Tour of Fife.
Stage One. Wed. 29th July Strathmiglo “The Chicken Run” 5 miles
Before the start Pauline and I went for a wee jog to warm up, it was a lovely warm evening and I said I wasn’t sure how to pace this. Pauline said “Go out hard and hang on, you’ll be finished in 45 mins.” What! That’s 9 min mile pace, I can’t remember when I last ran that in a race, hmm… probably last year’s Tour. Ok, its only 5 miles how hard can that be! So set off with the mental image of a Highland Charge in lycra. The wee hill soon made me rein it in a bit; I just couldn’t get the air in fast enough for my legs to go at that rate, settled on an uncomfortable pace and worked to maintain it. As it was an out and back course, I was surprised to see the lead guys coming back so soon, and I thought “Oh does that mean we’ll be turning soon!” Fat chance, they can just hoof it at some speed! I didn’t have breath to shout encouragement to other Harriers like at Lochaber Marathon, I just waved, I’ll take that their eyes bulged further out their sockets as acknowledgement. Pauline shouted at me. “Get a move on!” she later said I looked all smiley and not like I was working hard at all. I beg to differ, it’s not compulsory to look like your Grandad with wind just ‘cause you’re running hard. Checked my time at the turn, 21 minutes, oow, that’s a bit quick, time to hang on then, a few folk went past me but I think it was because they picked it up rather than me slowing down. Back up the wee hill and pushed hard, where’s this field we’ve to finish in. At last, the long down to the finish, big strides down the rutted track, “Don’t fall, don’t fall, don’t fall!” Those inflicted with Garmins said it was a tidgy bit short of 5 miles, 4.9something, close enough for me and sub 9 min pace too. I had a pain under my ribs, (those muscles haven’t been stretched like that in ages) and weirdly my jaw was aching. Pauline wondered if I’d been dragging it on the ground, yeah, probably, sucking all that air in.
Time 41.10mins Position 137
Stage Two. Thurs. 30th July St Andrews “Chariots of Fire” Beach Race 4 miles
It was a sunny evening, a bit breezy but not cold. Pauline and I went for a wee walk before a gentle jog to wake up the legs; they weren’t too bad after last nights shock to the system. I set off with the same tactics as last night, go out hard and hang on. The sand was in good condition, flat, no ripples and quite firm even the soft sand wasn’t as soft as I’ve felt it before maybe due to the heavy showers we’ve had lately. We turned a bit earlier than usual but I never heard anyone complain, it was just a wee bit disappointing not to be able to compare times from previous years. Once back on the hard sand pushed hard but my stomach muscles were rebelling a bit with the breathing but I didn’t listen to them, keep a hard effort, I wasn’t as far behind Gillian and Lesley tonight and tried not to let them stretch it out any further. Enjoyed a wee paddle afterwards, the water was refreshingly cold rather than bone aching, I was impressed with John and Julie swimming though, I went in past my knees but when a wave made my knickers wet that was enough for me.
Time 30.30mins Position 136 Overall 134
Stage Three. Fri. 31st July Up Hell Time Trial, near Glenrothes 2.25km/754ft.climb
The Alpe d'Huez of the Tour!!! One of my favourite stages, I usually do quite well on this one, since my strength makes up for my lack of speed but it’s a totally different tactic to my usual up hill technique, I’m used to whipping a roll out of my backpack to munch on as I walk up! Not tonight! I wore my Tour de France polka dot King of the Mountains top, I didn’t think it would psych out the other runners but maybe give them a laugh! But I was psyched for a good hard effort. All the runners are set off in pairs at 30 second intervals and it can be quite random pairings and not of same ability but the race leaders are usually left ‘til last. Pauline and I were to go off at the same time, someone said “You two better not be chatting all the way up!” Even if I could keep up there is no way I’d have spare breath for conversation!” At this race you park at the top of the hill and walk/jog down to the start, I’d planned just to warm up in my Tour de France top and go down to the start in my vest but it was thick rain, too heavy to call mist but visibility was poor. I wished I’d brought gloves, my hands were numb with cold, never mind they’ll warm up when I start running. Pauline and I had a early start, eleven minutes after the first pair. Count down to start, 15secs, 10secs, 5secs, 3.2.1. Go! I didn’t attempt to stay with Pauline, and as you don’t have your contemporary runners around you can’t compare pace, it’s just you and the hill. Arms pumping kept my legs in rhythm breathing deep and hard, there was plenty encouragement from runners heading down for their start, I couldn’t acknowledge them or even look at them; I just stayed focused on my race. Past halfway, round a bend the hill cranks up another notch, I managed a smile as there was the Devil, but not the wee rotund bearded fella of The Tour de France, this was The Tour de Fife Devil, resplendent in flared red jumpsuit, open neck down to his navel with big medallion, cape, sunglasses and inflatable pitch fork (Elvis still lives and probably in a cave on East Lomond!), he was “encouraging” the runner in front of me, soon it was my turn to be harangued by the pitch fork. I must be getting near the top but can’t see the radio masts in the mist but I could hear the cow bells, whistles and cheers of the hardy supporters near the finish. Pauline had said her mantra for tonight was “Kick it!” Yep, that’s good enough for me too. Where is the finish with its cruel crank up in gradient again. “Kick it! Kick it! Kick it! Whoow! Finished, I bend over with my hands on my knees, sucking in air, I wasn’t going to throw up but the urge was there and my windpipe felt like I’d scrubbed it with a cheese grater! I quickly put on loads of clothes and stood in the wind and rain at the top of the hill shouting at the tremendous efforts of the rest of the runners making their final push to the finish. Time 16.34mins Position 116 Overall 125
