Monday, 23 June 2014

Seven Hills Race

photo Alex

An absolutely classic local race, this is fast becoming a victim of it's success. Another online entry event that sells out in minutes causing frustration and sadness for those that miss the boat. And Alan Lawson was being unwavering in not having a waiting list or legal transfers. 

photo Cat M

Legging it off Blackford
photo Cat M

That said it really is a great event and the route is far more than the sum of it's parts. You would think it would have been honed to perfection by the fast boys but debate continues to find the quickest routes from checkpoint to checkpoint giving this race an enduring appeal and very competitive edge.

Having somewhat spent myself the day before at Largo Law and then rehydrated with medicinal muscle relaxant (beer and wine) I was feeling a bit wobbly approaching this one. In fact on the way up the road I realised I hadn't had a scoof of caffeine drink and considered running without sports drugs. Mmm on second thoughts I popped into the newsagents and bought a Red Bull. Even that didn't really crank me up to full throttle and I was busy trying to deny the weariness I felt immediately prior to the gun. 

Porty Dads (not like Fathers 4 Justice) fielded ten runners out of which Ian (mentor, coach, cult leader) came ninth. What started the race as 2 neat blue stripes ended as the batman symbol. This tells you everything you need to know.

There is always a great buzz before and after the race: Calton hill being an excellent venue for warming up and then afterwards flopping in the long grass as bruised and broken runners return from circumnavigating the city. There was, as is traditional, a large Porty Presence. I had had a quick scan of the PRC entries last night to assess the likely order of team runners. You have to write down the 4 (3 to count) who will finish first, and it's not as easy as a half marathon or hill race as it covers a few disciplines. I was doing this when Willie suggested we make a supervet team as we have a strong v50 contingent. I consented but couldn't think why as there is not a supervet team category. It was the first mistake of the day and I like to think if I wasn't tired I would have questioned it more.

First up this shoddy example of how not to take a group shot by Alex Oliver. Alex was on photo duties today as he still hasn't recovered from jumping over a dog during the Goatfell Hill Race. Alex's photo skills were demonstrated when he attached a lens, throwing it to the ground.

Here is Ellie's version - smiling faces looking at the camera. 
As Alex noted, good use of banana: portrait and still life in same scene.

The start was through long grass and a lot of folk went over to the road and followed that rather than charge through the vegetation. I got a long strand of grass trailing from my left shoe and a couple of folk warned me my lace was undone. I replied it was grass and if they wanted to bend down and pull it free they were welcome to.

Up to the castle then down and round the South side as the gardens were closed. I prefer this as the slope is long and gradual and less kamikaze than through the gardens. There is a faction who go west along Morrison Street and out to Corstorphine while the more traditional including myself head down through the West End and along Belford and Ravelston Dykes. It's a long slog up to the bottom of Corstorphine Hill but it didn't feel any worse than usual. It was reassuring the quality of runner I was among. Nicola went past and pointed out the lace/grass issue. I had hoped to keep up with her but realised there are too any road sections and not enough downhill off-road miles to slow her down.

Last hill.
photo Alex

I always mess up Corstorphine. In one way and out another trying to cut off the extra but inevitably going right too soon. This year back out the way in and it might have been fractionally longer but I was onto the fast downhill trails quickly and saw the field ahead get closer by the bottom of the Kaimes and the Main Road. Probably last view of Nicola. Saw a group of Anster Haddies and Pamela from yesterday (I think, they were on the other side of the road) shouted hello!

2nd team prize

I shot up Craiglockhart leaving David F in my dust and another couple. very pleasing as my Hokas are road shoe smooth on the well worn bottoms. However maybe the toes have some grip left and maybe I have enough hills in my legs. Long slog up to the Braids where mega female number 2, Megan (who has been recce-ing with Nicola) went past. I kept her in sight across the golf course but then leaving the golf course she got onto the thin steep trail ahead of a bunch of timid challengers who bottlenecked the 60 yards of tricky ground before the Lang Linn Path. This was EXCEPTIONALLY frustrating and eventually (after trying to contain my hurry and being VERY patient,) I made some noise and squeaked through past people who were out for a chatty slow stroll rather than putting in any effort to go quickly. Exasperated at how much distance I had lost (Megan was now the whole length of the Lang Linn Path ahead,) I bolted down and turned left around the shed. I had seen Andrew Stavert do this and appear 20 seconds ahead but I hadn't actually been down this path so was busking it for the first time and concerned I had a follower too. I got the correct turn off right and then sharp left down the zig-zags and along the Hermitage path crossing the bridge, keeping feet dry and scrambling up the other side to pop out and over the stile and reach the deadly sleeper climb only seconds behind Megan. Quite a catch up.

