Sunday, 20 March 2016

Running and drumming - on the importance of not giving up on our passions

Long before I fell in love with running, I was a drummer. I started playing 17 years ago, and for many years it was my huge passion. I used to talk a lot about it, think about it, and actually play a lot. There were times when I was a member of up to 3 bands, rehearsing with them almost every day, and practicing on my own for another 2-3 hours every day on top of that.
The time was passing, life started getting in the way, rock star career and lifestyle I was dreaming of wasn't coming, and slowly my passion started to fade away.
I never gave up on drumming though. I was just spending less and less time doing it, and music became more of an important hobby, but not really my dreamed of way of living.

Why am I writing this on a blog that was supposed to be about running?
Because there are many similarities between running and music - or between running and any other passion one can have.

The impulse to write this was the 5 days I've recently spent with my mates from Todger (the band I have a great honor and pleasure to be a part of) at the Rocket Studio in Croydon, working on our new album (the first Todger album with me as a drummer).

I think I want to write about how important it is to stick to our passions and hobbies, and how rewarding it can get, sometimes when we least expect it.

Both running and drumming are activities requiring skill and practice. It's different type of skill, but in both cases it takes years to become good at it. They say it takes 10000 hours to become an expert in a field, and that may be true (although it's not enough to just spend 10000 hours doing something - it's important to do it purposefully and to keep learning and improving the way we learn - as we go).

Learning to play an instrument is not all fun. It's hours of mundane exercises, it's a lot of frustration when we fail. And plenty of satisfaction, when we see the progress, when we're getting better. When we can play things we've never been able to play before. It's quite like with running. I know that internet is full of motivational images and stories telling how awesome and joyful activity running is. And that is true, but it's not the full picture. Running training is also a lot of pain (at least every 3 times a week, during the hard sessions). It's getting out to train no matter what's the weather, no matter what mood you're in, or what cool stuff your friends are up to you're about to miss. It means missing on parties, sticking to healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake, basically - giving up on lots of fun things. Running, drumming, or whatever your passion is, consumes time. It can consume a lot of it, if you're really dedicated. It always comes at a price - mostly at the price of your social life.
But there are also many good things coming with that. There are days when a workout goes better than expected. When you run faster than before. When you run with more ease. There are races, there are PBs. There is your first marathon run, when you feel like a true hero when you cross the finish line. There's lot of satisfaction and self-fulfilment on the way.

At some point you'll realize that your childhood dreams are actually not going to come true. Statistically, none of us would become a rock star. Or an Olympic champion. But - and that's an important part, at least it was important to me to finally understand that - it doesn't matter.
Because what is important is the road, not the destination. I won't be an Olympic champion, I won't be a rock star - but trying to become one, walking the road towards it, can still be very satisfying and enriching process. And there's a lot to learn while we walk that way.

One of the more important things I've learned being a drummer and a runner, is how important it is to be prepared. To - quoting Chris Hadfield - sweat the small stuff. (Btw. if you haven't read his "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" - please do it.)
I have two stories to back it up. The first one - the most recent recording experience.

Mental Dissection Tool, aka Drum Kit. Isn't she a beauty?

Working in a recording studio is hard. It requires a lot of focus and patience. You record your part, and then all of you - the sound engineer and your band mates - are listening to it. Just your drums. And they're able to extract every single instrument. It feels like being dissected on a public square, where everyone can see what's inside of you, all the things you want to hide, all the stuff you're not proud of.
Is your kick-drum in time all over the song? Didn't you speed up? That drum fill, were all the strokes precise enough? That second triplet, wasn't it a bit too fast? Didn't you miss a crash on that bar? Didn't you hit the tom rim on that fill? And so on - you got the point.
And then, once that part is done, once drums for all the songs are done - the same happens to the rest of the band. Bass guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, vocals...
Before we went to the studio, we were preparing like crazy. For the last several months we were rehearsing the songs we were about to record, in last weeks before the studio practicing twice a week (compared to our regular one-practice-a-week system). We were fairly comfortable with the songs, we knew they were good, but were we good enough to give them justice in the studio? It's a different story than a live gig - in a live situation you can get away with some mistakes, as long as the overall feel is ok, it doesn't matter that much if you made some mistakes, speed up in that solo, or missed a cymbal in the outro. You can't do this in studio.
So we went to record this album with a mix of optimism and a bit of fear.