Stage Four Sat. 1st Aug. Tentsmuir Forest, near Leuchars “Run Forrest Run” 5 miles
A flat race on forest paths which will favour the speedsters, last night I moved up the overall position by 9 places, I’m going to have to work really hard to try and hang on to it. After a good long warm up my legs felt good, hamstrings a wee bit tight but quads felt fine. The sun was shining; it was going to be hot and humid in the trees. The start was quite narrow and I was closer to the front than I’d normally position myself only ‘cause I was blethering to other Harriers and we were off before I could move back a bit, never mind a good hard start so as I didn’t get trampled. As folk found their own pace and the field stretched out I couldn’t see my club mates Lesley and Gillian, after last night I was 14 seconds ahead of Lesley and pulled Gillian in a wee bit, they must be behind me. I was surprised that my quads still felt fresh and strong and my breathing wasn’t easier but I think I was getting used to breathing to my boots. I still used Pauline’s mantra of “Kick it!” when I felt myself losing pace but I’d added one of my own “Keep the rhythm!” As I turned onto the finishing straight I heard someone close behind, I managed to wind it up and they didn’t catch me. It wasn’t an easier run by any means but I felt smoother, I’m getting the hang of this run like yer arse is on fire, pity there’s only one stage left! Pauline Tim and I took our picnic down to the beach, the wind was strong and the waves huge and the water freezing but bound to help the legs recover for tomorrow sting in the tail!
Time 39.58mins Position 117 Overall 116
Stage Five Sun. 2nd Aug. Arso Vertitus Trail Race, Falkland 3.7 miles
I was surprised I that I not only maintained my overall position yesterday but pulled in another 9 places! What was this last race going to give me? Well, bugger all to be precise! If I gained any more positions it would be by sheer effort racing against everyone giving their all on this final race. But I knew today’s route. A very steep up, a very steep down, a pitch dark tunnel with a bend in it, a very very steep up and a pretty waterfall to run under then a long fast descent to the finish. Pauline and I went for a long warm up, we went up the narrow winding climb to the tunnel, it was good to refresh my memory as I couldn’t remember which way it bends, it was flat and safe underfoot no stones or ruts to catch my feet on so I knew I’d be able to run through it with my left hand on the wall until the light filtered in at the end. On our jog back down to the start, Pauline asked if we should tell folk about the tunnel, I sportingly said “Yeah, of course” after a pause I said “I’ll tell Lesley, Julie and Mehrnaz but not Gillian, she still in front of me!” Pauline laughed, I was kidding, we informed everyone that was interested in the route. It was a wide path at the start but I worked hard trying to get well up before the track narrowed, I didn’t want to get stuck behind a slower runner but the point of the first climb was to string everyone out before the steep winding path, at the tunnel there were four runners in front of me, as we went in I shouted “Keep your left hand on the wall and keep going!” But they walked, the wimps! I had my hand on Louise’s back, I wasn’t pushing her, honest, I just didn’t want to catch her heels. Oh well, a wee breather will do no harm. The path was now very narrow and very steep up to the waterfall I pushed hard with my hands on my thighs, and for the first time in the Tour my quads felt tired but we were getting near the top. Phew! At last the start of the descent, a fairly steep rough path, I pushed as hard on the down as I did on the up, just managing to keep up with gravity then onto the wider tarmac path, a long descent but all the way to the finish. I was flying down as fast as my short arse legs could go, five folk went past me, and well done to them too, I wasn’t making it easy. I crossed the line, staggered out of the way, bent over, hands on knees snot and spit splattering the road. Phoowff, managed to get moving again, trying to get control of my breathing I gently jogged back up the path and once my body was back under control I cheered everyone’s strong and blazing finish.
Position 114 Overall Position 108 Overall Time 2.40.42
Back to the village hall for the prize-giving and well earned tea and cakes. The conversation bubbled over on the hard fought battles and rivalry, what was the favourite/worst/best/hardest stage. My favourites were the hill time trial and the last one and if there was another stage I might’ve made up more places. But after today all the times and positions will be written in training logs and the result sheets put away the statistics soon forgotten, the enduring memory of this race of one of camaraderie akin to that of ultra races, knowing everyone is working their hardest pushing to and past what they thought was their limit. The Tour of Fife is a very different and special race and I for one will be back for more next year.