Dunbar was the 6th venue and the finale of the fabulous Borders Series Cross Country. The sun was shining but a chill wind saw only the very hardy in club vests without a long sleeve underneath. Being old and frail I had a t-shirt over a helly and although it was warm with the wind behind when we turned for the chase home into the teeth of the wind I was glad of the extra layer.
Although the kids' races at the Borders have been shortened versions of the adults' they are still given quite challenging courses. Today they had to cover the same start to the end of the beach as we did then a fair bit of the trails to the lighthouse and back.
Previously on this course I have dropped a few places on that return leg – the undulations and headwind slowing me down. I was concerned that this may be the case this year also and had braced myself for a shaming last mile or 2. I did have the excuse of the day before at Carnethy 5 up my sleeve, but then a lot of the field were there too.
We arrived in plenty time but already the place was jammed tight with parked cars. Steve managed to sneak us in to a prime spot and as we changed, Michael G appeared. He is not entirely over a knee injury but it held up during the Carnethy 5 so well, he thought he would give it a thrashing over the relatively flat coastal route (and soft ground) at Dunbar. I thought he would have lost so much fitness over the 4~6 weeks out that he would be suffering. However at Carnethy he got a long lead over me in the first half and it was only in the last climb and descent that I pulled a small distance ahead. Clearly he would have been miles ahead if he ever stayed injury free long enough to put some training in.
Having had far too much fresh air the day before I was a bit dreamy today and forgot a couple of things: the caffeine sports drugs and the garmin. The former I didn't seem to miss and at the start I took off as if I had been mainlining it during the (chilly) wait on the line. We were running into the wind yet it didn't seem to be holding me up in the usual manner. I had to caution myself from overtaking Michael Reid and the front runners, and instead just stick where I was. After quite a journey to the end of the beach we turned round a marshalled pole and headed back. I was in 5th place and knew this was still far too ambitious but was enjoying the way the Hokas were rolling over the beach. Long before Hokas were invented I was trying to figure out what the ideal shoe for the likes of the Black Rock 5 would be. Something light and broad to spread your weight over the sand with a trail sole – hill shoes being too narrow and possibly too gnarly. Like a miniature snow-shoe. Hokas are probably ideal and I looked at the deeply imprinted mudclawed sand with a smile.
Rab from Musselburgh going like a train overtook, then just before we left the first beach Dave Wright went past and I expected Fergus to do the same. We have been spending time together lately (Thursday night at the poorly attended Wintervals, yesterday at Carnethy (though only briefly until the gun went off) and now today.) I am not used to Fergus being behind although I recognised his unique style without having to look round. (He takes about 2 steps to my 3 or 4.) Up onto the grassy stuff and along to the lighthouse. Off onto the beach again (firm sand glinting in the sunshine) and Fergus is still on my shoulder. I take photos of him to see if this encourages him move past but no, obviously his race yesterday at the C5 had taken it's toll. Some people have accused me of psychological warfare taking photos during a race. I would probably deny this. On a sunny day when the shutter speed is fast enough to capture the run it's not only a good illustration for the blog but also a reminder sometimes of what happened in what order.
Thanks to Bob for the photo!
Hadn't realised I was quite so coordinated (matching shoes and helly) until I saw this photo.
Eventually there is a marshal and we are back on the grassy trails. The sandy soil drains well and there are only the smallest muddy patches. Still pleased with choice of shoe and I particularly enjoy the odd section of sand, rocks, and gravel mix which the cushioned soles float over.
I remember from past years here that it's a long haul back from the far turning point and the lighthouse seems to mock from a distance as one runs toward it, getting no closer. I knew that once the wind was in our faces and the path started to climb that Fergus would no longer be prepared to jog along at my pace and the sight of Dave going up the rise ahead inspired him to race off. I tried to duck in behind to get some benefit of the draft but that lasted about 4 steps before I settled back to a jog. I took a couple of photos ahead and behind to break the monotony of the small climb. I hadn't realised that Michael G was next man behind at this point. He saw me “taking a selfie” and I think he took it as a personal insult. He was also disparaging about the swiftness of my ascent up any incline, although not quite swift enough himself to close the gap.
I was too busy watching my feet along the twisting single track to notice who was behind. I had seen a reassuring gap and felt if I kept a steady pace (and briskly walked the uphills) I could probably avoid too much humiliation this year. I can't remember at what point I noticed it was Michael but it increased my focus considerably, as well as my admiration. I had thought his lack of training would have left him gasping, especially with the C5 in his legs. He said it felt like maybe a 4 week taper had left him fresh. Oh to be young. Anyway, I started running the up-hills.
And managed to keep a good distance between us. I felt I made a decent job of the 2 fence-crossing stiles – not bothering to use hands to steady myself just running/bounding over without breaking step. I wasn't delighted to remember the last bit of the course which ducked into the grassy dunes again, dropping and rising, but at least we didn't have to go round the back of the lime kilns on the way to the line, which I crossed in 8th and (given the lack of Mr Whitlie this time) 1st m50.
A bit of a warm down and some photos and loads of chat then off to Hallhill Sports Centre for a hot shower and prize giving. Willie J finished the series in great form, well within the same minute which meant he and I got trophies for overall 3rd and 2nd m50. While the juniors were getting their prizes I chatted in the bar area to legend Bill Gauld (singular winner in the over 80 category) who is coping with a back injury which stopped him doing the weekend's races. It has also interfered with his badminton!!!
The Borders Series is so good it is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. This time the entries were through Entry Central and capping the numbers meant some folk were left out. And yet being a series of races not everyone turns up to every race (to say the least). Hopefully they will allow more folk to enter next time with fewer exclusions and fingers crossed that not everyone turns up to the races with restricted parking (which is possibly the thing that limits the numbers). It is a difficult call for the organisers to get right. However we have all really enjoyed the events - a superb mix of great and varied courses, highly competitive but with the emphasis on fun and friendliness. Big thanks to the six clubs and all the people whose hard work route setting, organising, marshalling and time-keeping, often in harsh conditions, has made the series possible. Six beacons of joy to light the way through the grim days of winter.