But all of this quickly started to fade away, giving the place to the excitement. We finished the drums - and that was pretty good. I loved the sound, it was played quite well, groovy, smooth. And then the bass came - making the stuff more exciting, starting to resemble the songs already. Hugh did an awesome job, nailing his parts in just half a day.
The next two days - guitars. That's where we got really over the top with the excitement. It was simply smashing! Powerful, fat sound, all parts executed perfectly. Then the vocals on the last day - and it sounds awesome! Christian left all he had there - and you can hear that!
After 5 days - and the work is not done yet, we still need to record backing vocals and mix the whole thing - we've got something that we are very happy with.

Magic happens. Especially in Croydon - the Jewel of the Southeast ;)

I'm not writing this to brag about it. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter if anyone would publish this album for us, if anyone buys it. What matter to us is that our effort paid off to ourselves. We've spent years learning to play instruments, starting bands, writing songs, playing gigs, practicing, rehearsing. And after all those years we've reached the point, when it all came together to produce something bigger than just the sum of it's components. Not giving up, practicing, sweating the small stuff out, week after week, month after month, year after year - and at some point a moment comes, when magic happens. They way I felt during and right after this experience was priceless.

The second story is about a race I run last year. After our club mile championship race, where I did fairly well (better than was expected of me, anyway), my Coach told me "you're now officially a mid-distance runner". That was on the 30th on June. From that point we changed my training, making it mid-distance specific. For the next 2 months I was doing more sharp, fast workouts, at some point running a track session 3 times a week. There were some brutal sessions, when I felt I was about to revisit my lunch (apparently that's quite common for pro mid-distance runners. I didn't puke after a session yet, so I guess there's a long way for me before I reach a pro level).
But that was paying off. In the following weeks I got quite decent 400m and 800m PBs. And then came the day of the main - and the last - race of the season. It was a 1500 m at Highgate Harriers open meeting, at the Parliament Hill track, on an early September Wednesday evening.
I went there after work, got changed, started my warm up. My Coach came over to support me, we had a little chat, and it was time to go to the start line. My goal was to get as close to 4:20 as possible - according to the starting list there were supposed to be few guys at around this standard, so I'd had someone to run with.
Sound of the gun and off we went. After 200 m I realized that the pace is a bit too slow, so I sped up and took the lead. One guy followed me. Coming to the second lap (so 300 meters in the race) I can hear my Coach saying "take it easy". I relax, keeping the pace, and we continue to run. The Highgate guy still on my back. We're coming to the 3rd lap, and I can hear my Coach saying "let him work". I was willing to, but he wasn't very keen to take the lead, so we carry on with me in the lead and him on my shoulder. The third lap in a 1500 m race is the hardest one. You're already very tired, so it's easy to slow down. And the important part is - to not to. It requires a lot of focus to keep the pace. We're running, working hard. Breathing fast, lungs starting to hurt, legs starting to burn, but pace stays right.
Coming down to the last lap. The sound of the bell, and I can hear my Coach: "you got it".
And I got it.
The last lap hurts the most, but it's also the best one. There is some magic to a one lap race - and that's what eventually every track race gets down to. It doesn't matter what happened before, how many laps you've run so far - now it's all out. It doesn't matter if you collapse just after the finish line, no one thinks about it. Your thinking becomes erratic, as all the blood and oxygen are now in your legs and arms, pumping to get all the energy you've got left out. It doesn't matter you're suffocating - you're almost there! Back straight, last bend, and finally down to the home straight. Sprinting like there is no tomorrow, just a glimpse at the clock while crossing the finish line. First place in 4:18!

Again, I'm not writing that here to brag about it. I've had my fair share of bragging already ;)
What I want to tell you now is that even if it's already more than half a year since that race, this memory is still very strong in me. I still cherish it as a really important event in my life. And it really doesn't matter that it was an insignificant race, that I didn't get any medal for that, that my time (even though I'm really happy with it) is still very very far from the times pro runners are running. What matters is that all the hard work, all the preparations paid off - for me. I felt good with myself, I was proud of myself, possibly I made my Coach proud as well (he well deserves that!).

Nursing a hobby, a passion, is not easy. It takes time, it can take money. It requires many sacrifices.
But it's worth it. All the hours, days, weeks, months and years we spend practicing things we love - pay off. Probably they won't ever pay off literally, giving us careers in a given field, probably we'll never get rewarded with money.

But we get something more valuable - memories.
And they stay with us.

