I’m not sure I can capture an incredible 12hours of racing in one short blog post, but I’ll try!
After a 3-year break Rack Raid 2022 was finally back on Sunday. As always, the few days before any relay are chaotic, after (what felt like!) a thousand emails and a million WhatsApp messages, our teams were all set. Lliswerry have competed in the Rack Raid every year since 1993, some years we have even had 3 teams running, but we have never won the trophy. Would 2022 be our year? Would we finally add our name to that huge trophy?
Race day was finally here, with Grosmont looking glorious in the warm sunshine as the stage 1 runners setoff at 7.30am on the deceptively ‘rolling’ lanes to Skenfirth. Charlotte Ralph kicked off our A team running a strong race to give the team a great start finishing 8th overall (8th lady) and less than 5 minutes behind the leaders.
Next up the 6.93 miles from Skenfirth to White Castle, despite the (relatively) flat and fast start, there was a sting in the tail with a mile of ascent to reach the finish at White Castle. Our very own pocket-rocket, Nettie Dumayne ran a storming 2nd leg, to finish 5th overall (1st lady).
Heading into stage 3, Lloyd Cottrell was tasked with reducing the lead time and moving us up from 6th position on the leader board. Lloyd more than did his job! Smashing the 7.5miles into Abergavenny and finishing in a superb second place, Lliswerry leaped up the leader board and into 2nd place, now just 4 minutes behind the leaders.
As the day continued to warmup, so did the competition. Fresh from a marathon win last weekend, Emma Wookey lined up for stage 4, fired up and ready to go; Emma took it out fast from the start! Finishing 2nd overall and 1st lady, we were still sitting comfortably in second on the leader board.
Stage 5, and a very late addition to the team, Martin Johns led the race all the way from Moat to Monmouth, and took Lliswerry’s first stage win of the day. Congratulations Martin, and welcome to the club!
Stage 6! If the captain had to give out an award for performance of the day, Craig Collins is the winner! With the first 8 runners, going the wrong way for 2miles, Craig who had been at the front of the pack now found himself at the back. When other runners were throwing in the towel, Craig showed some amazing tenacity to race hard for the now 14-mile stage, to claw back to 16th overall and keep Lliswerry within 8 minutes of the lead.
In her first race back in club colours for a couple of years, Laura Davies continued her incredible run of form with our 2nd stage win of the day as she flew into Usk to finish stage 7. Congratulations Laura and welcome back!
Stage 8, Usk to Tintern, 13.1 miles of hilly hell! Lliswerry were the official water providers for this stage, so armed with chalk we set about turning the biggest climb of the stage into our very own motivation station! Fresh from representing GB at the European Masters Championships in Italy, Richard Jones flew past us at 9 miles, finishing the stage in an outstanding 2nd position, leapfrogging the competition and taking us into the lead for the 1st time.
Nick Tulp making his Lliswerry relay debut this season, had a phenomenal race finishing at Chepstow Castle 4 mins clear of the next runner, to take our 3rd stage win of the day. With 4 stages to go, we were now top of the leader board with a more than 4-minute lead, it was looking good, but there was still a lot of running to do.
Our longest standing member of the A team, who has run countless Rack Raids over the last (nearly) 30 years, Sandy Chipper took on the 6.6 miles to Caldicot Castle. As always a superstar performance followed with our 4th stage win of the day, consolidating our lead to over 6 minutes.
Paul Bruton, running on his local training routes had a strong race on Stage 11, a stage with one hell of a climb to the finish at Penhow! With just two stages left, we were still top of the leader board, with a 5-minute cushion, were we finally going to get our name on that coveted trophy?
Penultimate stage, and Victoria Hobbs, recovering from an injury setback, had a fierce race back to Caerleon, finishing 11th. By this point the results hadn’t been updated from stage 11, were we still ahead and if so by how much? We knew it was close now between us and local, friendly, rivals Chepstow, the tension was becoming too much for the Captain!
So the final stage; just 5.43miles and that final climb up to Castell-y-Bwlch stood between the team taking the win. Maths never was my strongest subject, so despite working out the time difference several times, I still wasn’t sure, so Lee Drew was briefed: give it everything you’ve got! Only official vehicles were able to go to Castell-y-Bwch, so after triple checking that the sat nav wasn’t taking us up the final climb (and incurring penalty points!), we raced to the finish. Usually you can barely see the finish line for the crowd of teammates, this year was eerily quiet, and then a head appeared bobbing up the hill, wearing…..BLUE, a few seconds later the rest of body appeared….on a bike; false alarm! A few minutes later, there was no panic, that was definitely runner 17 wearing the maroon and white, as Lee stormed up that final climb to take our 5th stage win of the day.
By the time we arrived back at the Olive Tree, and despite witnessing Lee finishing more than 7 minutes ahead of our nearest rivals I’d convinced myself that we were going to have a rerun of our very close second finish in 2018. The beers started flowing, the hotdogs and burgers were consumed and the suspense grew by every minute, and then just after 8.30pm we were called in for the presentation.
The stage winners collected their hard-won prizes and posed for the photos, and then we were onto the main event, the top three teams. Griffithstown took third place, and then the magic moment, in second place…….Chepstow! We’d done it! For the first time since Rack Raid started in 1993, Lliswerry Runners had won that huge, shiny, trophy!
Huge congratulations to every single member of the A team every single runner gave it their all, and demonstrated the incredible team-spirit that Lliswerry has.
Not to be overshadowed by the A team, we also had 13 members taking part in the B team. Some of these runners were making their Lliswerry debut or their Rack raid debut for the club. Several of the team had been drafted in at short notice, some recovering from (or even running with!) injuries, so a huge thankyou to all of them for some outstanding running. Lliswerry B finished second B team and 13th team overall, epic performance by everyone!
Stage 1: Sarah Lauder, Stage 2: Angela Potter, Stage 3: Gareth Yeoman, Stage 4: Louise Muteham, Stage 5: Paul Harris, Stage 6: Kev Harford, Stage 7: Sarah-Louise Francis, Stage 8: David Brown, Stage 9: Simon Gill, Stage 10: James Brown, Stage 11: Gavin Perkins, Stage 12: Steph Rhodes, Stage 13: Emma Maloney.
AND FINALLY! A huge thankyou to Phil Lee who was out on course as an official team vehicle, transporting runners between stages, watering runners and making sure everything ran like clockwork. The teams couldn’t have done without you, THANKYOU! A massive thanks to Fairwater for also organising another brilliant day.
Next up………Welsh Castles Relay! Watch this space………………..