Flushed from the ‘success’ of a top five finish at the Lincs League XC I headed to Shipley Country Park near Heanor on Saturday 1st December for the third race of the North Midlands Cross Counrty League and my only participation in the 2018-19 series.
The trip to the park west of Nottingham was nearly as arduous as the race itself, the roads packed with Christmas shoppers on what is apparently the busiest shopping weekend of the year. It meant that I arrived pretty late, struggling to find anywhere to park within half a mile of the venue. The jog from the car park to where GRC were kind of meeting up was my warm up – most of the rest of it was spent queuing for the toilet (note the singular…). Perhaps due to the length of the toilet queue – women’s especially, the timetable was running quite a few minutes late. I think there were more women in the toilet queue than on the start line when they were meant to be departing!
The weather was threatening rain (the previous round had seen a near biblical storm at the start which produced a front cover photo winning rainbow) , but mercifully the clouds did not open and apart from a noticeable breeze the conditions were pretty good, certainly not that cold. The going underfoot was certainly not for trainers though. Having experimented with cross country spikes I reverted to my tried and tested Walshes, showing signs of wear and tear being 11 years old but still giving up plenty of grip in all but the muddiest of conditions.
My traditional tardy start bit me hard at Shipley Park. As many XC races do the course narrowed not long after the start. This race really narrowed to little more than single file, and I found myself stuck definitely outside the top 100 and behind most of my GRC club mates taking part. I was a bit annoyed but I didn’t panic, I knew that there would be opportunities to make up places later in the race.
That opportunity didn’t take too long, under half a mile into the race the path opened up and I was able to make up a considerable number of places, including all the GRC runners taking part. After that opening drama the race was fairly uneventful for me. I worked my way through the field – I don’t think anyone passed me which I was pleased with. I worked fairly hard but was limited by my lack of prowess on the muddy stuff especially. The course was honest XC, the two lap course featured some short sharp hills, some twists and turns and variety in terrain.
My mile splits don’t make for exciting reading – the opening was a 6:21, mile 3 was the quickest at 6:06, and the slowest mile was the fourth at 6:34 (This was also the hilliest). I finished 51st overall (8th in my age category) which I was pleased with given how much this is not my cup of tea. I met at the finish occasional training partner Jake Richardson who I was pleased to see won the race (and was pleased to have won the race) averaging 5:29 a mile – which is…. impressive. I could only manage a paltry 6:22. There were others who I have battled over the course of the year ahead of me too – Will Tucker of GAC and Luke Montgomery of Corby, who I beat to win the Two Counties Half Marathon. Both comfortably better than me once you take me off the road. Still I was glad to have taken part in a proper decent XC League race, well organised and with good levels of competition.
That was cross country done for 2018!