Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Race Day: KFL Cross Country - Knowle Park

The alarm rudely went off at 7.15am.  On a Sunday.  God damn it.  It could easily have been night time still but the brain quickly computed I had 1hr 30mins to get to Bexleyheath Sports Club to pick up my lift to Knowle Park.

In a desperate attempt to wake up, I boiled the kettle to make a cup of tea and stuck my porridge in the microwave while I got changed.  After some faffing about, I was ready.  MOTD on the tv, sitting on the sofa holding my bowl of porridge in one hand and trying to force feed myself with the other.  I'm not a great lover of breakfast and its taken me some years to get into the habit of eating it but it was a necessity today.

Got my sh*t together and headed out the door.  Quickly checking my iPhone shortcut to the TFL website, I suddenly remembered how infrequently the buses ran on Sunday mornings.  Ouch.  It was a 15 minute wait for the next one.  Why the hell didnt I check that before I left, the bus stop is only 20 yards from my front door, I could have stayed inside in the dry.

Yes, the dry.  It was hammering down.  I was soaked despite the North Face waterproof jacket.  I guess that was the perfect pre-requisite for a cross country.  It was going to be wet and muddy.

The bus arrived and it slowly made its way down Welling High Street to the club.  I made it just in time.  As I got there, everyone was already to go.  Dumped my bag in the back of Jim's car and off we went.

M20, M25, A21.  Simples.  The heavy rain cleared and the grey sky turned blue for a while.  Got there nice and early and met up with the rest of the Plums.  We seemed to be there really early but hey, better early than late (well in most cases ;)

Got another cup of tea into me and off we headed into Knowle Park.  Julie told me all about her Grim Blackout adventure the night before, telling me I would have loved it.  What?  Replace my sofa and X Factor and MOTD for running in the pitch black through puddles of water about 4ft deep with no other help than from a head torch?  Ha.  Come to think of it, it sounds awesome.  Definitely would be up for trying something like that in the future.

At the start, it looked pretty well organised.  Some clubs were more organised than others, what with their own club gazebos.  For goodness sake, there's nothing like getting back to nature, changing your footware underneath a big tree, standing on an opened out bin liner, is there?

After standing around for a bit as we located ourselves under the said "tree", the obligatory team photograph was taken...

...what a fine specimen of Plums, eh?

We all trooped over to the start.  Due to the car park congestion, the start had been delayed by 15 minutes (oooh, just like a Premier League fixture!).  We were all pretty chilly by then so we were all willing for the gun to start.  Was it a gun?  Did somone shout go?  I seriously cant remember now!  Anyhow, everyone as a mass just started running.  As you can see from the first pic, the start/finish straight was along a valley floor, so all 467 starting runners were all trying to get on the flat but avoiding the moving mass.

So as I started running, I found it hard to get going.  You have no sense of what pace you're running and you sort of follow the crowd.  I remember glancing down at my Garmin and seeing I was running 9 min/mile pace and I know from previous off-road club runs with the Plums that my off-road comfortable pace is about 9:15-9:20 min/mile pace so I know I didnt go off too fast but after that first 400-500 yards, the track kicks off left and up a sharp climb.  I just tried to keep the same pace, keep my breathing in a regular rhythmn but it was really off putting to see people already walking ahead of me.  Was it that steep?  Had they gone off too fast?  Had I gone off too slow?  All these things were flying through my head when really all I should have been doing was settling into a regular pace and forgetting about everything else.

So at the top of the climb, the route kicks right and ahead a drag of monstrous proportions, well it felt like it!  The HR was already up around mid 160bpm by then and seeing the drag in front brought one thought to the forefront of my mind..."Why the f*ck was I killing myself on a Sunday morning?!"  I guess I'm an adrenaline junky like that but with fear lol.

The drag was brutal.  I kept my head down, not looking too far ahead so blank the hill out (as I do when I'm cycling!) and kept pumping the legs.  The blood rush around my body, the heart was clearly pumping by then too.  HR up to 173-174, so close to going into the red.  Got to the top of the drag which took us up to the top of the Valley and then the course drops down hill and then kicks up again before dropping back down to the finish.

Now what with the heavy rain earlier that morning, the mud by now was a major hazard.  Not so much for being sticky but for being slippery.  Have you ever tried running down a hill whereby the gradient and gravity pulls you down the hill and you try to keep your legs turning over to stop you falling over?  Yeah?  It was pretty much like that.  Not so much an issue on the first lap but by the second lap, the quads and calves were working overtime to overcome the lactic acid brought on my the second time up the drag.

The drag on the second lap was agony.  There is no other word that comes close.  Maybe torture would do.  The HR was around 170 at the bottom and was well into the red by the top.

[One thing that sticks in the mind when writing this up is the sheer number of people that were stopping to catch their breaths on the second trawl up the drag.  It really was brutal.  However, I can hold my head high and say that I kept on going and didnt walk at any point, although my climb up the drag that second time round wouldnt have been that far off from walking pace!]

Coming down the final hill, you can see the finish straight and it dawns on you that its actually another drag.  As I came down the hill, I could see there were two guys close behind and they were both closing on me so I rather than take the outside route where it was less muddly, I came down on a central line so if they were going to pass me, I wasnt going to make it easy for them.

On the final straight both had closed within 10 yards of me but I did manage to find a sprint finish that Mo Farah would have been proud of.  I came over the line in 344th place with a time of 50:25 for the 5.6 mile course and in all honesty, I could have been sick on the spot.  The course was brutal but in a peverse way, I loved every minute of the pain.

Here's my Garmin dump...just check out the average HR!


The Plums done great, as you can see:

All positions need to be adjusted by 1 place upwards as the 2nd place runner forgot to take his placing number!

For my Plums cross country debut, I'm happy with that.  I didnt really know what to expect but I certainly do now.

Having looked at all the off-road runs I've done with the Plums over the summer, the KFL race was the quickest I've managed to run off-road as you can see from this table extracted from Garmin Connect...

Off road runs over 5 miles...Click to Expand

So all in all, it was a great day.  Roll on the next one at Swanley Park in November.  It appears I have Izzy that weekend so maybe some baby-sitting jiggery-pokery will be required unless I can bring her with me :)

Me at the top of the first climb...blowing out of my backside lol

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