Tweed valley Tunnel run

Pre-race

Just over a week ago, on Saturday morning I woke up at 7am, had my breakfast and made my way to Peebles. I had a really enjoyable drive down. Not much traffic and the sun was splitting the sky. The reason for the early start was so I could race the inaugural Tweed valley tunnel 20km trail run. 

 Misty start in Peebles

On the my way down the road I stopped in a lay-by to take some photos as the mist was rolling off the hills and it looked amazing. The photo doesn't do it justice. 

I arrived in plenty of time, collected my race number and dibber, more about this in a minute, and then headed back to the car to warm up, not to do a warm up. The mist had dropped the temperatue to 2C in the valley but it made it perfect racing conditions, just not that great for standing around waiting for the race to start. 

With about 40 minutes to go before the start I pinned my race number to my Ashmei vest, changed in to my Hoka One One Speedgoat trail shoes and put the timing dibber on my wrist and headed out along the course for a bit of a recce. I ran along the last 1km and the first 1km of the race and I was really looking forward to this race. I've only ran one other trail race so I wasn't sure what to expect but straight away within the first 100 metres from the start line there was a small river to cross and then it was narrow tracks, tracks that reminded me of sheep tracks from Tiree. I had decided to post my racing experience on Instagram Stories as well which was fun and I think I'll do it on a more regular basis pre and post race. If you haven't already, check out my Instagram account over at http://www.instagram.com/scottishrunner

 around the first corner

There were some small climbs in the first 1km as well but it was mostly flat and hard packed. I couldn't wait to get running. 

I looked at my watch and I'd ran a mile so decided to head back to drop off my rucksack in the baggage tent, but wait, what was that beep? Oh man, my Garmin was telling me it had a low battery! I had put it on charge the night before but I guess it didn't work. Not to worry, I would use my phone to map the course instead. I didn't need to see my pace, I was just going to race to how I felt but wait, what do you mean I only have 5% battery left on my phone! Not to worry, I would just go technology free, or at least, start my watch and see how far I get before it dies on me. The key to this race was just to enjoy it, no stress, just run. 

I didn't need my watch for pace, I just wanted to upload it to Strava and look back at the route so I'd just wait and see how long a low battery would last me. 

I headed back and while in the queue I met a fellow Edinburgh AC and training buddy Kevin who was also doing the 20k race. There was a 10k and 20k on at the same time. After a short wait to drop off our bags we made our way over to the start line.

The start

I would usually put myself right on the start line or as close as I could but this race was a bit different, there was no mass start. You could start at any time between 10am and 10:30am, after that the 10k would start. The chip timing was also something a bit new to me, you had to press your dibber, which was on your wrist, against a sensor on the start/finish gate. Once when you start and again when you finish. There were maybe 10 or 15 others who were wanting to start at 10am and so we all mingled around the start gate. 

I heard one pair of runners comment that the guys in front were obviously out to win the race since they were standing right next to the timing sensors and to be honest, they looked fast and so I accepted I would probably not place and decided just to enjoy the trails. No pressure. 

We were given a short countdown and as the pair of runners in front of me had predicted, the small group of 4 or 5 guys up front swiped the sensor and they were off! I was maybe 8th or 9th to swipe but then something happened, something went from lets enjoy this race to lets chase those guys and see what happens!
As soon as I had swiped my timer I was racing, I shot after the lead pack like a man possessed! 

The race

 Follow the signs

We were directed around the course by Red and Blue signs and yes, that image does direct me through a gate. These gates were on latches which did mean I was slowing down, unlocking the gate and then trying to make up any lost time while the person behind me then locked the gate. This however all changed when I approached one gate early in the race and I had real difficulties unlocking it, I could hear the other person racing up behind me and then he chucked himself over the fence next to me and continued running - this then became the norm for both of us, approach gate, hurdle gate, continue running.

We were running together for maybe a mile and he mentioned that we had ran races together in the past. We have the same surname and we had been given the wrong results in a previous race a couple of years ago. It was good to put a face to the name. We'd also ran Barry Buddon half marathon earlier in the year and I'd finished about a minute in front of him. 

