The Mighty Deerstalker arrived on my doorstep far too quickly . . . I seem to be saying this alot of late! I had signed up to both races, this I had decided was going to be the start of my evaluation of what I needed to be doing now that I had qualified and signed up for the OCRWC – eeeeek! Excited and bloody bricking it at the same time.
I hadn’t done enough training for this race, exceptionally busy with work and the being ill the week leading up to the event so felt ill-equipped for what I knew was going to be a tortourous couple of events, but amazing! OBVIOUSLY , D’uh!
I’m not sure why but managed to hold onto a significant amount of clarity this year related to both events, while last year I still struggle to make clear recollections between the 2 races.
5km – ish – understatement of the century!
Heading out to the event location, Traquair House, I was given some indication of what we were in for when I saw the ducks enjoying a swim in the water-logged fields. Amazing, we all know how much I love water.
For Rat Races first event of the year, the registration was as smooth as I always experience at their events. The guys on the mics were brilliant, you could literally listen wherever you were and giggle away at the comments. I heard 12th/ 13th and 10th years of this event being mentioned but we’ll go with 10 as it seemed to be mentioned the most. Great to see Mike and Sarah welcoming me, nice surprise.
I had timed it so that I could get registered, changed and have enough time to do a wee warm-up. I walked out the course alittle, same as last year, passed one of the locals who was doing some work, in a nice way, he let me know we were, ‘f*****g idiots’ hahahahaha, love it, I hear this alot but he was laughing and joking so nae harm. Speaking with a steward I was also told that if it had been Thursday, he wasn’t sure what they would have done given the conditions created by the good ole Scottish weather.
Aim for this race – push as best I could, enjoy it! These were my favourite races last year.
We lined up on the start line for an awful warm-up, the guys taking these really need to start taking into consideration the space we all have packed in the start area, star-jumps are clearly for doing some damage to the fellow competitors a well placed eye poke, lateral jumping exercises are naturally aimed at getting at fellow competitors toes, feet or ankles 😉
Joda from Tartan Warrior, a top Scottish OCR runner from muddyrace, who is running incredibly well, was lined up and got a wee interview by the ITV! OCR is getting more and more coverage its really outstanding! Joda achieved a brilliant 2nd place! Then the countdown to kick us off, a short run upwards to the hay bales, another indicator of how it was going to go, then back around on the tarmac to feed us round to the off-road sections, I often complain about tarmac’d sections BUT they lead us to incredible trails and more to come, they serve a connection purpose and they tend to be short in nature. #purpose
We were immediately lulled into a false sense of security going through a field that was easy, dare I say nice underfoot, because the connecting filed was a marsh, potential for lost shoes if they weren’t tied tight enough, lots of squeals followed behind me. Into our first water feaure, not too deep and not bad underfoot. Here we met the first of a remarkably enthusiastic set of marshalls, full of clear instructions and encouragement. They were without doubt – brilliant!
Then there was the hill, oh the hill! Following the winding, weaving path, up and up we went. It wasn’t long before the trail of walkers kicked in. I think I actually ran the furthest up this hill I have compared to last year, was really pleased with myself but ohhhhh it burrrrrrnnnnnned! The first section is fairly trail based as it winds uphill and then you hit the side of the hill, cross-country style, clasping at the mounds and trees to help you move further up the hill.
Here comes the best bit, downhill, ‘Hell Yeah’, this is the bit I enjoy, I love just letting going and following the curve of the route downhill OR creating my own as I call, ‘Coming Through on your right/ left!’ The 5km, due to the lower numbers really lets you weave around folks as there is the space. Folks were great, listening out, always important to let folks know you are coming, as it stops them making sudden movements that may affect you or lead to you getting hurt and not least more respectful of their space and of course reduces the risk of them getting hurt also. This is the first of the downs and the shorter of the 2 downhill sections, we then transverse the mountain, I mean hill before re-ascending. It was on these sections that another lass and I went back and forth in terms of placing, she was faster than me, I was simply quick on the downhills. I need to work more on my weaknesses but in a more positive light I definitely felt I climbed better than the previous year.
