South of England XC Champs, 28/1/12

South of England XC Champs, 28/1/12

Peter Simpson reports on a day in the South Downs repeatedly climbing the hill in Stanmer Park as part of the men’s 15K course, chosen for the 2012 Southern XC Champs.

The calm & relatively dry conditions underfoot helped keep our bodies mud-free. At the start, apart from the looming hill on the southern side we were not sure what to expect on this new course for veterans of cross country Dave Arnold & myself. The forest around the hill meant that we were learning as we covered the first lap. Normally the chosen course included three laps plus the section from the start and to the finish.

We were not quite sure if there were going to be three VRUK runners with Dave leaving his local address late to reach the venue via car & bike due to parking restrictions. Given the recent announcement that the FA Cup match between Brighton & Newcastle was going to take place later that day, all of the men’s competitors or indeed anyone staying to see the men’s race could not leave their car in the football car park. For Sam Wilson it was his first XC champs after disappointment 2 years ago when a fatality on the train journey to London meant the line ahead was blocked and he could not get to the championships in time. With Dave & myself lacking training and Sam improving with each year we were relying on Sam to lead us home. Christopher Shoebridge was also present to take photos as well as gain an insight into a XC championship.

Given the usual mid-afternoon start for the men’s race, Christopher and myself took the opportunity of visiting the Infinity Foods vegan cafe in the centre of Brighton and taking the train out to the edge of Brighton adjacent to Sussex University. Luckily at that time my glasses frame came apart and not at the race so, an opticians was nearby.

The normal procedure for these XC events is for one team member to collect all of the club’s race numbers and timing chips on the day from registration. For a club like VRUK, we are unlikely to be traveling together so timing is important. Sam arrived at our rendevous with just over 30mins to go but with Dave leaving late we could not wait around with the start line 100s of metres away. Hopefully Dave would find the registration in the sports centre. At the start line with a minute or so to go, Dave appears ready to run but unfortunately not with running number & timing chip so we accepted that Dave would get a run out but no recorded time.

Christopher was in position at the top of Stanmer Park to take photos and move between positions as the race proceeded. Christopher had earlier seen the women’s 8K race.

I had not run for about 2.5 weeks due to a knee injury and was taking a risk due to the distance and hill climbing. The start was slower than anticipated as we all turned left soon after starting to complete a small loop including a halfway climb up the hill and down past the start. From there we had three loops but did not know it for certain at the start. We at first ran around the base of the hill to the far side and started the ascent. It was a tough climb with tree roots and the course meandering up to the top. It seemed to go on and on and by the time I reached the top, my legs were very tired and it was a slow recovery back to normal pace. Luckily at this point just before starting the slow descent, I had recovered sufficiently for Christopher’s photo. Returning to near the southern end we started the slower climb to the top followed by a short distance later the more direct and steeper descent to complete the loop.

I seemed to be passing some runners on the hills but losing places going downhill or on the flat. Going up the hills for the 2nd & 3rd times was getting progressively slower and on the 3rd climb up the most difficult hill, it was only slightly faster than walking pace towards the top. It was surprising how quickly we recovered on the long downhills. Running down the long fast stretch for the 3rd and final time it was so easy to let go and forget your tiredness. Despite pushing hard down that last hill, I was passed by several runners in that final 50 metres or so straight. I noticed Sam & Dave were supporting from the sideline after finishing earlier.

Overall I thought I performed well after missing the 2.5 weeks and was not affected by any recurrence of the injury during the race. Sam had a very good run finishing the race in 421st out of 745 in a time of 1:07:37, Dave’s approximate time was 1 hour 13 mins, position 565 – 575 and my own time 1:17:17 for 629th, slightly better than anticipated.

Photos to come from Christopher shortly otherwise check Facebook vegan runners group.