Brand new for this year; the Chirnside event. Just this side of the border (10 miles short of Paxton) Chirnside was a great addition to the Borders Series. Perhaps not as hilly as some (nobody complained) but slightly longer to compensate. And muddy. There was plenty of mud. Apparently it was all icy hard until the thaw of the last couple of days at which point the ice turned to mud.
We picked up Willie and drove down the A1. Tradition dictates that we usually take a few wrong turns when Willie comes along, but we kept it to a minimum today. Mary had looked at the map beforehand and kept us right although we probably approached Chirnside from an unusual angle and didn't see the interestingly art deco school until we were on our way home, again taking a bit of a meander before hitting the A1.
Plenty of time for warm up while the juniors ran. It was quickly becoming apparent that there was no shortage of soft ground. The course seemed to be a moderate downhill start round the perimeters of fields then after following a disused railway (flat), a sharp downhill, sharp uphill, then long moderate climb back to the finish. It was cold getting out the car and I thought I would wear a t-shirt under the vest, gloves and a buff to keep my ears warm. However just before the off I dispensed with the t-shirt. I didn't run in the buff either.
As I ran up this track ahead of the junior race arriving the lady on the right (wearing specs!) said well done, then realised her mistake and said "I thought you were a junior". I think this trumps Richard and Fiona getting ID-ed at the booze counter recently
Pretty much bang on time we gathered at the start line and set off. I had been trying to gee myself up knowing this was a crucial race in the series and I hoped to do well in my age group. So when we started I set off promptly as Danielle's photo above shows. Given I finished outside the top ten I shouldn't really have been running with the top 5 here but I was excited (and had had a big glass of freshly squeezed caffeine juice earlier.) After this playing field the route went down the lane in the photo with Mrs. Specsaver and across a few more fields at quite a pace. Because it was fairly downhill I managed to keep up for a bit, or rather, my progress back to eleventh place wasn't immediate. So not too embarrassing.
I seem to be making this face quite a lot these days.
After quite a long but gradual descent we hit what must be the railway - a pleasant thin trail, flat but winding here and there. I could see what I thought was Charlotte's shadow and considered moving to one side to let her through. Then a small gap between us although I was judging this by the audio distance of her breathing so not very accurate. Eventually we came to the turn, marked by a sharp descent, across a sploshy field, then up the only sharp climb (happily only maybe 150 yards, difficult to tell really as it rounded at the top) and most of it was spent watching Charlotte pull away - she had romped past on the descent - and then rival Diane, with whom I stayed beside for the climb, but both gained ground over the rest of the course. Having watched Diane twice overtake Charlotte in the last 2 races it was interesting to see Charlotte hold the lead - after a confidence inspiring East Districts last week.
I had looked at my watch at the turn around and it was 15 something. I was relieved as I presumed it would be less time to the finish: must be a shorter route back; most the Borders courses are around 25 minutes. On the return the wind was in our faces more often and the gradient while not extreme was generally ascending. Which made life taxing and I blew hard and looked for the last couple of fields which we had recced while warming up. Then we turned into a field of potatoes where you could run on a rocky grassy edge that was so unpleasant you jumped down into the muddy groove. Which was so unpleasant you popped back onto the round stones to see if it was really all that bad. (It was.) This (while climbing) went on for a long time. And then (I think it was afterwards but might have been before) there was a hideous field sown with grass and a mix of mud and glue. It stuck to your pumps like someone had tied on manhole covers and it became nearly impossible to lift your knees - best just slide your immense muddy plates over the soggy surface.
After all of that there were some farm tracks and I deliberately ran through puddles to help dislodge the cement treads. I had a couple of sneaky peaks to see if any oldies were catching me but it seemed safe enough and besides I couldn't go any faster. James from Dunbar edged past towards the end. I had assumed since the organisers had finished the juniors race just inside the start/finish playing field, that we too wouldn't be required to run round the perimeter of the last field. Then I asked myself if that was absolutely guaranteed and found I had perhaps misconstrued reality. The bad news was we did have to run round the field, the good news was they could have made it even further so we got off lightly. And happily nobody was near enough to force me to sprint for the line, anymore than I was already sprinting. I felt I had probably been sprinting the whole race which was, upon scrutiny, over the 30 minutes and longer than usual. Over 4 miles says Mary - I wasn't wearing a garmin. I was wearing quite a lot of sweat so I was glad about the lack of t-shirt. And very glad to be first 50.