Category Position: 7/10
Medal: No, not until you complete the series.
The Running Shop Winter Cross Country series is something I signed up to during the period after the marathon when I was experiencing an extended ‘runner’s high’, unbroken due to my inability to actually run. My thinking was: I’ve just run 26.2 miles, what’s a piddly 6?! My thinking was also: Scottish winters are fucking freezing, if this is the only thing going on, I want to be a part of it.
And so, on a crisp winter-esque Autumn Sunday, I found myself waiting for Ronnie to pick me up in my flat. But this time I had company – Teri! You may remember Teri from such adventures as the Crathes half marathon in September. She’s the person who, with a grand total of 3 miles training, ran her first half marathon in something like 1:47:xx. I briefly hated Teri when I was overcome with jealousy of her natural talent at running. But I’m over that now (nearly). Anyway, Teri has been on holiday in Australia for 6 weeks and has done zero exercise, unless you count getting shit faced every night and dancing. She arrived back on Friday, and I saw her at the gym on Saturday. She asked whether I’d be at the gym Sunday, and I told her I’d be running and invited her along. She said she’d think about it (this always means ‘yes’). And so there we were, waiting for our lift.
Ronnie arrived and we set off with what we imagined would be plenty of time to get to the start line. What should have been a 35 minute journey took closer to an hour, however, as we got totally lost. At least the scenery was nice:
Eventually we found out where we should be going, and, seeing the crowd in a field in the distance, we all let out a sigh of relief. We all registered, then we all ambushed tired, muddy kids that had run in the children’s races for safety pins, as the organizers had run out. I’ll remember not to switch bags last minute for the next one because I normally carry hundreds of the things with me.
Once we had sorted ourselves out, we took a couple of pre-run photos, and realized we were all totally out of our depth, ability wise. Surrounding us, warming up and doing stretches that revealed a revolting wealth of flexibility, was a field of elite runners proudly wearing their respective club vests and looking extra serious. It made us look like a group of total amateurs:
A few minutes before the start, everyone (roughly 50 people) gathered at the beginning of the 1.5 mile loop and we were told we would have to complete 4 laps. I didn’t really have any plan other than ‘don’t stop running’, and when the gun went off (loudly!), I started off at what I felt was a reasonable pace. A couple of breathless minutes later, I dialed it back, because 8:00 minute miles was not what I was aiming for. The course started through some muddy forest tracks (with a few precarious moments) and by the time I was out of them, I was already near the back of the pack. Once the trees cleared, you were faced with a steep uphill climb – the kind that makes your legs feel like rubber at the top – before a very steep drop through slippery mud that I actively slowed down for. Then you had about half a mile of relatively flat, grassy path before a short climb back to the start.
After the first lap I was regretting my decision to opt for the 6 instead of the 3 mile course. Cross country running is hard. But still, there was a girl on my tail and my pride often becomes more important than my body’s ability to take in oxygen, so I pressed into lap 2 without catching my breath. After a few twists and turns I could see Teri was also hot on my heels. I pushed uphill on the lung busting section of the course, navigated the horrendous downhill mud pit, then soldiered to the lap point.
Rachel, you fucktard, if you’d entered the 3 mile race you’d be done by now. With Teri and the other woman still trailing by not-enough-to-allow-me-to-relax, I started lap 3. It was soon after this that I was lapped by the leader. Since I didn’t wear earphones, I could hear the panting approach from behind, and I kept to the bumpier sides of the course to allow those lapping me the best route to keep up their speed, because CLEARLY I was no longer competing to place. I wont lie, it’s pretty demoralizing being lapped, especially when you’re pretty much at the back.
The uphill stretch was pretty dreadful on lap 3, but I kept running until the top, and while I eventually got my breath back, it took a little longer than the first two times. Passing the finishers’ chute for the third (and final) time, the volunteers gave me one of those pitying looks and shouted ‘Just one more lap!’, as I mumbled something about how amazing road races are and chugged on.
Lap 4. One more lap. By this point I was pretty beat. I’d started wheezing (‘m not asthmatic but for some reason – perhaps several years of heavy smoking – after a run I wheeze for a bit) which was a sign I was nearing my limit, and tried to put the uphill section to the back of my mind as I weaved through the trees. I could hear the cheers for the freakishly fast runners finishing. And then the uphill section was upon me. I pushed up and was horrified to experience that despite maximum effort output, I was moving at about the same speed as an undead snail who had been snacking on some magic brownies. Regardless, I didn’t stop, and at the top of the hill I begged my lungs to ‘please not collapse’ as I gave every last bit of energy to the task of finishing. The girl who was hot on my heels for most of the race was obviously starting to suffer as well, and I’d created a bit of distance, but afraid of a burst of crazy speed on her part, I kept going. Ronnie, who had already finished by this point, was at the sidelines cheering. He did not get a very polite greeting as I passed by. I finally pulled into the finishers’ chute in 56:01, and then proceeded to feel sick for the next 15 minutes, eyeballing the ambulance crew, just in case.
Teri, despite her lack of physical activity in the last month and I half, came in not long after me, and wasted no time in telling me how little she appreciated me talking her into coming along. I went to buy some water, and then we all piled back into Ronnie’s car for the more direct journey home:
Once home, I peeled my clothing off of me, threw it in the wash, and then had to vacuum the spot where I got undressed, because of this:
And that’s pretty much where healthiness was thrown out of the window. Later on, Ian, Dylan and I enjoyed some extra rich mushroom, chicken and onion risotto, chased by Jamaica Ginger cake and ice-cream. And then the last episode of Downton Abbey of season 3, which I am bummed I don’t have to look forward to on Sundays anymore.
Also included in this race report, photos from tonight’s fireworks display at Aberdeen Beach for Guy Fawke’s night, because I didn’t get enough good photos to warrant an individual post:
Man, I am so glad I don’t have a race this weekend.