Ellie did this amazing run two years ago, and since then I had been considering entering as it sounded like a brilliant event to be a part of. So early this year I decided to go for it – for anyone who hasn’t noticed, I do love an uphill, and what’s not to love about a day off work to run in that part of Scotland! I did consider entering the Ring of Steall race as well but that moment of madness passed. Next year :-).
The Momores VK follows the International Skyrunning Federation format of following a marked course gaining 1000m of elevation in less than 5 kilometres, with runners setting off at timed intervals. This meant climbing the munro Na Gruagaichean as fast as possible and then making our way back down pretty much the same route (steeeep!). Ellie also decided to go for it again this year, so much kudos to her doing this and fitting in training so soon after having her little girl!! The VK was the first race of a weekend of racing, finishing with the mighty Glencoe Skyline on the Sunday. International runners flock to Kinlochleven for these races, which makes it all very exciting for us mere mortals.
The day of the VK arrived, as did a forecast for some pretty changeable weather. It was a slow drive up through Glencoe and the hills were shrouded in mist. I arrived and managed to catch up with Ellie and her two friends at registration in the Ice Factor. Kit check was very strict – they were checking the level of waterproofing on trousers etc, and given the conditions over the weekend I can see why! Ellie was setting off just after 2pm, so I got to cheer her and her buddies off, and then had a full hour to sit and contemplate the madness ahead. I met a couple of HBT ladies too, who were doing this for the first time as well and it was good to see some familiar friendly faces. At 3:03 it was my turn, and at this point the weather was thankfully reasonable.
The run to the start of the climb was lovely trail with some little streams to cross and a bit of mud, but all very runnable. Of course, a VK doesn’t stay runnable for long, and the climb after this was relentless. The route is marked straight up with little red flags, and involved plenty of using the hands to grab tussocks of grass / heather and later the slithery rocks. I can say that I hugely enjoyed about three quarters of the climb, but the deteriorating weather made the last traverse to the summit anything but pleasant. I had to wrestle into my waterproof jacket and shortly after met Ellie on her descent. The rain, wind and mist on the ridge made it so difficult to see and to avoid bumping into runners heading down again and it was such a relief to get to the marshals on the top. Once there, you plug your clever timing do-dah into a device which reads your time. The temperature up there was low and with the rain and the wind chill, we needed our full waterproof body cover – the problem was trying to put kit on with completely numb hands. Folk were helping each other with sleeves, gloves etc, and it would have been comical if we hadn’t all felt close to hypothermic!
The ‘run’ back down passed in a blur. I have never been that cold on a hill and it was a little scary until further down and when some feeling came back to my hands and feet. Runners were still setting off and I really felt for them heading to the summit in the awful weather. All we could do was cheer them on and marvel at how speedy some of them were! Worth mentioning that the organisers moved to the ‘bad weather route’ for both the Ben Nevis Ultra and the Glencoe Skyline. They took a bit of stick for this from some runners on the online forum but given that there were a number of runners treated for hypothermia at the VK and the severe weather forecast for those days…..seemed sensible to most folks!
By the time I reached registration to hand in my timing device I had recovered and was already thinking about next year. The marshals on the route were all amazing and were so encouraging, the organisation of the event is extremely slick, and there is a great atmosphere to it all. I’d love to manage the RoS race and to stay up there for the full weekend to see the elite skyline runners!
Everyone I have spoken to who has done this race always has such great things to say about it and some who do it come back year after year after year. I did not really intend to do both this and the West Highland Way in the same year, but with the way entries work, I had to apply for this before I knew if I would get a place in the WHW and as fate would have it I got into both.
The premise for this is easy you enter either the 12 hour or 24 hour race then you run as many 4 mile loops round the wonderful Glenmore Forest as you can. There is a base camp at the start/finish where you can pitch up your tent and your supporters wait for you to come round each time and feed up you and kick you back out. Vicky and I were both running this year and Yan was also there supporting another runner. Vicky (who was also celebrating her anniversary this weekend) who has run this a number of times before was doing the 12 hour race and I was doing the 24 hour. On Friday evening there was pre-race fancy dress party – this year the theme was Hawaiian, then on Saturday at 12 noon everyone starts running and the loops begin, it is entirely up to you how you run this and as long as you get at least one lap in you can’t even DNF!
