Time: 1hr 49 min 11 seconds (oh yes the seconds are important)
Well that was an interesting race. The whole of last week in south east Scotland there was mixture of snow, rain and wind – as the weekend drew nearer I kept hoping that the weather would clear up. Unfortunately it didn’t, but that didn’t stop the RatRace crew from putting on a great event.
Now it was the turn of the Inelegant Horse Rider’s boyfriend to turn 30 on Friday so as perfect preparation for a race (!) we were out on Friday night to celebrate. A few hours in the pub then on to a club night. Now I was being good alternating my gin and tonics with orange and soda water plus a couple of large glasses of water. However, a rogue tequila slipped into the mix and I woke up on race today not feeling the freshest. After some electrolyte powder mixed with water on the journey down to Innerleithen I was feeling a lot better, unfortunately the weather was worsening as we drove away from Edinburgh.
It was snowing heavily at Straiton and continued to get heavier as we headed towards Peebles. We were beginning to wonder if the race would be cancelled. The snow began to get lighter as we passed through Peebles and by the time we got to Innerleithen it was only snowing lightly and intermittently. The car park was a quagmire and as we picked our way across it to get to the event village we realised we were to be in for some serious mud and snow on the route, how right we were!!
A quick registration (with the normal obligatory terrifying disclaimer form), a cup of tea then back to the car to get properly attired. Being the Deerstalker run a bit of tweed and a hat is required, I don’t have a deerstalker hat but I think my outfit still worked.
As is quite often the case we realised we were cutting it fine to be at the start line and had to do a quick jog in order to get to the start in time for the race briefing (we have missed many of those).
Then we were off! A few hundred runners surged forwards heading for the hay bales stacked up on the course. Across those and then you are off down a short, steep slope onto the road. Next came the muddy fields with my fellow Team Bambi runner trying to pick her way along the side of the mud while I just jumped straight in, nearly losing a shoe in the process. Next up the ditch filled with mud, slipping and sliding all over the place we headed towards the ditch where there was bit of a queue at one side. I clearly had not engaged my brain at this point as I thought ‘oh there is a space’ and jumped in…to quite a deep spot. A man fell in almost head first on one side of me but luckily emerged although covered in mud. Hauling myself out at the other side I was aware of the freezing cold of the mud getting into my muscles already but set it to one side as I set off running towards the hill. This hill is a proper beast of a climb, you go up the first part on mountain biking trails with some short steep sections thrown in. My Team Bambi friend has not been well so we opted to walk up most of the hill, which was a bit of a shame as I feel (were she well obviously) that we could have run a lot of the first section. Conditions were getting worse underfoot though with much of the trail covered in snow which had been turned to slush by the runners ahead of us. Most people were walking by about half way up the hill and as there were no places to pass this seemed to be okay with everyone in friendly spirits chatting and laughing at the sheer madness of heading out on this run in the snowy, wintery weather.
The path abruptly joined a fire road and at this point we decided to start running again. My muscles felt quite stiff and my shoes were slipping a lot on the snow, I began to notice that quite a few runners were wearing trail shoes and next year I will certainly be wearing some. After running for a few minutes we came to the next queue (this is one of the few downsides to a race like this, some of the natural features make inevitable bottlenecks and this can be frustrating). We took this opportunity to have some energy sweets as we both knew the climb coming was hard. This section basically involved clambering up and steep slope, using trees, roots and stones to help haul yourself up through the forest. What is most gauling about this section is that you descend to the fire road roughly 100 yards down the road from where you started. It was great even though my legs were burning by the time we started the descent, team bambi team mate was running on like a deer (apt of course), leaping over the branches and she has a great downhill running technique that I started to copy.
Once back on the fire road we started a gentle ascent, having gotten confused I was sure that we were about to hit another descent. How wrong was I! A marshal was stood on the road indicating for us to head up another small stoney path heading up steeply only to level out briefly before starting to head skywards again across grass and felled trees. It was a fantastic view but I think we were all starting to wonder if we would ever head back down! We entered the forest again on the single track paths and it could have been a scene from a Christmas card. The fir trees were covered with snow which gentle drifted to the ground occasionally creating a beautiful scene. We also spotted other runners descending through the trees, we must nearly be at the top!
