Friday, 28 February 2014

Tri Trail Dakeith Country Park 10k, 26/02/14

a lark in the park in the dark

Persevere: continue in the course of action even in the face of difficulty or with little or no indication of success.
Leith's motto and an appropriate one. Persevere. What else can you do? I was thinking about this earlier today when my bike fell over. It was outside while I was in the paint shop. It fell over on the side with the panier bag holding some jam jars of paint. I didn't check at that point but continued on my way up the road. Just before I arrived on site I bumped down a small kerb and either landed on a bit of glass or gave my rear tyre a pinch flat. I wheeled my bike to the job and got out my lock, covered in paint (right into the heart of the lock mechanism) and spent some time cleaning it before locking the bike with flat tyre and then going into work. About a half pint of paint had decorated everything in the bottom part of the panier. Luckily the electronics (phone, mp3 player etc.) were in the other side. And it was only one of the 3 jam jars broken so it could have been worse. (Broken glass half full.)

I didn't have a puncture repair kit, pump and levers as they were all stolen a bit back. So after work I rolled my bike home on the rear rim lifting it over kerbs. Persevere.

On the upside Gareth offered me a lift to Dalkeith for the race. I jogged a couple of miles to his flat trying not to get too sweaty as I correctly predicted quite a bit of standing around in the cold and dark after picking up numbers and before warming up. The jog took me through Lochend Park, which in the arse-end of a winter's day is about as desolate a place as you will ever find. The Stygian gloom and drizzle putting off even the most ardent of paedophiles. Ellie says there is an urban myth that the YLT (Young Leith Transvestites?) roam the park wearing balaclavas where they have a weapons cache. And that the eerie ambience comes from the submerged objects and people lying at the bottom of the black waters. “According to sources there is even an ice-cream van down there. If you stop and listen you can hear its child herding tune...”

There have been a few Tri-Trail races and largely they seem well received. They are the product of the folk from the Tri Centre, and the race venues are almost all places I rate highly. After last year's race in Dalkeith Country Park (in the dark) and the positive reviews, I thought it would be a great opportunity to try something different for the PRC club championship. I get a childlike pleasure from going out running in the dark away from street lights and in challenging conditions. The weather was pretty much ideal although underfoot was always going to be very muddy after such a sodden winter. Its a brave thing to do – encourage members of the public to go out into the dark and run round the maze of off-road paths at points nearly knee-deep in mud. It would be the easiest thing in the world to go off route and spend the rest of the night wandering!

As well as giving us numbers we were given a wrist dibber. However the only place we had to dib was the finish line. I'm not sure there was sufficient numbers to justify this (159) – there seemed plenty of marshals at the finish who could have taken timings and probably been more accurate – I was wearing a garmin and a normal watch and both showed the electronic print out was 10secs fast. Tri-people just love kit. I was quite surprised I didn't see anyone wearing clear cycling shades.

We started just after 7.30pm. It was quite a narrow path up a gradient to begin, so we started quite briskly to avoid getting stalled in the squash. I was carrying my camera. I tried to take pics but the camera struggled to focus in the dark especially with all the movement. It was good to have Bob M out on the course somewhere taking photos. I think he goes to more races than I do. The first couple of miles passed without incident. There were hard pack trails, dirt trails and mud trails. There were undulations and the dark added to the fun. The trails continually twisted through the trees and it was impossible to keep a track of where you were in relation to the Big House which was about the only landmark. Apart from the Dalkeith Bypass which we would pass under, do a loop and then return by.

By the second mile Johnny led the field and Gareth was keeping him in sight. I had been in fifth but thought it would be cool to have a Porty 1,2,3 so on a gradual downhill cranked it up and passed a couple of the guys. I reckon I have done more headtorch practice at maximum effort than most: every Thursday I meet the Carnethies for Wintervals on Arthur's Seat and we sprint up hills in the dark, away from the street lights. So I should have been feeling very comfortable. I did have a small problem: my lamp seemed to be not as bright as usual. I have had the excellent headtorch (bought from Mark F) for ages now and use it a lot at work to examine paint on walls in poorly lit rooms. The rechargable batteries are losing their capacity to hold a charge for so long, so I put in some Tescos “extra long life” batteries. There could be a reason they are not as expensive as Duracell and I wasn't sure if it was the dingy-ness of the surroundings or the guy directly behind having more impressive equipment that was making the trail difficult to see. I turned the power up to full but it still seemed less powerful than normal and I was cursing not using the rechargable batteries.

