Saturday, 24 June 2017

7 Hills Race 2017

Porty fly the flag
This photo was either taken by Stav or Tim N

Last Sunday was the 7 Hills. Such an iconic event. It has changed little in the 13 or more years I have been doing it and there is little to change, as it is pretty much perfect. If brutal. 14 miles round the city taking in 7 sharp inclines along the way. A mix of hills and roads and you best pay attention as there is no perfect fast route, but there are many ways to mess up. And the sun was out making things that bit more intense, and times a tad slower. At least that is my excuse for going over the 2hrs for the first time in a few years. I really don't want to check back and find out just how badly this year compares so let's just say the sun was out and the hills were even steeper. 

There is always a buoyant atmosphere on Calton Hill as the teams gather in clutches of tribal vests. One year there was rain but usually there is sunshine. And everyone gathers to compare route notes and slap on sunscreen and pin on numbers. Porty had a new flag to mark our territory. We also had the tricky task of trying to guess the first 3 or 4 across the line for the team. Instead of the usual format where first 3 are up for the team prize you have to pre-nominate who you think will finish first. This is less obvious than if it was a either a flat race or a hill race and often a favourite will not finish where expected. Various Porties denied they were in decent shape, and others later proved it true!

Alan Lawson - race director.

Another interesting feature is that slower runners, the Challengers, are set off 30mins ahead of the Race. This means that after a certain way through you are constantly overtaking, or being overtaken, and it adds to the camaraderie of the day. It is rare for me to see anything of Mary in the latter stages of a race.

Challengers off!

So the gun went and we all dashed across the hill. I got a good start and hit Waterloo Place with the top dozen or so. It is always fun in the early stages swarming through town, up the High St and down Johnston Terrace like a stampede of horses. It's impossible for me to hold back or pace myself, and I enjoyed the first handful of miles with Nick, just ahead, slapping the arse of a tram as it trundled slowly by at Haymarket, and Michael G just behind. (Not for long as he moved ahead as soon as we started on the gradients.) Rich tried out a shortcut and it added 50 yards to the route going from in front of me to just behind. Oh what fun! But it wasn't to last. 

First long drag of a climb is Corstorphine, which is where Nick disappeared. I stayed with him slightly longer than last time though and hoped this bode well. Nicola went past with her tour guide who took her a longer way through the trees and I turned back to Michael G to ask if we were going the right way. He did his best while moving at speed to roll his eyes: that I shouldn't know the way after ALL these years. But Corstorphine always trips me up. Especially after the check point at Clermiston Tower and we turn back to either return to the water table or cut earlier down the slope to Kaimes Road. People go off in all directions. Rich told me he had found a shortcut down past the fence. Given his earlier detour I followed Michael back into the glen and down the dirt trails into Corstorphine and across the busy road. A Mercedes gave us the benefit of the doubt, slowing to let us over.

The next section is a soul-less traipse up to the tram lines and over Saughton. Past Chesser where Chris offered water (I left it for those more in need than myself.) Then across the busy road (one of the few crossings where traffic got in the way) and through Craiglockhart Sports Centre and up the hill at the back. Nicola had just come past again although I think I got up the hill more efficiently, overtaking Doug Runner and heading left where there are more roots and branches. It's tough but the killer hill is directly after the trees as the grassy knoll rises to the bench where there is usually water (it was down the bottom of the hill this time) and checkpoint clippers. Was it here I nicked the clippers away from a challenger to clip my number - my need being greater than his!

Craiglockhart - photo Matt or Nigel
Immediately after this photo I broke into a run. Honest!

I was still pushing on and feeling not too bad. I dashed down that road and was overtaken again by Nicola. Initially every time she overtook (4 times?) she would say stuff like "I've gone off too fast." Mostly I was too out of breath to answer. After the third time we stopped conversing. From this point on it all gets a bit hazy. It was very warm but I was trying not to drink too much as this can cause me to cramp. I think the water flushes out the elctrolites or something. I did throw a few cups of water over my head and down the back of my neck.

There is a long haul up to the Braids. Nicola got to that water table away ahead of me and I struggled on the relentless climb up to the bench and trig point where the clippers reside. Then there is the long descent across the fairway and through the single track to the Lang Linn Path. There were a couple of folk blocking me here and I just cruised until I could ease past without shoving then opened up and took the early left that drops down to the river at the Hermitage, rather than the vertical drop and splosh through it. Over the bridge and up the dirt slope and although I was feeling knackered at least I was taking the optimum route. 

I hate the slog up the sleepers to Observatory Hill but one is rewarded with a long jog down to the allotments before the ascent up towards Causewayside. I was looking out for Mary by now as I have passed her in previous years near here. I passed Neil J who said Mary was up ahead. I said I'd be lucky to catch her and felt I was beginning the crash, of crash and burn. I just wanted to stop and have a long long drink of water. I was absolutely soaking - from pouring water over my head as well as sweating out most of my internal juices. I knew I hadn't got much further to go but it was really hurting. 

