Sunday 20 February 2011

Scottish National Cross Country

Results | Startlist | Activity on Garmin Connect

There is something quite disconcerting about standing on a startline with 450+ runners, and knowing what on earth sort of pace you should start with.

I tried to ease gently and not get too excited on the first lap. My pre-race plan had been to try for laps of just under 15 minutes each, and in fact the first lap was pretty much bang on 15:00. This seemed OK given that the course was pretty muddy and heavy. I don't remember much about the 2nd lap other than getting passed by Mark Johnston and trying to follow him around the golf course, but the gap getting bigger and bigger.

I think I must have been slowing up badly towards the end of the 2nd lap, since I suddenly had company at the start of the 3rd lap from David Wright and Greig Glendinning, shortly followed by Marco Consani. I tried to go with Marco but he was too strong, and instead I tagged along with Dave Eiser for the middle chunk of the final lap. I was probably running too slowly since I suddenly became aware of Paul Thompson right on my heels, which gave me enough of a fright to dash up the grassy slope 3/4 of the way around the loop, and then really start running the final kilometre.

I thought that once I started pressing the final 3.5 minutes, I could hold off any challenges, but I could sense attacks from behind, so had to keep surging and re-surging until the desperately slippery corner into the final straight and with shoes caked in mud you have to give it all you have left for the final 200 metres. This involved 32 seconds of acceleration with the fibres in my hamstrings popping one by one. I knew that Paul was right on my tail and would be doing everything to pip me on the line, so I couldn't be taking any chances, but my right hamstring was really not happy about this. With 20 metres to go I passed Sean Gaffney of Inverclyde and was barreling down on Ben Mitchell of Lasswade, but just pulled out of the challenge with my hamstring about to explode, which was enough to allow Will Hensman to edge me on the line by less than the width of a vest.

Looking at the results afterwards, I couldn't quite understand how Mark and Marco had ended up in positions 86 and 90 respectively. They must have torn through 20 places in the final lap.

I was a little disappointed to finish 111th and miss out on a Top 100 spot, but with Jeff Farqhuar 101st and Allan Fotheringham 102nd, this shows just how tough it is to make the top 100 at the Scottish Nationals.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Carnethy 5 Hill Race

Results | Route on Garmin Connect

Not one of my better runs. My past 2 Carnethys had both been 56 minutes something, so I was kind of assuming I would get under the hour without trying too hard. However I think the routes up the first hill and off the last hill went through more heather than previously, plus the ground was pretty soft, plus I've done no hill running in ages, so in fact I missed the hour and did 1:00:57.

It probably didn't help much that I'd done a 14 mile tempo run the previous afternoon, and that I ran the 5km to the start of the race.

I started as slowly as possible and immediately found myself way down the field as folk sprinted off through the bog. I picked my way around the edge of the field over the opening 600 metres to the gate, and was probably in about 15th position as I went through the gate with Mark Harris and Al Hart. The pace seemed incredibly pedestrian compared with cross country, until I hit the climb up Scald Law, and suddenly remembered I hadn't done any hill racing in ages.

The climb was therefore a constant procession of people overtaking, until I topped out at the summit of Scald Law one place ahead of Steven Fallon. Steven promptly overtook me, and then I re-overtook on the way to South Black. On the way to West Kip I was caught by Des Crowe. And then coming off West Kip I was caught by Clare Whitehead. I rallied a bit on the descent to The Howe and caught and passed Steven Fallon and Clare before the climb to the gully.

I made my last effort to run into the gully before my legs gave up altogther. I then lost around 10 or 15 places on the climb to Carnethy as I realised my legs were powerless at running uphill.

By the time the descent arrived, I'd lost interest in the race, and just stumbled slowly through the rough unrunnable heather arriving back at the gate just as Adrian Davis and Adam Ward hurtled past. I looked at my watch knowing that a bare minute of 2 minutes would be needed to get to the end, and saw the time was 58:40, so I knew there was no possibility of breaking the hour.

