What? No Crazy Golf!
By Andy Inchley
“Oh no! What are mum and dad going to do with their afternoons?” This was the immediate thought that crossed the minds of both Amy and I when we discovered that the crazy golf course at Club La Santa (CLS) was being rebuilt while we were there this year.
Don’t get me wrong, there is absolutely loads to do, but mini golf (as CLS call it) is an absolute staple of our time in Lanzarote and when legs are weary from racing it’s a great way to pass the time and take in the sun while retaining a level of friendly competition. However, this is true of Mr & Mrs Inchley Senior more than anyone else!
For the benefit of those that have never been, the annual trip to CLS for the International Challenge has been on the LBAC calendar since 1990, and 26 years later there is still a large contingent heading out each year for this autumn pilgrimage to the sunshine. The group has expanded greatly from just LBAC to include lots from MKAC, a few from Redway Runners and a couple from Bearbrook. In the past we’ve had Ampthill and North Herts as part of our group too.
This report is a little focused on the LBAC members (as they’re the ones you know best) but on this trip it is very much about one team from across the clubs and every person who comes in our group is as much a part of the “Milton Buzzards” team as the next and so apologies if everyone doesn’t get a mention but it’ll be long enough as it is!
First and foremost, the trip is a holiday and everyone does exactly what they want, but the reason we go this particular week at the end of November is for the Challenge which consists of four races in four days. Clearly you don’t have to do it, but……….
CLS boasts the title of “The World’s Number 1 Sports Resort”. Whether this is accurate is really by-the-by, as the fact is that once you are there you can partake in any of the thirty or so sports at your leisure included within the price, so whether it’s cycling, windsurfing, gym classes, tennis or the aforementioned crazy golf there is lots to choose from. Going with 30-odd other people also means that you are highly likely to have company whenever you choose too.
Sorry. Enough of the sales pitch. Just ask if you have questions. The majority of the group this year arrived on the traditional Thursday to give two days of acclimatising to the weather and local brew before the races start on the Sunday. It’s fair to say that in 2014 we probably had the worst weather we’d ever had for the trip and so it was a great relief to arrive to sunny skies, even if there was stiff breeze blowing across from Africa, as this is not unusual.
A few shandies, a big group bike ride and plenty of other leisurely activity over the first two days led us into the first race of the challenge on the Sunday, with 22 of our party of 39 taking part in the 10K in the morning. The course had changed again this year and was a relatively simple two lap out-and-back down the main road that is great for spectators but is certainly the least inspiring of the four runs. On each lap we ran down the hill with the wind behind and turned to battle our way back up the hill into something of a gale before a finish on the track.
Every year we are hopeful of winning an overall team prize and – with one exception some time ago – every year one of our leading ladies gets injured and the men just miss out on the final event by a minute or two. So when Amy decided against running due to a painful achilles the scene was set for a repeat of the same. However, our “A” team called Anything You Like consisting of Ben Corfield, myself and Dan and Jeremy from MKAC lined up to do battle again dressed in our “Milton Buzzards” kit, hoping that this would be our year.
It’s fair to say that Ben ran the best race, by working hard when running with the wind and sheltering behind other runners when against it and so he led the team home with Dan just behind. However, with Liz Miller winning her age category, she surely gets the prize for performance of the day from the LBACers. The race also began two tight intra-team battles between Chris Large and Mark Haynes and Fiona and her friend Jan that continued throughout the week. Some intense bolas and egg throwing that afternoon was the limit of what most of us could manage in terms of further exercise that day.
Day two is most people’s favourite of the four runs, as you spend around 3.5 miles climbing to the top of an ancient volcanic ridge, briefly admiring the view and then running back down again. Whilst it is tough, the worst of the hill is over by half way, it’s an interesting run and you’re not too tired as it’s just day two.
This time around, Ben flew off up the hill not far behind the race leaders and his claims of lacking fitness seemed somewhat ridiculous as the rest of us trailed up the long drag behind him. However, the climb had sapped a lot of his energy and the top of the ridge saw Dan go past and into the distance. Having completely forgotten to look at the view as usual (watching my feet on the rough terrain) I had pulled away from my group and set Ben as my target. So with one of the others runners working with me like sheltering each other from the wind we drew him in and chased off after Dan.
With so many Milton Buzzards in each of the races there was a constant flow of people to support in the stadium and our squad of four little girls were kept busy clapping by Amy and the other non-runners before she gratefully handed them over to Dan, Jeremy and I each day once we were back. I certainly think that running was the easy option! Again Liz won her age group on day two, as did Lena, our friend from Bearbrook and all of us had completed the course after around 1:45.
Now. I’m not sure what happened on Monday night, and I have few doubts who I believe to be responsible, but some of our finely honed athletes were led astray! It was reported that one of our party was unable to work the world’s easiest key card for the front door of his room, whilst two others saw the unhealthy side of 4am! Vodka and pineapple seems to be the drink of choice for these reprobates!
