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Falkirk Scottish National XC + Foxtrail 13k

Falkirk – 24th February

Having enthusiastically ‘warmed up’ to cross country, I signed up for the Scottish nationals. They were easy to get to (Falkirk- trains every 15 minutes) and, even better, were 10km long and the same distance for men and women.

The day was bright, dry and sunny. I got there early and had time to potter a bit, peer at the map and jog a lap of the three lap course. It was mostly firm and grassy, with the occasional muddy patch and one or two little steep hills. Apparently this was very benign conditions compared to some other years!

Falkirk XC mass start – so many people!

A mass start saw everyone charge up the first hill. Someone who clearly knew me said something as she passed but I didn’t catch it! (turned out it was my friend Grace). Other members of the club were also cheering on corners which was most encouraging. As we went on, I started to pass people, each time focusing on the next person up ahead.

After 1.5 laps I fixed my gaze on a small group in front who were gradually getting closer. I decided if I was able to reach them and then hold position, I’d be happy! Someone yelled out that I was looking really strong, which made me feel great and sure enough I then caught and passed the little group.

We were now two laps in, but suddenly I felt a bit fuzzy wuzzy and knew I was pushing it just slightly too hard! The only solution was to back off a touch and hope the people behind didn’t notice… They noticed!! I was overtaken again but was getting over my wobble.

Final lap done and dusted and a strong sprint finish saw me finish in 63rd place (out of 271) and a time of 46:04 mins (I recorded the course a little long at 10.5km). Results. Pretty happy with that and think I’ll do a few more next year 🙂

Foxtrail 13km – 10th March

A couple of weeks later and the Beast from the East had been and scattered races in its wake. Andy was heading to the final Foxtrail race of their winter series, a 13km based at Foxlake. I had been due to spectate the first time round as it was the day before a race of my own. However, now I was heading over at a loose end and managed to get a last minute entry.

The weather was no longer white and snowy, but raining and windy! We all huddled shivering at the start, though the fun warm up got us all moving. I did a few of these last year, my best position being 5th, and that in the much longer events. However, as Nicola Duncan sprinted off, I found myself next to two other girls. I passed one of them on a twisting trail through the woods and was working hard to keep up with the other.

I had checked the course map beforehand and had a rough idea where we were going. Unusually, the wind was coming from the east, which meant we had a headwind most of the way out and a tailwind on the way back. I stuck behind this girl (I found out later that her name was Claire), getting as much shelter as I could. I was working a bit harder than I might have chosen, but decided it was worth it to hang on as long as I could. It turns out that her pace was strong and consistent. We steadily caught other runners as we made our way out along the course.

At some point she pulled aside to encourage me to pass, but I genuinely didn’t have the energy to do so! We met a couple of other guys and ran with them instead, turning round a field at the far end and retracing our steps over the bridge I hit my shin on during some other race … The memory of the pain still made me wince!

Now we had a tailwind and I tried to relax. I did eventually pass Claire and encouraged her to stay with me. Through some dunes, rising and falling before turning into the woods. At this point I could hear two girl’s voices behind me, so I knew I had not opened a significant gap. Then Nicola ran past! She had gone the wrong way and just come back on track. I thought I should call out and let her know she was back in the lead, but I had no breath and by then she was too far ahead to hear.

Top three, muddy legs!

I kept working and really loved the section where the route followed a narrow and winding little path along the edge of the coast. I was nimble and my shoes were perfect for gripping the sheen of mud. I knew the course turned back on itself at the far end and was bracing myself for the return of the headwind, this time on my own 😉 What I didn’t know was that it would be on a rough and squidgy track, recently churned up by a farm vehicle!

As I took the final bend into the woods, I glanced over my shoulder. I seemed to be clear of other runners and enjoyed the last stretch to the finish.

I hung around to collect my little bag and stand on the step!

Couldn’t believe I had managed to place 2nd female / 8th overall. Results. A lot of people hadn’t been able to make the rearranged date, so I thought I had just been lucky with who had been able to turn up. But my pace was only a touch slower than that at the XC and when I compared my time to the first 13k in the series it was still pretty good. Think I just love racing when the weather is ‘bad’!

