No Better Place – The start of the Relay season – West Districts and LAAA

Disclaimer: This is my blog and my blog only. It is not affiliated to any club and I am not a committee member of any club. I will continue to write what I like when I like and tough to anyone who doesn’t like that.

It’s no massive secret that over the last wee while I have been feeling more than a wee bit disillusioned with my MAC membership. It’s not that MAC is any worse than any other club, just sometimes when you can’t make the sessions and you get there very infrequently it’s easy to feel on the sidelines when you do make it. On the periphery of things. There are other reasons that I won’t go into again as they are personal but it’s fair to say that a month or so ago it was a case of when I was going to leave rather than if I would. Was I content training and racing on my own all the time? Was I bored? Am I happy to be on the sidelines when I do get along? You think to yourself about loyalty but in your mind is there any loyalty to you and will anyone really notice or care if you went elsewhere anyway? Clearly if no one is going to notice or care what vest you race in, then no-one would care if you went elsewhere. So yes, I had been looking into other clubs training to see if their schedules would suit me, as I really am bored training myself despite the results it has got me.

Anyway there is a point to all this. I am a member to the end of the year so decided to commit myself to the relays this year, XC and road, and see how it went. The first of these was the West District XC relays even though

1. I am hopeless at XC and said I would never do it again and hadn’t done a relay since maybe 2014?

2. I am hopeless at XC.

3. I don’t even like XC and I am hopeless at it.

I travelled down to Kilmarnock with Kev, Iain and Ewen and the banter was excellent. We were putting in a Masters team who had a right good chance of a top 5 place if we all ran to our best. I can’t lie, I was utterly dreading it. I had the major fear, but how bad could 4k be? Cammy was to be first leg and straight away there was a different buzz, the relays really bring you out yourself, and everyone else, and it’s all about team. Encouragement everywhere, shouting, the atmosphere was brilliant. Despite knowing Cammy would bring us in in a good position I felt OK on the starting line. I could only do what I could do and that would be my best.

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Sure enough Cammy came home in 3rd in the Masters race, Cambuslang well ahead, but Ayr not far ahead, and Garscube and Shettleston amongst others in hot pursuit. Dan Scroop would be running for Garscube and he is a XC specialist so knew he would be after me. Off I went in pursuit of Ayr’s Stevie McCrorie. A fine runner who would hopefully drag me round if I could stay with him.

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The support on the first wee loop was magic and I could see Dan was already making inroads. We were now heading out where the swamp of justice was waiting but not before EK’s Grant Baillie came haring past like we weren’t there. Total difference in class and like a gazelle through the mud. We weren’t quite as graceful.

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A wee hello to Martin from Calderglen as I fell down a pothole (concentrate Marko) then it was back to business. Knowing Dan was coming fast behind I decided to take the pace on as we went through the first road section which played havoc on the spikes.

Very good Marko.

Soon into the farmer’s field where we did a few zig zags up and down a manky slope so could see the race unfolding. Stevie still right behind and he was being joined by Dan. I’m currently second, could easily slip to fourth, and I knew Shettleston would be in pursuit too along with others. Head down and went for it. I was running as hard as my wee XC hating legs would allow. Over the road bit again, along some trail then round a wee loop where there would be a hard 400m to the finish on completion. All around all I could hear were the shouts, “Come on Marko”, “Come on Dan”. He was there, I could almost taste the conditioner from his hair.

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Thanks Bobby Gavin at thatonemoment

400 to go and I’m going as hard as I can. i can hear Dan’s breathing. This is purely about pride now, stubbornness as I know he is better. As they say let’s go baws oot to the line. In this pic in the last straight you can see the shadow of his head right behind me.

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But I held on, and somehow brought us home second. The race was on. We are all over the place cheering each other on.

A team.

A unit.

Ewen had a sensational run but Shettleston had saved Paul Sorrie for the third leg, he handed over in fourth having given everything. Stevie on last leg was in pursuit of Brian Scally with Garscube too far ahead but Ayr had a last leg Whippet, and Giffnock had quietly went about their business moving up on every leg with an “in the mood” Cris Walsh on the last leg for them. Great run by Stevie not long after injury holding off Ayr and passing Shettleston but Cris put in an exceptional run to take the bronze for Giffnock by 11 seconds from us, with Ayr and Shettleston right behind us. A fantastic day’s racing and a pleasure to race with the guys. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed the camaraderie from all the MAC teams.

