Penicuik 10k Road Race 2018

Our 2018 Road Race will be held on Satuday 12th May at our new start time of 11am. Planning is well underway 🙂

 

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Grand Prix Results

Final Club Grand Prix Results for season 2016-17

Cross Country

Men:  1st = Charles Crawford 2nd = Allan Dunbar
Women: 1st = Rachael Lees 2nd = Gillian Cairns and Julie Hand

Road Race

Men: 1st = Allan Dunbar and Michael Greens
Women: 1st = Sadie Kemp

Hill

Men: 1st = Des Crowe 2nd = Stuart Sanderson
Women: 1st = Gillian Cairns 2nd = Andrea Wilson

The most improved runner award went to Michael Greens.

Very well done to everyone 🙂

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My First Skyline – 2017

Since I joined the club I admired the Skyline race. I find this race name so catchy and attractive. I must be making some kind of translation error. At some point, I made a mental note that one day I will run it. Yet, I dreaded to put this plan into action. I often run in Pentlands and love the area, but how does one go about the whole Skyline? After a good summer of hills reps and an odd hill race I was getting intrigued, albeit afraid. A couple of club members encouraged me to give it a try. I really appreciate such encouragement, but it is easy to encourage someone else! to run that beast! A recent recce with Gillian made me realize that I might be able to do it in time without falling apart. After much deliberation, I entered the bloody thing and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed!

Plan: My plan was to get around without much pressure on time. Recce with Gillian and discussion with Rob suggested that I should be able to get around in ~4h. This is easy to plan, but harder to realise in race. There are so many things that could go wrong with so many hills. So, I decided to take a “stress-free” approach and go with a flow. I uploaded some music to my phone and planned for an “easy” first half to have a chance of battle with the second half. I also decided to walk most hills, but with a decent pace to keep within time. This strategy served me well.

Race: At the start the lead organiser had a funny introduction and started the race at 11am sharp. A long line to Caerketton formed, but the pace was good for burning into the race. At some point the frenzy walk turned into nice running over Caerketton. When approaching Allemuir I noticed a long line of runners along the fence and decided to take the path on the right. In this way I overtook many! by taking seemingly a longer route. Great! Run down towards Castlelaw was nice with all the sunshine and we reached Flotterstone in no time. Going up Turnhouse seemed to take ages and I started to feel my lungs and hearth pumping hard. I focused on steps and climbed the damn long hill. Then finally? some running towards Carnethy and again a series of steps, a dash down, a series of steps, a dash down, … At a couple of points, I saw Gillian and Alan in front, but could not keep the distance to them.

Soon I reached the Drove road. It’s funny. It is a long way from the start to the Drove road, but once you do it, you do not think it is that long anymore. Strange. Perhaps because one still dreads what is about to come next. I was glad I was about to do another stretch of proper running on the Drove road. The only thing is that by the time the Drove road starts to gently climb up, you realise that you cannot run that well anymore. Then the route leads you to boggy Hare hill, which enforces the realisation of tiredness. Despite this, I did well on this section and overtook three runners. The descent from it was … well … interesting. When I reached its edge a lady in front-left of me was waiving at me. I reckoned she knows the way and ran to her only to realise she is asking me which way to go. Well I was not 100% sure either, but we had to get to the hill on the other side. So, we should go straight down the hill into the valley. Straight down on the steepest part! Gosh! It seems a lot of runners were not sure which way to go (I got these Flybys from the Carnethy website):

To be honest, the descent proved “fun”! I considered bum-sliding, but there was too much undergrowth. In no time, I was pumping steps up the Black Hill and cursing its long ascent. I caught and overtook Alan, which gave me a boost. Sorry Alan! Soon I reached boggy top. I still do not understand how can water accumulate on the top of some hills in this country. How does that water defy gravity? I run over the top and did not mid the bog too much, though it does suck energy out of you. Then, a nice descent followed. I enjoyed this bit of the race the most!!! Long downhill that is not too steep and nice underfoot conditions. By aiming straight for the Bell’s hill, I managed to cut some runners that overtook me between Turnhouse and Kips. Awesome! I felt very smug for the second time in the race. Bell’s hill is a pain, but I expected that and got over it eventually. Did not even had energy for cursing. On the descent I started to fell knees badly. Did I over-stride on descent from Black Hill? The Penicuik Harriers “camp” at Maiden’s Cleugh distracted my mind and I was already climbing the next hill. At this point I was getting sick of the race. The taste of gels and Snickers bars I was munching for energy felt disgusting though I felt strong in some sense. I wanted to finish as soon as possible. Easier said than done at that stage! It took me a while to get over the remaining hills as my knees were in agony with every descending step, but I managed to finish somehow in 3.54. Very close to the predicted time without aiming for it. Cool!

I am very pleased the way my first Skyline turned out. There is now a PB that I can race against next time, yay! Gosh! I am also very pleased by all the support we had up in the Skyline from the club. There were so many of you, with so much energy, that it was a pleasure bumping into you guys! Also thanks for the photos that I nicked for this post. Now that I have done the Skyline, I am in a search of a new dreading target. Julian and Rob suggest LAMM. Stay tuned for that.

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Posted in Race Reports | 7 Comments

Dunoon Ultra 2017

This 55K race first came to my attention last year, it was the inaugural year but I was too disorganised to get myself in gear and enter, but I kept an eye on it and saw all the photos and rave reviews coming in post-race and knew it was one I wanted on my race calendar for this year. So another Hogmanay came round and another race entry in the early hours and I was in. Although this race had only gone ahead once it was no 8 in a top 10 of Ultras due to its scenic route and great organisation. I had initially thought I could drive over in the morning as it was an 8am race start but as I looked into the logistics of driving and ferry times it became clear that this would be another weekend away race and I was quite happy with that, it’s the only time Alan and I ever get away for a weekend on our own, but as it is October and I am a summer camper it was definitely a hotel we were booking. As we drove over on Friday I told Alan how I had got an email from the hotel earlier in the week saying we could upgrade our room for a tenner, so we made a quick call enroute and got ourselves upgraded – turns out we got upgraded to the “Honeymoon Suite” in the top tower of the hotel with nearly 360 views of Dunoon. Not bad! The race is organised by a community group “Dunoon Presents …..” who organise various events to get people to visit Dunoon with help in this instance with the local running group Dunoon Hill Runners. I love races like this that have so much local support. I was able to register Friday evening on the Pier which would also act as our finish line the next day and leave my drop bags so all I needed to do on Saturday morning was rock up and jump on the courtesy bus that took us to the start at Benmore Botanic Gardens a 20 minute drive away. On race morning it was raining and dreich and I knew I would not get to see much of the amazing views that had drawn me to the race. There was a little coffee shop at the Pier where registration etc was and they had opened early and were giving free coffee to all the runners. Once we arrived at Benmore their coffee shop was open and busting at the seams with runners and they were also serving coffee and pastries, they even came round with trays of pastries as were congregating at the start line encouraging us all to grab some. (Rob take note – I think you need to step up to Ultras!)

