Monday, 17 February 2014

Nightmare on Boggarts Hole Clough – Part 2

Some sequels are better than the original, many are not. Nightmare on Boggarts Hole Clough – part 2 falls into the latter category. For starters there was a delay in it’s production, the sequel should have taken place around this time last year, but then I screwed up my achilles and the ongoing saga of that has been blogged about enough. After last year’s experience in the Manchester cross country league, I couldn’t find any positive reason for wanting to race cross country at Boggarts Hole Clough, but I do have this unendearing characteristic that makes me decide to take the hardest route towards my goal. Sometimes I despair of myself, and I feel sorry for Carole.

I’ve not had a great cross country season, in fact I’ve not even had a good one, I’d say it was fair to middling. That’s understandable considering all the problems I’ve had this last year. But I still have this desire to compete at cross country events. Mind you, my cross country background comes from mostly well drained 5 mile courses in the Surrey League. The Scottish East District League was also about 5 miles and the ground was relatively firm too. Here in the North West, with the exception of Heaton Park, all the courses seem to be waterlogged, slushy and muddy with lots of tight corners, plus they’re all 6 miles – that extra mile does make a difference if you’re not fit.

But, for reasons that are completely unclear, I turned up at Boggarts Hole Clough on Saturday, ready to race. Clearly everyone knows my feelings about running in mud, and at Boggarts Hole Clough in particular, as just about every Salford Harrier I talked to seemed surprised by my presence. Despite the mud, the cold, the damp, I was actually keyed up for the race, I’ve struggled with my race starts since buggering up my achilles, but I was determined to get away at the front of the field this time. In fact I was so much in my own little world, of fantasy race starts, that I completely missed Bev Simons winning the ladies race, only realising it was done when I saw three Salford ladies at the finish, with only four ladies having finished this was a great team result, particularly as there were only four Salford ladies competing today. Not only did they win the team event but they won the overall league title and Tania Hernandez won the individual title for first lady of the series. Well done ladies.

Then it was our time, disappointedly there were only three of us running for Salford, Stan Owen, myself and Albert Castile. This meant we wouldn’t finish a team in the senior event, four runners required, but, with an average age of over 50, we would have a masters team. After the obligatory starter’s chat we were off and I made a determined start, but it didn’t seem to matter, I was still swamped by youngsters. Despite the waterlogged conditions I wasn’t actually finding it tough to run on the top field, I just didn’t seem to have any pace to get up to the leaders. Still they were within sight and I was confident that I’d pull through the field as the race progressed. By the 2nd lap of the top field I did feel I was in my stride, I’d pulled in some people but I seemed to be breathing a lot harder than I would have expected, for the pace I was running. I put it down to having to work harder to pull my feet though the mud. The 2nd lap of the top field marked the 1st big lap, that incorporated the bit that went through the woods. That was the bit I struggled on last year, but I was keen to do myself justice. The first bit through the woods didn’t seem as bad as last year, more runny than glutinous but then we arrived at a steep downhill and I started slithering all over the place. Wary of my lack of grip and deciding I didn’t really want to go A over T I slowed right down and virtually walked down the hill. This created a big gap ahead of me and allowed others to catch me up. As I set off again, nearly falling over on numerous occasions on my way back through the woods to the top field, I briefly had the desire to pull out, but a little Rog inside my head told me not to be a wimp, run slowly if need be, don’t worry about where you finish, but don’t pull out. Logic said I was already covered in mud so I might as well earn a position for my time and washing machine. I carried on, with team mate Albert Castile harrying me to the start of the last lap.

Stan Owen, usually a very quick starter, had got away from me at the start. The same thing happened at the last league race and I was only able to catch him in the final 300m, this time I had no chance of catching him, I couldn’t even see him. He ran another good race to finish in 20th position and win the overall M60 title. But I didn’t have time to worry about Stan as Albert strode confidently past me just as we started the last lap. If we’d finished in those positions I would have been the last Salford Harrier, I wasn’t about to let that happen, without a fight. Albert had pulled up on me during the tricky wooded part of the course so I knew I had to build up a gap on the top field. I tried to concentrate on relaxing and getting my legs to turn over better, it worked a bit, though I was still finding my breathing heavier than I should. Back into the woods I’d built up a bit of a gap on Albert. This time I found it easier to navigate my way through the muddy wood, only half walking down the hill. It was enough, though only just, as I finished in 28th, one place and 21 seconds ahead of Albert.

The whole race had been another nightmare for me, I really struggled and at the end I was exhausted, even though I didn’t feel like I deserved to be, at no point had I felt like I was really running competitively. It had been my worst position, ever, in the South East Lancs league, 28th and 4th M45 (despite the only M45s to have beaten me in the series not being present, nor the one who finished just behind me on both occasions). In fact, on my previous excursion to BHC I had finished 27th in a much tougher field of the Manchester League. Despite my disastrous run, we still ended up coming overall 2nd M40 team and, overall, I finished 14th Senior man and 2nd M45.

At night my mate Rob Tudor invited me to join him for a training run the following morning, I was a bit unsure, thinking I’d be stiff and slow after my race, but in the end he persuaded me. I was stiff and slow and I was also struggling with my breathing again, I put it down to not being relaxed because of all the aches. However waking up this (Monday) morning it is clear all is not well in the Alsop body. A number of my clients have been going down with colds over the last two weeks and I finally came down with my version of it. I was sneezing and wheezing when I got up, felt a bit better after breakfast but when I tried running I struggled with fatigue, my breathing wasn’t right and I nearly threw up after only 4 minutes of easy running. At least I had the good sense to cut my run short. Maybe that explains why I was breathing heavier than I should have been in the race. That’s it for me, as far as cross country is concerned, for this season. I’m keen to start running in road races, where I’m sure I’ll fare much better. But for those who’s season continues, good luck in the National, next weekend.

Written by Roger Alsop

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