Monday, 14 March 2016

How much can you lift?

Don't you worry, it's not going to be like one of those childish "my dad has a bigger cock than yours" conversations. There won't even be any bragging here (ok, a little bit, but just a tiny bit). It actually will be about running and importance of weights training in a runner's life.

To get over with it, here comes the bragging part. You can skip it.

Few days ago I've hit my weights targets for this season: 120 kg squat and 130 kg deadlift. It's next to nothing for those big guys you can see occupying your local gym, gut it's pretty good for a skinny runner.
Bragging done.

Now down to business. It's funny - if you've told me 10 years ago that I'd be preaching about weightlifting, I'd be at your home in no time, searching for this awesome stuff you're infusing your moonshine with. And wondering, why the fuck you're not sharing with your friends?
Yet, 10 years passed in a blink of an eye, and here we are: I'm going to write Words on weightlifting, and you're going to read it (you are, aren't you?).

So, without further ado:

1. Good reasons for doing weightlifting. 


1.1. Injury prevention


That is fairly obvious. When your muscles are stronger, there is less impact on your joints and tendons (because your muscles are absorbing most of the energy). Decent weights training + good running technique can make you nearly injury-free (of course, depending on the amount of your running, but if you're not running much more than 100km a week, that can make you almost immune to overuse injuries. Well, you can still sprain your ankle or fall on the pavement).
Anyway, how old are you? Statistically, you're probably in your 20s or 30s. You already love running, and most likely you'll be doing that for the next 20-30-40-50 (or more) years. Do you think you'll be able to do this without strengthening your muscles?

1.2. It will make you faster


Now I can hear you saying "but I'm not a sprinter, why would I lift weights, I don't need that".
You are wrong.
There are two aspects to that. First - getting stronger will improve your max speed. Even if you don't use it too often (or almost never, as most of amateur long distance runners), it still comes in handy when you want to out-sprint that guy you've been fighting with for the better part of your last 10k race. But - what's more important - it will enable you to incorporate faster running into your training. You don't need to do a sprinter's training, but doing at least faster strides from time to time is a must if you want to improve your technique.
And you want to improve your technique, if you want to run faster - it will make you more efficient.
Running fast is also fun, and running is all about fun, isn't it?

1.3. It won't make you slower


Yeah, I know, I've just said that it will make you faster, so why do I need to say it again, just with different words?
Many people think that weights training makes your muscles grow, and - since it targets your fast-twitching fibers - makes you slower over longer distances.
To be honest, I guess there is a bit of truth here - but only if you overdo weights. Certainly you should be very careful with that if you're at elite level. But hey, are you at elite level?
Really, you are? So why the hell are you looking for my advice?! You know much better than me. Close this blog and go for a run or have some sleep, or eat some ugali, or do whatever elite runners do.

Ok, so you're not an elite runner. In that case you can do weights without any (or almost any) harm for your long-distance abilities. Just do it in a clever manner.
Let's get to the next step - how to go about weights.

2. Weight lifting for dummies runners.


2.1. Safety first


If you're new to weightlifting, do not start on your own. Have someone - ideally a personal trainer - show you how to go about it without hurting yourself. It's not a rocket science, but there are many things one can do wrong and hurt himself. Do not lift too heavy weights to start with, do not increase loads too quickly, even if you're clearing your current weights easily. And be prepared to be fairly sore after first few sessions.

2.2. Periodize


Do not do the same thing all the time. The same as with running training, it's good to periodize your weights training. If you're new to that, probably you can do basics for the first year or so, gradually building your strength and ability. But at some point you may want to start periodizing, e.g. focusing more on strength during base-building phase, and more on power closer to the competition phase.
To be honest it's my first season when I'm doing periodization (both in running and weights training), so it's not based on my experience yet, but periodization is pretty well known and basic concept in training.

2.3. Do the right stuff


I strongly recommend getting professional help with that - be it your coach, personal trainer. Someone who knows the stuff and has the right qualifications. Ask for good strength exercises for runners and how to do them properly.
But mostly you'll need to do squats and deadlifts as a base - those are the best exercises to build general strength, targeting large muscles. You can add lunges (I think it's pretty good exercise for runners, it targets glutes, quads and hamstrings), front squats, jumping squats, romanian deadlifts, and so on. But squats and deadlifts is the bread and butter. Oh, and don't bother with the machines. They are easy to use and thus are tempting, but you'll get much better results with free weights. Machines are too isolated, while with free weights you're working on more muscles, your general movement patterns and balance.
At some point you'll need to start doing a bit of upper body exercises as well - you need some general strength to be able to cope with heavier weights. But be careful with that, you don't want to grow big!
Big muscles may look cool, but for a runner they are just a ballast. You need to carry it with you while you run and you need to feed it (therefore having less oxygen and sugar to power your running muscles).

