Ah, cross country, we meet again! We’ve had our ups and downs over the season so let’s see what you can throw at me.
Well, it turns out that it could throw a lot at me.
- Ankle-rolling uneven ground – check.
- Shoe-stealing mud – check.
- Lung-busting hill – check.
- A ‘sort the men from the boys’ descent – check.
- A rewarding race – dare I say it, check.
The fourth race in the Gwent Leisure Centre League Cross Country season and the first time that this particular course has been used. Held in the grounds of Coleg Gwent, each 2 mile lap involves a variety of terrain including a disused railway line, molehill-filled fields, a woodland climb and a very fast and very muddy descent.
A full lap recce with the club prior to the race proved to be extremely useful in familiarising yourself with the terrain, knowing where the muddiest sections are (served as a reminder to tighten my laces) and how to attack the steep ascent (run then walk) and descent (pray you don’t fall).
Heading out along the long flat stretch of disused railway line, you quickly realise it’s fruitless trying to find paths around the mud and just run through it. After 800 yards or so the route bears left into a field where it follows the perimeter before crossing a wooden bridge (thankfully not slippery) into another field and then reaching a wood. A zig-zagging climb awaits you but the soft ground makes it a tough climb. Each lap got progressively tougher and by the the third lap I was finding myself trying to resist walking this section.
Exiting the wood there’s an even steeper and far muddier climb. This was definitely a walking section for me and each time I would try and find the least muddiest path up the hill but was never successful. Whilst some were running up this section, many were power hiking up it.
A short section across a ridge allowed you to catch your breath and it was then the start of the descent down to the railway line. Prior to the biggest descent was a very tricky section at the top of a field. Being extremely muddy and on a slope, it was difficult to maintain a good footing and whilst on the second lap I lost my grip and slipped. Apart from a getting muddy I was good!
The long descent was tricky, muddy and required good shoes and the confidence to let go and hope for the best. I managed to pick up some good speed on the first attempt then on the second and third attempt I discovered a dry section near the edge.
The bottom was perhaps the muddiest section of the course with the mud in places covering your shoes and almost sucking them off your feet! Back on the old railway line the route was gradually getting cut up more and more and by the last lap it was a quagmire. Still, I found the energy to pick up the speed for a final sprint to the finish line.
OK XC, You May Be Winning Me Over
Despite being one of the toughest XC courses I’ve run, I coped both physically and mentally. I made sure that I ran my own race (whilst still pushing myself) rather than trying to keep up with others. It seemed to work and the net result was that I enjoyed the race.