I had been training for a weekend of 4 races in 4 days at the beginning of July and following this Initially really struggled (at least mentally) to maintain fitness and a racing mind-set.
Anyway the weekend arrived following a week of good running, gentle taper and sensible dieting. I flew down and got the train out to Bangor on Friday morning. This gave me the chance to recce the bottom half of the race route, get nice and relaxed and a good nights kip.
Breakfast of cereal, juice and yogurt at 7.15 then chilled out until brunch (Cheese and Salsa roll + chocolate) at 10.15am.
Out for a gentle walk before team meeting at 11am. Numbers issued, last pep talk and given, including the advice "don't be concerned if there are 40 people infront of you on the road".
It was pouring rain, blowing a gale and with visibility between 20-80 metres on the mountain.
I had convinced my self I was the 'wild-card' in the team as I had the least proven record at big races. I felt no pressure but was hoping to be the 3rd of 4 scots, ie count in the team competition. I was determined not to get caught in the 'big-race syndrome' and pace myself sensibly.
The race starts with about a mile on the road, the second half of which is 15-20% gradient. I was about 35-40th at the bottom, about 30th by the top. The next stage, to the halfway point I took steadily but worked comfortably with other runners- all off the other Scottish guys and most other international runners were out of sight already. Gradually catching people I went through half way in 24th (guessed at bout 25th).
The second half got very intense. I was feeling good, the mist was down, the rocks were technical and slippery. Ideal.
The runners in front of me seemed to be struggling more, my bounce over the boulders had arrived and I was just focused on the backs of the runners in the mist. I worked hard, passing club runners, Italians, Irish and Welsh runners until out of the mist I spotted a group of 4 runners including a Scottish vest.
I caught these guys right at the top of a long steep section and immediately went on the offensive using the transition to flatter running to really up the pace and stretch the group. Fortunately, Scot, Kyle Grieg came with me (initially) and we took off into the mist- I'd just made 4 places in 30 seconds and was feeling great.
I saw the first runner descending after 43minutes so expected the summit wasn't more than 5 minutes away.
3 crazy minutes charging through the rain & mist, dodging tourists, trying to count on-coming runners- I lost count in the early teens, but there was the Summit in 46:04.
Descending, I'm good at this, or reckless...
It started with a mad dash through crowds of soggy tourists, near misses with runners coming up and frantic fast feet to avoid a catastrophic fall. As the mist broke lower down and the up-hill runners thinned out I suddenly caught Duncan Coombs, struggling on the technical descent. Straight past with just a shout of encouraging advice . Immediately my sights set upon leading Scot, Sam Hesling. Shouts from supporters of "well done, you look very confident, really relaxed" spurred me on. Some heel chasing and a bit more tourist dodging and I was past him with a couple miles to go.
Still feeling good I settled down a bit, conscious of the tarmac slog at the end but feeling strong. The last rocky technical section let me scamper past a Northern Irish runner to the applause of unknown supporters. I hit the tarmac, pounding down it as 1st Scot I began to realise what might be happening. Down the last of the hill at a sprint, across a cattle grid in 1 flying leap and onto the flat. Adrenalin and applause got me to the finish line where I couldn't suppress a huge grin across the line.
1hr 10mins 8seconds first Scot and I eventually found out as 11th of 548 starters.
Absolutely delighted and secured my selection for a second Scottish outing.