It was quite a late decision to join Rachael Campbell and Sarah McKechnie in running the first of the East District XC races, at Stirling University. I hadn’t competed in a XC race since 2010 and I’m most at home on the roads so it takes a bit persuasion to get me onto the soft stuff. It was bizarrely warm for a XC, a balmy 17 degrees one woman told me in the queue for the disabled toilet. It was nice to meet up with Rach and Sarah and feel like “one of the team” again in our matching vests complete with matching pre-race nerves!! Dave Cairns came to say hello to us and had a word of warning that the course was “quite tussocky” and told us to watch out.
From that moment on I was worried. Hills may be Amy’s friend, but tussocks of grass are not mine! They lull you into thinking they’re nice and soft but really they’re just horrible little unpredictable lumps of grass that weren’t talented enough to form a lawn! Jamie will testify I can’t even walk on them without injury, let alone run. Anyway, have confidence I told myself! Bang, the gun went off and the field tore off like a pack of hounds. I hung back a bit, as I’d no idea of pacing and didn’t want to go off too fast. I could see Rach just ahead but Sarah had vanished into a sea of bobbing pony-tails. The course was 2 laps for the ladies so I settled into a nice little pack of similar paced girls, and started to slowly catch Rach.
The first hill of the course was approaching and it looked fairly short but sharp. It was at this point that the tussocks waged war, and out of nowhere I suddenly felt my left ankle buckle. OUCH I’d gone over on it! All I remember is yelping in pain and the tears rolling down my face as I danced about on my other leg screaming at myself. Of course to make matters worse, it seemed like a stream of runners passed me, with some kind souls shouting words of encouragement to me. I didn’t know what to do, so I started trying to jog/limp in the hope the pain wore off. I also started to panic, which when I look back was totally ridiculous but I knew there was a real risk of finishing last.
So I stupidly kept going, albeit carefully and wincing in pain whenever another tussock decided to have a second shot at my ankle. In my head I started composing an email to the club, asking if someone wanted my place in the Borders XC series and I’ll stick to the roads thank you very much. Stop being negative I told myself!! The pain did wear off slightly on the smoother terrain and I managed to complete the course in 30.54. The ankle stiffened up immediately after I’d stopped and I knew I had been stupid to continue. Maybe queuing for the disabled toilet was a sign of things to come!
Anyway, to my wonderful supportive team mates: Rach ran a good race with no injuries and finished in 29.08 but Sarah had (sensibly) pulled out after lap 1 due to injury and recovering from illness. She’ll be back though. We weren’t able to stay and cheer on Mark Snodgrass and Chris Downie, but they too did well in a very competitive field finishing in 36.41 and 45.12 respectively. I believe Mark’s sons had also run well in the junior races. All in all, it felt nice to be back but the confidence has taken a major beating. Next up is Lauder which I am now dreading, but I’ll give it a bash. Do you think the organisers would notice if I was to sprinkle a little tarmac over the course the night before??