This, as a problem, quickly became insignificant. Because we came to a junction where there was no arrow. Every 100 meters and every junction there had been small arrows on posts and marshals and now there was nothing. We turned left and I followed Gareth and Johnny and gained on them as we ran parallel to the boundary wall. It occurred to me it would have been useful to study the map of the route before running, however everyone who did it last year said that although you were continually unaware of where you were, it was all very well marked and you couldn't go wrong. Only we just had. The reason I was catching J and G was they were scratching their heads and wondering how to retrieve the situation. This was all a bit deja-vu. We had a bit of a summit and decided to run round till we found an arrow. The turn (we thought) must have been to the right, only we went left. There were no arrows.

Morale was low. I was really hacked off that this had happened yet again, and Johnny who had started with a spring in his step, was gutted and may have felt since he was at the front that it was his fault. We ran round in a loop. We came upon the mid-pack runners and started to overtake them. This would be going down the long straight in a North East direction. Now we knew we had made a mistake so you can be sure we would be looking for clues. However we took the same turn left and made exactly the same mistake again returning to the unmarked junction. On reflection I remember a broad left turn that you could cut the corner of, on a worn path and I recall the arrow in the right side of the path pointing us in this (wrong) direction. If it was that junction. I will never know for sure. It all looked the same. I could see Gareth and Johnny up ahead and felt I really had to stay in touch with them otherwise I could be going round this loop all night. When we got to the unmarked junction there was still no sign of an arrow but as there was only one other direction to take (right) it had to be that way. About this point the number 4 who kept with us asked did we know if it was the right way. I shouted back that we appeared to still be lost.

I also wondered what everyone else was up to. Here we were running around in the dark and nobody with a clue. What did the midpackers think or do when they saw most folk going left at that junction and some faster runners overtake and turn right? Up ahead I could still see Gareth. I suspect Johnny was disheartened by the experience of 2 races in a row in the lead and finding himself off piste and very pissed off. His headtorch lit Gareth meaning Gareth had taken the lead. I suspect that if we hadn't got lost Johnny would have given Gareth a closer run for his money. Gareth said later he found it really hard to keep up with Jlaw early on. He was on fire. Anyway, in case we all had to hitch a lift a home from Ormiston I thought it better to try to keep the boys in sight.

And then an arrow and another. I had stopped taking photos and battened down the hatches for a night of misery: it was potentially quite a gloomy, damp and muddy environment when one's spirit floundered. I had no idea if we were back on track or if we were out doing some loop in the wrong order and had gone back to the start or what. Or maybe I was dead (internally a jar had broken) and I hadn't noticed, just kept persevering and that this now was purgatory, and that the night, the race, would never end. We would just do loop after loop and every 10k Bob would take a photo until he was photographing just skeletons rattling round the haunted House.

However, I thought, just stick in there. Just in case this all works out just keep going and hey maybe nobody took the right route and we are still in 1,2,3. Whatever happens don't lose sight of G and J. Long after I had grown weary of the splish splosh of my footfalls I saw a marshal. I asked which way we went and was there far to go. You are more than half way says the marshal and I was thinking “I fucking hope so.” We had been running for 33 minutes.

I think this might have been near the Dalkeith Bypass. We ran a loop round here then on the way back had the sight of runners coming towards us, them coming up the road as we ran down it. I took some very poor photos, the camera waiting till the pretty torch-lit procession was past before firing off the flash. It looked quite nice though and I could see why people would huddle together in groups for light and human comfort. Gareth, who was now leading, had to warn them of his approach as they were chatting and running 5 abreast on the trail. They were over to the side by the time I was going past but their bright headtorches and my dim one was making for poor visibility and I was anxious not to miss an arrow.

Then we were back into the grounds next to the Big House and I recognised some of the paths we had been on – or ones very similar. I think that was the problem, it all looked very much like itself. Then the outline of the House and a couple of bright but small explosions of light. That would be Bob taking photos of G and J. Sure enough a bit later and I shouted hello as Bob snapped away. My spirits were rising: I knew that in a short while we would take a left and drop down the path to the finish. It had been a while since the bobbing light of the fourth runner had cast my shadow forward but I lifted the pace going down the last descent to ensure the 1,2,3. The runner behind turned out to be Michael McMoorfoot – a dude with whom I have run large portions of the 2 Breweries and quite a few other races. I hadn't recognised him at all earlier, what with the dark.

