Embracing The Mud

Embracing The Mud
Just like F1 - structured pre-race briefing and complicated tactical shit

I shall start with an apology, if you follow my instagram feed then you may already have read the gist of this post. What can I say… Other than read it here too, there will be much more to smile at. So it came to pass, and if your read my previous post you will have the back story already, I went off road. In brief; I don’t like getting dirty. Have never wanted to do XC. Nagged and prodded to within an inch of my sanity by ‘she that organises XC’ for Wootton. Caved in.

This post is about what happened, what it was like and some general thoughts in case you are thinking of taking the plunge. 

Finding the place

I am a tart… That may of course not be knew news to some of you 😉 But I am referring to my polygamous relationship with Athletic clubs. My first claim is of course Woottoon.  Who were super helpful when I wanted to get started and have done a lot to encourage and help me. But my second claim are the Harriers the home club of my new coach and they seem to have a very big focus on Triathlon. Thirdly there is Olney Runners… Clue is in the name. They have no real interest in Tri, but they are on my doorstep and it’s nice to know some really local people to run with from time to time. Plus Olney have a really good track session and strength and conditioning group. And of course they are mostly a really nice bunch. Each group offers something different so why limit your options. New friends galore – perfect!

Sunday brought home the fundamental problem with this behaviour though… Who the hell do you stand with before the race?!?!? I drove some guys from Olney down to the race, so do I stand with Olney? But I’m racing in Woottoon colours so I should stand with them right and they are my friends so why not? But then the Harriers are out in force and likely to win, so do you really throw loyalty out the window and just pimp yourself out for reflected unearned glory?

Wootton ‘won’ my loyalty; mostly because they had The Blue Ikea bag and it was a damn cold morning. But also ‘she that organises the XC’ and who was largely accountable for me being there. 

It was quite some drive to the place… And parking was a fair walk away, so that was my best attempt at warming up dealt with. Lucky I had team Olney with me as otherwise I would probably still be aimlessly roaming around Letchworth. Looking for a farm in the middle of a residential estate. Surreal… But then what in my life isn’t these days!

First Impressions

It’s a farm. Half a dozen port-a-loos, some farm buildings and a massive Turkey walking nervously around in a pen. Well I suppose his life was at an all time low; not only is he a juicy fat Turkey on the lead up to Christmas, but his tranquility (last few days?) has been shattered by a load of multi coloured Lycra clad humans with a worrying number sporting Santa hats.

I looked around at the changing room barn, the farmyard generally and the almost Sunday market feel to the place and did wonder what on earth I was doing there! Rustic? Perhaps… Certainly a far cry from countless rows of uber expensive carbon push bikes and latex clad bodies that must have been ‘poured in’… But the other thing that struck me was how friendly everyone was. (Apart from the Turkey. He had the right arse. But understandable given the circumstances).

The rustic / Heath Robinson style event progressed to the ‘start line’. What had I expected? Inflatable arch? Motivating music? Chip timing? Actually we went into a field complete with authentic cow pats and there was a flag that said START. Oh and some guy on a megaphone that wasn’t working so well… 

It was at this point that my complete lack of preparation and planning for the event suddenly struck home. Five minutes before the start I had to ask Ali how far I was supposed to be running!! In fact preparation was less than non-existent.. The day before I had swam a CSS session with the Harriers and then for some bizarre reason did a Pyramid session on the turbo in the evening… Idiot. However, as I am on the subject (and with her permission) it is apparently OK to name Ali as the woman behind ‘she that organises XC’. After all curtsey of Chris she has been outed on other media channels now 😉 

A new house rule that I have just made up, I shall name names and tell of happenings and sayings! But I will only use first names… But those will not be changed to save blushes… No redaction on this blog!

The Race Strategy

Well as you will have deduced from the fact that I didn’t even know how far I was supposed to be running (what an embarrassment!), there clearly was f**k all strategy going on and from my perspective not much racing either! 

In my feeble defence, I have been malingering with a bit of a dodgy hip flexor problem that has been painful when I run on it. The surprising mystery cure for this was to ‘not run on it for a couple of weeks’… Who would have thought! Anyone from the Harriers reading this might recall the evening I decided it would be heroic to show off on the last hill interval right until I twisted awkwardly and limped home. I say again: idiot. That was when I did it I suspect. 

Back to the run… Objective one: look after the hip, test it a bit but DO NOT show off. Objective two: do not come last, you NEVER must come last. Objective three: get muddy! I decided that the best way to get over this clean trainers thing was to find as much mud as possible early on and wade through it. I figured once I was dirty I would stop fussing and just get on with it!! That worked perfectly 🙂

Enjoying my Sunday morning in the fields

The race was essentially a lap and a half around a field (no comment) and then a section out away from the farm basically along some quite firm track by the edge of fields. A slippery ditch to jump down (was not so keen on that, but felt that asking to see the risk assessment was unlikely to be popular). And then a lap around a couple of fields the first of which had a relatively steady climb to it. Before I got to the start of the climb I had the pleasure of seeing the front runners going back past me. Lovely… I felt like I was being lapped 🙁

No significant hills. Actually not that slippy and I would say actually some quite pretty views. Was I flat out? I was chatting with people as I went round… 🙂 I was running about 9.5 m/m so this was not going to be a PB at any level.

But I really didn’t care!! I was actually having a grand time and really enjoying the run 🙂

Secretly quite enjoyed this cross country thing! I know this because I found myself at the finish line before I got bored / looked at my watch or worried about metrics!! A bit of planning for the next one and perhaps a bit of prep (css swim & threshold turbo day before was a bit dim!). But then again I took in the scenery, enjoyed the fresh air and chatted to friends new and old afterwards. I still don’t know where I finished, and frankly I don’t care!! 😊 I ‘finished’ with a smile and lovely morning out. Which was a great result in my book! 

From my Instagram Feed

So… In conclusion…

I am looking forward to the next one and had a great time!! My first thoughts about it’s rustic understated charm were correct, but that is what was so good about it! It lacked that attempt at Corporate polish that so many other events attempt but then fall short (frankly they don’t have the budget to come close so they would be better not trying). This was much more authentic, relaxed and FRIENDLY. The sandwiches and cake afterwards were just fantastic – because it was obvious that a lot of people had put themselves out PERSONALLY to give everyone else a great time. Everyone ‘clubbed together’ and the sense of camaraderie was palpable. It also lacked the egos that you can’t help tripping over at some other events. 

I have no problem being responsible for your good time.

Ali : ‘she that organises XC brilliantly’

Will this replace Tri for me? Absolutely not… Will I prepare better for the next one? Well I will at leas know the distance! Will I try and run it faster? No… I don’t think I will. I loved pottering around this one with no expectations and no reflection afterwards. I just when for a run. I had a great time with some lovely people in the arse end of nowhere. Isn’t that why we really do this nonsense? 

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  1. […] My first experience has been pretty well documented already, so I shall not repeat myself… But I do wonder if the Turkey made it to January. I am almost inclined to go visit the place just to find out! And it’s true that I had quite a lot of misgivings and in my own inimitable way made a stupid amount of fuss about the whole thing! […]

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