Forfar Half is one of my favourites. It's like a 10k road race with some cross country stirred in, with a fair sized hill and usually there's a small swimming section as well. After the hardships of Saturday's racing, the prospect of this event had lost some of its shine. I was feeling tired. I think the caffeine overdose gave me a poor night's sleep: I lay awake from 5 till 6am knowing I wouldn't be as wide awake come 7. Sure enough I wasn't.
I got ready and it was a cheery ride up the road with Richard and Fiona in Andrew's car. It was quite mild but with a strong breeze in Forfar and we had plenty of time to choose what to wear, but I felt out of sorts, and not sure about which shoes to wear, whether a hat would be too warm and even which pair of gloves. Warming up I felt pretty raddled. It's not a good state of mind to be in, going into a tough 13 miler wishing it was all over. Nothing to do but man up and pace yourself.
Brian B in the blue vest and winter beard!
Always a strong local competitor he worked through the field to third place.
At the start Dan G and James B headed off at a good old pace. (Coming in in that order.) Normally I race the first few miles far too fast, slowing later. Today I played it differently, happy to get the first few under my belt on the other side of 6 minute miling, staying just inside the top ten. Then after a few miles I warmed to the task and noticing Craig L following a short distance behind used him as encouragement/a pacer. He is a strong runner and to try to stay ahead gave me a good target. I thought at first he would just go past but I noticed we stayed a similar distance apart.
I reckon the worst of the course is in about the 3rd mile going along the farmers track with puddles. At least this year they weren't frozen. But they were deep and the muddy brown water disguised submerged rocks and slippy edges that threatened an early bath. In parts they were wall to wall so no escape. After that is a mix of pleasant roads and sections of muddy grassy trails. The wind this year seemed to be helping us through the first half; the miles just floating by without too much distress.
The water feature is a big part of Forfar Half. As with last year, we were diverted away from it as it was allegedly waist deep. Although this is a shame – it makes for a memorable wade – they have found an alternative stretch of nearly-as-damp track for us to wash the early mud off our shoes. There is a fence running alongside which I think I used for support and traction last year. This year I was carrying my camera in my right hand. After taking shots on approach I closed the camera lens and ran through (kicking up quite a lot of water). Then towards the other side slowed a bit, lowered my right arm and camera, switched it on and took some pics of Craig over my shoulder to show the depth of the water. One or 2 came out well enough to give an idea. Not quite as deep or long a pond as the original but a good alternative and much more fun than just dry road!
The gated section. Unfortunately Craig wasn't quite close enough to share the travel through each gate with me. I had to let them clang shut then hear him following behind having to slow and open them again. I usually try and catch the guy ahead at this point to get the benefit, but not this year.
When the organiser had been describing the course to us at the start line he talked about shin deep mud after the gates. I had been listening to his route descriptions thinking “is there time to swap my Hokas for the Inov-8s I brought in case of snow?” However although the mud was deep it was brief, and although the Hokas slid like bambi on ice, they rolled along the road sections like a turbo-limo. (In the end I decided the Hokas were the best choice, as were the warmer gloves – and I didn't take off the buff so I probably gauged it about right.)
Just after 9 miles we cross a road and run into a cul-de-sac. I have in the past wondered if I'd lost the way but there is a small dirt trail leads out the back end of it and starts to climb. Ahh the dreaded HILL. It's a bit like Corstorphine hill: a steadily rising dirt trail with a steep bit, couple of level offs then round a corner up to the alpine plateau. A monument marks the high spot and as you run along an avenue of pines you can see the snow-capped Cairngorms off to the North.
The sun was peeping out between the clouds and Craig wasn't on my heels. Hell I was really enjoying this now, and it was mostly downhill to the finish. I kept my eyes off the watch and Garmin and just ran as fast as I felt I could go without doing any damage. The path is level for a bit then begins a pleasant descent (although I believe Mr. Stavert may well have done a commando roll about here.) Then another road crossing and a slight rise before next right and another long gradual descent. I took a photo over my shoulder again as Craig loves a fast descent and I suspected he might well go past shortly. However I think the easy start left more in my legs than usual.
This was where I was overhauled by Crooky and Burgess a number of years ago having stayed ahead for 10 lonely hard miles. Today all the distances seemed shorter and more palatable. Right turn at the farmhouse then more choppy trail descents to the ploughed fields. Sometimes you get around the edges on flat grassy paths, this year it was hurdling turned dark soil for a hundred desperate yards until the corner and back onto flat blessed grass.
Down the last field, last checkpoint, second last road crossing, some tarmac and then a muddy path, a VERY muddy path – didn't like that much at all thanks Forfar, before the line and hey given all those tricky bits 1.24.31 isn't a disaster. Unlike the showers. I don't know who left the water heater on overnight but all I can say is if the water was mixed 50/50 with the tepid stuff from Saturday it would be about perfect. The small shower room was filled with guys trying to wash in water hot enough to make tea with. Not good.
Hokas performed well.
Anyway the table of sandwiches and home bakes made up for it. 9 types of soup this year, and the stuff I had was excellent. I tried to resist eating more calories than I actually burned. Fiona won 2nd vet prize and along with Zoe and Kirsty, the THIRD women's team prize (a bottle each.) I won first m50.
Pleased to report Andrew's car made it back in one piece. Many thanks to Forfar Running Club for putting on such a bold race. The organisation and homebaking make the journey well worth it, and the route is great fun – I thought I would struggle, but ended up really enjoying it as all the different aspects keep you focussed and the miles fly past. Highly recommended.