Yesterday, Saturday the 11th February, was the fifth race of the Foxtrail Winter Series. As I said in my previous blog, I wasn't sure whether I was going to be able to run it or not. I hadn't ran since Tuesday due to doing something to my hamstring.
After some advice from Iain and Cath on Friday evening - cheers guys - I headed to the gym to test my hamstring. I had strict orders to be honest with myself. Don't kid myself everything is OK when it wasn't. A hamstring injury isn't something to mess about with.
I can't remember the last time I was in a gym and I'd forgotten how mind-numbingly boring it is. I now know why people are on their mobile phones while on the bike etc. I had to do something to try and pass the time! After 15 mins I made my way on to the treadmill.
I started slow. 8:30 min/mi pace for half a mile and I could feel my hamstring a bit. I put the treadmill up a gear so I was running 7:30 minute mile pace for another mile. The tension in my hamstring eased off so with 2 miles done I decided to take it up one more gear and run the last mile in 6:00 minute pace. Zero tension, zero pain. Happy days!
I think I've said this in every race report from Foxtrail but once again their organisational skills and what they offer the runners is outstanding. This race wasn't at Foxlake HQ but just along the road at Harvest Moon Holidays which is pretty exposed. Rather than expect the runners to find shelter under trees etc. they had erected a large marquee for us. It things like this that really make a difference.
After registration I headed out for a quick warm up then listened to the race brief.
Due to the high winds and rain I had folded my race number to make it as small as possible. I didn't fancy it acting like a sail when running but at the end of the race briefing we were told, understandably, to make sure the full number is visible as had sponsor names on it. It was also highlighted to us that anyone who had folded their number to hide the sponsors would automatically be disqualified!
In a moment of panic I quickly pulled my gloves off and unfolded my micro-race number and re-pinned the full size number to my top. I wasn't running 13.1 miles to then get disqualified!
It was now time to get on to the start line.
The banter on the start line really adds to these races. Everyone is super friendly and it's like going for a run with good friends rather than competitors. I love this about trail running. The focus yesterday was on my box fresh trail shoes! They were a tad brighter and cleaner than many of the other pairs of shoes treading the line. I also spotted Colin Williams on the start line. Colin and I raced each other late last year at Peebles. He beat me on that occasion and I expected the same again yesterday.
Now, if you remember my blog about the night time 10k race you will remember being caught out by the hooter going sooner than I had realised. Well, yesterday the countdown went something like this - 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..........it's not working, GO! Then within about 10 metres of the race starting.......HOOOOONK! We all had a wee chuckle as we settled in to the race.
With 'keep it easy' in my mind. I let a couple of guys set the pace early on. Richard, who has started training with me on Tuesday at our track session, took the lead with Colin close to us. Richard asked if 5:50 pace was me taking it easy to which I replied that I was just feeling comfortable. I was enjoying splashing through the puddles plus the first 1/2 mile was downhill so I wasn't overly worried.
With my breathing and leg feeling OK I kept the pace turning over and within the first mile I was in the lead. I could hear a couple of people behind me though. The mud and puddles gave me a good idea on how close they were but then it started to get a bit quieter.
When running a race I never look behind me but I passed a marshal who said I had about 70 metres on the next guy and what I didn't realise at the time, I was extending that lead each mile.
I felt great. Running the trails, following the markers and trying to take in the scenery when I could.
There were some hairy moments when the course became more exposed to the elements. I found I was kicking myself due to the gusts of wind catching my feet and during a narrow stretch along the dunes I was even blown in to the bushes!
We passed the marquee that we started from a couple of times and the cheers from the spectators and organisers was great.
There were a couple of times where it would have been good to have company during the race, more to shelter from the wind and the final 2 miles is where I could have done with some shelter.
We dropped down the dunes on to the beach. The wind was fierce but at least the sand was firm. Running along the beach with still no real idea how close second place was behind me I just focused on the marshal's van in the distance. It didn't seem to be getting any closer!
Eventually the van started to drive towards me and I thought they were coming to give some shelter from the wind but I was wrong. In the back of the van was a camera person. They drove in front of me for a while but then peeled off back towards 2nd place.
Then I was greeted by a marshal who was at the river crossing. His instructions were clear - run to the pillbox at the end of the beach and then come back. Once again this new target didn't come quickly but once I got there, I turned around and could see the lead I had, it was significant. I got back to the river crossing and then the final mile was a relaxing run home.
I finished in 1:24 with second place coming back in 1:27.
Another great race organised by @foxtrailscotland. Tracks, fields, road, beach, you name it this half marathon had it! Very please with the win. Didn't expect it due to my hamstring issues but it behaved and allowed me to run free. Thanks to the marshals out on the course, that was tough conditions you had to endure! It's appreciated. See you all for the final race of the series in a couple weeks!! ....... #ashmeirun #teamiamrunbox #activeroot #fitness #furtherfasterstronger #happyrunner #instagood #instarun #instarunners #marathontraining #photooftheday #run #runchat #ukrunchat #runhappy #runner #runners #running #runtoinspire #seenonmyrun #time2run #trailrun #trailrunner #trailrunning #training #runtagit #runplanet #runshots #runthroughuk #runnersofinstagram
It was a fantastic course. A real mix of forest tracks, sand dunes, mud, road, grass, a route I'd like to run again in better conditions, even if it was just a training run.
I'm not sure if I could follow the course again without the great signage though. I particularly liked the arrow which was attached to a creel.
I hope everyone else enjoyed the race as much as I did. A challenging route but set in another beautiful part of Scotland I'd never visited, let alone ran. The beach is amazing! Think I might need to visit again in the summer with a picnic.
The final race of the series is in a couple of weeks time and it's over the same course as we ran the first race. Hopefully I will be injury free and maybe I can give the course record a go!
See you all there!