So I went back.
TrailFest Solstice Series race no 2, to be 12k this time with some promised technical sections. I know, listen to me, I sound like I know all the jargon but I didn’t really know what that meant except it was going to be harder and I felt all the mountain men were secretly laughing at me.
Storm Hector was also hanging about to make it harder and the weather was certainly not what it was last week, but when I arrived at Mugdock the wind appeared to be dying down and the rain had stopped. Had a wee warm up and to be honest the Salomons were really hurting me. Had worn them again the day before and they felt fine but tonight felt rigid, not properly broken in and making my Achilles sore, so being the experienced runner that I am and seeing that conditions were better I took the trail shoes off, stuck on the trusty Pegasus 34s that I train in and was ready to start. The terrain would be ok. Nothing could go wrong here eh? 47 and still as naïve as they come, every day a school day. Off we started and so did the rain. The same start as last week so the rapidos were soon off though I was a little further up than last week, sitting just outside the top 10 and feeling OK. There was a twist from last week in that the nice run we had down to the loch was reversed and we had a long run up from it instead, through the bit with the gates and uphill against the wind and the rain. This was really tough but was like a holiday camp compared to what was to come…. At this bit of the course you could see the field strung out and I had got myself up to 9th place. David Gow appeared well out in front (this is relevant, no really it is), and Jan Bienkowski was just ahead of me like last week so all good. We crossed the road into the woods and things became totally different. The rain was getting heavier and the surface was embracing it. Trails getting muddy, boulders and stones and the narrowest bridges in the world were slippier than Boris Johnson covered in jelly impersonating an eel. Already regretting changing my shoes but worse to come. We started hitting what they call single track technical. Uphill through the woods avoiding tree roots and overhead branches while I was zig zagging through taped zones like a human pinball in a bizarre psychedelic dream. Amazing fun, but tiring, sore on the legs and I nearly went on my jacksie on many occasions. I was following Jan through the trees until he went the wrong way slightly and told me not to follow him as he couldn’t see due to the rain on his specs. I had a go at the front of the group (as usual the rapidos were nowhere to be seen) until Allan Barbour came up and had a go as I had been slowing him down by being cautious on the technical downhill. Out of the woods to see the sight of Davie Easton’s luxurious beard, he was stewarding and took the pic below of me as Allan strode away.
I caught up with Allan on the downhill road section before we went off road again and a real crazy technical section. As single track as can be up and down hills along what seemed to be cliff edges (Maybe I exaggerate slightly). Perhaps I should have slowed down slightly but you learn, especially when you go arse over tit downhill and end up in a bush. It could have been worse but all I hurt was my pride. Felt a bit of a numpty but after composing myself I was away again though a lot more cautiously. I had no grip and felt I was slowing up Allan who couldn’t get past me as it was totally single track. Out of that section and down a wee normal trail hill where Vicky Garnett took these great pics and as you can see at this stage Allan and I were totally on our own.
The next few miles saw what can only be described as a never ending uphill muddy cobble style road. I had no grip at all I think even Bambi was laughing at my attempted elegance. Back into the woods and more zig zagging in crazy mad technical bits where even finding the right route was a challenge let alone staying on my feet. Amazing fun, but tiring and seemingly never ending. As we came into the open and into the last mile or so I took a look behind me to see if any other groups were in sight. Just Allan who was tailing me and no one else in sight. This is relevant too. Up the traily road winding round to the right. And I didn’t see any markers. Kept thinking they would come when we turned, but no. I am guessing I missed a turn when I took a look behind me. Doh. We hit the road that we cross over to go back to the park. I found out later that David Gow had done exactly the same at the same place, but whereas I stopped to suss out where we were and suggested to Allan we head left, David went right and added over a mile to his journey…. A few hundred metres and we found the crossing and the steward told us to carry on, last uphill and the downhill sprint to the finish. David arrived about a minute behind us having explored the whole of the park it seems. I worked out that we had shortened the course by probably 200m but hadn’t went past anyone in front and without sounding arrogant there was no one close enough to myself and Allan that would have caught us over the last mile anyway. Was told this is common on the trails. So 7th place (would have been 8th again if David hadn’t went on his mystery tour) and I am delighted with that on what really was a tricky course.
So lesson learned. I don’t know better. I am a trail amateur. The trail shoes will be on next week for the conclusion to the series as I know those technical bits need better grip. But how I can get soaked, lost, blown away in a hoolie and fall on my jacksie and yet still enjoy it so much? There’s something in this trail running.
Looking forward to next week already and a huge thanks to all the volunteers and organisers who stood out in that weather cheering us on and dinging their dingers to encourage us on the way. Bring on the 15k 🙂
This week’s song? Slip away, slip slide away, it’s Cud from the Showbiz album. I did like them. Enjoy.