Thank you to the gentleman who gave me a shout out at the end of the second downhill, much appreciated – he knew me but I didnt know him. We crossed over to the other side of the river, I swear even the smallest pebble, which would be easily overlooked in a scan, was enough to make the weary legs quiver. But a lapse in concentration resulted in me rolling my ankle, that was a sair ane!
It wasn’t long before I hit the event village, a short crawl under the cargo net, run up the incline, I admit I did pause for what seemed an eternity before jumping down, ‘here, it was high and yes I’m an offical short ass!’ but I did jump down in style and finished it off with a shoulder roll before sprinting (cruising) over the finish line.
Now to get changed and relax before the second race . . . . .
10km (Aye Right)
Okay, so again I found myself on the starting line-up albeit definitely more tired, definitely bursting for the toilet – AGAIN! I had caught up with some of the group I was signed up with and there were some scared faces 😉 Fear is good – respect for the course.
The first part of the race was exactly the same as the 5km earlier, did it feel different – oh yeah. My balance was taking more work, my quads kicked in earlier but I was focused on my goal for this race – consistency. Again, I drove up the first part of the first hill and it really, really hurt but I kept pushing on and managed to get back to running around folks to keep pushing on, to not let myself down. I was getting frustrated at points, when it is steep and you are working hard to keep going, those who take over you but then start walking right in front of you can really make it difficult for you to maintain that momentum you are generating. Its hard to re-start once you start walking, particularly on a veeeery steep hill.
I always believe its important to have some awareness of those around you. Understandably, for those new to this type of activity it is difficult and leaves too many for things for you to focus on, just keep moving and as you begin to become more experienced your awareness will hopefully increase with your confidence, these things do take time to develop.
Where it differs is in the route going through the town, brilliantly worked here and last year, not an easy task to organise logistically but it works as you wade through the river for what seems like forever, bigger guys rushing past you, the local children and adults cheering you on. It really does bring a smile to your face, the bigger guys rushing through the water, well, I wasn’t impressed (Scaredy cat, but I had already tripped and fell to the full length of my arms, not great) but they had the strength, I felt like I was 50% submerged. Cold legs bring you out of the river and I think this cold really affects the legs as you head toward the 3rd ascent. You head up and up, winding along, more space and far less overtaking is going on in general by this point. You come up and go between a circular monument, would be great to see in the daylight, before descending again. My quads by this point were doing some weird quivering, partial cramping – something I have never experienced before so it felt like my legs were going to lock out and cramp up on this part of the descent.
I knew the scree hill was coming and I wasn’t sure in what way, shape or form as we had been told the route was different, did it include this part?
Im not sure, it seemed much steeper but Zoe thought that may have been due to moving quicker, therefore more tired. This was the section that really could take you a cropper, ankles galore, lots of rocks mossed over and merged with the undergrowth. The gentleman in front of me was super kind and kept grabbing at bushes and trees to stabilise himself but would then just release them . . . . slap in the face . . . all the appropriate height for me. So I swiftly utilised a passing point and moved past him ,proceeding to communicate any issues to the guys behind me, OCR manners 😉
Each step/ slip back downhill was just brutal, the scree just retreated back downhill as we tried to claw our way uphill. By this point my headache was kicking in but I knew it was coming from my neck. It got to the point where I could only keep my neck in alignment as each crane to look up the ever increasing slope, which meant looking straight at the slope. I was bear-crawling my way upward with lots of side-tracking into the gorse bushes.
On the descent of this hill, rat race had come through, they had listened to the feedback from last year and sorted the rope descent out, multiple rope options, all connected, brilliant. I managed to find my focus in this final stage and really just dig in and keep pushing through despite the tiredness. The locals and the kids after some high fives along the route was incredibly uplifting at this point. Onwards to the events village and the finish line, I was so pleased to finish!
The marshalls were phenomenal, the directional markers and their frequency were bang on, the course route was outstanding and what can you say about the surroundings? No words could do it justice!
Mighty Deerstalker you have done it again!