by Ali Wyllie
It’s such a busy time of year and whilst I pride myself on spinning a silly number of plates, I have dropped a few recently in terms of my blog writing. On a positive, this blog will cover race 2 and 3 of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series as well as the Nocturnal Ultra Marathon.
The 1st of December 2017 saw the return of the 10k night run at Foxlake. This date clashed with my work Christmas party. Despite being a bit of a party animal, I opted for the race.
Given I was doing the night time 10k as well as the Nocturnal Ultra Marathon the next evening, I set myself some strict goals. For the 10k – I wanted to take it relatively steady and finish in about 45 minutes, still feeling fresh and strong. For the ultra – which was simply as many loops of a 5k route as you could do in 6 hours – my goal was to achieve 40 miles.
I conquered my goals!
Due to my modest goal for the 10k, this took away all the pressure I normally put on myself, and instead of pre-race nerves, I was actually excited. As I swanned around the race HQ catching up with friends, I was able to properly chat and enjoy my giddiness, instead of feeling distracted by my nerves – which is normally the case.
The 10k route was 2 loops of the 5k race route. The marquee was set up as a proper party tent and just before we started, Abbie from Project Awesome led us through an energising, silly and fun warm-up – the kind of warm-up that actually gives you the giggles.
It’s amazing how different I feel during a race when I take away all the pressure. I felt like I was breezing along. I was enjoying my run, enjoying the trails and loving the funky lit woodland, which created a really amazing vibe, on a pretty warm winter evening.
I passed Claire Hopkins and didn’t realise I was in a podium place, let alone – running into 2nd. I was all set to fall off the podium for this race, as I needed to preserve the legs for the ultra.
I pulled across the finish line to a HUGE hug from Nicola Duncan – one of my favourite training buddies. She had OBVIOUSLY won (she is a complete machine), I asked if I was 4th and she looked at me as if I was a daftie and told me I was 2nd. My dear friend and regular training partner Cath Dolliver came in 4th and achieved a PB! What a result - so delighted for her!
I love hearing other people’s running stories. Everyone has a story to tell and reasons as to how and why they started running and what motivates them. I picked on Caroline Stevenson and asked her a few nosey questions. This is what I learnt.
Caroline randomly entered the Edinburgh marathon in 2006 and has been running ever since! She has raced 3 of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series races. She loves everything about the series, from the impeccable organisation to the smiley, happy marshals. Her running has slotted in, in and around pregnancy and children and her 2017 highlight was completing the Berlin marathon in 4.24, following only 7 training runs! Mentally it was her strongest race with no “I can’t do this” moments - "I loved every stride and the prosecco tasted even better at the end when I found out my running bud and general mummy running machine, Emma (as featured later on), smashed it in a PB of 3.30."
Caroline's 2018 goal is a sub-4 marathon! GO GIRL!
I LOVE music, so I always ask people about their favourite running tunes. Caroline was still answering this question 24 hours later - think of Bubba from Forrest Gump when he talks about all the different ways to cook shrimp and you have a pretty good idea of Caroline's response. She settled for Gabrielle Climi with "On a mission" - I'm off to listen to this, not sure I've heard of it.
Caroline leads a crazily busy life with 2 young children and full-time work. Running is her chill out time - or her silly time if she is running with Emma - then it’s time to have a major gossip and catch up! Caroline told me that "a good buddy definitely makes the miles pass quicker and Emma’s speed and general determination and grit definitely inspires me!" I definitely agree with Caroline, our running friends are invaluable.
A special mention to Owain Williams who was racing the night time 10k on his birthday! Full results from the night time 10k can be found here.
The next again night, was like groundhog day. The race HQ was even bigger and better with a few more sponsors on site (Active Root as well as Improve my Running – who had been there the previous night), plus there was the RAVE BARN en route.
I rarely get nervous for ultras as you have so much time that anything can happen out there, and for this one, given I hadn’t run more than 26 miles recently, I was fully aware it was going to be a test of my current fitness as well as my mental strength, to drag me round the loops.
One of my regular training routes takes me round and round and round a 1 mile loop (it means the d*ckhead dog can join me and Princess dog), so I am fairly used to running round and round and round. The thought of the loops somehow did not bother me, although I had never raced loops before. However, I appreciate that for some this route was the devil himself.
Many people chose to race in a relay team, which meant there were great numbers on site and a really excited buzz. There were people in it to win it and people in fancy dress looking to enjoy it – and everything in between. Racing is such a personal thing, with goals and ambitions differing dramatically and in my opinion there is no right or wrong way to race as long as each individual is being true to themselves and achieving their goal – no matter what that may be!
My game plan was set – 40 miles! Arrogantly, I thought this was pretty achievable, but let me tell you – it got tougher as the night progressed and at one point I thought my goal had escaped me.
