Time on feet running

Auchterarder Chilli trail race

Last Saturday, November 5th (remember, remember) was my first experience of the Auchterarder running festival’s 10k trail race, otherwise known affectionately as the chilli trail race because of it’s unique route shape.

Red hot chilli pepper! 846ft of elevation gain

I’d decided to sign up for this pretty close to the event, having recovered well from my G2E exploits and feeling I had another race in my legs before the season end. It also helped that I was brave enough to tell my wife I’d be disappearing for the best part of a Saturday and that she is so supportive of my running, so sign up I did. I had lowered my weekly volume since the ultra marathon but I still had good fitness from the training and a couple of weeks of fine tuning with quality speed and hill sessions had me feeling ready for the challenge although to be honest I was just going along to enjoy myself or so I kept telling myself.

So with the promise of a lot of mud and a post race food truck (smoked meats, mmm) I set off on the hour long drive for Auchterarder around 9am on the Saturday morning with my friend Greg’s appearance on the Young Hearts Run Free podcast for company. I arrived at the registration location not long after 10am and after a short panic due to lack of available parking I managed to find a spot and get registered before the 10:30am cut off. I did however miss out on the much coveted chilli trail bobble hat, witnessing the sale of the very last one! I’d need to be quicker off the mark on the starting line.

On your marks, get set…

Arriving at the start area I had the usual pre race scan of the field to gauge the level of competition which on this occasion went from lithe, serious runners (Martin Heggie who won G2E among them) to runners in fancy dress looking to make a fun day of it. I wanted to have fun too but was thinking I’d prefer to be closer to the front pack so I set about doing a short warm up starting easy and then some hill reps to get the legs used to some lactic acid. Waiting for the start it definitely felt more chilly than chilli but it wouldn’t be long before I was feeling the heat of a raised heart rate and the burn of muscles in my legs

and they’re off!

The usual count down from ten and we were off out of the start area and heading downhill. I’d started not far behind the guys who would be pushing for the win and they soon disappeared from view as expected but I was happy keeping a good pace on the downhill trail and then through an underpass tunnel before the main climb for 4km began. I do a lot of hill rep sessions and I was fairly comfortable for most of that climb having decided to run the long race and not attack it all out from the beginning so I kept a steady pace, a few people passed me on that section which didn’t bother me at all because I was confident I’d make up the ground on them on the flat and downhill sections. The climb was a series of false summits and it was only on the very last part that my legs started to feel it but I reached the top and after a few seconds to let my muscles recover I picked up the pace, again feeling comfortable and moving well. We were on some proper trails now after the country road climb and the scenery was beautiful even though it was a fairly wet day, the flat section went on for a couple of kilometres and I was really enjoying myself, passing one or two people on the way. There is a notorious muddy section on this part and while shoes have been lost and runners fallen I managed to navigate it with minimum fuss, result!

Moving nicely on the flats

Once I reached the end of the flat section it was on to forestry road down through the trees. I had become aware of another runner, maybe two close behind me, I could hear breathing and the crunch of the trail behind me but I didn’t want to turn round so it was here, on the downhill, that my competitive instinct really kicked in and I decided to drop the hammer absolutely flying down the trails with abandon. Down the trail kept going and I was having a great time, my legs felt fine and my breathing was comfortable. Eventually the trail is crossed by a couple of streams and my inner child was fully realised as I splashed through the water, cleaning my shoes and legs in the process.

Anyone for a quick dip?

I had started to feel that a gap was opening between myself and the runner behind but I was still aware of their presence as we reached the bottom of the downhill and on to a more undulating part of the route. With a few shorter hills thrown in at this point I decided to employ some mind games (yes, this is really who I am) and I powered up each of the climbs, my legs were really starting to feel it at this point but I knew there was another short downhill for me to recover before the final climb back up to the start/finish line. Once I got back through the underpass, just before I started that climb I allowed myself to glance back and I could see that I had opened up enough of a gap to relax a little if not too much. Up the hill, thick with mud and energy sapping, I went to the sign for the last 100m. A short bout of confusion on which way to go with shouts and people pointing me in the right direction I eventually regained my composure to cross the finish line in a very respectable time of 48 mins 24 secs to finish 24th/372 and 6th in my age category.

Review

The Auchterarder chilli trail race is a fantastic and well run event which I can’t wait to do again. Everyone from the organisers to the marshalls to the runners were friendly and welcoming. The medal was unique and they throw in a buff for good measure. Hats off to Fiona and Steven Watt (Young Hearts Run Free podcast) for the time and effort put in to make it so enjoyable. It even had the added bonus of John Cassidy (Young Hearts Run Free podcast) on compere duties, making sure each and every runner’s name was called and compliments given as they approached the finish line. I must also give a mention to sugar and spice bakery where I got a post race evening reward from.

Steven Watt, local celebrity
To die for!

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