I never noticed there were no mats at the start until someone mentioned it at the end. I remember last year they had great difficulty getting the mats down with the traffic, and then as I remember they had a problem getting them to work - which I expect is why there were none. I'm sure a lot of folks back a bit could take a good few seconds off their official times. I was far enough forward that I think the time was about right. Good conditions for the race though after last's year sleet!
Well it is rather tough in places. I find the grass path along the top of the cliff and then the hill up to the house the hardest bit - especially on the second lap! I felt like I was nearly walking. The first and third mile are great fun, mostly downhill and technical down through the wood.
You'll enjoy Downhill a lot I think, though in parts it is very tough. First few hundred yards is on short grass - watch the turn around the tower with wee downhill slope - one could go on one's backside very easily. Then its over a wall and into the wood, downhill section on narrow forest paths, which then open out still downhill to the lake, after the lake its up through the forest, a very steep stepped section (though quite short) over a stile and then a really fun grassy, rocky cliff top section before a short steep climb onto the grassy plateau again, through the house down the lane and then do it all again. I was just back from injury last year when I did it and rather unfit, hoping to enjoy it more this year. If the weather's nice there's no better course in the world I'd say!
If you have trail shoes wear them, though mostly normal road shoes will be OK - I'm going to wear my racing flats, though I'm toying with the idea of XC spikes with studs.
Interclub was great crack - as you said very competitive, I was 6th man in on our team, and just about overtook an East Coast chap in the last 200yds! still wasn't enough to get the shield though!