|The Finish! (note the cyber pants, for those who wanted a photo)|
|The ferry to Yarmouth|
|Here we are in the middle of the sea!|
|Two well-earnt bottles of locally brewed beer|
We left the house at 9 this morning with our bikes attached to the back of the car, caught the ferry out of Lymington to the Isle of Wight, disembarked half an hour later at Yarmouth and cycled three miles along cycle paths and lanes to Race HQ at Freshwater.
It's easy to get intimidated at the start of races. You look round and think everyone looks fitter than you, leaner than you, more capable than you, faster than you. Normally I'm not too bad, but this time my pre-race nerves weren't helped by us meeting a very fast runner on the boat out who, when M explained I hadn't been running competitively for long pulled a face and exclaimed and you've entered THIS race?! We then met another friend who asked M whether I was going to be alright running it. By that point I was really questioning myself and fully expecting to come in last, which isn't a great mindset to carry into the start of a tough race.
M, noticing my worried expression said in his reassuring way, you'll be fine: you've done the Cub! You won't come in last which was exactly what I needed to hear. Feeling a little better but still a bit nervous, I placed myself at the back of the field while he headed to the front.
I took it steady as we set off across the sport centre playing fields and out onto the roads of Freshwater. Barely half a mile in we hit our first hill and that's pretty much how it continued for the next five miles. The race is billed as challenging, which M translated as lumpy. However, I've known him for a long time and I am very aware that lumpy in M's book means big hills in anyone else's. I'm also becoming aware that because my regular training runs all take in hills over rough terrain and I force myself to run up them no matter how exhausting they are, I'm not as troubled by hill running in races as others are. Sure enough the hills were where I started to overtake folks and where my confidence began to recover.
That's pretty much how the race continued: picking people off on hills, my confidence rising each time I left someone behind. And there were some huge hills- we climbed onto Tennyson Down and the ascent was more or less vertical in one place. Certainly steeper than the steepest hill on the Cub. I and everyone else walked it, but once we were on the cliff top with stunning views opening over the sea and round the coast I found my energy returned quickly and I was able to pick up the pace. I set my eyes on three people some distance ahead and slowly picked them off, one by one.
Soon we were back on a hill: the climb up to Tennyson's monument. I'd been tailing a chap in front and suddenly realised that I was going to be able to overtake him so I pushed on and as I went past he said well done, which was so nice of him and typical of my experience of a lot of the runners today- a generous bunch congratulating and encouraging one another. Once I'd got past I could hear him staying on my heels and he grunted you're doing a grand job of getting me up the hill. By that point it was taking its toll and I was slowing, but I can be a stubborn old git and there was no way I was going to walk, so I told him we'd both make it running to the top together, which we did.
I was soooo pleased, as it's a long, steady incline and very draining after over five miles of hill running. He overtook me at the top, so I chased after him and we chatted briefly as we galloped down the hill together, agreeing that these kinds of tough, cross country runs are the best. I realised my energy was back and I shot off, leaving him behind with a shouted promise that he'd buy me a cuppa at the end. I did the next two (downhill) kms in just over 4 minutes each. I was flying and loving every second of it.
The final stretch was back along the road and it went on a bit, so I slowed down a bit, but no-one overtook me. In the end I finished in under 1:20 hours, which I was thrilled with. I felt I'd learnt a lot again and, more importantly, banished the feeling I wasn't good enough to compete here.
I met the chap I'd chased down the hill at the end and we shook hands and congratulated one another. That camaraderie, sharing a tough but exhilarating experience with strangers, is one of the nicest things about running competitively. Everyone is genuinely pleased for everyone else who's survived running it.
The finishing prize was a bottle of local ale, which we're having with fish n' chips tonight. M had a great race too and was really pleased with his time and race position and we agreed it was a fab way to spend Easter Monday. We'll be back next year I'm sure. I'm feeling tired now, but having run 8 miles over cliffs and cycled 6 I think that's OK :o)
Hope you've all had a great Bank Holiday and Easter.