It’s been a couple of weeks since I did this race but I still think it’s worth blogging about..
Winter seems to be a hive of activity for trail racing, I’m not sure why because here in Scotland you’re going to encounter cold, wet and muddy conditions – maybe this is the reason, as they certainly won’t be as fun if you did them in the Summer.
This race is part of a four run series and it is the first and is centred around Foxlake Adventures near Dunbar, East Lothian. A nice 40min drive from my house, perfect for a 8am registration and 9am start!
The race is a 13km dart across field, muddy field, track, trail, sandy dunes, and forest. Yes I was surprised at all these terrains all thrown in to one race.
This was to be my first trail race in a long long time, and it did not disappoint.
The organisation was great, it’s a low key event with a lot of people from the triathlon crowd there, more faces that I knew as opposed to people I knew so I was all on my lonesome but it wasn’t long before I was making conversation with folk – what a friendly bunch these guys are.
We huddled near the cafe to hear the race briefing and then did a spot of mass warm up which helped as it was a cool 5C and I was in shorts. The train snaked it’s way off in the distance and that is all I knew except that it was 13kms long. I’d not seen any map nor had I really researched the area either so this was going to be a fun race with not knowing what to expect.
I’d woken that morning feeling a bit meh, but with the adrenaline flowing that meh feeling soon went. We were toeing the line, the runners with dogs had set off 3 mins ahead and I’d seen them all get caught in a surprise lake hidden beneath the long grass, so I knew I was going to take a wide berth around that… I know train races are all about getting as muddy as possible, and yes it is fun, but this was a bit too soon…
The horn / siren went from the hand held loud speaker and off we went. I was almost at the head of the pack as we snaked our way around the makeshift route in the field before we were funnelled up a steep bank, muddy and leafy. The trail shoes did Ok though some sliding was involved. We headed down a track before turning into a field and navigated the uncultivated edge of the farmers field, and following the perpendicular edge at the far end to the main track and then heading back to where we’d come from. My immediate thoughts were that we were going to be going around in circles!
We turned off before we’d gone full circle following a farmers track between farms, I paused to tie my shoe lace that had been bothering me for a while, whipping my calf and ankle with every step. We crossed through a farm and the farmer was out walking his dog, smiling and taking time to say hello to every competitor.
The track soon turned off onto yet another field, proving muddy and uneven, the epitome of what train running is about. We left this to reach a bridge over a well diverted stream taking us onto the first bit of tarmac for a while, the footprints of muddy shoes were ahead. This followed the coast for a small period before turning inland and then turning back on ourselves all marked superbly with signs and marshalls. My fear of going around in circles returned as we were taken back along the path that we’d just came down giving us opportunity to wish those still to round the circle good luck. We cross the bridge and follow the field path back, I opted for the grass verge than the well muddy path. We were directed along the dunes, the mud making way for sand, ditches of sand between pieces of grass and worn dune. We were bounded by a forest on one side and high dunes on the other, I couldn’t see the Firth of Forth, but I knew it was just over the marram grass.
At this point I glanced at the watch and noticed just 5kms to go to the finish, we turned inland, into the forrest, I was glad to leave the tough sandy surface and enter the security of the wood, watching out for the odd root to break up the stride. We almost did a 360 in the wood and made our way back toward the Forth, this time we were taken on a very narrow muddy path, where each foot fall was causing me to slide, my trail shoes good, but not that good in the sticky, slimy uneven path. The Forth was on my right but I barely saw it as I was concentrating too much on my foot fall, choosing the grass more often than the path. I slowed, my shoes just couldn’t grip and I didn’t have the purchase to propel my body along this path, I was overtaken twice by those with studded fell shoes, a good choice I might add.
I was glad to leave this path behind as we made our way back inland, and not knowing the area I couldn’t be 100% sure where I was, 12kms the Garmin said, and with me not recognising anywhere, I wondered if i’d got the distance wrong and if there was still tons more to go. I was feeling the meh feeling again in my chest, the cold was getting to me and I was wanting to finish. I slowed noticably, scanning the horizon for any familiarity the relative flat lands were obscured by tall trees. The foxlake adventure centre was no where to be seen.
The trail arrows pointed us inland through a forrest, twisting through trees and around bushes, the type of route where you can’t see the end and you feel like you’re going deeper and deeper into a forrest. Then, hey presto, we emerged from the forrest on to that first field, muddy and wet with even more mud after 150 competitors had churned up the moist earth on their way out, and being even more trodden on on their way back, I was glad it wasn’t a quagmire. I was determined at this stage now that i could see the finish, not to be overtaken any more, so I picked up the pace and used all the energy I had left. I crossed the line of what was a really awesome race, in just under an hour in 17th place.
Not bad for me!