It was almost an anticlimax – dibbing the dibber then going into the courtyard to find G and J in discussion with the organisers studying maps and trying to make sense of all that dark and mud and 10k of trails, that measured on my Garmin 7.56 miles (should be 6.21 although folk said last year it was a bit over.) Just under 48 mins! (Average pace of around 6.20) Mostly quite good fun. I was going to rib Johnny about going the wrong way or being a jinx but I didn't as I think he was already unhappy about it. It was only the following evening at Wintervals that someone (thanks CM!) suggested in fact it may be myself that was the jinx since this was the third time this year I had attended races where we had not followed the proper route. I had forgotten Conundrum. Jlaw wasn't there. Looks like I'm the hoodoo! I'll try not do whatever it is I'm doing. Persevering probably.

On reflection I can't imagine running past an easily visible sign when you know you've already gone wrong. We took the left off the long straight twice; would we really have done that if there wasn't an arrow there? Maybe? I can't be sure. The rest of the course gave no problems. And it would appear that nobody took the correct course. It definitely took the shine off the evening although most of the runners were cheerfully accepting of it. I heard there was one person upset with Nicola for leading him astray which I'm sure (hope) was just heat-of-the-moment albeit wildly irrational. The organisers radioed about to confirm markers were where they were supposed to be, but the race had definitely gone astray and no amount of telling us the markers were all there, would sort that. Johnny reckoned it was the extra distance we had lost in Devilla that had turned up here, and spookily it was an almost exact match.

On the up side the tea and cake was good and very welcome. On the down side the prize giving was pretty poor. What do you mean am I going to look a gift horse in the mouth? Well yes I am. If they had given out Silva headtorches as prizes I would have been very cheerfully vocal about it. However Silva were there to sell headtorches not give them away. The prize list was quite short – just first three males and first three females. I was third male and got a kids balaclava type head thing that is also a buff and an unlikely hat. It fits my head but it's not really the sort of thing I'd run in. Or wear. In fact a cynic might say it looked a lot like something the Tri Centre had failed to sell in its shop so given away as a prize. The entry was £15 for a 10k. Now I know we got extra distance for our money but come on guys, no age group prizes and no team prize is a bit steep for £15. I'm sure you have better stock clearance in your lovely shop than some kids hats.

And the website is all a bit jumbly. Which is a shame as I'd like to do some of the events mentioned. (An ultra on the John Muir Way sounds very promising.) Hopefully they will iron out the glitches and continue to improve. Its great to have people organising fun events on beautiful trails.

ps tonight at Wintervals I ran so hard I heard the ice cream van.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Thrilla in Devilla 23/02/14

After a long day at the nationals on Saturday, Sunday at Devilla was always going to be tough. The rain and wind did not help matters and I was almost hoping for divine intervention along the lines of bridges across the Forth being unpassable or blown away. Some (Ellie) did not wait for divine intervention and just decided one race was plenty for the weekend.

It helps that the Carnegies are very well organised and have use of the excellent police college at Tulliallen from which to distribute numbers, chipped timing devices and sponsors Harviestoun / Schiehallion beers. Organisers please take note getting sponsored by beer companies is ALWAYS a popular move. Although Fiona did notice that this year's bottle was smaller than previous. (And there weren't so many given away at prize-giving.) Still, beer = good!

The rain seemed to lift a bit for the start which made things a bit better, however plans to run with the camera were shelved as the light was rubbish and the chances of killing the camera were high. Lots of mud pits, things to trip over and heavy rain forecast. Big thanks to Bob Marshall coming out and taking photos in hideous conditions.

We really enjoyed this race last year and I was hoping for similar this year, although something like the weather in Feb can and did really make a difference. Especially if the day before has been a hard one. It's difficult to rally the mental focus to overcome the physical challenges of the day. There were a few pretenders to the throne as we set off but I was fairly sure that within a mile Rab and Johnny would be the ones to watch, and that was the case. I was tagging along behind in third with a couple of other guys hovering around swapping places. I was expecting Dougie to appear and sure enough he did.