There are also plenty of other exercises that are more running-specific. I may write something on that at some point as well. Tonight it's all about the strength though.

2.4. Do not overdo


I know it may sound very unlikely at first, but you may end up actually enjoying lifting weights. I myself have grown to really enjoy this stuff. So a piece of advice: remember that you're a runner in the first place. Weights should help you with running, not hamper it. Remember you're doing it to improve your running, not to be stronger for the sake of strength.
I think I've overdone it a couple of times, I missed few running sessions because of that (by missed I mean I was too knackered after previous day's weights to do the session properly and get the full benefit. Not to actually miss the session!)
I think that my aerobic endurance at the moment is not as good as it should be - because of weights training. But in my case it is "a part of the plan", and with proper periodization it should be ok in the long run.
My point is that there is no such thing as a free lunch - doing weights will force you to plan your training better and may sometimes impact your running. But if you're sensible about it, it's definitely worth it.

Ok, to summarize it:
  • do weights training
  • have someone qualified to help you with that
  • do not overdo weights
  • run fast from time to time (even if you're training only for ultramarathons)
  • have fun
  • never, ever, hide good moonshine from me

Friday, 4 March 2016

British Indoor Championships

On the Sunday after XC Nationals I was going to Sheffield to see British Indoor Championships.
J., my mate from the club, was planning on going and convinced me to join him (it didn't take him long).
On Sunday morning I woke up really thirsty. I suppose I had to be dreaming of running a lot, as I felt seriously dehydrated. Someone suggested that it was probably due to the last night's exploration of extensively interesting Derby's nightlife, but I don't think that's the case.

After the breakfast I left our hotel and walked towards the train station. Derby in the daylight is actually pretty nice. The city center is not big, but quite neat, with an old Cathedral, a couple of old churches, some nice looking pubs, narrow streets between old but well preserved houses, several gourmet chip-shops.
There is a guy playing blues on the high street, and there is a nice, warming sunlight.
To add a bit of glitter to this picture, the streets are decorated with chips eaten to all possible degrees. Starting with completely uneaten, to nearly fully digested. Seems that the pan-British tradition of decorating cities on Saturday night with semi-digested food is strong in Derby.
Oh, and there is Mr Booze!

I made my way to the station, got my ticket, and in half an hour I was in Sheffield. J arrived just after me.
We had a perfect plan. We arrived at the same time, J did his weekly long run on Saturday, so he had Sunday off, I got drunk the night before so I could save my running clothes for the mission that was ahead of us. The return train ticket booked, top British athletes ready and in shape to entertain us, the track illuminated, everything spot-on.
Minus one tiny detail. We didn't have tickets to the event itself. And apparently it was sold out well in advance.
Nonetheless, we've boarded a bus and headed towards English Sport Institute, the venue of the Championships.
Once we've got there, we had to solve the case of getting in. We started with asking the security guards if we could get in. They said the event was sold out, but we could ask at the box office if there were any returns. We asked. There were none. A nice lady told us that all the returns were re-sold in the morning, and there are no sits left. Nor standing places. Nothing.
We decided to go for a walk around the Institute, maybe someone would need pacemakers, or porters, pole holders, shoe-tiers, t-shirt triers, whatever. Unfortunately for us this event was very well organized, and all those roles were already filled by more qualified personnel.
Then J's genius came into play. "We're going to the gym" - he said. There is an open-access gym in the same building. We showed up at the main entrance one more time, but this time - as a gym clients. Nice lady at the gym reception told us we need to register at first. So we did, we've paid £5 each, and we were in. But we were quite far from the full success yet. They didn't leave us on our own. We were escorted to the gym, passing just next to the door to the hall where the event was taking place. So close, yet so far!

