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Take Three Moles into the Hills?

To Denbies, then, hoping that Storm Angus will find somewhere more to his taste... ("Angus"?! Whoever thought of naming a Southern England storm "Angus"?)

Ah, chocolate! There's a whole room full of artisan chocolatiers proferring their wares for our perusal...

But they're not quite open yet, and there's the minor detail of a race to be run first. Ho hum.

The bag ladies do whatever it is that bag ladies do with their bags.

"Do I really have to take my fleece off?"

"Follow these signs, not any of the others out there!"

What was it Robert Browning wrote? "Oh to be on the A24, now that November rain's there"? Is that right? Or am I getting him confused with Guns'n'Roses?

I think it's safe to say that the stepping stones do not form part of the route today.

Ah, here they come on the alternate route.

Across the bridge instead. Rather drier!

The Belted Galloways are sensible for once and keep out of the way. I tell Amanda to smile for them, but she's feeling very unhappy after the downhill on the rough chalk track. In previous years the route has gone down the grass slope where the cows are now, but apparently that's fenced off at the top to keep the cows in, hence the need for the slight change.

The top of the road section before returning to muddy trails in Norbury Park. It's a good job I can take lots of short cuts, because going up this hill on the bike I'm a fair bit slower than any half-decent runner!

Amanda has been told that there are some very special puddles just for her on this leg. Unfortunately, she's long gone by the time I get to any of them. I thought I'd leave the bike because part of my route to the next point involves cutting through a fenced-off field, so while I can keep up for a couple of minutes, this section is longer than I remembered and I decide to conserve my energy. Amanda may need me to be strong later.

At this point I'm standing next to one of the official SSP photographers, so I'm not sure if Claire's doing this for him or me. One guy stops and strikes a special pose for his photo: apparently the people who do that never actually buy them! We have an interesting chat about how so many other race photographers seem to be completely useless when it really shouldn't be the proverbial rocket science. [Note for pedants: rocket science is actually very simple; rocket engineering is hard!]

"Don't look at him!" I shout to Amanda, "He'll only want you to pay for the pictures!" Although we'll quite likely buy at least one of Amanda's favourite part, the final descent through the vineyards, because I can't be there for that photo and still get back to the finish in good time.

So I'm up at Ranmore Hill and this woman obviously thinks I'm worth making an effort for, because initially I'm not looking at her when she does a jump for the camera and so she does it again! Still, as you can tell from the red final digit of her number, she's only done this section. I don't expect anyone on their third Molehill to be quite so frisky!

Amanda appears in the distance. Just this slight climb and then it's downhill all the way to the finish. Pity really that downhill isn't her greatest strength in running terms, but she does love that last section.

Viewed through one of my shortcuts, the aforementioned final section. Actually, it's great fun on the bike too, because after this short bit of rough track, you get onto the main road and can pick up some real speed if there's enough of a gap between the runners. It's only fair to detour onto the grass to give them plenty of clearance, but this time I have an almost free run to the bottom before I go offroad. It's a bit too fast and bumpy to see if the SSP guy there is one of the ones I know, but I definitely see the camera being pointed at me too!

Amanda round the final bend to the finish.

And the traditional victory jump!

Things you see (a continuing series...): This is the last person who was caught wearing headphones in an ETL race.

Ok, no, that's not true. It's the DJ's mascot. Or something.

And to close, an arty-farty still life: the spoils of victory. "Old Speckled Hen" is a beer I know of old, but other kinds of henniness need to be investigated. And "Tangle Foot"? I think it should be obvious why that's appropriate today!

Right, that's it: now for a shower, clean clothes and some strong liquor :-)

Love to all,


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