It's been a busy week! Last weekend on Saturday it was the Scottish National Cross Country Championships in Falkirk, on Sunday it was Devilla Trail race and then on Tuesday is was the Pitreavie AAC Road Runners handicap race.
On Saturday the weather was ideal for Cross Country (XC) although I do usually prefer a course with more mud than this but when it's a course like Callander park, I don't mind less mud!
As it's the Nationals the distance is extended to 12km. 3 full laps of the park. The course has a bit of everything, the start is a mass start up a hill, everyone trying to get the best line to the first corner but also trying to stay on their feet.
Once you get to the top of the climb it's a left turn and then back down the hill towards a loch which was looking really nice. From previous experience this is the only time a bottleneck sometimes occurs as the path narrows and there are park benches to look out for.
Once you get through this section you are running on hard packed ground and then it's the toughest climb of the course, a steep climb which is usually a mud bath but as I said earlier, it was actually very dry but the climb is still steep and it zaps the energy out of your legs because once you get to the top, the climb doesn't stop.
I am strong on the climbs so I try and overtake on the hill and then as the gradient decreases I try and pick up the pace again. We then run along the edge of the golf course and then run down a steep banking to the river bed, which this year was dry but previous years has been ankle deep and cold! As soon as a foot touches the river bed you are heading back up the opposite side of the banking and again I tend to make light work of it and try and keep my position. Then it's back towards the main park where the spectators give you a cheer as you run past and head towards another two climbs.
Then it's a final drop on to a clay path which becomes the home straight on the final lap but for two of the laps you take a sharp left hand turn and it's back up the first hill but the difference this time is you tend to have more space around you as the pack has split up by then.
I was really happy with my pacing and final position this year, I finished 173rd out of 503 runners which was an improvement of 84 places from 2011!
The following day was a club championship race at Tulliallan police college, a 15km trail race organised by Carnegie Harriers. I wasn't sure what to expect because I have never ran this course before and with the Nationals in my legs I did wonder if this was going to be a case of 15km to far, but I am pleased to say I did pretty well. I went out strong and got in to a nice pace early on, I did wonder if I had gone off too quick but I felt good so kept on pushing. I lost some time in mile 2 or 3 due to the forest section and some very deep water (this was more XC than the nationals the day before!). Once I got back to to more solid forest tracks I starting catching the group of runners in front and even passed a couple of them. For the final 5km I was chasing a group all the way but I just couldn't get close enough to them due to the uneven surface we were running on. Every time I tried to push the pace I felt the chips on the road were slipping away.
It's a challenging course with some mud, tree roots, bouncy blank bridges(!) and narrow paths but a very enjoyable course and one I would like to do again, but I do recommend trail shoes for the 15km course. Mandy ran the 5km route and she wore trail shoes as well but said you could probably get away with normal trainers as long as you don't mind them getting a bit dirty. Mandy ran the 5km course, her running is coming along really well and all her training is paying off. I'm extremely proud of her!
I ended up finishing 11th / 433 and finished 4th senior male which got me a Sweatshop voucher and a couple of bottles of beer which was unexpected. The interesting thing was that I ran the longer course at a faster pace than I did for the nationals! I would say Devilla was a tougher course as well so I guess my legs preferred having a days racing in them or maybe the marathon training is giving me the extra strength I need.
Thanks to Alexis for the photo - not one of my best faces, but I was pushing it!!
To top it all off, on Tuesday it was our club handicap 5 mile race. For anyone that has never ran a handicap race, it's a great way for people with differing paces to race each other. The slowest runner heads of at a prearrange time (their handicap) and then depending on your pace you then head out along the same route chasing those in front of you until the fastest runner of the group leaves last. Our handicap system is based on 59 minutes to complete the 5 mile course so I started 29 minutes after the first runner had started and to add a bit more excitement to the evening, Mandy and I put a friendly bet on. Whoever loses the race between us had to buy dinner the following evening - I will admit I felt confident that I would beat her however, her confidence was also high so it was all to run for!
I went out strong again and continued to chase, the way the 5 mile route is designed you head out for 2.5 miles and run around a small housing estate and then head back the way you came. This means you usually see people heading back to the club house as I am still heading out to the half way point. As usual I passed Mandy on her way back and now the race was really on, I had to make up some time as every step I took towards the half way point was another step closer she was getting to the finish line.
I ran as hard as I could and on the home straight I thought I spotted her, I pushed a bit harder to only find that it was someone else and when I crossed the line, not seeing Mandy anywhere I knew she had smashed the route. She had also dug deep on the way home to keep me away from her and ran 2 seconds slower than her PB exactly a year ago - she had a brilliant race. I also had a great race and got a new PB on the course, finishing in 29:09, but it did mean I was buying dinner on Wednesday evening!
Although I have had 3 races in the space of a week each one has been a PB or a very good pace. I have one more race to go this week which is Cupar 5 and I would really like to get sub 29 mins for that course. We will see how it goes!