Sunday, 16 February 2014

Carnethy 5, 15/02/14

The race hasn't even started and I've already soiled myself.
Yes, I fell ball-deep into the bog while "warming up". An inauspicious start.
Photo David Allwood.

But every year you need to flush out your system and do a bit of suffering. It does you a power of good. I think it's because there is always a question mark about how you would perform. You have an idea of yourself and it can be quite a shock when you don't come up to your own expectations. If you just tootle along you can think you're a pretty slick bloke until things go wrong and you find you're nothing like what you imagined yourself to be. But if you deliberately put yourself in difficult situations, then you get a pretty good idea of how you are going. That's why I like feeding the rat. It's a sort of annual check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It's the other you, and it's being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that's smashing, that is. Then the rat's had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It's a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn't be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can't think of anything sadder than that.”

From “Feeding the Rat” by Al Alvarez.
Feeding the Rat is a great read about high altitude mountaineering and rock climbing and as I read it over the last couple of days (highly recommend a look, and not just for Mary Lye and her new pets) these words underlined the feeling, partially explained the reason, I do the Carnethy 5, a dreadful and unaccountably popular hill race, every year.

Mike, and in the background the first of the Carnethy 5

photo Allan Gebbie

I have fallen into the habit of doing it every year (since about 2001) and yet I complain about how awful it is. So what puts me on the start line every year? Well, I'm still chasing the sub hour and this year, having done more time in the hills recently; and spent the last few months doing Thursday night Wintervals in the dark on Arthur's Seat with the Carnethies, it looked like it might be on the cards. Then it snowed. Game over. I got to the top of the first of the five hills, looked at my watch, and knew I was fucked. Oh well maybe next year. And so it goes.

photo David A

David A Selfie

Thanks to Michael Nowicki for marshalling and taking some good photos 
incl. this one of me crawling up the last hill.

Instead of complaining about how stupid the race is, I will just post some photos and leave it at that. It's not the race that is stupid after all, it's me that's stupid for doing it. The route is horrible and nobody in their right mind would ever go to the beautiful Pentlands and choose that course for any reason other than to recce the race. But that's just my opinion. And now that I am about 2/3rds of the way to the quaich you get for 21 attendances, that will start to gain gravity and encourage further attendances. (But why would I want a quaich – I have no ache for a quaich! It will just gather dust with the WHW goblet that I have no intention of chasing down between then and now either, but you know how these rats sit up and ask to be fed. Am I a man or a..?) It's a slippery slope. Literally. Only these days you are not supposed to use the word literally to describe something literal anymore.

Thanks Bob.

Photo David Limmer
By this time I was well past the hour and concentrating on saving my ankles for tomorrows race in Dunbar.

It looks lovely. It wasn't.

Enjoy the photos, it was a great day for photos. Man of the match photography-wise was David Allwood who ran with his new camera and I loved his aptly b&w images. Big thanks to Olly (my Wintervals buddy) for the massive amount of hard work that is required to organise this bunfight. It would be rude to Olly and the (Bob) marshals to dismiss their contributions on a day when just running over the top of these hills was bad enough never mind hanging around for a couple of hours, freezing your extremities. Thanks to all involved, can't we just call it quits and walk away?

Gordon shows how to cross the line with a smile, grace and composure. Whereas I finished with belligerence, resentment and a big huffy never-coming-back attitude. I was only slightly cheered up to see in the results that far better runners than I had finished WAY down the field. 

As I returned over the swamp to cheer folk on this dude slipped and took a header into the tiny channel achieving remarkably full immersion: head under - the lot! He took a few moments to cough up some bog water, gather himself then soldiered on bravely to the line.

After an ice age eventually a bus appeared. Definitely the lowlight of the day.

The talk was all about the post race chicken pie. And how, in order to get the best part of the day without the worst part, you could just buy a chicken pie in a shop, and (without doing the race) take it home and heat it up in your own oven. See you next year.

Carnethy website featuring links to photos of the race, and results etc. Gareth (who seems to have managed to avoid appearing on this page) was first Porty home in a brilliant time of 58mins on a day when only the top 28 of 498 managed under the hour. He beat many top quality runners.

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