The boy with the thorn in his side – Trailfest Solstice Series race 3, 15k

Disclaimer: this has been written quickly as I am off on holiday, but will hopefully give you a flavour.

All good things come to an end unfortunately. I have loved the Thursday nights at Mugdock, sneaking out of work early, getting changed in the car, pretending I understand what technical means, and feeling inadequate with my lack of beardage. But alas it was to be the TrailFest Summer Solstice finale. In a Tour de France style the positions were decided on accumulated time and somehow I was sitting at 5th overall. A long way off the podium sure, but top 10 in itself was a thrill and my wee aim was to try and stay top 5. This would be no mean feat as there were a lot of good trail runners right on my tail, some of them having beaten me in the first run so I could easily slip out of the top 5 and even the top 10.  Now I am not going to give you a report on who won what as Fiona Outdoors Russell has done that as well as can be done, so have a wee read of that HERE.

It was a glorious evening, the sun splitting the trees though after a few days rain I knew it would be a mixture of different terrains, some wet, some dry and who knows what else. After last weeks fall I had put some trail shoes on, an old pair of Mizuno I had won 4 years ago. I have absolutely no idea what I am doing to be honest. There was great chat before it in a great atmosphere and a few different faces as well. Mean looking trail faces here for the big finale. Met Craig T who I’d last seen in Manchester. He had one of those mad things with straws coming out that carries water. I wanted it because it was hot. Tonight was going to be a fun one though with a bit of edge, a lot of friendly rivalry. I knew what I had to do and that was stop Jan and Mark who had beaten me in week 1 from getting a couple of minutes advantage on me and I would be top 5. Found out just before we started that the lad sitting in 4th overall wasn’t there so an even better chance. I was going to try and keep as close to Jan as possible, he was slightly below par last week as the rain affected his glasses vision in the technical sections but tonight I knew he’d be going for it. We were off and Drew Carr was away like a rocket, trying to stop Calum Oates domination of the series. Jan was in 4th and I couldn’t afford to let him away so tried to keep in touch while knowing I was going too fast. The field was spreading out quickly and to be honest I was already regretting going out hard in the heat.

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Up the second climb and the long drag with the gates. Jan was getting away and Mark was coming up on my shoulder and my legs were heavy. Only 2k in and my head already telling me I couldn’t keep up and I would be lucky to finish top 10 in the series. I was going backwards with the technical still to come. Managed to just about keep Jan in sight as we headed into the woods.

And fell.

Not even a root or a hole or anything. Just face planted like a numpty. Tried to hang onto Mark through the first technical part (the photo below gives a brief idea of what this is like)

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The white tape zig zags across over jumps and logs and roots uphill. I was struggling to keep my feet and the runners behind were coming. Jan nowhere to be seen, Mark pulling away. Boom, down again. What am I doing? I was toiling as came out the trees and down onto the road where Davie and his luxurious beard were waiting. He took this pic of me, then some more beauties of the other runners. Check these out.

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Stunning eh? But as I say I was struggling a bit but managed to get onto Mark’s shoulder. He pointed at Jan. “We’ll catch him” he says. still 9 or 10k to go…. oooft. Mark pulled away and the fella called McQueen came up alongside. Next technical section, very single track, winding, climbing and I fell down at the same bit I fell last week. Into the same bush. Came back out of it as the boy with the thorn in his side. And his legs, and face and arms. I was getting really pissed off to be honest. Just couldn’t find my feet. McQueen checked I was ok but he couldn’t get by me as it was single track. Felt sorry for him but nothing I could do, I was slowing. Mark in front was slowing down too but Jan was gone. As we got to the bottom of a descent after another section where I could hardly keep my feet Mark stopped and said “Good racing guys”. Not sure what was wrong but as I was slowing on the big descent he was still alongside me and McQueen as we got back on the road. Now I am not giving you much in the way of the sights, so here’s some pics from Bearded Ken, aren’t they amazing? More later.

Where were we? Aye so No idea how far ahead Jan is. Mark falling back a wee bit, but plenty of folk just behind. McQueen is away from me and my legs are heavier than the vibes at a Brexit meeting. It’s all going wrong for me, and I’m thinking I could be difficult to even finish. That hill, the one that goes on forever with uneven stones all the way up. I wanted to cry here, I won’t lie. I’m getting no grip but I can now see Jan. He doesn’t have the two or three minutes on me I feared. McQueen away but I go past Jan who is struggling on the climb but he’s soon back with me and that’s how it goes for the next few k. He passes me, then I’m past him, neither of us breaking the elastic. Good friendly racing through dry trail, technical, up hill, down hill, through marsh, through streams, jumping water, it was exhausting but great fun, watching each other fall, with knackered and heavy legs but taking on every obstacle it threw at us.

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Some more bearded Ken and Davie pictures now to show some of the bits we ran through, amazing.

Jan was ahead of me again but was struggling on another climb. I got up marginally quicker and could see McQueen ahead.  Was never catching him but he was pulling me along and we crossed the road back to the park meaning there was a k or so to go. 5th in the race and 4th in the series now in the bag as had eventually managed to get a wee gap on Jan. It was a long last k, the legs heavy down the stairs past the water then uphill to the finish. I was knackered.

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Had gave it all and the legs really were heavy after what was a gruelling 73 minutes and possibly one of the toughest, but most enjoyable runs I had ever done.

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The cowbells dinging, the crowds cheering, the congratulations from the fellow runners, the finishing atmosphere was amazing. Positions confirmed:

You know I came into this series just to see what it was like but I have left a convert. I will definitely do a lot more of this and a massive thanks to Ryan and Jo at TrailFest for the invitation to take part and all the work they and their team put into this.

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Really pleased with how I competed, for a 47 year old having his first go this wasn’t at all bad. Please check out the TrailFest website HERE for an idea of what they offer in races and guided runs. Brilliant stuff. Now I am offski for a couple of weeks to be followed up by a huge challenge, see you on the other side.

Thanks to Davie Easton, Ken Monaghan, Kirsty Horne, Kenny Girvan for the pics.

The song? Blisters on my feet, mud on my legs, water in my shoes, sweat in my eyes, nettles on my knees, midge bites everywhere and thorns in my side. Here’s the Smiths.

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