No weigh in until tomorrow so stats will start from then.
It’s been an annual ritual to present ourselves at the Knacker Cracker early each New Years Day morning to assist the wonderful Dr Rob, the enigmatic race organiser, before participating in the race proper.
Last year, you may remember conditions akin to armageddon led Pauline and I to actually win the race. This year as we pondered what to do, we figured the odds of losing the entire field once again were against us. So rather than finish first, we opted for the complete opposite – to finish last and offered to sweep the event.
The role of sweeper is an important one. Not only are you there to encourage and enthuse the back markers in the race, but also to ensure the course is ‘swept’ of all route markings and rubbish. Today, I would be joined by stalwart Pauline and fellow Outlaw, Grant.
We had a small party on New Years Eve where we managed to avoid most of the drinks (especially the ones Alan created by accidentally mixing the cocktails – ooops, that must have turned into something rather potent)! Once overnighting house guests had departed we donned fancy dress – this year I reverted back to the old faithful nightdress and dressing gown after a lack of time and inspiration to come up with something new – and made our way to Box Hill.
The race venue had changed slightly for 2015. A new start near the old fort at the top of Box Hill, meant better car parking and proximity to the National Trust cafe. Unfortunately, starting the whole 30 programme (more of which in future posts!) co-incided with New Years Day so I opted to forgo a trip to the cafe and instead looked enviously at the cups Pauline and Grant were clutching. Terrible timing really!
As well as a change in venue, the route also had slight alterations to it. Rob, for which ‘never knowingly under distanced’ could be a perfect promise, had made amends for the accidentally short course in 2014 by adding an extra hill for 2015. The famous Eiger Steps, cut into the hillside, opposite the bottom of Juniper Hill are fiercesome to behold. Steep in stature and deep in erm depth, we did a recce the week before to reaquaint ourselves with them.
They were just as bad as I remember but happily we were rewarded, while admiring the view from the bench at the top, by a mountainbiker overcooking a steep left hand turn and turning it into a pirouette before almost failing to unclip. He rescued it at the last second to much derision from his team mates and much applause from ourselves.
As I picked up my satchel to store the rubbish in for Rob on race morning he casually said to me, ‘You don’t need to go up the Eiger steps, just send the marshal up from the bottom to dismiss the marshal at the top’.
Oh. Dammit, now we had a dilemma. To do, or not do the full course, that was the question.
We lined up with the proper runners for a quick loop of the fort before heading down Burford slope via the military road. It was proper gloopy. The run through had been pristine, perfect conditions for running. Today however, the thick mud quickly clogged up lugs and turned trail shoes into ice skates. There were many comedy charleston moments, even in the first 200m. It was inevitable one of us would end up on the floor before the end of the day.
A one in three chance! Yikes!
We slipped and slid our way past the piper, a much younger fellow than in previous years, and down to the cone, manned by a marshal, at the bottom of the slope. Then a trudge straight back up. Conditions underfoot were interesting and we noticed the wind picking up, whipping up my dressing gown around my legs as we slogged back up the hill.
Once at the top the ‘sweeping’ began in ernest. The back markers of the race were well away from us at this point and we had lots of fun trying to remove tape at a gallop. Some of it came off easily, other bits needed a bit more pursuasion. We found it easier spreading out and taking ‘sections’ especially as Rob not surprisingly had been very generous with the tape this year.
But before long, we were past the water tower and heading down the steps leading to Juniper Bottom and the water station just before the Eiger Steps. Here I faced the dilemma full on by sharing Robs comments with Pauline and Grant. Pauline was nursing a head cold and was my best bet for a no but Grant immediately stepped in and declared his intent to go up the steps. Pauline followed very closely behind leaving me with no choice but to be honest, I think none of us would have bottled out really 😉
No mountain bikers this day and no views to admire either (it was rather overcast by this point) but we were mightly impressed by a man dressed as a pint of guinness coming back down at a clip! We found out at this point the back marker was A) dressed as nefertiti and B) not too far ahead. Lord love an ‘out and back’ route. With a quick stop at the water point we headed back up Juniper Hill taking the left fork up Juniper Top.
I hate this hill. With a passion. Bloody false crests and steepness and general wind blown-ness gave us a general air of windswept and interesting as Billy Connolly used to say. But before long, we were at the top and heading into the woods for more tape collection and more comedy slips.
The route wound its way around the woods on Juniper Top heading slightly uphill before depositing us on the Boxhill Road opposite the Smith and Western. Next up (or down rather) was the chute leading to underneath the viewpoint. We trotted down reminiscing of the creaking trees that accompanied our solitary journey in the storm last year. This year there were leaves strewn all over the path making it difficult to see where the chalk gulleys that make up much of this path were. We took it steady and tried to refrain from aeroplane actions and ‘wheeeeeeeeee’ noises as we headed down the slope. We got down safely thank goodness and headed sharp right at the bottom up the single track and the penultimate hill. At the top, at the viewpoint was Alan, strangely dressed as a girl. (Well I say strangely – we all remember him in his wonder woman outfit at Bacchus last year)…
Apparently it was a bit chilly at the viewpoint water station so he’d borrowed a pink fleecy buff off Jess (who had pleurisy at the time) and was dressed like a pink masked robber.
Actually, he had a point. Sheltered for probably the last three miles or so, as we popped out at the top, the strengthening winds were really making themselves know. No matter, we only had one more hill to climb, the infamous Stepping Stone steps.
But first we had to get down to them. Grant opted for a Tigger like approach to step descending and promptly deposited himself on his arse as his feet slid away from him. We didn’t laugh once, honest ;o) Still, it was nice of him to take one for the team and slightly more gingerly than before, we got to the bottom (hohoho) without further incident.
For the first time in what seems like ages we were permitted to cross over the stepping stones. Gleefully we crossed, excited like children, then being careful to give Nefertiti plenty of room we wandered back up the steps to many joyful cries of ‘Happy New Year’ to those out for a New Years Day refresher.
I was having a wonderful time. It proved to be as much fun at the back as it was in the main race and I was sorry when we got to the top and had only a few hundres metres to go until we were done.
And soon, there it was, the finish line and the end to another Knacker Cracker. We had a team hug and pictures then drifted away to get on with the rest of our day.