I believe there was a big race down south this weekend in one of their dirtier smog filled factory towns where you have to run shoulder to shoulder with folk in costumes and fight for breathing space while the public lines the streets making a horrible racket. If I wanted that in my life I could cut my throat and go straight to hell. Road runners regularly graduate to trail running. Rarely the reverse. Some never see the light. There were also a couple of big races in Scotland however, the best smaller run this weekend was the Winton Trail 10k, formerly the artist known as Pencaitland (fun run) 10k.
I am guessing there's a new team at the helm of this event. Or they are perhaps getting their act together. It is now in it's 5th year and although certain things remained very similar - it is an event to raise funds for the Pencaitland Primary School PTA and Playgroup, rather than a race developed by runners for runners, - it seemed better organised than previous events, although there were still a few quirks, the sort of thing fun runners might not notice but which might raise an eyebrow or 2 with regular racers.
A few weeks ago Matthew emailed the club to let us know the dates of the event. On the PRC fb group page there was a broad selection of responses from how badly organised it had been in previous years to how wonderful the course and biscuit medals were. Did one offset the other? Was £10 - this year £12 - too much to pay? Did fun and friendly compensate a lack of results and no prizes? There was a lot of different ideas floating about and so I emailed Matthew the anonymous responses and he did not try to duck the criticisms, which I thought was a good sign. And he hoped the move to the impressive grounds of Winton House would overcome a few of the previous difficulties of missing janitors / keys etc.
With the day set bright (with icy interludes) I cycled to Pencaitland. I picked up the well marked route and cycled the last 2 miles of the event into the start finish area. This would serve me well in the second half of the race as it was this part of the course that differed from previous years when it started and finished in the school. If anything the route was now even prettier and apart from a short section of tarmac at the start was almost entirely hard pack dirt trails, sometimes broad, sometimes narrow. Registration was okay but there was too long a queue for the toilets. I wasn't interested in the zumba warm-up apart from to take a couple of photos, and after a decent warm up running the last mile of the course, went to the start line. It was about 8 minutes late in kicking off but at that point the weather was nice enough to allow for a bit of standing around. I thought I would go out fast and see how much havoc I could create.
The last time Stuart H and I raced together was the Kilmarnock Masters and he whipped my sorry ass. I have been putting a few training miles in since then and felt I might be on for some revenge today, however I was only 1 step ahead of him in the first (5.38) up hill mile. He stuck with me and overtook in the second and I now wondered just how bad it was going to get. I couldn't hear his breathing over mine and he seemed to be cruising along fine. This was the highest point of the course and we were now going downhill to the road crossing. At the crossing the marshal was telling us a car was coming but seemed unsure about whether to insist we stop or not. I looked and saw the car was 80~100 yards or more up the road and there was no way we were stopping.
The road marked the halfway point of the course. I could hear my Garmin bleeping out the miles but didn't have anything spare to look at it or check the speed. My watch had done a strange exit. It starts the stopwatch function when you tap it. However on the start line when I tapped it, the screen blanked out entirely. I checked again when I heard the Garmin bleeping out the miles but it still had nothing on the dial. (Some 8 hrs later and I pressed the mode button and it came back to life showing 2.08pm (the very time it went blank.)) Anyway I was now in a deadly battle with Mr. Hay. I was running at absolute top speed and having a near death experience but still couldn't shake him. He had stopped going in front but was cruising along shoulder to shoulder when the path was wide enough. We had burnt off all but three runners in front; Don Naylor, a young club runner and another HBT (was he really wearing Vibram Five Fingers???) and we were now pretty much on our own with no competitors visible ahead or behind. Then we came to the bridge. It was full of families pushing push chairs and I shouted "THROUGH!" I was going to shout "Coming through" but didn't have the breath. I couldn't think of a better one syllable to shout and who knows what they thought as 2 old dudes came charging past on the right, in the spare 8" they had left as they walked slowly along the bridge. I think they must have been doing the family 3.5k. I charged in and out the spaces they left and presume Stuart did the same as he was still with me afterwards. I was pleased I knew the route as I knew what was coming and when to make a push. It was very well marked although the 10k signs were in blue and green and sometimes said 10k bike. but all were applicable and went the same way. (However at a point just before the end the 5k and 3.5k veered off to the left.) By this time my brains were mush and it was just as well the markings and marshals were well placed.
certificates and biscuit medals
As we could finally see Winton House there was a short sharp descent and I felt this might have been the moment I made my move. I don't think I picked it up that much but by the next bridge and next climb I could no longer hear Stuart on my heels and when I turned the 180' turn at the far end of the drive before dashing to the line, I couldn't see anyone behind. I didn't let up though and never felt safe until I crossed the line. The Garmin said 36.41 and given Dave Wright won in 36mins last year I was pleased with that. Don Naylor won this year in 34something. Pal and local Pencaitlander Nicky came over and asked how that was, then said "take a moment" as I was bent double and in an amount of distress.
There was a massive queue for the table at which you decorated your medal biscuit.
three prizes per kids race
Only first man and woman get prizes in the 10k. (Both HBT)
On the cycle home I stopped at various points to take photos of the second half of the course. It was really pretty and ideal conditions underfoot - hard-pack trails.
Bridge - filled with pushchairs and families during the race.
Here comes the ice storm.
Immediately I finished and recovered my equilibrium I went to my bike and changed into dry warm clothes. Although the sun was shining, icy hailstones were falling from the sky at various times and it was not warm standing around. I was disappointed that they only saw fit to give out prizes for first M & F over the line and thought 2nd and third in both categories deserved at least another biscuit medal (they were v tasty) if not a bottle of wine. I was fourth. And no age group or team prizes either. Given the entry is £12, it's a bit of a short prize list. This is because it is a money raising event for the local PTA and not just for the benefit of the runners. So if you ignore the cost and the absence of prizes then this is a splendid race. The route - surely the most if not the ONLY important thing for the runners, is superb, even if there was a slight danger of bottlenecks forming. I am hoping there is a results list somewhere and have emailed the organisers and will post it here if they send it on.
Next races are E2NB and Edinburgh Marathon and Stuart is doing both of those as well. Hopefully we will encourage each other to great things, because I have a feeling it won't make life any easier! I doubt I would have run today under 37 if he hadn't been encouraging me every step of the way!
I like a route where the up hill is dealt with in the first couple of miles when you are fresh and the rest is plain sailing. Although those little bumps at the end seemed considerably bigger after 35minutes of flat out sprint.
Afterwards, since my cycle home went near Cousland, I popped by to see my stepmum which is something I don't do often enough. We had a great natter and then on the cycle home, I got caught by a huge downpour. Still, there was such a strong headwind around Joppa that I was totally dry by the time I got home.
The organiser Mat emailed to let me know that the results are here...