It would be wrong of me to mention any names, but there was one of our runners who looked like death when he arrived at the Puerto Del Carmen on Tuesday morning and I’m sure he didn’t look that bad after he’d run 100 miles four times this year. The prospect of running up and down a sandy beach four times in a very strong wind was not an attractive option to any of us, but we were all there nevertheless and trudged onto the sand.
Again Ben led us out, and as with the ridge he struggled on the second half as Dan, myself and Jeremy all went past on the 5K course with Dan in particular having an excellent run. However, unbelievably Mark Haynes clearly had the performance of the day. His pineapple powered legs took him about 20 places higher than the previous two days and he certainly gave Wendy a scare when he overtook her!
The wind had made the run extremely hard. Both Dan and I were two minutes slower than the previous year despite a slightly shorter course, but the reality is that we were running on the sand for far less time than some and correspondingly it is probably less sapping for us overall. It was therefore great to see that all 21 of us who started, finished well enough to be confident about the final day’s half marathon.
There were no vodka binges prior to the final race of the challenge and we all looked relatively fresh as we posed for a pre-race team photo. Liz and Lena really just had to finish to complete their age group wins, but our men’s team were lying in third with just a few seconds separating us from the Crusaders of Dublin in fourth. The personal battles between Mark and Chris and Fi and Jan would also be interesting to follow.
The half marathon route is generally good, for a number of reasons. One – it’s a bit short of a half, two – you start a lot higher than you finish, three – the uphills are all in the first half, four – it’s quite a varied terrain to give you something to think about and five – it’s a good supporters course, with plenty of people out on their bikes from the resort shouting on teammates and opposition alike.
Unbelievably, after two runs where Ben had started fast and died, to our surprise he did exactly the same thing again at the beginning, although this time he was genuinely with the leaders! However, from my perspective the first half mile was the last time I saw him as he had a blinding run and came home first of our posse a minute ahead of Dan. I knew one of the Crusaders team was around him and Dan and there was a second one with me a little further back, but I had no idea about number three. Was he not in club kit and up ahead or were we looking comfortable with him struggling behind? All I knew was I had one of them to race for about 11 miles!
Behind our group near the front of the field there was a steady flow of Milton Buzzards going past each other as they all worked towards the track finish that would result in a very hard earned medal. They were having lots of different personal battles with Lorraine, Dave and Dad (Richard) all having their own targets.
My battle with Federico of Crusaders lasted until around the 11-mile point where he put in a hard burst for a minute or so and I just couldn’t go with it, however I kept him fairly close and crossed the line 20-seconds down on him, hoping that it was enough! Ben had finished one second behind their leading runner so it was just a question of where was their third?
As we were contemplating this, the other Milton Buzzards were coming home and our thoughts turned to Dad. The first year we came, in 1990 he was injured and so didn’t run. Every year since then he has completed the challenge in full which meant that in this, his 25th year this race would be his 100th consecutive one in the challenge and a remarkable achievement.
We had discussed our plan for his finish and Karen from MK was so keen to be involved she had by far her best race of the challenge to get home in time and beat him by a few minutes. When we first went to Lanzarote there was a group of “senior” gentlemen called The Winkles who ran the races to raise money for charity and were always near the back but each time they finished the challenge they created a spectacular shower of beers by shaking up a few cans in the last few yards. We thought we’d aim for a guard of honour of similar style. So with 20 yards to go and some Danish friends of ours holding a new constructed finishing tape that was what happened, although it might be argued it was more of a bath than a shower! It’s a good job they’re re-laying the track in January too….
In the individual battles, Chris Large ran an excellent final race to overhaul Mark’s lead on him and take that honour by a minute or two, while Jan’s final run proved to be 13 seconds slower than she needed to do the same to Fiona.
All the Milton Buzzards remained at the track to cheer home all of our team members, with Liz, Dave, Lorraine and Ola and Fay – the two final two Redway ladies – all coming home safely and in great spirit. A team photo at the finish was the precursor to a post race social in the Inchley residence and the eventual awards night, where Lena and Liz collected their trophies for winning their age categories. Remarkably, our team had also held on for third place with Dan just pipping Ben overall, so we all gained a volcanic trophy to take home as well. There was also a 30 minute video of the races that was shown and included a few amusing moments.
With the serious running for the week over with, the remaining days featured an increased diversity of activities, including a trip out to some sights of the Northern part of the island. All in all, it was a fantastic week/ten days with a great bunch of people and will undoubtedly be repeated in 2016 so if you fancy joining in, then look out for the e-mail around March.
In answer to the question at the top of the report, the key is clearly to give a regular supply of two-year-old girls to entertain them, however, thankfully the new course should be built for next year and the La Santa Ryder Cup can be reintroduced!
Should anyone be interested, the very comprehensive results document is here.