Jay Goulding has kindly written a race report for the Merthyr Mawr Christmas Pudding Race 2013. The race was also attended by Taff Ely Tri members Vicky Jones and Ros Edmonds.
Over to Jay:
By the end of this review, you will have learned that I won the race up the hill and that I hold the course record. Neither of these are entirely true, The Merthyr Mawr Christmas pudding race is the race of legends, or as I found out leg- ends! The race which has been running since 1990 is a Brackla – Buy one get one free! The overall race is a 10k cross country race, the free bit is the not so easy sprint to the top of the “big dipper”, the winner of which gets a Turkey ( more on that in a bit).
As I headed down the M4, glad that I didn’t stay out for the extra beer, I began to question my own judgement as the sat nav sent me passed the normal junction for Bridgend and southern down. Had I looked at the postcode the night before or even followed my own sense of direction, I would have noticed that the postcode provided, by the otherwise well organised race team, had sent me 6 miles from the actual race. Luckily a bloke with running kit on, directed me and the 6 other cars following me (these cars had clearly not consulted any of TET about my sense of direction) in the right direction and the sight of Ewenny Pottery told me I was back on track.
Just enough time to get my kit on and run to the start line where I was greeted by the smiling faces of Vicky Jones and Ros Edmonds two other Taff Ely triathletes .
The race starts with the “Big Dipper” which is one big sand dune. Once you get there, if you’re legs still work, you have the prospect of another 9.8km of a proper cross country course which has everything. It takes you over hills, through mud, sand, water and gravel.
The start line was busy with athletes of all abilities most looking fearfully at the hill ahead, and many dressed in fancy dress. Until this point I hadn’t really thought much about the race. My normal strategy is to start slowly a few rows back and feel my way into a race. But today, for some unknown reason, I found myself at the front, thinking “I’m alright at hills”. This thought was about to be my undoing.
When the race official started us off, it felt more like a 5k park run on a beach up a hill, we all just went for it. 50 metres in and the thoughts were turning to high knees and good form, which would have been drilled into me if I attended more Monday night sessions with Ed. Another 50 metres in and I can see a few people on the grass cheating their arses off, but in the middle, on the sand, I was going alright.
Soon, a small number of us congregated just before the top, just in front of the tv camera. Two people were ahead of me (both had been on the grass, so should be disqualified and banned from racing for ever) and they are both struggling big time, using their hands to make their legs work. I can taste victory, if I can just get around them.
And then…my legs just stopped working and I too resorted to pushing my knees with my hands just to get them to move. One of the lads in front fell over and I found myself in second place. Could I get the victory? Where was the line? Could this have been the greatest success of my career so far? No. Just as i thought I was about taste the poultry smell of moist Turkey I realised, I was till about 100 metres from the very top and my legs didn’t work. It was the worst form of Jelly legs ever experienced in the history of the world. I wondered if I would even finish the next 1k, never mind the whole race. And then… the humiliation began… “you went off too fast didn’t you lads” is the only thing I remember hearing as the wiser runners, slowly but surely overtake me and the other carcasses lying decimated on the floor.
The next few kms were a test of whether I could recover and still get some speed back in my legs. Although not planned, it was a good exercise in recovery which will hopefully hold me in good stead for the next Triathlon season.
The rest of the course was amazing, more sand, but this time downhill, streams, plenty of marshalls who stopped the traffic, and offered friendly encouragement. By the 7th Km, my legs were working again and I started to overtake people again. By the time I hit the river, my feet were wet, but I was home and dry. The goody bag at the end contained Christmas puddings which I ate for my supper after some great Chinese food, with the TET lot. Great day! Next stop Nos Galon.
Oh yes, when I checked my watch after, I could see that I reached the first peak in 1min and 16 seconds. I didn’t run on the grass. the course record is 1.22. I am claiming a moral victory, even if i didn’t get the Turkey!!