We started on broad forestry trails and after a mile and three quarters we were marshalled off road onto a thin track with deep puddles and mud as it zig-zags through the trees. I was in fourth I think and could just see the 2 leaders and a Carnegie up ahead. The footfalls behind dropped away possibly because I was getting away from them, perhaps because of the soft ground absorbing the noise. I enjoy this sort of cross country stuff. After a while just before the 2 mile mark (point A on my map) there was tape across the path and indications we should turn left. More of the same, slightly drier on a delightful twisty path that went of for about the same distance eventually spitting us out onto a main through way. (One of the main land-rover paths through the woods.) Point B on map. I turned left following the guy ahead, although I realised slightly too late that I hadn't actually seen any arrows or tape. This was strange as everything up till that point had been blatant and very well marked. I was cursing myself for being inattentive but didn't think too much more about it as the guys ahead had surely seen the arrows.

We followed the main path downhill until we came to point C – Johnny and Rab turned right but when I reached C they had slowed and were turning around to look back and see if anyone behind had any input. The turn right was NOT marked and a few yards up the road were arrows pointing against our direction of travel suggesting we would be coming down the road and turning right at a later point – if we ever got back on track. Because it was evident that we were now on the wrong path. I immediately assumed we should have turned right coming out the woods and that it had been poorly marked. When you are running hard often common sense can be difficult to locate in the red mist. There was a lot of swearing and it seemed impossible to imagine the whole field (who were now streaming out of the woods and down the road behind us) turning around and running back up the hill (in order) without the entire thing turning into a brawl.

Johnny and Rab made a quick decision and ran on in the direction they had been going. Of the choices available it was the best. Back up the hill would have been a royal F-up although we would have rejoined the whole correct route very quickly. (Nobody had a map and nobody – due to the not very obvious route – knew off the tops of their heads exactly where we were.) If we had followed the arrows the other way we would have been back at the start / finish in about 5k! So the choice was pretty good and after a couple of corners we went past the water table point D at what should have been around 7k or half way. I think I noticed about 3 miles on the Garmin, and to tell the truth after a hard day at the cross country I wasn't disappointed to be doing a shortened route. Later at the 10k mark I made it under 5 miles, confirming we had lost a mile and half.

photo Baza

But there was still plenty good stuff to come. One of the Davie Bros guided us off the main path down a steep muddy waterlogged thin trail towards Peppermill Dam, that was a nice combination of fast, slippy and neck-braking. Dougie had gone past by this point but I think I made up a bit of ground on him here. There was then a bruising unpleasant path round Peppermill Dam that required care. And at the far end another Davie Bros, warning of the extra slippy surface conditions. I believe Johnny took a body slide here on his back while Ian of Dunbar did a full pirouette, caught by Steve before the 2 waltzed across the death-trap plank bridge. Something like that.

photo Baza

There was also the opportunity to have a look at how far behind the competition is. I can't even remember what I saw, but it wasn't alarming. I seemed quite close to Dougie but he then began to get away and I felt it was either unnecessary, unlikely or impossible to do much about it. The weather deteriorated into squally downpours and I didn't really mind when a Carnegie came alongside for a bit then went ahead. He wasn't in my age group and also I was too tired to care. All of a sudden we passed a couple of marshals who said 600 to go and we were dropping onto the trail at the start then the final wee bit of road back into the police grounds.

photo Baza

A token sprint to the line although I had made sure the guy behind was a safe distance. After seeing our 4th counter in – Steve – I went off for a shower. It looked as if we might get the team prize although a couple of our star runners Michael and Yana had opted for the childrens fun run I mean the 5k. This was quite important as the team prize last year had involved beers. A bit later amid all the controversy of routes and diversion and short cuts and what might have caused it, the prizes were given out (a very generous prize list going 5 deep in most ages rather than just the usual 3 – top marks Carnegie!) and sadly we were pipped to the team prize by locals Carnegie – by just 2 places. Fingers were jovially pointed at Michael for pleasuring himself in the 5k rather than doing the decent thing. He had won the 5k although just missed the course record by a couple of seconds – which is impressive given the course also involved worse conditions than ever before. Our sympathies go out to Barry of Central who Michael overtook in the last few yards. Ouch! Yana was second female.

In the main event Johnny was 2nd, Dougie 3rd, myself 5th and first m50. Well done to Rab who won by a good margin. Big thanks to all the brave marshals out in horrible conditions.