We changed into training clothes (that's where my genius manifested itself - if I didn't get drunk last night, I'd be able to wake up early enough to go for a morning run, therefore I wouldn't have any running clothes left), and we went into the weights room. Then we decided that we'll try the cardio area first - it was in another part of the building so we had to be escorted again.
We got there and started exploring. On the first floor there was an entrance to the athletics hall, but fenced and closed. On the second floor - big windows with the view on the hall - covered with black plastic foil. On the third floor - windows uncovered, so we could see a bit of the track. And all the officials writing down the results and stuff - just next to us, behind the glass wall. We took spinning bikes, faced them towards the hall and started cycling. But the view wasn't perfect, half of it was covered, so we could see only about a half of the track. So we left, and then - eureka! - we found a door. The door wasn't locked. We went through it at found ourselves at the top of the hall, just where all the spectators were passing to take their seats. No one asked us for the tickets, no one tried to stop us, so we went there and found out that - regardless of what we were told at the box office - there were quite a few empty seats. We've found ourselves nice seats just next to the track, on the home straight and started watching. I suppose some people probably were confused who we were - two blokes in running shorts and t-shirts, but probably a bit too big and too old to be competing here. Anyway, we didn't care, enjoying our £5 top seats (couldn't get better places to be honest - we were just by the finish line).
We spend next 4 hours watching top athletics, and doing some spinning in between when we were getting colder (it wasn't very warm there).

Some great racing, some really good performances. Interesting 800m final with Jamie Webb's win, and only third place for the previous Champion - Guy Learmonth. Very nice 1500m final with Jamie Grice defending his title after great finish fight with James Brewer.
In women's 3000m clear win for Stephanie Twell (win by almost 4 seconds). Most interesting for us was 800m women final though, with Jenny Meadows and Lynsey Sharp, two very experienced athletes. Both were European champions, and competed in big international events (European, Commonwealth, World Championship).
The race was pretty much about Jenny Meadows fighting off Lynsey's attacks. Jenny was leading for about 700m, with Lynsey running on her shoulder in lane 2 all the time! When everyone was sure that gold would be decided between the two of them, Adelle Tracey sprinted past them on the home straight, followed by Leah Barrow! Lindsey Sharp took bronze, leaving Jenny Meadows without a medal in her (according to some rumours) last British Indoor Championships start. Quite symbolic.

That was the last event. After that we (well, J.) had a chat with few athletes and coaches (J. is one of those guys-who-know-people). Then we bought some merchandise (really nice, but slightly overpriced British Athletics t-shirts - at least we gave something back, since we didn't pay for tickets...) and went back to the train station.

Very good day, really inspiring and fun. I definitely need to do some indoor running next season, it seems much more fun than plodding in the mud.

p.s. no pictures from Sheffield, as I left my phone in the locker in the gym, and we didn't want to test our luck trying to get our stuff from the changing room.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

The National Cross Country Championships

I've got a bit of a love and hate relationship with cross-country races. When I tried it for the first time 2 years ago, I fell in love with it. Being able to run in the mud, in hard conditions, wind, rain and freezing cold was like fulfilling every boy's childhood dreams. Stuff we wanted to do when we were 6 years old, but mum wouldn't allow us. It turns out it's a pretty normal activity for grown-up adults. You can even be actively encouraged to do it.
On top of that, the highly competitive nature of cross country races makes it even more appealing. Because XC is all about the team you're running for. Your time doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is your position, how many people you can beat. Scoring system is simple - you're earning a number of points equal to your position. The first 6 (or 4 or 9, 12, etc.) runners from your club scores for the team. The team with the lowest score wins. Easy.
So in the beginning I loved XC. Even if I was scoring for the team B or C, it still mattered. So you really race, no matter what is your standard - there are always people at similar ability around you, that you can beat (or get beaten by).
But this year my love towards XC running started to fade. I've run 6 races this season, and in all of them (maybe apart from one) I'd run like a total twat. Slow, without pushing hard, without the will to do well.
Anyway, I signed up for Nationals as I've heard it's good fun - going away for the weekend with clubmates, racing together, than sharing stories, food and drinks. Quite a few drinks, as it turned out...
And - of course - National XC championships is a really big and prestigious event, a part of running tradition and history, with some of the greatest British athletes running and winning it in the past.

There were about 40 people from the club going there together on a coach (plus quite a few driving there on their own). We met at 8:30am at our club HQ, boarded the bus and off we went.
After less than 3 hours drive we've arrived at the venue of the race - Donington Park near Derby. The place that is famous for Donington Park Racing Circuit - the home of British motor sports. Donington Park is also the venue of Download Festival - a major rock/metal festival, that this year will see Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden as the headliners (I guess that's going to be my next visit to that place then). Maiden have played there many times before, they've even recorded a live album there in 1992 (during the Fear of the Dark tour). But let's get back to business.

