By Ali Wyllie
It is no secret that I love the Foxtrail series. Infact, I have been referred to as a Foxtrail groupie before. I have raced in these races from their initial inception. Originally they were the Tri Trail series, which were launched in 2012, they operated for 2 years and with the closure of the Tri Centre and Stuart McInnes emigrating far far away, along came the Foxlake duo; James Barbour & Cal Mark who, together with John Whittaker, set up what we know today as the Foxtrail series.
The Foxtrail winter running series consists of 6 trail races, ranging in distance from 10k to half marathon. They are a fantastic way to stay motivated and focused during the cold and dreary winter months.
Trail running provides me with the equivalent joy a child experiences splashing around in puddles. I relish undulating, soft and technical terrain. I get a real buzz negotiating trails and working fluidly over the natural landscape. I LOVE trails and the energy I get from them.
I was gutted to miss the first race of the series, so to make up for it, I arrived at Foxlake ready for the night race, embarrassingly early. It gave me the perfect opportunity to say hi to the race crew, check out the most awesome party tent, AKA the start/finish area, complete with DJ and flashing lights and soak in my surroundings. I wandered around with the hairy kidz (Princess Jasper & Zac the Dickhead) and took in the setting, which was pretty spectacular.
I must admit, I am prone to suffering from pre-race nerves. Particularly races I have a history of doing ok in. To date, I have always podiumed at the Tri Trail/Foxtrail races, which simply means I put alot of pressure on myself to continue to strive for a podium place. But the field is getting bigger and bigger and the racers are getting fitter, stronger and tougher and I fear my days of podium finishes are numbered. My primary purpose for each and every race is to enjoy myself and then I concentrate on running like a bad ass bitch. If I get a podium place then that is a wee bonus.
As the other racers started to arrive - at a more normal arrival time than myself - the excitement and slight trepidation on site became palpable. The trail running scene is full of hardcore, outdoorsy, warrior types who live life to the max and thrive on adrenaline. This collection of excited trail runners created a real buzz. I challenge anyone to find the same kind of vibe at a road race.
The race had a saltire theme to celebrate St Andrews day, it was pretty cool seeing the blue and white facepaint and Scottish clothing decorating the sea of racers. To the man in the saltire morph suit - I salute you!
This was my first race with my training group; Race Fitness. It was fantastic to see at least 13 of us there from Race Fitness, all pawing at the ground and ready to put our training to good use. Race Fitness is led by Kieron Ross and is comprised of outdoor fitness sessions in Edinburgh, they take place every weekday evening, with outdoor fitness weekends on the horizon. Race Fitness is an outdoor fitness company suited to motivated people who want to improve. It's always challenging but fun and a great way to meet like minded people
Fitness Soul led a fabulously entertaining warm up to The Proclaimers "I'm Gonna Be (500 miles)", unfortunately during this, I had to sneak off for my usual last minute nervous pee, this almost ended in a DNS as I lost my head torch batteries and had to feel around the ground in the pitch black to find them, only to return to the starting tent with seconds to go before the start, oopsie.
Max Rae, all 10 years of him, piped us expertly over the start line. As my legs rotated I felt myself getting carried along with the fast guys. What a daft thing for me to do, trying to keep up! Who did I think I was? It didn't help that I had left my trustee race watch at home so I had no idea of my pace or time, which I guess is sometimes a good thing.
So I bolted out of the starting tent, through the car park and hit the first fun trail section; lit up with funky lighting. I bounced along the winding trails until I hit the road where I slowed right down. BAH! I don't like road and actually, I don't like 10k as a distance, it is my nemesis. At this point I knew I was first lady but despite being 1k in I also knew I was blowing out my arse and feared this was a sign of things to come for the whole race. The lovely and bubbly Nicola Duncan breezed past me with her signature shorts and perfect pins. She was side by side with Sharon Bird who later went on to storm the race to take 1st place for the ladies. I encouraged the ladies on and considered trying to run with them but that simply was not an option, I knew I needed at least another 3 miles in my legs to find my zone, which is not ideal when the race is only 6 miles!
I continued working, focusing on forward momentum. My legs felt heavy and alien and my body simply wasn't working fluidly. My breathing was laboured and the hard icy ground was unforgiving. This wasn't how it was meant to be. Where was my feeling of splashing around puddles?
The race entailed 2 loops, at the road section of the second loop, I could hear female breathing coming from behind me, it got closer and closer until BOOM - she overtook. Ashley Glen sailed past me as if she was drifting through the air. She looked light and effortless and was completely composed. Comparatively, I was breathing out my arse, had snot dripping down my face and my eyes were streaming as they tend to do in races. It is fair to say I am not an elegant runner.
Initially, I was passive and accepting, I knew Ashley had run into 3rd place putting me into 4th. I accepted it and continued to run, but predictably my internal fighting dialogue commenced. My angel told me to relax, enjoy my run and not worry about a podium. The devil in me swore at the angel and told me to get a shift on and stop being so pathetic and weak. So I pushed on and over the next 2k Ashley and I yo yo'd positions with my strength coming to light on the more technical and uneven terrain and her speed picking up over good going terrain.
Just 1k from the finish things got interesting for the ladies. Ashley and I had caught up with Nicola. I train with Nicola and I knew this was her first race in years due to a horrible series of injuries. This lassie is a phenomenal runner, but she isn't at her peak at the moment. As we entered the final single track trail; the home straight, Ashley led our stampede followed by Nicola and then me. An unfortunate foot placement caused Nicola to trip slightly, I checked she was ok and then pushed on past her.
I was on trail, I was finally running in my zone and I was feeling happy. I pushed on until I was beside the lake and with 200 meters to go I took off like a startled deer, passing Ashley and urging my legs to rotate as fast as possible to carry me home to 2nd place. The Race Fitness classes proved their worth as the strength in my legs propelled me home to a 2nd place finish, only 4 seconds in front of Ashley and 26 seconds in front of Nicola.
I came home in a time of 42.28.2, which I could have predicted at the start. No matter how fit or unfit I am I always get 42 minutes for a 10k. This is the cause of much frustration and as I have said before 10k is my true nemesis. Full results can be found here.
By the time I got in 9 guys and the winning female were already home. Making me 11th! This is a bone of contention with me, I would love a top 10 over all finish but it seems to elusively escape me - just! I learnt Kieron had scooped 3rd male and Tim was also home in a speedie time. I watched as runners came through, smiling and exhilarated. One by one I counted the Race Fitness crew in, it was awesome to see them all finish in the first half of all the racers.
I was reunited with my hairy kidz (the wonderful Jane Irvine had looked after them for me) and I lingered about chatting with friends old and new and revelling in my post race high.
That was one tough race and kudos to everyone who completed it. Full respect to all those who went through the ice/water section. I have no shame in admitting I avoided that section like the plague.
Awesome event as usual guys. It's great to see Improve My Running as sponsors as I have benefited hugely from Matt's expertise on running form. Huge thanks to Bob Marshall Sports Photography for bearing the elements to allow us to enjoy his superb photos.
See you all at the next one! Happy Trails :-)