The race was to be started with a piper and then when the piper finished a cannon! That was a first for me and even though we were all warned there were shrieks of shock as the cannon went off. The race began by running through the gun smoke into an avenue of Giant Redwoods and then a little wooden bridge over the river which was in full spate as it had been pretty wet the week before and was still raining. We turned left and along a track that was deep with puddles and everyone was swerving left and right and jumping where they could trying to keep feet dry for as long as possible, I had heard a couple people talking to each other saying to try and get ahead at the start as there was a narrow single file section early on so I was trying to push on as much as I could. Within a mile or so we entered an area called Pucks Glen which is the most magical narrow gorge with ferns and mosses growing up the steep embankments and the river gushing down the centre, it was quite a steady climb up the rocky paths and steps and bridges criss crossing the river, I would love to go back and walk up and take my time and really appreciate it, but for now I was too busy trying to keep up with the runner in front of me and not slip on the wet ground, we reached the top and turned out of the glen onto wide forest track and this was to be our terrain for a while. The forest track we were on was fairly undulating but was climbing steadily, I had got into a rhythm now and was quite happily running along, although it was still wet, it was quite warm and I had ditched my raincoat going through Pucks Glen and would not need it for the rest of the race, the mist was down and as another runner described it, it was very “atmospheric” with various shades of grey. The path kept climbing until we reached a mast which I knew to be the high point of the race, I did not think it would come so early, we were at mile 12 or so. There was a sign saying “view point – turn around” and I am sure any other day you would be greeted with a fabulous view down Loch Eck. The route now headed steeply downhill to the relay handover point. As we came past the handover we hit a short stretch of road that was coned off so we had a lane to ourselves, it was hard coming back down to the concrete and my legs were not enjoying it after the hard downhill, before long we were diverted off the road to full Ultra’s second checkpoint, (the first was at mile 8 but I did not stop). I grabbed some water and food and headed out, a marshall cheerily told me it was pretty flat for the next wee bit and I have to admit my heart sank a bit, I never do very well on the flat. This section took us alongside the Loch and was pretty muddy and giant puddles everywhere which again were jumped or skirted round, this section was taking it out of me and my legs were heavy and I was struggling a bit when another runner came alongside me, Robert from Gourock Harriers, just over the other side of the water, their club had a few running both the relay and the full ultra, we stuck together for quite a while chatting and the miles just disappeared it seemed no time until we reached the 3rd checkpoint, back at Benmore. Alan was waiting for me and it was good to see him, he always gives me a lift. They had coke at this station and I grabbed a cup and it was either this or seeing Alan but whatever it was it gave me a bit of rocket fuel as I headed off on the last leg. We ran the same puddly section as we had at the start of the race but turned a different direction shortly after and began our return to Dunoon. There was a bit of road, then we hit the trails again, I was doing a fair bit of chatting to runners either as they passed me or as I passed them and the sun was starting to come out. I don’t think I have ever seen so many rainbows as I did on this race. I was glad Robert had warned me that just when you can see Dunoon and the water and you think you are heading in the path turns and goes up and away and further into the hill as I might have been a bit disheartened otherwise but forewarned is forearmed and as Dunoon came into sight I readied myself for another hill. Once this was climbed it was a steep descent into the town, past some houses and then a final half mile or so along the Esplanade with the pier just out of sight around the corner, it was a bit of a slog but I kept telling myself nothing was worse than the final road section after the Breweries and that this was a doddle. As I turned the final corner, I could see the Pier with all its flags and crowds. I pushed to the finish and crossed in 6.17.44

Post-race there was hot food and a choice of beer or gin (another first!), a cotton t-shirt with photo of Loch Eck and a lovely little wooden plaque instead of a medal. I also don’t think I have seen so many photographers at a race before, they popped up all over the place, so consequently I have a LOT of photos which is just as well as I did not take nearly as many as I was planning since it was so wet and I nearly killed my phone at the Devil trying to use it in the rain. (Thank you to Ken Clark whose photos I have used here).

This was a really lovely race in a beautiful area that I definitely want to come back and explore some more, the organisation and support from both the community, the marshalls and the local running club was fantastic and I would love to come back and run this again and hopefully get to see the views I missed this time round.

It was not until the next day that I saw the results and was really surprised to see that I had managed to come in 50th overall, 10th female and 3rd in my age category.

 

 

 

Here is a little bit of the start that John Kynaston filmed

 

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Loch Ness Marathon 2017

What I love most about running is the endurance part and going longer distances, preferably in stunning nature.

Hearing the good experiences from other runners about the Loch Ness Marathon and never been up there (but always wanted since I watched movie as a child) made me sign up for it as my first marathon. The training went well, without any injuries or other involuntary breaks. I stuck to a plan and followed all the dos and don’ts of marathon training successfully (until I went to the sports expo one day prior race). Just during the last week, I started to be paranoid: I felt something in my knee, I was sure to get a cold and my 1 mile jog the day before race ended with horrible side stitches.

 

I was still nervous about possible injuries that might sabotage my run when we arrived in Inverness and we went to pick up my race number. At the Event Village we met Allan, Melanie and their two girls and I finally calmed down a bit after Allan told me about “maranoia”. And thanks to my two X chromosomes I forgot all the stress once I spent some time shopping at the Sports Expo. After an early dinner (without beer because I was once again afraid of sabotaging my run), I went to bed early as well just to find myself broad awake until 1am (I’ll definitely have a beer next time!!!).

Allan and I met the next morning to queue for the busses. I am bad in estimating, but there were loads of busses and everything was still well organised. The busses left Inverness at 7.45am and it was a one hour journey to the start on the high ground between Fort Augustus and Foyers. At that time, you realise how far the way back would be and nervousness is likely to set in again. The view up there is amazing though and once we left the busses we were busy queuing for the portaloos and dropping our bags off, so no time for thinking about what lies ahead of us. While the weather in Inverness and around Loch Ness was rather mild, there was rain and cool wind up there in the hills. The advice of Yan to wear an old jumper until the start saved me (thanks for that!!!) and the smiling children on the truck for the bag drop off also did their bit to spread a warm atmosphere. The atmosphere at the start was special in general: After Allan and I wished each other luck and separated to find our pens (I ended up surrounded by Germans, why is that?), there was a Piper Band making its way through the runners, which gave a lot of us goosebumps. At 10 am, the race started with “500 Miles” (I was so happy about that song that I again forgot to be nervous) and off we went making our way back to Inverness.

Apology for the poor route description that follows now which I blame on the adrenaline on that day which blurred bits of the race in combination with my short-term memory and a bad sense of orientation. The first miles are undulating but rather downhill, it needs a lot of control not setting off too fast. The race is on minor roads at this point through forest on both sides (once you left the high ground behind) and there were still a lot of runners around me so I was concentrated on overtaking runners or let them pass. It was after Foyers (about mile 7) when we finally had the Loch to our left, the forest to our right and it was just quiet and peaceful, the only thing you could hear were the steps of other runners. I caught myself admiring the view quite often and I still felt good and strong after 13 miles. Although we runners were alone pretty much of the race, the support was massive. Every time we passed a farm or a village there were people on the road shouting and cheering, screaming and playing music from balconies or just clapping. It really, really helped a lot and I almost started crying every time we passed the crowds (I again blame that on my extra X chromosome). I think it was around 18 miles when we left the Loch at Dores and there was a bit of an uphill. People talk a lot about this “hill”, some are scared and some refuse to even call it a hill. Well, it is a climb and at that stage of the race it is tough but it’s definitely doable (if you do hill training 😉 ).  I was of course not feeling so fresh anymore, I could feel my back and my legs but I was not hitting the wall or anything like that (my fueling payed off – yay). In fact, I could even pick up the speed a bit once we arrived in Inverness and I was surprised when I overtook another runner I know from local races who is usually a bit faster. Since this was my first marathon, I had no time I was aiming for, just wanted to complete and enjoy it, but running faster than expected was the icing of the cake I wouldn’t refuse.

There was a pleasant light rain in Inverness and again huge support from people on the streets, but I just wanted it to end at that point. The last mile was the hardest, there were two voices in my head of which one was convinced the best thing would be to walk while the other kept me running. I couldn’t even appreciate the Inverness Castle (good that I did this the day before)… After the bridge on the home stretch, all the tension and misery disappeared and I sprinted to the finish (that’s how it appeared to me, I won’t say how it looked to others).  I was so happy that I hugged random marshals and people handing out the goodie bags and medals. I had a creepy smile all over my face, but at least I was not crying, which was quite unexpected after my emotional experiences on the way.

Allan, who has never done this race before, finished way ahead of me and managed to smash his PB for marathons on this not so easy route. Besides being such a brilliant runner, he was also a huge support for me. Happy but exhausted we took the mandatory photos, grabbed some warm soup (I must mention it again: the organisation and the atmosphere throughout the whole event is great!) and (tried) to walk back to our cars with stiff legs.

 

 

All in all, we would highly recommend running this marathon (if you like running on roads 😉 ) and I already think about booking a hotel for next year.

