As people may have deduced from some of my almost "sermon"-like posts I think this year I've started to enjoy running - not racing - on a new, back-to-basics, smell the roses, one man and his dog, level. The seed was always there but I've learnt how to sow it and we all know seeds
won't grow into nowt when scattered on the road ;¬)
I also seem to at last have got smarter about pacing myself, which has seen improvements in off-road racing as well as in long slow running. Today at Langdale End - the third fixture in the East Yorks Cross Country league - I've again had a very satisfying run. I was pleased with last weekends 24.5m Rudolph's Romp so to do well today in an even muddier and quite different event was immensely satisfying. Today was a tough little 5.5m race on a technically difficult course, more like trail... sometimes fell running than XC really. Despite only one big climb and matching descent I figured this was all about attacking the hills - as these hills are hands-on-knee jobs. Something which I've come to relish.
The sun was out, just a few heavy but short showers (this is the moors after all) beforehand. The area wasn't too drenched which is good as the course seems to be permanently saturated at this time of year anyway. I managed to break my garmin strap on the first gate so lost dozens of positions and about a minute fixing just a few minutes in. This meant I had to run the muddy, stone and tree-root strewn riverside path pretty hard depsite the looming hill. I made up positions quite well and hit about my standard field position after wading across part of the Derwent and starting up the muddy hillside. My plan, as stated before but in more detail, was to run more uphill than others around me, hard work, but my lack of speed and light frame makes this my ace card. I certainly couldn't run all the steep climb, just too muddy in places to get good purchase, even in mudclaws.
I felt like I was dieing at the top of the hill near Langdale Rigg, but I'd overtook steadily and got up with a couple of runners who usually hammer me on the road. I bust the garmin strap again on a stile so I pocketed it for the remainder. I wasn't checking it anyway and time isn't important as long as I know I've run hard as I can (or want to). A fast guy behind me from another club kept my pace up along the moor/ridge top. Afterall, XC is a team competion so I try to beat as many guys not in purple shirts as I can. So after a sustained effort across fairly level, if saturated, fields and trails I surged as I hit the bigger downhill towards the end. I got passed 4 people and held them off despite nearly being run down over the final half mile flat bit. I won't know exactly till I see results, but about a 5 minute improvement on last year (when it was slightly boggier and I was slightly steadier and walked more of hill).
So thats nearly it for 2009, there'll be more boozing than running now. As per my updated hit list I just need to apply myself one more time on New Years Eve at the Auld Lang Syne fell race. After such a good year I won't be letting myself not run a course best.