Saturday, 14 October 2017

good manors

Manor Water Hill Race 2017
clickbait if ever I saw it

traffic control Jeff

So having sworn off racing ever again, I was back less than a week later to run at Manor Water. Mary's idea, I think her decent time at the Skyline encouraged her to want to do more of the same. Since I had done ok in the first couple of hours of the skyline I thought a 10 miler I have enjoyed on several occasions wasn't the worst idea. And the forecast was pretty decent. (And a LIE. Again.) If I had known the weather was going to be drizzle and low cloud I might have been less keen, but when we left Edinburgh it was fine and set fair.

We arrived in plenty time to register (entry-on-the-day-only-£5 loving it already) change and warm up. As the weather deteriorated I went from carrying a camera to carrying it in a poly bag, to leaving it at the finish line. Best tactic of the day. There was no scenery and I was soaked through the whole way. And the deep boggy mud meant sudden leaps and stumbles and the chances of the camera surviving would have been slim. However it was warm enough for a vest (just) as long as you kept moving. The fire in my lungs and legs kept me plenty warm.

Although a proper hill race, only the Scrape, the attractively named hill at the far end, is so steep you have to march, hands on knees, or run with tiny granny steps, for about half a mile. The rest is runnable. Ish. Although today was the worst conditions I've seen, the previously dry or damp paths reduced to a sucking swamp of black peaty mud and ankle deep puddles in grassy swamp. Fortunately I was unaware of all of this when we set off.

Oh I nearly forgot Nick! Last night on facebook I learned he was planning doing Manor Water AFTER Vogrie parkrun. Excellent! He'd be tired from sprinting 5k and I'd maybe go slowly enough to let him keep up. Ha! First of all anyone who knows Nick knows he likes to get to a race 90mins before kick off. As the crowd was ushered to the start line in the field next door to the car park still no sign of Nick. He was on his way though, just a bit held up in traffic behind some wedding party or something. He jumped out his car with a minute to go and Jim H, who was warned, gave him his number and the w/p leggings I had taken for him (he had lost his own) and while Sandy pinned on his number I tied his shoelace and with 30s till blast off Nick joined the start line.

The adrenaline obvs worked for him as he went past me in the second field and closely behind Brian Marshall set off into the distance. Bugger! The top three were visible for a while, Stewart, John and Michael. Then Brian then Nick and John with myself on my own in 7th. When Brian went past early on I said "shoes today?" and he answered back the same 2 words. He has been known to do hill races barefoot. Not like Vibram 5 fingers. No shoes. No sandals. Nada. He is the only person to my knowledge that has done this for a hill race.

I was feeling remarkably ok. Every time I would get near bursting point there would be a flat or downhill and a moment of recovery. The wind was in our faces which meant it would help after the halfway point on the return. Similarly the gradient would go from bad to good. My suunto bleeped and I looked quickly to see what I assumed would be 3 miles past. It was only 2. Ouch. The soft ground meant having to lift knees higher over the heather. I tried to choose the less wet of the parallel quad bike tracks and when they were both knee deep with water and mud I'd run in the heather to one side. By now the guys ahead were just faint shadows in the hill fog and I hoped I would stay on the right line. There were folk behind but a stone's throw rather than chatting distance.

At one flattish bit there is a Landrover parked on a 4x4 track perhaps near the other lovely place-name Dead Wife's Grave. I think the 2 Breweries goes past here on a perpendicular course. The guys in the vehicle shouted to stay near the dyke. Lots more uphill. Then after a long and arduous climb there was a path climbing round to the left and I saw the Scrape up ahead. Nick and John seemed to be closer but of course it was just the distances shortening because the climb up the steep hill slows everyone to a stiff walk or slow jog. I looked behind - just the quickest of glances - and thought I saw about a dozen dudes breathing down my neck. I tried not to panic figuring if I could summit anywhere near them, I'd prefer the race back down the hill. And none of them seemed to be in my age category.

