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


  1. Interesting (and rather sad) to see sabotage going on even at sub-olympic level. I wonder if it was a walker, for - to read some of your posts - there seem to be walkers who hate runners? Beware: there might be walkers out there who would send you into deep mud, or worse.

  2. There was hazard tape placed across the route and painted arrows on the ground (both matching the organisers materials) directing us off course. I could imagine walkers removing stuff out of spite but it takes an effort to buy materials and apply them in a short space of time directly before the race kicks off.

    Also the history of the ownership of the race and the fact there was an acrimonious falling out of the original team resulting in one "Devilla Trail Race" race taking place 9 days ago and another almost exactly the same 2 days ago would suggest that the misdirection 2 days ago was a direct result. It would be interesting to hear from the organiser of the race 9 days ago for his thoughts on the issue.

    And it was the organisers (of the more recent race) who sent us into the deepest mud! Because they know we like that sort of thing.