Tag Archives: Team AR XC

Fourth cross-country fixture: maracas & mud 

On Saturday the 11th of February I took part in the fourth and final Surrey XC League fixture of the season with the Advent Running team. Before heading to Lloyd Park to run our 8k race some of us joined the girls at Happy Valley Park to encourage them around what was a tough course, not helped by the snow. Lorna and I met up with most of the girls at London Bridge to get the train to Coulsdon South or as Ben Rajan aptly named it Coldsdon South. We arrived in plenty of time which was good as we still had a bit of a trek to get to the start area and then to the nearest car park/toilets. As I normally run in the same races as Lorna it’s not very often I get to support her, however when I have cheered it’s been great fun. It was nice for some of us to be able to repay the favour as lots of the girls cheered us on at Clapham Common, Epsom Downs and Cranford Park.

I always find cross-country days funny; the first few hours seem to drag on but once you’ve started travelling to the race and met up with the group/team time disappears. The girls sorted their race vests & numbers before doing a quick warm up. With just a couple of minutes to go they shed their warm layers and headed for the start line.

Before we knew it they were charging off at what I would describe as “It’s so bloody cold, let’s get this done” pace. Normally when I’m watching races/supporting I feel left out and want to be taking part, not this time. I was more than happy to be in warm clothes, shouting useless words of support and shaking some maracas.

Photo courtesy of Abi Williams @afloralcrown

We positioned ourselves near a slippery chicane in a bid to get good photos and give the girls a lift before they zoomed down the hill into the second lap.

The girls ran really well in what were horrible conditions, I don’t think they could believe their luck with the bad weather. After their third fixture they all said the conditions were “brutal” and “really muddy and hilly” but apparently this course was a lot tougher due to the long hills and ploughed fields.

As the men’s race started at 2pm we had to depart after cheering the girls around one lap. We opted to jog to the train station to loosen our legs up. With the large snowflakes falling on our faces it felt like we were on some sort of arctic expedition, far from it really. We jumped on the tram from East Croydon to Lloyd Park before sorting our race numbers and vests, using a couple of cars for a bag drop (thanks Matt and Sarah). Claudia and some of the other girls arrived before the start so they showed us where the hilliest and muddiest parts of the course were. It’s always good to do a bit of a recce so you can roughly work out how to pace yourself. With 5 minutes until the start I stripped down to race vest and split shorts and did a few strides to try and keep warm. Luckily the weather was much clearer in Lloyd Park than in “Happy” Valley Park, there was no snow to be seen. As we walked to the start line I was really excited to get going but at the same time I was a little sad as it was the last fixture of the season. Similarly to the third fixture I positioned myself near the front alongside Martin Harris with the rest of the AR team just behind us. After a short announcement from the organisers we were on our way.

The first kilometre was relatively flat resulting in a split of 3:33. Over the four fixtures I’ve found it interesting learning how to pace the races, trying to take the mud and hills into consideration. The pace felt fast for the first couple of kilometres but I was feeling good and I’d decided I would get the first lap done then either ease off if need be or push on. Unfortunately after about a kilometre and a half one of my shoe laces came undone, rookie. I mustn’t have tied it tight enough due to having freezing cold hands. I was in two minds whether to stop and attempt to tie it back up or chance it and hope my shoe wouldn’t come off in the mud. I opted for the latter having weighed up the pros and cons, I figured I’d probably struggle to tie it up again giving my hands felt like icicles and the laces were covered in mud. It would’ve been like taking on a challenge in the cube. Luckily the next few kilometres went by quickly a) because I was thinking about my laces and b) I was chasing Martin down.

Photos courtesy of Claudi @claudi8s & Lorna @lorns_runs

The first lap went by pretty quickly; it definitely helped having the AR lot making a racket (I mean playing their musical instruments to an incredible standard) and cheering the team on. I closed the gap on Martin as we entered the second lap; we were side by side for a kilometre or so. Then came the short sharp muddy climb that we had recced, I think we both knew if one of us could push on after the climb that would be it as the rest of the course was relatively flat.

We both dug deep to get to the top of the hill, my legs were surprisingly feeling ok so I got back onto a quick pace to open up a gap and push on. There was no looking back; I started to think about catching two of the other runners to put myself in with the chance of finishing top of the individual standings in the league. They were a couple of hundred metres ahead of me so they were a good target to chase for the remainder of the race. For a kilometre or so I maintained the gap knowing that within the last 1,000m or so there was a downhill stretch into the finish. Having some energy left in the tank I started upping my pace, I opened up my stride.

