Sunday, 17 February 2013

Carnethy 5 16/02/13

The view from the last descent before race start 
(trying and failing to find a decent line)

A necessary evil?

I get kind of tired of folk complaining about mentally deficient tv on facebook like there wasn't an off switch and someone had a gun to their head to watch it. You can't have your bad tv cake and complain about it as well surely? With that in mind I am going to try and keep this brief. I have, after all, done this race 13 times, more times than any other. Which must mean I like it?

Cracking photo posted by Judith Sweetman of grass, though near the top of you can see some runners.

Well no. Often I find more to dislike (or perhaps just frustrate) than like, although I do admire the organisation and general enthusiasm behind this monster, all the time wondering just why it is so popular and every year is sold out. My main problem is that I'm just not very good at it. And fail in my quest each year to go under the hour. So not only am I whipped by quite a few runners I'd often run alongside, but I feel I have in essence been whipped by the course as well. Other races I have identified as being unsuitable to my skill set (thanks to junior apprentice for the loan of this phrase) I have dropped like hot potatoes. Jedburgh Half. Lasswade 10. Hilly stuff usually. (Pattern emerging.)

Jim Davies in his natural habitat

Jim Davies who is as responsible as anyone for myself running up and down hills and was winning races in the lake district, home of fell running, while I was still smoking half an ounce of Golden Virginia every 2 days and staring into the middle distance without the need to lash on a pair of Walshes; Jim said its a race with a bit of everything. He won this race in 2001 the first year I ran it, and probably if I won it I'd also think more highly of it. Like most, I am drawn to races I have a compatibility with. But generally this is the low point of my Scottish Hill Racing Percentage annually. Also if a race did have a bit of everything (for instance the Highland Fling with its 53 miles of tarmac, cross country and undulations) Jim wouldn't touch it with a multi-terrain barge pole. However he does have a huge ability to run up steep hills. And the majority of this race is just that.

 Both well capable of going under the hour and have done this - but not today.

I dislike the mass start. After an inevitable refrigeration on the starting hummock we stampede like wildebeest across the swamp. As stated previously, I dislike jostling for position and not being able to choose a decent line because 500+ folk are trying to get to the log jam gate before you. I had a poor start this year and folk were veering all over the shop, cluttering up the path! This probably discouraged me from overdoing the first half mile and I started up Scald law surrounded by familiar faces, in not too bad a shape. (The log jam gate is actually much improved thanks to Carnethy.)

oooh me back - a heavily pregnant Alex climbs Carnethy

Thanks to Sandy Wallace for these 3 photos.

Going up Scald law today I saw young Ally R cheering on the runners. Too mashed to talk, I was using only eyebrows to mime the question “who gave you the idea you didn't have to run this blankety blank race today?” A long time later he explained it was an unpleasant race and he thought it a good idea just to cheer on from the sidelines. Holy shit that IS a good idea, why didn't I think of that?

After a dismal climb through the heather we hit the trig point at 16.50; good, but not great. I was pleased to run most of the next section close to Jill M (Carnethy) with herself leading the ups and myself gaining ground on the downs. The Kips robbed my legs of any downhilling strength and I lumbered down that awful descent to the gate before the Howe. Andrew Scoffer Schofield (Borrowdale FR) had a big spill here and did quite a lot of damage to the ground.

Back on Wednesday as a flurry of snow turned into persistent rain I thought “there goes the hour.” And that was pretty much spot on. My sub-hour C5 is often determined not by my own training, (although training is essential) so much as by local conditions. Scuppering can be done by snow, rain, wind, cold and mud. Usually a combination of 2 or more. Like a game of rock, paper, scissors. They all beat runner. Today only 42 of the 530 runners managed to go sub 60. A couple of years ago in the snow it was limited to about half that.

Its like the Nigerian lottery though – don't buy a ticket and your numbers will almost certainly come up. Could I bear to spectate on a dry windless day as the first 100 cruise across the line under the hour? Well I think as long as they have the erosion-control route off the last hill like today's, there isn't much chance of that, however instead of complaining about bad tv and watching it again next time, I think I'll post some photos and switch channels.

The home team done good.

Bernie showing signs of trauma.

Willie G pulling off the sunglasses and kilt look.

Gareth had a great run Michael less so but still pretty good.

A couple of notable moments along the way: when I saw what looked like Michael Reid running alongside I put it down to oxygen deprivation. Having dominated at the cross country lately I put it from my confused mind that he might be running anywhere near me in this race. As we began the last ascent he spoke encouraging words and I was impressed my hallucination was so well formed. I asked how come he was here. He explained it was a championship race and he could only manage so many others forcing him to do this one to complete. Oh and he had 'flu. He asked was I going to manage the hour. I said I didn't really know. He marched onwards and upwards gaining ground and eventually crossing the line in 59.43. Steven F was also in the vicinity, and his post later on facebook suggested he wasn't best pleased with his “worst time on C5”.

Angus discourages the paparazzi.

Deranged by exertion, I'm giving the black power salute.

Another person I bumped into was Richie C whom I didn't recognise as he had borrowed a hat/beard combo from an Interpol dressing-up box of 1980 soviet bloc disguises. It was towards the bottom of the last hairy descent and I went stumbling by. He shouted that he thought he had made up enough ground on the ascent (with his famous Charlie Chaplin ™ climbing method) to stay ahead. However in the lame hope of catching a couple of those Carnethy boys (Jim and Graham) I had thrown myself down the heather in a life threatening fashion. I did wonder who the rushing dissident was, but too concerned with lining up with the gate to stop and chat. Going through the gate it was nearly 59 minutes so I could relax having blown the hour by at least a minute. I still managed to catch a couple of stragglers. But sadly not the Carnethies who were perilously close to the hour and will now join that gang of wannabe sub-hour-ers. More a curse than a blessing.

Another excellent photo from Bob Marshall - 
Paul showing the correct attitude to racing and finishing with a smile.

The best thing about this race is chatting to folk after its all over while having a school dinner (chicken pie again this year, in preference to the veggie quiche although it was a close call.) And it was nice to catch up with Jim who just managed to squeeze into the top ten, 2nd v40. Interesting to hear who loves this race and who loathes it. And it's not just about who does well. (Not everyone is as shallow as I!) Being an SHR Champs race it attracted a strong field – notably only one female went under the hour – Queen Mudge, the record holder. Despite the potential £250 cash prize for breaking her own record she was unable to do this.

In summary: it was mild and not raining. Chicken Pie was good. Soft conditions and mud underfoot gave many customers a result they felt slower than hoped for. Others enjoyed the challenge. Until I get as much common sense as Ally R I will probably return. I can't promise I'll enjoy it though.

Mary ran an admirably brave race today – her health difficulties meant an all-time pw by 10 minutes, a result that is almost impossible to enjoy or see a positive side to, other than it could be worse, I could be dead. Probably best to sidestep the racing circuit until she has recovered some sort of form as the obvious morale depreciation is tangible. And puts my trivial grumbles in perspective. Her blog here.

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