The Final Six

Race 1 – Yorkshire Xc Champs – Light Water Valley 

The Yorkshire Xc Champs was my first race of the new year. Also being held at one of my favorite cross country course (Lightwater Valley) so I was very excited. Having a few races between my last XC and the Yorkshire not going to plan as my back started to give me a lot of pain, I was hoping for a good race. On race day I arrived at 10:00 which gave me 2hr 20 mins before my race, giving me plenty of time to walk the course and get everything ready for my race. The course was very dry and flat around the first half of the course which meant it would be very fast. I was able to watch the younger Bingley Juniors run in some of their first Yorkshire Champs. After a few of the race, I decided to go back to my team tent to get ready, changing my spikes to a short length, having my last bit of food and then back to the course side to do my warm up jog and drills. Shortly 12:20 (my race) approached and the rest of the u17 girls arrived at the start. After getting into our pens we were ready to start. Well, the start of the race was very fast as I thought it was going to be, and to my disappointment, my back started to hurt. Trying to push through the pain I tried to stay with a small group. However before going onto the hilly section of the course, the pain in my back was uncomfortable and being in tears, I choose to drop out. Obviously I wasn’t happy with this decision but in the long run, I think it was the right decision to of made. Whilst my race carried on I did my back stretched to relive the pain which was there and then I walked back to the tent to get a warmer kit on. Still disappointed with how my race went tried to push it to the back of my mind and still enjoy the day with friends. Watching Imani Wilson in the Senior girls and coming first, very proud of her!! Then it was Matts races. After struggling with the first half of his xc season, he had a good race at Yorkshires finishing in 7th place and securing him a place in the Yorkshire Team.

Photo: Left: Me and Imani. Right: Just before I pulled out (taken by my dad)

Race 2 – North Yorkshire School trails – Ripon Grammar 

This was my first North Yorkshire schools due to leaving school and moving to a college in Skipton, which is in North Yorkshire.  Not knowing how this race was going to play out or what the course was going to be I was quite nervous to see how it was going to go. Upon arrival, we went to find our district (craven and Harrogate) area to collect our number and vest. I then went to walk the course with my friend Maddie Mastrolonardo. Yet again the course being flat I knew the race was going to be another fast one. As the races were going off quite quickly so I had to get my warm up in to make sure my back was okay. This was a race I really wanted to do well in as it was a qualifier for the Northern Inter Schools and the English schools. I had a warm up jog around the fields and then did so drill and strides before changing into my spikes and doing my back stretches to loosen it up before the start. When they called the Senior girl over to the start I was feeling okay and ready to run.  I set of steady and they stayed in a group for the first short lap, however going onto the 2nd large lap we broke apart into smaller groups.  Yet again I felt pain in my lower back but I knew I had to finish, so I kept pushing through the last lap to finish 12. This gained me a place in the North Yorkshire Team for the Northern Inter Schools Cup which was the final selection race for the remaining 2 places for the North Yorkshire team at the English Schools.  I was delighted to gain my North Yorkshire Schools Vest but knew the next race would be difficult!!  Matt also ran in the Senior boy’s race finishing 3rd which meant he was on the team for both events. I was very happy with my race that day and so happy to of made the North Yorkshire team!!! IMG_1690
Photo: Start of the North Yorkshire Schools Senior Girls Race (take by my dad)

Race 3 – Northern Xc Champs – Knowsley Safari Park

The Northern Xc champs were being held back at Knowsley safari park, where it was in 2013 and 2014. On the day it was very cold and wet (normal northern conditions). With my race being the first of the day it meant an early start to get to Liverpool for an 11:00 start. We arrived around 9:45 leaving enough time to see the course and get warmed up. The route to the start field was already super muddy and getting to the field where the race was already super muddy and this was just from people walking on it, so I had to change the size of my spikes to make sure I had the best grip possible for my race.  I changed into my spikes straight away so I was ready and then tried to find the driest section of grass to warm up on.  11:00 came around and I was feeling good and ready on the start line.  The gun went off and the start commenced where I kept myself with a large group of runners behind the leading pack.  The course was really muddy, but the speed was really quick, which I think triggered my back pain.  Around the 3k mark of the race my back started to hurt, however, I was determined to finish.  I kept pushing through the last 2k of the race and surprisingly I had a strong finishing sprint. Even though I wasn’t happy with my race that day, I was still happy to finish.  As we were the first race of the day, I spent the rest of the day watching all the other races. Matt didn’t have a good race due to his asthma and this affected is breathing in the cold, so he took the right decision and pulled out of the race on the 1st lap while in the top 10.  Not what he wanted to do, just the right decision.

