I ran the Carnegie Harriers Devilla Trail Race last year and I remember being really worried I wouldn’t make the cut off. It wasn’t the type of running I was used to so I had no idea if I could do it. Thankfully, I did manage to cross the line before the sweeper so I duly signed up again this year – as you do. Despite it still not being my type of running.
A 15km trail race doesn’t bring with it the same fears as it used to but that doesn’t mean I’m any better at running them now. The aim was to beat last years time but the reality was it was unlikely. I’ve found now I’m concentrating on distance my sub conscious refuses to let me go fast (well, fast for me, maybe not compared to everyone and definitely not compared to most but, fast in my terms).
A couple of days before and the weather returned to it’s usual troublesome self. Jack Frost seriously needs to do one and let the Easter bunny make an appearance. Shorts and a vest were unlikely. But trousers could cause issues when caked in mud and at this race, that was a guarantee. I decided to make the decision when I was there so packed both. I also packed a towel for a shower after, congratulating myself on being organised. For once.
Suitcase in hand I went along to registration where I was handed a bottle of beer. Scheihallion to be exact. I rarely drink but I do like this craft beer. I briefly considered opening it pre-race, you know, for that extra boost. That little drop of Dutch courage. And if I’m honest, the only reason I didn’t was because it wasn’t cold (sacrilege). The entire walk to the start line I was debating whether this had been a good decision or not.
I went with shorts – the cold was no longer keeping these cellulite enhanced legs covered up – and a long sleeve top under the club vest. At the start I bumped into a few fellow road runners. We had quite a few running the 15km and some doing the 5km. No one was drinking the beer – yet. I also saw a couple of people from our local tri club who came over and said hello, so quite a few from Perth!
We started talking about what was ahead and Catriona, who had also ran it last year, reminded me of the bottle neck section. She mentioned she had been caught up in it last year and had had to wait to get through. I remembered people just stopping in front of me and trying to go round them. I looked up and realised we were probably starting a bit too far back and were likely to get caught in it this year.
Yet I didn’t move forward.
Big mistake. Huge.
The whistle went and we found we were walking to the start line. And then walking past the start line. And then still walking. Nope, nope, no. This won’t do. You’re meant to be running! I veered left and tried to cut my way up through the pack. I managed to get some room and then we went off the forest track and into the woods.
The path shrunk. We were no longer on a wide forest road but we were on a single track.
The mud didn’t bother me, it’s a trail run, you’re not going to stay clean, and the pre-race email made it very clear wearing brand new trainers probably wasn’t wise if you wanted them to stay looking new. However, it appeared some people were determined to do all they could to stay pristine.
‘Come on man it’s only mud! Get in there!’
A fellow runner took the words out of my mouth. I enjoyed this race last year but this part was frustrating like hell. Who stops in the middle of a race? You just go for it!
We eventually came to a little fork and the path on the right slowed way down again so I went left. Good move Ella, I thought to myself. You’ll get round the ones not moving and be able to keep running. Pushing forward I was still in my smug state when I glanced over at the fork on the right only to discover that the people I could now see where actually behind me before I had taken that turn. No. I was not so smug now.
We joined up with the original path and again I went to the left to try and weave my way through, crashing through the bushes and going knee high in the mud. There was no way I was beating last years time now but I could still push for a good finish. Back on the forest track and we had more space – finally. Now it was up hill and I could spot Nigel from the tri club in front of me. Slowly I creeped up. Not in a stalker ‘I’m going to kill you’ kind of way, but more of a ‘this is a steep hill and walking would be faster but I’m stubborn’ kind of way. As soon as I was within ear shot of him I took a deep breath and shouted out ‘Nigel, I’m coming for you. Very slowly but I’m coming!’. He didn’t turn round. Oh my god is that not Nigel? Mortified I didn’t know what to do. The runner on my right turned to look at me, clearly wondering who I was taking to. Oh my god could this get any worse?
Ok do I slow down and let them go then hope I don’t catch up with them? No, they will get to the finish line first and therefore see me when I finish and no doubt point me out as the weirdo who thought she knew someone but didn’t and then was too slow to keep up.
Oh the pressure!
Ok. You’ll need to speed up and get past them. Then you’ll need to stay past them. Oh god I can’t run that fast for that long!
I put my head down and slowly, very slowly, get alongside ‘not Nigel’.
It IS Nigel! Oh thank god! He says hi as I go past and I oh so very briefly get the lightest of reliefs that it is him and I’m not quite that weird.
Then realise how stressed out I got about the situation – which lasted all of 10 seconds by the way – and have to admit defeat. I’m a bit weird.
Thankfully there are no further issues and I even manage to keep my hands to myself and not have the same intimate connection with the bush at the infamous plank as I did last year! The 10km sign is still in the wrong place but I’m ready for that. I do giggle as I remember the older guy from last year and his comment of ’10km my @rse!’.
Approaching the finish and I manage a little sprint to get it over and done with and I can hear some lovely people shouting my name as I do. I’m not going to lie. I love that.
Gillian is just seconds behind me and Nigel is just behind her. Poor Gillian fell over in the mud and as she shows me her completely covered right hand side she points out my leg is bleeding. Oh yeah, I picked up some more war wounds! My right leg is scratched like a cats post. Seasoned runner right here ha ha.
I head to the showers with my bag so I can get changed before the cold sets in. I pull out my clean clothes and my towel and……
It’s not a towel.
It’s a tiny piece of material you use for the turbo or spin bike when you’re really sweaty! I may be small but I’m not that small. Trying to get a wash and shower with that was not fun.
So no. I didn’t beat last year’s time. But I did feel I ran a better race. Excluding my little detour of and starting too far back. The beer is still in the fridge and I have great plans to drink it this weekend after my long run. There is every chance that one beer will have me drunk but hey, it’s worth it.