I have never run a lapped course before – apart from Parkrun and I was not sure how I would find it, it was not as bad as I thought, the loops are quite long and they feel quite different each time. I did struggle after a few laps as I did not really have a goal so running round and round with no target was really hard especially as it started to get dark and I was questioning why I was there, but after a bit of a kick up the arse from Alan who was once again acting as my support crew and setting myself the target of hitting 100 miles, things improved mentally. I decided if I could hit 14 laps by midnight I was on for the 100 and would manage to run the 25 laps required by 12 noon, otherwise I was going to go to bed for a few hours and re-evaluate. I got through my 14 laps just after midnight so decided I was going to tough it out and go for it. It was hard during the dark hours of early morning when the 12 hour runners had finished and a lot of the 24 hour runners seemed to go to bed and it was very quiet with few runners around, but I cranked out a few laps with my friend Ross, who I have run with at every Ultra I have been at this year and it certainly helped eat up some miles. He too peeled off to bed as he had not been well and I was left on my own with only a few hours to go. My times had been slipping and I was getting longer and longer on each lap and after a bit of mental arithmetic I realised I needed to get a shift on or I would not hit my target. Luckily I had such an amazing support crew that stuffed food down me even though I did not want to eat, filled my water bottle and told me to drink, shouted encouragement and made me realise I could do this and did not let me stop and kicked me back out on the course each and every time. As the sun came up it got easier and the course got busier as those that had had a few hours sleep during the night came back out onto the course. I finished my 25th lap and hit 100 miles a 11.37am to a cheering finish line, my brothers and their families had even come up to watch me run so it was wonderful to have them all there at the end, except its not quite the end, it was not a 100 mile race, it was a 24 hour race and I still had 20 minutes to go! In the final hour of the race, they open up the short loop which is basically just round the campsite and lots of people put their fancy dress on from the Friday night, it’s a real party atmosphere as everyone is out cheering you on and the music was blasting, we also had the sun shining as it was a really warm day. I walked around the short loops chatting to some of the runners I had been on the course with and soaking up the atmosphere and at 12 noon a horn was sounded and you stop where you are and put your numbered pin in the ground and, if you are like me, collapse in a heap on the ground!
I can see why everyone loves this race so much, it is so well organised and is like a festival of running. The supporters tents have fairy lights and signs up, music blaring, people dancing, disco lights (that might just have been our one!) people encouraging and shouting you on. It is totally up to you how far you go and how much you challenge yourself and whether you stop for a while or keep going.
Apart from the Maddy Moss race 2017, I have not spent any time in the Ochils and with the weather forecast being rather alarming (hill fog and headwind), I met with Rob the day before the race to discuss the route and navigation (I even invested some time in a navigation YouTube tutorial – worth it!).
We arrived at the campus of Stirling University around 10am, where we registered, got ready and waited for the busses to the start. My mood changed the whole time before the race from excitement to “Oh god, what am I doing here” (it was a SHR and SAL championship race this year, and everyone looked so super fit and speedy). I have never done anything similar before in terms of distance and climb and my goal was to make the cut-off times, and then just do as many hills as possible.
The race started almost on time, and the first bit was very runnable: an undulating track followed by a path through a forested area up to the first checkpoint (CP) at Innerdownie. I enjoyed this bit and the next CPs, the weather was perfect, the ground bouncy and even leaning in the headwind at the downhills was good fun. At the downhill before Kings Seat I started to worry a bit about the cut-off time, so I stepped on it and could even overtake a few people. Unfortunately, this was my last fast downhill. I didn’t get the nutrition right, so I had stomach cramps on every downhill throughout the race (apart from the last), which slowed me down a lot.
From Kings Seat, it was the first time we left the path to contour down to the climb up to Andrew Gannel Hill (following a path again) and from there to the Law. Until here, I had no problems to navigate, as we mainly followed paths, there were plenty of people around and the visibility was OK. Then, the fog came. I knew Ben Cleuch from the Maddy Moss race, so I recognized the CP when I finally could see the cairn 20m ahead of me and relying on the path and my compass I reached Ben Buck. Luckily, the direction to Ben Ever was SSW, so I saw a few runners before they disappeared in the fog. I reached Ben Ever well ahead of the second cut-off time, which was a relief because I finally found the time to put on my rain jacket (I was already soaked) and I knew that from there no one was going to stop me (apart from myself).
From Rob I knew that navigation from Ben Ever to Blairdennon Hill would be tricky, as would be the terrain. I solved the first problem by buddying up with another runner who had done the race before and by using the compass (I am not kidding, the little thing was helpful, especially because Rob and I prepared it in the bus for navigating between Ben Ever and Blairdennon Hill, so we just had to follow the travel arrow). For the second problem, there was no solution. Seriously, I have never seen terrain like this before and apparently it can be even worse: bogs after bogs, deep bogs covered in moose (I think I found Duncan’s bog; http://penicuikharriers.org.uk/2017/08/29/ochils-2000s-long-classic-hill-race-2017/), bogs you had to climb in, and bogs followed by dunes of black soil [RW comment: The Scottish moose is not as rare as you would think despite it (the Elk) becoming extinct in the 10th century. Ours are green and hide in bogs 🙂 ]. Quite surreal, especially with the fog. Finding Blairdennon was a relief again, because from there we went southwards just by following a fence.
