More Borders XC today, this time at Berwick. I spent all day yesterday reading and trying to write an essay and then spent all night dreaming about it and was just thinking I might skip racing today as I woke up until I remembered I was driving and we had a full bus...
My brain was full of reluctant chemicals and I felt like clinging onto the side in the pool of life, but there was nothing to be done but get up and get on with it. A pot of coffee and some serious porridge later I was feeling a bit better. We got our kit on and got out.
Ally and Michael turned up promptly and we were on time for Graham and we headed off down the A1, to England and beyond. The chatter in the car seemed less manic than it has on other xc days - but there was still a fair buzz going on.
The day was cold and there was a blanket of dappled grey clouds right across the sky. The Forth looked like a millpond reflecting the sky. Nice to know there was going to be nearly no wind.
We arrived with an hour to spare. My plan had been to get in a good long warm up but somehow ended up standing frozen to the spot for the first 20 minutes after arriving. Amanda had arrived and was as sleepy as me. She made me feel better in fact. Horatio and a bonneted Scott were also there.
We got moving and checked out the conditions on the sand. Not too bad. Fairly firm underfoot..
The start was held back a little bit waiting for the last junior to come jogging in to a rousing cheer. Then with minimal preamble we were set off. I started off fairly far back in the crowd and so the journey over the sand dunes was fairly measured. On the sand a lot of people went further down the beach but I reckoned it was good enough just taking a beeline to the rocks which marked the spot where we were to come back off the beach again and up the hill. On the hill, instead of the steps it was straight up a lumpy grassy bank. I found this much preferable to the steps.
I was feeling fairly good and concentrated on neither slackening off nor pushing too hard too soon. The leaders came back looking focused and I was pleased to see Peter fairly well up there with a big smile on his face and a guy in a Berwick vest who I guessed must be the guy in his category who has been routinely beating him, about 5 seconds behind. Looking at the results they held this relative positioning all the way to the end.
Pretty soon we were turning round and setting off back. Hilary Spenceley of Carnethy caught up and passed me. She's done this in a few of the xcs recently - and come in ahead of me - so I tried to not get in a tussle but not let too much space open up. She was about 10 feet ahead when we came to going back down the lumpy grass and to my delight, she and the girl she was with appeared not to like it? What's not to like? Lovely grass pillows to bounce down on. I caught my breath and overtook and made away with a few feet and knew I'd been given an opportunity. I would try not to waste it.
A lot of people went further right down to the sea again, and I nearly followed but convinced myself to hold a steady course in a straight line across the beach having found nothing too difficult under foot on the way out. We all came off the beach at about the same point and were back in competition over the difficult deep sand. I found trying to speed up was counter-productive but treating the running over sand as a series of one legged leaps seemed somehow to work although it was exhausting and I was breathing hard. Hilary was just right behind me but I thought if I could get onto the sand dunes first I would be able to hold her off.
The sand dunes were by no means easy and the sand there seemed deeper now than it had at the start but none-the-less I managed to keep just ahead and made a sprint for the line with much shouting from Graham and Peter.
Today's reward for all this effort was muffins and coffee from Amanda. Delicious.
We stood around and chatted for a while until we realised it was still as cold now as it had been this morning. We dropped a disconsolate Michael G. at the station for his journey South and then set off in the happy bus back to Edinburgh. By the time we got back we had a firm arrangement for going to the Forfar half next Sunday. This racing is a very dangerous drug. Very more-ish.