After getting through muddy sections and up sharp hills it was great to be on the home straight and to let fly. I closed the gap on the two runners but unfortunately couldn’t quite catch them.

I crossed the finish line in 5th place (2nd in Division 4) in 29:41.


Martin finished in 7th (3rd in Division 4) claiming the top spot in the individual standings. If you’re reading this well done mate you were so strong and super consistent throughout the season, it’s been great fun racing with you. The whole team smashed it again!

Division 4 champions!

Team results


Our 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

7th: James Poole

11th: Ben Rajan

14th: Adam Lennox

15th James Brewster

22nd: Rory Campbell

30th: Matt Hanson

32nd: Robin Davies

Here’s how the girls got on:

Team results


Our 10 scorers

12th: Claudia Schroegel (ADV A)

19th: Svenja Espenhahn (ADV A)

21st: Melanie McKay (ADV A)

23rd: Alice Milne (ADV A)

28th: Lorna Elliott (ADV A)

36th: Sarah McCarthy (ADV B)

62nd: Julia Mitchelmore (ADV B)

71st: Emma Finch (ADV B)

78th: Nikki Rees (ADV B)

80th: Claire Weustenraed (ADV B)

I’ve really enjoyed the cross-country races with the Advent Running team; I can’t wait for next season. A massive thank you has to go to James and Claudia for organising everything. It has been great to see everyone enjoying themselves racing around on the mud.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Third Cross-country fixture: flat as a pancake

On Saturday the 14th of January I took part in the third Surrey Cross-country league fixture. It was held at Cranford Park, not too far from Heathrow. As the race start time was 2:30pm I had the morning to relax and I travelled with Lorna to Blackfriars to meet the girls before they headed to Lloyds Park for their race starting at 12 o’clock. I killed some time by grabbing food and reading some of Like the Wind mag issue 11.

I travelled to Paddington to meet a fair few of the lads, this included Dean and Alan, they were taking part in their first cross-country fixture with the AR team. It just so happened they’d done the Run Through Victoria Park 10k & Half Marathon respectively, so they were well warmed up. Initially when I found out the race was at Cranford Park I thought it would be a mission to get to, but it turned out to be a 15 minute train journey to Hayes & Harlington followed by a mile walk. The walk took us over part of the route; it was good to see what the terrain was like.

I always get excited about cross-country races. I look forward to seeing what the course will be like, will there be really muddy/boggy sections, and large hills etc to contend with. Simon Hazel had done some research for the team; he ran the route a couple of days prior to the race so we knew the route was flat as a pancake. We all sorted our race vests and numbers and then jogged part of the route to loosen our legs. I was feeling in good shape, I had completed a good track session on Tuesday, a quick ten mile tempo on Thursday evening and a good shakeout run commute on Friday morning in the lead up to the race. After the warm up we de-layered and made our way to the start line for the pre-race briefing.

With the knowledge of the course being flat and having finished highly in the previous two fixtures Martin Harris and I positioned ourselves on the start line with the rest of the team just behind us. Despite knowing there was a section that was firm and included stones through some trees I opted to test out my new Brooks Mach spikes as I am planning to wear them for the Southern Cross-country champs at Parliament Hill on the 28th of January.

Luckily the majority of the course was soft so I could test them properly. The route ran around the outside of Cranford Park, there were a couple of long straights before the winding section through the trees near the end of each lap. The 8k course was over three and a bit laps.

We were sent on our way; I started off at around 3:30min/km pace following Martin and Paul Piper (a friend, running for West 4 Harriers in Division 3). Immediately I was finding that my spikes were giving me good traction especially compared to other runners in trail shoes along one of the long straights which was boggy and included a large puddle. It was funny seeing each runner negotiate the puddle; some would skirt around it but most went straight through. Having seen other runners go through it and not sink I ploughed straight through. With soaking feet I pushed on along the west side of the park before heading into the trees. At this point I was still following Martin and Paul, this was the only section where I regretted having spikes on. Every now and then I would land on a stone and could feel a spike pushing up into my foot, not ideal but bearable for about 1km. Once out of the trees I knew I could pick up the pace on the grass along the straights and so passed Martin and Paul heading into the second lap.

Once I’d run one lap I knew which sections to push on and where I’d have to take it steady. I went through the puddle for the second time with no issues and held a good pace through the trees, trying to surge around the corners so if anyone was behind me I would be further away when they turned the corner. It’s all about the racing tactics ha. I finished my second lap and got cheers from Tony To (unfortunately had to drop out due to cramp) and Emily (Deans girlfriend). I was feeling really good at this point and knew I could maintain my pace for another 2.5k or so, I was really enjoying the run. With some energy left in the tank I picked up the pace on the home straight, I managed to finish 2nd in Division 4 in 27:45.

