I’m about to have a bit of a self-pitying man-whinge here so be warned!
I’d better make it absolutely clear that the race itself is fabulous, the route in its full autumn glory is both challenging and quite breath-taking, not that I noticed at the time! The weather was actually quite good, the organisation faultless, the medal and the t-shirt are great. All in all it’s a must do race.
Back to the whinge
By any rational measure I’ve had a good year. I got my marathon PB down to 3:16 which earned me a VLM good for age place for 2016. I’ve PB’d at 10K; 5 mile and just recently banked 2 successive half marathon PB’s in two weeks. I’ve been injury and sickness free. I’ve ran 8 races of Marathon or Ultra distance so far. I achieved my goal of a sub 10 hour Fling and I knocked over an hour of my Lakeland 50 time in July.
Most recently I ran the 35 mile Tiree Ultra and got my highest ever Ultra finishing place 13th overall, 10th male, 5:36:48 for 35 miles.
On this basis everything should have been teed up nicely for a triumphal tilt at the Jedburgh Ultra, a fitting swansong to a golden 2015 for Ainslie?
I didn’t have a “lightbulb” moment where I suddenly thought “Oh crap it’s all going to go tits up”, I did however have a persistent ear-worm nagging away “you’ve not done any long runs”; “there’s a lot of junk miles in the training log”; “a week in Tenerife running up and down volcano’s in 30C plus heat…..what could possibly go wrong?”.
But what the heck, I’m an experienced Ultra runner; I can run hills and trails and its only 38 miles!
Whoa there cowboy, it’s never “only 38 miles”. That’s near as damn a marathon followed by a half marathon, that’s a ruddy long way in any book.
Yes I’ve got the miles in the legs; yes I’ve got the experience; yes I’ve got the base fitness but in the 7 weeks since Tiree my Ultra training and focus has been pants, in short I’ve been complacent. In fact I’ve committed one of the cardinal sins I have banged on about on Facebook, not treating the distance or the race with the respect it deserves.
And to heap insult onto injury, in the week before the race I knew in my heart of hearts that I was guilty as charged, this was going to hurt…a lot!
It was the first time I’d not stayed over the day before a race so a 4am alarm call and a 2 hour drive all helped to fuel the fires of self-pity.
The weather forecasts for Saturday were about as grim as my pre-race mood, with pretty much universal rain in prospect. I wasn’t feeling my usual excitement, just a quiet confidence sapping dread. The Jedburgh rugby club was packed, the nervous tension in the air was palpable and following Angela’s no nonsense “don’t drop litter and don’t be a dick” race briefing we trooped over the road for a warm up to YMCA where I danced around like a tit in the front row.
I’ve been nursing a niggle on my right hip / IT for a couple of weeks it’s not a proper injury, it’s not sore as such, but on some runs it feels like I’m running wearing a wooden leg, I’m almost limping for the first mile or so until I warm up so I spent the first 3 miles or so convincing myself not to bale. I’d overdressed at the start and lost a bit of time while I faffed around, losing my long sleeved top and switching to a waterproof jacket as the rain came on. In my mind it rained all the way to Maxton, but I suspect it didn’t in reality. There were some muddy bits, but in truth not many. It’s not really the mud fest it’s painted as, but yes, there are some muddy slippy bits. It’s not as completely mud free as the WHW, but it’s still very runnable.
The checkpoint at Maxton was super-efficient and friendly and apart from the numerous wet and greasy wooden steps on the riverside section after this threatening to send me for a river swim the run to the Eildon hills passed uneventfully if slowly.
I wasn’t looking forward to the hills or more precisely I wasn’t looking forward to the steep descents on the first two hills, my already stiff right hip protesting at every jarring downhill step. When Craig Malcomson passed me and described me as “descending like a big girl” I’m afraid I had to agree with him. By the time we hit the rather shallower descent from the 3rd hill I felt like I was running wearing somebody else’s legs, everyone else seemed to be pulling ahead and away from me and having fun, while I remained firmly wedged in my wallow of self-pity.
I was lucky enough to find myself in the company of Caroline Graham and David Nightingale, whose cheerful company ultimately kept me going until just after the famous shoogly bridge, and they both pulled ahead, whilst being hugely grateful for their cheerful chat and banter all I could selfishly think of was……bugger I’m back running on my own and I’m not in my happy place.
As we’d gone through CP3 at Maxton I’d been so focussed on eating my rice pudding that I completely forgot to refill my now empty water bottles. I was only about 100 yards out on the road when I realised this. As I was still running with Caroline, I bizarrely rationalised that I could get by without water but couldn’t stand running alone. Not surprisingly I was wrong on the former.
The lack of water added to my misery fest, I was both cross at being dehydrated and even more cross at my basic and self-inflicted error.
When I’m struggling in an Ultra I’ve two fall back mantra’s one is to count from one to eight in my head and the other is “any run is faster than a walk”. I’m afraid I had to adopt the latter just to keep running, and I use the word running in the loosest sense of the word.
When you cross back over the A68 one of the marshals had thoughtfully got water available, what a hero.
I was able to refill one bottle, cram in a handful of Jelly babies and within yards I was feeling much sprightlier. My befuddled brain was able to work out that if I pushed harder I could possibly squeeze under 7 hours, especially if the route was actually slightly short of the full 38 miles.
The last mile of the race is a gentle slope back through the pavements of Jedburgh, feeling happy that it was nearly over and not feeling as rubbish as I’d felt all day I was able to pass David (but not Caroline) and cross the line in 6:57:47.
I’ve blogged in the past about how I hate runners who post statements like “only managed a 31 minute 10K, might as well give up running” I’m acutely aware that many folk would kill to get a time I’m moaning about, in my defence I did say right back at the start this was a self-pitying whinge.
I'm also conscious that this blogpost is also miles late AND it's ages since I posted both things I intend to pay more attention to this year