It was just at the beginning of the year I realised that the Falkirk 8 hour Trail Race would be two weeks after the Tyndrum 12 hour. Oh well, never mind, it will be good training remembering how to run tired and being on a loop there was no pressure to hit cut-offs and the plan was at least 30 miles (8 laps), and a good target would be 35 miles (9 laps).
Going by the photo from the race facebook page of the start line and where the tented village would be on Friday night it was going to be a bit damp and muddy underfoot but ultras rarely get cancelled, just adapted, a lot of time and effort put in by race crew and after a wee adjustment of the route and moving the start over a bit, we were good to go.
|photo from Falkirk 8 hour Trail Race|
I’d registered with no problem when I arrived but I think with the majority of runners trying to sign in at the same time caused a bit of delay, no worries, just an 8.15am kick off instead of 8.00am and problem solved.
Surprisingly it wasn’t raining when we arrived but it started not long after we were set up, I’d start in my big rain jacket and hopefully ditch it as the day progressed. A team photo (sorry Sarah, I think you were in the loo queue when we took it)
First giggle of the day standing on the start line, Paul Kelly said that the shorts over tights combo is called shites, hope I can run better than my apparel then!
I scampered round the first three laps, running more or less all of it, it was a good runnable course on fresh legs before it got churned up. Giggling with Karl as we were sliding about at the side of the pond. Then I caught my toe on a boulder hiding in the mud at the top of the hill in the woods, and did my fastest two yards in the race, luckily my legs caught up with my face and I didn’t have to eat mud. My legs reminding me they covered fifty miles a fortnight ago and weren’t as spritely as I thought. Time to work on energy management, concentrate on picking the best line through the mud, try to avoid any camber that will send my skiting sideways, I was giggling again at the length of skid marks on the slopes, a few were perfecting their best mud surfing techniques. I laughed out loud as Adrian Dingwall careened past me on the down hill like an out of control juggernaut on ice. I used the old ultra adage: If you’re not sure whether to take one or two steps, take three! Fairying about with lots of little steps and no fighting the terrain seemed to work well for me. I was glad I was wearing gaiters and using the bunny lugs method for tying my laces, my shoes stayed secure even though the mud was trying to steal them.
|photo from Sandra Hunter|
The beauty of a timed event on a loop is that if you’re recovering from illness, injury or daft enough to run another ultra a fortnight after a 24 hour race, you can call a halt any time it feels right. I had a few pals do just that! (Yeah, I know, ultra runners being sensible, this breed of athlete is evolving!) After my seventh lap I paused to hug Martin when I saw him wearing a warm coat in the race village and forgot to pick up my custard but not to worry, you know that boggin’ emergency gel that’s about ten years out of date and has lived in a pocket of your backpack for around the same length of time! That did the trick!
|photo from James Day|
10 laps done, 38 miles, I was really pleased with that especially with the conditions and a big race still in my legs from a fortnight ago, but I finished my last big lap with 24 minutes left to go... Can I make the 40 miles? The wee lap has a steep, muddy, hands on thighs climb which gradually levels out, followed by a steep grassy descent onto the flat, turn right and along towards Callendar House, back through the tented village and repeat. Right! I’m going for it! After finishing my first wee lap, I took off my jacket and backpack and hand them to Pauline saying “Haud ma coat, I’m away fur a fight!” I would have laughed if I had breathe to spare, hands on thighs and stomp up the muddy hill, now it’s time to throw caution to the wind and I push the downhill as hard as I can, lengthening my ultra shuffle of a stride, let gravity pull me down and try to keep up!
Back round to the tents, I can hear the encouragement and my name being called, my apologies for not acknowledging you, my eyes are focused in front, arms pumping hard, weary legs following. My Garmin showed 40 miles but these doofers are always a bit rule of thumb and I wouldn’t trust one on a loop, they get dizzy and confused, also you have to take into account that the lap would have been measured to the racing line and not the wide arc I was taking to avoid most of the mud on the bends and deviations going to the loo etc. adds to the discrepancy. Keep pushing, one more lap, keep pushing, one more lap, what time is left? Keep pushing, one more lap, we must be nearly finished, ...once more, hands on thighs and push up the hill...let me get to the bottom of the hill... mild panic...the way I’m pushing down, there’s no way I’d be able stop if the hooter blows! Made it! Can we stop yet? The countdown and hooter! Finally! Yaaay! I poke the wee wooden stake with my number on it into the ground so my partial lap can be measured and added.
|photo from Barry Davie|
I took a short-cut across the grass towards our tent and Ken walked towards me with my jacket, my battle done, no blood was spilled and hoping I was successful. I had to wait until Monday for the official results. Yaaaay, I made it by a slide, finishing with 40.14 miles!
Falkirk 8 hour Ultra Trail Race, I do love a loopy race and this is a cracker, thank you so much, and thank you to all your wonderful volunteers, I can’t have all this fun without you all putting in the hard work. I think I’m due Pauline a favour or two for looking after me again.
Lastly you cannae beat a goody bag with a quality beer in it, (BrewDog), a bespoke medal, long-sleeved-hoody t-shirt, buff scarf and I had to fight my family off when I was home. “This is my Tunnock’s Teacake, I ran 40 miles to get it and I’m no’ sharing!” Value for money or what! (I’m presuming you got the mud and rain for free)
When do entries open for next year?