Sunday was very important for me. Not only was it the first race of the year for me but it was also the first race since my injury. I’m still not 100% and still rebuilding. If I’m honest I’m along way from my best but I know it’s going to take time, however I have not helped myself with my latest daft challenge. When I set it up I set times I knew I could do so long as I stayed fit and healthy. I’m now concerned that I may not be in sub 37 shape in just under 2 weeks time.
Anyway this year I planned on competing in all of the Northern Masters championship races, including the cross country. Now I had already missed out on the half marathon champs last month. With champs it’s about finishing position. I had seen the start list and knew I needed to get round. It’s a shame these events are not better supported but you can only race those who enter. So after another week of rebuilding I went into the race optimistic I could possibly medal. The Forecast though was for wind, snow, sleet and rain. Oh great!
Things wasn’t helped by the fact it meant getting over the Woodhead pass in terrible conditions. We arrived at the venue just at 10:15. I picked up the number and I saw the updated start list, it made for good reading. As I chatted to other runners, Jason notified me my race wasn’t going off till 12:00 an hour later then advertised. WTF I wasn’t happy. I had afternoon plans as it was my daughters first rock concert. (side tracking here, the concert was awesome, we got to watch the sound check, got to meet the band. I got a new tattoo. But best bit was my daughter crowd surfing!, it’s gone viral) After checking with wife I hung around till race time. We ended up going off a bit earlier but as the first race had done 2 and a half laps. It was seriously churned up.
The race was 5 laps of the same loop. It was round the grass of the athletics track, before a short blast up a banking then through a gate. Which was a tight hairpin turn and ankle deep in muddy water. We then did a zig-zag up another banking and into a headwind along side of a train track. Down and round a flooded wooded area, up a sharp muddy banking, another short twisty section, along the tops again. A tight 180 that was seriously muddy, meaning we had to practically stop, then back down the muddy banking, back up and back along next to railway. Back down through the gate, then along the top of the athletics banking, which was waterlogged and just getting churned up. This completed a full lap.
As I said, as it was a championship race it was about placing. Good thing was everyone had their category on their back. So it allowed you to know who was racing who, basically it was races within the main race. The outright winner was a M40 who destroyed the field but I set off and was with him for the first lap, it was seriously hard going. For me I can never get going through mud. After the first lap, I lifted my foot off the gas. The M50 and M55 races was a real battle and I let those battling it out pass me. I made the decision to focus on my category only. It wasn’t a day to be stupid and chase out right victory. Looking at his finishing time I would’ve been a distance 2nd and it offered nothing extra.
So as the laps ticked by I just dug in and ground out the result. I stayed disciplined and didn’t allow myself to get caught up racing others that I didn’t need to. I must be honest I felt a tad of guilt that I wasn’t racing flat out. But from a personal view point it was about finishing it and having no pain. The last lap soon came and the conditions and fact I wasn’t pushing my limits my pace was plus 7:00/mi but my cadence was still 178 spm. I finished and was confirmed as winner of my category.
I was over the moon. Very muddy and tired but I came through the test, with no issues with my injury and my first ever XC medal. Now I want to focus on getting back to my very best, so when the next championship race happens I can give it 110% and aim to win outright and not just my age group.