Sunday, 4 December 2011

Borders XC - Peebles leg

Oh I was sleepy this morning. It was very hard to get up and you could tell from the feel of the air that it had probably snowed over night. The "boys" were pretty raucous in the car and you really couldn't have slipped a little conversational coin in sideways. For some reason there was an absolute battle on for "air-time". Just adrenaline I guess, and the yellow drink (I think it was called Neurotoxin) that Ally Robertson was drinking, that boasted "500% of your daily rda for Vitamin D". Really? Why? Peter was drinking Red Rooster caffeine drink. I don't know what Andrew was on! Feeling left out I had some of the left over blue powerade I happened to have jammed in the side pocket in the door of the car. We wouldn't have seemed out of place in Springfield.

Today we had plenty of time and so the main struggle on arriving in Peebles - for me at least, was to get out of the cosy car and contemplate losing a layer or two before kick off. A warm up with lots of clothes on did the trick and I started to feel a  bit more positive. Much as I love the Borders XC I was secretly a little pleased that this was going to be the last one for a few weeks.

I missed Lauder but talking to Ed Balfour before the race he told me it was pretty muddy and he thought when he was there that that might have been the pinnacle of xc muddiness. Galashiels, however, had again raised the bar. We recced the finishing strait, the last quarter of a mile being through relentless thick and sinky mud. My shoes were already shapeless dods at the end of my legs and we wondered if this was going to be the big one; the Mudder-load. (boom boom).

Anyway it wasn't. That was just the finish. It was a relatively quick start round the field at Haylodge Park, and then out along the riverbank. There was a little up and a little down on slightly tricky rooty and rocky narrow paths with some drop-offs into the river that would give you pause for thought. Then back onto sploshy but manageable track, into the wind. I was pleased at how much I seemed to be keeping pace with the people around me rather than getting passed on the flat bits right away. It was a relief to turn around onto an old railway track? although I couldn't quite get my breathing under control and didn't want to slow down anyway if I could help it. Then up through the forest where I felt more confident and then out into an open field! There was some mud at the gates but nothing too bad or prolonged.

I was determined to run every bit of the hill, especially as as we turned around the wind was behind us. Most people around me were walking but I kept on pushing - up to the point where I caught up to Kathy (this is now becoming a routine, she caught me again shortly after we'd topped out and were coming back down) and she came with me all the way to the top of the hill. Coming down the other side of the hill I'd given myself a stitch and so backed off a bit to try and relax my insides enough for it to fade. As we got to the bottom of the field and then turned up again for a little while I fell pray to sentamentalism - there were two well wrapped up and smiling children wearing huge gloves, clapping and saying "Well Done" to everyone. The snow was blowing softly over the field and the woods we were about to re-enter looked warm and inviting. "Merry Christmas and Goodwill to All Men" I thought. Shortly after that, on a thin, slippy descent I heard the cry "Geronimo" and soon guessed that Stavert was hot upon my heels. I had passed him on a relatively flat bit and I must say had written him off at that point thinking - well if he can't keep up with me on the flat, he's not going to catch me on the hills. A man just behind me said "coming through" but he didn't specify left or right so I shouted "which side?" and he shouted "F*ck" as he tripped over some rocks and fell over. The next person I became aware of was the Stavert who said "How far?" and I told him "I have no idea Andrew" - which was true at the time. But then I recognised where we were. This was the home strait which Ally Robertson had got me to measure so I knew it was in fact 0.37 of a mile to go. I didn't tell Stavert this though. He rushed off like a steam-train into the ever sinkier mud and I sensed him start to falter as he realised he had further to go than he had reckoned with. As we turned the corner and got onto firmer ground I raised my pace as much as I could - maybe I could just get him! - but he just managed to hold out. Still a good game though.

I was so impressed with Brian Davidson going into the river at Gala to clean off the mud last Sunday that I had promised myself that if there was a river nearby at Peebles I would wash my legs and my shoes in it after the race. There was indeed a river - a big, greasy looking river on which you wouldn't have been that surprised to see ice floes. Getting nearer to the river I saw that brother and sister team Johnny and Shery were already in and declaring it I went in as long as I could stand it. It was getting a bit busy though so I climbed out again pretty quickly.

Shery had made ginger-bread biscuits which were delicious. Amanda was there too - and looking thoroughly recovered by the time I crossed the line with my lungs bursting so I assume it went well for her! We were all too cold to hang about for long so hied back to the van as quickly as our legs would take us. The car was again filled with chatter for the journey home. It was great fun.

That was race 44 of the year. I don't know if we've got a race lined up for next week but the Christmas Cracker Trail race in Fife on the 18th looks like a distinct possibility - if we're not snowed in by then...

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