As Eric Idle once said (in a very fetching Yorkshire accent):
"I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night, half an hour before I went to bed."So maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but the National Trust have decreed that this race will start at 8am or not at all, so it's an early morning for everyone. In fact, it's too early for trains to Box Hill itself, so we're giving Claire a lift from our local station which is open at this ungodly hour.
At least the sun is shining, and the latest forecast says it should stay that way until the afternoon.
So, enough with the kvetching about the time, on with the show!
As all the world surely knows, the Surrey Hills Cow Parade has begun, and here indeed is a very fine cow parading. Her name is Cycling Moo Kay and she has a sister, Boxhilda, on the other side of the path; but we need to get on with the race report.
'Ere we go, 'ere we go, 'ere we go! Like Brexiters fleeing the fearsome monster Europa, the stampede begins!
The back markers begin the descent of the Burford slope as the leaders are already returning to the top.
Soon we'll be able to send Jocky Foreigner on the right back to the haggis fields where he belongs, but for now everyone politely pretends he's still one of us.
Oh, a man in a kilt - he'll even have to pretend he likes the sound of the pipes!
First hill over (well, -ish), Amanda heads off for all the fun of the steps.
And at the top of the steps, what do we find but a bald man in a dressing gown, cheering everyone on at the top of his voice!
Perhaps a bald man in a dressing gown isn't your thing? How about a wild woman clanging a cowbell?!
I swear I've done nothing to her!
That's better; at least Claire looks pleased to see me.
Amanda too, although she's not actually looking at me, she's looking at more important things like tree roots that she doesn't want to trip over.
It's another of the brief flat bits.
Amazing guys: both deaf, one partially sighted. No way would I want to be running here if I couldn't see properly!
Owing to a bit of marshalling confusion, some of the first runners have been all the way down here and beyond before being turned back by another marshal. What a lovely bonus hill for them: this part is steep enough just walking. Last year, I pushed my bike up to the turnaround point and regretted it, so this year I've left it at the bottom, although my plan for later will involve bringing it up for the return half. Like most Trionium races, just supporting still gives you plenty of exercise.
It would be wrong to suggest, of course, that the not-quite-so-steep bit is anything like flat.
There's always one! Gaz decides that he'll take the shorter but slower route.
Sorry Mike, but she is prettier than you.
"I saw it in the woods! It was this big!"
You can tell Amanda's taking it easy; she actually stops to accept a cup of water.
It's very steep and slippery coming down to the turnaround point, and quite a few people wobble or take a bit of a tumble. I don't actually see anybody slide all the way down on their backside, nor anyone suffering more injury than to their dignity, but I think this has to be the hardest part of the whole course. Even the worst steps are at least still steps.
A couple of people are carrying proper trekking poles, but a little cunning improvisation goes a long way.
"No, we're not looking for an excuse for a moment's rest, no, not at all! We just want to pose for our photo!"
I remember love's young dream from the Bath Hilly Half. They have clearly decided that this was insufficient penance for their sins, which are doubtless many and varied, and so have chosen the Picnic for further atonement. Bet they won't look so happy and bouncy next time round...
You've heard of the Funky Chicken? Well here's the Leighton Buzzard!
Amanda's knee is holding out, to her very great relief. It didn't help that she's banged it a couple of times recently, but if she can manage the Eiger Steps, she should be able to manage pretty much anything.
Up at Juniper Top (blimey, that bike is heavy!) Amanda descends as Claire ascends.
At the trig point now. Never mind the Jaffa Cakes on offer, Claire wolfs down some crisps just for their salt content. She's got gels and energy bars, but with the humidity, it's salt she thinks she needs most right now.
"Pinot Grigio? But I ordered Chardonnay!"
From here, Dorking looks quite pretty.
The Eva's Angels boys cross the line for a photo-finish.
For Claire, though, it's round the cone and off to do the whole thing again! Just how many sandwiches short are the Picnickers, we have to wonder...
Amanda's more than happy to get another 'mere' Munro under her belt. That's quite mad enough for any normal lunatic!
If there's a way of looking elegant with a carrot in your mouth, I'm afraid Amanda has yet to find it.
I, however, will hold the carrot in a more sensible fashion, along with the beer glass which will come in most useful when I have some beer. Hmm... Beer...
Now normally, our story would end here, but of course we have an appendix:
Second time round, those steps are a total nightmare. And remember Tom and Ruth, our happy smiley couple from the first half? She's obviously told him to go on ahead, she'd only hold him up and at least one of them might live to tell the tale...
But you know what? Claire must be delirious or something, but she looks like she's still having some kind of fun! Amanda says, "Steve will give you a hug!" Claire says, "I'm soaking with sweat, he really doesn't want to!" I say, "I've had worse" and give her a hug. Actually, I'm not sure I have had worse, but what the hell!
I shall run away from the crazy people now.
Love to all,