Yesterday was the second last race of the Foxtrail Winter Series. It was the half marathon race and it's a toughie. The route has a mix of running on trails, forest tracks, beach and a small section of tarmac so getting the right shoes for the job can be difficult, add in the fact that it had been -3C the night before, we had to also think about ice and whether the ground would be icy, muddy or frozen solid.
I'd flown back from a week in Marrakech on Friday evening, getting to bed about midnight so I was in two minds whether I would be racing or not. I set my alarm anyway and actually woke up before it went off on Saturday morning. That was the sign that I was going.
I had my breakfast, pulled on my kit and drove out to Tyninghame where the race was taking place. This is the 3rd year that I've ran this series of races and every time I go it just feels so welcoming and all inclusive. I love it.
I collected my race number and before I knew it it was time for the race briefing. I'd not timed it very well, not managing a warm up and everything just felt a bit rushed.
I got to the start line and after a quick count down, we were off.
The first mile is downhill and can be fast so I kept an eye on my pace and tried to get into a good rhythm with my cadence and breathing. I was sitting in 4th or 5th place but then almost as soon as I had counted back from the front runner, someone passed me, then another. I tried to go with them but it felt like I was running through quick sand. I decided to ease the pace and just accept that today wasn't a good day to be racing.
As two friends passed me at about two and a half miles in I seriously considered packing it in. It wasn't the fact that they passed me, it was the fact I felt tired and still had over 10 miles of running to go.
Peter was running off into the distance but Tim was still close by. As we passed one of the race organisers - James - he shouted to Tim to look after me as I'd become soft with the sun last week. This was probably the best thing James could have said, it gave me a kick up the arse! I decided to stay with Tim but I was struggling. As much as I tried, I just couldn't stick with him and my pace dropped again.
The splits for the first 3 miles were, 6:14, 6:33 and 6:47.
Then my watch bleeped at me again for the 4th mile, 6:59. This was the real kick I needed. I knew I could cruise at a faster pace and I decided to go chasing after Peter who I could just about see up ahead of me. I had 9 miles to catch him and this would now become my race plan.
The miles started to become enjoyable again. I stopped looking and caring about the pace and I was catching other runners, passing them and leaving them behind as I continued on my mission to catch Peter.
Mile 7 I caught him and we ran together for a while, he said he was struggling with a niggle and the small stones that he could feel through the soles of his shoes. As I've said already, this course is hard to make the right shoe choice for. Peter kept me in his sights for the rest of the race but I had another small group ahead of me that I wanted to catch.
I refocused and reminded myself that I had about 4 miles to catch them before we hit the beach section. Easy does it I told myself.
I did catch up with them but the section we were running is really difficult to run solo, let alone trying to pass anyone. We were running around the edge of a field with big ruts and long grass. I have no idea how James, John and Callum mark this course so well and get it measured so accurately. The grass was up to my knees in some parts so I decided to bide my time and hopefully pass the two guys on the tarmac section.
We came out of the field, up a small climb and then on to the road. I extended my stride and went past them. Brilliant I thought but I also noticed or should I say, heard, one of the 2 guys come with me. I had company!
For the next mile and a bit I could hear him and then as we headed towards the beach, on a longer climb, he passed me and it stayed that way. We came down on to the beach and straight in to a headwind. I was feeling a small stitch come on and so I eased the pace back and stopped with the chasing. I was now in survival mode. I just wanted to keep my position along the beach.
The beach is tough, even when it is frozen solid like yesterday. 1.5 miles of running on sand and there is also the river crossing.
This year the river was actually pretty tame, a wet foot and that was about it. Once you crossed the river this was when the hard work really started. It was like sinking sand, the harder you pushed off, the more you sank! It was brutal! Once you've crossed the river you run up to a turning point and then head back to the river and up to the dunes. This gave me a chance to see how far behind the next runner was and also a chance to see how much ground I'd made up since mile 4.
I'd gone from 15th place to 8th and Peter was still just behind me which was great to see.
I got back up in to the dunes and just focused on the final mile. Just keep on running and moving forward. I couldn't catch the two ahead of me and Peter was far enough behind me that I felt comfortable that I wouldn't be caught.
I couldn't even manage to pick the pace up to cross the finish line, I was 100% spent.
I finished in 1:29:09, 3:30mins behind Richard in first place, which I'm OK with. I couldn't have given it any more and considering I was going to stop at mile 3, I can't complain with finishing 8th/209.
I'm still in with a chance of getting a podium finish for the full series but it's going to be close I think. I've won the series for the past 2 years but I'm really pleased Richard is looking to be finishing on the top step this year. He has ran amazing this year and it's given me something to focus on for the end of 2019.
Thanks to the organisers, the marshals and everyone behind the scenes who make the Foxtrail Winter Series one of the best races on the Scottish running calendar.