Shortly after I crossed the line Paul and Martin came through the line, they both ran good times and scored well.

I caught up with Tony and Emily; we cheered the rest of the lads through the finish and watched some great sprint finishes. We were keeping an eye on how many of our runners crossed the line as opposed to Woking (our nearest rivals in the league). There were a lot more black and green vests finishing before orange and green so we knew we’d extended our lead at the top of the league. Job done.

Here’s the team results:

Our top 10 scorers

2nd: me

3rd: Martin Harris

5th: Mark Parry

8th: Ben Rajan

12th: Adam Lennox

15th: Nic Wuthrich

25th Alan Gardiner

28th Simon Phillips

31st: Matt Hanson

33rd: Rory Campbell

A massive well done to the girls team over at Lloyds Park in the snow. They smashed it! Lorna had a great run and really enjoyed it, she finished as the second AR runner behind Claudi.



Note: Emma Wallace = Lorna
It was a great day for Team AR XC on the whole! I can’t wait for the final fixture now.

See a lot of you soon

Steve

Second Cross-country fixture: Much more mud

On Saturday the 12th of November I took part in my second cross country race. It was held at Epsom Downs racecourse. With there being heavy rain the few days prior to the fixture I knew that conditions would be muddy underfoot, especially compared to the first race around Wimbledon Common. I was excited to be racing on softer terrain and experience more normal cross country conditions.

With the race starting at 3pm a group of us got the 12:30ish train from Victoria. There were mini groups of Team AR (AR collective/advent running) XC heading to the racecourse from different stations. We arrived in plenty of time and all convened at Beefeater just opposite the start area. Some of our runners got their pre-race coffee fix and we kept warm for as long as possible. Once James arrived with the team vests etc we headed to the car to pin on our race numbers and drop our bags.

I opted to test out my Salomon Speedcross 4s. I think you can guess if this is pre or post race.

We then headed around the first part of the route, as we did at the first fixture. This was a) to warm up (definitely needed in the cold weather due to the wind) and b) to do some course research. Having learnt from the first race most of our team positioned themselves near the front of the pack. As JP mentioned it’s probably best to be overtaken by a few people than have to go around a load of other runners if you start too far back. Before the start everyone observed a minutes silence for the two girls who tragically lost their lives earlier in the week whilst out running. I think the whole running community has been shocked and deeply saddened by the event, my thoughts go out to all their friends and family.

3..2..1..GO! We were off, hundreds of runners stampeding down the racecourse like horses. Mud and sand flicking up our legs, that initial heavy breathing to get into a good position and on a good pace. The first kilometre or so was fun, jostling for a good line around the first few corners and down a couple of sharp slopes. Once we hit the first couple of inclines everyone had spread out and there was more room to breath. Initially there were four or five Team AR runners within a couple hundred metres. The course was nice and varied and there was only really one long steady incline. At this point I was chasing JP and Martin and wanted to close up with them in the next few kilometres.

Once back on a flatter section after approximately 3k I passed James. I then set my sights on reeling in Martin and overtaking as many other runners as possible. As I found with the first fixture I find it really motivating to be chasing people down as opposed to running for a time which is normally the case with road races.

Photo courtesy of Emily @em_runs_

I completed the first lap and was feeling good, my legs felt light but strong. I enjoyed the first section of the lap again, with more space to choose the racing line. I passed a few runners on the long incline and was gradually closing the gap to Martin. I knew if I could get close to him I would place pretty highly. With a couple of kilometres to go I upped my pace and continued to close the gap. The last kilometre being slightly downhill I pushed and overtook a few rivals. I just about managed to out kick a few runners and finished two seconds behind Martin.

Photo courtesy of Sarah @stella_runs

We congratulated each other on another great run and cheered the rest of the lads through the finish line. It wasn’t long before JP and Brewster were flying passed us. The team was super consistent again and I knew we’d be in with a chance of winning the fixture. It wasn’t as emphatic as our 90 point gap last time out but we still won by 7 or so points to increase our lead at the top. Great running lads! To be fair we were aided by having an awesome cheer crew with all sorts of musical instruments.

Once we’d all finished we tucked into some awesome AR XC branded cupcakes made by Roland and family, they were delicious. That is what cross country is all about, racing hard and enjoying the carmarederie. Overall it was a great outing and I can’t wait for the next fixture already, here’s hoping for even more mud!

See a lot of you soon

Steve