I woke up at 7.30am this morning and somehow convinced myself that I had another hour in bed so I wasn't best pleased when the Chinese alarm clock went off at 7.45am. I got the Chinese alarm clock on line for £7.00. £7.00 buys you an inaccurate thermometer and clock combined. It plays 12 "charming" tunes with bum notes and changes colour while it does so. In the evening it is funny. In the morning its really annoying, but it does the job, it wakes you right up.
We had a full van-load of folk coming with us to Paxton so there could be no toying with the idea of not going. All too soon, Ally Robertson arrived at the house, full of youthful chatter and hilariously had insulted Peter within 10 seconds of having entered the flat, saying that he thought Peter's feet were too wide to wear spikes and that someone 12 or 13 stone probably shouldn't wear them. I don't really know how this conversation started but I was in the bedroom holding in sobs of laughter as Peter indignantly told him that he was 11 stone not 12 or 13....
Anyway - we were soon on our way to pick up the noble Tony Stapley from Portobello. The weather was milder and the wind had dropped which was a pleasant surprise. Shery was going to be meeting us there as well but had had a bit of a night last night so texted to say she wasn't coming. Amanda also texted to say she'd been up over night with Horatio the dog and had slept in so would not be coming. I was hoping Kathy H. would put in an appearance but it was not to be - so not a good show of Porty ladies. Just us chaps.
The A1 takes you all the way down into England before the road to Paxton takes you back into Scotland. I felt I wanted to mark the crossing of the border in some way and found myself randomly singing the Star-Spangled banner. Everyone else joined in. This set a precedent for each border crossing.
At Paxton house I couldn't make head nor tail of the course map - only getting that it was 2 different laps, unlike last year, so we went for a general run around. This proved productive as we found a fallen tree, two tiny but quite dangerous little ponies and then some marshals who told us where the course went. As last year's course had been restricted by the snow and ice we got a really nice surprise following the course down through the woods to the side of the Tweed and then along and back up on really good clay paths through the woods. It was scenic and it was surprisingly mild. Getting back to the start we had completed the 1st lap - a full 2 miles, and were willing to wait and see what the 2nd lap was like.
There was the usual minimal preamble and we were off. Wilma Kerr, who I know to be in my category, seemed to be racing me and I thought she'd decided that since I was looking particularly fat after Christmas she'd be beating me today. She made a real effort to go past me and get ahead a little on the downhill swoop through the woods. I was alarmed as I figure she might be able to beat me on the flat and the next bit was really quite flat - but in the past I've been able to catch her on the hills. I resolved to stay with her on the flat along the riverside and then try to get her on the hill. This went according to plan but by the time I'd got to the top of the hill and was on the undulating way to the start of lap 2 I realised I'd overcooked it and had to ease up a bit just to regain some breath and some composure. I hung in grimly for the next mile, feeling pretty done in, but then started to recover as we headed down a steep bank, through a river and up the other side. There were another couple of ladies beside me. One faded backwards as we got to the lumpy field and the other went ahead. There was a short up, a short down and another short but brutal up and we were on the home straight over very soft grass. Digby Maas was just ahead and I was ready to settle but then Peter and Graham were cheering me on and Graham roared at me "Go ON! Its only 100 METRES! USAIN BOLT DOES IT IN LESS THAN 10 SECONDS. I'LL GIVE YOU 18!"
At this I pulled something out of somewhere and surged past Digby, holding that position to the line. After quite a while bent over with my hands on my knees I was ready to stand up and face the world again.
So as soon as its over the world is an easy place. We spent ages drifting around. Had a warm down jog to the river to wash our filthy shoes. Peter had beaten Ally and so was now contentedly teasing him about being beaten by a fat old man. Back at the car we hooked up with Graham (who had cycled there and was now cycling back) and Tony, and then we went in to the cafe in Paxton House for soup and talked races, races, races. Its been about my ideal day really. On the way back there was lots of chatter in the car. The skies darkened and it began to rain a bit but we'd had the best of the day earlier so we didn't care. My legs are ridiculously stiff now, - presumably yesterday's 15 miler on top of today's racing, but I felt okay when I was racing.
The results were up by the time we got home. Maybe Susan Ridley was out partying with Shery, Amanda and Horatio last night because she wasn't there today, shifting me up to 2nd in my category. Maybe its tiredness, racing excitement or senility but I can't work out what this means in terms of final placings, - whether I'm safe in 3rd place in my category or still need to defend it. When Ally got into the car I wanted Peter to check he had his seatbelt on in the back and the most I could muster was "Does the boy have his lifebelt on?" so there aren't a lot of lights on in the yak brain. I hope its only temporary. Great day though. Well done Borders XC people, once again, for a top race at a low, low price.