Finally, I’d like to point out some obstacles that turned out to be the real challenge of running marathons (to me):

  • Queuing for the loos
  • Resist the desire of wearing all the nice stuff (those comfy socks!!!) you bought at the Sports Expo. On the next day … At the race….
  • Conquering a hanging bridge and a steep uphill to where your useless support (not really of course) has parked the car

 

Times:

Allan Dunbar                    03:27:37

Juliane Friedrich               03:46:20

Vicky Lyon                      05:56:30

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Pentland Skyline From The Sidelines

The Pentland Skyline 2017 (The Support Crew Report)

Sunday morning 7.30am, a day in the life of a runners spouse starts early, the pre race healthy breakfast toasted bagel, poached eggs and a cup of black English Breakfast tea carefully prepared the night before, thrown out the window in a sudden change of pre race diet to a slightly less healthy fried egg and bacon doubler with tatie scone chucked on top just for good measure, meant another trip to Lidel to wait on the 8am opening for the bacon as unfortunately this was not available in our well stocked sports nutritionists larder.
Fortunately due to the close proximity of the race start at Hillend Ski centre a mere 20 minutes drive away we could relax for a while as the race start was not until 11am, or at least until Tracy decided it was time to leave as she wasn’t sure how many pee stops would be required before she started.
So of we headed at 9.20am sharp, making good time to find us at Hillend at 9.35, 1 hour and 25 minutes of pee time available.
Parking was under strict supervision by the organisation this year after last years poor choice of parking by competitors delayed the race by 45 minutes causing scores of other race spouse to freeze on the hill tops whilst waiting for the race start, although this did not effect us as we were so early, we had the choice of any space we liked.
Registration faultless and swift left Tracy plenty time to look and study the very expensive Skyline Buff she had already decided to buy the week before. It was at this time I was thankful for the early arrival as the news was broken that she had no money and I was swiftly sent to the cash line at the petrol station to get money for this beautiful drawer filler.
A quick coffee for myself and the 1st of the many pre race comfort stops for Tracy in the Steading Bar and the use of the comfortable changing facilities helped pass the time.
So back to the registration area to wait on the rest of the Harrier runners, Billy Colvin, Sadie Kemp, Michael Greens, Allan Dunbar, Gregor Gorjanc, and little Miss Hilly Harrier, Gillian Cairns along with Tracy P of course. It was sad but true that many of the old men of the Skyline where unable to make the start, due to……… Well, old age. Rob Wilson, Stuart Sanderson, Chris Downie, Duncan Ball to name but a few feeling the fear from the new young blood in the club and the other old guy Billy Wiz Colvin.
So to the start, changed slightly from the previous year slightly further left hill reps base camp, making myself and other poor spectators walk up a steeper slope than the normally accustomed to a summer Thursday evening. Some amazing sheep dog work on the hill, Molly and I managed to gather all Harriers around for the pre race photo.
226 hill hungry runners poised on a start line, with an almighty challenge ahead, it was not long to go, just the safety briefing, slightly longer than the Jedburgh DON’T BE A DICK chat, and the horn blew bang on 11am for what I have to say was one of the quietest race starts I have seen, no shouts of HBT, just the shuffling of feet before entering an almost orderly single file climb up the side of Caerketton Hill. Gone from view time for me to relax a while before heading to my one and only vantage point at the base of Castle Law hill, car parked already Billy and Michael through as I was parking the car, time to see a few runners pass with the occasional face plank coming through the kissing gate it was time to warn runners of the easily missed trip hazard it was time to warn the fellow runners with shouts of mind the step. Seeing everyone through safely apart from
Mrs G Rumpy that failed to heed the warning and blamed me for my poor marshalling abilities after her epic long belly slide across the the gravel path.
Safe in the knowledge my running buddies made it through the gate without eating tarmac and stones, plus a chance meeting and quick chat with Mrs Ultra Queen Marshall and The amazing Mrs Fran Jones I left to head back to the finish knowing everyone would be looked after by the purple and white scattered throughout the many miles ahead.
Back to just above the finish line to watch the runners home,
1st Alexander Chaplin, Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds 2.2812
2nd Alasdair Anthony, Ochil Hill Runners 2.37.01
3rd Dessie Flanagan, Carnethy 2.39.06

1st Lady Charlotte Morgan, Carnethy 2.59.13
2nd Shona Robertson, Shettleston 3.02.57
3rd Zoe Harding, Edinburgh Uni Hare andHounds, 3.03.56

Penicuik Harriers

60 Michael Greens, 3.22.58
70 Billy Colvin, 3.26.45
122 Gillian Cairns, 3.44.09
146 Gregor Gorjanc, 3.54.13
178 Allan Dunbar, 4.07.01
197 Sadie Kemp, 4.23.50
216 Tracy Philp, 4.44.11

A Grand day out, now time for a beer

 

 

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The Mamores Half Marathon – a belated report

Missing the Breweries due to a stomach bug and also not getting into the Skyline threw me into a state of running desperation – all that training for nothing 🙁 – so decided to suck up the cost, and make a last-minute sign-up for the Mamores Half Marathon (MHM). Although I contemplated the full Glencoe Marathon, my experience from the Lairig Ghru earlier in the year suggested that I would not be fit enough to just turn up to run 26 miles on a rocky track. This was a wise move.

So – last Sunday I left the house at 7am and drove through hellish conditions up to Kinlochleven for a 11am race start. The forecast was awful – with heavy rain for the whole day – the beginning of the tail end of hurricane Maria – but the good news was that the winds would not hit until the evening.

The MHM, full marathon and a 10K race over in Glen Nevis are organised by WildFox events and running these races comes at a cost….but I was desperate….and anyway the website stated that, “ The fee is great value and includes WildFox Events’ support from signing up to crossing the finish line, refreshments and services at checkpoints/water stops, medical and logistical support.” OK, I thought – I’ll get a lot for my money!

Registration was at the climbing centre at Kinlochleven. I have to admit that I was very impressed with the ice climbing walls and definitely want to go back for a play. I had a good 60 mins to warm up, stretch and chat with the many runners milling around. I recognised very few faces though – clearly a different type of event and related punters to the standard hill races. The start of the MHM was staggered into four phases which was a good idea as the starting area was quite small and already marathon runners were coming through. The rain was torrential at this point and everyone was decked out in water proofs. Thankfully it was quite mild, so I decided to run in shorts and only use my running cag. I was in Phase 3 and had a nice chat at the start line with Carolyn McLeod, a road/trail runner from Aberdeen – both of us worried that we were at the front of the start line. She was aiming for a 1:50 time. I had no idea what I should aim for so mumbled 2 hours although to be honest had no idea. At ~11.15, the starting horn went off, and true to form, I was leading 🙂 . After 400 metres, I looked back and was way ahead of everyone else except Carolyn who grinned. I shook my soggy head and thought that this was going to likely end in tears and pounded on.

MHM Route – 2nd half of Glencoe Marathon

After about a kilometre of road, the route left the tarmac (phew!) and started climbing up a rocky track and I soon started catching up runners (already) from Phase 2. I would now continually pass runners for pretty much the rest of the race – well – until the last 3 kms (more on that later!). In total, the MHM is 21.4kms long, with a total climb of about 560m and much of this is in the first few kilometres. I felt really strong in the beginning, and bounding up and overtaking phase 2 and then phase 1 “walkers” felt quite uplifting. However, I soon started to overheat. It may have been raining, but it was mild, and I started to sweat profusely. Damn. So, I stopped to take my jacket off and then wasted time by getting my sleeve stuck in my Garmin Velcro strap. Cursing, I grappled with my soggy running jacket for what felt like many minutes while a few runners (Carolyn included) passed me. Grrr! I soon stuffed the straitjacket into my backpack and sprinted back upwards, soon passing those who had passed me.

Once the main climb was complete after about 6kms, I settled into a comfortable pace along the water strewn track and focussed on the runners in front – mentally ticking them off as I cruised past. It was around this time that Carolyn passed me however – her superior road running skills clearly giving her the advantage on the track. She was the only person who passed me until the final few kms.

