I was not looking forwards to the race today – or rather the steady rain removed any kind of enthusiasm. Steve kindly picked me up and we then picked up Fiona and Steph and got down to a dreich Dunbar in plenty time to pin on numbers and do a few laps of the grass track. I think I was first out on the track; most folk seemed happy to forgo the warm up and stand huddled inside. However once you got going the drizzle seemed to disappear, or at least other things took its place in order of importance.
Ian Rowland was doing the compere duties today and after a few words set us off by failing to fire a starting pistol. Second attempt and we were off. Earlier in the day I realised I had no caffeine drink in the house and had gone along to the corner shop to buy a Red Bull. The nearest they had was a similar sized tin of Emerge I think. Judging by my stimulation today I would say it has the same amount of caffeine but only cost 35p. This is probably why Red Bull can put on massive events where young men with a limited concern for health and safety can endanger their lives for our entertainment. Meanwhile I emerged into about 4th place while trying to rein in the caffeine jockey who insists on the view from up front.
Road for a bit then after a mile or 2 of warm up some off road trails. It's a nice warm up and by the time the course goes under the bridge and you start to climb on the dirt trails you are motoring nicely. Scott C (bib no.87) I first met at the Speed of Light and have a great regard for his abilities as he whips my ass on Thursdays at Wintervals. He is that rare creature; he can go both up hill and down at speed. Since he is coming back from injury I felt we might both be around the same part of the race. We went through the gates into the first fields together. Some cross country round the grassy perimeters then onto the hard pack trails down past the farm and the right hander before the steep tarmac hill. I suspected Scott would overtake here but the caffeine encouraged me to shorten my stride, increase my cadence and at the next right I was still ahead of Scott and Michael who had caught up but not gone past.
There follows a long climb, less steep but taxing enough, and the wind may have been a bit in our faces. Earlier I had to decide between vest or t-shirt-under-vest. Thinking fortune favours the bold I went for vest only, but wore gloves in case my little handies got cold. It was the right choice. I never felt cold at any point. A sharp left up the steepening hill and you can catch your breath over the top before the marshal points you into the field. This goes on forever and used to go into another field where you climbed to the trig point of the titular Doon Hill. However last couple of years we have run past this point before a right turn down a stony path where the Hokas allow you to put the foot down hard and swoop down to a right turn where the road carries on and turns into trail and you choose one side of the landrover track. Or sometimes hop up onto the centre grassy section when both lanes become flooded. Then it turns left and more slippy. Scott said I got 50m ahead here and I did enjoy the descent even though you had all the traction of being on roller skates. I ran for a bit in the centre line between the tyre tracks then some on the sodden treads keeping a smooth line and making up ground on Rab who had started off out front but was beginning to fade.
More fast tarmac a turn and a climb. Again I was gaining ground on Rab while putting distance between myself and Scott and Michael. I was feeling strong and really enjoying the run. After the turn a marshal points you left off the road and along what used to be a terribly lumpy field perimeter. It is now a smooth grassy path and not the obstacle course of old. I was still gaining on Rab – just as well for his sake as he turned left and headed towards some farm buildings. I shouted out was he sure that was the right way? Had I not been racing at full tilt I would have been 100% certain that that was the wrong way but there's nothing as brainless as a person out of breath so it took a moment to ask the question and work out I was right. You do question yourself and I stopped running for a few seconds just to take stock. Scott and Michael were hot on my heels so rather than wait for Rab to catch up I continued.
So now I was in second place. David Wright could no longer be seen up ahead but I had footsteps right behind for company and although I was second if I took my eye off the ball I could easily drop 3 places in the last mile. The good news was it was mostly downhill. The bad news was it was all on good ground – a bit of cross country would have suited me better.
Again the Hokas were great at soaking up the impact and I legged it down the hill and under the underpass. And even up the other side. Through the wall and less than a mile to go – it will be over in less than 6 minutes at this pace. I heard footsteps getting closer and didn't know to whom they belonged. It was Michael and we exchanged brief and breathy pleasantries. He made a decent effort and the timing was, alas, perfect. It did not allow much room for debate or a sprint to the line even though there were only a few seconds between us. As we emerged from the woods was that Emma (HBT) shouting for me like a banshee? Quality fan club! Suspecting there might be a last sprint from either Scott or a recovered Rab I kept the pace up but there was no way I was catching Michael. Third place in 62 minutes.
What a great event, and a great way to brighten a dull day – even the damp weather failed to spoil the day out and most arrived at the finish line with a smile on their face. I was getting cold so headed back for a shower after taking a few photos - always plenty hot water at Hallhill. Then after a cup of soup and a sandwich, (just what's needed) the prizegiving. Now last race, the 2 Breweries, they had no qualms about giving one person several prizes and Stewart Whitlie won a bus-load of beer for first 40, first 50, sixth overall and most charming smile, but at Dunbar they make the love go further by just giving one prize per person (team prize excepted) – so they asked me if I would like 3rd or first 50. I chose third which gave Steve first fifty and together with Michael we went home with a slab of Belhaven Best for first male team. HBT ladies spoiled the tradition of Porty ladies picking up the female team prize but Dottie and Janis got age group prizes. Rab got the v40 shield although he was behind two people old enough to put their names on it, but who won envelopes with crisp notes inside and little trophies, preferable by far in my book. Michael was quick to point out the illustrious names already engraved on the v40 shield.
In summary: a great course and the variety of underfoot texture and angle keeping the experience fresh, vivid and challenging. Even on a pretty grim day. Thanks to Dunbar and pals for organising. Good luck to Steve and Willie on their half tomorrow and Steph and anyone else doing Glasgow. I am going to be drinking beer tonight.