by Ali Wyllie
I would like to say my race prep for the Foxtrail 10k at Balgone Estate was textbook and sensible. However, the reality is - I'm rather embarrassed to say - I was horrendously hungover and only just made the start of the race. Somehow it seemed like a good idea the night before the race to go out and consume half my body weight in wine, beer and porn star martini cocktails! When my alarm rudely interrupted my slumber on race day the temptation to press snooze and be a no show was greater than I care to admit. I reluctantly dragged myself out of bed, out of sheer stubbornness - I was not going to be beaten by a hangover! I will admit there were a few choice words muttered, but I was also extremely grateful to my organised self for laying out all my race stuff prior to heading out for the night, and for packing my race bag, so really I was all set and did not have any excuses. I was proud of myself getting up and quickly notched up the score - me 1 - hangover 0.
So despite my rather unorthodox race prep evening, I still managed to keep to my usual routine and be the keen bean parked up first in the events field. I love arriving early for races as I have outlined in previous blogs, and this race was no different. It simply means I don't have to queue for registration or toilets. I can sort out my own hairy kidz in a relaxed manner and I can warm myself up and still have time to mingle and chat. At this point I was feeling somewhat smug, me 2 - hangover 0.
The Foxtrail Winter Series has created a great loyal following. It was fabulous to see familiar faces as racers started to arrive at what turned out to be Foxtrail's biggest event so far with a phenomenal 300 entries. It is such a friendly series and there is a real buzz at the start of these races, they attract a down to earth crowd who just want to get out onto good trails and RUN! I feel there is a warm and cuddly Foxtrail family growing around me and I am delighted to be part of it. It was fabby to grab a quick chat to the wonderful Fitness Soul team whilst I was loitering around, Leszek and Joanna are simply bursting with energy and enthusiasm. Of course I have to mention the adorable 3 cuties I chatted to as they stood in the registration queue, clinging onto their mum; Sarah Horsburgh of the Life and Lifting Blog. Full respect to you Sarah - I can barely get myself and the hairies ready and out the door, let alone have to consider 3 mini people as well. All you parents out there, who manage to balance running and parenthood - you are amazing and I salute you - that is all!
I must say the venue was pretty cool. Having the registration/start/podium in a large grain barn worked really well and added to the rustic and down to earth feel of the race, although that said the external heaters were very very welcome!
I can not even begin to outline how perfect the weather was. Cold and crisp with bright sunshine. The air was perfectly still and the sky was crystal clear. It was one of those mornings you just have to get outside and hit the trails and feel the cold air hit your lungs. As perfect as these conditions are for running, it can be difficult to get race clothing right. I must have still had my alcohol jacket on and decided it was a good idea to race in a vest and sleeves. As it turns out though, I made the right decision as my temperature was perfect throughout the race. Ha ha ha me 3 - hangover 0.
I love to canicross with my dogs, however I also enjoy to challenge myself and run without the dogs. The wonderful thing about the Foxtrail series is that they allow canicrossers. I managed to pimp the hairy kidz off to friends. Princess Jasper was scooped up by her number 1 fan; Jane Irvine. They run and race together regularly and have a wonderful connection, I love seeing them together, revelling in each others company.
Lee Preston very kindly and bravely took Zac for me, Zac is not an easy dog and his affectionate nickname; Dickhead, sums him up in a nutshell, although really he is just misunderstood. He is the underdog, he had a horrible start to life and has a few physical issues, but he lives to run. It is a joy to watch Zac Attack in action, we could all learn a thing or two from his determination and focus.
I watched as Joanna from Fitness Soul led the warm up for the 5k race, and cheered loudly as they all burst away from the start line and disappeared down the trail into the frosty glow. At this point, it crossed my mind that given my physical and mental ailments (self-inflicted), I should have asked to do the 5k instead, however I quickly told myself off for being weak, I had signed up for the 10k and I was bloomin well going to do the 10k if it killed me! But at this stage - this is exactly what I was afraid of - DEATH! hmmmm me 3 - hangover 1.
Again, Fitness Soul led the warm up for the 10k racers, as I tried to follow the routine I realised how uncoordinated I was being, normally I am ok at dynamic warm-ups, but I was all over the shop. This certainly was not boding well for a 10k race! I feared I was in trouble - big trouble. We were given a few minutes before the gun. I arrogantly pawed my way to the front along with the fast guys. Why do I do such stupid things? And that day of all days! When will I learn? I looked around me and gave big "good luck" smiles to friends from Cani-Sports Edinburgh and the amazing show of ladies from Race Fitness. Kieron the boss of Race Fitness was at the front, as was Owain Williams of the Running Beside Me blog I wished them both good luck and got ready to switch my timer on. All of a sudden we were off - 2 ladies shot ahead - including Joanna Brown who ended up running to a strong 2nd place finish.
