On Saturday it was the fifth and final fixture of the Hampshire XC League, and the location set in the New Forest didn’t disappoint.
With this fixture being closer to home, our hardy group of Ryde Harriers were afforded a later than usual start in the morning, but the crossing on the Hover soon shook us out of our slumber. Although this was not the worst crossing we have had this season.
As has been our luck for most of the season, the rain had stopped by the time the coach arrived at Dibden Inclosure. We set up the tents then retreated to the pub for our usual pre-race tea/coffee and egg & bacon/sausage sandwiches – real athlete’s food.
In order to enable Hardley Runners to host the event, teams were asked to provide people to assist with marshalling. We took it in turns to cover the two marshalling points allocated to us, while the others walked parts of the course not visible from the main inclosure. The organisers had given us ‘simple Island folk’ some of the easiest spots to direct runners, although it was quite chilly standing around.
The course at Dibden Inclosure differed from most of the previous fixtures in the season by being mostly comprised of firm gravel tracks, but with some sections of muddy (and at times smelly) water on top. There were also the obligatory hills as well, although most of these could be better described as ‘gently inclining slopes’ in comparison to some of the hills we encountered on the Ryde 10 the week before.
For the women’s race the course was one small loop of the arena area followed by one full lap which went along the edge of the inclosure then out through the forest section, then through the more exposed heath land before dipping through another forest section twice and then a slightly slippery flat section before the finish.
The women’s team comprised of the XC hard core Sarah Blackwell, Elaine Parry and Rosie Eldridge.
Sarah managed to achieve 18th position in 24:22, with Elaine and Rosie sticking together to come in 78th and 79th overall in times of 29:28 and 29:30 respectively.
A great finish to the season, 7th in the women’s division, with everyone on the team achieving their best overall positions.
The men’s course was the same, minus the small loop of the arena area. Oh, but we had the pleasure of going around the full lap twice. At least two laps sounds less than 3 or 4 laps, even when the total distance is the same.
The men had their biggest team of the season comprising of Tom Blackwell, Andrew McEwan, Ken Beak, Sam Cleare, myself (Trevor McAlister), Jake Brougham and with the arrival of Les ‘last minute’ Cupis that was our team of glory hunters pitted against City of Salisbury, our closest rivals in division 3.
With Les having replaced his usual warm up with a mad cycle from Lymington ferry, we were at the start and underway within 5 minutes of his arrival. Our course started with a long flat section so I had to resist my usual urge to go off like a loon at the start knowing that I had to make it round two laps.
Sam made a good effort, in this his first cross country, to stay with a City of Salisbury runner, but had to let him go at the beginning of the second lap as he was just too quick for Sam’s pace.
Jake and Tom battled to the end to stay ahead of the lead City of Salisbury, with Jake managing to gain two more places in the final stretch coming in 62nd with Tom coming in 65th with times of 39:26 & 39:38. Next Harriers home were Andrew 96th and Les 101st in 41:38 and 41:57. I ran most of the 2nd lap with Sam but pulled ahead at the final hill coming in 129th in 45:33 and managing a sprint finish, Sam for 135th in 46:18. With Ken completing the Harriers team in 154th and 49:57.
Unfortunately, City of Salisbury beat us to 2nd place in the division 3, but there is always next year and, particularly with all the training everyone has been doing, we should have a good start to next season.
With all the races done we made our way home, the return hover journey being less bumpy than on the way over, and with the thought of the mud and water logged fields on next week’s Ryde Harriers XC to look forward to.