Xterra England – the one with the ditches

Conrad Stoltz and Emma Garrard captured the Xterra England Championship. Congratulations to the two of them and to all the other finishers. The race itself wasn’t a stroll in the park – but when it comes to the venue, it really was.
A wild weekend was waiting for the hundreds of weekend warriors taking part in the Woodstock of Xterra on the storied grounds of Vachery Estate in Cranleigh. Normally the Estate is sealed off from the public, but once a year it opens its gates for cross triathletes from all over the world, providing a unique off-road racing experience. And off-road racing it was – off-road racing at its best!
First off all the swim in the beautiful, calm but coolish pond was an experience for itself. Owed to English politeness and queuing discipline, everybody had enough space to settle into the water before the start. So when the gun went off, the beginning of the race was quite relaxed: “Keep calm and carry on”.
After a short run into transition, the bike leg was waiting. It consisted of a lot of single trails, sharp twists and turns, tiny bridges and logs you had to jump/ride over. Although it was mostly flat, the course was really demanding and a test of courage and technical skills. There was no section to relax. Either it was shaking riding straight ahead, downhill or uphill… And it wasn’t enough to keep your eyes just to the ground, because you had to be careful not to bang your head on branches or thorns. Despite the tired legs from the World Champs a week ago, riding was a lot of fun and I couldn’t stop smiling all the way.
Off the bike, the course didn’t change that much. After a short single trail section in the forest, the ditch was lurking. You just had seconds to decide whether you would be able to jump across it or if it would be better to jump into the knee deep water and crawling out on the other side. It really was a mind game. Thankfully we had practiced on the course the day before. So we knew what was coming. It was an amazing feeling after the first successful try. You could feel the adrenaline flushing through your veins making you feel alive and proud. After the jump section there was some deep mud, a rabbit hole stretch (no wonder Lewis Caroll wrote Alice in Wonderland in this part of England) and some log hopping waiting for the athletes. And on the way back to the finish line there was this ditch again (even wider than the first one)… luckily a chicken line existed there and you could cross it on a narrow tree trunk. From there it was a short run through the forest to the finish line. And as the run course consisted of two laps the fun started all over again.
Wow, what a race – we loved it to pieces and will be back for more! A big thank you goes to the organizers, all the volunteers, the spectators, our host families. Not to forget a big cheer for the great English weather.
See you next year in Cranleigh.
Concerning the results: a 6th place for Maud and a 10th overall for Karin.
Both were happy with it, as everybody could still feel the aftermath of the Worlds the week before.

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