Wednesday, 27 April 2016

John Muir Trail Relay

Do you think this will help me run faster?
Race Prep
Fantastic name for a hotel
Another weekend and another race that didn’t quite turn out as planned. I had done a few 20+ mile runs and was feeling reasonably ok up until two weeks before the John Muir Trail ultra but an incident at work which left be with a swollen ankle (where there’s blame there’s a claim?) and my last two long runs where I didn’t manage to complete the planned distance had pretty well killed my confidence for finishing a 50k. Luckily there was also a relay alongside the 50k with the option of running half of the distance so I thought that might be the more feasible option – the only problem being that I didn’t have a relay team mate. A quick email to the organiser and problem solved. Another runner had lost her relay partner in the days before the race and so the race organiser introduced us via email.

My relay partner, Angela, had chosen to run the first stage which gave me a leisurely start to the morning and we arrived to find North Berwick bathed in spring sunshine although with a biting cold wind. Facebook news from Aberdeen seemed to indicate it was full-on winter conditions there so I was quite happy, and ever so slightly smug, to be running in sunny southern climes this weekend. Simon managed to locate Angela’s son which made the identification process a lot easier while I sheltered from the wind at the changeover point in the RNLI Lifeboat station. Angela was spotted running over the beach towards us and the changeover went smoothly enough. As it turned out this “high five” was going to be my only meeting with my relay partner all day. 
The relay changeover point
My relay partner Angela
Runners leaving the beach
Relay changeover
Peter B at the takingon fluids at the aid station
Setting off
The first few hundred metres were across the beach with stunning views of Bass Rock before we turned through the outskirts of North Berwick, skirting around the foot of North Berwick law, and heading through the countryside to the south. When I had first seen the maps of the race route I was distinctly concerned at the lack of detail on these maps and so I threw some extra gloves and clothing into my backpack, worried that I might end up getting lost and being out for a while in that cold wind. However I need not have worried, top marks go to Foxtrails for their great marshalling and course marking and the map stayed in my backpack for the duration of the race.
The runners headed to the changeover point across this beach
and away from the changeover point across this beach
Interesting things on the skyline
The course was a mixture of farm tracks...
....and paths
More interesting sights
Crossing fields

The route followed rolling farmland, farm tracks, bridleways and footpaths, all of it very pleasant and runnable. There was a carpet of daffodils in full bloom in the woods near the ponds, it could almost have been mistaken for spring time - if it wasnt for the flurry of hailstones at the 6 mile point. Despite living close by in Edinburgh for a few years this is actually an area that I don’t really know that well and from what I saw on Saturday it seems that I have been missing out!
I lost one placing at about the 10 mile point getting passed by a runner who appeared to only be wearing a t-shirt and carrying a bottle of water and who kept asking me for directions. Very strange. Other than that the field was really quite spread out and I think I passed two or three runners in the 50k and was passed by one other relay runner near the end. There were a few walkers on the route and mountain bikers and Simon popped out of the shrubbery like a white rabbit at one point to take photos. Other than that it was a very peaceful run and not at all crowded. I really liked the low-key atmosphere of the race and that is certainly something that would bring me back.

WW2 Coastal defences
I started to get a bit heavy legged at around the 12-13 mile point but by then the route was following the coastline past world war two concrete defences so needless to say I was completely distracted by these. Finally the course turned into the woods in the grounds of Foxlake adventures and the lakeside finish line. The finish had something of a party atmosphere about it as there was a festival going on at the same time with stalls, music, cafes and some water skiing acrobatics to keep everyone entertained although I suspect the majority of the spectators were finding the acrobatics far more interesting than watching knackered runners stagger over a finish line.
 Angela had to head off after finishing the first leg of the relay so clearly we were destined never to meet. Simon and I didn’t hang around for the prize giving as I quickly chilled down after finishing and Simon was hungry so we went on a mission to hunt down some lunch.

The finish line

Foxlake Adventures
Poshest biscuits ever after a race
One happy finisher and one happy spectator

Foxlake festival
He said that spectating was harder than running...
But he soon recovered.

7th team out of 17 (4th female team out of 11) Team time – 4.21.18 (individual time 2.10.08)