This statement has since appeared....

As president of Carnegie Harriers, I would like to congratulate all competitors for their efforts in the 5K and 15K races on 23/02/14. The weather and underfoot conditions made for very testing runs for all concerned.
Those that participated in the 15k race, will be aware that there was a problem with the race route. Prior to the race, the route was set up and checked by members of the club and all was in order at that stage.
However shortly after commencement of the race, it became apparent that there was a problem with the route, with all runners going off course and concerns were made by marshals to the Race Director, Allan Macaulay. Enquiries began immediately, while the race was ongoing. It was discovered that a tape had been placed on part of the route, which together with the application of paint had directed athletes to land which was not part of the designated course. Thankfully, the quick thinking of marshals en route directed the runners back onto a section of the race course itself which resulted in the loss of only a small part of the designated route.
Subsequent completion of the club's initial enquiries on race day have established that there is no doubt the tape and paint application occurred after the course was initially checked.
The club is presently considering the matter in its entirety with a view to deciding on the course of action to take.
In any event, the club fully intends to continue with the races next year and full details will be communicated at a later stage in 2014
Malcolm Smith
Club President

the garmin output for today

The original route in blue with today's shortened version which goes from A following the dotted line over to D rather than the proper course out west.

It's good that the statement has been so prompt and leaves no doubt that the race was sabotaged deliberately. It's also pretty lucky that it didn't throw a bigger spanner in the works and spoil the event. It will be interesting to see if there is any action taken further to this. Since there were disputes and acrimony prior to the race over ownership of the event it is not difficult to imagine why someone might wish to spoil or discourage it's continued smooth running. There hasn't been this sort of skulduggery since someone caught a bus at Kielder. But I think we would all be better off without it.

Rather than finish on a gloomy note here is a picture from last year when Rab took a nose dive into the mud. It was Johnny's turn this year so maybe that was karma for enjoying Rab's tumble so much.

Bob Marshall's photos here
Barry (Baza) Davie's photos here

National Cross Country, Falkirk 22/02/14

It's 2 years since I ran here last. A dismal day back then – hobbled off the course at the finish barely able to walk and no longer able to deny the Plantar Fasciitis that forced the longest injury and recovery since I started running. So today was the comeback. Not sure why I hadn't bothered last year. Bad memories and a lack of a team maybe. PRC doesn't have a good record at turning out for these events. However this year the word had gone round and we had double figures in M and F teams. Well done people. It's not always fun or easy but it puts the club on the map to turn out in force and stand shoulder to shoulder with the best clubs in the country.

Even though this one forgot her running kit she still took part in her vest and pants

And the standard is high. Gareth had a brilliant run and placed 60th, almost certainly his lowest finish of the year unless he has another marathon like his first. (Just teasing Gareth!)

We arrived as the women were halfway round the first lap. I stood at the end of the lap and snapped the runners coming down the home straight before going into lap 2. You didn't have to go round the course to see there was a lot of mud. Runners were wearing it. More mud than any year I've been at Falkirk. There are usually dry stretches between wet patches. This was nearly gloop the whole way round with the highlight being a slippery mud hill up from the loch you would have needed crampons to stand on without travelling, and with a river of mud on the upper slopes. And the juniors, the teenagers and the ladies were churning it all up so the senior men could enjoy 3 long laps of mud-skating. The pained expressions on the photos say it all. (Had to remove the least flattering out of politeness.)

Rhona Auckland moved ahead in the second lap. An outstanding performance given the stellar nature of the line up. Massive congratulations to her and Joyce and Ken Hogg her coaches.

Freya's view up the last hill.

Hanna supporting on the right - a future star.

Nicola, showing everyone how to wrap up properly for the February weather - even some colour co-ordinated tape to keep legs warm.

Susan P showed her quality to get past Rosie S and Elizabeth P

Nicola was very pleased with 7th place, this time ahead of Megan C.

Comedy moment - the Dundee Road Runners tent decides to leave early, exposing their stuff to the elements. What's that tent behind say? Windstopper! I think I saw Danielle G helping fix this, before it threatened to leave the grounds.