Photo: Left – Me running through the mud (taken by my Dad) Right – Mary, Imani and me after the senior girl’s race (taken by Tina Wilson)

Race 4 – Northern Inter Schools – Kirkby Steven 

The Northern inter schools where my next race and I was part of the senior girls North Yorkshire schools team. I was really excited for this race,  representing my new county,  North Yorkshire.  The weather wasn’t good to us on the day, very cold heavy rain showers.  On arrival, we collected our new team vests and decided to to take an early walk of the course.  The senior girl’s route was a 3.5k course with some steep hills, something I was happy with in.  To stay dry we went into the school’s sports hall, meeting some more of the North Yorkshire team.  This allowed me and my friend Maddie to put on our face paint in dry conditions.  We then went back outside after having some lunch to watch the junior’s run and then I  went to get my spikes on and start my warm up. After the inter boys had finished, it was the senior girl’s turn. We were called over to the start and set up into our pens, 3…2…1 we were off!!! I was able to stick in the leading group and able to push around the first lap with minimal pain in my back. Going on to the second lap my back started to hurt more, but pulling out wasn’t an option today.  I dropped from the lead group to the group just behind and kept pushing all the way to the finish line.  I was happy to have finished another race and of course representing North Yorkshire Schools. The rest of the North Yorkshire girls were at the finish, apart from Maddie who had dropped out after twisting her ankle at the beginning of the race. I thoroughly enjoyed my race and the day representing North Yorkshire.

Photo: Left – Maddie and Me painting faces (taken by my Dad). Right – Me running before the last hill (taken by my Dad)

Race 5 – National Xc – Wollaton Park

My penultimate cross country race was the national xc which was being held at Wollaston Park, Nottingham. This has to be my favorite xc course of all of them. I loved it when it was held there in 2014 and was so excited to go back and race there. On the day we had to set off early again as I was in the first race and had to get there in plenty of time for my warm ups.  On arrival, we parked and found the Bingley tent.  After a quick change and a gentle warm up I decided I needed to change the spike size, so my dad and Matt quickly changed them while I did my face paint.  After collecting my race number and chip, I made sure all was in place and went off for the pre race warm up.  I was feeling okay but nervous before the race, but I was ready to go. I meet up with some girls from Yorkshire before the start of the race which brought my nerves down. We all went to the start pen together and then split off to our club pens. I got talking to some girls from London about running as they were allocated the same pen.  This finally got me ready for the race start.  The tape was lifted, the marshal moved back, the gun was fired and we were off.  The start was very fast, up to a gentle incline, around the top loop and down the other side.  There was a flat section on the small loop before we needed to jump in or over a deep water section, and then into a very muddy section of the loop.  This was the end of my race as I twisted my back coming out of the water jump and with the pain too hard to manage, I sadly pulled up and withdrew.  I was devastated to have pulled out of nationals on my favorite course.  Matt came to help and got me back to my dad who then assisted me to the finish to throw my chip in the bag and to see my friends. I was so upset at pulling out I just asked to be taken back to the tent after my friends have finished.  At the tent, I did some back stretches, got my kit on and took on some food.  After recovering, I decided I would be okay to watch the others races on the day.  Matt had a really good race, finishing 39th, I was so happy for him.

