Saturday, 18 May 2013

The Inaugural Muckletoon Trail Half Marathon

It was Graham Henry's idea. Or at least it was Graham's idea for Peter to run this race, and then, when I looked at the course I thought that maybe I should go along and do it as a training run. And once I'd thought that I thought Amanda might like it, as we've been getting in the habit of doing a flattish, beachy 10 miler of a Saturday - it would be something different.

It was a shame that it had to be quite so wet and windy for it! The weather continued looking ominous for today all week - and proved to be correct. The skies were uncommonly dark as we set off to pick up Amanda, Alison and dogs just before 10am and soon it began to rain.

It was varied though. A mixture of light rain, drizzle and heavy rain. It was a long way to Langholm and I'm guessing it wasn't just me that had had a long hard week as I wasn't the only one yawning in the car. We had one mild navigation fiasco because Buchanan had put the map I had given him to navigate with in the boot - and so we drove through Jedburgh only to find that we should have branched off before then. It was no real problem though as we had heaps of getting lost time factored in and it was raining so hard no-one was all that keen to get out the car at Langholm.

Beforehand it was hard to decide if the race would be more like a road half or more like a hill race. It turned out to be a riot of different surfaces. The first mile took us along the road and up the first part of Kirk Wynd - a steep road up - but then this turned into steep muddy hillside with streams flowing down the paths - eventually, out of the mist, the monument came into view. Assessing those around me in the race I figured I was in the part of the field where there are people that like an adventure but didn't have much experience of full on hill-racing and didn't have the speed of road racers. It was a nice part of the field for me to be in because I didn't feel as utterly hampered as I often do these days. I found I could pace the hill by walking and running and match pace with others who were determinedly running every step. And then when we went over the hill and started running down the other side I was more comfortable than most of the people around me. The first climb was a good 1000ft and I was mighty glad to get it over with. Then there was a long, enjoyable sweep downhill and some chemical thing must have happened in my brain as I found myself thinking "This is great, I'm really glad there's still another 11 miles to go". Hahaha. Another couple of miles on and I had grown a bit more jaded and thought maybe the 10K would have been a good option but it was too late for that. Anyway the course was keeping me busy. There were good trails, bad trails, rooty muddy forest sections, sections of road, thin muddy slippy trails with 50 feet drop offs to the river which reminded me of being in the Himalayas - if you'd have started down one of those steep banks there would have been no way to stop...

I can't remember much of the sequence - it was all pretty full on. A couple of times I knew I was near the finish  because I could hear the loudspeakers in the Rugby Club grounds but I wasn't near the end of my race. A couple of guys passed me. One, from Motherwell, was very unhappy. "I've fallen 4 times" he said "It leaves you disillusioned." I was sympathetic to start with but then he carried on, "This is not a half marathon it's a trail race!" "Clue's in the title" I thought to myself and jogged on.

I passed a guy from Newcastle who was much more upbeat. "What distance does it say on your pedometer pet?" He asked me. My Garmin blanched at the insult. "9 miles" I said. "Only 4 to go" he said and smiled "easy!". We both laughed. I was utterly fecked by this point. He was obviously doing a bit worse as he disappeared backwards behind me. A bit further along the road I came to the nightmare scenario in a trail race. Arrows in 2 different directions and no marshal. I ground to a halt and tried to use my brain. A girl in a white top came running back along the road towards me - apparently she had gone the wrong way so I followed her the right way. That was a bit of luck. In retrospect I think the yellow arrows might have been for bikes and the white arrows for runners, but no-one had said this. Quite a few people went wrong in the race apparently and I wonder if it was this point, just about 9.5 miles, which caught them out.

The next bit was a bit of a blur. A long flat section beside the river I felt tired and de-motivated and wanted it to end. Then a bit of a climb seemed to take my mind off it, and then a steep downhill, always welcome. Into the last mile, there was a bit of running on the pavement  and into the rugby club grounds again for a cruel full lap of the (wet, muddy) field before finishing. Aaaaah.

I was thinking I'm going to move on to a new system where I am issued post-op pbs. So I have a new post-op pb for a half marathon of 2 hrs 28 minutes! Yes I know but wait - it really was hard. Peter ran 1.37 for 3rd place and he'd expect to run kind of 1.20 - 1.22 at the moment so it truly was tough.

Amanda had won the lady's race. Her and Graham H. had been near each other in the last few miles of the race and Graham had pipped her. Alison had managed to have quite a good day with the two dogs and it hadn't rained all that hard for the duration of the race. All was well. I was very glad to stop.

There was a bit of a wait for prize giving so it wasn't even me who held everyone back! And I beat first local woman. No prizes for this though.

It was one of those races that leave you feeling somewhat proud of finishing so I'm glad I did it. Definitely worth thinking about for next year...

Peter has some pictures which will appear on his blog in due course.

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