However on the 10 minute walk to the start, the wind blew away the clouds and the sun peeped out. Had I known the sun was going to do this for much of the next 90 minutes I would have carried the camera. I didn't - anticipating precipitation - so the only photos are from after the race. Check out last year's blog for altogether more upbeat pictures taken during the run.
Big thanks to Angus for the lift there.
I had forgotten that it's a long walk in to the start. However they didn't enforce the ten o'clock kick-off and were quite relaxed about waiting on everyone congregating at the line before giving us a few words of warning about the mud before setting us off along Thriepmuir to Beech Avenue. Quickly a group of 4 runners took the lead and I followed behind. I think I dropped to 7th on Beech Avenue then got back to 6th later. The leaders were setting a blistering pace and I felt there was little point killing myself in the first half trying to keep up. The wind was behind us, which meant later on it would be in our faces.
The tarmac alongside the reservoirs went by quickly. Last year Dessie and I had been in the lead here till he pulled away up Phantom's Cleugh. This year he was again at the front. He has had a great year since and recently been doing terrific times at races. By this point the lead pack was too distant to see. I think Steve went past me at the second cattle grid. I felt I might catch one or 2 later in the race but as we left the road for the muddy hill the gaps ahead got bigger. About halfway between the gate and the top of the climb Steve started walking and holding his arm up. He said it was a stitch as I went past although it did look like he was asking if he could be excused. I excused him and kept on chugging up the hill.
After the climb we ran along the flat a bit on a twisty turny muddy section with deeply scarred bike tracks, then took the turn to Bonaly. I zoomed down the gravelly slope to the car park - the only part of the course I was missing my Hokas, having run in Speedcross. The Speedcross were the right shoe for the day and the reasonable cushioning wasn't too bad on the gravel, the better grip appreciated on the muddy sections.
At Bonaly I didn't bother with water and waited long enough for only the first diagonal marker pen stroke on my number (I think the lady probably intended a second to make a cross) before sprinting off. I hoped to catch the next guy (6th) ahead. As I reached the bridge across the end of the reservoir I could just see him 40 yards past other end. I think that may have been the last I saw of him. I wondered how Steve's stitch was doing. There are a couple of climbs at the end of this reservoir which I managed okay but after that, around 10 miles I began to feel the weariness and struggled to keep the pace going for the last 3. The guy behind caught up going up the cobbled waterfall (frozen 2 years ago) and I had to really work to keep ahead of the group following behind. The last mile was into a bitterly cold headwind and just awful. I tried to thank every marshal we went past as they looked frozen - it really was not a day for standing still outdoors.
God bless those who stood in the cold half the day.
Very well done Dessie who was first. Graham Nash ran a very well paced race to climb back through the field into second place with Boab Turner in third.
So huge thanks to all who organised this and volunteered to help out. Those who stood in the cold all day I take my hat off to you. (But only once indoors.) And those who made the excellent post race goodies: the white chocolate fudge with cherries and rocky road, both utterly magnificent, the hot spiced cranberry juice and veg soup, heated over the open bonfire, very welcome, very tasty. I will skim over a couple of disappointments because this event is so good it would churlish to pick holes in an otherwise brilliant race. And the goody bag was well above average with a Caramel Log (top marks) as well as the traditional bag of barley soup ingredients. I now have three of those in the cupboard and will in all likelyhood come back for more.
(Just realised it was the 7 Reservoirs on the 7th December and I came 7th.)