The attentive reader of these columns [yes, there just may be someone who reads this stuff!] will have detected over the months your correspondent’s increasingly outspoken detestation of the sickening training methods of Max Suff, which have resulted in hideous injuries not only to himself but to the man he calls his human guinea pig, Rich Wall. Needless to say, results have also not been all they might have been either, given the extent of the gratuitous racing he has demanded of limbs literally buckling under the pressure.
But Saturday on the icy snowfields of a mountain in South Wales told a story to shut me up good and proper as Max came within a whisker of winning the race, which is a counter in the Winter Series, finishing a magnificent second, while Rich had what must be the best result of his career, crossing the line in 4th. And remember, these two old boys are both in their 50’s!
The thaw that was apparent in Hereford had barely reached the Valleys, where we encountered a drop of 5 or 6 degrees. We parked up on a stretch of road that was a sheet of ice and soon found Race HQ, which was a hatchback with the sign, Race HQ balanced on the roof. There were 5 Couriers participating in this event drastically shortened because of the adverse conditions, with Clive sadly this time failing a late fitness test.
We started on a road of compacted snow and ice, then climbing in tractor tread marks which were frustratingly too narrow for both feet. Up on the slippery track through some trees, there were 4 Couriers in the top 7 or 8 but sadly this was not to last as we all went about half a mile off course, being whistled up by the organiser and rejoining the race now most of us behind the large pack we had put distance into on the way up. With visibility growing worse in cold drizzle and moving on to the open mountainside, we began to encounter wildly variable depths of snow covering heather, rocks and clefts, sometimes going down a foot, sometimes 3 feet, when we would find ourselves up to our waists in the icy snow. I should not really report this but it was witnessed by others anyway so what’s to stop me? We were all falling and often finding it quite difficult to extricate ourselves given the absence of handholds, but on one occasion, Herington went down only to find himself covered by the toppling Littlewood who seemed to push him further into the icy depths before struggling clear in a welter of thrashing limbs. Never have I heard the latter so voluble in a race. He didn’t seem happy about going off course, or the falling, or the way the snow was cutting, bruising and burning our shins or much else come to that. But he finished 1st V60 anyway,dancing down the lower slopes yodelling strangely as he went. Herington lacked the power to drive through the snowfields and, on this showing, could benefit from a few weeks under the harsh, bloody, but incontrovertibly successful training regime of Mr Suff.
“The whole point,” said a bare-torsoed Suff, reflecting on his performance after the race as the wind got up and the temperature continued to plummet “is to ready the body for extremes.” In one respect he was too ready, as his bulging quads were like gigantic rivets hampering his attempts to snowboard [without board] swallow-style down the hill where the snow was thickest. ” Look at Rich, for example,” he went on, “he was a snow plough today, that’s what all those beastly nights behind the butcher’s lock-up have done for him. Fair play!”
Completing the Courier contingent was our newest recruit, Martyn Peters who successfully negotiated the demanding course just as he has every other race in this tough little Series.