Alloa Cross Country
Satuday 22nd November - East District league race.
This was my first cross country race for Edinburgh AC, last session I was still running as Pitreavie AAC. In someways it feels like I've been running for Edinburgh AC for years but then when I remind myself I was running for Pitreavie AAC this time last year, all of a sudden it hasn't been long at all.
At Thursday training the chat turned to what shoes to wear for Alloa, some said short spikes, others said studs, I only had spikes and with the forecast of heavy rain I didn't fancy my chances of running in short spikes. After a quick email to Run and Become, I had a new pair of Inov-8 Talon-X 190's. I used to have 212's and loved them but unfortunately they didn't have any in my size. This was going to be their first outing, less than 24 hours out of the shop.
And they are Orange!!
I didn't run Alloa last year, can't remember why now, it's not like me to miss an excuse to run in some mud!
The Edinburgh AC men's team meet in Corstorphine outside PC World and car share to the races, this is a good idea because many of the race locations have very limited parking. Once everyone had arrived, we split up in to 3 cars and made our way to Alloa.
I pulled out my phone and typed in "Alloa Academy", it dutifully showed me the direction I had to go so off we went.
Just over 45 minutes later we arrives at Alloa Academy to find a very empty car park, no sign of any other runners. The only sign of anything happening was a group of guys getting out of a couple of other cars, in team kit, but not running team kit, it was football kit. We started to then wonder, are we in the correct place after all.
It turned out we had gone to the wrong academy! It should have been Lornshill Academy. A quick recalculation on the GPS should we were only 2.5 miles away so we jumped back in the car and headed to the correct location.
Once we arrived it was pretty straight forward, got parked, with lots more cars and runners and headed down to the playing fields where the club tent was located.
With an hour to go before the race started, I dropped my bag off in the tent and went for a jog around the course.
We all start on the playing field in the middle of the sports track, then straight away head down a steep, short grassy section.
After maybe 100 metres we were then all funneled down to cross a small bridge. This was muddy already from all the other races that had run over the route, by the time we got to it, we may need to watch our footing! A sharp left hand corner then put us on to forest tracks, rocky underfoot, a slight incline but OK running terrain.
The ladies' race was coming through as we jogged the course so we got to see how the going was underfoot, they seemed to be getting good traction on the climb with minimal slipping.
This climb went on for a while but it's didn't concern any of us. Then we took a sharp right hand turn and watching the ladies run through the first puddle, or should I say, mud bath, it was clear that the footing under the surface was uneven and it looked like some people have literally taken a bath in it! This was going to need to be taken with caution.
The next section was a fun, technical section where we were running over tree roots, stones, more mud baths, slippery verges, low branches, basically everything you could through at a cross country course, it was there.
Once that was done it was back to deep mud and running through a field, looking at the area, I couldn't see any route that would be quicker than another, it was going to be slow going what ever direction you went. It was slightly down hill though so possible to make up some time and also wide enough to allow for overtaking, this was the first section that this was a possibility due to the narrow tracks through the woods.
The next section that was suitable for overtaking was up and over the hill that signified the end of the first lap. If you were going to pass anyone on the way down this hill you had to be brave enough to trust your studs / spikes because it was wet, muddy and slippy underfoot.
The race started as expected, fast. Everyone charging down the first hill to get through the narrow bridge as quickly as possible. I found myself stuck in a group and had to wait until we got on to the trail before upping the pace and trying to pass people.
The first lap was fine, the walk around the course had prepared me for the conditions. A couple of people in front of me did take a tumble but they soon picked themselves up and were running again.
The second lap was enjoyable, I was still catching people and passing them, mostly on the uphill sections. The pace felt like it was dropping but the mud was making it hard going. On the downhill section, a group of the Edinburgh AC ladies team were cheering us all on which was a great boost. I couldn't lift my head to thank them though as I was concentrating on not falling flat on my face in the mud!
The third and final lap was again a lap of catching one or two other runners and successfully passing them.
There was just one final incline to take on towards the finish line and I gave it my all, trying to catch the runner in front of me but he also put a good strong finish in and I just couldn't catch him.
Overall, I was pleased with my first cross country race of the season. I could have maybe ran harder but I've never been able to run as well at cross country than I would like. I just can't seem to get my head around how to pace the laps. I finished 79th/249 which I'm really pleased with considering the strong field but will need to try and get the pace faster at Dundee's race.
My shoes aren't as orange as they used to be!