A two race weekend

It's not very often I run two races in one weekend let along get the results I achieved.

 

Foxtrail winter series

 

Saturday was an early start. Mandy and I needed to arrive at Dunbar by 8:20am to collect our race numbers. Mandy's race started at 9am and I started at 9:15am. Foxlake Adventures host a total of 9 races spread between two series. One is made up of 6 races ranging from 10k to half marathon distance and the other is 3 races of 5k each. Mandy is doing the 5k series while I take on the 6 race winter series. All of the races are off road on trails. I'm sure Mandy will blog about her race at some point.

As soon as we arrived we noticed how cold it was, a good warm up was going to be needed!

Even after the warm up I couldn't feel my fingers. I headed over to the start line and watched Mandy's race start then it was time for the 13k runners to gather on the line.

After the over zealous start to the Antonine race the previous weekend I was determined not to make the same mistake. A quick countdown and we were away, I settled in to a comfortable pace in a group of 4 others and relaxed. Even though I went out relaxed within the first half mile I was sitting in first place. I had a quick check of my watch and the pace was reasonable so I went with it. I could hear one other person running with me and over the next 4 miles he was always close by. Once we had run around a loop it was then back along the path we had just came but now there was two way traffic and this is where I lost any advantage I might have had, another runner coming towards us was looking down at his watch and ran straight in to me, with a firm elbow in my ribs I was slightly winded and dropped to 2nd.

Running along the sand

We then headed back over a very narrow footbridge which the oncoming runners very kindly let us cross before they attempted it. It was appreciated as I didn't fancy a swim!

It was now a run along some dunes in to the wind. With just under 4 miles to go my lungs were struggling with the strong cold headwind and I started to drift off the pace, slowly watching 1st place slip away from me. This was when I made a decision, was I going to be happy after the race wondering what if? What if I had pushed to catch up, what if I wasn't as tired as I thought? I went after him but when I did catch up with him again, I didn't race past, I sat just behind him hoping for some shelter from the winter wind. I did get shelter but I now I couldn't see the terrain in front of us so my cadence was suffering. I made another decision, sit just left of him so I could see the course in front, not get any shelter but keep him close. This seemed to work.

With 2 miles to go I was back in the lead and started to push a bit harder. My Inov-8 Talon 200s were giving me confidence to push on the downhills, not that they were long or steep but as the segment on strava calls it - "That annoying fiddly bit", it's technical and the sort of running I love. Thinking literally on my feet, twisting and turning up and over rolling dunes, great fun.

Not knowing the course meant I kept a bit in the tank and before I knew it, we took a right hand turn and I could see the finish line so I put the foot down. Mandy was on the finish straight and all I heard her shout was "Keep pushing!" which usually means, he's behind you don't stop!

 

I crossed the line in 50mins almost to the second while second place finished just 7 seconds behind me. A great race and I can't wait to run the course again in March for the final race of the series. 3rd place finished 3 minutes behind us.

A massive thanks to the organisers, the volunteers and the sponsors for putting on a great first race. The chocolate brownies were amazing! 

The next race is in a couple of weeks, a night time 10k! I'll be making sure I have brand new batteries in my headtorch for that as I think it could be a great race but I'll need to be able to see where I'm going!

Cancer Research Tough 10

 

Sunday was the second race of the weekend. As I said, I wouldn't normally race twice in one weekend but the opportunity to race in the Pentlands was too much of a temptation and I was also raising money for this great charity. Before I go in to the race report I would like to thank everyone who kindly donated money and helped me raise £160 for Cancer Research UK. Unfortunately, like many families in the UK, my own family has seen it's share of individuals being diagnosed with Cancers of different forms over the years.

