Rail2Trail race reports (4 in 1) from Lucy Wood
I will try not to make this sound too much like an Oscar award winner’s speech, and please forgive any grammatical errors (I may teach but I’m not perfect!) So The Trailscape, Rail to Trail series the 10k version! The locations are; Essex near Stansted; Cuxton in Kent; Ashhurst, near Tunbridge Wells and Wendover in Buckinghamshire. They also have marathons (two loops of half marathon course) and half marathons for each event with varied starting times. All races can be run by Canicross runners.
So trail is my baby I love it! Yes me the girl who didn’t like finger painting at preschool or eating with her fingers without washing them instantly! But I was talked into it by Liz Law and Laura Roberts and we were going to complete all 4 together! So I signed up, Liz signed up and somehow Laura missed the boat…So off Liz and I trot to the other side of Essex to see what this Trailscape thing was all about (I had heard good things from Vicky Irvine). Essex was relatively flat and mudless but it did go across fields and fields that were rutty and pitted and had a surprise uphill very near the end!
Cuxton was race number two and with new trail shoes yet to be trialled! Liz and Laura had both signed up for this gem! I knew the area as I used to live 5 minutes away from Cuxton before I had even dreamt of running or walking around in mud and thought a Flyer was a bird! Week of the race…Liz and Laura became ill, so James stepped in and raced with me (a domestic waiting to happen). Well a month after Essex and a considerable amount of rain this was muddy and was during the strong winds there was a point, on top of one of the many hills, that I was actually blown into James. Did I give up? Did I strop out at my over enthusiastic husband? Hell no! I found my inner ultra runner and walked up the ridiculous hills (there were too many to count) and just for Maggie I windmilled down, in particular, a very slippery muddy one that was stopping others in their tracks. I even remember little ol’ me giving advice to a lady who was squealing and saying she couldn’t do it! (I had a mini flashback to a moment over at Hadleigh, where I shouted the same thing to Keith) So I gave her the same advice I was given…’relax into it and don’t fight it’. By now there was no stopping me, I was embracing the hills, I had a huge smile on my face, I had even adopted a new squelchy mud running style…the spider! (A special mention goes to Paul Heard who completed the Marathon distance of this race…hardcore! My hat goes off to you!)
So two down, two to go! Dare I say I now wasn’t panicked about going to a race…I was actually enjoying them! So race number three at Ashurst was at the end of January, Liz was back and so was the mud! This was the muddiest race so far…I can’t really remember much of the course truth be told. I just remember the relief for the gravel type path at the turn around point so ease our tired legs from become unstuck in the depth of mud. I also remember the mental cross hill part of the course which only sheep would have enjoyed! I might have one leg longer than the other but running across a hill was not fun! And I lost count of the amount of sties which is where my only big moan will come…yes they are an inconvenience but the faster runners did get very impatient waiting for others to cross particularly the canicross runners. One lady ran straight past the queue (very British) and jumped straight over! The cheek!
So final race…Liz couldn’t race this one and Laura had dropped of the racing circuit. I couldn’t rope anyone else in as there was only room on the waiting list! I had to do this alone! Well I don’t run to run alone…I run to chat and encourage, and do jazz hands for photos not to actually race or be on my own!! This was serious! So race day an hour and a half drive from Southend, through a blizzard, I was less than confident and I’m not sure how I didn’t turn around or how I got out of the front door come to think of it! Actually I do know, it was the OCD in me wanting the complete medal (picture to follow and you will understand why) and I knew I would be upset with myself. Luckily with this being trail you are allowed headphone unless crossing a road…this is where my report starts sounding like an Oscars speech.
So on James’ advice I took my MP3 player and headphones so I could have music to get my focused and so I could sing in my head (that is my idea not his). I love a good sing-song so with pure 80s cheese preloaded I was in my element for a few hours…except for the running alone problem. The race started on a concrete road uphill, my trail shoes were less than happy and my legs didn’t seem to appreciate it either! So this uphill lasted for the best part of a mile! Yes a whole mile! When I saw the running goddess that is Amanda Stevens (and Diesel) walking I knew that I was being true to my inner athlete and as the well known saying goes what comes up…well in this case it just kept going up and up and up there were no downs!!! But there were beautiful views.
So by now I had sang some of my favourite songs and found some of the muddiest puddles I have encountered this is when I heard the pro advice from fellow trailscape runner Paul Heard after my virgin trail run…’take the racing line you will make up loads of time whilst everyone else runs around them.’ Now was the chance to put this to the test I had been gaining on a runner on every, relatively, flat bit and we were at mile 3 but she was quicker walking up hills! So I ran like a women possessed through every muddy, squelchy, slippery puddle I could find, obviously only if it was on the racing line, I had her but I couldn’t let her catch me so I just kept going. I even found myself smiling at this!
Next was to take the couple that had overtaken me and I had caught up on numerous occasions, usually when she had stopped and was saying she couldn’t do it. I couldn’t let her beat me! I found her weakness…the slippy mud! There was plenty of this, and she had no trail shoes!! That was all I needed to make the push through across the top of the Chiltern Hills. I was still wondering where the downhill was but it didn’t matter as I had a new challenge. Every time I got along side she picked up her pace then…One direction hit my ears, what makes you beautiful! This is all I needed not because it was terrible because this is my happy song and I was off! Just as I overtook we started going downhill…we must be near the finish!!
So not only was I in my happy singing place, I also found my inner gazelle and I was bounding down a slightly slippy decline (still taking the racing line). Again just as in Kent people were struggling they clearly hadn’t had Flyer training from Keith and Maggie!! At the bottom there was a turn right directional Trailscape sign…the home straight? NO only the hill I’d just run down! Slightly deflated I started the incline with a half marathon runner who commented on my downhill running style (very complimentary if you are a bunny), he then ran past once up the top the gravel path led over a sty and another downhill…and bunny man was in sight! So I ran past squealing that I had no breaks (but that’s what the gate was for at the bottom, right?). I apologised to a fellow 10k runner, who was leisurely running down the hilly field, through the gate and the concrete road towards the finish the gate had blown my momentum and I was struggling to channel my inner gazelle so instead I channelled my inner Anne…SPRINT FINISH at all costs I couldn’t feel my legs it was all about the arms! I admit I didn’t use any lateral thorax breathing at this point! But I was finished and I burst into tears…I had run, alone…I had been competitive…I had listened to, remembered and followed others advice…but…I had enjoyed it! I was happy 🙂
Would I do it again, absolutely. Amazingly organised, great trails and super medals and t-shirts to all finishers. My only complaint not enough photographers to jazz hands and jump at! I now apologise for the length of this, I am being moaned at by James as it is taking too long and is longer than Scotty’s Essex 20 report and I’m not meant to be boring people! So sorry if I have missed something out, not made sense or waffled. But finally (I promise) thank you so the Flyers (and James) as without you I would never run or dream that I could run #foreverflyers
Lucy Wood xx