Great race. Been four of them and I've been there every year. Each one till this year getting faster. No way I was going to beat last year's time unless Steven Fallon turned up and gave me a piggy-back up the final big hill. Last year he and I battled it out to the tape. Thankfully there was less pressure this year as I was not in the mood for an 11.4 mile sprint. So I knew the time would be a tad more relaxed. Also the sun was beating down and there was a fresh breeze up the tops.
I was a bit disorganised for this race. It was occuring to me that if I didn't find a lift I'd be cycling to the race and reckoned it would be a couple of hours at least either way and I'd be knackered. I had been messaging with Mary L and after swithering about taking part, she volunteered a lift which I was on the point of accepting when Richard just up the road offered me a lift. I declined Mary's kind offer but felt I had goaded her into doing the race, which I thought she'd enjoy. She has done it before so she knew what to expect but like a few people I have been in touch with of late, she felt she had lost her enthusiasm for running and racing. Looking back at last year's blogs I can see similar things going on then as well. I wonder if it's a seasonal thing with the days getting shorter, or a reaction to a drab summer. I have no great insights. Richard was also feeling a bit off-the-boil.
Nick deserves a medal for doing a great job of organising this event. He seemed to have missed a night's sleep up at the Glencoe Skyline, and travelling all over the place from what I saw on fb; and someone else was saying he was suffering from a dodgy breakfast in Glencoe. He was looking chipper as ever at the start line and gave us a quick chat about the course then set us off. I was so busy taking photos I forgot to push the start button on my watch and only noticed at 12.37 (race start midday) about a third of the way round. Which is a bit casual but it is a nicely relaxed affair. You can sign up on the day - it's only a fiver and it doesn't have that dreadful sprint start of the Carnethy 5, being a bit longer.
It starts on a quarter mile of tarmac - the only road of the course - and the rest is all either ascending or descending on trails that are sometimes reasonable going but quite turfy and in places really quite lumpy and swampy. I had remembered the areas of deep swamp that you can run around (after the person in front has gone up to their thigh in bright green swamp weed) but I had forgotten the frequently uneven surface of grassy lumps and rocky trails that take their toll on your ankles and the ligaments that hold your feet perpendicular to your legs. All that machinery gets trashed. The only defence against this is hill training and trying to be careful. But after so many hop-step-and-jumps over mudslicks and tarpits you will catch your toe on a tussuck and find yourself going down.
Now from the pristine quality of that ^ photo you might think I'd stopped and unpacked the tripod. The truth: I took 4 or 5 images on the hoof and about one came out sharpish mainly thanks to the exposure times of 1/1000th of a second. When racing I keep the camera in a pocket but also on a leash so if I fall or the camera gets bounced out it doesn't hit the deck. Or submerge into the murky water. Of which there was quite a bit this year, probably topped up the night before although I was hoping the localised downpours missed these hills. Sadly not.
Over my left shoulder is Baddinsgill Reservoir round which we are doing a large loop. Over my right shoulder is Cameron Murray (Carnethy) who is just about to go past. Cunning pacing as he will finish in 3rd place. Look there he goes!
One of the first deep swamps lurks between these hills. Cameron helps rescue another runner who went in up to his shorts. I put the camera in a poly ziplock bag in case I went in over my head. MG did a headlong bellyflop last year. Where was MG this year? This is one of his favourites.
Another climb, another descent, another swamp before East Cairn (just visible on the horizon right of centre) which marks the "top" of the course and just under 5 miles.
I noticed this guy Adam of Carnethy, was taking the diagonal and pointed the camera back at him. He spent a lot of the race nearby.
No photos from the Drove Road checkpoint till the top of next hill West Cairn. Around the Drove Road I spotted John of Teviotdale romping past the guys behind. He looked like he was in my age group and he looked like he knew what he was doing. Often in a race I will imagine stuff about the competitors around me. Especially if I don't know them. John looked wiry and strong and was carrying the map in his hand. Sure sign of an expert hillrunner, yikes, omg. I went from fun-day-out to lock-and-load. Time to get serious. I had a mild panic for most of the climb but was pleased to top out ahead of this guy if only by a couple of steps. But I didn't relax for the rest of the race.
And Big thanks to the guys at the Drove Road who had cups of water lined up and were handing out jelly babies if you wanted. I only had a cup of water. I carried about 400mls of water in a soft-flask. Last few years I haven't bothered with water as it is under 2 hrs running but being very warm I was glad of the occasional sip to loosen off my tongue, teeth and lips which dried out completely and stuck to each other.
This guy was also around for a lot of the first half. He dropped back later on which is not surprising since he had done the Ochils 2000 the day before. Nick gives a prize for this as long as more than one runner does both races. Fastest wins. That would be Ross ^
There is some really pleasant running at this point for a mile or so before we take a heathery line across fairly uncharted ground before joining the path again near Wolf Crags and then the last major climb through the heather up towards Byrehope which is not much fun.
No photos up the worst bit as I was concentrating. Neil B of Carnethy had gone past looking far too fresh and I could feel the lack of hill runs in my legs. However the older gent seemed not to be keeping up so I was still hopeful for 1st v50. At this point last year Steven F was feeling the distance and I knew there was still 2 miles to go. It involves a long slow drag with plenty of uneven ground and watery pot-holes to trip you up. I was rallying a bit though, well until the dude in the yellow vest vaulted over the fence as I was trying to climb it like a pensioner. I followed him down the rapid descent and when we started up the last wee hill I announced it was the last hill.
fence crossing marshals
last hill marshals
After the last summit I legged it down the hill. There wasn't a good line and I caught my toe on something. Before I knew it, I had dropped my shoulder and did a commando roll and back on my feet, putting my camera back in my pocket where it swung free on the leash. I knew how close the yellow vest was and although he looked like a man in his 40s, you never know, and maybe I should do my best to finish ahead of him. Somehow I took the wrong line to the finish travelling right and blindly through those pointy swamp grasses rather than the quicker line over to the left. I checked over my shoulder a couple of times but nobody was there. Which was strange because as I crossed the line he was RIGHT behind. Well too close for comfort. (And under 50 anyway.)
Great surroundings and post race bananas and water.
819, my age group rival John, was less than 2 mins behind.
Mary L twanged her ankle and had to drop out. (Clearly I was to blame as chief instigator and felt mildly guilty until she said she tossed a coin to decide whether to run or not, and so the Queen (heads) was to blame.) Hopefully nothing serious that rest/ice/elevation can't fix.
Richard and I left before the prize giving in the pub, but Nick kindly gave me 1st oldy prize which was an envelope and 3 beers. Hurray! Top marks to Nick for organising this splendid run. Marshals just where you need them, excellent course that's a good mix of tough and fun, pleasant scenery and good company.