After Colsnaur Hill, we were finally out of the fog, which seemed to be a good thing at first but then I saw Dumyat. I’ve tried to raise my courage by euphorically shouting “Just one more hill”, but my fellow runner felt the need to remind me that this hill is very steep. We took a steep short cut which brought us to the track taking us down to Menstrie. The short cut was probably not the best idea, as there were many rocks and hollows overgrown by moose [RW comment: It’s those pesky moose again], grass and thistles. First, I stepped into one of the hollows and then I slipped and twisted my knee. The hard and rocky track was not very pleasant either, so I have no clue which route I would choose the next time. The way down to Menstrie was the downhill I enjoyed the least. The rocky underground fatigued my legs and my stomach cramps were bad. At the CP in Menstrie I had juice and grabbed as many jelly babies as I could and started the climb up to Dumyat. On the way, I met a marshal with further jelly babies, so I had some more. The climb was steep and a struggle, but I still was happy as I knew from this point that I will finish the race. At the summit, I scared some poor marshals with my mad grinning (as I said, I was happy, but very exhausted at that point) and my bad German jokes [RW comment: Speaking from experience, they’re all bad!]. The downhill to the finish I just loved: maybe it was the sugar, maybe the knowledge that this is the last bit, maybe the downhill itself, I don’t know, but it was great, and I even managed to overtake some runners. The path in the forest was quite tricky (steep with roots and some turns) and poor Rob fell and bruised his shoulder there. After the forest, I got lost L. First, I followed the road a tad too long and had to run back again, and then we (a runner I had overtaken at the downhill) got distracted by cheering coming from another direction and we mistakenly left the correct path to follow the noise. After crossing a golf course, it turned out that the noise came from a football match. Consulting the map and some spectators, I finally found a track that would bring us to the finish. Without this little detour I would have finished exactly at my predicted finish time of 5h, but this didn’t affect how happy and glad I was.
I enjoyed the whole day and I cannot recommend this race high enough (especially for the Harrier Ladies! [RW comment: Surely a thrown gauntlet to the male fraternity]), it is good fun, quite a challenge but a nice race! Rob and I did figure out though, that a recce of some parts of the route might be useful 🙂
This is a nice race that follows similar paths to the Feel the Burns race but is half the distance. Shiela Cochrane organises both races and both raise money for Tweed Valley Mountain rescue. It was pretty rainy as we headed down to Selkirk and it stayed that way for most of the race. The main climb is up to the Three Bretheren, that we could barely see today and then you head downhill and across the moor before climbing Foulshiels Hill and continuing along the pretty rocky, peaty paths. The route surface changes a lot for the second half of the race as you run through fields and woodland before reaching the final few fields for some easy running to finish the race. Thank goodness for lots of marshals and signage because this route changes all the time.
Hats off to Shiela Cochrane for organising this race and grateful thanks to her army of marshals!
14th Graham Flockhart 59m 44s
33rd Mark Denholm !h 9m 53s
47th Susie Maxwell 1h 22m 56s
Back in 2015, I ran the Ben Rinnes hill race for the first time. I loved it. The weather was warm and sunny, I was physically in fine fettle and the 22.4 kms (1435m) there and back route left me with an exhilarated feeling of speed and lightness. I have since been rather frustrated as I have always been away and kept missing it.
Ben Rinnes is the “easiest” of the Long Classic Series races and as it is a runnable long[ish] hill race, it is well worth the effort to drive up to Dufftown, especially if you make a weekend of it. To top it off, it is associated with the Dufftown Highland games which is a hoot – with many a tossed caber, pipe bands, dancers and all the trimmings that come with a traditional Highland Games.
Start of race – a tad soggy but warm at least
My bronchial illness of June had really messed my training up. I also lost 3kgs, so my strategy for July was to eat as much, and race as much, as possible to try and get back some muscle mass into my legs. I will say this now – 5 races (Dollar, Maddy Moss, Cairn Table, Lee Pen topped off with Ben Rinnes) in 3 weeks was perhaps not an ideal strategy for attaining race fitness. I am mildly broken at the time of writing this.
Harriers in attendance: Moi, Stuart and Gillian + better halves/kids/dogs etc as we made a holiday of it although we all disfunctionally stayed in different towns (Aviemore, Aberlour and Nethy Bridge) which made socialising post-race a little harder.
The forecast was not brilliant – potential thunder, lightning and rain. The heavy rain, while eating breakfast at 8am on Saturday morning, did not bode well. However, at the start, bar some initial dampness, the temperature was nicely mild, and most runners ran in vests. Ben Rinnes is basically a 5 peaks race and most of the gradients are runnable, or at least, one can alternate between walking and running. This year, the race was part of the Scottish Hill Championship, so there were more runners than usual – and more pressure!!
At 12 noon, we were off. The first kilometre is on tracks around fields with a slow incline until we crossed the Dufftown Golf Course. It was the climb after the golf course that I realised that this would be tough. My legs were heavy and my right Achilles was not going to forgive me for running Lee Pen the week before. At the top of the first hill (Little Conval) Andrea, Lorna and the two carpets (Alfie and Rowan) were there shouting/barking encouragement. We were only 4 kms in, and I was already feeling worryingly fatigued. I managed to pick up speed on the downhill, gained some rhythm up over Meikle Conval and made up some places on the steep descent to the road crossing. This was the last time I had some semblance of strength in my legs!
The ascent up Ben Rinnes is a long winding track – quite rocky which studied fell shoes are not perhaps ideal. It was at this point when the “weather” hit. The wind picked up markedly and the rain came sideways from the south. Luckily, the air temperature was mild enough that I decided that I could still walk/jog/run in my vest, so I slogged my way up into the cloud above. I remember fabulous views from 2015, but this year, the weather was clagged in, and it was an ever increasingly wild ride as we gained elevation. Not far from the summit, Stuart came running towards me (with jacket on!) – he was not that far ahead of me. He later told me that he had also been suffering and had consider pulling out. Luckily, he had dug deep and kept going.
