While we were warming up we saw one of the juniors had lost a shoe in one of the muddier fields. Not a good omen.
Paxton was always going to be muddy. It has been in the past but this year the amount of rain has been biblical. And it was still falling as Steve drove us (big thanks!) to near Berwick upon Tweed to this country estate for what is usually an excellent course.
James H staying warm and dry until the last moment.
Gav had done this amount of damage in the warm up alone.
Note David L in the background testing out his new Inov-8s for the first time.
We got there in loads of time which was good as the parking was restricted to avoid ruining the lawns. After a cup of tea we went out into the cold and damp to warm up. It was far from pleasant. I wore 2 vests having seen how a long sleeved top (and hat) slowed down Mo F the day before.
This photo and the one below: Stuart H.
I am not bouncing up and down because I can hardly contain my excitement - it was more about keeping warm.
photo Allan Brown
The start was at the same place but some of the route was changed due to the river rising and flooding. Last year we had followed the leaders who went the wrong way and finished after just a couple of miles missing the second lap. I started ok although the first REALLY muddy field took it's toll. This was where we had seen the abandoned shoe and it really was heavily waterlogged. It kind of knocked the stuffing out of me but I assumed it was taking a similar toll out of everyone. I noticed Stewart and Adam (my age group competition) moved ahead, but they had done this at Peebles and I had regained ground later.
After a loop of the swampy field we came back up to the front of the house. I found it really tough and was dropping places when the going got sploshy. Normally I do Paxton well and comparatively it has been my strongest run the last couple of years. Today it was fast becoming evident that it was not to be this year. After I stopped going backwards through the field I kind of stabillised. Then Des (another m50) went past, something he hasn't done for a while. I thought I might catch him later and tried not to let my worsening position trouble me too much. Matthew Curry went past and stayed between Des and myself as we ascended up the path from the river. Everywhere was sodden and covered in very slippery mud and puddles. I tried my best to place my feet on the firmest ground. After climbing up from the riverside we ran along the side of a wall. I made up ground on Des and Matt; and David from Bella was in the mix around here too. I intended to finish ahead of them all but it was fast becoming apparent they would be finishing ahead of me. At one point I tried to tell myself this was enjoyable - there is a childish joy about sploshing through mud; but my placing - so poor by comparison to the usual Paxton result - left me less than pleased. I checked the Garmin thinking we must have some more distance to go, and maybe a chance to make up some places, but no, we turned into the finishing straight before we even got to 3.5 miles. I'm not sure I would have made up any places even if it had gone on longer.
photo Syd Woods
Team Bella. Everyone had filthy legs.
I wore Salomon gaiters, hoping they would keep laces tied and muck from going into shoes.
Andrew nearly requiring being stretchered off the course!
I shouldn't really complain. By comparison to David I had it easy. 2nd time through the very muddy field and David's shoe came off. He was just ahead of me and I could see he was trying to run through the shin deep mud with the heel of his shoe under his foot. His shoe had got sucked off and he struggled to get somewhere he could untie it, get it back on and re-tie it. Later on it came off a second time which explained him coming in way behind most of the field. I suspect he suffered from that old trap of shoes expanding and slackening off after getting wet. Sometimes it makes sense if running a very wet or muddy course to get your shoes wet warming up (we certainly did this) then re-tie them tightly. I worried that mine were feeling a bit slack but they stayed on.
I was at a bit of a loss to understand why my performance was bad (lowest age group placing this season). Paxton usually suits me though the course was radically changed and was much heavier. This shouldn't have had such dramatic effect though. I ran quite a few miles the previous week (I was knackered by Thursday at Wintervals) but I should have recovered by Sunday. My shoes are getting old but they weren't THAT bad. I am probably a bit heavy after Xmas but not THAT heavy. I am putting it down to a combination of all those factors and hope things are back to normal by next weekend and "Feel the Burns" although there will not be a shortage of soggy heavy ground there either. I have ordered new shoes so we'll see if that helps. Fingers crossed for decent weather. The race has been very fortunate with the weather in the past, and sadly is overdue a nasty year. Let's hope it isn't this one.
team Porty (minus Monica)
Photo, thanks Steph!
Big thanks to the organisers and route setters at Paxton. It was filthy weather just about all day and must have been pretty horrible to marshal. Thanks to all who helped out and had the results up quickly.