Club La Santa 2012

"Eight seconds, can you believe it?". Imagine hearing that in a wee Scottish accent on balmy but breezy Wednesday afternoon in November and you will be able to picture Fiona feeling robbed at Club la Santa! The eight seconds to which she was referring was the overall gap between herself and Dave Adams after four days and thirty miles of running around the roads, volcanoes and beaches of Lanzarote.

Our party of seventeen this year was made up of mostly LBAC representatives but also contained Terry and Dave Stanley from Ampthill and Flitwick Flyers and Julie, Neil and Fay from MK. As ever, the 23rd club trip to Grotty was seen by most as an opportunity to get away from the miserable November weather in the UK and have a couple of shandies in between a plethora of sporting opportunities.

The reason we go when we do is because there is series of four races in four days called the International Challenge However, the attitude to this is generally that you run despite the beers the night before and one certainly shouldn't stop the other. In terms of internationalism, what was once a Danish / British / German event has now been infiltrated by a healthy number of Dutch and Irish. It's a bit like the five nations with the British having the odd good performance but generally settling mid table mediocrity as the Danes battle it out with the Irish.

This year we found the cheapest flights out of Gatwick early on a Thursday so most of us headed down there on Wednesday night and spent the money we'd saved on fuel, a hotel and a meal out! We're a logical bunch! However, it was a good opportunity for all but our late arriving threesome to get to know each other and renew old acquaintances.

Having made it to the resort for lunch in the Pool Bar on Thursday, the first couple of days were the best of the weather that we had this year and we made the most of it by getting involved in tennis, the paddle version of the game, mountain biking, crazy golf and any number of exercise classes, most of which were attended by Jules on route to trying to break her record of 376 classes in a week. Added to this was the detailed discussion that involved Dave and Amy speaking to have the people at the resort about finding a set of 5mm double ended needles so that Dave could search the knitting shops of the island!

The highlight of the first few days took place on Sunday in the bolas (Spainish petanque) competition on the beach, but before that glorious moment the actual challenge itself kicked off that morning with the 10K. I'm not going to write a full description of every individual performance on each race as clearly we were all brilliant on each of the four days and I could be here a while, suffice to say that, a) it was bloody windy, b) everyone that started also finished and c) no-one won anything………. but we did start a few battles that would continue for the next few days.

For those that are considering a trip next year, most of us think that the two lap 10K course is a necessary evil to get to the next three more interesting races. If you are considering coming to just watch then it is an amazing race where you can stand in one location and see all the runners six times and barely have to move your backside.

Anyway, back to the beach. The egg throwing this year was someting of a let down. The highlight was most definitely Terry getting so much egg on him that he had to go for a swim in the lagoon to remove it. Neil and Fay had a few throws, but we were all beaten by the Danish European champions who had been in training all year at altitude in Kenya! The real prestige as ever was available in the bolas. There were a number of inter group challenge matches and a few close run things, but after hours of intense battle, 37 bananas, 12 hawkeye reviews and one controversial blood doping allegation (never proven) Amy and Andy emerged victorious in the final against the giants of Denmark.

Following the excitement of the beach, most of the group were back to reality with a bump on Monday as the Ridge Run was next on the agenda. At this stage I would like to point out that all the races are pretty horrible for different reasons, but if you are going to pick just one to do, this is probably it. Basically it's 4 miles up hill to the top of a ridge along a combination of dirt tracks and tarmac, a quick look at the view then 3.5 miles of downhill on similar tracks to finish with a lap of the athletics track.

Although the wind had dropped a little for day two, it still managed to be in the faces of the runners all the way up on a pretty sunny day. This meant that it got very hot on the way down with the wind and sun on our backs. Once again we all made it, but a little competition was being started amongst the group, with Julie having beaten Dave and Roger on day one, they both managed to get the better of her on day two. the other battles were still at the brewing stage!

Day three sounds quite easy. A nice gentle 5K in the resort of Playa Del Carmen. The problem is that it is on the sandy beach. There are a few people that excel at beach running, but most people just hate it and this is no exception. The one good thing this year is that it had poured down overnight and part of the course was flooded and so it was a fraction shorter than previous years. They were also a touch more generous in letting us run by the sea on the harder sand……. but it was still a b****r!

As a result of this being the shortest race, a decent group went to a traditional haunt in the old town of Teguise. This consisted of lots of wine and tapas in a sunny courtyard before a brief but toreential downpour forced the attendents inside. They returned a touch damper both on the outside and in!

The Tuesday on the beach was the day that once again Terry came into his own. Not only did he whoop Andy's backside for the first time on the trip, but he broke into the top ten of the race to finish in 9th. Roger had managed to get the beating of Dave S for the first time, but made the classic mistake of stopping early at the wrong timing mat and Dave ducked past on the line. Meanwhile, Fiona was delighted to get ahead of Uncle Pete for the first time and set up an intriguing last day.

