BUCS XC 2019

I was really excited for BUCS (British University and College Sport)  cross country last weekend. It had been hyped up by the rest of the team since the start of semester 1 as an unforgettable weekend, and it definitely didn’t fall short of my expectations. Read on to hear all about the journey fiasco, the race and (most importantly?), the social. 

Blizzard? Snow problem!

On Friday morning (1st Feb), I was slightly worried when I saw that our flight was already delayed. A lot of snow had fallen in Bristol overnight (where we were supposedly flying to), and the airport was experiencing weather-related issues. It was only when, at 11:20 whilst I was in the middle of a lecture, I checked my phone to see 5 missed calls from Alex and several messages telling me to check facebook. Our flight had been cancelled and our travel plans had therefore completely changed.

Service stop fun!

Instead of flying to Bristol then taking the coach from there to Exeter, our only option was to take the coach the whole way. This meant leaving a few hours early, at 2pm, so we could try and arrive by midnight.

Bit of a “no snow” situation

Arriving at the travelodge in Exeter, there was quite literally no snow. Not quite what we were expecting after all the weather warnings, but I think we were all just glad to have made it shortly after 12pm. I went to bed as soon as possible to try and maximise sleep in preparation for the race ahead.

Course walk

The next day, we drove the 20 minutes to Bicton college where the event was held. After the obligatory toilet trip (BUCS really skimped on toilets – there were only about 10!), we walked most of the course, enabling us to get a good idea of where the difficulties might lie. Although the map had made it seem pretty flat, there were two hefty hills which we had to do twice, making it pretty gruelling. It consisted of a short loop (~2.8km) and a long loop (~3.3km), with lots of sharp and challenging bends.

was dying at this point…
Water feature

Initially, we were told that the water feature – which involved running through a shallow section of lake for 5-10m – was compulsory on the first lap, but not the second. 20 minutes before our race, we were then notified that it was optional both times round. The whole thing was a bit ridiculous, because the water feature then became a detour – some sort of optional extra which would benefit you in no way. Needless to say, I didn’t opt to get my feet wet! I wouldn’t have minded it if it had been compulsory for everyone, but it was so random and pointless seeing as it was optional and definitely not advantageous (you still had to go up the hill after).

no idea who she is, but perfect example of why you don’t do the optional water feature…
Start-line shambles

Somehow, the Haries managed to get to the front of the incredibly cramped start-line. With over 600 people in the women’s race, it was complete chaos. And it was only made worse by the fact that there were no pens, no organisation, and there was a random stake sticking out of the ground in the middle. A marshal ended up standing there to prevent people from impaling themselves on it, but he was quite literally in the way of everyone. The fiasco was only worsened by the fact that there was no countdown or warning that the race was going to start. The gun simply went off (a few minutes early), meaning lots of us were caught off-guard. My friends Alex and Jojo were in the middle of a conversation!

a few Haries up front
Tight turns, stop-starts

Due to the nature of the course, the first kilometre was carnage. Unless you were one of the front runners, you were bound to get caught up in the repeated stop-start situation caused by the narrow course and tight bends. I came to a standstill several times, which was pretty frustrating. However, soon things started to space out a bit and I managed to get into some sort of rhythm.

Killed by the hills

This might sound a bit dramatic but, if I’m honest, my legs were destroyed after the first round of hills. Coming into the second lap with the knowledge that I’d have to do them again was mentally really tough, especially since I was starting to fall behind and lose places. No matter how hard I pushed, though, I couldn’t make myself go faster. I’ve had this in my past few races and am not really sure why, but it’s made every race experience more and more demoralising. With only 1km to go, I was really suffering (mentally and physically).

I’m the small one
A “no sprint” finish

In my defence, I don’t think many people had much of a sprint finish, since the course ended on a sharp uphill climb. However, I felt like I was going backwards! Hills are certainly a weakness of mine, so that’s something to build on, but even if there hadn’t been hills I don’t think I’d have done much better. Something isn’t quite right at the moment with me in terms of racing, and I’m just trying to figure out what. It’s not all doom and gloom though – I came 154th/ 619, which isn’t awful, just not what I was hoping for. Luckily, I’ve finished my cross country season now (rather early I know), and my next race is the half marathon in two weeks’ time.

Happy to be done!
Buffet bliss

After cheering the boys on, watching the prize giving and returning to the travelodge, we soon ventured out again for dinner. The all-you-can-eat Italian buffet was a big success, especially since they had vegan garlic bread. We stocked up (#liningthestomach) on (mostly) carbs, then headed to Spoons for some drinks before the club.

The stellar social

My highlight of the trip was, without a doubt, the social. We went in as a team, meaning we had a big group of us together, which made the experience even more memorable. Usually, I flag around 1am, but I stayed until about 3am this time because I was having such a fab time. Next year, I think I’ll be going to BUCS (mainly) for the social 😜 However, it’s fair to say I (and everyone else) was pretty exhausted the next day after getting a mere 3.5 hours of sleep… the 10 hour coach journey making it all the worse. We finally arrived home around 6pm, shattered and 100% not ready for Monday morning.

(green) girls team

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my first BUCS experience, and are inspired to go next year if you haven’t been already.

Emma ♥♥