On Sunday 14th January Alfred Yabsley got the honour to run for England at the prestigious Juan Muguerza Cross Country event held annually in Spain and on the IAAF calendar. Our coach Jim Bennett had a great weekend in Spain, watching and supporting Alf in his first International XC race and gaining his first England vest
This is Alfred's account of his trip.
On Friday 12th January, I flew out from London Stansted to Bilbao Spain with Elliot Dee (u20 athlete from Bedford and County AC) ahead of the 75th Juan Muguerza Cross country to represent England. We arrived in Bilboa 22:00 and met 2 locals who were our lift to the hotel in Eibar. It was surprising what a mountonous area we where in and it defintley reflected later in in the course.
After filling our stomachs we were given the agenda for the weekend and went to bed. The next morning we got up ready and excited to go and see the course down the road in Elgoibar. On our way to the course we had a chance to socialise with some of our competition. Once at the stadium we walked the course which was across a variety of surfaces from dirty road to track to muddy grass. After a brisk walk of the course I had a little jog and shake out pre race. Still heavy with previous week's training in my legs, the last minute call up didn't give me time to fully prepare for the race. However I was still in good spirits and was just soaking up the atmosphere.
We attended the traditional presentation before the race. All the big names such as Kipruto and Jebet were introduced to the crowd. Once the presentation was finished I got a chance to get a couple photos with the many Olympians and World Champions. It felt very surreal being around such high calibre athletes.
To finish off the day we went back to the hotel for dinner and an early bedtime. Next morning we woke up nice and early for breakfast the bus for the course departured at 9:45. It seemed we brought the dull rainy English weather with us, it was a cloudy, mild, rainy day. This turned the course very boggy and hard to find grip. With such a variety of surfaces to run on I had to compromise spike length to suit the track but the mud also so I went for a 9mm stud which didn't do much in the really boggy areas.
So we'd arrived at the venue timings for pre race routine in mind and hunger to race. The race started at 12:05 so at 11:00 I began my warm up and prepared to race my best. 11:50 warm up complete I entered the call up area and kept warm until we were called up to the start line. As with every cross race it began with pushing and shoving until it eventually calmed down and everyone had found there tempo. It was a tough course with lots of inclines and sharp turns. I Crossed the line in 12th place, covered from head to toe in mud! I heard my name announced as I crossed the line. Happy with my performance but not satisfied, Elliot and I cooled down and had a good natter about the race. With the senior women's and men's races to still yet to come we had some food and found some seats to watch the races and enjoy the final stages of the day. We said our goodbyes to the friends/competitors we had made. Then the end to an eventful weekend was the long journey home.
Jim had a great weekend in Spain, watching and supporting Alf in his first International XC race and gaining his first England vest