two breweries hill race. 27/09/14
My first thoughts after finishing this one was how about making a mental note never to run this again. Or at least give it a rest for a couple of years. It's just so painful and I don't do it particularly well. But the beers and the camaraderie afterwards have a way of colouring the proper horror and you look back fondly and say hurray it's the 2 Brews and forget the neverending hills and bloodshed and cramp. Probably just a bit low blood sugar at the finish. As Graham says, it's meant to be tough. And it could have gone a lot worse. In fact I expected it to.
Thanks to Dessie for taking this photo.
Dessie - remember this image
Imagine having to get out of bed at 7.15 to make a midday start line. Such are the trials of the 2 Brews as you have to get to Broughton for the 10am coach to Traquair. However the chat in the car and bus with Richard (thanks for driving) and Bernie made the hours fly by and there was so much banter in the grounds at Traquair that I really didn't get much of a warm up before kick off. I had had a couple of sessions with the magic stick yesterday to ease the tightness of a harsh session on Wednesday and a steep but blessedly short session on Thursday. Several times today I reviewed the wisdom of the hill reps on Thursday, particularly as my calves knotted on the first proper climb. I may change tactics for the Skyline.
Jasmin - reckon she'll do well
There was much preparation in the attractive grounds of Traquair. Mostly eating stuff. I have noticed during previous long races that cramps would worsen immediately after eating or drinking as the blood converges in the stomach leaving legs almost empty and apt to seize up. My cunning plan was to consume a second breakfast before waddling to the start line. I only carried 2 gels and an oatbar and only ate one gel the whole race. This worked really well although a certain amount of (hill) fitness also helped. I was also wearing for the second time the Inov-8 Race Ultra Vest – halfway between an item of clothing with mesh pockets and a lightweight back pack for carrying the mandatory kit and water. I was using the reservoir for the first time and had a 500ml soft flask in one front pocket and the camera in the other. Since I was wearing only a running vest under this I liberally applied an anti-chaffing stick around my shoulders anticipating rub. I applied the same Run Guard stick to other areas liable to chaff. Sometimes you can go to great lengths to disguise an act and draw even more attention to it. To avoid this, and nobody seemed to be looking, I just went over to the corner of the bit we were standing in to perform this slightly unnatural act. Unfortunately it wasn't quite as discrete as it might have been and Dessie and quite a large crowd gave me some cheek and a red face. The bastards.
Paddy J and behind, Steve. Didn't realise Steve was close here - didn't see him all race till the end
The sun pretty much went behind clouds for the majority of the race which made for near perfect conditions. The going was firm and the only small grumble was a light headwind for much of the course. I noticed the first mile was 6.25 but that is mostly due to the downhill road. If I had a game plan today it was to not push too much too early as the cold I have been harbouring for a fortnight would probably account for a difficult second half and I didn't feel I had anything to prove today. Last year here was a pw at 3.32 – anything faster than that would be acceptable. I didn't check to see what I'd need for a pb as there was no way that would be happening despite relative fitness.
Peter approaching the first checkpoint
initially getting away on the descent
So a leisurely saunter up the first hill although I did notice Peter S, Carnegie going past and thought I should probably try and shadow him as he is in my age group. He moved up 80~100 yards and stayed there. He was running the steep up hills and when it got very steep he was run / walking. I unpacked my competitive spirit and did likewise.
down off Birkscairn (the awful ascent follows the green line directly above the runners)
Paddy, David and Peter starting the ascent
Someone had said something about moving right off Birkscairn and finding a decent trod down past the shooting butts. Only when I saw David R moving smoothly over on the right did I do likewise and we caught the 2 ahead. One of them being Paddy J who had spoken kindly of my blog. Towards the bottom I tripped and fell heavily. Not like a gymnast – more like an elephant being dropped from a helicopter. I didn't see the scrapes I picked up here until I got home. We were just yards behind Peter S at the burn crossing but he strode purposefully up the hateful 1,000 foot climb and gained some distance again. The climb lasted for, was it about 10 to the turn and 15 minutes to the marshals. I knew the day was going quite well because I didn't feel absolutely trashed by the sustained ascent. And Peter hadn't got too far away.
Spent a bit of time just behind this one as well. This is the start of the contour and yet again could not find a decent path for most of the way.
The traverse and contour to find the path along to Stob Law was pretty awful but passed quickly and without incident. The guy in the purple vest was just about to drop in ahead of me onto the single track and I said after you but then ran in front of him as he was not quite quick enough. I was glad of this as the next section doesn't allow for easy overtaking and I romped along it enjoying the grip of the Speedcross 3s. It may have been around here I felt a wrinkle under my left heel. I hoped it was dirt or sock and not a flap of skin coming away. I had debris gaters on so couldn't easily see or hitch up a sock if it was wrinkled.
I made up quite a bit of distance on Peter and kept him in sight up the hill, along the flat, over the fence (thank you marshals) and down the rapid descent towards the first aid station. Near the end of the descent the ground gets blocky and very unpleasant but I chose a good line while Peter went more left and as a result I hit the road just ahead of him. That was the last I saw of Peter who in his own words fell apart in the second half, dropping 14 minutes and 28 places.
This taken through the dark and woody section before the firebreak.
