It was the Sandy Slither last night. Brilliant Fife AC beach and trail race. It took me a while to get my head round the idea of having a Friday evening race but I'm there. It means you can push the boat out on Friday night and still recover enough to do something on Sunday.
The sun was beating down but there was a stiff headwind, so running along the beach was coolish. Peter and Amanda indulged me with a long warm up because I had achilles twinges on Wednesday and also I want to beef up my mileage for the week any way I can, so we ran a mile of the course and then ran back. We tried to figure out the relative merits of the various running surfaces; surprisingly the green weed was not a bad option!
Pretty soon we were back at the start though and getting set off. Everyone went off too fast. "Hang on", I wanted to tell them, "there's a long way to go."
Soon we were on the beach and all our planning about where to run went out the window. I couldn't even remember what we'd decided except further onto the beach seemed a bit better than the soft, deep angled shale at the top. Heading out on to the open beach I could see far too far ahead and felt myself cringe inside. There's something about running over a flat space when you can see where you need to get to that is almost unbearable. Especially when the wind is pushing back against you and the sand is sinking under your feet.
A couple of Carnegies drew even so I slipped in behind them for a rest and then went ahead with the intention of letting them draft behind me with the thought that maybe teamwork would serve to break up the desert-like expanse ahead. I think they thought I was racing them though and they surged to pass me again right away.
At that point Debbie MacDonald went past to my right, carrying a purple rucksack and making good pace over the sand. I tucked in behind her but her pace was too quick for me, so I dropped off into no man's land. About this time Jocelyn Scott also came past. I knew neither of us would be liking this much being more at home on the hills, and right enough as soon as we were over the stream both Jocelyn and myself moved up through the field a bit. I passed her on the tarmac which she wasn't liking as she was in Walshes - and then she passed me on the small hill up to the radio mast.
The minute we started up the hill I could feel my quads complaining from Wednesday night. I still passed a few people on the path however - including Debbie MacDonald and her purple rucksack. Running down the other side was good fun and I made a fair job of it. Then the flat bit through the thick dune grass. Running on this little path takes a good leap of faith because you can't see your feet and so just have to hope there're no rabbit holes. I could feel myself slowing however. All my last few races have been like this. I seem to have a leak. I did my best to keep the pressure up to run round the headland and briefly into town before we were back on the sinking sands again, but being back on the beach, running into the wind and seeing the finish in the distance across an eternity of uncaring space my moral fibres started to unweave, my pace became shambolic, people started to pass me, - 1st a few men and then the quicker step of one Debbie MacDonald.
How the hell other people get any purchase on that surface is beyond me. Grant Laycock, (who has been sharing the photo on the Slither page on the Fife AC web-site with me for the past year) (I tell people I'm the face of slither.) went by and tried to encourage me by saying "We're nearly there!". I tried to imitate the way he was running to see if I could somehow pick it up, but got nowhere with this and dropped considerably behind even in the last few hundred yards. At least I managed not to let anyone else past before the finish. Just after I arrived in two men barrelled in, hot in pursuit of one another and I stepped aside just in time.
At the finish Shery told me that Gareth had won the race outright which provided a welcome distraction from feeling frustrated with myself. He seemed so pleased and excited it was infectious.
Porty runners had done very well it turned out, at prize-giving taking 1st, 2nd MV, !st lady, 2nd FV and 1st FSV - these runners being Gareth, Peter, Amanda, Shery and Gillian. There was much cake and wine flying about.
Peter and I, being aware that the Tour of Fife is liable to include a fair amount of beach running, have resolved to go and do some dedicated beach training before then.
Looking back on 2008 which was the last time I did the Red Moss Revolution and the last time I ran this course of the Slither, I was a minute quicker for each - so maybe I'll have a peep back if I can find a running diary for then and see what I was doing that was different.
So, not entirely happy with my performance in the races this week but what has been achieved are too good hard sessions.
Next week its back to the Hebs, this time Barra, to see what short off-road races have done for my road half-marathoning.