Last weekend I completed the 4th out of 5 modern pentathlon disciplines during the Cheshunt XC winter league, running for Ealing Eagles.
I did a few cross countries races when I was younger, but looking back it must have been almost 20 years since my last one. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but having brought cross country spikes I headed over to the first race of the season with my team mates. With this race taking place in October and the weather still relatively mild the course was in good condition so this was going to be a nice introduction to the cross country scene.
There were 21 clubs involved and I was told to focus on running to effort rather than worrying about time as the variables caused by the hills and conditions under foot mean that predicting time is very difficult. The start like most of the league races is always a bit of a scrap as it’s finish time that counts, not chip time. The importance of a good start in cross country though is even more important as there are often pinch points where overtaking is very difficult. The one at Cheshunt occurs after about half a mile on the first lap and literally brings the runners to a standstill, although once through the runners are spread out enough to avoid this being too much of an issue on subsequent laps.
The race was really good run and I found that I was generally stronger than the runners around me on the uphills but didn’t really have the confidence to push as hard downhill as some of the others, so I was constantly overtaking and being overtaken by others around. Despite saying that I needed to focus on effort and not time, I did check the watch occasionally and was surprised that I was runner near enough to my 10k pace, probably an indication that my 10k PB should be better.
I finished the race in 117th place out of about 300, not bad for my first go. Coming in 10th place for the Eagles, also meant that I contributed to the scoring of the B team. Looking back, I was probably too comfortable throughout, but I’ll know to push harder at the next race in a few weeks time.
I’ve have now completed 2 of the 41 Olympic challenges following a beginners Archery course at Greenwood Osterley Archers (www.goarchers.org.uk). The course in run by volunteers at the club and costs £50 for a series of 6 group lessons. As the majority of the club are involved in competitions in the summer, the courses are generally run in the winter. This meant learning Archery in windy, wet and at times, freezing conditions – not ideal when learning a sport that involves a lot of standing around.
I joined a group of around 12 and the first lesson was very much about getting used to the equipment and learning the rules and etiquette of being on the Archery range. Safety was definitely the primary concern and rightly so. We also had a test to determine whether we would shoot left-handed or right-handed. This was not determined by which hand was dominant, but by eye dominance. I am left eyed, so despite being right handed, it was a left-handed compound bow that I would have to master.
One of the things that surprised me was that we were already shooting at the target after 30 minutes of the first lesson, although it was only around 10 meters away at this stage. Over the course of the lessons we gradually increased the distance of the target and we added the use of a sight to improve our accuracy. By the end of the course we were practicing competition style scoring. I did reasonably well and was getting 1 or 2 in the gold every end (6 arrows) – although this was around half the distance of what they use in the Olympics.
After the course there is an option to join the club for around £100 year. Whilst this is very reasonable, the reality is you would probably end up spending close to £1,000 when equipment is taken into account. Whilst I found the lessons interesting, the lack of physical excursion meant that Archery failed to capture my imagination.
Please see below a video of my final lesson, courtesy of my father.