The third race of the Foxtrail Winter Series is now done and dusted and once again it was a brilliant event. Well sign posted, well marshalled at key points, well supported by the runners, a brilliant morning.
I woke up at 6:30am and the pre-race preparations started. I'm on the final week of my bespoke nutrition plan from FitNaturally and so my morning eating routine was planned out in exact detail.
I wanted to be on the road by 7:30am so my morning went like this:
7am: Have my porridge.
7:30am: On the road to Dunbar
8am: Have half a Stoats porridge bar with water
8:15am: Arrive at Foxlake adventure centre to collect race number
8:40am: Head out for a warm up
Now, this is where things got a bit stressful for me. I wasn't feeling it. I mean, my legs were turning, I was running but I just didn't feel ready to race. I had my race number on, I had my Inov-8 X-Talon 190s on, I should be feeling like I wanted to run and race hard, but nothing. I guess you could say I just felt flat.
After a mile and a half of warm up, I headed back to the car and said to Mandy that I wasn't really feeling like racing. Her advice to me made the biggest difference to me, she said, don't stress, just go out and enjoy the run. There is no pressure to finish top 3. Just see how you go. So that was my new plan. Just see how I went.
Race brief was at 9:00am and then I went to do my final bit of warm up, some strides and a last minute dash to the loo!
9:15am the race started and I was running along in second place but after a quick check of my Garmin I noticed the pace was a bit on the sharp side so I eased off a touch. Ahead of me was my club team mate Richard and he was running well. He took the lead and slowly pulled away from me. At about 1.5 miles in to the race another guy ran past me and he went chasing the two others. Ok, so I'm now in 4th place. Not ideal but I felt I was running a pace I could hold on to for another 9 miles and I knew we still had a long beach section to run. I didn't want to blow up before the race had even started.
As early as mile 2 I thought to myself, I've a nice gap between me and fifth place, maybe today isn't my day and I should just finish the race with a 4th overall. 4th is still a good place to finish, isn't it?
For the next 2 miles I was constantly chasing the group of 3 ahead of me. Ever time I thought I was pulling them in they would put a burst in and I would be back to the original gap. They seemed to be working well together and from where I was I could watch every move, on a couple of sections I wished I had been a bit closer to get some shelter from the wind but I wasn't and so I had to deal with it.
Then we dropped down on to the beach, a 2.5 mile stretch of beach and the guy in first place had really put the foot down, he had opened up a massive lead over Richard and then not far behind him was another runner, then hanging about 50 metres behind him was me.
We made our way out towards a marshal who then directed us around the dunes and along the shoreline back towards Dunbar. The sand was soft but I had a bit of insider knowledge. I used to traction kite on this beach and I knew where the hard sand was. Kite buggies don't move very well in really soft sand, hard sand = faster speeds. It was funny looking at the other 3 ahead of me, each one of us were taking a completely different line along the beach.
Once on the hard sand I felt relaxed. The sun was shining, the wind was slightly cross-off shore so blowing nicely on our backs and I felt great. I was also now catching 3rd place!
I tried to keep as relaxed as possible, not get too carried away and I slowly eased past him. Then I realised something else, I was also catching Richard.
We got to the end of the beach and we had to cross the bridge to nowhere. Last night Foxtrail had posted a photo of the bridge on Instagram, luckily the tide was out today!
Now the race really started, I soon caught up with Richard now that I was on the harder ground and we pretty much ran from 7 miles together. Swapping positions briefly. 4th place was still in the running though so we couldn't relax.
I remembered some of the trail from the first race of the series but then all of a sudden we were directed left over what I can only describe as moguls, small humps in the ground but they weren't close enough to stride across. You would land on the top of one but then the next one you would be half way up. Totally leg zapping but in a strange way I really enjoyed it, completely unexpected and a bit of fun.
With just over a mile to go Richard took the lead again but I wasn't letting him go, I snuck in behind him and used him as a wind shield.
With less than 1/2 a mile to go we were still running together and I had to decide what to do, should I try and pass or will I wait until the end and see if I can out sprint him. This is probably the part I'm less experienced with when it comes to racing, when to go all out and when to wait.
We ran past Mandy who was out giving us support and then up a small mound and then the final stretch was in front of us and Richard went, he put the foot down and I just couldn't respond fast enough. He put a nice wee gap between us and I had no other choice but to follow him in over the finish line.
So, all those worries and stresses about not feeling it were pointless. Even when I was behind the first 3 places I just remembered what my coach Garry said to me, trust your pacing. That's exactly what I did, I knew I wanted to run 6 minute miles for the 16k, I knew I couldn't run much faster on that terrain so if it got me a podium then even better and it did. My final average was 6:01 minutes/mi, the splits were:
- 5:27 (a bit quick! and I'm not 100% sure that is correct!)
- 6:13 (beach)
- 6:20 (beach and some bridges and stiles to cross)
- 6:14 (technical forest section)
Official finish time: 59:49
So that's 3 races of the series and 3 podium finishes, a great way to finish the year and I can't wait until the next race, although it is a 10k so I better work on my faster paced stuff!
Massive thanks to all the marshals who stand out in the cold to make sure we go the correct way.
Thanks to the race organisers for putting on another great event.