Wednesday evening, 6th May: the third of the GO-IN6weeks race series, this one in Wolhusen. Not working; not tired from mountain walking......... no excuses, then! So off on the train to Wolhusen; short bus ride; and the uphill walk to race HQ at a school. (Ominously this hill had arrows and the word 'Ziel' - 'finish' - painted on it.........) registered, acquired my unmemorable start number (532) which I get to keep for the rest of the series, and this year's tee shirt - dayglo yellow this time. Also a piece of cake, as I was starving. J. arranged to start with the walkers, and we went to get changed. After the usual queuing for the 'facilities', I went out to warm up, up and down a few local roads. Perfect conditions, cool and cloudy, but dry. Met up with J. back at the start, and soon it was time to get rid of my jacket and line up. Chip timing, so I was happy to start near the back; the walkers started behind the runners, so I was on my own for this one. I hadn't studied the route very closely, but had seen on the map that it was mostly an 'out and back' along the river Wigger on paths or roads running closely parallel.
I was kitted out for this race with both hi-tech garmin) and low-tech (pedometer). Having amassed some 3,000 steps getting to the race and warming up, I reset it for the start, interested to know how the end totals would match up. The race started down the hill we had walked up. Resisting the temptation to follow the general trend and set off too fast, I tried to find a pace that felt sustainable, hoping I could make up places later. An all too brief flat bit, then up a corresponding hill on the other side. I overtook a few; a few overtook me. By the time I reached the top, I was in the middle of an exclusively female constellation of about six or seven. Just ahead of me were three girls (Pink, White, and Orange), who all seemed to know each other. By now we had left the road, and were on a path by the river. Though uneven and stony, it was fairly wide at the beginning. This soon changed, however, and before long we found ourselves on an undulating single-trail winding along through rocks and trees. Sometimes there were flights of steps, edged with slippery logs, taking us up a level to an equally narrow path along the lower edge of a field (the near proximity of an electric fence was rather worrying! - though as there were no cows in the field, probably it wasn't switched on), before another flight of steps took us back down again - a process repeated several times. One thing there was in abundance was Libby's favourite element (no, not cider - mud) after recent torrential rain, making conditions slippery and tricky. At the top of the second or third flight of steps, Pink and White stopped for a breather, and I squeezed past them, following Orange, who now led our little cortege for a while. Just as I was thinking 'rather her than me' (since I didn't know the route, and didn't relish the resposibility of getting the pacing right in a situation where no-one can overtake - specifically, the fear of being too slow and holding people up), she stepped to one side and stopped to re-tie her shoelace, leaving me in the lead. By now there was absolutely no-one visible ahead, and I felt very uncomfortable with my perceived responsibility, especially as I had detected that there was now someone else behind me. But nothing else for it, I just continued scuttling along as fast as I could, following the white flags stuck into the ground at intervals, and hoping I wouldn't get us lost. Now and then, up particularly steep or tricky bits, I had to insert a few steps of walking, mentally apologising to anyone I might be inconveniencing behind me - but no-one seemed in any hurry to get past, even when the path briefly emerged onto the road. Here we had to run on the left, the returning runners (a couple of kms ahead of us) on the right. Soon our way left the road again and went back down to the river, which we now had to cross on a metal footbridge and follow along the other side. Here it was muddier than ever, and there was even a tributary stream which we had to jump across. As routes go, it was scenic but tiring, and needed a lot of concentration. The road was visible over to the right, and now and then splashes of colour flashed along it as runners made their way back towards Wolhusen. I looked forward now to joining them!
At last, the curving downhill out of the trees, and the marshall indicating the 180° turn for home. Here for the first time I was able to glance across and see who was following me: a stocky, short-haired lady I remembered seeing and overtaking on that first uphill, who later introduced herself as Martina. No sign of the others.
On the road, I quickly settled into a good clip, with Martina close behind me. After the 'stop-go' of the first half of the race, it felt good to just let it roll now - I was really enjoying it. Some way ahead, I spotted two other runners running together - I was fairly sure they were men - and decided I would try to catch them up. It was just the incentive I needed. Little by little, the gap narrowed as we gained on them, and just after 7k, I turned it up a notch more and sprinted past, followed by Martina. But as the road eventually took a downward turn approaching Wolhusen again, she was the one who took the initiative, and I was now following her. I don't like to punish my knees too much, especially downhill on road, but the occasional glance at the Garmin was still showing a predominance of numbers beginning with a 4. As it got steeper, I did ease up a bit, though, and the gap increased slightly. A marshall directed us down a grassy slope; a left turn at the bottom and we were back in the town, wending our way along small roads and asphalt paths towards the school again. An inflated archway with a timing mat had me puzzled - had I misunderstood where the finish was? or was it just some kind of double-check? Neither of these, as it turned out - it was the start mat for the 'sprint trophy' over the last few hundred metres. The uphill finish felt downright cruel! - I laboured up it, Martina gaining a few more seconds; but the ultimate insult was when one of the men I had overtaken earlier now flew past with a yell of triumph. This was not directed at me, however - he was on his way to winning the sprint trophy, and had evidently been saving his energy for this. Oh well.............! Remembering to smile for the photographer, I trundled round the final corner and over the line. Finished! Not the easiest of races (are they ever?!) - but at least this time I didn't feel as though I might throw up, which made a nice change. And as I reached for a cup of Iso-drink, I heard the speaker mention my name, confirming that I was the F60 winner. (But don't be too impressed - I was once again the only one in the category!) Martina and I congratulated each other - I think we made a pretty good team. I didn't know when to expect the walkers back; I refilled the cup and waited around for a few minutes, but then went to change before I got cold. In fact, it only took him some 11 minutes longer than me - he 'won' the walking category (though this is not actually ranked, only timed.)
A well-earned beer....... and another........... and a plate of excellent pasta with tomato sauce. The presentations, with a truly beautiful rose for each of the winners. okay, better go now, we don't want to miss the bus back to the station...........
Except there WAS no bus, the last one had already gone! So we ended up having to walk an extra 2 kms. (J. did nobly carry my sports bag as well as his rucksack, leaving me to carry the rose.) Oh well, all extra steps for the total.......... Speaking of which:
Official race distance: 9.4 kms. Distance according to Garmin: 9.5 kms. Distance according to pedometer: 9,746. I'll take that!
(The 'zigzag' top, left)
Sorry it has taken so long to post this report - my computer has been very naughty! (And still is - highlighting random words red was not my idea!)
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