Sunday was the penultimate race in the 2019/2020 winter league series. What lay ahead was a course that many people dread due to its flat, fast paced nature and not one hill. A different test to what we are usually faced with in winter league X/C. This year the course was extra muddy and meant that we only had the track section at the start to achieve any grip on the course. Once off the track, each step that you took was energy sapping, and ensuring that you chose the correct route was vital in making sure you got the best result, in both the previous years of myself completing the race, that is as muddy as it gets. Once we had finished the stretch along the river, most of us knew what to expect from the last sections, muddy, wet and boggy. As you go around each corner you are hoping that you are going to see the start of the next lap but it never seems to come. Until that glorious final time when you can take that left turn to the finish.
23 Croft Runners took on the Rotherwas course, Our A team was made up of Leeky, Mark, Glyn and Myself. Leeky with an impressive 3rd, carrying on some blistering form and is such a vital part of the Croft men’s team. Mark finished in an impressive 5th and kept up the high standards set by Gareth. It was then Glyn and Myself who came home in 38th and 39th place to finish the A team. After this race we still sit in 4th, 18 points behind Wye Valley in third. It’s not going to be easy to get that gap back but stranger things have happened. All we can do is carry on fighting into the next race and what will be will be.
There is going to be a slight difference to the rest of the report. Instead of you having to read my boring report, Stuart has put together a piece of his view of the race. This is all of Stuart’s work so massive thanks to him.
View from the Midfield
As a Rotherwas 1st timer, I had heard lots of folk talking about the course being around a boring muddy field. Sounded boring to me too. A warm up lap, avoiding puddles cos I hate wet feet was really enjoyable and not as muddy as I thought. Running along the river bank, blinking away the flies in the Straw Corner, slipping along the wood before a few dog legs back to the start felt ok to me. After the customary Croft Photo, good looking ones at the back (me and Gemma) I decided to focus on Ashley. He’s in the age group 10 years above me but seeing as I have seen off the V70’s I was looking for a new challenge. He also showed me his secret weapon – Spikes!
By focussing on the Galloping Osteopath, I found myself accidentally next to Mark Paviour, Glyn W, Matt and Nigel T, oh and Kelly. A proper fast group. From the start I kept up with the fast runners whilst Ashley skipped down the right wing on the grass in his Spikes. The trio of Nigel, Glyn and Matt then took off down the left wing, giggling as each took their turn to step into puddles, they were soon out of sight but I had an early warning of future wetness to be avoided. Soon after the first right turn, following the river bank I felt like I was going backwards as lots of runners came past me including Emma Jones and John Jaspers. Ashley, Mark and Kelly were distant figures. And then blimey, the leaders were on the opposite side of the course past the wood. I could only make out a yellow and red vest. Right turn towards Straw Corner, now renamed Fly Tip Corner (due to the sewage farm I am told), then slipping along the wood I managed to pass Emma and shortly after John J. But I was working hard. Dog legs, passing Liza and Mike B and through the start line to commence lap 2.
At the start of lap 2 Ashley, Mark and Kelly appeared a little closer. The path was mighty slippy. I couldn’t work out which was the best route so I decided to employ a sailing tactic and follow the runner ahead on the basis I may not gain but I should not lose out. Slowly I came up to Kelly who generously paced me for what seemed like most of the lap. 1 fly swallowed.
Start of lap 3 and Kelly was pulling me onwards towards Mark and Ashley. As we slithered along the river bank I decided to chance it and passed Kelly, thanks for the encouragement as I passed, I then came upon Mark who also shouted well done and then I had Ashley clear in my sights. Now this is where I noticed Ashley taking a direct line along the bank and not having to choose the line with most traction. Those spikes! Ashley also had company which kept him on his mettle. And that meant along with my slipping he was able to maintain a winning margin.
Kelly was close behind and I did check over my shoulder a few times.
Eventually, flies swallowed, the woods slipped by and the dog legs done the finish line appeared.
Enjoyed the course, it made a nice change not to have vertical slopes. Just a pity about my footwear.
And well done Ashley in his spikes, Kelly for towing me and both Kelly and Mark for the encouragement.
Well done everyone who raced and thanks to all our coaches who help us to do better than we would without them.
See you all soon.
A brilliant account from Stuart giving an interesting view on how he saw his race and is brilliant to see how different people structure their race and the thoughts that go through their mind.
Thank you to all the Croft Men that competed, the final race is Presteigne on February 2nd.