The last long hill race of the year, the Skyline (26.6km, 1600m)
is always my personal nemesis, but in the context of the Ochil2000s and Breweries, it is probably the easiest of the three. The difficulty of this race, is that for us locals, we are used to running the Pentland Hills at a faster pace than what we should do when running the whole Skyline route and it is very easy to go too quickly at the beginning.
Three intrepid Harriers started: Moi, Paul Pollard and Chris Downie. Chris had warmed up the day before on Manor Water so was raring to go.
Conditions: Very wet underfoot, strong head wind which peaked around midday when we were running over Carnethy/Scald Law (with rain in the face). Weather improved substantially for second half with wind mostly from behind.
Paul zipped off at the beginning but as I was worried about my groin (see Breweries entry), I did not even try to keep up. For Paul and I, the first half went very well despite the strong head wind. I could always see him in the distance – usually he was nearing the summit of a peak when I was at the base. At about the 1hr mark, I started to feel my groin pull. Despite this, I got to the drove road in 1:52 – only 2 minutes slower than my PB so I was quite happy under the circumstances. Paul was nowhere in sight.
I should note that the Marshalls along the route had a much worse day than any of the runners. The poor buggers on top of South Black almost looked comical as they tried to take down numbers and ensure that their notes (or themselves) did not get blown away.
The drove road normally provides a nice rest bite from ascents and descents and is the only place where one can get into some sort of rhythm. However, it was here that I realised that my groin was in worse shape than I thought. I just could not lift my right leg properly which made running annoyingly difficult and uncomfortable. My pace started to slow, which continued to crumble for the rest of the race. Giving up was not an issue. I had done that 5 years ago, and I was determined to complete the race, even if I crawled over the line.
So I started a mental battle of concentrating on putting one leg in front of the other. Coming off Hare Hill was particularly boggy and I guess it was from this point that I started haemorrhaging places which continued for the rest of the race. Ironically, walking up was not so bad, so I used the Black Hill ascent to stoke up on supplies, so by the time I got to the top, I felt generally OK except for the groin. Descent was slow but steady, but my first minor bout of cramp hit me as I crossed the small stream at the bottom to begin the ascent up Bells. I managed to walk through this and as I started the short but very steep climb, I realised that Paul was again in view. Over Harbour Hill, Capelaw and up to Allemuir, Paul kept ahead and in fact pulled away as he still seemed to be OK going uphill. Little did I know at the time, that is was downhill which he was having a nightmare with.
Andrea’s tennis had been cancelled so she was a welcome site of shouts and encouragement on Capelaw and jogged with me for a while. I think I was a little grumpy at her positive energy though – I apologise. Susie then added her 200% worth of screams and excited hugs on top of Allermuir. Hopefully I smiled back a little.
It is so frustrating to be so close to the finish and yet be crippled to such a slow pace. Runners were passing me all the time – all seemed to bounce, skip and look fresh. I could not even raise my leg to kick them. After Caerketton, it is a downhill cruise to the finish. It was just off the peak when I finally met Paul. He was not a happy site. He had been basically cramping on all descents since Black Hill. I was in a dilemma as I felt I should stop and come down with him, but he was hardly moving. So, a little guiltily, I wished him well and continued to hobble on down.
Despite the pain I was incredibly happy when I crossed the line. I had set out to do three long race over 6 weeks, and I had done it. At 3:51, this was my slowest time for the Skyline but under the circumstances, it could have been much worse. Paul finally came in (I am sure he was walking backwards down some of the last slope) at ~4hrs with Carnethy Kate at ~4.02.
The real Hero of the day however was Chris who crossed the line in around 4.30 but looked fresh as a button. To have ran both Manor Water and the Skyline deserves some real respect.