The name of this race series is about right for today’s race. A cool 1.5C, a light dusting of snow, ice covering puddles and mud patches, and a brisk 25mph northerly wind.
The race started at an exposed point on the East Lothian headland, where in the summer it would be lovely, but brutally cold today. We sought refuge in the fire hut, a nice circlular wooden hut with an open fire in the middle. Sooner than later I was too hot and decided to do some warm up runs outside.
Race briefing was short and mentioned the course was higgledy piggledy and we should look at the route. I chose not to, having looked at it the night before and as I didn’t know the place at all I realised I couldn’t make any cues so decided to follow the folk in front.
The path lead us down the country lanes and soon into a nice forrest, a well trodden path wound its way south, no sign of the wind and the buff was lowered to the neck as my body temperature rose. I was going great guns, and I knew it, I also realised I wouldn’t be able to keep that pace up.
We rounded a headland and turned inland where we came across some concrete blocks, a reminder of the WWII days (not for me, I’m far too young obvs) but they line the coast for miles, here, a forest had grown up around them, making them very strange to look at. It all went wrong from here though.
I followed the leader, and bolted through the blocks, they were about 200m, a fair bit in front, I kept on going and in the back of my mind, I had a feeling I should have been on a beach by now.
600m on and a truck pulled onto the forrest track, the driver sticking his head out exclaiming we’d gone the wrong way and should be on the beach. We duely turned around and started to back track. Not knowing at that point where I’d gone wrong, I was shouting to all those who in turn followed me to about turn and get back on track.
Some guy ran with me, we eventually came through the concrete blocks and sure enough a fallen sign and a bit of red tape was there to show we’d meant to have turned right.
Back on course, I wondered what happened to the 5 guys ahead of me as they’d not been told of the wrong turn. I never saw them again. Maybe they’d got lost in the abyss?
The route followed the wide estuary of the River Tyne, this is the Scottish River Tyne, not the more famous and infinitely better river Tyne from Newcastle/ the North East of course!
We turned south, on the spit that jutted out into the estuary, running along beach and soft grass that would flood at high tide. Our numbers were taken at the end before we rounded and headed back the way on the other side. This side we were running right into the wind, along soft sand. I could see parts of the beach was frozen so decided to run along there for more traction. It was so tough going, my heart rate was soaring.
We entered the woods and followed the coast line around on a very lovely path, though the biting wind was making my eyes water so I didn’t get much chance to take it in.
Back in the forrest again, we were making our way back to the start section which would make 10kms in, though it was more like 11.4kms due to the detour.
Here we ran along country roads, covered in ice, which was hard with the Mudclaws as there is no cushioning. We arrived back to the start again after a nice run along these mud caked roads, and then back toward the beach where we dropped onto the beach after running through the concrete boxes again.
The beach was brutal. A head wind, soft sand and tired legs made for tough running. The beach stretched for miles ahead, and those that had passed me before and now chasing were far ahead of me. I could see a fluorescent vest of a marshall, there to make sure we crossed the Peffer Burn – just to make our feet wet. This is a burn where it sprawls out onto the sand, meandering into the sea. A fast flowing channel, flanked by a slower shallower stream of ice cold water. (this is the burn taken by someone else, at some other time). We were to run through it, touch the large concrete barrier that was 100m on the otherside, about turn and run back across. Nice.
This was at the 18 (19.4)km mark thankfully as my feet were beginning to blister up. A hop over the dunes and we were back on solid – ish ground. I could see the fire pit hut and the draw of warmth lifted my pace. I finished 1:40 for 21.4kms which I think is good given the terrain and weather.
I found out those guys, who didn’t turn back, joined the route a bit further up, as the wrong path ran parallel with the proper route, they did the right amount of distance, and they came in the top 5 – oh well, some bad luck there!