If you don’t know Wandlebury Country Park, it’s described on the Cambridge Past, Present & Future Cambridge PPF as a “tranquil open space [that] offers more than eight miles of wonderful walks through mature woods, meadows and chalk grassland areas.” Doesn’t that sound delightful? No doubt it’s conjuring up images like this in your mind:
No. No, no, no, no, no. NO. Stop that RIGHT NOW.
For those wishing to play frisbee, take their dog for a walk or have a picnic, Wandlebury is probably a little slice of twee, Cambridgeshire loveliness.
For a runner – especially a runner from the fens – IT IS PURE EVIL.
It was a lovely day, not much wind and some much needed sunshine. It was everything you’d want from an outdoor run really. And when Alan explained what I’d be doing I was filled with a bit of trepidation but up to the challenge. He was pretty vague and talked about 45 seconds-ish uphill followed by about 40 downhill with a minute rest between each one and we’d do that three times, followed by six 20 second hill sprints with a walk back down recovery between each one.
Fair enough. So I gave it a bash.
Holy effing arseballs. It was THE HARDEST THING I HAVE EVER DONE.
I know I’ve probably said this before, but I seriously, seriously mean it. That 20 second hill sprint was like running up a treacle covered slide, hanging off a cliff face, whilst someone punched you in lungs. It was this but with far more swearing and sweating:
Getting through it I was so proud of myself, and when Alan talked about what to do next time, I thought “yep, you know what? I’ve learnt from this. When we come back here in around 4 weeks or so, I’ll pace myself a bit better and shorten my stride on that hill sprint and use my arms more. No probs.”
Oh poor misguided grasshopper.
When he said next time, he meant repeating it immediately.
I had completely and utterly misunderstood the session plan, and had obviously put a lot into what I thought was the last hill sprint. I felt a mild flutter of panic, but I uttered the words I always utter to Alan.
And you know what? That’s all he ever wants from me. For me to try my best and give it go. The worst that will happen is that I’ll vomit in those lovely quiet woods and upset a few rabbits.
Turns out, I paced myself better the second time around. It hurt and was physically and mentally tough, but when I finished that last hill sprint, I felt unstoppable. And then I felt a bit wobbly and vaguely nauseous but you know what? That was ok.
As we walked back to the car, Alan started to tell me about future sessions at Wandlebury, but I quickly cut him off. Truth be told, I’d rather not know what to expect as I don’t want to psyche myself out and start worrying that I can’t do it. It’s a bit like the Tough Mudder Race which I stupidly agreed to do with my friends James and Amy today. James wrote a blog about his recent experience there, and it’s a great read but I almost wish I hadn’t seen it. as the thought of the Cry Baby is freaking me out slightly….
As I cycled back to work from the centre of town, my lovely colleague Lucy had actually texted me as I had been gone for two and a half hours and she was worried Alan might have actually completely broken me this time. No chance. It’ll take more than a few hills, even if my legs don’t feel like they belong to me today. Tomorrow’s Parkrun could be interesting….