I have to admit to nearly ruining the day by blabbing so much in the car on the way that Steve couldn't concentrate. (Mary says she understands this entirely and is frequently nearly driving off the road due to my blethering). And we were heading down the A1 instead of the Jedburgh Rd before anyone noticed, while I droned on in the back. Steve rescued the situation by going across country via Gifford to Lauder then making good time to Selkirk with just minutes to spare for a quick registration, kit check and jog to the start line. Which was so brisk that I felt I would manage in just a vest, no hat, no gloves. I took off the t-shirt and put it in my backpack, possibly a bit too keen.
After a long hike up the first hill we crossed this heathery pathless patch for the next summit of the 3 Brethren. That's Andrew G just overtaken - getting revenge for Paxton last week. He had a great run and came in 5th.
The 3 Brethren with marshals.
Due to the nature of the course - dramatic climbs and long fast descents - places swapped more than they would in a flat half marathon. Scout Adkin, 1st lady (above) caught me just as we were topping out at the Brethren. Her strength being going up. As this was then followed by some downhill I took back the place but knew I'd probably see her later.
On the drive down there had been some filthy weather. However just before the off it brightened and the rain stopped. I made a last minute decision to carry my camera, but took a polybag to put it in if it started chucking it down. Happily it stayed fair although the light was a bit low and I took a lot of dull grey shakey photos. Although I made quite good ground getting away from Scout, I noticed this dude approaching my ear.
He gradually pulled away on the long drag up to the high point at almost exactly 6miles. I was looking forward to climbing the stile here as the going then favours me (downhill) for the following 2 miles.
As we began the fabulous descent I could see Greig G again for the first time since he went past on the first hill. I have great respect for Greig coming along to do hill races. He can run 73 minutes for a half marathon and yet in the hills.... Well I was just about to go past him. Most folk are drawn to the sort of running they do best. Greig comes along for the scenery, the crack and is very sporting about comparatively old fat blokes like myself going past on the downhills.
We were now approaching a superb part of the run - what Graham has called the best mile descent in Scotland. Past the marshals keeping us right at the sharp turn, it is a narrow trail and difficult to overtake folk at speed. I managed to get past Greig although up ahead there was a train of runners so we were pretty much obliged to go at the speed of the front guy. Instead of trying to force a way past I decided to stay in line and take some photos. Last time I had gone down here a little too fast and felt wrecked, up the climb on the other side of the stream.
Towards the bottom of the descent places began to change and before we got to Broadmeadows I had overtaken all the guys ahead including the yellow vest of the Westie, although he would go past again later.
Interesting to compare last year and this, taken almost exactly at the same point - looking over to the last dreadful climb...
I even seem to have been leaning over at the same angle. The main difference was the moles (or at least the mounds above their holes) seem to have moved to the bottom of the field. Another probably slightly ocd thing I noticed, and wonder did anyone else notice the quality of the safety pins they were giving away this morning? Particularly fine - small but really well built - just how I like my men I mean safety pins. When you see as many of these as I do in a year, well you notice these things. (Or not.)
Another good thing - there was a photographer at the stream (and large deep muddy puddle) at the bottom here. As Greig said, it gives you the motivation to stomp through the middle rather than pussyfoot round the edge. To impress your non-running friends. (He has non-running friends!) I will hopefully post a link when they appear.
Then past a water station (a cup of near freezing water held no appeal.) And along to the oldest hostel in Scotland which Graham tells me has now been sold but the kind owners were happy to have us all tramp through their garden and up the woodland trail behind to some of the deepest mud on the course.
Miss Adkin appeared again as had Greig who can be seen getting a second wind and heading past a few runners ahead. (I reckoned that was the last I'd see of him.)
Now these duck boards were slippy as hell. Or would have been if organiser Sheila hadn't been out sprinkling ash on them. How kind is that? To access them would mean an obligatory walk over very muddy ground with a large bag of ash. All included in a VERY inexpensive entry fee.
Then round the corner and Greig is squatting down having a shit in the mud! Come on man pull yourself together. Oh, hang on, it's only his shoe has come off. "Get your shoe back on Cinderella," I helpfully called out while he cursed, telling me later: of course he double tied his laces meaning he had to take off his gloves to untie them to get the shoe back on. While watching runners go past making cheeky comments.
Now it may seem that Graham had flagged the worst possible line up the last awful climb. In fact he went up and down 5 different lines and opted for the fastest. Last year we went further right (South) to the ridge to avoid deep snow on the line that we took this year which was pretty much the diretissimo over a couple of streams then straight up the front. It only took about 8 minutes from where the steepness started but it was not the best 8 minutes of my day. Scout disappeared ahead, galloping up like a deer. I remembered being overtaken by Neil B here last year (revenge this year!) and although a few of the guys I had just gone past on the descent came past, I felt I made a reasonable job of it. Thursday night Wintervals take a bow.
Big thanks to the marshals who stood out all day on the top taking numbers and checking we all made it home safely. Quality service.
Now this Westie I had overtaken on the long descent and now caught again after he made a much better job of the uphill. (Horses for courses.) I thought he wasn't carrying a kit bag but on closer inspection he had his kit in the back bike pocket of his top which was then tucked into his shorts. This field wasn't quite the joyful descent it appeared, having a peppering of cattle tracks making the surface a bit more treacherous than it looks. And an off-camber just before the track.
Then out onto the trail for the last mile. I could see first lady about half a minute ahead and wore some rubber off my inov-8s trying to catch her (as I had managed with Jasmin Paris last year in very similar circumstances), but she was far too quick and remained about the same distance ahead, setting a new female course record.
Thanks to Allan G for this photo.
If there is a slightly confused look going on around my face it's because Charlotte to my knowledge wasn't running and so I didn't expect to see Allan. To further confuse me, his camera was in front of his face, and I wondered if it was himself, only confirmed when I saw his splendidly unique vehicle parked further down the road.
Photo Allan G.
Graham had a great run - especially as he was out till after dark the day before marking the route.
The sting in the tale was the very muddy ground on another off-camber slope just as you entered the last field. I was glad I wasn't involved in any last minute sprints as you had to go carefully to avoid what could have been very messy. Then onto decent grass for a dash to the line. I was 13th and pleased to have improved on last year's run by a couple of places and over 11 minutes. Partially fitness, partly a shorter course in (mostly) more favourable conditions. The start and finish in the field was to avoid the very rocky trail that would have made for an unpleasant finish at speed. Team Porty all said how much they enjoyed the course (well maybe not the the last hill) but generally everyone seemed to enjoy the day and the excellent route and variety of terrain. Johnny finished first PRCer in 7th a couple of minutes ahead of myself.
Then to round off the perfect day's running we headed back to the rugby club where there were really hot showers, then a big cup of soup, a slice of brown bread and a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties all included in the entry fee. Exactly what you need after a bracing run in the hills.
I totally recommend this event. It is superbly organised by Sheila, (over £1,000 raised for the local mountain rescue,) and route marked by Graham. Hat's off to the marshals who are hardy as anything to spend most of the day out keeping us on the right course, and making sure nobody comes to grief. The food and drink afterwards makes for a great atmosphere in the hall with a very generous prize giving. I came away with a bottle of red and token for Sainsbury's for 1st m50. Icing on the cake!