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Team Manager Tommy explained to me that I would be in the B team for the LAAA road relays the next week which suited me fine as I was off to Disneyland for a week in between. I drunk beer, a lot of it.

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I ate cakes, lots of it.

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This was just my plate on the first night. I know. My diet was appalling as you would expect in this type of place, but I did meet my Disney kindred spirit and maybe even cracked a smile.

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On the Thursday night I am sitting having a pint when the teams are posted for the Saturday. I am in the A team, and as happy about that as BA Baracus when they try to get him on a plane. I feel fat, heavy, stressed, worried, especially since due to security the only running I had managed was round in almost circles round a Lake avoiding people 25 abreast wearing big ears, and chain smoking conference people moving in groups, clouds of smoke with legs and lanyards.

On the way home?

The plane was slightly delayed. Roads were closed. Burger King was mobbed and I eventually got home just before midnight realising I hadn’t washed my vest after the XC the week before. I hardly slept then it was off the Drumpellier. I was a replacement so the weak link. Cammy, Chris and Davie Gardiner. They had a medal chance until I was brought in. I was panicking and stressing. I was also smelly. I do this at the best of times, except the smelly bit, but after a week on the lash? Aaaarrrggghhhh. Again though great atmosphere and good support. On the starting line for leg 2 and still shaking. Shettleston a long way ahead. Was expecting it to be Cambuslang and they had Stevie Wylie on leg 2 but no, Cammy had a superb run coming in in second, Cambuslang third.  Aw man, and so the run of fear started. I knew Stevie would pass me, was a matter of when. Who else would? Cumbernauld there, EK would charge through, Nick in our second team would be right on me, but right from the start the support was superb. Fast, maybe too fast, round the first section, cheers from Coach John amongst MANY others, and up the first climb. Head down and go for it until I die. But it didn’t happen straight away. About a mile in, a downhill and through the railway bridge where a wee puddle was waiting, as were David Hoolaghan and his son, hoping I would fall. Great support and pics though.

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Through the middle, feck it. Up the hill to go round the human bollard traffic cone and half way. The cone simply said “Come on Stevie”. For the second week in a row I had been hunted down but this time there was to be no holding off. I kept ahead until we went through the puddle again

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As soon as we were through though Stevie showed his class and was away. I tried to stick as close as I could back up the hill. 1k to go. I think I have gained on Shettleston, Stevie not as far ahead as I thought. Last corner with about 300 to go and the MAC squad there cheering, I run hard for home having run the last k in 3.15 and brought us home third. Yeah I lost a place but I was well ahead of 4th and in touching distance of Shettleston.

I hadn’t blown it for us as I thought I was going to, and my time of 13.34 a minute faster than last time I had run here. Chris ran solid on leg 3, and when we saw Davie going out on the last leg we knew that second was in his grasp. While we waited for him to come back we saw Lauren have a superb run in the female event to bring MAC up from 4th to 2nd in her first team event for the club, well done to her, Miranda, and Gillian on their silver. Sure enough Davie had reeled in Shettleston and got a good gap to finish second despite the best attempts of EK who had went for it on the last lap. I had a silver medal and hadn’t let my team down.

Wow.

I hate to single anyone out but a big thanks to Davie G who had lifted me up and encouraged me and got me believing that I could give it a go. The man has more experience in the laces of his shoes than the rest of us put together.

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So back to the start of this blog. I loved these relays. I felt part of the team and that had been lacking for a long time. Let’s see what the rest of the year brings. Proud of myself, proud of my team , proud of all the others that ran, and grateful to all the support out there. Team spirit! It was back. Across all teams and athletes. That’s what drives us, that’s what we need. Is it possible to get the relay feelings all over the year? Is it possible or am I clutching at straws? Work hard, support hard, enjoy. When you are out there racing and being supported and you feel you belong then there is no better place. So here’s the Fountains of Wayne.

Thanks Lesley Ross, Gavin Hinde, David Hoolaghan, Elaine Gallacher, Kenny Phillips, Colin Stephen, Bobby Gavin, Andy Scott, me and someone from RFS who’s name I have forgot (sorry!!) for the pics.

 

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