With the whole eating-drinking-cramping thing in mind I didn't have the usual refreshments at the water table. I had been managing a few sips here and there and was keeping the soft flask of caffeine juice for the second half. The Race Vest comes with 2 hard plastic flat shaped half litre bottles but I found that after regularly refilling them on the last Tynecastle Bronze run the light bashing over 7 hours left my ribs tender. Hence the soft flask. Not stopping at the aid table gave me an advantage over the others and I set off up the next section feeling better than usual. I almost always get the first bad cramps at the firebreak but this time the only concern was being overhauled by Morag McC who has never overtaken me in a race until today. I was pretty sure this reflected well on her, rather than poorly on me, and I managed to just about keep in touch on the flat ground along to the gate where I took a slight lead down the awful stony ground, only to lose it by the tarmac along to Stobo. Morag was having a stormer and I wasn't sure if it was the Lochaber girl who overtook me shortly afterwards was inspiring such a run.
Mo gets away
Again I ran past the jelly babies and water at Stobo and was rewarded with NO CRAMP, 200 yards later where the ground rises and I have, in the past, been stapled to the path with giant cramp nails from the top of my inner thighs through my calves into the ground. Cosmics came past (again) and was semi apologetic but it was good to have someone to joust with. The 2 ladies up ahead were going well and I wondered who would pick the optimum route across the dreaded swamp. I suspected Mo, being an HBT, and colleague of the Big Dixter might be in possession of secret formulae – someone MUST know the best route across that cramp inducing tussock-fest.
While the entire visible field ahead went round to the right I forced my now spasming legs to climb the mound directly ahead to search for the quad bike tracks that I enjoyed last year. I noticed the purple vest had gone with the majority but was watching what I was up to and shortly made a line over to where I was running on a good trail. Things did deteriorate but then after a bit of a struggle we got onto the track that leads to the bottom of the hill, and had made some ground on the 2 ladies ahead. Lochaber got up Trahena ahead of Morag. A bloke called Viv was just ahead of me having overtaken and powered a line through the rough ground of T swamp. We all marched up Trahena. A bad business.
I recognise that back.
A bloke, Duncan B of Penicuik judging by the vest, went past very chipper but after a short while sat down and declared himself burst. (Briefly he had been 2nd mv50!) Last year I had found encouragement seeing Carnethy Neil chasing me up the hill – this year it was Carnethy Jim, which I don't think either of us were expecting. He said he got close enough to land a French boulle on me, but no closer. He finished less than a minute behind. The slog up Trahenna on spent legs is murderous. You just keep going and eventually you can see the fence and the next hurdle, the stile. I managed to step over without any cramp spasms but I could feel they weren't far off and gingerly started down the thin single track that contours off the last hill. But who is this ahead blocking the way? Dessie, excellent. I regale him with it's only 15 minutes from here (20mins from the stile) and how are the legs? No doubt sounding far more thrilled to be there than I actually felt. His legs felt heavy and I had every intention of zipping past him and them just as soon as the path was wide enough. As we clattered down the last bit of the hill I overtook a few and wondered if Morag was catchable across the field. (No chance!) There was a woman near the same tethered gate as was tethered last year and I asked if she could untie it. Landowner says no. The next gate was out onto the road and I nearly flung it back at Dessie meaning to swing it away from the car there. Dessie got his own back by finding his road legs and taking off like a whippet along the tarmac. What happened to the heavy legs? Oh I know, I'm wearing them. Another, (Cosmics) went legging it with Dessie but since I couldn't see much danger behind I went at a more sedate pace finishing just outside the top 30 in 3.26. The time was much better than last year and since there was less cramp it was generally more pleasant, or rather, less ugly. The low blood sugar left me a bit frazzled and my thoughts were very much in the never again camp. It was pleasing and quite surprising how there were a good few proper runners behind, albeit 30 ahead!
wounded, dying and dead
note tiny bumbag.
I was wondering if all the obligatory kit was in there - Steve assured me it was and his only concern at the kit check at the start was how he was going to get it all back in afterwards.
Ivor "could have been worse"
I collected the free beer for finishing, chatted to a few folk then hobbled back to the village hall. Getting out of filthy shoes and into clean ones can be the hardest task of the day. Oh and yes it was a giant blister under my left heel – not sure why one should form here and burst along one side. If you open the split edge you could just about get a whole Pringle under if you wanted to see me dance Gangnam Style. Top tip: take a J Cloth to aid a basin bath (no showers). It gets all of the mud off your legs and most of the gel out your hair. (Earlier I tried to wipe the sticky gel off my hands by running them through my soaking hair. Solidifying, I wondered if it was really much different from it's namesake.)
Bernie - aiming to go under 4 hrs and managed fine. And Richard wasn't far behind clocking a pb of 14 minutes faster than last year.
This year I managed 3 free pints (pb = 5 pints) enjoying the kegged beer much more than last year's. Last year I received 5 bottles of beer for 3rd v50; this year, 5 for 2nd v50. They give away more beers as prizes than any race I've ever been to. A stage full were dispersed to the gathered audience who were enjoying the soup and bakeries, and of course free pints. Well done Andy F winning in a superfast time and congrats to Jasmin and Charlotte on very impressive times. The last prize awarded was a new trophy to mark the passing of Elsie Baxter presented to the fastest female Westie (Elsie's former club) Val Houston, which was both really lovely and really moving and a silence filled the hall as everyone reflected on the sadness and the loss of a special lady.
Peter Baxter has since announced that while he is happy to be organiser again next year he would be happy to hand that post over to an individual or team for 2016. In his words, "don't all rush"!