Sitting on the sofa writing this post my legs are aching, in the best way. The kind of ache that recalls long, muddy runs in the late winter sunshine. Today was the last race in the Foxtrail winter trail running series, and the unseasonably warm weather meant soft paths and long stretches of deep sand to test the toughest legs. It also felt oddly humid, a sensation unexpected given the dismal forecast of rain and wind, neither of which materialised until much later in the day.
My pre-race Archie anxiety meant I insisted on picking up my Foxtrail buddies Laura and Katie unnecessarily early to allow enough time to get to the race and get ourselves sorted out in good time. Of course, at 7.30am on a Saturday morning the Edinburgh roads were almost empty, so we had arrived and parked by 8.15am, much earlier than needed. There was lots of time to chat by the start line but also time for Archie to get frustrated with the wait, and worried about all the people milling around. His dislike for official-types in fluorescent clothing is unfortunate in a place full of busy race marshals and he nearly lost it when a segway zipped past, but I managed to take him off to a quieter area and calm him down a bit.
Finally the race started, and Archie bounded off with the canicrossing pack, while I sped behind, getting my race legs back.
Right away the race felt harder than the half marathon a few weeks ago; perhaps it was the weather, terrain, the faster pace, or maybe it was all in my mind. Probably it was a combination of all four.
As ever, the course was beautiful and the marshals were friendly, even to a barking spaniel. At the water station Archie slurped out of a paper cup, and I gratefully gobbled the sweets offered to power the runners onwards.
The first three miles of the course led up and down along the edge of the Foxlake centre, downhill through the forest and then on a tarred road, past a farm and across a field, where we caught up with Katie.
After a sandy path beside East Links farm and its unlikely inhabitants of llamas and ostriches (an arresting sight in the East Lothian countryside) there was a short section along the edge of a ploughed field and then across a narrow footbridge, with runners racing in both directions. Archie wasn’t thrilled by the close proximity to speeding humans, and got a bit spooked by the runners coming towards him on the bridge.
We passed the same water station at about 3.5 and 5 miles although more water out on the course would have been good. I regretted not brining my running vest with a bottle of water and bowl for Archie, like I had on the half marathon, as he was pretty thirsty. After we looped back towards the river just before the 5-mile mark another canicrosser let her dog into the water for a short paddle and a drink. Archie looked on so longingly that we stopped and did the same. Racing with Archie will always be about having a adventures together, and never about finishing times. Another runner had a dog who just wasn’t in the mood to run, so instead she pulled out and took him to play on the beach instead.
Mile 6 to 7 were exceptionally scenic, but hard work along a narrow and wiggly coastal path. I was surprised afterwards to have run a personal best on that section as I felt I was running really slowly.
Then we were on the final stretch home. I was thrilled with a 3 minute PB on the course, which is now my benchmark for next year. Although the trail was tough, this was a great end to the Foxtrail series and my first trail running season. I’m very grateful for the Foxy runners for getting me out on the trails and introducing me to the Foxtrail races. I can’t wait to run them again in the winter.