The next 6 kms or so went quite quickly. I think the wind was mainly from behind as we tracked westwards. The views were nothing to write home about as the cloud was down, but the rain was lighter than at the start. Sometimes the odd strong gust of wind did whip up, especially when the route veered northwards around the halfway point but all-in-all the conditions were not that bad except for the waterlogged rocky track itself. Some sections were really quite pretty especially through the woods of the final water-stop.

I started feeling a little fatigued around the 16km mark partly because my right foot was hurting and I guess my body was trying to compensate. I have no idea what is wrong with my right foot – possibly a minor stress fracture. It “went” when I ran Dollar back in July and although has been steadily improving (often pain free on nice muddy races), the hard and sometimes technical nature of the MHM was not doing it any good at all. At 17.5kms, the route left the wooded trail and joined a forest road that would take us down into Glen Nevis. My hoped for final boost of speed down the road to the end was not to be as my foot was really quite sore now. This was an uncomfortable end to the race and at least 5 runners passed me in those final 20 minutes. Another grrrr!

No smiles across the finish line

I crossed the finish line in 02:05:07 with a fanfare of hype with my name being shouted over the speakers, “and here comes Rob Wilson completing his fist Mamore Half Marathon…….”…I did not hear the rest of the babble as I limped straight into the event marquee feeling a little deflated.

I was ravenous and had assumed that I could delve straight into the food and drink. But it all cost money – I couldn’t believe it. So, I quickly grabbed a free cup of coffee and went off in search of my bag to put on a fresh change of clothes (and find my wallet). Once dressed I bumped into Carolyn – she had indeed made it in 1:50 – 8th overall, 2nd female and 1st V50. Respect. I had come in 27th (5th V40) which I guess is not too bad from 275 runners. Carolyn and I did however have a bit of a whinge about the “value for money” – £5 for a burger, costs for drinks (tea and coffee free), £10 for the T-Shirt, another £10 for a massage. On top of that, the organised bus back to Kinlochleven was another £10.  Now – compare that to the Two Breweries where £15 covers everything (bus and food etc etc). Sheesh!

So – that was that. A good run despite the foot near the end, but I doubt I’ll ever do it again as the cost was extortionate. Honestly, there is better support at most long hill races.

Oh – I briefly bumped into Kate Darlow – she had ran the “costlier” full marathon in 5:14:33 (136th from 437 runners). Great run for her, but she also had a good whinge and said that last year, food and T-shirts had been included in the price. We say no more!!

So – Skyline is tomorrow – sigh! – and although I am now walking limp free, there is no way I should sensibly run (the original plan was to run as Tim Doyle). I will make a final decision tomorrow morning. A sensible person would rest until Manor Water next week, and then save himself for “transgender” fun at Jedburgh – more on that in the future.

Rob

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Ochil Ultra Marathon 2017

It was during my training for the Devil o’ the Highlands down on holiday in Wiltshire that I heard about this new Ochil Ultra marathon. I had had a few good runs around the New Forest and along the canals between Bath and Devizes, and so after one too many scrumpy ciders in the tent one night I booked the full 50 mile ultra on my phone. In the morning I remembered this and thought, what have I done, I’ve entered a 50 mile hill race by accident!!! 😮

Things got a bit more worrying when I checked out the route which was coming through bit by bit on their Facebook page. It looked very rough ground with little in the way of actual trails. I was thinking I’ll get lost for sure. There is little information about the race on their website apart from booking it. All the details are on their Facebook page and the organisers get back to you really quickly if you ask a question. I asked about maps and they said I’d not need one as it would be well marked with arrows and tape along the full race. I was still not assured by this and got an OS map anyway which I marked down the full route on (Perth & Alloa OS58). There’s the full 50 mile route which starts at Stirling University on the outskirts of the city to Perth which has 5 sections with 4 drop bag posts. There’s also the 30 mile option which starts at check point 2 at Glendevon. I was still glad I went for the 50 miler as I wanted to see the full stretch of the Ochil hills. I’d ran the Alloa half marathon a few years earlier and they looked great as we ran past then from the road.

My training had been going well with many runs around the Pentlands and John Clerk Estate, taking in as many hills as possible as well as The Ben Nevis Hill race. I looked into hotels in Stirling where I found the Stirling Court Hotel which is in the University grounds where the race starts. There was a bus put on for us to take people from Perth to the start line so runners would have their car at the end (Had to be booked and paid for well in advance). This was a very early start though and would involve booking a hotel in Perth anyway, so I opted not to do this and have longer in bed and register from 5:30 on the morning of the race in Stirling. In Perth you could register on the Friday too.

On arriving at Stirling Court hotel I was surprised they actually offered to take my breakfast up to my room at 4:30! This was great to have orange juice, some toast and a good coffee first thing. The cereal packet was smaller than I’d give the kids though so I was very glad that I’d taken a porridge pot that you just add water to from the kettle. This worked out great and I was all set. I had done all my faffing about with bags and info the night before so just headed down to registration. It was clear I was in with some serious ultra runners for this race and I was correct in thinking I’d be very far back in the pack during the race which I was fine with. Finishing without missing the cut off time was all that mattered. They had made the cut off point just after check point 4 where you head up into the woods overlooking Perth as they didn’t want people going up there after dusk at 7:30. Their cut off time was 7:28 at that point and they were operating a soft cut off, so runners would still finish the race but get diverted away from the proper route and go round the side road into Perth. This would be faster and much easier but I wouldn’t feel like I had done the course properly at all.

We got our race briefing and issued with a very handy route leaflet with lots of information in it. The race started at 7:00 and we were off. The weather was fantastic and I thought I’d been so lucky with the few races I’d done this year as the weather was set to be terrible the next day. We headed up to the first hill and were rewarded by brilliant views of Stirling below with the Wallace monument on our side of the city. We then got into the hills properly which were much the same as the Pentlands to start with. As we came to the first descent there were a lot of people slipping in the mud. It was then that I realised that they had road shoes on!!! One guy said his Hocas weren’t too good and I wasn’t surprised as I noticed there was no tread on them. I then heard a big thud as he landed fully on his back behind me. There were quite a few runners in road shoes.

 

As we came down from the first few hills to the little town of Menstrie my hamstring felt very tight, so I thought I’d best stretch it rather than keep up with the others. I was very glad I did as it was really stiff. I had to keep doing this quite a number of times over the first section but it got better later. It was quite an easy stretch now all the way to Tillicoultry where there was an excellent 1st check point where you had to place your chip over the scanner. I was so glad I had put this on my wrist and not my ankle like normal, as I was expecting it to get lost in a bog if I had done this. It also made it much easier to be scanned by the marshals at the check points who had it on the table. There was lots of great home baking and water here. We then headed back up into the Ochil hills. This section was very hard going with there being so much rain over the past few days, really muddy and slippy on the downhill. My trail shoes were okay with it apart from a few 180 degrees twirls! It really slowed me down though and was very tiring on the legs. I was told by a local couple who had ran the sections before that it got easier after check point 2. This was great to hear as I was starting to think how am I going to get through 50 miles of this!

 

 

The Ochils looked great in the sun, the grass was golden yellow on the various rolling hills that stretched on and on. Although I liked getting glimpses of the views I was starting to notice how long it was taking to cover this stretch, and started to think of the cut off time after check point 4. At last I got off the really slippy last hill here and ran down past the upper and lower Glendevon reservoirs. This was a great stretch and I was glad to see this at last as it was a main point on the route map. I was on mile 17 or so at that point and my legs were already very tired, but thankfully I had no cramp. I had taken some salty peanuts earlier to help stop this. This road section was great for a change after the slippy hills and I looked out for more arrows for keeping me on the right route. There were times I got quite worried I’d not seen an arrow for a very long time, but this was really as the route was obvious at that point. It was a relief to come to the next arrow though so I knew I hadn’t zoned out and missed a turning. The route then took us through some nice wooded areas along and over River Devon and up to check point 2 at last (This is where the 30 mile Ultra starts)! I then stopped to call Jan to say I was going to be over my expected 12 hours. I had some sandwiches before heading further into the hills and eventually back into very wooded areas and check point 3 at Middle Rig. The marshals were great and very encouraging and I knew at this point I was going to be okay for the cut off time as long as I kept going. This was around mile 30 and I was really knackered, but fine really as the other runners I had been chatting to were the same. One woman had ran 72 ultras!!! Crazy people you meet on these races.