I would like to say that Stu, not being that far ahead, would have spurred me on, but the sidewind by this point was very strong and it took all my concentration to keep from not skidding off course to the right. The granite tor of the peak, over which we had to run, was a wet treacherous scramble, but the turnaround was briefly pleasant as we were sheltered from the wind. It then hit again on the descent, and we then had the gnarly granitic track to contend with in the misty, windy rain. At the time, I noted that I had not seen Gillian coming up and I remember thinking “I hope she has not been blown away” – little realising that she was not far behind me and it was me that would later be blown away.
The descent down the track was relatively fast and the weather steadily improved. The steepest section on the whole race is the climb after the road crossing on the way back up to Meikle Conval and it was on this short section that my legs decided to remind me that they were utterly exhausted and started to cramp. Remember – this was effectively only 15kms into the race – those pins were not happy. Damn Lee Pen! I managed to get control of the muscles and stumbled on. Gillian finally caught me up just before the summit of Little Conval. I think she assumed that I would “gawp”, say something highly non-PC along the lines of “I can’t let a woman beat me” and sprint away, but my legs would simply not have it. We stayed together for a while, but I am pretty sure Gill was simply being nice. After the golf course, she apologised profusely and said she needed to catch the next female and daintily scampered off ahead of me. I tried to keep up, but my legs were useless lumps of lead by this point. I decided to settle into a comfortable non-cramping pace for the final kilometre.
Running is a bizarre sport. 3 years ago, I ran Ben Rinnes and felt amazing. This year, the whole thing was a slog and a massive effort. But in the end, the difference in my time was only 8 minutes (2:36 (2015) vs 2:44 (2018)). There is some comfort from this. No matter how you feel, don’t assume you are doing that badly (or well either). In the end, I am sort of happy that I did the 5 races (plus plenty of cycling) this month. Hopefully that has caught my fitness up and I can now rest and recharge my legs over the next few weeks for tougher longer races to come.
The hero of the day was Gill. Her time was excellent – a good 8 minutes improvement on her previous PB. AND – don’t forget, this was a Scottish Hill Championship race. Gill was 3rd in her category. No mean feat!
You deserve this one Gill, but I’m gonna make you sweat next time!!
Apologies, I have not mastered the art of a short race report.
I first went to a West Highland Way inspiration evening back in 2010, I had watched clips of the headtorched runners setting off in the dark up through a shopping precinct to shouts and cheers on YouTube long before I had entered the Fling or ever set foot in Milngavie, I crewed for Chris in 2016, entered, but did not get a place so volunteered in 2017 and finally 2018 I was on the start line! Its felt like I have always been heading here.
After reading Rob’s report on his effort in this race last year, I had decided that this might be my next race challenge. Having not run a marathon distance and having ruled out attempting a road marathon, this race seemed very tempting. As a family we have spent a lot of time in the Aviemore area but with young children never get to venture far into the hills. Rob’s description of some of the ‘challenges’ he faced was not quite enough to put me off! The route runs 43 kilometres through the Cairngorms, from Braemar police station to Aviemore police station, with 640m elevation and some of the most amazing scenery and views! So when entries opened earlier this year, I had decided I was going for it, along with a few other Harriers.
As race weekend approached, a combination of illness, injury and circumstances sadly resulted in a smaller group of us Harriers heading to Braemar, i.e. me, Al Hind and Duncan, who had managed to get a last minute place. Rob – I am sure you will be there next year and your memories of last year’s race will have faded entirely!! I am very glad that I had some Harriers buddies there, as real nerves set in as Scott and I drove up on the Saturday. The focus of my nerves had shifted from the distance to cover etc, to the weather forecast for unbroken sunshine and temperature in the mid 20s. I was beginning to wonder ‘what on earth am I doing?!’. We arrived mid afternoon and after a brief interview with the lovely Adventure Show people, we booked in to our B & B and met up with Lori and Ritchie for dinner (lots of it!) and one wee glass of wine.
As promised, we woke to gorgeous sunshine and the lightest breeze. I managed to shovel down a half – decent breakfast and then got ready to head to registration, kit check and the start. Duncan and Al had come up that morning and were there, both looking a tad nervous too. There were a few familiar faces amongst the runners, but so many looked like elite marathon or ultra runners – cue more nerves jangling. 10am came and we were off!
The nice thing about the longer distance is that there is no need to sprint off at the start (unless you are Rob and looking for a photo opportunity :-)). So for the first few kilometres on the road I settled in to a half decent pace and felt very comfortable despite the rising temperature. I had a catch up with one of the lovely HBT ladies Cat, who I’m used to battling with in hill races, and managed to distract myself from worrying about the mileage and the challenges ahead. I was happy to get off the public road soon after and on to the track at Mar Lodge, and enjoy some slightly more varied ground. However, along here I realised that we had all acquired our own team of what I affectionately call ‘cheerleading’ flies. Oh my god, they just would not go away, and with no breeze they just carried on with us for miles!! The other issue at this point was that I’d managed to tie one lace too tight and had a dead foot. I reached Derry Lodge at 1 hour 15 (1 h30 cut off), and had to take my shoe off and revive my poor foot. Rooky mistake!
