Well, the Sodbury Slog was yesterday. I booked it months ago and largely forgot about this 10K race through muddy fields. James wasn't running at the time that I booked it, so I was to go it alone. Two weeks ago, I re-checked things and it turned out to be 9.5 miles and sold out, much to James' annoyance. Luckilly for James, Simon "Gilly" Gill had an attack of the man-flu last week and bailed on Friday. Keith James initially got the place, but suddenly realised that he had something else on that day (clearly the 9.5 miles was not worth getting out of bed for), and James stepped up.
We set off nice and early, taking the M4 junction for Bath to avoid any of the Bristol Traffic. We were soon ambling through the countryside, chortling at the sight of "Little Sod"bury, followed by "Old Sod"bury, but it was when we came across a pub at the side of the road called "The Dog Inn" that I lost it, just a bit. Sorry, but I had to mention it as it tickled me, and including it here is just a way of checking to see if Nick "Jacko" Jackson reads this.
We arrived in plenty of time, and caught up a few more Lliswerry people, just enough for a decent photo. We went to Race HQ (Chipping Sodbury School), collected our numbers and arranged the number swap for James (how dignified, why can't other Races allow swapping on the day?). Time for the photo-shoot next, and we lined up in the School playground. The Race Briefing was LOUD. So LOUD that we couldn't hear a thing that he said. No doubt the "odd" chip timing was mentioned (more later, on that one). Oh, thinking on it, there was some mention of them accidentally fertilising Mile seven with pig manure.
The Last Post was played, and thankfully the Rememberence Day messages were clear. I had the strange experience of noticing someone dressed in a Parrot suit in front of me during the two minutes silence. Once we had paid our respects, everyone started to move out of the playground towards the Race Start. It was at this point that I lost my son - Gareth Beck took him under his wing with a "you're a 40 minute 10K aren't you, follow me!" and they wandered off down a separate path, clearly to start further towards the front.
Getting to the start, not an Issue, I thought. That's the great thing about chip timing, doesn't matter if it takes you a few minutes to get to the line because that's when your clock starts ticking. Only problem was, I never really saw a line, just a slow jog through the village. The previous night, we watched "A fistful of dollars". This inspired me to have "adios amigos" written on my back, just as they did to the condemned man.
At about the one mile point, we turned into a field, and the fun begun. Squelchy mud followed by reeds and water. Some tried to jump, but it was best just to resign yourself to it and trawl through. Wasn't long before the gulleys got wider and deeper and I saw the first poor soul to have lost a trainer. He was sat on the mud, reaching into the puddle, up to his armpit with a forlorn look on his face. This pretty much described the next few miles, the only other interesting thing that happened was that I realised that the Parrot was female - as she screeched and almost swore as the mud held on to her boot.
Three and a half miles, and a water station appeared. Learned my lesson from Cardiff, I slowed and took a cup. A women to the left had a bucket tilted in my direction - expecting "sheep nuts", I ventured over and found that it was Jelly Beans. They were amazing - kept me going for a bit as (they stuck to my teeth), but they were fruity and good. I think I'm going to try these instead of Gels in future - but will I be able to eat them without the faint hint of mud?
Turned up a hill at this point, and got talking to a "fit bird". Now before you start, this is how she described herself - or indeed someone else had offered it as a compliment earlier in the race. She led me up the hill, and I took her round the back of the old vicarage. Fit bird complained of people just taking things too seriously these days, and the loss of fancy dress. The only other Fancy Dress that I saw was a Nun (more of him later), and a bloke in a Tuxedo, normal trousers and an Afro wig.
I can't remember whether this was before or after the "Sheep Dip". As advertised, we were driven through the muddiest hole I'd ever had the misfortune to find myself in. Plop. One advantage of having long legs is that the water stopped at the top of my thighs, for most others, it was waist height (heard later that James came a cropper in this one). The bloke in front claimed to have had a wee in there, but I ignored that. I exited the Dip and, to my delight, appeared to have donned a pair of tan stockings from the mud. So glad that I left my tights behind - stockings are so much nicer.
We entered another field, and another challenge - keep to the hedge. Imagine those times when you need to walk through deep mud, every step a challenge to keep your trainer on. Now put this on a narrow path with a super tempting incline to the left and a thorny hedge to the right. Everyone picked up the angled foot stumble stomp, shouting the incoming hazards to the person behind. Took me a while of shouting "branch" before I realised that they were less of an issue for my followers.
After that field was the sweetcorn. OK, there had been sweetcorn in the field earlier in the year and it'd been ploughed specially for it - think wide ridges. The soil was now compacted and we were going through - diagonally. Again, the feet and ankles took it badly, clever people these race organisers. Not long, and there was another sign entitled "Pig Trough". Translated, this means you're going to be walking through a deep stream with the locals stood above you, shouting abuse. They were taking their children down to point and laugh at us, for goodness sake! I was hearing cries of "Good Job Nige", to which I replied "Nigel please!" - now that got a bit of a response. Later on, I mentioned this and someone pointed out that I was wearing a poppy stuck to my "L".
The next stage was a few fields of three inch deep mud - probably the worst bit, since if you run in that, you lose your shoes. Then back out onto tarmac - whoo hoo! At this point, the cries of "no more mud" got me a bit excited and spurred me on - quite difficult when you're dragging half a ton of mud on your cold, wet shoes. A few road crossings later, and we were at the dog-leg that I'd seen on the map. I couldn't understand why it was on the map - surely we weren't making up the distance. Turned out to be an underpass - slope on the way down then... steps up again. Just getting to the top of the steps, I saw something to my right - it was the nun. I thought to myself, I'm not having that - no way that I'm going to be beaten by a nun.
That set me up for a sprint finish - photo opportunity certainly. Started to open the stride and left him behind - he may have had the running habit, but it was no match for the gazelle (eh Nick?). I sped towards the finish only to see two finishing "bouncy castles", one after another. Overtook a couple towards the first one, then saw my chance for another two positions as two chaps slowed down - they thought they were done! I stepped it up for a final burst and took them too, noticing as I went that the timing mat had wrinkled up and I had narrowly avoided getting my foot caught in it. That sort of behaviour was rewarded with a "spot prize", a raffle ticket that I later exchanged for a kit bag and water bottle.
The Goody Bag was rather good - started off with a banana and various snacks, then we were sent off to collect a water bottle, then a pair of socks. Could have bought a T-shirt too, with my name on the back, but no money!
Caught up with the finishers, to find that James had complete the Race in 1:31. This suprised me, as I'd done a healthy 1:32, thought it'd been down to the gun / chip time difference. Found out later that he actually said 1:13. Oh, and the chip time? They only used it for the finish. Never run a gun TO chip time race before - lesson learned, get to the front for the Sodbury Slog!