Penicuik, 9am, Aug 27th, 2011. Mike Brooks and I left Penicuik with some trepidation as it was drizzling and the cloud was down. Our spirits did NOT rise at Grangemouth when the heavens really opened. However, as we neared Stirling, the Ochils appeared in all their beauty (tops free of cloud) – sudden hope blossomed that perhaps the day ahead would not end up with us being completely soaked and lost.
We did get a little lost trying to find Stirling University as ALL roads were closed due to a tree being cut down. The police were not aware that a race was on.
The Ochil2000s is officially a 28km (1500m) race from the eastern central part of the Ochils (Glen Devon) to Stirling University near the Bridge of Allan. At the end of the race, my watch said 31.5km (1300m). Despite this disagreement, it is certainly on par with the Two Breweries and Pentland Skyline.
The race has bipolar disorder. For those who have run Maddy Moss, Dollar or Run of the Mills, the first half of the Ochil2000s is very runnable and with nice relatively firm and even paths. In fact, by the mid-point (and high point, Ben Cleuch), my mind was mentally comparing my time with my Skyline pace and I was well on track for under four hours especially as the rest of the race was downhill. However, after the next peak (Ben Buck), the paths disappeared and the quality of the terrain deteriorated alarmingly. Now we knew why other runners always run this race slower than Skyline. The 2 kms after Ben Ever were a never ending peat bog – nothing like what we see on Black Hill in the Pentlands – No, this was a terrain of knee deep sphagnum swamps with eroded peat of a good 1 meter in height that one had to jump down and climb out. You can imagine that after over 2 hours of running, this was not a pleasant experience and for me at least, this was the end of any significant strength and cramps set in when I inevitably tripped. Finally, dry land was again reached at the penultimate hill (Blairdennon). Although drier, the next 4 kms, which was mostly downhill, was a tussocky nightmare where running, with tired legs, was extremely difficult. What looks like an easy descent on the map, was an excruciating stumbling mess and went on and on. At around 3hrs 20 mins, I reached the valley before the last ascent up Dumyat – the steepest gradient of the whole race. You can imagine how this felt. Even getting to the top did not feel that good as there was still the final 4kms to go. The final descent to Stirling University was a well worn track from fell top through woodland. Although “marked” it was quite hard to follow and see the markings especially in the wood which was very loose and muddy in places.
In the end, I completed the race in 4.11. Mike did it in about 3.40 while the winning time was 2.47 (respect!).
Will I do this again…..of course I will. I am sure I can shave off 11 minutes with a little more training and NOT taking 3 bloody litres of water with me which I only drank half of.
However, the second half is REALLY tough, and if the cloud had been down, it would also have been extremely difficult to navigate. Mike and I can at least thank the weather gods that the conditions were nigh near perfect. Mike says that compared to the Breweries and Skyline, this is easily the hardest of the three.
So ? see you at the Breweries.