The Winter Cross Ultra – with REAL SNOW!!!

Welcome back! I’m sure you’ve all missed me…. I haven’t posted for a while because, to be honest, after not completing the OCC I was a bit down about it all and knew I needed to get away from running a bit and then it would all be OK !

Since September I’ve done a bit of cycling (a few wiggle events) but still haven’t graduated to clippy cloppy shoes. I’m having swimming lessons to learn how to do front crawl properly! It’s not going that well when my swimming can best be described as… imagine an elephant in a swimming pool, he’s under water with his trunk sticking out and someone puts a cork in it and he panics!!! That’s me in all my glory ! (And no the trunk reference is not something I’m not supposed to be doing in a pool alongside heavy petting and bombing!!!)

Anyway, a second wind running post appeared on facebook in December and I just thought f£ck it, what’s the worse that can happen! I’ve done it before and enjoyed it, I get a day to myself wandering around the south downs and the way the race organiser was to me last year I kind of thought I should repay his faith. So the night before, the usual packing of the race vest etc then placed my entire wardrobe of jumpers etc in a bag (as it looked a bit chilly), set the alarm and went to bed quite peacefully!

Morning of the event, got up, baked beans on toast (new pre-match breakfast that was quite good actually) and went to de-ice the car! Lost feeling in my hands so went back in to our bedroom (I had been sent to the spare room the night before so I didn’t wake up my wife when I left), to wake her up and get even more jumpers!!!

Parking is easy at the event, 5 minute walk away but directions post race to get back to the car park would be amazing as always a challenge.

Village hall, grab a chair and dump your stuff on and under it and get ready. All very easy and low key. Saw the speedy runners from the running club who were getting all ready to go and then by luck Linda and Julie came next to where I was (I’m not saying they’re not speedy before I get a complaint letter…) and we entered into pre-race nervous jokes! The highlight was Linda showing us the new “chest” she’d been bought for christmas!!! I was quite impressed to be honest, until I realised it was a new running rucksack with pockets in all the right places. I vassed up (one for the ladies) and got ready for the race briefing.

Phil’s briefing was to the point and mentioned ice a number of times… I therefore reviewed my 74 jumpers for appropriateness – not one was worn in the race, but at least they had a nice day out!

The race starts with an out and back 9k along the old railway line with a lake you have to cross (actually a large puddle) but for dramatic effect we had to build a bridge to cross the lake whilst alligators nipped at our heels! This for me, is always the weird bit of the race as it’s necessary to spread the field and gets 10k under your belt but always feels a bit of a “OK, lets get this done then we can start proper). Anyway all good, nipped into the hall to get my race vest on and grabbed some food from the aid station in the hall (very good as always and the creme eggs were inspirational!!!).

Leg 2 is a 20k out and back over Winchester hill and some other hills and then a few more. Lovely part of the course and the most enjoyable for me. Alright it’s hard work but the views are just awesome and on a day like that:

I kept singing (like a madman), walking through the snow, like a one horse open sleigh…. Probably should have been looking for signs rather than singing, as missed a turn up a hill and went for a little detour…

Leg 2 is brilliant and got to the aid station after a little fall on the ice and replenished on crisps, sweets, biscuits, jam sandwiches etc and headed back to the base to start leg 3. I met some lovely people on this leg of the course, a gentlemen who was big into speed walking (and god could he walk fast), a guy doing his first ultra who I was so pleased finished when I checked the results and a lady who helped me run a bit when I didn’t want to and got me going to base that little bit quicker!

Leg 3 is an out and back over Beacon Hill, it just never stops that hill !!! But I knew from last year, going down is when it really hurts! I also had some company as my wife came with me for a bit of the leg, I think mostly because she was bored at home and wanted to see snow!. At the time I phrased it as “you’re like a dog you are, you love to be walked”… We’re still together and she took some good photos!!!

As you can see from the photo, I’ve looked better, but 30 odd km in I was actually feeling OK! Got to the aid station and the lovely couple (not sure if they’re dating – apologies if not) made me a coffee which I washed down with sweets, biscuits, crisps, basically whatever my grubby little fingers could get hold of and headed to the finish! Only 11km to go…

Linda and Julie had been no more than 5 minutes behind me the whole race but this time it was more than 20 minutes and I could only see Julie coming. When we crossed she explained that Linda had to stop due to illness but that she had to get going as she didn’t have much time and was worried about the ice etc. The ice had started to get bad again. I reassured her and said I’m sure Phil would do what he could to get her to the finish so not to worry and be safe. Weirdly I then spent the next 11km worrying about her and thinking I should have stopped and waited for her to go the aid station and come back to me and carried on with her. I think in hindsight that’s what I would do next time. This is not some macho thing as she’s bigger and scarier than me (I guess that’s not helping…) but whether I finish 20 minutes before or after, who cares.

Anyway, got to the trig point (I think that’s what they’re called) where I knew I was in the final straight.

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On a separate note, I think race directors should think about those of us with a bit of timber in the belly area, as putting a number there really doesn’t help the look!!! I also have no idea what sort of pose I’m pulling here either, even my number is at a jaunty angle…

Finished the last bit and the hill destroyed my legs and came through to the finish where the lovely marshal’s unwrapped my medal and put the dinner plate round my neck. What a medal!!!

Got to the hall which was just lovely, where I had a bit of a moment and had a lay down (low blood sugar), then attacked the soup and roll with the gusto of someone who hadn’t spent the day eating whatever was in front of him…

Gem had to leave and I thought I should wait for Julie in case she needed a lift home. I then forgot about her as I got sorted and then saw her out of the corner of my eye finishing. I’m afraid I ran over (OK, ambled at pace, OK, dragged my legs there) and gave her a massive bear hug! It’s exactly what you want after a race when you can’t breathe… a lot of Stefan squeezing the air out of you whilst he has the personal hygiene smell of a dead hyena! To do the race anyway, wow, to do the last leg at the speed she did, wow and to do a chunk of it in the dark and alone, hero status!

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Another big shout out to the speedy Hedgies (makes it sound like hedgehogs with an engine under their spikes) who consistently high fived me as they passed on the switchbacks. How they run that fast I have no idea but to then summon the energy to encourage etc is brilliant – means a lot.

So, if you’re in any doubt about the race, sign up. If you like a great trail, some awesome views, lovely people and a race crew who smile a lot and feed you even more, you know what to do ! google – second wind running, winter cross ultra and press enter!

As for next year’s goals, no idea. This year didn’t go to plan but I’ve had some awesome experiences and met some amazing people. Looking back on it, the key is being outdoors and doing stuff whether that’s in trainers, on a bike, whatever!!! I’ll step away from the alcohol now but Happy New Year to you and yours.

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