Thursday, 16 May 2013

Cold Showers, Hot Showers

Gypsy Glen 15/05/13

One of the few things with Gypsy in the title that is good quality. Unfortunately the weather was still a bit...

We were obliged to start exactly on the dot of 7pm as the Police, working independently, were stopping the traffic at the road crossing 600 yards into the race at one minute past. We stood in the cool air, cooling. The evenings have been an “interesting” mix of sun and showers – yesterday pm Johnny got hail, whereas later on I got sunshine and blue skies. The forecasters are fighting to see who can combine as many icons into the same graphic. I think they might start using question marks if this continues.

Ian McManus, setting off early, with a half devilish number.

We set off along the riverside path and over the bridge, across the road (traffic-calmed) and into the playing field, past the finish. Andrew and I had gone for a bit of a warm up along to where it goes off-roady and on the way back I bribed the finish marshal and her daughter to look after my camera and rain jacket, with a smile. They were very obliging as long as I didn't require photos taken. It wasn't really an evening for photos otherwise I may have carried the camera up the hill.
Keith M: not sure why I was being fingered.

After about 4 minutes Johnny appeared and I was thinking he was doing well to avoid the early rush. I was on the outskirts of the top ten but knew pretty much nothing we did here would have much bearing on the race. There was a bit of undulation and on the down I overtook someone else. Johnny came past and was still visible until we hit the hill proper and he disappeared off with the leaders – a gang of four or five Carnethy / Moorfoot mix. I say leaders but really they were followers. An Edinburgh University teenager had set off at 5k pace chasing Al Anthony's record. We “let” him go unsure whether he would win by miles or explode half way up the hill. (The former, but sadly, missed the record by seconds.)

The hill from the finish line.
Someone asked in the changing rooms what the hill was called. Best not print the reply.

I was pleased to overtake a young Carnethy who had set off a little quickly. It is a bonus to overtake anyone on the hill. Keith said he was catching me, by which he meant “you were rubbish running uphill.” (This much I know.) I don't know how far behind he started but I think if the the hill was long enough Ian McManus would eventually overtake me. Ian, I owe an apology: I saw him last week at Dumyat and suggested he wasn't racing. He was. Only, rather than set off at the same time as everyone, and finish a considerable time afterwards, he takes the precaution of setting off around 40 minutes early so that he can spend the midpart of the race in company. Good tactic, plus he allows the marshals to minimise their time on the hill, a blessing in these conditions.

There are some woods then some grassy and heathery hills. Way, way off ahead a green vest crested the horizon. What appears to be the top is only a false summit and after a bit of lessening of gradient you carry on climbing to the true top. From the finish line you can a see a hump then the summit proper. I had forgotten this from last time I ran possibly 3 or 4 years ago. Like stepping on the scales these days I look up old results with trepidation – not sure if I want to know what form I was in then, vs now. Maybe tomorrow when / if I am feeling stronger. (I checked, and in 2010 I was a full minute quicker although less wind, it was warm and no rain.) There are 2 gates and I cleverly let other folk open them. I raced to keep up with 2 Ochils and another at the first; they got away but I let another (all grey kit to match the sullen skies,) overtake and manhandle gate number 2. I followed Captain Grey to the top and as soon as it levelled off and hugged the wall in a delicate dance over rocky grassy single track I knew I'd be overtaking pretty quickly. We turned the far corner, the track widened and I went past looking to see how far the Ochils were up ahead. They looked a catchable distance and I reckoned one would be strong and one would drop behind. Also a figure in red.

On closer inspection it was Ian in his Tartan shorts and I didn't need to shout STAND STILL tonight. I had already apologised for last week's barked order, however he had understood my purpose and I think I was forgiven. I shouted encouragements to him and it occurred that I hadn't recognised him by any kind of aged stoop; that he has an admirably upright style and for an old git, is going pretty damn well! The next part of the route is glorious and I enjoyed the swooping rolling descent in confidence inspiring new shoes. When I saw all the rain I chose the Mudclaws over the Hokas as the hill shoes outgrip everything in the slippy.


Then the gate. I yanked the vertical lever to the left and it clanged but didn't open. I did this several times in a row before engaging my brain which I'd temporarily disabled for the descent. There was a small latch that required lifting, as well as the sideways yank and it opened easily. (The gate not my brain.). Are the cattle and sheep so much more intelligent that they need more sophisticated gates here than in the Pentlands? First time I've come across this gate type and it wasn't just me it caught out.

The annoyance and short breather fuelled the next half mile and I flew down the hill relishing bombproof grip on off-cambers and slick mud patches. I did have to slow for the river and bridge crossing, catching sight of the 2 Ochils up ahead but unable to make much impression on the distance between us. One had fallen behind but not far enough.

Eventually there is a steep up to a kind of sand box at the top – another curiously unique stile or cattle deterring structure. Only its filled with mud not sand. One foot in, one out. Then the tarmac back to the playing field. I was pretty sure there was nobody on my shoulder. The soft applause of a marshal. As I ran on I couldn't hear her begin again. But the 2 or three ahead were not catchable. Then there is that last tarmac hill, short but steep, and I was glad not to have company, and a race for the line. Another marshal flagged us off the road and across the wet field of grass to the finish.

Sue Ridley

I retrieved my camera and jacket from the still very cheerful marshal and her daughter (how can they be having fun?) as the rain turned into a bit of a downpour. Graham, having a bit of to-and-fro with Sue Ridley, first lady, comes rocking in with a powerful sprint, chewing up the finish line. Andrew also gives it some welly, enjoying leaving a number of folk behind who probably got the better of him going up the hill. I think he forgot to pack his spare lungs. (Inhaler.)

We ran back to the hall with (I think) the third lady who was intriguingly wearing Vibram 5 Fingers and seemed to manage ok in them. The gravelly rock and mud bits can't have been easy. A nice touch was some cold pizza (the best kind!) and sandwiches and biscuits just outside the hall which more than made up for a quite short prize list. (v40 was the oldest they went and only 2 of those in either gender.) Best of all though: hot showers after all the cold showers. I had taken a fractionally larger towel this week (a Nike job nearer a 7 Hills towel in size. It was a prize a hundred years ago at a round Arthur Seat 5k that was so expensive I wouldn't pay for the entry and Mary had to. I know that's not logical but what can I say? I love this towel and take it to work where I wash paint off my hands 20 times a day.)

The antidote to a bracing run in the rain.

Andrew chauffeured us back through rainbowed skies in plenty time to watch the twats on The Apprentice. Now you would think if you were going to be on that programme you'd have watched a previous series, (any previous episode would be sufficient,) and work out what comes across as arrogant, foolish, bone-headed, gobby, pushy and unattractive. And not behave exactly like that. You would think?

Here is something entirely different brought to mind by all those rainbows...


  1. Dear Yak,
    I assume you are responding to the first line about things (good) with Gypsy in the title.
    You could have had Gypsy Moth twice: as the aircraft and the moth (if you were smarter!). And Gypsy Kings though that is kinda borderline.
    As you well know I was having a poke at the stuff that begins with "My Big Fat..." and ends with neither the travelling people nor the audience of gawping cultural tourists, looking good.

  2. Phew good to see you left out the hot showers!