As the trees thinned out we saw marshals stood at balance beams covered in snow and ice, I managed to stay on them briefly but whenever I had to let go of a tree I fell off. I chose the blame the snow not my well known lack on co-ordination! Next came the cargo net, this net isn’t fixed to the ground and essentially I didn’t keep my bum down low enough as half way through I got stuck by my buttons in the net. All of sudden I couldn’t move forwards or back, luckily there was enough space for people to get round the side of me but my team bambi teammate had such frozen hands she couldn’t get me out. It was up to a lovely lass dressed as a bumblebee to get me out, which I am very grateful for as I had an image of being there until the 10k lot came through in the dark!
Next came the first big descent. Now I made a slight mistake in what can only be describe as excitement at finally going downhill! I saw snow and assumed I would have grip so set off running, almost instantly I realised that the runners ahead of us had compacted the snow so that it had turned almost to ice. As this realisation dawned I flew past a few other runners, shouting sorry as I skidded around a berm finally coming to a halt in a small snow drift. I picked myself and carried on at a more sedate pace until we came to a marshal shouting the instructions ‘If you don’t have trail shoes on, sit down and push’. It was like sledging! Brilliant fun, I like to think I won the race I had with a fellow competitor.
A quick leap across the fire road and we plunged back into the woods. The lights and sound system weren’t on in the disco section making it feel slightly disorientating as though someone had just idly left this there but we all knew we were on the home stretch now and the pace had picked up. I decided to employ the sliding technique more and more on this section, using tree, branches and fellow runners to help my progress. I have to say I don’t think I would recommend doing this is old running shoes again, the lack of grip on my shoes did make for some hairy moments and the bruises and cut on my ankles show I didn’t come away totally unscathed.
Luckily a cargo net at the bottom of this wooded section stopped us from falling onto the fire road and once we had slide gracefully(!) under it we set off running towards the bridge. Next up the river crossings and the tunnel. Now last time we had done this run it had been dry in the days leading up to it, with all the rain each mud path was now just a mud pit. We were slipping and sliding everywhere, I decided to simply run as fast as I could through it all. There were moments where I felt my feet slide away from me but I just tried to keep moving forwards and I managed to stay up right. I thought the first river crossing was much deeper but it was only up to mid-shin although freezing cold as we splashed our way across. More water on the other side but in cups, to be honest I wasn’t sure that I needed it but I took some anyway – I have a tendency to get incredibly dehydrated on runs without noticing! More mud then the dread tunnel loomed into view, we had to jump into the stream then wade through a foul smelling tunnel filled with water up to your waist. We could tell this was coming up from the screams. I gamely jumped in and followed the line of runners through the tunnel, it really smelt worse than I remembered. Clambering up the ladder at the other side I realised we weren’t far from the end. Collecting my team mate we set off through the field again heading towards the cheering, the finish line was close….but still further than we thought.
We plodded through more mud then splashed through another section of river. At this point a spectator asked me if we were cold???? I just shouted that I didn’t know as I couldn’t feel a thing and dived off into the trees following my team mate. We finally reached the estate road and knowing we didn’t have far to go we both sped up, however I think we both remembered about ‘the wall’ at the same time and the pace slowed once more. We round the corner and found ourselves in another queue for the final cargo net. I apologised to everyone in advance this time in case I got stuck but made a mental note to flatten myself on the ground to ensure I didn’t. I went first, flat on the ground using my hands and knees to push myself along and I didn’t get stuck once – there is a lesson in that for me!
As my team mate followed me out of the cargo net she kept saying she wouldn’t be able to get up the wall, so in my motivational mindset I called her a jessie and told her to get her arse up the wall. I like to think my motivational chat helped as when we were pulling ourselves up the wall using the ropes I glanced across and she was haring up it. A final jump then we were crossing the finish line. A medal, a Snickers bar and a bottle of water and it was all over for another year!
An epic race this year but great fun, our time was worse than the previous year but our finishing place was much higher. I had to push our car out of the car park and the veggie burger I had wasn’t the best but everything else was great. Next year the 10k anyone??