We had no problems with crossing the Luibeg burn as it has been so dry lately, but it was nice to have a paddle at this point as the heat was difficult to ignore. After this, the route climbs and was really enjoyable, especially as the flies seemed to have given up the chase. The trail became more technical later on, and my pace began to drop quite a bit. You can also see where you are heading and I began to wonder about why I’d thought I could manage this – it went on forever. I had not taken any photos at all so far, so as we approached the boulder field, I stopped briefly and took one of the view ahead and one of the where we’d come from. It was worth stopping to look at the scenery, just absolutely stunning!!
I had been worried about the boulder field but although it was challenging, it was not as bad as I’d imagined and I quite enjoyed this part. There was a drone filming us overhead, and an Adventure Show camera man filming our feet as we hopped balletically from rock to rock (at least that’s how I imagine we looked :-)). At the far side, the pools of Dee looked incredibly tempting as the heat now was definitely taking its toll, plus the lack of breeze. However, if I’d stopped again here, I might never have left! I’d also for some reason thought that the next part would become more runnable but it was way tougher underfoot than I’d imagined. I had to have a wee chat with my negative thoughts and focus on not falling over. The nausea had also firmly set in, and it was getting harder to force down the tailwind or water. I also remembered the warning from those who have done the route that you can see Aviemore from many miles away and that it’s best not to think about the distance! There was another cameraman who asked how I was doing, but I hadn’t noticed him and just muttered something like “good to see you” – oh dear….
At this this stage, a few of us were running in a little group which really helped me and the pace suited too. I did then manage to pass a few runners as we began to head downhill, and then came across Duncan sitting on a rock. He had succumbed to the crazy heat and all I could do was walk with him to the next marshal checking our numbers and then leave him to keep walking slowly down. There were a number of heat casualties on the day.
I was very glad to reach the Rothiemurchus forest trail which gave a bit of shade at times and was nice running underfoot. I felt briefly stronger here and picked up the pace. There were a couple of lovely marshals somewhere around this point who had some water for us, but one of them said something about “only about 50 minutes running to go”. For some reason, that number made me feel suddenly like I could not possibly run another 2 minutes, let alone 50 – so I had my second mental meltdown. Thankfully it was a brief moment of darkness, and my legs were working just fine so I shuffled on. I caught up with one of the ladies I had been running with earlier and we reached the road at Coylumbridge and ran to Aviemore and the finish together. Scott had walked to the last bridge to take photos and we were just about able to smile and wave. I have never been quite so glad to see the finish and we had a comical moment of trying to decide which of us would run through the finish first. All thoughts of placings had clearly left us as were both just so relieved to be there!
I had a brief teary moment on my own at the finish, just so glad to have made it. I could not quite face the amazing array of cakes supplied by the lovely Mountain Cafe people, so had some soup instead. Al came in to the finish a little later, also very glad to be done but also slightly broken by the heat. We sat with our soup, along with many other dehydrated souls, waiting for Scott to bring Duncan back from where the route joined the road. Unfortunately poor Duncan then had to get on the race bus back to Braemar and drive from there.
Safe to say this was a year for finishing and not for PBs, and I felt very lucky to have made it to the start line injury free. I was more than happy with my time, as I’d hoped for around 5 hours. Will I be back next year? Absolutely!! I hope a few of us, especially those who had to pull out this year can make it too.
It all started about a year ago with a rainy/misty Durisdeer hill race with Rob – there I was exhilarated by the navigational challenge and achieved a solid run without getting lost. During post-race Facebook banter Julian suggested I should try a mountain marathon. At first I thought: “Are you crazy, I will never be able to run such a distance in hills”. I nevertheless mentally committed to the challenge. When a couple of months later Rob was looking for a LAMM partner the “are you crazy voice” was long gone. He suggested we should go for the C course – I didn’t really know what that meant.
In the following months I ramped up hiking and hill running, but somehow constantly failed to do this extensively. I generally try to be active most days so have stamina for hours on hills, but a two-day event with spartan camping in between must be extra hard. During all this time Rob was training intensively (RW: actually – I have still not trained half as much as I should have) for the Lairig Ghru and the dread of an exhausting first mountain marathon was growing in me. Once the organisers announced that this year LAMM will be in Harris I was exhilarated about a great travel adventure to a remote part of Scotland and pushed aside doubts of struggling with the race. The C course was advertised at 24km with 1,300m ascent on Day 1 and 20 km with 1,000m ascent on Day 2. OK, I thought, I can do one day “easily”, perhaps two, if the pace is not too intense.
(Un)fortunately, Rob caught more than Man’s flu just days ahead of the LAMM and prospects seemed grim. We had already spent a lot of money on the registration and travel arrangements and did not want to lose this nor the race/travel adventure! Rob was somewhat stable (Lemsip-ed to the eye-balls) the day before the race and we decided that we go up there and evaluate his state on the fly. I decided that in the worst-case scenario I will spend two days solo hiking/running on Harris.
