Renfrewshire XC Championship, Darrock Park, Gourock 17/11/2013

My first Cross Country encounter…

Location:Darrock Park / Gourock
Race Type:Cross Country – Individual
Distance: 6miles gents / 4miles ladies
Start Time 13:40pm for both

When Captain Bruce Carse posted on the Forum there was a xc race in Gourock I was interested as the location & start time was appealing.
However my race started early Sunday morning at 11.30am at the Bella Ski Centre car park – I’ll explain later.

With this being my first xc race, I needed shoes that would over see mud!!!
After some intense research I decided to take a trip over to the well stock Achillies Heel and take advantage of the 15% discount card I won / well I always tell myself that I win these cards despite everyone getting them for taking part in certain races.

Stephan the shop manager as usual was giving me the best of advice in choosing the appropriate footwear. After trying on several brands inov-8 came up trumps so I eventually went for the Mud Claw 265 size 8.5 – I must point out I did try Spikes, however, felt it was too much of a transition from only ever experiencing Road / Trail Shoes.

So I paid for my new xc shoes skipping out the door along Great Western Road down towards Byres Road for a well earned coffee break. I stumbled across Patisserie Francoise, a bakers’ shop serving a selection of bakery products including bread, confectionery and pastries – got lucky and managed to obtain the window seat tucking my new found friends {inov-8 shoes} under the table that will see me eat up the Gourock Mud & anything else it has to throw at me.

Feeling like a King sitting on his throne with the best seat in the house watching the Byres Road commuters go about their Saturday afternoon business, my mind started to drift and think about the race which was less than 24 hours away, suddenly my day dreaming was over with a gentle voice with a hint of a French accent looking to take my order. I decided to go for a lovely looking crepe sandwich thing from the menu that had tons of green oils as part of the side food{s} and a grande Cappachino. My heart beating faster as I noticed a guy running by which brought my thoughts back to Gourock.!!!
Food and hot drink gone I decided to head home.

Once home I took off my Timberlands followed by thick Mountain Socks and decided to wear my new Mud Eating Machines in and around the house with a pair of Inov-8 Trail Socks to break them in – the start of my Tsunami – shoes were too big, it was too late to call the shop, I panicked.!!!

After a sleepless night, worrying what I was going to do, I resigned to the fact that I would have to run in my La Sportiva Wildcat 2.0 Trail Shoes and there was no way I was going to win this race…what will Robert and the rest of the guys say come Monday when I turn up for the session with no gold medal – will they chuck me out…?

Race day: woke early and had a look at the Achillies Heel Web Site to see their Sunday opening times – 12pm yes I could do this – good start of the day, positive thoughts / winning thoughts…
Explanation for earlier comment referring to 11:30 race start; I met up with the guys at the Ski Centre as planned and took Ashleigh & Ian on a wild goose chase across the city up to Achillies Heel for opening time to carry out a quick turn around from size 8.5s to the 8s that I should have bought. Arrived there well before 12 and waited until that door was unbolted.

Another hammer blow they had no 8s, however must point out, Achillies Heel were very helpful saying they would have them for Monday / Tuesday at the very latest for a no quibble exchanged – back to the car off to Gourock & resigned to the fact I will be wearing pretty heavy Trail Shoes and no chance of winning Gold.!!!

Ian Burns in the front seat talking race with Ashleigh in the back who had over-throned me and was now Queen with her new Inov-8 212 Fell Shoes she bought the day before with no implications.

Gourock / Darrock Park 30mins before that Gun goes off:
Met up with the rest of the Bella Traveling Racers ( Gerry Scullion,Ian Burns,Ashleigh Byrne,Liam Conway, Judith MacGregor {ladies Captain}, Maz Shezzardo, Alley Ewen & Lucy – all looking eager to do Bella proud.
Changing facilities were adequate and warm, quick change and feeling low on confidence after seeing several silky runners with Mud Eating Shoes, then all of a sudden as I pulled on my Bella Vest I was up there feeling macho & gold was only minutes away – I could feel my skin absorbing the Purple Power that comes off that Bella Vest…!!!

