Monday, 26 June 2017

Muckletoon Adventure Festival

"Local Legend" - not!!!
Give a girl a mic....arrrrgh!!!

It was meant to be a nice relaxing weekend when "all" I had to do was give a talk at the Muckletoon Adventure Festival in Langholm, but somehow it grew arms and legs. I was nervous enough about the talk - it's bad enough thinking that my running results are all some kind of fluke and that I've got to where I am under false pretences, but I can't get my head around thinking that anyone would want to listen to anything I have to say........ Having been billed as a "Local Legend", I could just imagine myself talking to an empty tent, but as it happened the weekend was so full-on that I hardly had time to think about it, never mind stress excessively!

My friend Richard was down from Edinburgh to visit for the weekend and we headed over to Langholm nice and early, getting there in time for the "Pre-Run Yoga Workshop". I guess that the aim is to make this suitable for everyone, but it did seem rather basic, with lots of hand and feet twirling and only one warrior pose.

Next up were the trail runs, with both 10K and Half Marathon options. Richard had entered the 10k and, as many of my Dumfries Running Club-mates started to arrive (the 10K was one of our Grand Prix races), I decided to enter and run it, not really knowing how my legs would cope after the World Trail Champs the previous weekend. I could see my speedier clubmates right at the front as we awaited the 1pm start (always a good time to run...not....but especially so on such a hot day) but I made sure I was a decent way back (behind two girls wearing thick "cat suits" and a boy wearing a dress!!!), and as there was a 15minute delay, it meant I had time for a good catchup with some other friends.

DRC pre-race
Suddenly we were off, though it initially seemed like we were running in the wrong direction. As it turns out, every event at the festival started the same way...heading towards a hillside but a sharp 90 degree bend them had you going round, across a wooden bridge out towards the main road. Some people had read the race description (technical trail) and so had trail shoes on (I confess I did, but only because I had not had any other shoes in the car), but those wearing road shoes seemed to have had prior knowledge of the course as we ran a kilometre along the road into town.

A sharp left hand turn (well supported by locals cheering) had us running between pipers....well, I say running, but it was up a rather steep road. I was filled with dread as I saw some guys in front of me heading further up a steep grassy hillside, but luckily this was the first "split point" of the routes and there was a very welcome "10k turn right" sign. As most of the men had continued on the half marathon route (more fool them up that hill in that heat), I could now see my clubmates Nicola and Lisa ahead of me. Nicola was leading the way and Lisa was tracking her step for step in her "slipstream".

We headed back down to the road out of town, then up on some very runnable wide trail, before a small section of single track descent through some woods to the main road again. The road was not closed to traffic and I clearly mistimed my appearance on the road, as I had to wait for a few cars to cross the narrow bridge before running the other way over it myself.
A short grassy climb :-)

The next section was a long sunny gravelly road, and I considered stopping on several occasions. I asked myself what I was trying to achieve by "racing" so soon, but I gave myself a good talking to and carried on as I realised that I had nothing to prove to anyone and it didn't matter how slowly I ran, as long as I wasn't injured and kept going so as to win the mental battle with myself. I passed Niall (another clubmate who often goes off rather fast and then fades a bit) and watched the ladies' battle up ahead. Nicola had pulled away from Lisa but then Lisa reeled her back in and overtook her.

I didn't stop at the water station but carried on straight up the next hill. Lisa was closing down on the leading lady (Rhiannon) and I was moving up behind Nicola. My legs were definitely tired so I opted to "powerwalk" that hill, which was definitely the right choice for me as I passed a couple of men and was still the same distance behind Nicola at the summit. The descent was another matter, as my quads felt like jelly and I really worried that they wouldn't hold me and I'd come crashing down wither on the ravel road, or the following grassy slope.

