 5 minutes off last year’s time. What a Dash!

Les Trois Clochers (aka ‘The Spires’), Callac to Plumelec, Brittany, Saturday, August 6, 2011

12.6km (or 7.8M in real money)

Peter Bell

This was my first ever international race and it would have been a travesty to turn the opportunity down. It was only 20 minutes from the in-laws house and was an evening kick off at 7pm. The training run up to this 12.6k course could not have been worse for me. With the many distractions of holiday preparation and a week in Paris I had only run 3 times in two weeks. Still,no excuses.

At 5pm the weather resembled an Indian monsoon as it had done all day. By 5.30 we saw blue sky and this strange orange ball appeared in the sky. Fuelled by my banana, apple, fruit juice and coffee smoothie I set off to the start line at a small village in central Brittany called Callac. The race started on the bong of the church bell bang at 7pm and I began to realise I was surrounded by some seriously fit guys who represented a plethora of different running clubs from the region.

Peter Bell at Les Trois Clochers The first part took us out of the village and straight onto a greasy grass hill before passing the local shrine of the Virgin Mary’s grotto. I was certainly praying that I would get through the next bit as I was told that there would be a 2km climb after the start. Yes it was tough but not that tough. It was hard to get a pace as it was a few steep rises combined with some flatter bits. I decided then I was going to enjoy this one rather than my normal flat out antics driven by the speed read out on my Garmin. I had aimed to come in at about an hour and five minutes and was on track to do that when I reached St Aubain, just before half way. Coming out of the village I found myself in unfamiliar territory with muddy farm tracks and grassy woodland trails underfoot. This was pretty much the whole of the second part of the route with a few little hills chucked in for good measure. Still the sun had come out and I was steady away, actually passing some people.

Every race I run has some bizarre moments and this one was turning a corner to find five guys dressed as bananas flaked out by the roadside. This was surpassed five minutes later by a bunch a people wearing multi-coloured wigs and waving pom-poms at everyone.

In the distance I could see the final spire at Plumelec and thought it was still along way away. It was getting tougher and I was getting slower. Still the goal was in sight and about 1km outside of the final village I got a strong wiff of barbecue sausages. I had promised myself saucisse frittes at the club house when I finished and this spurred me on. Turning into the village I passed my wife who was sat happily outside the bar sipping her Perrier. With a few shouts of encouragement and the thought of chips at the end I decided to make a bit of a sprint for the finish, the last 500 meters approached. I passed the finish in 1 hour 7 minutes and went to get my goody bag.

As we all know most British goody bags contain some powerade and a few muesli bars. Not the French. A bottle of cider and some pate. Vive La France! I went to get my chips!

Kilburn Feast, North York Moors, Sunday, July 10, 2011

Peter Bell

I ran this race last year with my colleagues and come in after 62 minutes. My friends had injuries and some a dose of ‘wimp out-itus’. I was on my own this year and the thought of 7 miles was filling me with dread. Hammering down the A19 I began to think about race tactics and smashing last year’s time. It was not going to be easy. The course is very hilly. Hills and me don’t mix! I was not feeling confident and in my rushing to get ready I had not even realised my unfortunate race number.

Peter after a few pints ... With only time for a pathetic attempt at a warm up and stretches we lined up ready for the off. As I stood next to the Foresters Arms I remembered one of the key features of this run. It passes some of North Yorkshires best pubs. A temptation I would have to resist.

As the starting hooter we were off and I quickly realised that this race was full of vests representing a massive range of clubs. From Wales to Scotland, from Scarborough to Crook, this race attracts a much wider field than the 300 or so competitors would suggest.

After a flat run out of the village I looked for people running my pace to hook onto. I was feeling fine at around 6 and a half to 7 minute miles. Then hill number one hit! It’s similar in height and steepness to the ones I train on in Northallerton but only now did I realise how much hills slow you down. Head down I ground it out but my legs just didn’t want to know. I recovered briefly on the descent and again picked up some speed through the village of Coxwold. Then the long flat bit to hill 2. I struggled again to find my pace and was not helped by the thousands of horse flies buzzing around our sweaty bodies. Hitting hill 2 I actually picked up speed and with pure blood and guts I made it to Byland Abbey and perhaps the hardest part of the race, the last third. It is essentially a long energy-sapping, shallow climb before you get to the last mile and a half. This was as bad as I had remembered and I passed some who had given in and started walking. No way was I giving in. I had been beaten by one of my colleagues last year and was out to smash his time to gain office bragging rights. With the last of the climbs done and dusted it was time to put my foot down. The time was going to be close and my Garmin was telling me I had a mile and a half to go and it’s all downhill.

Flat out to the finish I passed the 7 miles mark at full speed. With point 2 of a mile left, the pub came into sight and some people had stopped early before the actual finish line. I had made that mistake before so overtook, much to the annoyance of one runner before he realised his error. I collapsed over the finish and stumbled into the square to receive my prize. No I didn’t get onto the winner’s podium. I had been promised a pint if I beat my colleagues time from last year of 59 and a half minutes and he was buying! I checked my time of 56.24 and with a smug satisfaction finished my Pint!

Great Manchester Run, Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peter Bell

As I settled down on the eve of the 14th of May having just turned 38 years old I realised that staying up for the Eurovision results was not as important as an early night before the UK’s largest 10k race. Dragging myself to bed my thoughts turned to the next day, race preparation, race tactics and the possibility of a new personal best.

An alarm call at 6.30 dragged me downstairs to prepare the pre race cocktail. Banana and fruit smoothie mixed with some horrendous caffeine and chemical shot. This was topped off with concentrated beetroot juice, famed for an up to 16% increase in running performance. I would need all the help I could get.

Proudly donning my new Striders vest, this was due to be a very different race to when I ran it last year in 52 minutes 36 seconds. The route is quick with a few gentle rises and falls taking in various landmarks out from the city centre and it was busy!

Starting within sight of the elite runners the adrenaline started to flow. With around 35,000 runners we were all a bit penned in so warm ups and stretches were not really possible.

The race clock ticked by and we started to move forward. Then we were off.

Flying across the start line I was very conscious not to run too fast at the beginning. Apparently no race has ever been won in the first half of the run. I desperately tried to stick to 7 min miles pace as we left the city centre. Looking for a pacemaker I stuck close to people running a similar speed. By 4 km we were passing Old Trafford but without time to shout abuse at Mr Rooney and co, I shot by. I began to realise my initial aches and pains had subsided and I was on course for a good time. We turned the corner at 6k to pass the Imperial War Museum and Salford Quays. My thoughts turned to one of my colleagues who was doing the great north swim opposite. Peter, gutted at being beaten by a banana. However much my lungs felt like they were bursting out of my chest I was still glad not to be in that freezing water.

Now it was getting tough and the times were starting to slip. Between 7 and 8 km I could have packed in and never run again. Then there was a guy in a banana outfit just ahead and I felt somewhat embarrassed that he was going faster than me. So I got my head together and kept going. Just blood and guts got me through to spitting distance of the finish. For the last km I knew I needed to push it a bit so it was head down and legs out. Gasping to keep going I was running a little under 7 minute miles. With a half hearted sprint I managed to pass the finish line in 45:22 a new personal best.

I was still gutted to be beaten by the guy in the banana outfit!