National XC Championships – Sunderland – 23 February 2013
Jason Sotheran reports on a great day
for WACers at the Nationals.
Tom, Jason, Piers and Charlotte (l-r, back row) with
Jess and Grace
in the snowy conditions at Sunderland
Leaving home at 7am on Friday morning
it was bitterly cold – at least it felt like that at the time, and as I
sat down in the Bourne’s Ford Galaxy I found it hard to imagine how any
of us would escape the looming boredom of the journey ahead. Then Zoe
told me a certain something that kept the laughs coming all day long,
even if those laughs were at poor Charlotte’s expense!
In all honesty the journey wasn’t too
bad, we all held a great feeling of anticipation for what was to come on
Saturday and with a few stops to fill up with our athlete’s diet of
Burger King and Costa the seven hours felt closer to four or five.
Arriving at the hotel, once we’d found
it in the labyrinth that is Gateshead Quays in Newcastle, I don’t think
anyone could quite believe it – not even Simon, and he’d made the
booking! It was a 5 star Hilton overlooking the Tyne Bridge – I had
never seen anywhere like it in my life. There was a fountain out front
and more flat screen TVs than you could shake a stick at all around the
place. Our rooms were probably about the size of my house and we all
took advantage of the free drinks in the little fridge. The receptionist
booked us a cab to an Italian restaurant just across the bridge for our
all important pasta meal in the evening and we went out into the city
for a bit of shopping. As you do.
After that Tom, Zoe, Jess and I headed
for the indoor heated pool, jacuzzi, steam room and sauna in the Hilton
– which in my mind is now essential pre-race preparation.
We went out and I probably had the best
Italian meal I’ve ever had and was feeling incredibly blessed out to
witness the funniest thing ever. I’m simply not going to try and explain
it but when the Bourne’s read this they’ll know what I mean by ‘LAAAA LA
LA LA LAAAA!!!’
We all slept really well, and I
would’ve stayed there forever in that bed if it wasn’t for Charlotte
banging on the door at 6:30 on a Saturday morning to alert us to
the fact that the world had turned white. Snow! Charlotte and Jess’
childlike love for that beautiful white powder was no different to that
of a five year old and I have to say that I love the snow too, but the
consequences of it soon dawned on us all – it was going to be a really
We arrived at the track in five inches
of snow all around and before we knew it Charlotte’s race was off and
despite having just come back to X-Country last week, she gave a good
account of herself, leaving a good number of athletes from around the
country behind her on her way to the finish.
Unfortunately as Charlotte was
finishing Piers and I were all ready well into our warm up, and I was
feeling me three-course breakfast a bit more than I would have liked.
However, having had so much help to get up there I thought it best to
ignore such a trivial issue.
It felt like an eternity before the gun
fired, but when it did Piers and I both got good starts and as I went
round the first bend in about 40th place and as I opened up
my stride down a slight slope something clicked and I just felt great.
One by one I picked through and kept about 30
from the leaders for about the first 3k. Then there was a right turn,
one that I definitely hadn’t taken in my walk round! Next were 300 of
the toughest, coldest
I’ve ever ran as the icy rain and biting winds smashed you around along
the treacherous uphill stretch. On the other side we skirted a lake and
went through a slalom surrounded by trees, then, somewhere above me I
heard the voice of Mark screaming ‘200 left Jas, go on!’ and out of
somewhere I found a bit extra and made four places up to 16th,
having gone in hoping for top 50 and with Piers coming in at 59th
it was a very good day for us U15 lads.
Jason and Piers – a job well done
Soon after Gracie got underway and she
had an incredible start, up to 10th immediately after the
best part of 300 runners left the pens. For a long time she stayed right
up there but you could see the snow underfoot had now turned into a
continuous, muddy ice bath underfoot and each stride was harder than the
one that preceded it and though she dropped back to 19th that
was an incredible achievement and no less than she deserved after an
incredible race – she certainly left it all out there!
Grace gave 100% – as usual!
Then began the waiting, as poor Tom had
the unenviable task of running in the last race of the day. By this
point the muddy slush was well over ankle deep on the course and you
could tell that even his new compression socks probably couldn’t save
him from an even tougher race than the rest of us had been through on
the day. The time was coming and everyone had begun to take up their
spectators’ positions for the final race, unfortunately this included
Tom’s mum, accidentally taking Tom’s spikes with her! The panic that
followed was unbelievable and after even a tannoy message failed to find
her we feared the worst for ‘Fuzzball’ – then just as it seemed all hope
was lost I found Tom at the start line, spikes on and ready to go.
Tom in the pack
He, like Gracie, got a superb start and
also found himself in and around the top 10 from the start. Although the
race was only 3k, a sprint by his standards, Tom struggled to deal with
the conditions because what is ankle deep for most of his competition is
knee deep for others! Nevertheless he kept going, when the going gets
tough, the tough get going and he found an impressive finish to hold 21st
over the line.
In summary, Sunderland was a
horrifically cold day up North on an incredibly tough course surrounded
by incredibly tough opposition. But one where WAC did themselves
well and truly proud and I felt privileged to wear that red vest in such
brilliant company – thank you all so much! Furthermore it was all worth
it, all the travelling and the pain and the panic – I know I said this
about Parliament Hill but I would do it all again tomorrow if I could
(especially the Italian restaurant!). We travelled 300 miles and more to
run about 3, but I couldn’t care less.
A big ‘Thank you’ to the Bournes for a