Photo: Left – Drills before the start (taken by my Dad). Right – Me running (taken by my Dad)

Race 6 – Intercounties and British Cross Country – Prestwold Hall

My Final race of the cross country season was the Intercounties and British xc. The event changed location this year to Prestwold Hall, Loughborough from Birmingham. On arriving at Prestwold hall the first stop of the day was to pick up my British Cross Challenge number and chip from the HQ tent.  Second stop was the Yorkshire tent as Matt had qualified to represent Yorkshire and he required his chip and number and his new Yorkshire vest.  Even though I wasn’t running for Yorkshire I was still happy to be running in the inter-counties and British xc.  As it was a new course we decided to take a long walk around the course and it became apparent it was going to be another fast one as the course was flat and firm!!  On the way back to the Yorkshire tent we met up with my friend Katie Hughes from Cornwall, who did my faceprint for the day.  With race time fast approaching it was time to get my kit on and prepare for the race, spikes, chip, number, check the face paint and then the warm up.  The 5-minute gun sounded and the U17’s began to gather, last bit of warm up completed and into the pens we went.  As I was the only one racing in the British xc, I got a whole pen to myself.  The gun fired and off went the pack at an alarming speed.  I took it steady at the start not wanting to waste my energy on what was going to be a fast race.  Along the flattest part of the course I kept pushing, I felt good and my back wasn’t hurting, I was determined to finish. I managed to get into a group of girls who all seemed to be racing at the same pace, so this assisted in keeping my mind off any pain in my back which may occur.  The pace quickened in the group but I managed to stay with them, which was pleasing for me.  Around the last corner and I could see the home straight, so with a little left, I put in a sprint finish to end my indifferent XC season.  I was so happy to of finished my xc season on a high.  As I made my way away from the finish I was surprised to see all the Yorkshire U17 girls waiting for me.  I hadn’t run in the team but was so pleased they had all waited for me to finish as they wanted to make part of the team.  Photos were taken with the team which made me feel so proud of them all, even the team managers welcomed me back.  Quick cool down followed, changed and off to watch Matt and the Yorkshire boys in the U17’s.  Matt had a really good strong race finishing 42nd (6 Yorkshire home) with the team coming 1st overall!!! It was such a good day, some new friends and catching up with old ones.

Photos:  Top left – Me running. Top right – Katie Hughes, Me, Matt and Tom Gostelow after the races. Middle right – Charlotte Maywood and Me after the finish. Bottom left – Yorkshire U17 team and me. Bottom right- xc race wouldn’t feel right with out a jumping photo with Imani. (All taken by my Dad)

Extra – English Schools Cross Country

On the 18th March, it was the English School Cross Country in Norfolk.  Matt had been selected to represent North Yorkshire, so me, dad and Mya Taylor (she wanted to come watch too) took the long drive to Norfolk to watch. It was a really good day spectating and supporting friends who had been selected to represent their county school, teams.  As we were there early it was good to spend time with the North Yorkshire senior girls, they asked me to do the face paint for the day, so again I felt part of the team.  Once the senior’s girls face paint had been finished the younger girls asked for the same, so the next 30 minutes was taken up being make up artist.  All the North Yorkshire teams did well on the day, but I was so proud of Matt, he had the best race of his season against some really strong and fast runners.  He managed to finish 15th in the senior boys and he is in the lower age group.  This was his best English schools position he’s ever had. The North Yorkshire senior boys finished the 1st team in their event and this was followed up with the North Yorkshire boys team finishing 1st overall in the event.  This was a really good way to end the season, I had such a good day watching, would have liked to have been racing but it wasn’t to be, hopefully, next year as it will be my last year.

Photos: Me and friends through out the day at the English Schools 2017

So, the Cross Country seasons come to an end, some up and some down for me, but its a quick change of codes and a new English Fell season is on the arisen.  Some friends will follow and other will hit the track for the spring and summer seasons before we all meet again for the next Cross Country season.

As I post this blog there will have already been two English champs races with 4 more to go.  I also have the Yorkshire fell champion race, the Inter Counties and the qualifiers for the Junior mountain running home international.  Within all these events I also hope to compete in 2 big events, the GB qualifiers for the U23 Europeans and World Mountain running events.

Until next time

Vicki x

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