 

The route was quite varied now with obvious roads and tracks, then through hills and back through woods and fields which were very scenic. It had however not eased up in the amount of bog in many parts. At one point I had to get over a gate which had an enormous puddle of mud and cow poo before it. I tried to jump onto one bit of mud which quickly sank and I plunged deep into the sludge! I wiped my trainers on the grass as my feet were heavy with it. I then felt that I should stretch my leg and lent against a fence for support. I got two bursts of electricity right up my arm…. This has turned into Tough Mudder! I think it was this recharge that got me through the last twenty miles!

 

Next came a forestry track which wasn’t finished and so I had to clamber over a big fallen tree at one point which thankfully caused no trouble with my hamstring. It then got better and I was onto a great downhill open trail for quite some time. I was really wanting to get to check point 4 now and I asked a few marshals how far it was along the way, but none really knew. I got speaking to another couple on this stretch and the guy knew the area well and it was down the hill we were on, overlooked the town of Kintillo. Kilgraston School was the name of check point 3, but it was actually just a couple of marshals in a field next to the road. Even though I knew I’d make the cut off time now I was concerned about how long it may take me to do this last stretch of around 10 miles, as I knew the course actually packed up at 9:00. I set off as quickly as I could which was more a shuffle in sections now, and got to the cut off point with about an hour and twenty minutes to spare. There was a brilliant marshal at this stage who was most enthusiastic about my progress, even though I knew I was very slow. He assured me I was “Totally awesome!” 🙂

 

It was just a mile down the road now till I headed up into the woods overlooking Perth. There was still plenty light to start with but as I got further on in it got darker as dusk was 7:30 and there were quite a few hills to get over here too in the dark. It was then that I realised I’d not changed the batteries in my head torch for some time and it was quite dim. I was okay with this as I had a back up in my bag, but it was just too much trouble to get unless I really needed it. It was getting colder too and my hands started to turn to the death claw Raynauds I get. I was actually just walking now as every time I tried to run a little I’d trip over the uneven ground. The torch showed obvious bumps and rocks but not the smaller mounds. The woods were beautiful though and I did enjoy the parts I could see earlier. I was very glad to do this section and not be timed out and sent along the bypass to Perth. I would have got a much quicker time and position that way but it would not have been the full course and very boring. My GPS watch had given up at mile 32 so I was very glad I had my normal watch and knew I would make it to the finish line as long as I didn’t take a wrong turning. I shuffled up the dark trail to a marshal with a very bright head torch which blinded me every time I looked up to talk to him. I marked down my number on the tracker log. They had a fantastic tracker system which worked by giving every runner a GPS which they had to have at the top of their bag. This was great for you to call in if you were lost but also good for friends to see where you were on the course from the web link they provided.

 

I then had one more hill to go over in the woods before my descent down into Perth. There was a group of friendly marshals at the bottom who pointed me on my way and I was heading down into Perth at last. I picked up a little here and could manage a very slow jog as long as there was no ascent. There were about another three marshal points as I was pointed down towards the harbour area and finally to the finish line in the main park!

 

I was wondering if Jan and the kids would be there by the time I got in but I thought they may be as it was around 8:45 by now. I was delighted to see our three kids run down to do a group finish run with me which made a fantastic finish photo. I had actually done it! I got a fantastic medal and very cool T-shirt in the tent at the side where I sorted myself out before getting driven home. I couldn’t get into the car covered in mud and cow poo but it took me ages to get my shoes off with my cold claw hands which had also puffed up and gone red! What did help was Jan had two chilled ales in a cool box for me on the way down the road….. What a woman! 🙂

Time

Mark Dawson
50 mile route from Stirling University: 13:54:21

Tim Doyle
30 mile route from Glendevon: 6:24:18

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Posted in Race Reports | 12 Comments

Two Breweries Hill Race 2017

Gilly took us all to Broughton in her 4×4, then we piled into the coaches to Traquair. The cafe there opened at 11 so people were anxiously queueing for their scones and coffee before the kit check.

Having run this race a couple of years ago I knew I was in for a challenge. Michael and I had ran the route with Rob and Gregor a couple of weeks before so I hoped that would stand us in good stead, but I knew there were a few pathless sections. I was a bit nervous and as the organisers had said it was fine to use gps I set my watch to show the route I had downloaded so I would have that to fall back on. With it being such a testing course I didn’t want to do any extra miles, unfortunately the cloud was thick and low over the hills so a few runners came a cropper. For me it was just after checkpoint 1 Birkscairn Hill where me and several runners continued along a path when we should have cut off to the left. I had the route on my garmin and it beeped to say I was going off course but I decided to stick to the other runners instead. As soon as I came out of the cloud I looked over and could see runners heading up the hill to my left, past Glensax. I shouted to the other runners we were going the wrong way, then proceeded to make my way down the hill cutting back towards the old farmhouse by the river. There was no path and I was cursing myself for not trusting my gps as I bounded down the heather in a most undignified way.
It was good to be able to see where I was going but as we gained more height we entered the cloud again. As I got to the checkpoint at Hundleshope Heights I was told I was just on the cutoff, so I got my head down and pushed on. This time I decided to trust the watch and this paid dividends for me. There were a few runners following me now, they were saying ‘can you see anyone up ahead?’ I was not enjoying having the responsibility of people following me when I was so unsure myself. I carried on and as we contoured the hill and came back out of the cloud I saw runners coming down above me, I had taken a better line and felt I had clawed back a few places after going wrong earlier. I really need to work on my navigational skills but I was glad I had my watch to help and I clearly wasn’t the only one who had hoped to follow the crowd.
On the way to Glenrath Farm there was Chris Downie out on the hill, he said he had seen Duncan, Gillian and Jan, but when I asked about Michael and he said he hadn’t seen him I started to worry a bit, after a restoring hug from Mr Downie I was on my way again. When I got to Glenrath Farm and stopped to fill my water bottle Jan called my name, she was in the capable hands of Moffat mountain rescue. Her knee had been playing up and she had decided very sensibly not to do it any more damage by continuing, we had a brief chat and she said she would be at the village hall later. Just after this I spoke to a Carnethy runner who said he had had a few navigational issues too. The field had thinned out considerably and I ran most of the second half of the race pretty much alone. I feel more confident on this section as it’s more straightforward so I didn’t mind.
As I came down Whitelaw Hill and saw Stobo in the distance I met a runner who was rolling around on the ground retching. I offered him a drink which he declined and I checked he was OK before heading off, this race really is brutal! Once I got past the entrance for Stobo and headed up the track I needed my watch again as I was a bit unsure which track to take, as I wandered up each one trying to find the right line Michael appeared behind me looking rather bedraggled but still in good spirits. I was really happy to see him and he told me how he had gone wrong after checkpoint 2 and ended up with another runner on completely the wrong hill, they spoke to a walker who confirmed where they were (Glenrath Heights) and they managed to work out how to get back to the race route. They had realised they were going wrong when they noticed there were no footprints on the path they were on. The unmistakable tread left by hill shoes was absent in the mud. This detour had added considerable time and distance to what was already Michael’s longest race yet.
He had some crisps while we headed up the track then off he went in front towards Trahenna. I kept him in my sights for most of the rest of the race and willed him on. On Trahenna I met the guy from Carnethy and he said ‘How many times am I going to get lost in one race?’ so we weren’t the only ones who had problems. Before long we were headed down Greenmantle hill, I slipped on my bum at this point but knowing I was nearing the finish wasn’t bothered by it. I was so glad to finally get to the end, about a quarter of an hour longer than it took me last time. The navigation and the fact it was a bit muddier this year had affected me. Gillian smashed her previous time by about half an hour though. As Michael and I walked along to the village hall we met Gilly, smiling and looking fresh as ever on her way to Broughton brewery.

