Cannock Chase Trailplus Report

14 Nov

Last Saturday Speares had a great day out in Cannock Chase as part of the Trailplus series. Here are the teams’ stories:

Nicky, Katie and Emma … by Emma

8 inch muddy puddles… heavy legs…a couple of crashes… but a great first experience of adventure racing, I’d do it again! The Speares Sports all girls team done the club proud by coming 4th in the all female category.

The highlight for me was the mountain biking, shooting down the hills and pedalling frantically through long, deep muddy puddles as we desperately tried not to end up in them. The steep inclines were a real challenge in the wet slippery conditions, determined to ride them I was further motivated by the many men who had their heads down pushing their bikes! We stole the show in the Kayaks, where Katy navigated us through a mass of uncontrolled boats, storming past about 8 teams. We then clambered out onto the mud bank with heavy legs for the final run. 2 blisters later we were back on our bikes heading for the finish. By this stage the terrain was so cut up it was like we were riding on sand. We had a burst of energy at the obstacle course and passed 2 men teams on the wooden skis. Plenty of bruises and a number of aches and pains but we were finished! Well Done girls fantastic effort!

Lloyd, Toby and John … by Lloyd

Pick up’s agreed the day before and we were good to go… Or so I thought! Having helped the girls pack 3 bikes into the car, I thought it wise to call the boys to check their whereabouts… “on the M40 heading towards Solihull” was not what I had expected to hear. After a few minutes of finger pointing we hatched a plan. Meeting in Henley, we strapped my pride and joy to the back of Toby’s car with 2 wheel straps and a trusty bootlace before setting off…

With a reduced amount of time in which to organise ourselves, we ended up with only minutes spare having put our bikes into the transition. Quite by chance we then found ourselves by on the start line at the front of the pack. Lining myself up for a strategically position water hazard further down the trail (a brick water fountain), I knew I needed to get a good start to ensure this first dash was not the end of my race. With a quick thumbs up to the boys, I shot from the start in pursuit of the lead like an adrenaline pumped gazelle, waiting for the wave of more experienced runners to come cruising past. Instead I hear John shouting my name, ‘had I false started?’, no… “I’ve got a bloody heartrate of 175″ shouted John- the experienced runner in me responded with “is that good?”, “not particularly at this stage of the race!” responded John. We therefore eased off and attempted to settle in behind John for a more appropriately paced run. This was a good move, as without which I would have missed out on the boys failing to negotiate a boggy corner and wiping out in front of me… Motivated by their misfortune, we entered the 1st bike transition in a respectable 4th.

What I soon realised about these two boys on their bikes, is they opt for the most direct and often wettest line at all times, plunging their bikes into 8 inches of water. Whilst I shouted high ground options to them in advance, it was usually met with an “OK” followed by the plunge. The race was going well and we were determined to maintain our position. Although I had only ridden with Toby once before, I could tell his head wasn’t in the right place at this early stage of the race. Asking him what was up, he wasn’t sure but was struggling to get the legs turning at pace. Whilst John continued to grind at the front, I supported/badgered Toby into submission and before we knew it he had his game head back on. Running to the kayaks, we knew we were on for a top 10 position, still maintaining our 4th position at this stage.

Over excited by the opportunity to rest our legs, we quickly jumped into the kayak only to realise we were still well and truly beached. Refusing to step completely out in fear of having to swim out, we shuffled our way out onto the water. With only 2 paddles, John was powering away at the front, Toby was kicking back dreaming of a G&T with me at the back.

Out of the kayaks we were then on the homeward leg of the race, trying to get our legs turning again. With 3rd place in our sights we dug deep to settle into a rhythm once again. Throughout this run we battled for 3rd, swapping positions throughout. Whilst the team has always said it is possible to make up so much time in transition, well, not on this particular occasion. Our transition was anything but seamless, with John desperately foraging away in search of a gel before crossing into another team’s transition to relieve himself. We soon realised that John had made the school boy error of leaving all his snacks/gels at the first transition and was now seriously struggling to clear his lungs [unfortunately I’d spent Monday and Tuesday in bed with a cold that week and had a seriously gunk filled respiratory tract! JT]. He climbed on his bike for the last time, but was starting to show unexpected signs of tiring.

Leaving the transition, I saw 5th place scramble for their spd’s and knew we had minutes before they would be on us. This was a mental battle for us all, digging deep and ploughing everything into each pedal stroke. With many up hills this made it ever more challenging. Reaching the road crossing with only minutes from the finish, 5th place were on us. Toby and I were now starting to cramp badly and as a team we were unable to respond. We entered the assault course relieved by the sight of the finish line, dragging ourselves under the net as it pinned us to the ground. We made light work of the wall using John as our human ladder and were then across the line… Delighted by our 5th place, John was then greeted by a marshal suggesting he should go to A&E, “I don’t look that bad do I!?” responded John, unaware of the blood coming from his head. Unconcerned he explored the contents of his finishers goodie bag in search of a needed treat. A great day and a good laugh, I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Dave, James and Nick … by Nick

On a £/mile spent on kit basis we probably won the event but strictly on an elapsed time basis….we didn’t.

Was it the 3 broken chains when we didn’t have a chain splitter or the puncture that meant that James cycled the last 4 mile with a totally flat front tyre that proved our undoing, we will never know but it was well worth finding out.

Conditions couldn’t have been better, and for all three of us, James Bessey, Dave Hawkins and Nick Rendell this was our first adventure race.

We had a steady opening run, in fact our running throughout was OK, on the run to and from the kayaks we weren’t overtaken and reeled in quite a few teams that had been ahead of us.

The fact that we finished the race was entirely due to the unbelievable generosity of team 226, who, after Dave & I had abandoned James, a la Hansel & Gretel, stopped & donated a chain splitter to James when they found in trudging lost & forlorn in the woods. He’d found his way across to another part of the course by pushing and scooting his bike before the rescue, then who should happen along but Dave, who had in turn abandoned me when my chain broke. It was a happy reunion.

Bikes repaired we pushed on. Completed the kayaking in good order, ran back to bikes and set off again only for my earlier chain repair to give way requiring another chain repair and the loss of 2 more links of my ever shortening chain.

It was only this 3rd repair that the extent of James puncture became apparent, we pumped but the air came out as fast as it went in, so on we went regardless.

A finish of 39th was fairly respectable and we reckoned without the 25 minutes or so repairing bikes we could do better next time, assuming that by then we’ve got more robust kit or at least our own repair kit.

The course was excellent, the organisation faultless and a thoroughly enjoyable event.

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