The panther presided over prizegiving
Somehow I survived and made it to the next road section. It was easy to see the road winding up the hill ahead, and Nicola and I seemed to echo the battle between Lisa and Rhiannon (Lisa and I being stronger on ascents with Nicola and Rhiannon favouring descents). A short muddy section of single track down to the creek saw me slipping and sliding a bit, but luckily I in a wooded area and so out of sight of everyone. Nicola was finding the heat and the distance (the race was actually over 10k) rather tough so I moved away from her and found myself chasing Rhiannon down (with Lisa out of sight ahead). Unfortunately the finish came just too soon for me (to be fair, it felt like it didn't come soon enough) as I finished just a couple of seconds back in 3rd place, but it was impressive work by the DRC girls (3rd, 5th and 6th overall)!!!

No way was I standing on that stage
to talk - the microphone was bad enough!

It really was a "tent talk"
Time for a quick shower, some food and then I braced myself to give my talk. There were more people than I expected, but unfortunately for me, the sun was shining brightly through the white tent walls and directly onto the screen. A lot of my talk was about where trail running could take you, and I'd prepared pictures of some of the amazing places I've visited.....but I doubt that anyone could see much of it. Still, people were polite enough not to complain and did ask a few questions afterward.

Richard soaking up the Scottish
trail lifestyle!
The monument was worth the climb
After a nice "fruit based beverage" in the sun Richard decided we should do a hill climb up to the monument....and did my poor tired legs not half feel it!! Still, despite the haze we got a lovely view out over the surrounding countryside before descending back down to the pub for dinner.

I was up bright and early the next morning for the cycle sportive. There were three options covering 30, 60 or 100 miles, but as it was my first one and I was just aiming to use it as "active recovery", I opted for the shortest route.

Swamped by guys early on
Everyone started off together (the same loop over the wooden bridge and out onto the road, as for the trail runs) and then we "processed" for a mile through town and out the other side. I know that a sportive is not a "race" but it seemed odd to have this slow mile included in the event times.

Once we were out the other side of Langholm the field spread out straight away as people started pedaling in earnest. I found myself initially cycling alone, but then started to move to and fro with certain groups of riders. They might pass me on the fast, twisty descents, but as soon as a climb continued for more that a hundred metres, I would start catching them again - I guess that I may have limited confidence in my bike skills, but I do have (hopefully) significant base fitness.
The early morning mist avoided sunburn dramas
The 30Mile route
I was so engrossed in chatting to a group of guys I'd known years ago in Carlisle, that I nearly missed my turnoff and almost carried on along the 60 mile route. I was enjoying the ride so much that I did wish I'd signed up for the 60mile option, but that was probably just a beginner's optimism! I hardly saw a soul for the rest of the ride, but just enjoyed pedalling along the beautiful undulating country roads. I did spy a man (I think he was actually on a mountain bike) not far ahead of me as I descended back through Langholm and out the other side up towards base camp, but then I was delayed into the finish as I had to wait for a few cars to cross the wooden bridge exiting the rugby club before I could cross and enter. Having now seen the results, it turns out that I finished 4th overall, which explains why I didn't see many people out on the route! I loved it, and am now tempted to try a longer one!

Chasing everyone down as we
turned off the main road

Having just got off my bike, changed shoes and eaten some food, it seemed silly (!) not to take part in the 5k trail run with Richard (at least they said it would be a lot less hilly than the 10K). By this time we were used to delayed starts and so hung around nearer the back the pen, letting several of the keener adult and most of the youngsters have a clear start ahead of us. We started along the same way as all the other events I done so far - a loop around, across the wooden bridge and then down the road towards Langholm. This time we turned off before town and headed along the pheasant pens, into some woods, and then back along a riverside path to join the end of the 10K route.

Such a beautiful day to run!
I seemed to start with jelly legs after cycling but gradually warmed up and got my flow back. The lead runners seemed a very long way ahead of me, even after a couple of K, but I gradually reeled them in, finally moving into the lead with about 800m to go. I couldn't believe the time that the clock was showing when I finished, but it was only an "approximate" distance and so a bit short. Still, I'd had my fair share of exercise for the weekend....add to that a couple of hours working for the Out Of Hours service when I got home and then painting a room...and I needed to go back to work on Monday for a rest!!!

(with thanks to James Kirby for the MTAF photos)

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