Results:
30 Duncan Ball M50 3:45:42 125.8%
61 Gillian Cairns F40 4:18:14 144.0%
89 Michael Greens M 4:53:28 163.6%
91 Sadie Kemp F40 4:56:51 165.5%
95 Gilly Marshall F40 5:09:00 172.3%

Full results: http://www.scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceResults.aspx?RaceID=RA-0103&RaceYear=2017
my relive: https://www.relive.cc/view/1198059771

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ROC with Yan 23-24 September 2017

As the “designated navigator” for our Roc Mountain Marathon A course, I didn’t get off to a good start when losing our way through Carlisle city centre. I also failed to find the promised evening meal in Egremont. Fortunately we were given directions by the very nice landlady of the very grotty pub whose advertised food, had it been available, might not have been the best preparation for serious athletic endeavour. Ninety minutes later, after driving through heavy rain, and filled by copious quantities of battered fish, scampi chips and mushy peas, we arrived at the event centre near Millom. After a thorough registration process with team “photo”, we got the tent up in a very wet and muddy field and turned in for the night.

Sorry if what follows is accompanied by photos of maps, but GPS-enabled smartphones were not allowed and cameras have positive mass so I didn’t take one.

In the morning the clag was down so I confidently suggested that we leave later than we might in the hopes that it would lift. It didn’t. So, after I marked up my map and Yan folded his up neatly into his bag, we set off and were soon walking strongly up into the cloud. The control descriptions sheet stated a course length of 39km with 1800m climb, but neither of us spotted this! Fortunately, after reaching the top of the obvious crags, there was an obvious spur to aim for and, with an altimeter for the height, we found 201 easily. From there, we climbed up to our high point of the weekend (c500m), crossed a track and headed down, out of the cloud and straight to 203. By now, since we’d covered about 5km in 01:13, with roughly 200m on tracks, Yan was realising what this mountain marathon business was all about. He’d also discovered that walking uphill on trackless terrain was painful if you have a broken rib: his diet for the day was to alternate between paracetamol and power bars. After another short but rough leg to 204 came a long downhill, which doesn’t hurt as much with a broken rib. However, we paid for that with a long uphill climb into the cloud before a long leg ended with the compass and altimeter bringing us neatly to a control in a steep gully. And so it went on, for a long time. Just as Yan was running out of water and cramping up, we dropped down almost to sea level in Eskdale. Now we were navigating country lanes [the purple is “out-of-bounds”] with me grumbling that “this isn’t a mountain marathon”. Yan’s legs by now had decided to protest about being forced to cross trackless terrain and being denied hydration by refusing to work properly on roads. Fortunately we climbed up out of the valley, pausing briefly to wave at the passing narrow gauge train. Uphill progress was slow, but at least a slightly dodgy-looking stream provided Yan with something to drink – and take another paracetamol. I’d also long since run out of water. Although there were some paths, the terrain became rocky as we contemplated whether we’d reach the overnight camp before the courses closed at 18:00. We had our first encounter with a young pair Jack and Eleanor, who caught us just as we’d found 257 where, since I’d failed to pick up the dotted track from the north, we had to come in from the lake. Jack and Eleanor disappeared off into the distance, leaving us to navigate the out-of-bounds. This was trickier than it looked on the map since there were far more paths on the ground than marked. Fortunately we managed it and, after briefly taking a path which went down rather than up, I found the route up to 243. As we were leaving, Jack and Eleanor appeared, having had much more trouble than us with the out-of-bounds. History repeated itself as they shot off and we plodded on. By now I was trying to identify routes with minimal climb, even if it meant a little more distance. At long last we had another decent descent, and arrived at the final control, just where the altimeter said it should be. When we left, we soon saw Jack and Eleanor coming back uphill towards it, once again indicating how much time can be lost by bad navigation. That gave us a lead which we kept all the way to the finish, thanks to Yan’s re-hydrated legs giving him renewed road speed. At the finish camp, we learned that we hadn’t been timed out, so our 09:18 had beaten Jack and Eleanor [who had started well before us] by 17 minutes, and was only five minutes behind another team, so were 8th of 9 finishers with 2 retired. Elated, we pitched the tent and I sat in the tent doorway to start boiling water for hot food. Yan’s meal-in-a-pouch didn’t re-hydrate as it said on the pack, unlike my cheesy pasta and two packets of Supernoodles. Fortunately, after heating Yan’s meal through in the pan, it became edible. At the end of this culinary process, I was full and warm and Yan was cold in the stiffening wind [sorry!] We went to sleep at 08:00 and hardly stirred until 06:00!

Sunday morning was cold but the skies were largely clear. After Yan’s porridge-in-a-bag (which worked) and my patent oats-sugar-milk-and-hot-chocolate-powder mixture, we packed up the tent and, with nothing else too do, started our day 2 course at 07:20. Suddenly there was a track for Yan to run along for most of the first and second legs to 231 and 241: we were flying! Then it was back to climbing tussocky slopes and traversing tussocky boggy ground to 238 and round Hesk Fell to 234 before slogging back up to its summit (233). From there we had a bit of a run down, before another climb up and a fun run down to a fence. Obsessed with not going out-of-bounds, I thought that we had to cross it at a marked point 1km away, so we took a long route to the penultimate control. [Yan, we could have crossed the fence since the crossing point was only advisory!] However, there was less climb than my original route – which others took and were significantly faster. Time was ticking by and, despite some gnarly contouring on steep bracken-covered slopes, I was confident that it would take little time for the final 2.5 km on tracks with 400m descent. And so it proved! We finished in 06:14 but this was much 50 minutes off 8th for the day, and even further behind the slower competitors of the previous day. So, with an overall 15:33, we were last by 75 minutes. As the only male veteran pair we could claim a victory of sorts, but the satisfaction was in finishing our first A course and, in Yan’s case, his first ever mountain marathon. We were in time for the prize-giving which, after handing out awards for all the usual categories, degenerated into random distribution of goodies. I was thrown an MSR water filter as “someone on the A course who hasn’t got a prize” and Yan received the same, later, for being “the oldest on the A course (who hasn’t got a prize)” [Yan’s a couple of months younger than me.] Thus my daughter and, maybe Yan’s son, have water filters for their DofE expeditions. Yan and I will continue to drink from streams!

Analysis: with Yan’s superior hill-running ability, ultra trail marathon experience and general “hardness”, I’d have been worried about chasing his back for two days were I not the navigator. However, what we both learned is that if a pure runner does a mountain marathon, lack of experience of crossing trackless terrain will hit him or her hard. The ground speed on MMs is low: we took 15:33 for 65km and 2800m climb, and even the speed of the elite boys is much slower than that of a good hill runner replicating the same distance/climb on tracks. As for navigation, if the weather is clear it’s easy but, in the cloud, years of orienteering and MM experience paid off. What I’d never considered until this weekend is that doing hundreds of orienteering courses translates into being relatively strong on pathless terrain. It also helps if you don’t try to run a MM with a busted rib. I wouldn’t have started: Yan, I’m so impressed that you finished!

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Caerketton Downhill 6th Sep 2017

After spectating the last 2 years I finally plucked up the courage to try this race. Downhill is not my strong point so I thought I should face my demons and give it a go. I was very glad I did as it was great fun and I even won a prize (second FV40, OK there were only 2 running but I will take that! :-)). It was Daniel’s first time doing the race too and he also enjoyed it.

