Saturday, 13 February 2016

the c word

Carnethy 5 Hill Race.
Regulars here will know I don't much care for the C5 hill race. Too much faffing about catching buses to a bleak corner of the Pentlands where, after a long wait, you fire through a swamp, then crawl up a hill, single file, then sprint for an hour before tripping on twisting ankles down the worst possible line off Carnethy Hill, before stumbling through the swamp (again) and finishing up a wee mound. Before catching another bus while teeth chatter back to a school which is covered in a sea of mud for a school dinner after watching a load of skinny old guys (who beat you), post shower, obliviously drying their scrotums in the school hall. The whole thing has more laughs than Schindler's List, but not by much, and is often difficult to tell apart. 

This year we had snow again which adds 3~10minutes to one's time. In a way this is good and I was glad I hadn't wasted the entire winter honing my uphilling to chase the hour only to be robbed by the snow. Only 34 runners (all male) beat the hour. So, may as well relax and enjoy a slow time? Well not quite, but I usually do a bad job of this one (almost always my lowest % of the year on the SHR site) so I just braced myself and ran (and walked) as hard as I could without having a stroke or cadiac incident.

In fact when I woke up to the sound of car tyres on the wet roads I really wondered if I might just call in sick or sleep in or find a funeral to attend. However after the condemned man's hearty last breakfast we set off and I thought the drama of deep snow on the hills might be worth not missing. Also there is the social aspect. 500 runners turn up to this (I know! why would so many folk be delusional about this terrible race?) and I know about half of them. So there are always hands to shake, backs to slap and condolences to be exchanged. I had a can of caffeine as we were leaving home so was quite chatty as well. The roads were backed up with slow moving traffic so we arrived a bit late and didn't even have time to chew the fat with Tony S or sign up for whatever hillrunning stuff membership we usually do at this time of the year. (We also missed the other Porty there Alex H. I will be interested to see what he made of the whole experience.) Not forgetting Michael G who was also flying the Porty flag and/or maybe the skull and crossbones to denote the rollercoaster of injuries he has sustained for the last few years. His injuries keep him in my part of the field which means we often battle for places. 

I didn't carry the camera. I was wearing the race vest to carry the obligatory kit (which included a thermal top and leggings this year as well as usual waterproof top and troos,) and would have put the camera on a leash on the chest strap pocket; but I imagined bouncing down the last descent or falling heavily and thought better of it. As it was I fell at least once and the going (particularly the final descent) was godawful. So no photos.

Mary carried the w/proof camera and took this cracking image showing the trail of runners ascending into the light, travelling to higher ground.

The race was late in starting. They have to confirm the last bus has spewed its content to the start line before Barry fires his gun. It was after 2.12pm and everyone was muttering just fire the F'ing gun. At last we were off and it is the sound as chit chat fades and 1000 studded shoes canter towards the swamp.... But there is no moment to appreciate it and quickly you choose the leap over the lagoons of dark brown water. There are at least 2 long jumps and several smaller and it is nigh impossible to get over this without wet feet. Sometimes wet shorts and gloves if unlucky. Watching feet and paths you lose contact with team mates and fellow runners and soon the individual friends become just a seething mass of wildebeest surging forward and climbing to the gate. I felt less trashed than usual at the gate and kept a good line on the narrow path as youngsters (ahh the young and foolish) competed to waste the most energy by overtaking into the deep snowy heather either side. If I had had the breath I would have shouted ARSEHOLES! as they would inevitably jump back onto the path one place ahead and have to go at the pace of the dude ahead anyway. There is always plenty of time for overtaking later. I remembered there are several cut off paths down to the next gate and most folk took the first, such is the sheep like ways of runners. I took the second which was blessedly free of exuberant twats and overtook most of them dropping down to my former position near Michael G while avoiding the third path parachuters coming in fast from above. Next, the long climb up Scald Law.

In order to do sub 60 I have to be at Scald Law summit around 17.30. Over 18 and forget it, relax and enjoy the view, because it ain't happening this year. I passed the trig point at 18.06 which I was pleased about since it was pretty good given the conditions and I wasn't spitting lung blood just yet. I wasn't sure why I was doing ok. Recent running has been consistently below par and a poor performance at Paxton has been haunting me. Then a couple of club wednesday evenings, running mindlessly along the prom and back and seeing far too many team mates ahead. Am I succumbing to old age? Has the rot set in? Should I train harder? Am I overtraining? 

top of Scald Law
Many thanks to Mark J who cheered and took photos.

Probably (like the poor performance at Paxton) an aggregation of several factors: a good night's sleep last night, new shoes (TOTALLY KICK ASS F'ING FABULOUS IN THE SNOW), a hearty breakfast and I missed Wintervals on Thursday. 

After cruising up and down the Kips I romped the descent off West Kip overtaking several dudes tip toe-ing through the drifted snow. The next section is the only good running on the course and I did the most I could to get past several more runners. Another bumslide on the last steep hill before the Howe. And I could feel the COLD snow and ice just a millimeter away from my lycra clad flesh. Refreshing is probably too generous.

Just one hellish hill left. I noticed it was 40minutes before the final climb. I didn't have much of a sense of overall position or whether I was doing a decent job or not as I didn't recognise many around me. But as I say I felt not-as-shagged-as-usual. But sometimes you get that exact feeling because you are not exerting yourself as much as usual and you cross the line not as high as usual. So I chugged on, enjoying the excellent traction of the Salomons. A lot of the hill is done in single file a little too close to the one in front and followed a little too closely by the one behind. Human caterpillar. Don't even go there. Mark J usually stands in the gully before the level off and gives encouragements to familiar faces. He must have run out of insults by the time I got there or maybe he was being polite because I was being closely followed by Shona, 5th lady and first in her age group. 

Mark J again and probably the only time I smiled.

After a long struggle up to the summit with the wind against us I turned at the top just under 59 minutes and began the descent. It would be a fine way to finish a race but for the line they always force us to take to "reduce erosion". ie nobody in the history of running has ever or would ever choose this line. Utter shit leaping over tall snowy clumps of heather with vertical drops hidden below and rutted rooty fast downhill designed to break ankles and jar knees. Again I pass a load of people trying to preserve their bones and skin and hare down just a tad below crash and burn miles per hour. I reiterate, it is a shite line and we all follow it. At the bottom there is a badly cambered section of flat single track and I have to dodge into the heather to overtake timid ones. As I go through the gate the guy 2 ahead takes a rather lovely parabola on the compacted snow and I say nice footwork. As he gets up I notice it is Michael G. He looks more pissed off with me overtaking than with falling. I seem to have a smidge of caffeine can still left in me and decide to take as many folk before the finish line. Again the jumps over the swamp go better than expected and I catch Jamie Thinish at the finish. Just over 66 minutes, possibly 3rd or 4th slowest of all time but so not important I am not even going to check. I am mainly glad just to have finished unbroken.

In summary:
This race is much like the tax self assessment in late January. I feel its presence a long way off and know that I should prepare for it. I rarely do and anyway it makes little difference. It always comes at the wrong time of the year although it's difficult to know when exactly it would be welcome. There is no escaping it. It is one of the necessary evils of life. And in both cases, this year it wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Nearly painless. 

16 done. Only 5 more to get a quaich. (I don't really want a quaich; I doubt the earth will move.)

(Big thanks to Olly and his team of marshals etc. who stand out in the cold for our entertainment. Since I have been so rude about Olly's race I would like to help advertise the series of winter talks he also organises. They sound adventurous and are usually really well received and you don't have to be in Carnethy to go along. Details here.)

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