We all had our own little challenges going into the final "half" marathon on the Wednesday. Andy was in his highest ever position of 14th but had 4 people less than 2 minutes ahead. Terry was only 1.15 behind Andy and looking for another chink in the armour after the beach crushing. Neil was looking to help the other two boys regain the 5th team position that was lost on the ridge.

Dave S, Roger and Julie were within 48 seconds of each other. Dickie was looking to retain third place in his age category. Uncle Pete and Dave A were both looking to make sure that they weren't last in their age categories, while Fiona was hoping to gain the two minutes Pete had on her. Both Janet and Fay were well beyond anything they had attempted before and would be delighted to reach the end in one piece.

So with all these pressures going on, the bar was as sparse as it had been all week, with only Pete and Chris available for propping it up beyond 11pm. Even Andy stopped at three pints. To be fair to the boys, they left on their bikes the next morning before the rest of us so that they could get to the start to shout at us in time. Although there were a few aches going on and Fiona had an Ibuprofen addiction, we were in good shape for the sprint back to La Santa from the church at Macha Blanca.

This race has one really nasty hill in it at four miles, but pretty much all the rest is flat and downhill. On that one uphill we all benefitted from the tail wind, but the problem is that as a point to point race we had a howling gale in our faces for virtually the entire rest of the run. Anyway, we all succesfully made it to the end in varying states of health:

Andy had a great run to finish 12th but managed to lose a place overall as he didn't do quite enough to overtake any of the ones in front, but one dastardly Dane had a blinder and overtook him. Terry cracked 1:20 and the top twenty and finshed 17th overall. Neil had his best run of the week in 1:27, just pipping the leading V65!!

The Dave / Roger / Julie battle finished with Roger storming round and taking two minutes out of Dave, while Julie filled the gap in between them and taking second place overall in her age group. Richard did manage to hold on to 3rd in the V65's but was just beaten by someone called Xander Sneek (just a very pleasing name I thought).

Uncle Pete didn't enjoy himself too much but managed to complete the course and earn a few more beer points. Both Janet and Fay did fantastically well to complete the four full races with such a tiny racing history behind them. The run of the day however, was almost certainly Dave Adams who managed to break the 2 hour barrier, get off the bottom of his age group and gain back the ten minute lead that Fiona had built up over the previous three days and beat her by eight seconds!

The less said about that evening's presentations the better. Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners, Jo Rousell and Barney Storey together with SPOTY nominee Sarah Storey were asked to award prizes but basically had to take over as the awards went on and on and continually were given to the wrong people! They were very gracious if somewhat confused by the chaos.

Nevertheless, a lovely early evening was had by all and a small contingent later made it to the onsite disco after a few beers and quadruple G&T's. As people gradually departed said discoteque and made their way to bed, one of our party was creating an annual tradition. For the second year running, Chris was left to mop Pete's brow as he had a long conversation with the porcelain telephone in their room! Apparently Andy and Amy have now got a babysitter for next year as "it's not happening again"!

Unfortunately, Thursday saw the MK lot depart CLS and head for the floods of the UK, but the remaining fourteen powered on without them. With no more races to happen, activity on the bikes, courts, and pools of the resort stepped up a level with paddle tennis becoming a regular favourite. This is basically tennis in a box, where you can hit the ball off the walls and it means you don't have to spend nearly as much time collecting balls!

The highlight of the final two days was devised by Amy who had been pretty quiet all trip but came into her own when devising activities. A Club la Santa "Ryder Cup" was to be held on the crazy golf course. The group, which was now 10, was split by a random draw (using the sugar bowl of glory) into two teams with Uncle Pete captaining America and Terry captaining Europe. Players were then selected to play in a singles, a foursome and a fourball, with the winning team the first to gain two points.

In the singles Dickie Inchley (America) took on Marcella Dunne (Europe) – a crazy Irish woman who we adopt every year for a week. The fourballs saw Mackrell & Norman taking on the captain of Europe and Mrs Inchley senior while the fourballs saw Uncle Pete and Toni seldon (America) battling with Dave Stanley and Roger in a Seldon family smackdown!

Unfortunately Dunne was overwhelmed early by Inchley on his home course to give the yanks a comfortable first point. Both of the pairs matches went a long way around the course, but the two rookies of Seldon and Stanley just sneaked past the American captain and his young apprentice with a few holes to go. Although the first match off, it turned out that the crucial one was the foursomes where both the Europeans missed simple puts on the 16th to hand victory and the trophy to the Americans with Mackrell and Norman having come back from two down with five to play.

In between all of this there was a lot of eating, drinking, knitting (yes knitting!) and general larking about, but the best way to find out what a good trip it is, is to some along next year………..