By mile 5 I had gradually pulled away from Colin and I couldn't hear him behind me. I'd been running well along the riverside, running up stairs, across roads and up and down small inclines. I was loving the course. I then came up to a sign saying something along the lines of "Welcome to The Sware (you probably will)". I looked in front of me and there it was, the first major hill of the race and boy it was a climb. I kept the legs moving but my quads and calves were burning and a couple of times I went in to a power walk rather than a run just to try and reduce my heart rate and breathing. At the top there was a water station and I was thankful for it, it was a hairpin turn so I could see Colin had made up ground on me but there was no-one behind him. We got a short rest through a technical section of forest which I really enjoyed. Running as fast as I dare but trying to spot the flags which were tied to the tree branches to direct us through the woods. I then heard a marshal giving encouragement and telling me I now had to go over a wall and under a fence (at the same time). This added to the enjoyment of the race, it really felt we were going offroad and I can imagine this is what cross country racing used to be like before health and safety went a bit crazy! 

From here it was time to cut across some moorland and again I was reduced to a walk as the grass was so thick but then I heard it, the beep of Colin's Garmin watch, he had made up all the ground on the climbs and he was now running beside me. The race was back on and I continued to ignore the constant burning in my legs from the climbs and tough terrain, I wasn't going to let him get away from me. 

If he walked some of the hills, I'd walk, if he continued to run, I'd run, it was simple plan and it seemed to work.

The course profile, it was a bit hilly!

(Profile taken from Colin's GPS since my watch gave up at about 9.5 miles - not bad for a low battery sign before the race started).

 

At the top of the highest point we were both next to each other and we both commented on how amazing the view was, just a shame we didn't get a chance to fully appreciate it. Before we knew it we were going down some pretty steep paths and this is when I lost some ground or maybe I lost my nerve. Up until this point any declines were on hard packed paths but we were now going down wet, narrow, winding paths and at one point I lost complete control of my feet. My Hoka One One's weren't gripping the terrain and I thought I was going to make friends with a tree! I grabbed anything I could to try and slow myself down but it wasn't helping. I admit I may have let out a couple of expletives. I did make up some lost ground when the path opened out on to a road though and made a surge to try and get a gap between us, even on the last major climb, which was also kindly sign posted to tell us it was coming, I just kept on running and moving forward.  I held my own and stayed in front but then as we headed back downhill, again on narrow muddy paths the gap opened up and Colin lead for the rest of the race, it also didn't help that I needed to stop and tie my lace which had come undone! I did contemplate running on with it undone but knowing my luck I'd trip and face plant a tree stump or something similar! 

The Tunnel

As you may have noticed the name of the race was the Tweed Valley Tunnel run and at roughly the 10.5 mile point we entered the tunnel which was roughly 600 metres long and they had put a light show on inside it. It was pretty amazing and a nice twist to any race. The only disadvantage was some of the lights were angled in such a way that they temporarily blinded you, not great when running up behind the 10k runners who started half an hour after us and were in the final stages of their race. 

One final climb up a grassy hill and along a path which I'd recce'd before the start and then this lovely sight:

Almost there. A Sign to the finish line

One final drop down a set of stairs and a sprint for the finish, not forgetting to dib my timer against the sensor as soon as I finished. 

I finished 2nd overall in a time of 1:24.29 but prizes were allocated by age category so I ended up coming first under 40 which I was delighted with. 

A massive thanks to the marshals who did a great job on the course and also the race organisers for making a brilliant but tough 20k race. Thanks to all the 10k runners who stepped to one side while Colin and I chased after each other, it was appreciated. 
I'll be sure to sign up again next year and I've already bought some new trail shoes to allow me to have better grip on the descents and I've had a chance to test them out on a 14 mile trail run at the weekend. I'll post a review of the new Inov-8 Talon 200s soon but in the meantime I've got Aviemore half marathon to taper for this weekend. Hopefully the race report wont be over a week late for that! 

 

Owain Williams

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