On Thursday we met and double checked our kit. Since the race was so far away, we had to ensure we had enough “stuff” essentially for camping four days. We travelled from Penicuik to Ullapool by car. In Ullapool we hopped on a 3h ferry to Stornoway with a host of other runners. I found it interesting to observe the variety of runners participating in the race. In addition, the weather was spectacular all the way through (sunny with 20+C) so it really felt like an awesome holiday adventure. I constantly felt bad for Rob and his flu (RW: I was on a 4-hour symptomatic roller-coaster ride between Lemsip infusions), but his humour kept our worries at bay. We arrived at Stornoway around 20h and hopped on a bus to Tarbet. At this point I was getting sick of travel. While driving through the flat undulating Lewis I kept wondering how can one organise mountain marathon in such a landscape. However, once we reached Harris most runners started to intensively observe the hilly landscape and we all wondered about the possible race routes. Upon late arrival in Tarbet we setup the tent on school playground and prepped kit for the next two days – waterproofs, additional clothes, food, and camping kit. Julian informed us that he pulled out of the LAMM A course (32km with 1,900m ascent on Day 1 and 26km with 1,900m ascent on Day 2) due to knee issues, but would be ready to run a lower grade course if needed. This meant that I could potentially run with an even stronger partner in case Rob’s flu would not give way. Midges spoiled the evening somewhat and forced us into tent. We needed the sleep anyway.
Someone needed a break
Tarbet camping grounds
The night was short as I was waken by snoring runners in neighbouring tents. Luckily, Rob woke up with practically no flu symptoms and decided to run the race (RW: in hindsight this was still a risk as I had not eaten much the past 3 days! Probably should at least have downgraded to the D-course). I was both glad and worried at the same time – hoping that he would not collapse on the hills! We checked kit once more, applied sun cream and were off. After registration, a bus took us from Tarbert to the starting location (see the map below), where we obtained a map and a checkpoint OS coordinate sheet. This time it was super easy to locate checkpoints – maps had numbered circles and you simply had to cross-reference numbers between the map and the checkpoint sheet. We crosschecked our maps with checkpoints and were soon running towards the first checkpoint on a hill ahead of us. Soon after we hit the hill I got struck by the steepness, heat, high humidity, rather heavy backpack, and Rob’s strong pace – I thought he was sick just some hours ago! It made me wonder how will I sustain this for two days. However, I soon burned in and we reached the first checkpoint in no time. Then we decided to approach the next checkpoint and it seemed we were going really well. We made sure we ate a bar or something else every hour and drank plenty of water with electrolytes to avoid cramping. When approaching the second checkpoint it was interesting to observe how different teams were taking different routes. It was also interesting to see the dynamics of the race as different teams chase different points on different courses – in essence this means that navigationally you are pretty much on your own, though when you’re near to a checkpoint you can take advantage when many teams run to the same point. When nearing the third checkpoint Rob’s pace lessened and we had to take a break. We lost about five places, which obviously frustrated both of us. However, there was no point in pushing Rob just to have him collapse on the next hill. So we decided we proceed slowly, but firmly to the next points. At this stage we descended from hills and had to run a long section on boggy ground. Recent spells of nice weather had dried the bog, which made the crossing easier, but not fully bog free. However, running that section proved really hard due to 20+C temperatures and rough terrain – you could see that all runners were really struggling and most of us were mostly marching like lemmings. At the fourth checkpoint we replenished our water supplies and plodded to the fifth and sixth points cursing the heat. We were constantly debating navigational options and through clever choices regained quite many places lost in breaks. After reaching the sixth point Rob was really low and my blisters from Goatfell started to swell up. However, we finally managed to get some running on the last leg to the mid-camp (RW: Despite my physical state, Day 1 was very rough terrain and bar the last 2kms, there was NO track at all!). We came in 15th place (06:08:18) to the mid-camp among the C course teams, which kinda surprised both of us – we definitely did not feel we should have been so well positioned – I guess we must have done very well with navigation, but we also did work hard with the pace, as much as Rob could take it;) I think that other teams also struggled with the heat. This result definitely gave us a boost!
The mid-camp was in a lovely remote part of the Island with white sandy beach surrounded by mountains. The location was simply stunning and the weather could not have been nicer – high temperatures and mild breeze (RW: no midges!). Everybody was leisurely setting up tents, resting, replenishing calories, and debating the race. Some of us had even dared a swim in the sea! It truly was a magnificent mid-camp. Since the day was long and weather great we had plenty of leisure time. I used it to again observe the different runners, their approach to stretching, resting, refuelling, kit, and other trivia. Despite having not cramped during Day 1, while chatting and resting, Rob’s thighs cramped severely (RW: the cramps were excruciating and felt like my thigh muscles were being ripped apart!), which he managed to salvage somewhat with gentle stretching. The night eventually came and we aimed to have a good rest.