Runners are set off from the top of Caerketton at 15 second intervals and its a manic dash to the bottom of the hill. At the finish prizes are raffled off, you can win anything from a bottle of wine to a packet of teabags. Most fun! 🙂

7= Michael Greens MS 06:08
32 Chris Downie M50 07:23
44 Daniel Greens MS 08:52
46 Sadie Kemp F40 09:26

Bill’s grandchildren from Fife AC did extremely well!
10 Struan Bennet MJ 06:11
35= Ailsa Bennet FJ 07:51

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Ben Nevis 2017

Richard Askwith’s book, “Feet in the Clouds: a study of fell-running and obsession” has a chapter on the Ben Nevis hill race and finishes off with a statement that one is not a hill runner until you have run the Ben race. This has been mildly frustrating for me as fieldwork has clashed with this race date for most of the last decade. Last year was the first time I could have run it and I did not get in. My grovelling over e-mail got rather pathetic. They would not budge.

So – 2017 – I was super organised, got my registration in as early as possible and along with Stuart, Gillian, Alan, Mark, Sadie and of course Chris (27th time!!) we all met up last Saturday lunchtime at Claggan Park Rugby Pitch on a warm bright sunny day with building apprehension and excitement.

Ben Nevis race profile

For those who don’t know, Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the UK and therefore every Tom, Dick and Harriet wants to do it – hence the difficulty in getting a place. The race, from sea level to the summit, is 14kms long with a hefty 1345m ascent and descent. What makes it doubly tough is that is a highly technical rocky gnarly course with very little of that nice soft peaty mud that we are spoilt with in the Borders region.

http://scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceDetails.aspx?RaceID=RA-0098

There are essentially four sections to The Ben – see map.

The Ben route

The first kilometre is on road – fast going out and can be cruelly slow coming back. I initially took my time on this hoping that it would leave some strength for later. Once Stuart was out of sight in the throng of the many runners, I settled into a comfortable jog and tried to keep my eyes on the track at my feet with a periodic look-around to see the glory of Glen Nevis unfold as we climbed. There was no chance to look around on the descent!

As we left the road, the climb started, initially gently, but by the 3rd km, the steep ascent begins. The path at this point has been modified extensively to reduce erosion which means that the whole track is like a large unforgiving cobbled path with periodic “steps up”. These are not always small steps and as you climb, you think that running down it would be a nightmare. Once the race route tracks round into Red Burn valley, we left the main tourist track and deviated up a now quite badly eroded track to cut out a large corner of the main tourist track south of Lochan Meall an t-Suidhe. After the large blocks of the previous section, this was a nice change and there were some short sections of nice runnable track.

After crossing the Red Burn (about the half way point – with shouts of encouragement from Billy), the climb notches up a gear. While the tourist track zig-zags up to the summit plateau, the race route goes straight up through a tortuous blocky scree. Richard Askwith describes this section much better than I; “……….scrambling up a slimy scree slope steeper than a London Underground escalator, …….. – and trying to ignore the fact that, the harder I thrust myself upward, the faster the stones crumble and slide beneath me. The heap of sharp-edged rocks stretches upwards. Though my legs are already limp, I know that, compared with the bone-threatening descent to come, I’m still on the easy bit.”

It is indeed a tough section – steep, loose and you cannot help thinking, “how the hell am I going to RUN down this”. I simply focussed on putting one step in front of the other, trying not to lose any places while ensuring I consumed a gel and a muesli bar while drinking plenty of electrolyte so I would have the energy for the descent. Near the top of the scramble/scree section, Finlay Wild flew down past us – way ahead of the next fastest runner. He was obviously on track for winning the Ben race for an 8th time in a row.

On reaching the broad summit plateau, there is still about half a kilometre before the turn around at the actual summit. The tourist track is a knobbly blocky track at this point – not fun to run on at all, especially with my right foot still sore from Dollar and so this was probably my slowest section. It was at this point that I saw Stuart coming towards me. I shouted encouragement but as he came up to me, he stopped, grabbed his thighs and screamed at me “CRAAAAAMMMMPPPPP!” and then stumbled off down the track. To my utter shame, my sympathy was very short lived and I mostly thought, “Oooh – I might catch him”.

I reached the sunny, but cool, summit in 1hr 27 mins which I am pretty happy about, although, for context, Finlay finished the whole race in 1:31:37!!! On the turnaround I took it easy over the initial summit track although one could not go too quickly as you had to not only dodge runners coming up but also the 100s of tourists who were walking up/down as well. It was a very busy summit!

However, once the descent down the scree started, the manic madness started that would not let up until I hit the road at the bottom. Loose scree is actually much easy to run on than unresisting knobbly blocks. I wont say that this initial steep descent was fun, but I went much quicker than I thought I would and with other runners constantly breathing down your neck (literally), I only vaguely saw/heard the other Harriers going up. It was all a blur really and adrenaline levels were probably very high as I seemed to fly down with my arms whirling like a windmill to keep balance as my feet, with semi-control, flitted from one loose cluster or rocks to another. Before I knew it, I had crossed the Red Burn and was traversing round to the blocky tourist track. Ironically, this section is the only bit where there was a muddy track and most of us were slipping all over the place.

To my utter surprise, the blocky tourist track was not that bad although the temperature rose to uncomfortable levels as we descended and it was rather hot in the valley. Going down this section was a lot easier than the trudge up – more of a matter of skipping across the large cobbles – although this would however be quite slimy if the conditions had been wet. In my probably slightly unwise reckless descent I passed several runners on this section and somehow did not trip. It would not be pretty if someone went head over heels here.

As the gradient lessened, I realised I was coming towards the road. Everyone says that this is where many runners come unstuck as their legs cramp up as soon as they hit the tarmac. It was now uncomfortably warm and we were all sweating quite profusely. I had been sucking on electrolyte the whole way and as I started on the road for the final km, my legs seemed thankfully to be OK. I was not fast – never am on tarmac – but I managed to keep a reasonable pace with no muscle twinges.

I crossed the finish line in 2 hrs 18 mins – not feeling too broken at all. The atmosphere was fabulous with runner’s names being called out over the tannoy and everyone standing and sitting around enjoying the mid-afternoon sun. Stuart had come in around 2:08 and was on the ground groaning and whinging about old age. The rest of the Harriers came in over the next hour (Chris and Sadie being very close!) with Mark just coming in under the 3:15 cut-off.

This was my 140th SHR race and according to Richard Askwith, I am now a fell runner. What a relief! I can finally relax!

 

Of the 489 finishers, the Harriers results were:

106th: 2:08:44: Stuart Sanderson [FASTEST FIREMAN PRIZE!!!]

172nd: 2:18:30: Rob Wilson

339th: 2:42:58: Gill Cairns

441st: 3:06:33: Alan Thornburrow

446th: 3:08:06: Chris Downie

447th: 3:08:22: Sadie Kemp

461st: 3:14:46: Mark Dawson

Loads of piccies on the internet – here are a few

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Posted in Race Reports | 9 Comments

Glencoe Trail Marathon 2017

Glencoe Trail Marathon Race Report (Not the Easy Glencoe Marathon)

Well that was an Experience. Do something that scares you once in a while they said!!!

In my case it’s sign up for the wrong race and realise you are running in some of the biggest scariest mountains I’ve ever been on. The only munro i had ever been up was Ben Nevis Tourist Route.

Up to a week before i was thinking about not even turning up, but running a recce of the Two Brewries with Gilly Marshal and Allan Dunbar the week before I though how much harder can this be (oh how I was wrong ha ha)

Michael my Race support team and Molly the mountain Labrador stayed up at the start at the Glencoe Ski and Midge centre the night before the race in the campervan.

Race day was absaloutly lovely, clear skies, no wind, the perfect weather for bighting beasties and running in the hills. I think if the weather had been any different i would have definitely pulled out.

The race briefing was very short and to the point, I think somtimes that is best as if it goes on, people loose interest, start chatting and miss the real valid points.