After a bit the leader Stewart came flying down the hill. He interupted my thoughts on which part of one's body (lungs, heart, throat or legs) the Scrape was describing. Followed at a safe distance by John. I shouted something positive at them and wondered if Stewart could hold the lead. One of those chasing was world class descender Brian M whose long legs were moving at half the cadence of Michael in very close 4th. Still more hill to climb. Then Nick (more shouting) then John. I reckoned Nick would defo crumble anytime soon, with that parkrun in his legs. (Ha! and ha! again)

Then after a long long stomp, run, walk, run, walk, the climb levelled off and figures in the mist and the fence to mark the turn around. I could only just hear the marshals and Lisa talking over the noise of my lungs, something about yes he's Porty but more Carnethy at heart or something inflammatory along those lines. To be fair I probably do spend as much time running with Carnethies as Porties. I was wearing the PRC vest though.

I really enjoyed the first mile at the turn around. I launched myself down the hill sure I'd catch Nick before the finish line. A lot of the descent was safer on the spongy moss and short heather than on the muddy paths. I wanted to put some distance between me and the dozen young guns right behind. I checked out the rough ages of all nearby and didn't see any near 50. I must have missed Damien T and was blissfully unaware of his presence until after the finish line when he said for most of the return he could see my distant shadow on the event horizon of the mizzled hillscape. Well he may not have used those exact words. Less than a minute behind. Yoiks!

Footsteps behind. Happily a Carnethy dude scarcely out his teens. I was enjoying the run now and not worried about dropping a place on the uphill sections between downs. We exchanged a couple of words and he edged away gaining ground for the remainder. The rest was more and more of the same - potentially deadly paths of mud and brick pie with ankle wrenching grooves and slides for the unwary or tired. Sadly I passed a jogging Brian M who had calf problems and had had to slow to a jog. I remarked that it was all the fault of wearing shoes, but it didn't cheer him up much.

Once I got to Phil at the turn a mile and a half from home I risked a look behind and there was nobody. Phil confirmed I had a good gap. I nearly slowed then thought better of it. Nick should be just ahead. Hell's teeth that parkrun had not slowed him down much! I could only just see the Carnethy top in the far distance - there was no way I'd catch him, and with nobody behind I made sure I didn't arse up the last slog over wet and deeply muddy quagmire through the last fields. It was properly atrocious conditions but watching one's feet took your mind off the weather, which had nearly been bright at the top of the Scrape but descended into gloom and perhaps drizzle further down. A token sprint across the grassy field at the end helped clean filthy soaking shoes. 7th place and 2nd m50 to Stewart's winning 1st 50.

As soon as I was out the woods - clear of competition by Phil's turn, I began to wonder how Mary was doing. As I hit the bottom of the Scrape on the return I had passed her and she was first woman. I shouted encouragements but not her position as I didn't want to jinx her. Unfortunately Kathy was very close behind. I knew Mary's strength was going uppety up and Kathy's was flatter or downhill. Although Mary had finished the Skyline ahead of Kathy I reckoned that was due to the number of ups in that race and that their cumulative effect gave Mary the advantage. I felt Kathy might have the advantage today. I put on a jacket back at the car then returned to the finish line to wait for the first lady. 

no not Davy Duncan!

well done Kathy!

Just a minute and 20s behind, Mary in second place.
Good to see the older women give the younger girls a run for their money.

Big thanks to Euan and Jim for organising and all the marshals who 
stood up the hill in the cold and rain. Very smoothly organised and booze prizes
which always goes down well. Bottle of beer for every finisher!

The race is run as an adjunct to the sheep dog trials and there are various goings-on from sheep dogging (that can't be the right expression) to a sheep raffle, to these 2 (above) doing a lively turn behind the bar as the Three Two Degrees to raise money for charity.

So man of the match has to be Nick arriving parkrun-ed at the very last minute and coming 4th in seasoned hill running company. How did he do it? Can he do it again in Frankfurt Marathon with only a fortnight to train. (I think he can, but maybe only if he arrives late?) So Mary and I go home with 4 beers and a decent bottle of wine between us. For a fiver each. And nearly enough mud to block the shower drain. Times ridiculously slow due to soggy course. Just by way of example last time I ran here was in 2010 and my time (which was 2mins shy of a pb for me) was 2 full minutes faster than today's winning time. All that gloop slows things down considerably. Great training for the cross country season though!

10 miler - uppity up, downy down

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