I was surprised to pass Kieron, but sadly I could not be smug about this as he was wearing his kilt and was running with a dodgy hamstring. As I past him he inferred his bouncing sporran was not the most comfortable of garments to run in, despite our gender difference, I didn't miss what he was on about - ouch! I made a mental choice then and there, I decided that this hangover could go to hell and for the duration of this race I was going to feel hell, and I sure as hell was going to run like hell and slap this hangover in the face for trying to debilitate me and send me to hell. So I ignored the churning stomach, ran tall, drove my legs and arms forward to take the ladies lead position within the first few hundred meters. Physically I was broken, but I drew upon my mental strength and endured 44 minutes of abuse from myself - and believe you me - no one wants to see inside my brain - that race was an ugly mess of mental torture!
After an initial long and wide farm track, the route soon took us into woodland, where the trails got muddier and with the mud the fun started. We flanked a small fishing loch, decorated with swans and set picturesquely amidst the woodland. It was simply stunning. The trails began twisting and turning and the undulations started. I certainly was not bouncing along, but I was making good forward progress, despite the washing machine action of my stomach and the little children hammering on my skull.
The sun made the trail light up in a glow of colours. By this point I was alone on the trail, I could barely see the guys up ahead and Kieron was too far behind me to engage in conversation. I was alone, just me, my thoughts and the trail - to be honest - this is just how I like it. I heard a rustle and looked up to get eye contact with 2 small roe deer who fled in an awkward panic as soon as I drew even with them. Humph - I'm not that scary am I?
Tree routes rose out of the ground, threatening - luckily unsuccessfully - to trip me up. I darted from foot to foot and paid close attention to the trail up ahead. I trudged through a sea of dried leaves and skimmed the surface of frozen muddy puddles. This is what life is about!
And then came the rollar coaster section. Oh wow, this was simply amazing. Single track trail with twists and turns that a mountain biker would enjoy. I giggled my way along, bouncing down and up and right and left, I felt connected with the trail and for a moment Mr Hangover disappeared. From here there was a section from hell, which fitted well with my living hell. Energy sapping, potted grass verges on the side of large arable fields. No matter how much energy I mustered up to run along here I felt I was making next to no progress and my watch told me I was practically standing still.
As I took advantage of a slight downhill I heard a bellow behind me "GO ALI WYLLIE", a small left hand shoulder check confirmed that Lee and Zac were fast approaching. By the 7.5k mark, Lee and Zac had caught up with me. I could barely speak and I felt incredibly rude not being able to chat with Lee and spur on Zac Attack. Zac was in the zone, he barely acknowledged me and continued to try and run past me. Lee and I ran in close proximity for the rest of the race.
As I climbed the penultimate grassy hill I risked a quick check behind me. I could see Joanna Brown making great progress not too far away from me. If I continued to run pathetically and she grew in strength, I was waving goodbye to 1st place. With this in mind I drew upon my reserves and pulled my finger out for the final kilometer. The steep downhill was awesome and allowed me to build up momentum to power up and down the final set of grassy undulations.
I had almost lost the will to live as I ran up the home straight through the race banners and flags. Lee and Zac drew even with me and powered on to overtake me. I was proud as punch to learn that Zac led Lee to a PB, canicross is classed as assisted running and certainly isn't comparable to running without a dog, although it brings with it a different set of challenges.
I finally turned the corner to see the finish sign about 10 meters ahead of me. I normally have a powerful sprint finish, but I was done in. I even stopped a few meters before the finish line and just walked in - almost too cool for school. I've no shame in admitting that was one hell of a tough race given my condition. James was at the finish, he was clearly laughing at my obvious suffering and gave me a big hug of congratulations. I could not help but feel totally bewildered and amused at my 1st place. I am an exception to the rule book - I am faster over trails than I am on the road, but this race I finished in a time of 44:54 - my slowest ever 10k. It still brought me home 9th overall, which made me extremely happy! Full results can be found here.
I grabbed a black coffee and cheered other racers in, enjoying my favourite part of these races - when everyone is relaxed and happy with a post race glow and full of smiles and endorphins and are eagerly chatting about the trails. It was amazing to learn that my good friend in life and training Cath Dolliver came in with an incredible PB only 2 minutes behind me, to bring her home 4th lady. Cath will absolutely beat me very soon, my days are numbered. Cath - I'm so glad you remembered your trainers this time :-). Fastest male went to Owain Williams in a time of 40:11, Owain has podiumed every race so far and I imagine will be set to take the male series prize.
The original plan was to run an extra 10 miles after the race for my ultra training. There was no danger this was going to happen, however as a punishment to myself I still made myself go out for an extra 4 miles. This feat was made easier given I was joined by 4 other wonderful ladies (Sam, Chiara, Cath and Jasper) and one other wonderful bloke - Zac.
I think is is fair to say I chewed up and spat out that hangover, although I also think I have learnt my lesson - NEVER AGAIN will I race hungover!
A massive shout out to all the canicrossers who raced at Muiravonside on the Sunday following Foxtrail. You guys are hardcore.
Well, the next Foxtrail race is the half marathon on 11th February 2017 at Harvest Moon, Lochhouses. This is a tough course and I gather it is being made even tougher! Can't wait! See you there :-). Thank you James, Cal, John & Mandy and your never ending long list of epic team members! Another truly amazing event!
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