The race started at 8.30 and off to a quick start down hill from the ski centre towards Kings House Hotel on to The West Highland Way heading towards the bottom of the Devil Staircase (the way I thought i was going to be running) This was check point one, just before the first big climb past the most photographed house in Scotland, The Lagangarbh Mountain Climbers Hut and up a pass on to Buachaille Etive Mor, at this point I really though What have I done. But no turning back i carried on with another runner who also thought a mountain marathon may be a bit much, but after a 40 minute climb I was rewarded with some of the most amazing views. Then a few ups and downs through Stob Na Doire, Stob Coire Altruim, Stob Coire Raineach down a horrendous bum sliding bog filled valley to check point two in Glen Etive at about 12 miles in 4 hours met by Michael and Molly who gave me the nudge to dig in and carry on along with a girl Marina from Clydsdale Harriers and back up the valley around the other side of Stob Dubh thankfully not having to go along a heart stopping ridge but down another bum sliding decsent back towards check point 1 which was also check point 3 (7hrs 15 minutes). At this point i thought i was on the final home straight, back on the military road along the west highland way towards the Midge Centre, how wrong was I. Just a few hundred meters from the finish line check point 4  we were directed back on to the West Highland way heading South for what I thought was going to be a small loop of a mile or so, but little did i realise the marathon was over 28 miles long. On my own a bit round this part, i phoned Mike in a panic as i thought i had taken a wrong turning and thought i was going to end up in Inveroran, but Mike re assured me I was going the right way but the course was measured incorrectly and i was on the right route but still had two miles to go.

At last Climb to the turn off towards the top of the Glencoe Midge Centre chair lift through another muddy bog then down the side of the chair lift to what must be the worst and scariest hillside decsent ive ever done.

Finaly home 10Hrs 5 mins, 2559 meters of climbing, 28 miles +++++, 24th out of 28, with 12 DNF, pretty mediocre medal, no goodie bag, no food and a pretty crap T Shirt, but still had a great day. Will I do it again………………….???

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Posted in Race Reports | 10 Comments

Ochils 2000s Long Classic Hill Race 2017

I ‘enjoyed’ this race so much last year that I thought that I would try
it again – and as this would be my 4th Long classic of the year, the pressure
would be off to complete the Series requirement. Although the forecast was
quite good, it had been raining quite a lot during the previous week and we
were warned that it was rather soggy underfoot. We weren’t to be disappointed!

The race route goes from half way up Glen Devon (3 miles past the Yetts o
Muckhart) up and over most of the Ochils bumps, down to Menstrie, back up
Dumyat and finally descending back down to Stirling University in Bridge of
Allan. At almost 21 miles, it’s quite a trek.

Registration at the Sports Centre at Stirling University was all very
organised and we were handed out envelopes with our electronic orienteering
doofers and even a map inside a waterproof case! Two coach loads of about
65 runners set off at 10:45 towards Dollar for the start at 12:00. Without
Rob for company, I was more nervous than usual, but was soon chatting to
other apprehensive runners. There seemed to be a lot of new faces – people
who had experienced the race before were sensible enough to go for the
‘easier’ options when competing in the Series.

It was sunny and warm at the start so a running vest was sufficient. Of
course, I had forgotten the suncream. I quite like the long races starts as
nobody feels the need to warm up much and there is no sprint! The route starts
off in woodland and forest up a nice track and then onto a hill trail. It
didn’t seem too soggy at first – this must be the dry side. The climb up to
the first checkpoint at Innerdownie (611m) is very steady and not too steep,
and was almost a pleasure! .

It was great to be now up on the ridge and the views were opening up to the
south. The path was still very good, wet but firm enough for fast running
along the ridge to checkpoints 2 and 3 (Whitewisp Hill at 643m and Tarmangie
Hill at 645m). I like these electronic thingies – much easier than those
fiddly stampy things. Then the drop down to the Burn of Sorrow and the steep
climb up to Kings Seat Hill (648m). My competitive nature was now kicking in
and I was probably going slightly too fast. Walter was in front of me and
seemed to be going well.

Another drop down and less steep climb up to Andrew Gannet Hill at 670m and
Checkpoint 5. The next three checkpoints are on the highest part of the
Ochils Ridge: The Law (638m), Ben Cleuch (721m) and Ben Buck (679m).
Although not so much up and down, the ground was quite wet and becoming
harder work. Again I was trying to keep up with another couple of runners
who were probably going above my pace.

Another zig-zag south to Ben Ever at 622m and then the dreaded leg north-
west to Blairdennon Hill (631m). I can remember it being hard last year,
but this time it was harder and definitely wetter. I gave up trying to
skirt around the green slimy pits and ended up just splodging through them.
I had just successfully negotiated one of these and decided that this was
the new way to tackle the beasts, when on a lump of dry-looking heather, I
disappeared down a huge hole up to my crotch. It was rather a ‘sooky’ hole
and I had a brief vision of becoming ‘Bog man Dunc’ dug up fully preserved
in a couple of hundred years time.

At last, after more arduous slogging up to Blairdennon I bleeped in at
Checkpoint 10. Three more to go! Left turn back south and we just had to
follow the fence for another soggy two miles all the way to Colsnaur Hill
(553m). At this point I didn’t feel too bad and was keeping up a steady
pace. The path down towards Menstrie was actually quite good and ends up
on a rough farm track half way down. The track unfortunately has massive
bends in it and the temptation to cut the corners is very great. I attempted
this twice and both times regretted it and ended up staggering through
very lumpy ground which triggered the first twinges of cramp.

At the bottom the sun was fully out and it was boiling hot. After saying Hi
to the marshalls, I jogged to the foot of Dumyat and started up the steep
path. What is this, why aren’t my legs working? The last hill was a mere
418m but I could see that it was going to be horrible. Although I had been
drinking gallons of carbo-drink and electrolyte, I had definitely hit the
wall and was just suddenly completely knackered! Half way up it was so hot
and I was going so slowly that I actually sat down for a minute to catch
my breath and pretended to enjoy the view!

I eventually crawled up to the summit and wobbily started the last descent
back down to Bridge of Allan. Probably my slowest descent ever off a hill as
the legs weren’t doing anything useful and were cramping up every couple of
minutes. I passed one runner who had actually stopped on the path. I asked
if he had cramp but the response was not really decipherable. Maybe I wasn’t
that bad! At last the cool wood and I managed to sort of jog to the finish.
Phew that was tough.

Compared to last year it was a miserable time 4:14:18, but I blame the
soggy ground and the heat. And looking at other peoples’ times, several
were also 10 to 20 minutes slower this year (except Walter – what’s he on?!).
Never mind, it’s all useful experience. On the plus side, the Breweries
will probably be a piece of cake!

Duncan.

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Posted in Race Reports | 7 Comments

Baddinsgill Round Sunday, 27 August 2017


A great local race with a friendly atmosphere and lots of good communication prior to the race through their webpage and Facebook event. This was a slightly altered route due to the presence of livestock, we missed out ‘King Seat’. Other than that the route was the same as previous years. There were hills interspersed with boggy sections which were at times knee deep. There was also some pathless sections over heathery ground which were tiring and challenging navigationally. For the most part the route follows the outer edge of the Baddinsgill estate and so staying close to the fence will keep you right most of the time.

Name- Category -Time -Position -Category Position- Gender Position

Des Crown MV50 1:39:25 7 1 7
Stuart Sanderson MV50 1:41:29 9 2 9
Rob Wilson MV40 1:48:15 15 2 15
Michael Greens M 1:51:34 16 10 16
Gregor Gorjanc M 2:03:22 27 14 26
Gillian Cairns FV40 2:05:46 31 1 3
Sadie Kemp FV40 2:12:03 36 4 6
Jan Dawson FV40 2:13:13 37 5 7
Andrea Wilson FV40 2:15:53 40 6 9
Gilly Marshall FV40 2:33:48 45 7 10

Full results here: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1FyYv6P2X9h5AUeRyvp54BR9YqsF3FcEhnIyXYh80wLc/edit#gid=1768500890

Prizes for Des, Stuart, Rob and Gillian. Beer galore at the Gordon Arms!
Thanks to Graeame Reid for the action shots.
Relive: https://www.relive.cc/view/1154763607
Race Info: http://www.caac.org.uk/content/1013583

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Posted in Race Reports | 2 Comments