The second day started with a piper at 6am, when slower teams with long (> 9 hrs) times from Day 1 had to start already. Weather for the second day did not look that promising with quite low clag and mist, but at least this suggested less heat. We leisurely prepared coffee, porridge breakfast, and packed the tent along with the other kit. You could see a team starting every few minutes and soon there was a time for our start. As we were within 90 minutes of the leading pair, we were part of the chasing start and were scheduled for 8:03am. The start was up a steep slope into a clag. Here navigation became soon very important and I think we did really well by aiming for the trig point near the first checkpoint – and the stream junction. However, although we should have hit the checkpoint, we somehow missed it and went down by the stream for too long only to realise we need to go higher (RW: I am pretty sure we hit the check point perfectly, but with the thick mist and steamed up glasses, we very likely walked past the bloody thing!). All-in-all we lost about 20-30 minutes there! Quite frustrated, we pushed on, but Rob soon realised that he was really struggling with downhill running due to pains in his thighs (from the cramp the day before). On the way to checkpoints 2, 3, and 4 we caught up some lost places. On the way to checkpoint 5 the clag lifted and heat from the first day came back and stayed till the very end of the race. Rob started to suffer quite severely and was near to quitting the race. He hobbled downhill to the sixth checkpoint that was special – we got a leisurely break with bus transfer to the next checkpoint. This was done for courses C and D so that the distance of these two courses could reach the mid-camp on Day 1 and the Tarbert finish on Day 2. Rob inquired with marshals about options for pulling out – bus would only take him to the next checkpoint, while he would have to walk back to Tarbet on the road. Not a nice option in that heat. After an hour break of waiting for the bus and the drive itself and realising that we only really had just one more major climb and two descents gave him energy to continue. He really struggled with these last checkpoints (6-10). While I was still strong, I also suffered with heated and blistered feet – we simply ran too slow at that time to not think about this. Despite the struggles we made it to the finish 20th (12:04:12) out of 75 (7 were disqualified or did not finish), which I am very happy with.
At the finish we got some food and drinks to replenish energy. While Rob went to shower in the school I opted for a sea swim just next to the campsite – it would have been shame to miss the opportunity with such a nice weather I spent quite a while swimming and on the way out of water realised that my towel and clothes were floating on water next to beach – I completely forgot about the damn tide! Well, one more “drama/adventure” event;) While swimming and relaxing I missed the prize giving and speech of the organiser Martin Stone – apparently this was the LAST LAMM. After 22 years he decided to leave on a high. It was quite emotional (RW: many misty eyes from exhausted runners), but we have already heard that Shane Ohly will organise a similar event in 2019. That evening we went for the LAMM dinner, which was a total rip off – we paid £7 each for a tiny portion of rice with curry. The taste was great, but simply too small of a portion for all the effort we had put in during the last two days. Being somewhat crippled we did not join the ceilidh and returned back to the campsite, but did stop at the pub for a pint of Guinness and a dram and life was suddenly much better! We camped one more night in Tarbert and travelled back to Penicuik on Sunday.
All-in-all I found the whole LAMM thing great! It was in a stunning location, it was fun, daring, though, organisationally challenging, and with lots of drama. The first day was somewhat too technical and I missed running. The track simply lacked runnable sections. The second day was better in that regard, but then the heat was quite excruciating and Rob was truly struggling. Hats off to him for running when he had flu just a day ago. It was very foolish and likely the cause of bad cramps, but we nevertheless had a great time together. Thanks Rob for the first, but sadly also the last LAMM.
RW: I got a severe rollicking from Andrea when we got home for not downgrading to the D course. However, I have no regrets. If I had let Julian run in my stead, I would have simply felt miserable for the 2 days. Our place of 20th clearly showed that even in my low energy state, the course was doable. What is life without a few risks? I feel I owe Gregor a proper “speedy” Mountain Marathon and I don’t think this will be the last for us as a pair. I believe over these distances we are well balanced. So – roll on 2019 and other MM options over the next 12-18 months.
Being one of the harriers Grand Prix races this was sure to attact a few of our runners. Its a nice distance and quite unusual in the running calendar. The route is undulating with many club runners and its easy to get carried away and go off too fast which is what happened to a few of us. It was a warm and sunny evening making it very pleasant at the start but hard going as the race continued. Lots of nice snacks at the end and a bottle of water to refresh before the journey home.
44 30:39:00 Ritchie Thomson SM
59 31:41:00 Michael Greens SM
84 32:07:00 Allan Dunbar 40M
130 35:56:00 Robin Hall 40M
131 36:02:00 Charlie Crawford SM
142 36:33:00 Sadie Kemp 40W
What else would I do on my birthday, but run a hill race? Weather was fab and a great turnout from the club. Gillian was out on the hill dishing out encouragement and taking pics and Bill was there at the start/finish. Fun had by all!
17 Michael Greens M 00:37:28 119.90%
22 Duncan Ball M40 00:38:51 124.30%
33 Allan Dunbar M40 00:41:09 131.70%
52 Robin Hall M40 00:45:00 144.00%
53 Sadie Kemp F40 00:45:30 145.60%
56 Ian Forrest M40 00:46:12 147.80%
59 Juliane Friedrich F 00:47:09 150.90%
61 Tracy Philp F40 00:47:55 153.30%
63 Scott McIntosh M40 00:49:24 158.10%
65 Mark Dawson M40 00:49:45 159.20%
We had fantastic weather for the race this year that was as always very colourful and had a great atmosphere with lots of folk in fancy dress. There was a lovely spread of food at the finish. Derek won first in his category and Juliane won a spot prize.
