Tuesday 30 December 2014

Kent Fitness League 2014/15: Nurstead Court

The Kent Fitness League cross-country race at Nurstead Court, in Meopham, was the fifth of the series and my third outing for my second claim running club, Dartford Harriers. My first two KFL races were at Oxleas Wood and at Fowlmead. When reading up on this race beforehand, a common theme kept coming up, and that was that this is proper cross-country running.

there's the countryside. now let's run across it. [photo:7t]

If I can rewind just a little, before heading over to Nurstead Court for the 11am start, I had picked up Richey and we had gone for a warmup run around the Cyclopark track just a mile or two north of the cross-country venue as part of the weekly 5k Cyclorun event.

Upon arriving at the cross-country venue, we were directed to park in a field and from here we walked about a kilometre over to the race HQ area, which had an indoor gazebo-type structure for runners to soak up a little warmth before getting stuck into the mud, hills and fields around Meopham. There were about 8 portaloos plus a portable gents urinal available for use.

some runners warming up [photo: 7t]

The temperature was hovering around 1 degree and there were still some patches of frost and ice from the previous night. Fortunately the wind that we had to deal with the previous day at Dartford parkrun had disappeared and all was calm. I had already decided to wear my running tights and base layer, but in retrospect would have been just about fine without either.

As I mentioned before, this race was described as true cross-country running. It included inclines, declines, grass, dirt, mud, farmers' fields, forest trails, logs and some bales of hay to jump over, branches to duck under, and last but certainly not least there was the much-talked-about water splash.

the start [photo: daniel groutage]

The 5 mile race took place over a two lap course, which had been very well marked out and was marshaled in all the right places. Of course, two laps meant that the runners tackle all of the above twice. I started the race, as always, at a strong but conservative effort level across the short but slippery grassy opening stretch, which soon turned to the right and headed downhill.

I had chosen to wear my old Adidas Kanadia TR3 trail shoes and while they were the right choice from my selection of running shoes, I can't help thinking that proper cross-country spikes would have served me very well here, as after not too long I was having serious trouble with traction on some of the slippery, muddy sections. The funny thing is that I was in a shop with a pair of spikes in my hand just a few days earlier but didn't buy them.

the water splash [photo: brian page]

The water splash featured quite early on in the lap, was about 8 metres wide and roughly a foot deep in the centre. On lap one, I breezed through and although it was really, really cold, I didn't suffer for too long afterwards. By the time I splashed through on lap two, it definitely took more of a toll on me and my feet felt icy cold for a good few minutes.

The forest trail section was muddy and had lots of twists, turns and all the usual forest obstacles to negotiate. Again, first time around wasn't too bad, but once the ground had been churned up by the 346 runners during the first lap, I found traction to be really difficult during the second. It's worth noting the mini-rollercoaster style sections where you head down into a wide ditch and then back up the other side - hopefully without slipping over on the slippery slope. Great fun.


Then I had a mini-disaster when my shoelace came undone with just over a kilometre left to go, I pulled over to the side to do it up, but in the 20 seconds or so that passed, I lost a number of hard-earned places and the remainder of the race became a fight to regain some of them. I clawed back three positions, but had already lost way too much time to regain any more.

The final straight was back along the opening section, which was still slippery - I somehow fumbled my way along it and into the finish funnel where I was given the raffle ticket showing that I had finished in 58th position (later updated to 57 - not sure what happened there). Slightly disappointed, I headed off and congratulated my teammates and some of my other buddies on their runs. My GPS data of the course, splits etc can be found on Strava.

race hq [photo:7t]

The race HQ provided some warmth and also had a bar which was selling warm drinks, so in my usual post-race style, I stood outside getting colder and colder before finally realising that inside was definitely the place to be. I really need someone who can make decisions for me post-race because I clearly can't do it alone!

About an hour later, after the post-race raffle had been drawn, I headed over to the car with Richey where I finally took off my muddy, dripping wet trail shoes and got some warm air circulating before heading off in the direction of home.

The official results were published online a few hours later.

Position: 57 / 346
Time: 35:20

Dartford Harriers were the top scoring team and retain the top spot in the league. There are just two more matches left - the next one is on 18 Jan 2015 at Minnis Bay.

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