I managed to nip back in front of Adam and Adrian before the finish, who both ran as badly as myself. It was a bit of a shock to the system to realise that my legs don't work on hills, but a useful reminder that I might need to incorporate some hill running into my training.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Greenock 5-mile Road Race

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

I thought this Greenock 5-mile Road Race looked like the ideal opportunity to set a 5-mile PB and finally get under 28 minutes. The route is flat as a pancake, and there was virtually no trace of wind. The only the problem was my legs were still pretty sore from yesterday's cross country, so I wasn't sure if I could last the distance.

I tried to set out reasonably conservatively around the initial laps of Battery Park, and sat in behind the Bellahouston trio of Russell Whittington, Greig Glendinning and Nick Reid as we left the park for the esplanade. Once we hit the promenade I could never quite get back up to Russell and Greig, but still tried to keep pace with Nick. This worked until the halfway point, but on the run back I could see the Bella guys were winding it up, or else I was fading.

Just before returning to the park I caught up with an Inverclyde guy and 2 young runners from Giffnock, but once in the park they all took off and I had no response. I could sense my target time was slipping away and put in a good effort on the final half lap of the park, but it was too little too late and I clocked 28:07 for 20th position.

Fairly annoying to miss my PB by 4 seconds, but I guess I shouldn't have expected much more after racing yesterday.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Scottish Masters Cross Country

Results | Activity on Garmin Connect

A quite different type of course compared with Irvine Moor and Callendar Park. This was more like what you might call "real cross country", ie. seriously muddy and quite hilly.

My primary goal was to see if I could finish 3rd in the M45 category. I noticed before the race that Robert Quinn and Andy Little were both in attendance who are both M45, and way faster than me, so my only chance was to try to track the 3rd M45 whoever that might be.

I set off fast but not too fast and found myself in about 10th position on the first smaller lap. At this point I knew I was in 3rd place, and was also ahead of Jeff Farquhar, but wasn't sure how long I could keep this going. On the 2nd lap climbing the stony track I got passed by Raymond Jaffray of Teviotdale sporting a number "45" on his back, so I knew I had to start working now. But I also got caught by Alan Derrick, Jeff Farquhar, and as soon as we were into the muddy field John Bell went past as well, so I felt like I was going backwards. I tried to rally and go after John, but the footing was so slippery and muddy it was hard to generate any pace.

There was a tussocky field to cross, and short section of tree roots before hitting a dis-used railway line where at last you could start running properly. I made the mistake of glimpsing behind me and realised there were runners right on my heels, so I tried to keep pressing. Ian Johnston of Shettleston had several attempts at getting past before finally pulling ahead, but as soon as we hit as small descent dropping off the railway embankment I released the brakes and flew past Ian and also caught John Bell.

I couldn't believe it but John actually had enough breath to start chatting to me about what a good course it was, whilst I was struggling to breathe, and focussing on the possibility of catching Jeff Farqhar who was one place ahead.

I couldn't quite get back ahead of John despite him walking up the steep banking before the tussocky field. I felt a bit sick after running up the steep hill, and then had to keep surging again and again to stop Ian Johnston from getting past.

There was a confusing junction coming up, where I wasn't quite sure if we had to run down the field or blast down the road. I maybe hesitated a fraction waiting for some instruction, and at this point an unknown Perth Road Runner (David Knight) suddenly appeared on my shoulder and nipped in front. I managed to batter down the road slightly faster, but once we turned into the field for the final run in I felt wrecked, and David got back in front.

I didn't actually have any idea how far it was to the finish, but there was still a full 1.1km to go down a really soggy muddy track. I just about managed 3:30/km but it was hard work all the way, and I felt sure I would drop more places if anyone was chasing me down.

With about 200 metres to go Andrew Ronald of Falkirk eventually passed and I pretty much gave up, but suddenly with about 80 metres to go I thought I might as well muster a sprint finish through a complete quagmire. My right hamstring was getting tighter and tighter, but I just managed to jump back in front of Andrew before my hamstring packed up.

So the end result was 5th M45 and 17th place overall. I didn't manage to beat Jeff this time, but I was a good bit nearer to John Bell than I've been before, plus I managed to stay ahead of Ian Johnston for the first time.

Angela Mudge won the women's race after a close battle with Melissa Whyte.