Wednesday, 7 August 2013

North Berwick Law Hill Race 7/08/13

It was not without trepidation that I went in for this one. I have been involved with the Law on many occasions and always found it criminally steep. You can't really rush up and down, throwing caution to the wind. But that was exactly what was asked of us tonight.

I was disappointed that both this race and the club champs for August fell on the same evening. I was looking forward to the track 3000 at Grangemouth although I felt it would probably be a rerun of the 1 miler at the Meadows last week and then some. When I weighed up the location of either there was no contest really. I quite like the uber-industrial vibes of Grangemouth but North Berwick has a jaunty seaside charm and a fresher breath.

Smiling on the way up? Can't be right.

Graham recently completed a Ramsay Round (so wasn't causing the usual trouble.)

I wasn't sure of my movements for the day and having planned various activities en route to the station achieved pretty much none of them then caught the train with the rush hour commuter mob leaving Waverley on the 5.48. We were in NB with an hour or more to spare and got registered before the tail back began out the lifeboat shed and down the street. I was unimpressed with no distinction being made for age categories other than under/over 40. Given Mark Harris was there I was never in with a shout of a prize but it seems unfair that the v60s and v70s are also racing Mark, with no age graded relief. I'm told it's not about the winning but the taking part.

I went for a warm up with George and Ben and we talked about various things. Ben has a bit of a cold still, and after swithering about taking part opted for attendance but at reduced capacity. It was a lovely warm evening although not quite the glorious sunshine forecast by the BBC. (As we went up the hill it got hotter and hotter until you could imagine we were approaching the open cauldron of the volcano.)

I was annoyed with this pic - had a clear view of Ben coming all the way down the street and the camera can't make up its mind to use the flash or not and missed the picture. Sorry Ben!

I had no idea of the route other than up to the top of the Law which we could see in front of us down the street. It didn't look far away. Barry who usually wears the red blazer was herding us at the start line but someone else actually fired the starting pistol – and at such close proximity that I jumped and had to hit my watch a second time to start it. We legged it along the flat (past the toilets and chip shop) and across the road and into that park. I noticed Ally Robertson to my left and said hello. We were in the top ten or thereabouts at this point so talking was limited. He has been spending more time lifting weights and bulking up in the gym than running these days, which doesn't really help to go quickly up-hill. George came past and I pretty much expected this as he is good on the ups. He has been doing a fair bit of running and had fitness tests for his refereeing lately. We talked about Glenogle Ultra which he is signed up for. (Before we started racing that is.)

There were a couple of folk I anticipated coming past me on the ascent. My plan was to let them, rather than kill myself trying to keep up, then catch them on the descent and roads back. Stuart Hay was one, although I never saw him. He prefers flatter road-based terrain. Also it was his second run of the day. (Nuts!) I enjoyed the roads we took to the bottom of the hill – although predominantly rising, they didn't do it all in one go like Law Road which always made climb to the sports centre, after the old E2NB race, a thought. I managed to keep near George and when the off roady stuff got underway I may even have gone past him. I didn't really notice as I was too busy blowing sweat at the grass. Very fortuitously it was bone dry. Had we had a good downpour before or during it would have been a much more dangerous descent over wet rock and slippy grass. Ben nearly ended himself recently as his Hokas lost grip on the wet grass coming down the Law and he went t over a for about 10m scarring his eye brow and spilling a good amount of blood.

So he was wearing his Speedcross 3s tonight. More bad luck though as the speedlaces burst through an eyelet as he began the climb. He had to stop and hastily re-tie them to themselves thinking he might have to drop out if he couldn't get them sufficiently tight. 

He managed and got round but it can't have inspired confidence. (He said this has also happened with his Rapa Nuis as it has with mine – sometimes you are safer with old fashioned laces and they give you more warning by fraying before breaking.)

Christina looks like she is giving me the evil eye here.

The good thing about NB Law is it isn't the highest peak ever. In fact after 13 minutes I was at the turn around. They give you an elastic wrist band at the top which you exchange at the finish for a bottle of juice. Or if you are me and a little mentally hi-jacked by the effort you take it off as you are settling into your train seat.

Towards the summit I was overtaken by Jonny Knox. I had enjoyed (really enjoyed) thrashing him at the Sandy Slither. Usually, in that part of the world, at the Largo Law Hill Race, he leaves me for dead just after the hill kicks in proper, and romps off. He has something of an uncanny hillability. (Up and down!) Less so on the flat. However my daily running has sloughed off a couple of pounds and given me an ounce or 2 more grit. After turning at the top I thought I would try and get past the steep ground without any drama then turn it up for the road home. Mr Knox got about 60 yards ahead descending really well, and taking some rougher ground to avoid the masses coming up, and achieving a straighter and faster line off the hill. I was still recovering from the climb so held a little in reserve as there were no prizes worth breaking a leg for.

Towards the bottom I was getting my breath and hit the car park and road like I meant it. Alex Jackson and another were standing in the car park. We have a standing joke about race numbers being folded so I ran past him with my arm across the top of my number which may or may not have been folded. I think I overtook a young dude but was really aiming at the less young JK up ahead. He wasn't slacking and I wondered about shadowing him for a bit, catching my breath then going past at a speed that would be discouraging. Along the straight road section I made up ground and as we crossed the road and headed through the grassy fields I eased past. I wondered if he would respond but rather than look behind I looked to the marshals to keep on the right path. It was surprisingly unrecognisable on the way back and I was relieved to pass through the doorway and out onto the main street, the crowds lining the street and giving a lifting roar. Wow! However the problem here is, you are now tempted to raise the pace to a sprint - and there is slightly more road left than it first appears. Eventually the finishing funnel and I stop my watch at 21½ minutes.

I am delighted to have survived / spilled no blood / beaten a few of the competition. My brains were a bit askew though and I had to think really hard to remember in relation to the finish line just exactly where the registration tables were and hence my backpack and camera. I blame that not on early onset senility, but the crowds lining the streets that were absent of folk when we arrived. The crowd was a real boon. Makes you realise how Paula set a massive world record in London surfing round on the rapture of the crowd. Well that, and a lot of hard training.

Haddington at the weekend and possibly hot hot hot. Isn't it always though?

Great to catch up briefly with Ben on the walk back to the station. Didn't stay for the results to see if George got first local, anxious to catch the 8.27 and get home for just after 9. Superb race although a taxing gradient both up and down. Thanks to the organisers and Bob up the hill taking photos!

Results here

fishing for pearls?

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