Our girls return from battle.

photo David A

After standing around taking photos I felt cold and it took 15 mins of strides and nervously nodding hello to the gathered competitors before I warmed up enough to strip down to just a vest. Shoes: it had to be spikes although I could understand folk preferring hill shoes for the paths round the loch that had 12mm spikes crackling and crunching. 15mm would have been too long for the hard pack but 12 felt insufficient to get a grip on several of the swamps of shin deep squelch. I really like my spikes for coming out the mud, holding onto less gloop and was surprised how much they had shed, or failed to hold onto after the best part of an hour of fun and games. It was still hard, hard work though. The continual check against slip-and-slide combined with the sheer slog over heavy ground made it a test of endurance more than the average xc sprint for a half hour over mixed terrain. (I have a feeling the Big Dickster threw in the towel after 2 laps as there wasn't enough daylight for lap 3.)(He has my sympathies and I called out a friendly hello as I lapped him.)

photo David A

Team photo then over to the start-line. As a complete change to the usual head-out-at-top-speed-and-see-how-long-you-can-hold-it-until-painful-death strategy I was considering the options in the face of certain failure. (And Dave W asking was I going to employ such tactics with a cheeky grin.) Is there any other way to race? I asked, then realised, hmmm actually, there is. I shuffled backwards off the front line as Barry got his gun out and stood 4 rows in, next to Willie J – always a senior and sober influence in a sea of testosterone and damp grass. Luckily before I had a chance to rethink and barge to the front again the gun went off and so did we – across the flat grass and hard pack then up the first soggy hill. I hate mass starts like this and tend to float backwards as people crowd in from both sides. However as it was all relatively easy paced I pushed back where contact was made and couldn't believe how easy it is when you don't sprint at 100% up that hill trying to overtake as many runners as possible to get onto the path round the loch as if that would be your finishing position.

Great photo - thanks to Kenny Phillips who posted a series of excellent photos on facebook. I am bottom right, Willie behind and left-ish with Don Naylor just behind.

There are 3 laps and it is fascinating to see where we are all positioned at the start of lap one versus the end of lap 3. By the time we hit the lochside path Don Naylor is still behind Willie. Yet he is going to finish in 51st and second vet40. He will spend the whole race overtaking people. Is that easier or harder than pushing hard at the start to 51st place and then running fast with your elbows out? I will never know. Anyway I am enjoying not breathing so hard I could cough a lung. This lasts until the mud fountain which we ascend round the back of the loch. You can hear the baying crowds from some distance. I had been running along the turf at the edge of the path rather than crackle along the cinder and gravel. An audience has gathered to watch the christians being fed to the lions. Steve says he caught a lump of aerial mud in his mouth and it was down his throat before he could spit. There can't have been any souls in road shoes or they would still be there. Not that spikes were long enough to catch in the deep sludge. I ran with my shoes angled like cross country skis to catch the edges and slither up with a combination of involuntary gestures and levitation, because really there was no way you were getting up there using the laws of physics. And when you got through the river of mud the angle decreased but you still had another hundred yards before the brow was summited and you began to descend wheezing like someone in a giant foam suit on the greasy slope in It's a Knockout (back in the days when that was still wholesome fun.)

photo Danielle G
"thin line of grass and soil"

As you recovered, and sped up, the bad camber on the slope downwards aimed you for the gate post while you pointed your feet up-hill and made like a speed skater on the turn. Out into the golf course and the search for firmer ground. Again an opportunity to look around and admire the quality of the runners going past. There must have been well over a hundred in front but still one was surrounded by running royalty albeit they were moving forward at a more rapid rate than oneself. Others who had started too fast (huh imagine!) were now jogging and spluttering and making their way back through the field. And we weren't even on lap 2. Down and up the sharp dip then back in front of the Big House then up the next hill. This one was much better and you could almost choose a line that had grass for the complete ascent. There was some relatively un-churned turf (proto-mud) if you went way over to the boundary on the left. The great thing about 3 laps is you get to try different lines each time. Endless fun. Along the back section then into the impressive home straight. I crunched down the cinder path first time but subsequently took the thin line of grass and soil on the left: the difference between eating a sandwich with and without a teaspoon of sand in it.