  • 1 in 2 people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.
  • 4 in 10 (42%) of cancer cases in the UK each year are linked to lifestyle factors.
  • Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of cancer each year in the UK.
Read more at Cancer Research UK

 

Mandy and I arrived in plenty time to allow me to collect my race number and chip. Mandy was there as support crew and it always makes a difference to me when she is there. I can relax a bit knowing I don't have to queue to put my bag in the baggage area or worry about my kit while I do a warm up. I'd be lost without her!
On Sunday she was also someone I could run ideas past, I was having serious kit worries. What should I wear, it wasn't too cold down at the race HQ but I was about to climb up in to the Pentland hills. I've ran these hills a number of times now and I know how cold it can get on the exposed hillsides.
I started with thinking I was going to wear a base layer and ashmei short sleeve jersey, then I thought I'd also put my gilet on top, hat and gloves, then it was base layer and gilet, you name it I went through all the different combinations. The only thing I did know was I would be wearing my Inov-8 Talon 190s today. A slightly lighter version of the 200s that I wore the day before but just as grippy for the steep descents.
In the end I went for the option of ashmei jersey, beanie and gloves. If I was feeling the cold then I would just run harder to warm up!
I went for a quick 1 mile warm up and finally met @runningdutchie who I have been chatting to via twitter and have ran passed with a brief hello in the past. It's always good to meet fellow runners face to face. I thought I was crazy doing a 15k the day before this race but she has just completed the Glen Ogle 33 mile ultra the day before! I'm not sure I would be able to walk let alone run a very hilly course the next day.
After the warm up it was a short walk from the registration area and eventual finishing area to the start line, I made my way to the start line and gave my jacket to Mandy.
At this point I would normally double check my GPS watch but I'd some how managed to forget it! It was still sitting next to the computer in a warm flat instead of attached to my wrist! I didn't want it for the pacing, I just wanted to map the route so I could look back at it online afterwards but luckily I did have a fully charged mobile phone with the strava app on it. My phone also fits snuggly in to the backpocket of my ashmei shorts which is impressive considering I have a Samsung Galaxy 5. I loaded up the app and pressed start then slid it in to my back pocket and waited for the race to start.
There was real hesitation to stand right on the start line but I was refusing to take the lead as I didn't know what my legs were capable of and looking ahead of me, all I could see was the trail leading up towards the hills. There was no gentle start here, it was straight to business with a 1 mile climb.

 

 Cancer Research Pentlands Tough 10 course profile

I took it easy, keeping my heart rate low and breathing controlled but even with this easy effort I was leading from the off! One guy pulled up to my shoulder and as he passed me he said "I might as well say I was first at some point in the race" and then slipped behind me again. I wasn't sure if this was race tactics to guage how much effort I was putting in or if he was just wanting a chat, either way I just smiled, focussed on keeping my breathing controlled and kept on putting one foot infront of the other.

My thighs were burning as the lactic built up but once we got to the top of the climb the first marshal we met asked if that had warmed us up. It sure had! Now the fun could start, the downhill and slightly flat sections. Running along the trail, jumping over small rivers, across bridges, through marsh and trying to take in the views as much as I could.

I felt free, no watch to check, no pressure to perform, I was just running.

The second guy was still behind me but I felt I was opening up space on the downhill sections and he was breathing much heavier than I was. As we dropped down from the first climb we arrived at a short road section. A section I've ran in the past but it was short lived and we were heading back up hill again.

This section had a short mini challenge setup on it. There was a challenge to be King and Queen of the hill, a section with timing mats was setup for perhaps a 200 metre steep incline, I saw the first mat and thought about going for the title but then thought I'd rather save my legs for the rest of the climb. I'm glad I did because looking at the results, I ran that second in 1:43. the guy behind me ran it in 1:40 but the quickest time was 1:15!

After almost 2 miles of climbing it was now time for the downhill run home and I flew, I just went for it and finished in 45:35 with second place over a minute behind me. I wish I had managed to smile for Mandy as I went past her near the end but I was in full concentration mode as I hurtled downhill towards the finish.

Owain in full flight downhill

A great race and one I would consider doing again. We were lucky with the weather but I think if it has been wet they could really do with some shelter for the runners. Standing in the middle of an outdoor centres recreation area isn't ideal pre or post race in bad weather. The course isn't for the faint hearted and I think some people were surprised out how tough the Tough 10 was but I wouldn't change one bit of it.

Tough 10 Cancer Research finished

 

 

 

Owain Williams

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