The fourth fixture in the Gwent League Cross Country calendar and it was on home territory for me. Just a short distance away from my home, the Glebelands was the location for what should be a flat and fast race.
Mud, Glorious Mud
The senior men traditionally race at the end of the day which means that hundreds of runners have done their best to churn up the mud and grass. Combined with rain in the week and runners of all ages participating there was a real possibility that the fixture may be called off.
Billed as being a flat fixture, and it certainly was, I would have traded a good hill or two for some of that mud! Very quickly into the race we were given a taster of what was to come.
An extended section of deep, thick mud early in the course was impossible to avoid and proved difficult to wade through but I quickly learnt that sprinting through it was the most effective way of conquering it although no sooner had you exited the quagmire you were presented with yet another even muddier and waterlogged section.
Thankfully the terrain improved significantly enter a wooded section but alas it was short-lived and you were back to slipping and sliding on mud. I’ve no idea how the elites get through mud so quickly!
Heading back along the river towards the start a tarmac section provided a welcome relief from the mud and an opportunity to pick up the pace. The course followed the perimeter of the park until it was parallel with the finish line.
After watching the ladies race earlier in the day, and one of the frontrunners being treated for exhaustion at the finish line, it was going to be difficult to decide at which point you have to start sprinting for the finish in order to beat opposition clubs and get those points. There was a similar finish at my first cross country fixture in Bridgend in 2016 and managed to time the sprint just right although I almost threw up running into the funnel.
This was a three lap race so whilst each lap was equally as difficult, you were given a few more attempts at finding the quickest route through the mud. Despite my best efforts the best tactic was to just plough on through it.
Despite the legs feeling really heavy wading through the mud I was pleased that I maintained a consistent pace throughout all three laps and as a bonus managed to pip one of the enemy (North Somerset) near the finish line.
Give Me Hills
Last week’s Gwent Leisure Centre League fixture in Usk was a tough race that was also extremely muddy in parts but you were given respite when passing through some of the fields and despite the steepness of the terrain in places, it offered a little variety. The mud at the Glebelands was relentless and energy-sapping and the only variety you were given was the odd tarmac path and a view of the muddy River Usk.
Race Analysis and Route