The county cross county champs were being held in most counties around the UK on 10 Jan. Locally I was competing in the combined Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire champs, this year hosted by Bedfordshire and held in Shuttleworth College.
The freezing cold spell endured for the past fortnight was still hanging on and on the day of the champs, the sub-zero temperature in this region was probably the lowest during the spell. Was not looking forward to running on frozen ground and I had to cycle about 12 miles plus a local train journey to reach the venue. Despite the adults races being held in the afternoon it made no difference to the numbified 2-stage cycle journey. Had not cycled much since the journey to Luton early in December for the subsequent cancellation of marathon & relay so was finding the journey from Bedford rather tiring as well as cold. Tried to offset the cold by walking for 20 minutes in Bedford along the bank of the River Ouse which had frozen over completely between banks for a stretch.
Relieved to reach Shuttleworth with feet particularly affected by the cold. Luckily we had good facilities to keep warm before / after events, not guaranteed every year for these champs, sometimes we just have a marquee. Despite starting away fairly early I did not have long for preparation and acclimatising. By the time I was ready and viewing the course, the short women’s event over 6K was well underway. The course was easily visible and the runners were well spread out. Despite the weather most of the faster competitors were still just wearing a vest.
As normal with these events the field of competitors was quite small as compared to road races. Shortly after the women’s event ended, the men were assembling for their 12K or 4 laps with a testing hill halfway which runners also approach from the other side on completing each loop so there were 8 hill climbs. The first kilometre or so was flat but exposed to the numbifying slight breeze. Despite wearing the road shoes being the order of the day, the frozen ground in this first K of each lap was particularly uncomfortable even though there was little in the way of icy patches and the course was generally grass covered. I was soon near the back of the field which also consisted of the V60 2-lap race and U-17 3-lap race.
I still felt I was recovering from the cycle ride and had not done much training over the past month and had the one 5-mile New Year’s Day event. The first lap was a struggle but became more focused on the subsequent laps and noticed a few other runners were suffering around me. Soon after starting the 3rd lap two young runners obviously the leaders lapped me at speed but there was a long gap, over half a lap before the 3rd placed runner went pass at a more modest pass. It was a relief to start the final lap where I even passed a couple of runners in the remaining sparse field. Running down the hill towards the finish I still had a sprint finish left in me although difficult on the bumpy surface.
Finished in about 57 mins which was of little importance, overall in the combined race 80 / 101. Face was numb again and was relieved to get back in the building. That was not the end of the day, still the cycle ride back to Bedford, etc. Tried a different route which emphasised that the outward journey was definitely more testing. Despite the ensuing darkness the frost was apparent in fields and verges.