I took a good line through the student halls although there seemed to be an absence of company. I didn't know if folk were following but there were few ahead. Maybe they feared the climb at the turnstile. I feared the climb and when I eventually turned the corner was glad there wasn't a bigger queue going over the wall. There were fewer on the right side (and no barbed wire) so I shimmied up the fence support before using the top-stones to heave my aching body over. I lowered rather than jump, as I knew a shock could easily set off the cramps which were lurking in my jelly legs.

On the slope up to Arthur's Seat I saw Mary. Hurray! Either she was doing well or I was doing badly. A bit of both. Then she overtook Nicola. Nicola went to the left (to tackle the Gutted Haddie) before I caught up. Mary and I chose the sleepers up the haunch. I shouted to her I was catching up. She seemed in better spirits than I was, which was great. I was really just keen to get finished and was in a load of pain. I hadn't carried any painkillers - note to self for next year! Eoin was cheering us both on saying you can't let him beat you to Mary. She was smiling in the photo he took. I wasn't. He took loads of photos and I imagine in most of them I was scowling. At least I knew the hill well and could do it with my eyes closed. I tried to keep marching but Craig caught up and I knew Willie wouldn't be far behind. Megan (now first lady) got to the clipper before me but admitted her descending wasn't all that. Craig led folk off the steep way but my legs insisted I take the tourist route down the newly fitted wheelchair ramp that leads past the Dry Dam then contours past the Dasses. I couldn't see Craig ahead and in my stupor wasn't sure if he was ahead or behind. He was behind but quickly caught up on that tarmac path where I almost always get cramp descending to Holyrood Car Park. 

 photo Eoin

I was waiting for a flurry of overtaking. I just couldn't push the pace as my legs were already fluttering with cramp and I knew any false moves would set it off. A couple of young guys went past but no Megan and no Willie. I hobbled up that awful path to Waterloo Place and then up the final road to Calton Hill. Very glad to finish. 

A bit unhappy to go 4 mins over the 2hours. Stewart W had been giving out water and support at the Braids so I knew there was one fewer m50 ahead of me. Unfortunately there was another though, leaving me with 2nd m50 - and less than a minute adrift. Curses! On the bright side I don't have to pay £15 to have the trophy engraved. And Mr Lawson is very generous with the envelopes so I still have a trip to Run and Become to look forward to.

Johnny ran a superb race. I could see him for the first mile or 2 however as I slowed he sped up and went through the top ten to second place in a very fast time on a hot day. Dessie was first. We had just about got our team right although Craig should have been on it and not Rich (or me really) who isn't back to form after a few weeks off. However Craig wasn't on the team and I got the beers (for third team) along with Johnny and Michael, who also defied his injuries and ran a stormer.

photo Stav

So good to stop running and just drink cup after cup of water and juice. I was so bad I couldn't eat for a couple of hours and had to miss out on the traditional quiche and apple pie. (Mary had to help me on with my socks.) My legs were totally trashed - my calfs were ridiculously sore to the touch for 3 or 4 days afterwards! I didn't run till Weds although I had to cycle the twelve mostly up-hill miles to work every morning and coast home at the end of the day nearly asleep on the bike. It was a long week.

Rounded off nicely with a puncture on Friday on the way home. I had to fix it (at Spylaw near Colinton Dell) but because there was a large split in the tyre, cycle super-slow the last 6 miles with my weight on the bars and the rear wheel half flat so the tube wouldn't bulge out the tyre rip. I bought a tyre in the E B Co-op on the way home and was less than delighted when I realised it was a 27.5 not a 29er as requested. I took it back on Saturday and then went to Evans where they had much better quality tyres (with added puncture resistance) albeit £59 rather than £20. However here's the thing: if you can find the same product ONLINE they, Evans will match the price. ONLINE! So I found the X-Kings online for £36 and they charged me £36 each for two £59 tyres. How good is that! Spent a couple of hours on Saturday fitting them and cleaning and oiling the bike. Any excuse not to go running!

Huge thanks to Alan Lawson putting on the 7 Hills each year. It is a special race, just wished I was in better shape to appreciate it. I feel I ran the first half at pace - just have to work on the second half and not falling to bits. Well done to the prize winners and everyone who made the finish line. Nicola did eventually make it there after spending something like 75 minutes crossing Arthur's Seat. A combination of dehydration and heat stroke I think, going from first lady to 5mins behind Mary's time. Kudos to Nicola for finishing. Nice to get a coaster as well. Our house is full of them.

1 comment:

  1. Ian Duff here, over 50 winner. The best I was expecting was 4th but that changed when I saw Mr Whitlie sitting on the grass at the Braids. You and W Jarvie were ahead of me at that point and I'm not sure where (or how) I passed the 2 of you.

    I was quite surprised to get the trophy only to discover that it had not been engraved by Stewart last year. He was probably getting fed up with the chore. Maybe I will get a 2-for-1 deal and will send him a bill for half of it.