Cross country catch up

2012-06-10, , , Comments

About time I posted these old race reports …

Welsh Inter-Regional & Masters Championships, Builth Wells, December 10th 2011

I did say, at the Fairwood race, I was invited to represent West Wales in the inter-regional championships? Well, the day had come, a chill December morning. White frost coated the meadow at Parkmill.

Ifan took the scenic route through Llandeilo and LLandovery … I sank back into the passenger seat and watched the hills roll by. We parked outside the showground and crunched across ice and gravel to the race HQ where the tarpaulin they’d laid down on the floor was already rucked and muddy. Red and white tapes zig-zagged up the hill, marking out the course.

I collected my West Wales vest. When you get a heavy course, like today, one which includes sections of concrete and tarmac, Ifan said, use longer spikes here and shorter ones here, under the ball of the foot.

With just over an hour to go we jogged a warm-up lap, starting with an extended climb through the woods. You can push on here, he said, as we emerged from the trees and passed a static caravan, still climbing, it’s downhill for a while after this. At the summit stood an enormous speaker, part of the showground’s PA system. I could see the Builth Wells showground now — the timber-clad buildings, the neat field, the high boundary fence — like a stage in the centre of the immense ampitheatre formed by the surrounding hills.

Sunlight poked through the clouds as we lined up at the start, shivering, edgy. One short lap and two long ones. I found my place and settled in. On the first climb my way was blocked by a tall runner. I moved left to overtake. He moved left. I moved right. He moved right. I passed him by the caravan and extended my lead downhill. Briefly, our route intersected the U15 girls’ race and I was dodging elbows, legs, pony-tails. On the long flat section round the playing fields the tall runner pegged me back. I let him go.

Approaching the climb for the second time, the ground had softened. I went past a couple of runners who’d gone out too fast. I dug in as the path steepened, skeetering wide through tree roots, leaf mould and brambles to pass him. I was clear now but there were two more in front to aim at. I remembered Ifan’s advice and stumbled over the top on empty, relying on gravity to recharge my legs on the descent. I bounded down a final rocky path, arms flailing, and held on till the line.

13th WELSH INTER REGIONAL CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS 2011

West Glamorgan League, Margam, January 8th 2012

I arrived at Margam at eleven in time to see the race start without me. Lesson being, the West Glamorgan races are organised differently. The sight of all those humans on the move had animated the park’s deer herd. I watched them hurtle round their own short course. I ran the route anyway, slowly, and very boggy it was too. Next time.

Cardiff Cross Challenge, January 15th 2012

The McCain Cardiff cross challenge, held just north of the city centre in Blackweir Fields, is “one of the most prestigious Cross Country events in the UK”. Isobel was running. Last time she’d run, in the Gwent League, around a foul course in filthy weather, she’d failed to finish, so it was a crucial event for her. We arrived in good time and registered. She’d be wearing her Afan-Nedd-Tawe vest. I’d be running for Swansea Harriers.

Today, the going looked fine. The sun was out, the wind was down. The course was flat, dry, sheltered. Isobel had a solid run, finishing strongly.

Certainly, they’d fine-tuned the schedule, overlapping races, closing and opening routes through the parkland, somehow without any runners getting trampled, confused or impeded, and so it was that the senior men’s event, the last of the day, would be starting just an hour after Isobel had finished. With 5 minutes to go I made my way to the starting pen. Where was everyone? Suddenly the elite runners appeared, peeling off thermals, shaking long, elastic legs. We’d be running four times round. I realised I was in danger of getting lapped.

Happily I avoided any such ignominy. The course seemed tame — where were the hills, swamps, trenches, wild animals? Isobel injected some welcome variety, appearing at random positions to cheer me on, and her encouragement helped me maintain my pace and place. I did pass one runner on the final lap and pushed hard to close the gap on the next, a tall lad in a black vest, but, closing in on the finish, he kicked away.

Welsh Cross Country Championships, St Fagans, February 18th 2012

Start and finished

Torrential rain and wind during the morning made for very difficult conditions on an already tough course for the 108th running of the Welsh Cross Country Championships. While the junior races were run in these treacherous conditions, the rain had stopped by the time the senior athletes were on the starting line; the damage to the course, however, was already done. — Welsh Athletics race report

Hats off to Isobel for getting round this one. She lasted longer than the inflatable start and finish markers, which were swiftly deflated and packed away before the wind ripped them up. After, she went with Gail and Alex to visit the National History Museum.

The rain had indeed stopped by the time the men’s race started but the course was brutal. I slogged my way round one, two, three, four laps, and was glad when it ended. I pulled my bag from the mud and squelched back through the field to the road-side, texting Gail to collect me.