photo David A, with Mark H in the Fife vest

Two more laps. Don't think about how much pain was left, just do it and don't complain. And certainly don't remember you signed up for Devilla Trail Race tomorrow. Holy Moly! Whose legs are you going to borrow for that? Didn't I say don't think about that; don't think about anything. 15.30 or so for the first lap. Try and multiply that by three would you, and try a different line off the hill down to the loch because over to the left was worse than a week of rain at Glastonbury. 46 and a half. Okay, that sir, is your target. (Not a chance). And all the girls shouting your name. They have finished their run and are now cheering and clapping mainly to keep warm. And taking photos. Wipe the horse-froth off your stupid mouth, no need to smile. No reason to smile, none of this is good. You hear the cheers and try not imagine a picture on facebook: you looking like you got out of a chair in a nursing home too quickly.

photo Devine/Hood.
Mark H going past

Not even half way there. Here's this muddy hill again. This time across the main sludge pile on impulse power, then there is a slightly less gloopy bit on the right hand side, get the edge of one's slippers into the gravy and peddle those knees as you slow to a crawl. Dear oh dear, I nearly blacked out.

photo David A

I think the second lap was a low point. On the third you can tell yourself huh last time I see your pretty face. Last loop round the loch. Last time I speed skate round the gate post. Also as I set out on the third lap Mark H a legend of hill running came past. I had no idea where he was until then – perhaps he arrived late and gave everyone a ten minute head start. He certainly wasn't hanging around and went past with such grace and speed it was inspiring, and so, suitably inspired, I set forth also with grace and speed and it worked pretty well for about 100 yards. Actually a bit more but then the third climb up mount improbable and I was too busy blowing into the bag of my inability to see him run off. Are you drunk? You are running on wobbly drunken legs. Speaking to him afterwards he said he started too quickly (ha-HA!) fell apart in lap 2, saw me go past (he was polite enough to omit what thoughts this triggered) then got something of a second wind and gazelled past round the lochside inspiring myself and others to likewise step it up for the last lap.

photo Scottish Hill Racing

It's tricky when you are at full tilt (and have been for 45 minutes) – at least energy-output-wise if not top-speed-wise, to then raise it a gear for a sprint to the finish. But it would be disappointing for the crowds of adoring ladies trying to keep warm if one did not at least offer up a flourish in the gallop to the line. In fact I was surprised that there wasn't a heap of dudes taking shelter, a quick ciggy and a breather behind the handy trees on the back straight before appearing with puffed chests and pumping arms down the home straight and finish. Most seemed happy to use the muddy ramp down to the corner and the fading cheers of the girls on their way back to the school across the road, to fuel the 100yd dash towards the Big House and the moment we all looked forward to: when we can, at long last, stop doing our preferred activity.

photo Martin Devine / Ann Hood

I again chose the threadbare grassy dirt carpet in preference to the sandy-witch, and did what I could, spurred on purely by the thought that as many places could be dropped here as there were yards left and that potential defeat was well within the jaws of victory. Due to the number of runners ahead and our eyes facing forwards you can never really tell how you have done at this race just by feel. There may be a greater number behind than ahead, but one's eyes face forward. You can only appreciate the crowds behind by either hanging around at the finish and gloating, or (more politely) checking the results later. I decided to adopt the latter policy and although I shook hands with anyone I passed as I slowly recovered my equilibrium, I pretty much decided to get my stuff and see if I could get into the showers before the hot water ran out. I did particularly well at this race (even beat Gareth to shoes-on-and-cuppa-poured) and it was only when Willie J came into the canteen he let me know that he had looked at the results and I seemed to have done quite well. (I was pleased to have done < 3 x lap 1 in 46.23. There were, however, no prizes for age groups (more a shame for Don Naylor and his rather splendid zig-zag through the masses).

spikes: before and after

12mm spikes before and after

The menu in the canteen read like a list of foods runners should try to avoid. That is of course the danger in heading West to race. I had a tray of chips which I have to admit were AWESOME. Willie and Steve had doughnuts (actually they were so awful they might have been donuts) cut in half and dosed with squirty cream topped off with pink icing and hundreds-and-thousands.

Central I think winning a team shield? Wasn't really paying attention as I had AWESOME chips.

Thanks to all the marshals and time keepers and organisers and Alex J and everyone who took photos and everyone who cheered and I didn't acknowledge because I had just got out a chair too quickly! What a terrible way to spend a day. Never mind, Devilla 15k tomorrow – pass the foam roller. 11am start you say, and rain, heavy rain and wind on the forecast? Superb! Lovely! Haha!

Scottish Athletics (all results) page here
Women's results
Men's results
David Allwood's photos here