O, how keen I was at first when my local club was putting together teams for the Ridgeway Relay. Me me me! I cried, jumping up and down. IsthereaDteamcanibeinitocanipleasecani? Well it turns out there was a C team and as there are 10 legs, frankly they would take anyone in the C team (the A team being fast and the B team being slightly (not very) slower supervets).
Dire warnings came my way about recce-ing the leg thoroughly, NOT GETTING LOST, TURNING UP ON TIME etc. All of which I did dutifully. I even bought a club vest, which, being yellow, is indeed a major contribution to road safety, but not very good when you are sneaking off into the bushes to commune with nature and want a bit of camoflage (green + black vg for this! ;D).
The first soundings of doom came last Sunday when I did a full recce of the whole 10-mile leg.
The start was fine. Downhill.
But not for very long. Then the route went uphill. Proper hill. The kind you can’t run up unless you’re a lot fitter than I am. I power-walked up it and it damn near killed me. Aargh aargh. Then some undulations (up down up down up down golf course) and then – tada! the aptly-named Grim’s Ditch. All tree roots and/or a path consisting of a single rut 6 inches wide 6 inches deep and angled at 45 degrees. Three miles of that.
The last stretch is mainly uneven pasture or the side of fields, but by that time I was just eager to be home for tea.
Hmmmm. I thought. Was this really such a hot idea? It is very pretty. It would be a lovely route for a walk.
Came the day, and I woke screaming with a calf cramp (I am not making this up). I briefed my kindly other half on where he and the dogs should go to hand me water, and waited by a farm gate for my red-faced team member to toil up the hill (I was bloody impressed and thought, oh blimey can’t live up to that!) and hand over to me. At least the first bit is downhill so you are out of sight by the time you have to walk…
The hill – had not improved. The tree roots were as bad (one of the many people to overtake me went arse over tip a few metres on, but – perhaps he does judo? – bounced back up and ran on) and the path seemed if anything yet more treacherous. Aaargh aaargh oh bloody hell aargh, I went as I staggered along. Aargh aargh OW! Annnd I’d turned over my ankle. GreatB. Mmm super aargh aargh aargh BOOF! – I tumbled off the path, and bodily into a clump of nettles.
Well, to an extent this was a relief. I now had a proper excuse to sit down, cry and feel sorry for myself (hurrah). But being nettles and all, I didn’t hang about. Back on the feet (wobble wobble) and off again… until…. hang on… why does my wrist feel strangely light? Oh bugger. Now my Garmin may have been 3 years old but a colleague bought his wife the very same model last week, so I know they’re still not cheap. So back I went, to find the offending article reclining comfortably in the middle of a big me-shaped hole in the undergrowth. Strap buggered but rest fine. Numbers uncomplimentary.
And on. At North Stoke I met (again) the other half, and declined his offer of water, but was v. grateful for his keen-eyed observation that the Ridgeway was right and not, in fact, straight on where I was heading. (Yes, I had done the recce, but by this point the old brain was gone-gone-gone!). Through the churchyard (resisting the temptation to bury myself and snooze peacefully under the sod with the rest of its residents) and on through the fields.
I was not now in any mood to appreciate the beauties of nature displayed on the last few miles. No helo sky helo trees helo cows for me! There was breath left only to curse the new-style gates, as I trapped my finger in them (twice, and very painfully).
At last I reached South Stoke and barrelled up the road. I had been expecting (OK, dreading) a posse of yelling supporters who would be rather disappointed in my lack of finishing kick. What I found was rather more unsettling. No-one. Oh _____, surely I can’t have got lost in the last few yards? Gah! The sign even says Ridgeway >>>, I am going the right way, where the hell are they?!
Those familiar with this stage will know – of course – that it ends at a pub. So of course, everyone was (rather than, say, lining the last few hundred yards of the route, yelling encouragement)… at the pub, chatting away drink in hand, having a fair old time, race what race etc…. and to top it all, the bloke I was handing over to was a last-minute sub (not even a 2nd claimer like me!) and I had not the faintest idea what he looked like.
“Ambler, where’s the Ambler?!!” I yelled, and a bloke emerged from the throng, slapped my hand and headed off.
I fell into the other half’s arms, burst into tears (oh what a wuss!) and gratefully accepted his offer of a stiff drink as people patted me on the head saying there there and the dogs gave me a funny look and then went back to contentedly sniffing lycra crotches.
I am not bloody doing that again! (*)
And to anyone thinking (coff Anna coff) of doing the whole thing in one go… I really have no words!
(*) no really, I mean it! Not like when you do a marathon and then sign up for another the next day. That course was horrid!