18 38:00 Derek Newport M50
50 43:24 Cameron Newport MJ
61 44:43 Sadie Kemp F40
80 46:07 Juliane Friedrich F
Full results: http://harmenyac.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Rigg-Race-2018-Results.pdf
At 15.5kms and 870m, this is one of the classic hill races in the calendar. It is therefore very surprising that hardly any Harriers in recent history (only Stu I think) has run it. Although Arran might seem far away, the drive to the Ardrossan ferry is only about 1.5 hrs, followed by a relaxing 50 min boat crossing and you’re in Brodick with only a short walk to the start. Easily done in a day with the race start and prize giving nicely organised around the ferry times.
As Andrea could not go due to tennis (and injury), I decided to pop over for the day while the rest of the Harrier posse drove over to stay the night and make some mischief (that’s another story!). Harriers in attendance were Michael Greens, Andy Briggs, Jan Dawson, Gregor Gorjanc, Gill Cairns, Kevin Anderson, Sadie Kemp and Moi.
The race is a simple there and back route – the first (last) section is 2kms of road (ugh!), then from the woods behind Brodick Castle, the route ascends with an ever-increasing gradient. It is very runnable at first, but as it steepens it gets more and more technical. The upper 100 metres (up and down) seemed incredibly steep to me.
Race Route and Profile
Weather conditions were almost perfect – 14-17 degrees (elevation dependent), cool SW wind and sun and more sun. So – at 12pm, despite a very loud pipe band doing its hardest to ensure we would not hear the starting claxon, we were off. A 2-km sprint along a road – a detestable section which would be worse on the return. Michael soon passed me, but I managed to keep him in sight as we entered Brodick Castle state. Once in the woods, the route changed to a forest track which slowly became thinner and rockier as we climbed. It was quite warm down at the lower elevations but as we left the wood the slight breeze soon brought the temperature down to a more manageable level. With legs feeling much stronger than they did at Stuc O Chroin 2 weeks before, I soon passed Michael and kept focusing on passing the next runner in front – ticking them off one at a time. Unlike the Ben tourist track, the GF track is a more haphazard affair and, as I said, very technical with nice grippy granite boulders. Fine for running, but horrible if you fell……………some did!
There is not much to say about the ascent except, it got harder and harder as you went up and I started thinking, jeez, we’re gonna have to run down this. On getting to the summit, I was momentarily disorientated. It was packed with people and someone was shouting my name. There were several Carnethy runners up there who were doing the Scottish Island Peaks Race (respect!). After a quick frantic smile and a wave and a look down towards Brodick below, I started the hellish descent. Not initially realising that my summit confusion had befuddled my sense of direction, I took a different track than the one I went up on. In hindsight, I don’t think this made a huge difference but I had a slight panic for the first few minutes of descent as I thought I had gone the wrong way.
Brodick below – I did not take this!
The next 15 minutes was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. Knee pain? What knee pain! I seemed to bounce down the track and, I guess luckily, did not trip once. It was frantic, manic and very exhilarating. Much more fun than the descent off the Ben. As the gradient lessened, I soon started hearing someone huffing and puffing behind me – did I recognise it? – yes – it was Michael who finally passed me as we entered the woods. No matter how hard I tried, I just could not keep up with those long gangly skinny legs. All I could do was try and keep him in sight as my legs screamed at the last 2 kms of tarmac!
What a cracker of a race!
My 150th official SHR race (thanks to Shettleston Harriers for providing an appropriate number), with a total distance run (since 2005) of 1931 kms and 102,915 metres height gain – that’s 11.6 Mt Everests!!!
The final Harriers results:
Of 169 runners (6 did not finish), we came in at:
31st Michael: 01:46:11
32nd Moi: 01:46:44
59th: Gregor: 01:53:26 [gonna be a fabulous LAMM partner in 10 days]
63rd: Gillian: 01:54:33
100th: Jan: 02:05:03
121st: Sadie: 02:14:18
127th: Kevin: 02:15:39
166th: Andy: 02:48:34
Chillin’ on the boat
The Battle begins!
Off we go then – I simply cannot resist being near the frt
On the day of our race we were lucky enough to have the incredible photographic skills of not one or two, but three photographers! Juan Suarez and Julian Hall are club members and Steve Reid is a commercial photographer and friend of a club member who all took some fantastic photos.
Our grateful thanks to them for giving up their time and being able to capture the spirit of the race on the day.
Here is a bit more information about Steve and how to purchase photos if you would like to:-
Steve Reid is an Edinburgh commercial photographer that shoots a variety of work for companies and himself. From sports & action, to lifestyle, portraits, corporate, through to highly produced and stylised advertising work.
Hi-res & un-watermarked images and prints are available.
Please email Steve and quote the image number in the watermark and your runner number.
1 image is £5 and for 2 images or more are £10 per person.
A5 prints are £5 and A4 £10, plus larger sizes on request.
If you go to the Photograph album and choose ‘2018 10k Race’ or click the link below then you will see a selection of some of the photos with links to the full albums from each photographer. There are still more photos to come from Juan so please check back there in a couple of days 🙂