On Sunday I headed to Croy for the Antonine Trail race which covered just short of 14 miles of mud, hills and foot paths around the surrounding area.
I recce'd the course a couple of weeks ago and I was glad I did, it gave me the confidence to run the race as hard as I could while knowing where any nasty surprises might be hiding, for anyone that wants to know for next year, the first sting in the tail is at mile 9 and the second is at mile 11, oh and lets not forget about "the little b*st*rd" at mile 12.5! Yes, that is the official name of the hill, more about that later.
Arriving in plenty of time, I collected my race number and then headed down to train station where the coffee kiosk was open for the runners to purchase a wee beverage prior to the race. A coffee and a bottle of water were bought and enjoyed back at the car with Mandy and then it was time to head out for a warm up.
James had filmed some of the course the day before and this really helped when it came to picking what footwear I was going to race in. I had the choice of either my Hoka One One Speedgoats or my Inov-8 X-Talon 200s, due to the amount of mud, I went for the Inov-8s and hoped I wouldn't regret it.
I didn't regret the shoe choice, the first couple of miles were a mixture of mud and trail, the Inov-8's gave me the confidence I needed to keep on pushing but this is where I may have made some mistakes. It's not very often that I'm in the lead pack in a race, I'm usually in the pack chasing that pack or in other races, I'm nowhere near that front pack, but on Sunday, I was out front leading the lead pack. It felt great but I shouldn't have been out there.
I didn't know anyone else in the pack, I didn't know their strengths or weaknesses but what I did know was, the race wasn't going to be won by the fastest runner, it was going to be won by the person who paced the race correctly and was strong on the hills in the last 4 miles of the race. I knew that before I started but there I was, running a pace that was possibly sustainable over 6 miles but not 14 and yet I kept on pushing!
What did I have to gain from pushing, nothing! All I did was tire my legs out so much that when I hit the hills, I was in survival mode!
At Aviemore I ran the half marathon in 1:18 which was an average pace of 5:59 minutes per mile, that was my aim for this race as well so why were my first 3 miles at the pace they were?
This was crazy! After the second mile I should have eased off a bit and brought the average back to my target instead of knocking out a 5:34!!
Funnily enough soon after this, I settled in to 4th place and watched the 3 others pull away from me, not at a break neck speed but enough to make me think I should have been running with them if I hadn't of gone off so quick at the start.
Then came the hills, the first at 9.5 miles and then the second at about 11.5 miles and I lost 4th place on the climbs and I was now focused on not to losing 5th place!
I resorted to power walking up the hills with a couple of bursts of running mixed in and then hope that my downhill running was stronger than the person behind me. Luckily it was and with the confidence in my Inov-8s I attacked the downhills as hard as I could. I held on to 5th and finished in 1:30:11, sub 1:30 would have been nice but maybe next year!
This is a great event, well organised, a great course and I'd recommend the event to anyone wanting to take on a challenging 14 mile trail run.
This weekend I have another two trail races, one is the first of a series of six at FoxLake in Dunbar, this one is an 8 mile race and the second is a Cancer Research 10k in the Pentlands on Sunday. I'm looking forward to both and I hope to put what I've learned from last weekend in to practice!