Monday, 12 January 2015

Borders Series XC #5: Paxton

I was tired but upbeat after a long week and lot of stuff the previous day. The thought of running at Paxton was like running with an old friend - an event I enjoyed last time (in fact something of a career high given the results) and short enough not to be too troubling. Steve kindly offered to drive us down there which gave Mary the day off. The weather was a bit iffy but we all agreed it could be worse.

We arrived plenty early and given the worsening weather hid in the cafe. Mary's second cup of coffee seemed to do the trick. We went out for a bit of a look at the course. What's this? Arrows in the wrong direction and loads of tape taking us across streams. Where's my old trusted friend?

It's not thata way!

Had we looked at the Borders XC website this wouldn't have been such immediate news. 

There were a few other runners jogging around the course also looking a little surprised, none more so than Mike, who in the absence of Andy would most likely be leading the entire field round an unfamiliar course. About the only person who claimed to have half an idea about the course and where it now went was Allan G, who wasn't even running. He showed me a 2 page map with the arrows (just ignore the arrows) going in the wrong direction. Himself and Charlotte had been round the course earlier (top marks for rigour!) and thought they might have worked out the completely different route the event would now take. By the time he was describing the third time through the muddy cowfield I had long since stopped making mental notes. Except the one main thing: glad I'm not leading the way

After a warm up it wasn't too hard to strip down to just a vest. 
(Hat also came off, gloves stayed on.)

Melissa had a shoe come off in the gloop. Like a proper trooper she finished the race before being re-united with said shoe. Michelle suggested it was taken to a stream before going back in the car

Bella Boys

Nick - making headway despite the layers!

A marshal at the start reiterated the course had been changed and that the best approach was just to follow the person ahead. We all looked at Mike and laughed, who wasn't enjoying the joke as much. I was feeling good but somehow didn't get the usual fast start. I was a bit blocked in and didn't like to barge through. Plenty time for overtaking later. Maybe the spin class was still a bit in my legs. Although I didn't feel slow. Normally I hare off at Paxton. There were maybe 20 ahead as we went into the muddy cowfield then dropped down and out the far corner. I began to make some places. I felt (in the manner of Top Trumps) that I had an advantage over anyone wearing more than a vest. Fortune favours the nearly naked. Although I was concerned to see the Dunbar vest of Ian R up ahead. It surprised me less to see Nick ahead as well, however since he has the benefit of youth and is not in my age group there wasn't the same urgency to catch him. However both were wearing layers.

We went up and down quite a helter skelter of slippery muddy slopes and across streams and a fence climb. Proper old school cross country. I was enjoying the route although worried that I wasn't reeling Ian in. Eventually after a bit I saw him slow on an up hill section and that gave me the encouragement to stick the boot in. I went past and Matt C also stepped off the path as if waiting for a pal. We then hit a fun flat section alongside a tall boundary wall with trees every so often and you had to nip between the tree and wall and not trip on roots or catch a face full of branches. I made ground on those ahead. I recognised some of the paths just before we got back to the drive (and caught Nick but only just!) although we were guided down to the river for a crossing or 2 before going back up to the road.

photo Sandy W

Allan G was around there and said not long to go or something to that effect. I thought he has got that wrong as we had only done a couple of miles. We then went through the muddy field again but this time turned right, early, and took a diagonal down and across the field to that nasty climb we usually do in the last stretch of the race. Round to front of the house and to everyones' surprise, up to the finish line after less than 19 mins and only 2.6 miles run.

There was a general feeling that since we had been supposed to run the junior course first then the senior laps that we must have missed the junior course and gone straight into the senior laps. It was great running and a good challenging course but a long drive for some (from the other side of Glasgow) for less than 3 miles running. The only clue to what really happened is on the website. In reference to Sandy Wallace's photos it says "Luckily Sandy chose to catch the action on the first half of the route." Which would imply we shouldn't have finished when we did but carry on to the bit of the course we didn't race, near the front of the house and visible from the finish line. As a warm down Steve, Steph, Mary and I ran that section and sure enough it was marked with tape but we hadn't covered it during the race.

Anne coming the opposite way on the warm down. Note hanging tape.

We followed the taped route back towards the driveway. Here is where the earlier lap came up from the stream crossing.

It would be wrong to blame Mike for us all inadvertently missing some of the course. Mike had his work cut out and a fair amount of pressure to follow the available directions and listen to what the marshals were saying. I think if you are making changes to an established course it would be a good idea to have a marshal stand at any junction (and there seemed to be loads of marshals on the route) where there appears to be an option and point runners in the right direction. It was an ambitious plan to have a more convoluted route and top marks to the route setters finding a more challenging line down by the riverbank. However if laps are going to be run crossing the same area twice it is imperative to have a marshal telling runners which way to go as the runners don't have the time or sense (brainpower being diverted to legs) to always make the right decision. In the end we all went the same way and I don't think it made much difference except in brevity.

Towards the end of our warm down we were given a rather brusque telling off by an official who said we shouldn't have been in the field across the way. We politely told him there was marking tape the whole way we had been along (see photo with Anne) but he seemed intent on reprimanding us all, particularly Steph (the troublecauser!). A bizarre incident on an otherwise excellent if slightly foreshortened day out. Big thanks to all (nearly all!) who were out marshalling and organising.

Results here
Sandy's photos here

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