A really nice cross country course and, despite an apocolyptical weather forecast, both races were run in the quiet window between rain squalls with the temperature well above freezing. The ground was wet enough but nothing like the quagmire of last year. However, the wind was biting and the knee-deep stream crossing on each lap made up for those disappointed at the good weather as they were particularly looking forward to such extreme experiences. Duncan and I were taking an enforced injury-break for this one but could acquire a taste for watching the endeavours of others (bit worried about what that means).
The women’s race saw a quick break-away by the first four and some who tried to follow looked to be in difficulties after the first lap. Fortunately our canny five didn’t over-extend themselves and, lead by Ceri D, started to push at the end of the first lap. Ceri moved up from 20th to 15th (excluding the junior men), hunting down each one with remorseless concentration. Tracey followed her example, looking particularly good on the sharp hill out of the stream, and managing to finish 26th. She managed to pull away from Emma who was in cruise-mode, dreaming of hills and an extra 10 miles, but Emma still wandered through the field into 32nd. Katy was right to start cautiously and passed about twenty from the first mile to the third but then was hanging on grimly, glad of the lack of hills, to finish 43rd. Menai looked strong and comfortable but, like Emma, could have benefited from an even tougher course. I estimate that she was about 70th. The big question is whether the 116 points here is good enough to put the team into contention for a podium finish at Oswestry in three weeks time. Postscript:- team position here was 3rd, bringing the overall position for the championship up to 4th, just 5 points behind Buckley, and 5 points ahead of Prestatyn.
The men have a new younger look. Just by Duncan and Chris being sidelined, the average age plummeted, which was good considering that 3 laps at remarkable speed is getting to be a long way for the elderly. Some work needs to be done to get rid of M60 Fred who pulled through surprisingly well after looking in difficulties on the second lap, and his meritorious 108th should disqualify him from any sympathy he expects for going all that way and not being a counter. Tony B (99th) was really trying, as befits a man who knows he is 6th counter for the team and on a course which doesn’t suit his style, and he was up with people who were a minute or two quicker on a dry 5 miles last summer. Looking well in control, but another one missing the long hills, was Owen in 84th. Owen started the last lap unable even to see Tom (68th) and David B (71st) but seemed to get a lot closer by the end. David and Tom were locked into an old-fashioned battle in which the other runners became just the furniture which they had to go round to keep up with each other. It will be interesting to see whether Tony W (absent on Dad-duties) can shake up this cosy twosome in the next race. Which leaves Glen (52nd) and Shaun (36th) who deserve their mention in dispatches as being up with the main bunch and continually looking to improve their places against impressive opposition. I’m sure that the return to six counters for the men in division two means that this was our best performance this year. Postscript:- Yes indeed! 2nd in this race and up to 3rd for the Series in Division 2.