Roadtrippin’ to the National XC Champs

Where to begin with recounting this rather epic weekend? The beginning sounds as good a place as any, I suppose.

6am Saturday, Lynds and I were headed out the door on the way to Guildford. I was meeting with the rest of the GGAC crew for our roadtrip to Sunderland. The convey vehicles turned up, I waved goodbye to Lynds and in our two cars, ably commandeered by Marc and Gav, we set off for the grim north.

We hadn’t been on the road long when we received word in our car to switch to Talksport (one of only two radio stations available in Marcs car – if we didn’t want to listen to the Oasis or TOTP CASSETTE TAPES!!!), we duly obliged and just a few moments later heard our very own shout out on the radio wishing us all luck. Listen via this link here. Just about 8mins in!!

The trip was largely uneventful, despite a visit to Gav’s old stomping ground at Loughborough University. Students being students though, nothing was open at 8am on a Saturday – funny that!! We did get to see the Paula Radcliffe Stadium though, but no running on the track.

Back in the car we continued north. Diverted by a serious crash on the A1(M) we ended up in Tadcaster for brunch having searched out a lovely little cafe. The service was a little slow – all eight of us ordered eggs in one form or another and I think they were waiting on them being freshly produced!

By now we were starting to cut it a little fine, and as we approached the frozen waste lands of Sunderland, trepidation was starting to set in about what was to come. Approaching the scene of battle we were instantly hit by the cold and having changed into lightweight racing spikes the mud instantly seeped in, freezing the toes instantly. ‘Vest is best’ was the order of the day, and as we were running a little late, the warm up was effectively just the dash from the loos to the start line.

Yours truly turns up at about 9minutes 45 into this video, running across the screen :-)

Snow had settled in the whole area, but by the time we took to the course at 3pm it was predominantly mud, and lots of it.

And they're off.....
And they’re off…..

We hadn’t even had time to do our homework on the course, and I had been led to believe that it was only two laps. This turned out to be incorrect, and turning on to the third lap was a little demoralising, knowing that I had to do it all again. That said, the loop was actually a really nice course, undulating and a potentially quite pretty around the park and lakes, if it weren’t churned up by 1000’s of runners.

But….. it was churned up, and it was muddy. In places it was exceptionally deep and it made for really tough going. It wasn’t long before knee height was just mud, and only few hundred meters into the race before entire legs were covered in the brown stuff (no, not poop, I wasn’t trying that hard).

At the start I was, as I expected, at the back of the GGAC pack but I tried to keep those that I could in my view. About halfway through the first lap I caught up with Al and pulled up alongside him, shouting encouragement as I headed up the hill. I kept Andy firmly in my sights, and at the end of the first lap I even caught up to his shoulder. Sadly, that move was silly, as Andy decided that was a sign to push on, and I lost him again. I kept my beady eyes on him, but as the third lap started (having been lapped by the winners) he continued to pull away up the hill.

The mud continued to sap all my energy, but at the same time, I was kinda having a blast!!!

I finally finished in 1 hour 3 minutes and 45 seconds. And of even more importance – I am officially, and irrefutably the 827th fastest man in the country!!!! :-) All you lazy suckers that couldn’t be arsed to turn up don’t count :-) I’ve never been so quick!!

As a team, we did really well, and are the best Surrey based team in the country according to Saturdays result!

Post-race, we were all freezing, the de-camping was a lesson in speediness and we headed back to the cars as quick as possible. Back in the car we headed to Adams parents’ house in York. Once we had washed and were a little more human, we took the walk into town for dinner! It was amazing, and if you are ever in York I can highly recommend the Viceroy, though I would suggest you book ahead first!!

This morning the group set out for a long Sunday run before leaving town. Adam had planned a nice route for us through the local villages and we set off at a good pace. It was a high pace – in fact, a year ago it would have been my all out half marathon pace. Today, it felt like a bit of an effort, but in a supportive group of runners it really just made for a very pleasant morning. We were back at Adams with 11:10 on the mileometer. I had promised 12 miles on Febulous, so of course I had no option other than to do a quick out’n’back top-up!!

The trip home was pretty much uneventful, other than a delicious lunch at The Otter in Kegworth. Lovely.

I’m pretty tired now, so probably off to bed soon. But I had an awesome weekend. Thanks GGAC guys! :-)


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