I quickly showered and got changed into all my warm, dry clothes. I just missed Andy finishing, but hadn’t wanted to risk getting a chill. A hot cup of tea and prize giving later, and we were back on the bikes and pedalling for the train back to Edinburgh and a large café lunch 🙂

Large lunch to refuel and warm up post-race

Thanks to those who took photos – from the Edinburgh AC photostream, Andy, a friend of someone at the Foxtrail race and me!

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A tale of two cross country races (run not bike!)

Along with a resolution to get back to training sessions with the running club, I had paid my membership fees for both Edinburgh AC and Scottish Athletics last year, with a view to doing the occasional race. The club is big and successful and I wanted to feel like part of a team. Finally an opportunity came round – an XC race on a day when I wasn’t somewhere else in the country doing some other event…

I duly signed up for the 3rd and final race in the East District League, plus the Scottish Masters – oh yes, I just sneaked into the age category for that one 🙂

The first was at Broxburn. I was picked up and off we went, with the amount of snow increasing the further west we drove. The day was gloriously sunny and the course covered in the white stuff. We didn’t have a lot of time, and after faffing to park the car, go to the toilet, find the start, get a number … there was not a lot of time for warm up. Instead of doing a full lap I ended up doing half a one and sprinting back to throw off final clothes and line up.

Think this was early on before I felt so bad! Photo: John Lenehan

The start was fast and furious, with lots of jostling of elbows. I went out much too enthusiastically and after about a km felt like I had made a mistake. I slowed down and tried to regain control, though it was difficult with constantly changing terrain, level of snow compaction and mini hills! I started to feel slightly better, though these things are all relative. Round we went on lap 2. Halfway I thought I was going to be sick and I was willing it to all end. But I couldn’t just stop, so I pushed on! Never been so glad to see the finish line – 36th and just about counting for the club’s vet team.

This was my first XC race since university, so it had been a long time. I was shocked how tired I was for the rest of the day, despite running less than 6km. What a workout, but it was fun, honest!

So much so, that two weeks later I was in Kilmarnock for the Scottish Masters Championship. In between I went and raced for 10 hours overnight on a wild hillside, but that story will have to wait until my next post. I was also rather well stuffed with Polish perogi the night before, which I was hoping would turn out to be some sort of rocket fuel.

I entered this to make up numbers for the W40 category – three to count. Sadly one got sick in the morning and couldn’t make it. This meant no team for us as, despite having four W50s, we couldn’t nominate one of them to run down a category.

Mass start down a hill! © Mike Scott

Well, I was there now, so I might as well go for it! Learning from last time, I was a bit more conservative at the start. We all settled down after a km and positions didn’t change much after that. After the delights of the snow in Broxburn, this time we had gloopy mud and a grassy field that sucked your feet in ankle deep. There was also a steep climb and my favourite section twisting through some trees.

Two laps again. My legs were heavy and I had thoughts going through my head that I wasn’t recovered after the previous weekend, and what about tomorrow when I had another race lined up. Nothing I could do though, so I ploughed on. This time I was comfortable charging into the finish straight, buoyed by the shouts of some of my clubmates. Or maybe not, as afterwards I felt queasy again and had difficulty breathing normally! 17th, which I thought sounded quite good, until I remembered that I was practically the youngest there 😀

Jenny came 4th overall and the W50 team (Jill, Sue and Karen) did brilliantly, easily winning the team prize for their category. W40 – well, we need to get more people out next time because we had potential! The event was really well organised by Kilmarnock Harriers and the course was interesting, so I’d go back.

Still smiling at the end 🙂 Photo: Alex MacEwen

Thanks to all involved – host clubs, Enid and Karen for organising the teams and entries, Richard for the tiffin that got sent over in his absence and tasted fantastic, the people who gave me lifts, all the other athletes who cheered, photographers and Alex for making sure I did not do too much on Thursday! I’m sure it must be good for me somehow, I might do one again 😉

It’s not all about the running: Perogi / rocket fuel fest

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