3rd m50

Cat M cheered and took photos at Blackford then the long gradual down to the allotments. Did I see photos of the leaders going towards the duck pond at Blackford? I worked a shorter route there a few years back but the more severe drop made it slower (even though shorter) than the traditional route which is longer but due to the easier gradient, faster. 

2nd place ladies team

Pollock Halls and people were all over the place. There is a quick route in nearly a straight line right through to the limbo at the turnstile. However my smugness about route choices comes to an end here as I hadn't had time to hone the route I'd heard the fast boys take up the Gutted Haddie. I limboed the turnstile on the heels of Jenni and looked to the final climb. I felt it was going well and despite the race yesterday the cramp wasn't too bad and maybe it was worth taking a punt on the groove up the gutted Haddie. I climbed the zig zag steps and then just before the top headed left over some slippy ground and up a nice groove which takes you directly to the summit. Another challenger blocked the final channel up to the summit and then got cramp and stopped. I climbed past then overtook a number of folk on a good line off the top and down near the Dasses. I could see Megan ahead but decided not to rush the descent as this has a tendency to throw my legs into cramps once I hit the tarmac strip that descends towards the Parliament building. Many years I've stood here slapping my twitching legs as they seize up and lock into unmanagable planks of wood. I could feel left calf and right hammy singing the cramping song so paced it and ran through the spasms. 

2nd in age cat

Up Calton Hill and looking at my watch pretty pleased to cross the line in 1.54 especially as Alan L announced "retaining the first 50 trophy...." However that only lasted till Olly told me he was behind me before Arthur's Seat and surprised I went left. He went up the "normal" route and finished 2 mins ahead. Curses! Now I'm not saying I would have matched Olly up the Seat as I was on borrowed legs from the day before but I don't think I would have dropped as much as 2 mins. So perhaps the lesson is if you are going to change a route then go out and time yourself to see if it is quicker. It is very easy to suspect a route is shorter and find out otherwise. A lot of good runners have honed this route so bear that in mind when trying to find a short cut. It is some compensation that photos of the first 5 runners show the majority doing some scrambling up the Gutted Haddie - or near it. Must find their route. Dessie looked like he was rock climbing. However Johnny had an amazing run coming third running the traditional route.

first lady

My apologies also to Jenni who followed me. I don't know which route she took but I don't think she enjoyed it.

Prize giving and the upshot of me being in the PRC supervet team was missing out on a team prize when Porty elite came second to Carnethy. Willie apologised later! Well done to Johnny, Graham D and Michael G. Michael was convinced he wasn't going to run the night before on his dodgy knee, but the beer seemed to work miracles overnight and he surprised himself by getting caught up in the atmosphere of the day and put in a pretty good performance. His pal Martin had a good run all things consdered and wasn't far behind.) Nicola was first lady. Initially the women's team prize was given to HBT but that was an oversight and should have been given to Nicola and her non-denominational team. Nicola, Megan and Totty, yoga buddies, had put themselves in as a team and romped it. I presume this was missed by the organisers as they aren't all in the same club but it was promptly corrected on the 7 Hills website. I wonder if they will address the inequal prize amounts awarded to first males and females in the future, in these days of equality.

Dessie had a great run

Third place!



Afterwards, as the blood dries and nettle stings tingle, people sit around comparing routes, or as we did, hoof it to the pub for some recovery drinks. It is a superb event and, if you can get an entry, highly recommended. Big thanks to Alan for organising, and the hundreds for marshalling, manning water tables, serving quiche, supplying water and juice at the end, and for providing a traditional 7 Hills coaster to join the many dozens of 7H coasters that kick around our house all year long.

photo Alex

Results here
David Allwoods photos here
Alex's photos here

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