Well that was an eye opener.
Drove out to Windsor in what was the first glimmer of sunlight this month which, I think, was a good omen. Found the venue fine, an hour early – easy parking, no toilet queue and no queue at registration. Got my number and timing chip and retired to the car to wait the moment.
Slight misgivings as I sloshed across the field from the car park to the registration point and back but still, it was sunny now.
As I was lacing on my timing chip the heavens opened, heaved down with rain so sat in the car sharing slightly bemused smiles with the other runners sheltering in their cars. Still, half-an-hour to go; plenty of time for the weather to change. Radio 4 kept me company.
I could have taken up table tennis.
Fifteen minutes before the start time I really had to do a bit of warm up whatever the weather, so off with the trackie trousers, on with the trail shoes and out the car – and the rain stopped! Hooray!
Warm up consisted of a jog through a bleak and windswept marsh, I mean the meeting point for the race.
Apparently we were the only event still allowed to be operating in Windsor Great Park.
Everything else had been cancelled and pre-race intructions were three-fold:
1) You are going to get wet – get over it.
2)Do your shoes up really tightly there are some really muddy bits at about 6.5K
3)Look out for the lady deer at 3k who will get out your way and look out for the boy deer at 6k who won’t!
What’s the worst that can happen? I could have taken up table tennis
So 10:00 and off we go. After about 400mteres everyone was pretty much sprayed in mud and looking like they were taking part in the World Rally Champs! Awesome. Windsor Great Park is such a great venue.
Really wet and muddy under foot but cool and not raining and lovely surroundings.
The course was described as “undulating”. Well now I know what they class as undulating I may have to avoid hilly!
First 5k were quite hard caused by a mix of me trying to run my normal pace and the really stick underfoot conditions. Oh and some hills; undulations my eye….
At 5k I pretty much wanted to go home, it is amazing the difference the underfoot conditions make, especially if you are daft enough to try your normal pace and not take it into account. I was pretty lucky that the route did not go past the car park I may have found myself off for a sneaky sit down.
At 6K there was indeed a short pretty steep incline that was almost pure clay and impossible to get a grip on unless you ran up the stinging nettles at the side (see pics later) , my shins are quite resistant now so I went for the grip and really disappointed the photographer poised for the slippy-slidy pictures I think.
6.5 K a long steepish downhill which was joyous, like being a kid again – wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee and everything. However the course looped back pretty sharply up the other side of the same hill and it seemed twice as long and twice as steep that way. I even had to walk the last hundred metres or so up to the top of the hill, and to make it worse at the top of the hill was a water station so everyone saw!
Pride is a terrible thing. I could have taken up table tennis
Anyway I wasn’t chickening out I had made a “tactical” decision based on the fact that my running speed was not much more than walking speed at that point that I should do a brisk walk instead and save myself for the top of the hill – well that’s what I tell myself anyway and that’s good enough for me.
Anyways cup of water, composure regained, off we go again small plateau then another upwards incline. Joy! Made this one in one go and was faced at the top with just the most incredible view all the way down from the statue of George III right the way along Long Walk to Windsor castle. Glorious, archetypal scene of Windor Castle. That’s why we did the climb!
The picture top right here.
About 3K to go really steep downhill to Long Walk then about 2K along Long Walk towards the Castle. Never has a road been more aptly named Loooonnnnnnnnnnnngggggggggggggggggggggggggggg is right! Blimey it is long!
Almost all the way along you can see the turn off from Long Walk for the last stretch to the finish line but the turn point never seems to arrive. Obviously it does, with about half a K to go nearly there, but what fresh joy is this? Three quarters of the last half a K is through about six inches of standing water. Laugh? Oh yes! It doesn’t half keep your feet cool Hard running though, but what fun? When do you get the chance to do this once you are older than 6?
Finishing line approaches, a completely lovely name check over the tannoy and some claps and cheers from the on lookers and we were done, oh boy that was a hard run, not sure I have felt one that hard before. Managed to stand up long enough to have my tag cut off, get my medal and goody bag and collapse in the back of the car before I changed into dry socks.
So first taste of a real honest to goodness cross country race was hell/heaven, hard/wonderful, mucky, sweaty, wet and tough. Do it again? Oh yes you betcha! Fandabeydozey! I could have taken up table tennis but why would you? When you can spend a Saturday morning like that?
Somehow all the bad runs along the way don’t matter anymore, injuries and niggles, I got over them? Having to stop and walk? First time for ages I have done that and I am still standing! Red faced beetroot man? Uh huh that’s me!
It took me a year to get here but it was worth every step of the way. Now the work getting my fitness up feels like it is really paying back though my hill (I mean undulation) stamina is not what it could be obviously but plenty of time for that.
Slightly niggly heel but you know what? Don’t care can’t make me
For the number crunchers amongst you:
78th out 278
52:38 minutes which is quite satisfactory especially in those conditions much better than expected
Route and stuff
Here are some pics