the one where we spent a lot of time eating cake
The Three Forts Challenge is one of those events that the esteemed WCR team captain, Jennifer Watt, had told me was my ‘kind of race’ early in spring 2015. Unfortunately, we had already made the mistake of entering the Milton Keynes Half last May Bank Holiday so I had been waiting to find out whether she was right ever since.
Race day came around, a beautifully clear and sunny spring morning, and we set off to enjoy the day. The race village was well-organised, with the usual slightly too few portaloos per runner ratio. I suppose this must be the reason why one of the canicross participants decided to cock their leg and relieve themselves on our recently appointed chair’s bag and shoe.
My racing companion, Andrea Hendy, and I started off at a steady pace, with her recent marathon success at Manchester as my excuse today for not going all out from the start. About a mile in and we hit our first (noticeable) hill, which frustratingly came at a bottleneck in the course. “Why are all these people walking, it’s not that steep?” I pondered, racing up the hill until realising there was just nowhere for me or the other runners to go on the narrow path.
Fortunately, the course widened and presented the first descent: a chalky path littered with rocks and boasting a fabulous gradient. Apparently, I can run more quickly downhill. Who knew? My legs kicked into auto-pilot and rolled down the hill, only stopping when we reached our first water station where I paused to let Andrea (who doesn’t pretend she is invincible when tackling a chalky hill) catch up. Having discussed with Andrea the perils of a poor race hydration strategy in the first mile or so, it was good to see this at mile 2 in the race. Haribo jelly babies were scoffed then on we went.
The rest of the race goes pretty much like this: down a bit, up a bit, water station. Down a bit, up a bit, cake station… “Hey, there’s CAKE!” Admire view, chat to marshals, admire view some more, eat a second slice of cake, speed off downhill like a 5-year-old who doesn’t have to worry about falling because their mum will pick them up if they do and then give them cake to cheer them up, cake station. Down a bit, up a bit, cake station. Massive up (accompanied by an a capella rendition of ‘The Only Way is Up’ from yours truly) followed by the ultimate race denouement: another massive downhill. Cue race legs switched on. Yes, Captain Watt, this is my kind of race.
Apparently this was the second best weather they’ve had on race day. How lucky we were! Last year saw Sue Park and Dan Houghton running a mistier edition of this race so maybe running Milton Keynes back then was not such a bad call after all. Post race was spot-on: medal, more free cake (with a wider selection than on the course, plus popcorn) and a massage in the sunshine. Not sure what more you could want from a race. My advice? Run it next year.