We went out a nice run yesterday, followed by some tom-foolery on the beach. We didn't do any sprints, but apart from that were making no allowances for the cross-country today. I had no idea why I had signed up for a race but can't keep DNS-ing and anyway we were giving people a lift - so I was committed.
I've got one of these things, which is supposed to roll away all the stiffness in your legs - and you know actually I think it's working. The hardest part is remembering to do it. It's agony - especially over my achilles and calves, that's where I feel it most, but it does seem to make a difference. So I had a good old roll this morning as preparation.
Steve won first prize for the best gate vault.
Peter came a close 2nd.
Nuh-uh. Refusal. 3 points.
Some Carnethies plotting to do well by running fast. Devious!
We arrived early at registration and stood in a small, terrified group. Well I was. I felt immobilised by all the hanging around and not wanting to race. In the end I realised I needed to break away and just go and run and felt better almost as soon as I did. The boys were showing me how you should get over a gate but I can't bring myself to even try to vault a gate. My body doesn't know how to do it. I guess I'd have to practice with a small one and build it up.
Up the top of the hill and down the narrow slippery rise we met a bevy of fast boys. I was so star-struck I headed into a patch of gorse and nettles over my head. It took me a little while to realise I'd gone off route. When I re-emerged with thorns sticking out of me and bleeding from my arms and legs the lady marshal was laughing heartily. I think she'd heard me squeaking "This can't be the route!" in disbelief. We had a bit more of a run around and some water jumps before heading back. Peter declaring every 5 - 10 seconds what a marvellous day it was. And it really was. It was bright and sunny and nearly windless and there were autumnal things happening all around. I was still dreading the thought of racing though.
Back at the start, after a bit more dreadful standing, we were given a safety talk and then another talk, which we couldn't hear. It seemed like a huge field. Andrew was excited and was shouting "biggest field ever. Is it? Is it?" I had no information on this so kept quiet. Monica reminded me of when we'd been in a hill race together before and she'd fallen down. I couldn't remember at first and then it came back to me slowly. Red Moss revolution c. 2009, running full tilt down the path at the side of Black Hill, I had been trying to stay in touch with Gillian MacKelvie and Monica was right behind me and then "WHUMP!" she went her length. A very quick health assessment. "Are you alright?" She was still speaking so presumed out of danger and I took off again after Gillian. I don't think I caught her either. After the race today Amy raised the question of what the etiquette is with fallen runners. Not something that is much discussed. The thing is, you don't want to ruin your run for someone who is just being a bit clumsy, but at the same time you don't want anyone to actually die because you didn't help them. You'd feel bad after the adrenaline wears off. It's not our fault. It's fight or flight. Usually a mixture of fight and flight when you're racing.
Anyway, I digress. After a while all the bollocks waiting was over and we were just running and at last I settled down, remembering that there is a fairly precise speed that you can run in a race. It's right at the top of what you can sustain, and it's a felt thing. If you go any faster you get a kind of grey feeling and your engine stops running properly. If you run any slower it's like a certain excitement goes out of it. The pace feels hum-drum. So if you can stay in this groove it's the best place to be. Heart-rate wise it was 167 for me today, a wee bit easier on the down-hills. A miracle happened. I started to enjoy it. In the Lauder XC, once you are up you are up! We ran along the top of a ridge with the sunny-looking countryside falling away on either side. We'd all spread out according to our ability by this time and so there wasn't much argy-bargy or to-ing and fro-ing. Instead I encountered a fair amount of friendly helpfulness, a couple of people stepping out of the way on the narrow bits so I could get past when it was clear that I was moving quicker. It didn't seem to take long to get half way. In the valley, where there was no wind, it seemed almost hot, and I was sweating freely! We'd recced all of the last part of the course so there were no mysteries. I went slightly slower up the last steep, narrow climb than I had on the warm-up because now there was the odd person exhausted and walking and it's too large an investment of effort to try to run in the long stuff to get past. One long run down the hill. Then the vaulting gate. A few of the runners went through the kissing gate and I climbed the main gate instead, putting me marginally ahead of the lady who had been just ahead of me. I blew my advantage having fun with it though. She said "On my!" And I told her I'd gained a vital 100th of a second over her and then we both laughed, and she ran off...Then a nasty tentative run over the slimy stones hidden under the leaves and a nastier sprint in full view over the grass to the end. Full throttle ahead.
After a while it was all good. Sitting on the tarmac at the side of the building eating a fruit scone and drinking a cup of black tea was bliss. Monica asked me whereabouts in Leith I lived and I had to have a long think to answer her. The name of the street where I've been living for the last 17 years escaped me. I asked Steve what he was thinking about during the race and he gave me a very honest answer. He was having a bad day having recently contracted a cough and so had had to watch a bunch of people go past him on the hill, which would normally have been where he felt strongest. I'd categorise what he was thinking under the umbrella term "dark thoughts". Racing can get you like that. It's a tricky business. How to try without trying too hard, and give yourself credit for doing your best without reference to anyone else?
I'll leave you with that thought. I need to do something about these legs.