Champagne League 2016
Champagne League began this year on a miserable Tuesday evening on Hessle Foreshore. This was my first time running either Champagne League or Summer League, so it was a bit of a strange feeling to be racing on a Tuesday evening. I think our skipper had run out to Hessle in order to build up his mileage (short races on a Tuesday night don’t fit easily with weekly mileage schedules), so Alec led us out to a clear win. I was behind Gregan Clarkson and Nige on the way out. Gregan started the League with an over training injury and began to flag at the turn around point, allowing me to pass him. Hessle’s a funny old race: you can see the finish line all the way back in for over a mile and it’s a quick surface, so you know how to pace yourself, but it’s a pretty painful start to the race series.
The next race at North Cave was a complete contrast: a lovely summer evening. I didn’t really know the route, and Gareth Young was guesting at this one. He didn’t know the route either. Gareth led us out for the first three and a bit miles. At one point running through the fields we had to rely on Matty behind us yelling at us to go straight on. Matty himself was fighting to stay ahead of CoH’s Nic Harne, who was still running very strongly at this stage in the competition. Running back into Hotham was a good feeling, and I managed to add a little bit of pace to over take Gareth in order to use the lovely down hill finish of this particular race to have my first win of the League.
I can’t remember which long and hilly race I’d completed at the weekend before the Beverley Westwood, but I knew I couldn’t attack the first hill aggressively. I really enjoyed this short race and would like to give it a bit more of an effort next year. Alec led out Gregan, who was back on form by this point. Alec, on the other hand, was suffering with an injury and had to pull up at the top of the first hill. A real shame, as the victory would no doubt have been his! It was an exciting race and I remember running behind Nige to find the best way through the woods and protect my face from branches, and then the down-hill sprint to the finish. Well done to Chris Adams for his surge at the end to come past me and of course Gregan for a strong victory.
Lockington saw Mike Hargreaves guesting for EHH and ultimately losing out to the Gregster by a small margin. Mike set off at a very brisk pace, leading to comparisons with a certain City of Hull Runner! This race is notable for being about 400 metres longer than the listed distance, which led to a very painful early final kick!
Danny Jones deserves a mention for leading out the race up the first hill in a very impressive manner! This performance may or may not have been fuelled by pre-race consumption of beer.
The first Wauldby Green race saw our skipper lead the field out at a quick pace. The last 400 metres of the race were a quagmire, and we were very pleased with our choice of off road shoes. I tried to put on a good sprint at the finish, but Matty still managed to hold me off by a second at the end for a very exciting finish! This was unfortunately Nige’s last race of the series, with him picking up a pretty serious foot injury shortly afterwards. This was a particular shame because Nic Harne had also suffered a foot injury by this point. Not only was he in second place for the yellow jersey at this point, but it would have been great to get an EHH 1-2-3 for the overall competition. Anyway, Nige showed great sportsmanship in stopping near the finish to help pick up a Bridlington runner who had gone with road shoes.
Kiplingcoates was hard work on a very hot evening as runners waited around to begin the race, the handicap element of the series having kicked in by this point. It was satisfying to pass runners who had set off earlier and I think the mysterious handicapper got a lot of the handicaps bang on. Thanks to Tony Cross for jogging the course with me before the race set off. This was quite a challenging course, in particular the first loop without really having anyone to pace you. For one EHH runner, the temptation when running past his car proved just too strong! Challenging as well because we had no idea how yellow jersey timings had progressed until Peter Taylor released the results the customary ten minutes after race finish. At least there was some shelter from the heat once we started gaining on those who had set off earlier on the old railway line. Well done to Gregan on the quickest overall time for this race.
The 8 miler at Wauldby Green was the most challenging race of the series. It was a long wait for the race to begin. It felt like hours – probably because it was. This at least gave some of us chance to jog round some of the start and end of the course. Once again, it was a quagmire, and well worth putting up with off road shoes on the harder parts of the course for the benefit at the start and finish.
I had thought the yellow jersey was secure having put in a decent performance at Wauldby, but I hadn’t realised that South Dalton was a mass start race and so very nearly missed the start! This was the only course I’d run before (in reverse) and I was feeling strong, so managed a win. Another pleasant evening for racing.
The series finished at Lockington on another very hot evening. I soaked my hat and vest in the stream before the start of the race which helped a bit. It was a pleasant course with which to finish the series and well done to Gregan on another win.
So, the first time for me running the Champagne League. I found it enjoyable and varied. Thank you to all at CoH who were involved with organising and marshalling the races, and those who produced the results and handicaps. Congratulations also to Matty Hayes for second in the yellow jersey and CoH’s Adrian Bushby for a strong performance throughout to gain third. Well done also to Rob Wells for fourth in the handicap competition, Julie Salvidge for fifth and Danny Jones for fifth in the men’s best 7/9 handicap competition. Ultimately, the yellow jersey was more about luck, avoiding injury and hoping that the quality runners have other priorities for their season.