Off to Gala for the series finale.
Sporadic. That would be the word to best describe my running of late. One week, keen as mustard and out and about, never mind the weather, 30 milers and all. The next, huddled indoors drinking red wine and making a mewling noise. And after a poor run at Paxton I was anxious to see if I could do better and put that one behind me. For Gala, Stewart (Mr. Whittle according to the announcer) had reached first place with 4 wins in my age group and nothing would change that. However they hadn't published interim results and I hadn't worked out whether 2nd and 3rd had been decided. I felt I was on for second but couldn't rely on it given my legs were pretty trashed from the C5 the day before.
Weather was mixed on the drive there but the sun came out while we warmed up.
Mary didn't take her jacket off till she was warm.
Now what is that snow sculpture being made....
I remembered the route clearly from previous years. After a circuit round the woods over duckboards and alongside a stream, we headed out the back and over a stile and round some fields climbing all the way. Then back down the other side through some more woods with "obstacles" before a sprint to the line. My legs were just about unwound from the C5 by the time we gathered at the start line. We were just about to set off and I noticed the Porties had all stripped down to vests. I hurriedly did the same, removing the Helly long sleeved top and tying it in a tree. I was still putting my gloves on when the gun went. We all shot off and I kept Michael G in my sights as we went round the woody circuit. Adam F (my main age group rival) drifted past early on and stayed 30 yards ahead with Michael. I was breathing hard and felt I was giving it near-to-max already. And we still had the hills to come.
Top marks to the Gilmores who did very well at the C5 and finished 2nd and 3rd here. Well done to all who did both races at the weekend, although youngsters seem to recover more quickly.
"thanks" Danielle for this photo: second time past on the way to the hill section. There was a third photo as well but by the time I was approaching the finish I looked too distraught to post here!
I was glad I'd taken off a layer and never felt cold once. Michael and Adam were increasing their lead and I felt I might have to settle for a long way behind. Then as we continued I realised I hadn't seen Mr Whittle. It dawned on me that if I coasted and Adam got points for 1st I might be bounced from 2nd 50 to 3rd. I kind of swithered between "oh well, maybe if I hadn't raced yesterday..." and "MUST TRY HARDER." Only I was going flat out already. As the trail rose we approached a fence and stile and I made a dim move by climbing up and down the 5 steps either side while the runner just behind jumped the fence overtaking me. He also looked about my age group. Cursing myself for not paying attention I took the place back and forged on through the stream crossing and up into the white snowy fields. I could see Michael pulling away from Adam and I was glad he (MG) was having a good run. Adam was staying about the same 80 yards ahead. There were a couple of younger lads running just ahead and behind and I did my best to keep the pace going. I was relieved when we crested the last round top and headed downwards. One of the Bellas saying how he saw me suddenly pull away.
I enjoyed the descents on soft snow and noticed I was making ground on Adam. We had a couple corners and the ground climbed briefly before a descent to a wall where I climbed the stile just a couple of steps behind him. When I went past on the steep climb through the trees he said "well done Peter" which was very sporting. I was glad of the grippyness of the Fellcross as the mud and pine needles gave little traction and you could see where studs had scoured the dirt. While it gave me a boost to overtake Adam I now had to sustain the lead to the end and I knew there were a couple of hazards on the way. After a climb we took a striding path down to a turn and a run along to where we dodged through the trees and jumped down a steep ditch 2 steps through a stream. Then we skated and swam through dangerously deep mud before emerging out onto a path. I listened to the gaps between marshal's applause to gauge the distance of the next runner chasing me while trying to lift the pace and sprint to the line. It took an age but I crossed first 50 and utterly spent.
Dr Neil photobombing from behind, took the next photo, below.
Michael had had a great run and enjoyed some revenge for the C5, nearly catching David L. Joys of youth and speedy recovery! Everyone came in mudsplattered but happy - an excellent course in superb wintery conditions. I waited for Mary knowing she wouldn't be setting any records on the back of the C5 and was glad to see her arrive in style. I spoke to Danielle and Greig who is getting back to form after a long bout of illness. His Borders results reflect this going from 6th in his age group to first.
Gav had taken a dive and done several strokes before getting out of the mud after the stream crossing.
The snow wasn't finished for the day either.
We went along to the centre where they were doing the food and prizes. Long queues for series medal (nice to see the Pride ribbons) and soup. The soup was totally FABULOUS and well worth the wait. I knew there would be time to spare so found a toilet with a shower in it. Gav was there scraping and showering off the mud and trying to dry himself in a Dyson Airblade. There were only about 3 of us who thought to have a shower so plenty warm water and no queuing.
Sure enough I did get 2nd 50 trophy. But I also got a boost to know that Paxton was behind me and that it didn't necessarily mark the beginning of the end, the inevitable slide down the slippery slope to permanent decline and age related decrepitude. Must get some consistent training in before the nationals at the end of the month although I think it might be too late to do much about that. I have a feeling that this weekend's doubler - Foxtrail vs Devilla will be more than a little testing, and I may not make both.
Many thanks to all the folk involved in the Borders XC series. All the marshals, the route setters, the results folk and caterers, who combine to put on an excellent series of races. I hope to be back next year.