I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this race. The first half of every loop was brilliant for morale and due to the number of people at the HQ, the cheers and encouragement was hugely energising. Then on through the enchanted, magically lit woodland, under ZipTrail – the new rope course – (which have officially been named Zippy, Bungle and George – at my very own suggestion) through the rave barn – and then onwards into darkness...... silence and solitude.
I found the second half of each loop tough. They were cold and isolated with no funky music or lights, no people to energise me and just an cold headwind, jeering at me. This is when my dark thoughts spoke to me and I had to use positive self-talk to power me along. It was in this section that I ran past Noel Finegan, I was struggling a bit myself and I could barely muster much chat other than trying to spur him on and encourage him to take on board some fuel at HQ. But at this point, I had to keep my head down and my legs turning in a robotic fashion as morale was low. Sorry Noel - I wasn't being rude.
On the whole I managed to stay positive. I stopped off a few times at the HQ to change head torches, fuel up on Active Root or simply to hand over a Foxy Trail Runners t-shirt to the crazily fun Phil Cunningham, who was there supporting.
It always gave me such a lift to see so many familiar faces and know they are rooting for me. At one low point, I admitted I was struggling a wee bit, I was met with the question of “what would you rather be doing on a Saturday night”, without thinking I simply retorted “having sex and taking drugs” …… hmmmmmmm please note I do not condone taking drugs …. don’t do drugs! Drugs are bad.
So my loops continued from 4pm until 10pm, I ran with so many friends and I ran past and was passed by lots of incredible people. I simply loved how friendly and supportive all my fellow racers were. A special mention to Jeni Rees-Jenkins and Sharon Hassan who are simply bonkers in the most bonkers way possible. Check out their Facebook blog; Ballet Club for the Gifted Runner …… if that doesn’t have you giggling, nothing will!
I was on my 13th lap when I clocked the fireworks in the sky indicating 10pm – the end of the race - and just as I felt the tears well up with sheer emotion, my watch buzzed, alerting me to the fact I had completed 40 miles. Delighted is an understatement. I had a goal and I had achieved it by the skin of my teeth and not only that – this goal had put me in 2nd place! Behind my running guru and shoe twin – Nicola Duncan - of course!
What a relief to finish, but what an elation as welll! And not only that - but I was giddy with the fact that Nicola and I were the only 2 females to have completed both the 10k night run and the nocturnal ultra AND we have both placed 1st and 2nd both nights.
Saturday 16th December 2017 saw us back at Foxlake for the 16k. Historically this is one of my favourite routes, it has a bit of everything! A decorated Christmas tree en-route, fun single track, twisty trails and beach. Although that said, the beach section is extremely tough and can cause havoc with my achilles.
I was full of snotters and sneezes and weighed up whether or not I should race, but ultimately I knew that worst case scenario I could pull out if needed. I loved the start of the beach. I felt great and the sand was fairly hard packed. But by the time I got to the ‘bridge to no where’ I didn’t want to see another particle of sand again in my life! I could feel a twinge in my calf and I knew I had aggravated my achilles – but I pressed on.
All in all I had a good run, a few minutes slower than last year, but I still managed to scoop 3rd place, behind my running guru Nicola in first place (obviously) and Megan Wright in 2nd place. I was followed closely by Emma Peveril.
I picked on Emma Peveril after the 16k race and asked if I could include her pic in this blog, I also learnt a few things about Emma following my wee interrogation.
Emma has been running for over 10 years. She caught the bug at uni, when she signed up for a half marathon “for fun” and has not looked back since. This is her 2nd FoxTrail Winter Running Series, she has fallen in love with the friendliness and community feel of the events. I loved hearing that her running highlight of 2017 is simply being able to run, following the birth of her beautiful baby in January. It would appear we all need to have a baby to speed up - Emma has run faster and achieved PBs at both half marathon and marathon distance this year (3:30 at Berlin in September). Looking on to 2018 her running goal is to complete the Highland Fling Race in April in under 10 hours. I have no doubt she will smash this!
Emma's favourite running tune is a cracker - Bastille by Pompeii, LOVE IT! I asked her what motivates her and she said "we are spoilt with some fantastic scenery in Scotland and in Edinburgh so that inspires me to get out and run". We all have our favourite crazy running friends, Emma continued to tell me about her running inspirations and referred to Caroline Stevenson - as featured above " Also having Caz as a running companion is great as she inspires me, being a mum of two and is super speedy this year." Finally, and beautifully she told me that her little girl is on her mind during each run and race and she looks forward to seeing her face after each race.
Well, that is all folks, thank you for reading. The usual big thanks to all the organisers, specifically James, Cal, John, Mandy and Kate and the marshals, sponsors and supporters of the FoxTrail Winter Running Series, see you at the next one at Balgone Estate on 20th January 2018.
RUNNING TOURS THROUGHOUT SCOTLAND | KEEP FIT AND SEE THE SIGHTS | HAVE FUN, RUN AND CREATE NEW MEMORIES