XC race like that reminds me of a medieval battle (not that I remember how actual medieval battle looks like! I'm not that ancient...).
There are clubs from all over the country. You name the city or county - you'll find them there. There are tents aligned in ordered, even rows. Banners waving in the wind, club colours on runners vests and hoodies. And this tension in the air, everyone is waiting for his race, knowing that it's going to be something important. Quite like medieval warriors awaiting the battle.

When we arrived there, first races were already going on. U13 boys, U15 girls, U17 boys, U17 girls. Finally, two main events - senior women's race - 8 km and then, at 3pm - senior men, 3 laps over the hilly course. 12km of hills, grass and mud.

The massed start of the race resembles a battle as well. Unlike any road race, where the start area is quite narrow and people are forming many, many rows (and it sometimes takes up to half an hour to actually cross the start line), here we are forming a long line, several hundred meters wide, only 5-6 people deep. There are starting zones, so every club starts together.
Gunshot, and off we go - like warriors to the battle, galloping through the field. But there is no other army coming from the opposite direction. It's just us against each other, and against our weaknesses. No blood will be spilled, no lives will be taken. Seems we've civilized ourselves a little since middle ages after all. We run through the field, fast, trying to get the best position before the course gets narrowed and we'll have to slow down in the crowd.

Women's race start
Women's race start
In the beginning I'm doing well. For the first 2km, when we run on fairly even surface, my pace is  around 3:45/km. Which is quite good for me, especially on that surface - soft, but not muddy nor hilly. Yet. Although turnip field is still not the fastest surface to run on.
Then we hit the hills and the mud. I'm slowing down dramatically. And this time it's not even the hills (that I traditionally suck on), but just the mud. Whenever we get to more muddy part, people start to overtake me. Whenever we hit a bit more even and harder surface - I'm fighting back. But it's an uneven fight, there is more and more mud. More than 3000 people have run this course today before us. And now it's us - nearly 2000 men, running the course 3 times. It gets worse with every lap.
More-less in the middle of the second lap I'm already pissed off. It's not running, it's a fight to get your legs out of the sucking mud, just to put them there back again, only a stride further. It has nothing in common with light running, good technique, fast cadence. It's tough, hard work, and the results are more than questionable.
While I run, my hatred grows. "Kurwa mać!" escapes my mouth every couple of minutes (whenever I'm recovered enough from swearing to swear again. Keep forgetting it's not that easy to talk during the race). It's hard, but that's not what makes me angry. I'm furious because I can't run fast, because once again I got defeated by mud, reduced from a runner to a plodder.
Finally we're getting to the last stretch before the finish. I'm really pissed of, but I'm deciding to go for a sprint finish, let's have some fun at least at the end. Making up around 20 positions on last 200 m, not that bad. Would be great if I could run properly for the last 10km as well, though.

After the race, when I'm walking to our tent, I'm thinking that that's it - I'm done with XC. It's ridiculous, I can't run it, it's clearly not for me. I'm a road runner, I'm a track runner. I'm not a mud runner.
Next morning I decided it's a bullshit though. I'm not giving up. I've lost a battle (well, quite a few battles to be fair), but the war is not finished yet. If I quit cross country, I'll do it on my own terms. So the next season I'm planning to deal with this unfinished business.

Overall it was a great experience though. I'm not happy with my run, but it was great to be a part of this event. It was great to see some of the slower ladies, who were still on the course, when our race started. They were moving slow, they were struggling, but they were not giving up. And at least one of them was in her seventies! Really inspiring.
It was great to see that GH (one of our club's top runners) finished in high place (3rd Serpie), even though he injured his back quite badly during the race and could barely walk afterwards (he needed someone to support him). That's a fighter! Hope you'll get well soon dude!
Overall our women's team (4 to score) finished in a very high 5th place, and the men's team (6 to score) - in 9th.

After the race we went to our hotel. Hot shower and a cold pint are among the 2 of the best things that can happen to you after an XC race. Simple pleasures.
In the evening we had time to relax, socialize, and explore Derby's night life.
To end this post with a positive thought, let me just say that "Ye Olde Dolphin" is a very decent pub.

Ye Olde Dolphin. The oldest pub in Derby.

And the next day was even more fun - more on that coming soon!