Frostbite Friendly League – Race 5: Bourne Woods

Weeks have passed since round 5 of the Friendly Frostbite League Series: The mud has been washed off everything but my trainers (lazy me), the post race aches have dispersed and I’ve finally shaken off the flu.

One thing sticks though. The ringing in my ears… Oh the noise

Bourne hosted the fifth instalment and I gingerly pace up to the start line where I’m joined by another 406 seniors.

We’ve just been treated to the juniors’ ‘1 and a bit mile’ race, with the last stretch of their course being a mudfest. Watching them I’m thankful I’m wearing my ‘Mudclaws’…

I’ve managed only a single run in the last week, having bravely fought off The Man Flu… It was touch and go and at one point doctors had given up hope… But here I am. A survivor.

Now, my feet hurt, my head hurts, it’s cold and I’m full of worry. Pessimism reigns and I’ve been keen to tell myself I’m just here for the team… I’m supporting ‘Wifey’ who’s running after a brief hiatus… I’m not going to race… Easing back into it…

To support this plan, I place myself a good few rows from the front and await the starter’s orders to “go”.

Climbing the first hill, all my attention is directed toward my feet, (sore and cold). My inability to multitask shines through – I have forgotten about the ‘No Racing Plan’ plan – and instinctively respond to another runner’s quickening pace as we hit flat ground.

I match him stride for stride and within half a mile I’ve broken him, aiming for my next target. Another mile passes – having watched Mr Halford speed off into the distance – I hit a good rhythm and am sat in 9th position.

The course takes us firstly along ‘mildly hilly‘ bike trails, under the cover of thick woods, and then into the muddy stuff. Around mile 2, after descending  down a gentle hill, I take a sharp left and am presented with a mass of wet, boggy mud. Two totally conflicting emotions hit me at once:

  1. Absolute glee. I wish there’s a group of runners alongside me to soak as I run right through the middle of it.
  2. Crippling guilt. I’ve thoroughly downplayed the “muddy aspects” of the Bourne Woods Frostbite race to ‘Wifey’… I imagine what this swamp will look like when ‘Wifey’ reaches this point after more feet have churned it up further. I think about her nerves of running again… And of her wearing her racing flats… I decide to buy some chocolate on the way home…

These thoughts come thick and fast, interrupted sharply as I emerge into the open ground and spot 8th position. This new carrot dangles – the ‘No Racing Plan’ plan nothing but a distant whisper – and I smell blood noticing his dwindling pace; another example of an optimistic starter, paying the price as the half way mark is passed.

Looping around an open field I approach the woods again, taking 8th place before descending to the shadows of the trees, across a solid stone track. Another long hill follows and finally, with a mile and a half (ish) to go, my body and brain unite to mock me: “No Racing? What a ridiculous plan for you not to follow!”

Back in the woods and I’m more scared of the two downhill sections (with the final right at the finish) than the two uphill sections, as I know it’s during these decents I will lose time compared to the other runners. Regardless, I stay focussed on the track ahead; resisting the urge to look over my shoulder.

Once I beat the second climb I glimpse the finish line below me and sensing that there’s no one close behind me, I need not kick out, crossing the line in 8th place.

Caked in mud I steadily jog partway up the hill I’ve just ran down to cheer on my teammates. I find my daughter, armed with a cow bell which is swiftly, and unapologetically, confiscated for my own use. As ECR teammates finish, they quickly join us to cheer on the remaining runners and a Vevuzela is introduced to the mix; unfortunately toted by an ex swimmer who need not draw breath, resulting in a constant barrage to everyone’s eardrums.

I see ‘Wifey’ descending the hill and am pleased to spot a smile on her face. I suspect this is due to the barrage of noise created as she approaches the finish line, and not the mud  that covers her legs. 

Cake helps draw this Frostbite Friendly to a satisfying conclusion. But not before I’m naively led toward a harmless looking puddle next to the finish line, only realising its true depth after I’ve jumped into it, the water reaching my thighs.

A mud bath for the skin. An ice bath for the muscles. Two birds, well and truely killed…

Obligatory pre race photo

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