Sara Sedgley recounts her battles against the wind and mud. And a devilish parcel shelf?
The day started with Claire Norman kindly offering the ladies of Jesmond (Joanne Wood, Lindsay Walsh and I) a lift to the XC. We were all on time and, after an impromptu battle with the Corsa back shelf, we were off!
We arrived at Wrekenton and discovered the bonus that there was plenty of car parking space (definitely not the norm). We then set off on our walk towards the race, thinking that the wind was very evident and took an impromptu short cut down a steep muddy bank. We made a mental note to avoid this on the return trip. No more mud/hills would surely be required after the XC!
We arrived at the field, saw the big queue for the portaloos and then the sea of tents. It’s always comforting being easily able to spot the mighty TBH flag and tent. The tent erecters had made a fantastic job of securing it and there was a fantastic selection of cakes inside (thanks to the bakers, including Kelly’s friend – those cupcakes were AMAZING!). Lindsay – you’ll have to make some more cakes for me to try next time
It looked like a great turnout for the men and the women, including several Group 5 ladies. This for me shows the inclusiveness and encouragement of the club.
There were several questions being bandied around:–
– To baby oil the legs or to not baby oil the legs… Apparently its usage reduces the extent of mud cleaning required! A couple of the ladies decided to trial it out – verdict to be announced shortly.
– How many layers would keep us warm? Not enough in my opinion.
– Would the men eat all the cakes whilst we were gone? A legitimate question we thought. We may have decided to hide a few just in case….
– How long would it be before our race actually started?
– What would stop the hair from blowing around my face? Decision made – the woolly hat was staying on.
We made our way to the start line, found our usual place (near the back) and huddled together for warmth. Then, all of a sudden, there was the gun and we were off!
It wasn’t long before Sophie Marr and Lucy Matheson were speeding past. I knew it wouldn’t be long before Kym Eden was hot on their heels (Kym was making her debut from the fast pack). All three shouted encouragement to us as they passed. This can’t be easy when they’re motoring and is one of the best things about being part of a friendly club. No matter how slow you are the faster members encourage you (thanks ladies!).
I first looked at my watch at the 0.6mile point. We had gone up the first hill (very muddy) and it felt like we had gone much further. My heart sank more than a little at this point and I told my partner in crime (Evie Maholam) that she would need to be prepared for a lot of moaning from me On we continued and for me it became a mental battle of just keeping going. It would have been so easy to drop out but I hate to give in. The course was very challenging – the muddy hill, a downhill with wooden steps, some gravel sections, a further trail type hill, another downhill and a long stretch back round to the start which I can only describe as full of large puddles and, yes, more mud. This necessitated some prancing around the puddles to try and avoid them (I am a bit like my running dog in that respect!).
As we passed the start line again I clocked it as 1.85 miles. I had a minor sigh of relief (and shared this with Evie) that the course would actually be under 4 miles in total, before bracing myself for another lap of the same. The hill of mud came into sight again. My heart sank again and I saw some ladies walking in front. It seemed even more muddy than the first time and felt impossible to run up it (I am not a mountain goat!), so I concentrated on trying to get some traction at the side where there was still a little grass. It was at the top of the hill we saw Jane Shearer and Alison Bulman cheering us on. Apologies for my choice language ladies (it was moderated, honest!) and reverse victory sign. On we went and Kevin Cheetham and Henrik Aicher were warming up and tried to encourage us. The same language was recycled (sorry again!) and Kev (bless you!) tried to get us running again by running alongside us. I told him to save himself (!), knowing the men had three laps to “enjoy”.
On we continued and it was a strategic race now – run the bits you can, well, and rest when and if needed. We were passed by three ladies over a period and by now my aim was just to finish. We got to the last long puddle stretch and caught up with the Coalfields runner and managed to pass her. Then the Aurora runner was in front of me with a teammate running alongside encouraging her. It was time to dig deep and leg it around the last corner. I managed to pass her and looked back to see Evie was passing her too Then there was an Elvet runner some distance in front, again with a teammate running alongside and encouraging her. I could see a large mud stretch to the finish line and wondered if I could take her on. Cue the frenzied shouts of encouragement to her from the sidelines with the “keep right”, “that’s the clean racing line”, “don’t let the Tyne Bridge Harrier catch you”, “she won’t get you if she goes to the left through the mud” etc. etc. Decision made – time to “leg it” down the left hand side. The mud, which had been much avoided, and I became one. Picture Bambie on Ice and you get the jist A fellow Elvet runner from work asked me today who won that battle…
It turned out that the ladies had a strong race with Lindsay finishing 8th and getting promoted next time (well done!!).
I had a lengthy battle to clean off the worst of the muddy legs with a pile of wet wipes (mud versus moisturiser, the score was 1 – 0). Then it was time to throw on another hoodie for warmth, grab a cup of tea and one of those amazing cupcakes (well, I had earned it!) then back out in the cold to cheer on the TBH menfolk…..
It appeared that the wind had picked up even more and it was bitterly cold. I felt sorry for the guys having to be out in it but thankfully the rain at least held off. I took up a cheering position with Jo Wood and Paul Hilton near the start line, behind the tape. Paul’s excuse for not running was one of the most honest and inventive we’ve heard in a while One by one the men came through for the last lap and we cheered – there weren’t many smiles, just looks of tiredness and sheer determination. Then there’s always one TBH who stands out from the rest – as he passed there was a nonchalant smoothing back of the hair which many a male model would have been proud of
Tea finished and hands (sort of) warmed up I needed to start clapping the runners as well as shouting. Another question – what to do with the polystyrene cup?! It was very windy so I couldn’t just pop it on the ground. I looked down and there was a water bottle on the ground. We had no idea whose it was and thought it had been left. I decided to ram the cup on the end of it with the intention of taking it off and discarding it properly later on. A couple of minutes later a runner from another club sped into our view, vaulted over the tape right in front of us, narrowly missed a metal pole spike and lunged for the discarded water bottle. Off he sped with the water bottle and its polystyrene cup end, vaulting the tape once again! Apologies if the cup hindered your progress….
We then decided to move towards the finishing line to give some last minute support to the guys. We had to watch the mud levels being sprayed up into our faces here! Darryl was the first TBH home and it wasn’t too long before a hat wearing figure appeared on the horizon (aka the puddly road) – Mr Rooney. It’s at that point thoughts almost naturally turn to whose scalp Mr Rooney would claim today…. A couple of people were given some added encouragement in this department Keith – seriously, it looked like you had a fantastic race. There were so many TBH coming through to the finishing straight and everyone looked relieved to see it was almost over. Iain’s friendly battle with Michael was great to see – some extra encouragement from Michael and Iain showed warp speed, giving Michael a glimpse of his heels
I think it’s fair to say that we all worked hard, even the supporters who braved that cold wind, and rightly deserved the odd celebratory beverage that evening. Anyone who even attempted to have a go at that race, let alone finish it, deserves due respect.
How would I sum up Wrekenton? Challenging, cold, very muddy, hilly but with very supportive marshalls and plenty of encouragement throughout the course from our own TBH as well as from other clubs. For me, completing such a challenging course sharpens the determination factor and quietens that little devil who is ever present on your shoulder telling you that you can’t do it and to just give up. Road racing feels like a breeze in comparison but XC makes you strong! Will I be back? Yes, particularly if my partner in crime is up for a return trip and can put up with my “sunny” race day personality!