Those of you who know me in real life will know that I rather like to be on time. And by 'on time' I mean 'there in plenty of time.' And by 'there in plenty of time' I really mean 'there so long before the appointed hour that all my friends officially hate me and and, if I am honest, I am a little bit bored too!' This is the reason that I didn't rush back to sign up for the Hogs Back Road Race - I was still suffering from the trauma of almost not making it to the start line due to the nightmare parking scenario!
However, after 3 days away with my fledgling CCF contingent I needed something to look forward to and my partner in crime had put the idea into my head. The race was cheap(ish) and local(ish) and as I'd fallen into the exhausted sleep that anyone who has been a lead teacher on a school residential trip will recognise before 8.30pm I was up early enough to get there in plenty of time. They must have sorted out the parking in the 4 years since I'd last run this event.
They hadn't. The last quarter of a mile took AGES! For a big venue (Loseley Park) that must have lots of carparks, getting all the race entrants to park on the muddy crass either side of the drive made for very slow going. I get that the venue might want to keep its carparks free for the regular patrons, but with a 9am start most of us would be leaving before the Sunday morning rush started. I gingerly parked my car on the grass, offered a quick prayer to the parking gods that my car wouldn't get stuck in the mud (we'd seen a few people pushing cars that had got stuck already) and made our way to collect our numbers. I was keen to get to the front of the port-a-loo queue. I say keen, but really I was suffering after 3 days of army catering - otherwise known as 'how many fried meals can I throw down my throat in 3 days!' They queues for the loos weren't too bad, mainly because most people were still queuing to park!
The wind was bitter at the start, I kept my fleece on. There was no pre race brief, no count down, we were milling around near the start and then suddenly we were off! The first bit was downhill, on the estate roads and then we were on country lanes and it became a bit more undulating. I used one short, sharp, steep section halfway up a long steady climb as an excuse to walk a few paces and remove my fleece. The first half is the tougher half of the race, as you can see by the graph below, and I will admit that I may have walked for a few brief sections on that two mile hill climb.
For a road race, I ended up with an awful lot of mud on the back of my legs! There are two off road sections and the recent rain had ensured that there were plenty of lovely muddy puddles to splash through. But at least it was predominantly downhill for the second half. At 9km my shoe lace decided to come undone. That has never happened before and I know I double tied it as normal. Trying to tie a shoelace with gloves on is tricky, but I double knotted it, cursed about the fact that two women I had worked hard to past had snuck past me again and set out to run the last 2.4km. I managed to catch both those women up again, so all was no lost. I finished about 7 minutes faster than the last time I ran this event, which given the lack of sleep and shockingly bad nutrition I am happy with.
I spent most of the race trying to do the mental maths involved in converting 11.4k (or whatever portion I had left to run) into miles. And failing.
At 11k I spotted a school friend (as in a friend I was at school with rather than a friend from my current school) who was there to support her husband and some friends. Just 0.4k to go... I over took a few people on the way and threw myself over the finish line, collecting my medal and getting my chip removed. The Sun was shining and it was quite pleasant waiting at the finish, until the clouds rolled over! It took ages to get out of the 'car park' - post race faffing and getting out of the car park took longer than the actual race!
This is a great race, but it is let down by the poor organisation of the parking.