Cabbage Patch 10
Despite my efforts of the past 3 or 4 years, I had somehow never taken part in the Cabbage Patch 10 upto this year. Despite still struggling with pain in the shin/calf, very little training, carrying extra timber after too many Kit-Kats and Yorkies and a bit of a heavy head after a few birthday drinks the night before, there I was in the start area ready to go with everyone else.
I squeezed in amongst some of the rest of the SHAEF crew in the start area waiting for the gun and after a few quick chats about pace I decided to head off at 7'ish minute mile pace and try to pick up a bit from there. I was particularly impressed to see Julian looking at sprightly as ever, despite having only landed back from his hols a few hours earlier.
And then we were off!
'Racing' in familiar territory is a bit of an odd experience where you know every nook and cranny of the course, seemingly half the field and virtually all of the marshalls. So without really looking at the watch the miles started to tick by and it was more or less going to plan. Upto about 8 miles I was feeling pretty comfortable and tapping out 6:40s, though then having not done any runs at that pace for a good few months I was feeling tired on miles 9 and 10 and couldn't wait for the finish line to appear. After a cheeky little cobbled rise away from the Thames, a 90 degree left turn followed by another 90 degree left, there was the finish line. Phewww. Just under 68 minutes - over a minute a mile off PB pace but satisfied nonetheless.
I sought out the two critical things at the finish - a long sleeved CP t-shirt and a London Pride and very quickly started to chat about how everyone's runs had been as we made our way back to the Cabbage Patch Pub for a pint or three. After having reclaimed my bag from upstairs (hope they solve chair-at-the-door-gate before next year) we claimed a big table, supped a beer and watched the end of the Wales rugby game.
The chatter was flowing and then off snuck Gary Neville to snaffle his prize ... a cabbage, beers and a fistful of dollars. He could barely carry them all!
I even managed to finish just about in one piece; just as well as a trip to Bruges beckoned the following weekend...
(Nick, Ravi, Ioan, Chris and me)
The week after CP10 was the planned overseas trip to Bruges for Autumn 2019. Selected based on criteria of abroad without the hassle of flights, we made our way to the Eurostar terminal of St Pancras, boarded, and we were off!
We started with Nick emptying his case to reveal 20 cans Fosters. Ioan was not impressed with the standard of beer.
Upon arriving at Brussels we jumped onto a domestic train to Bruges. Ravi had sat separately on the train to the rest of us upto this point, so his 4 beers were untouched and he had 64 minutes on a somewhat bumpy domestic train to catch the rest of us up … at this point the last minute tips for the race came through by email. It reminded us there was a marathon, half marathon and 8k walk all taking place at the same time, which felt ripe for confusion. But the two that stood out were that there would be a 600m neutral zone at the start and also that runners crossed a train line twice and they if a train was approaching the route would be closed … but that times would be neutralised. How very Belgian cycling!
Upon arrival in Bruges Nick, Ioan, Chris and I headed off to our Airbnb to decide who got which bed, and Ravi went in the other direction to the hotel he had handily booked about 50 metres from the start/finish.
We met back up for an oversize burger and fries, washed down with several beers. Given it was another day and a half until the race this was fine by me. Especially as I was running to enjoy it not for a time. We landed, as is customary, in an Irish bar for some live music and chatter. A 15 minute stagger home and we were tucked up in bed ready to rise the following morning, head back and watch England play Australia in the RWC quarter final.
England defeated Australia in the same Irish bar as the night before, Ireland were defeated against New Zealand back in our house, an oversized toastie was knocked back and then we all agreed a lunchtime snooze was needed.
We were back in town to register for the following day's race. Registration was in the market square in the middle of town, including giving out race T-shirts. Always feels like an odd thing to do as I think you've only earned the right to the T-shirt once you've crossed the finish line, not before the start line.
A couple of beers in the local bar served as a nightcap; apt to have a pair of these beside me.
Up in the morning, about 7 wees in an hour, and then we were in the start corral. Surprising number of runners wearing the race T. Tempting fate.
Obviously this long section alongside the river through the centre was the lengthy 'neutral' zone, so we headed reasonably far up it chatted briefly, and then trotted under the start gantry t0 the familiar 'beep' as our starts were registered.
Nick, Ravi and I were together from the start as we made our way through a few typically narrow paths, twists and turns and running alongside the river out of town and after a few minutes another start sign and 'beep'. Oh dear, that was actually the neutral 'rolling start', so effectively we were running 13.5 rather than 13.1 miles and I hadn't reset my watch or done a time check so wasn't sure on time. Ah well.
Ravi and I then continued on as we left town, sitting just behind the 1:30 pacer but pretty sure we were running slightly faster than that. Nick was tucked in just behind and Ioan and Chris together slightly further back, with Ioan paying equal attention to the Wales rugby score vs. France as he was to the run.
I took the opportunity to ease ahead of Ravi just after he took off his vest to reveal his bare chest. Didn't want to be seen with him and was now picking off a few runners as I moved away from the pacer and following group. We were now in classic Flanders country as we headed towards Zebrugge and turned to run back to Brugge itself around halfway. Narrow lanes, fields on either side, very very flat. Just as you'd see if you were watching a one-day classic cycle race on Eurosport in this part of the world.
I past 10 miles a bit faster than the week before, then made for the finish and clocked .... well I frankly didn't really know but I thought just under 1:28 but it turned out to be just over. Ravi followed through a few minutes later, a sterling effort after having been ill in the week running up to the race and a real shame as he was primed for a good time. Nick followed closely behind, having gone a few minutes faster than he ran at Oxford the week before, and then Ioan and Chris joined us. Ioan had a huge smile on his face after Wales secured a late victory. The finish token covered a plate of food and a pint of beer (Brugse Zot). Excellent.
We all then strolled back to Ravi's hotel room, quick showers all round, then starting to head back on the return journey. Bruges to Brussels, Brussels to St Pancras, St Pancras to Teddington. We weren't too sure where we should sit on the train from Bruges, but thankfully Nick pointed out it went 'right to the end' and we were OK. Pheww.
A few hours later we were home and then plotting the next Autumn international trip for 2020. The Antwerp twilight event is top of the list at the moment...
So, overall a great trip. Lovely city, easy journey, and a lovely event. Just the right size in terms of field and feel. Would recommend to others thinking about it.