Warm-up was a few uneasy strides on the Mud, however after watching Ian, Gerry & Co closely as they went through their virtual warm up that looked like something Christopher McDougall talks about in his book “ Born To Run” about a tribe who live & run races through Mexico’s Copper Canyons – I felt secure.

Starting positions, normally I take to the front because that’s were they take the photo’s & you look your best, however on this occasion I felt it was only right to go nearer the back were I joined the Bella Girls – if our girls vests were Pink I could have been John Travolta…

Wallop, we are off…!
It was frantic, it was good – shoes didn’t matter I was flying.
Mud was flying everywhere, people were screaming at the side, shouting their sons and daughters names as if their lives depended on it.
Purple kicked in, first mile was a modest 7:17 Pace – positive thinking don’t let too many guys pass you – first down hill part was great as Jimmy & Sandra Irvine were there counting the Bella’s and giving us the only direct support we had in this foreign land…at this point I didn’t understand why the counting…back to the race, down hill section followed by sharp left turns, I was running bare foot by now – well it certainly felt like that – Up hill sections tugged my lungs like nothing before I had experienced. Two right turns followed by two left I got to mile 1.5 and saw Purple, a Bella Vest, it was Ally Ewan, he was traveling in a different / faster car to mines, his feet didn’t touch the ground, this was not normal and thought about his 7am Campsie Fell run earlier that morning that he completed – insane.

Lap 2: Few more yards on which felt like kilometers more Purple Vest, Gerry,Liam,Ian not to sure what the order was as they were unrecognisable – I thought of Gerry standing there on our Club Sessions back at the Ski Centre which at the time seem a million miles away…I took comfort at that point as I could hear his mellow assuring voice somewhere in my head saying “ you can do this Derek”, then a loud local woman screamed “C’mon SCOTT”. Scott was 20 yards behind me & I thought it was time to push on or suffer two more yelps from our local lady…A big Bella Harriers guy over took me, on this occasion I decided to let him go, climbed another mountain well a wee well trodden hill which takes you up around a Red Ash Football Pitch passing the route to your left seeing runners that were probably a minute or so behind me, that’s when I saw Judith, I shouted some encouraging words that came across as a rabble, but it was good seeing her & the Purple Power that surrounds you when you wear that vest.
Pushing on & making promises that I won’t be overtaken again, I almost caught the three leading girls, and had to remind myself that they will be finishing soon approaching lap two and their final one. The three leading girls finished their battle of two laps so I soldiered on without them.

Lap 3: More shouts, mud adding to burning lungs I started to settled down, the course seemed quieter, I tried to push hard on the down hill section looking for the Irvines, hoping to feed off their vocal support but they had moved to another section, I felt alone. Sharp left turn, 3rd attempt to turn on the afterburners as I was being chased. Harriers & yellow top runners were ganging up on me, what have I done to upset them…they wanted share of the Purple Power. Hammered a down hill section asking a Marshall have we much more to go, yellow top person caught me, I could feel the pain of their knife in my back – another overtaker – not fair. My breathing become burdensome, thought about the condition Ashleigh’s new Inov-8s would be in & was a little relieved I didn’t get my shoes – sorry Ashleigh, my new ones will get their baptism come Kilmarnock…!

Home Run: Feeling a little more confident I actually managed to over-take a guy who wore a white vest with a black band across it, probably the wrong time to do it as he had local support and it felt like I scored an away goal against him into injury time.
I felt my Pace was slower than to previous laps, however I felt in control, strong & pushed on , saw Cris Walsh who said “yo Derek” I returned shouts, he was hundreds of minutes in front of me; it’s the only part of the route you get close to the fast guys.
Hammered on, enjoying every stride slipping away round to the finish & managed a wee burst to the tape…time estimated 42/43min…

Best Part: Tea & Home Baking
We all headed back to some wee Club House and were made very welcomed, scuffing down cakes,short bread biscuits and exchanging our stories on todays race.

Overall, a cracking day out that allows you to catch up with some of the B-Group Runners making you feel part of a Great Club – here’s to the next one…

Well done to all the guys that took part & congratulations to Liam Conway winning a Silver Medal for V40.

To be continued…