Wednesday evening I headed out to Croy for the Antonine trail 10k race, also known as ATRX. It was a really nice evening for a run.
I arrived with about 40 minutes to spare so collected my race number and went for a warm up with a fellow Edinburgh AC runner who was also racing.
The first thing that struck me about the race was how low key and friendly it all seemed. Everyone mingling about, doing warm ups, chatting about some of the recce runs that had previously taken place and just having a really nice time. Before I knew it we were walked forward to the start line and I thought I might as well get as close to the front as I could. 3,2,1 and we were off.
All day I had wondered whether I should race in my road shoes or my studs. After the warm up I opted for the Inov-8 Talon studs, even though after a twitter conversation with the race director, James Stewart, saying I should be fine in my normal trainers, I felt I wanted the confidence that when I needed grip that I had it.
The first 1k is downhill on a track and I quickly found myself sitting in 6th place with a lead pack of 3 already forming. I was already running pretty hard so decided just to stick to the plan of running hard downhill and just getting to the top of the climbs.
I'd seen the profile of the course online but until you start to run the course you are unsure how much of a climb is actually ahead of you. In short, a lot!
We were soon tackling the first hill and I was really trying to relax and keep my breathing under control. I was trying to remember everything I've been told about running hills from my coach and think about cross country season. I thought I'd ran some tough cross country courses but they were pancake flat compared with this beast. Just as you get to the top of one hill you are no sooner thrown down the other side.
Steep drops with some technical sections, jumping fallen trees, skipping over walls, opening gates, running through kissing gates, trying not to fly off the edge of the trail on a sharp hairpin bend which was on a downhill section! I was loving it!
I was tackling each hill as a new challenge, just keeping the legs moving and trying to keep 5th place in my sights. He was really good at going uphill but I was making up any time lost on the downhills.
The toughest part of the course was mile 4 to 5. I wasn't looking at my pace but after the race looking at the splits it really shows where the legs started to burn.
Mile 1: 6:44
Mile 2: 6:39
Mile 3: 7:03
Mile 4: 5:57
Mile 5: 8:03
Mile 6: 6:21
My brain was saying stop and walk but at the same time I was telling myself just to finish and hold your head high that you ran it all. I was asking myself how would I feel after the race knowing I walked some of it, I would be annoyed and angry so I kept on lifting my legs and swinging my arms until I got to the top and then I threw everything at the downhill.
I did catch 5th place and at one point I thought I would be able to snatch 5th place in the final 1/2 mile. That was until I had to stop! Under marshals directions, that is. I was coming on to a busy road and I needed to cross it but the marshal had to give me the all clear. It felt like I was standing there for an age while car after car passed and 5th place got going again after his road crossing, a lead that unfortunately I couldn't get back.
It was the toughest 10k I have ever raced but you know what, I absolutely loved it and it will be on my racing plan for next year without a doubt! I'm already seriously considering giving the 15 mile race a go later in the year! I better get some hill training in.
A massive thanks to all the marshals and organisers who made the race possible, it was fantastic!
Thanks Gary Ledgerwood for the use of his photos.