Thursday 7 June 2012

Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo 2012

Once again, we made our way on Wednesday evening to Cleeve Common for the hilly "sprint" that is the Cleeve Cloud Cuckoo 5.5. Given the near constant rain over the past week, the clouds kindly broke up and headed north to give us a pleasantly sunny window in which to run.  The race makes a figure of eight around the top of Cleeve Hill, near Cheltenham, taking in a few short hills and a couple of longer ones along the way.  With a gentle uphill first quarter to sap the legs a bit, it gives a reminder that it always pays to be fully warmed up before the start.  None of the hills in the early section is particularly special, but if the lungs and calves aren't quite ready, you'll hear all about it.

Following the gentle loosener comes a delightful 950ft descent that is shallow enough to take at speed and steep enough to challenge one's ability to stay upright.  The payback is a climb out of the quarry bottom back onto the hill over the space of a mile and a bit.  The first half mile of the climb is quite steep, with a gentler finish to the high point of the race.  From here, we get a mile steady descent to recover on before a short, steep scramble before the wonderful 3/4mi downhill finish.

This year's event was well attended, with over 120 competitors.  The course was a little different to last year with an extra quarter mile in the post-quarry part of the "eight".  Nic joined in, racing this year rather than simply sightseeing, and taking more than a minute per mile off compared to 2011.  I knocked 14 seconds off on average, to finish considerably further up the field (close enough to see the 1st lady finish, which is usually a good target for me).  All-in-all, a great way to spend a Summer's evening.

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