Actually, I didn’t, but I thought such a title might grab your attention :-).
With Andrea in Aberdeen and Mike B madly running the Jersey marathon, I seemed to be the only Harrier wanting to enjoy the fabulous forecast in the hills. 🙁 . Come on Thursday evening runners – what are you training for but to have a nice jolly in the hills at the weekend.
The forecast was excellent – sunny with some clouds and a light westerly breeze. The views were amazing, although I did not hang around much looking.
The Ben Venue course is officially 12kms with 860m of climb. However, due to the forestry commission stripping out most of the Sitka spruce to plant pine, much of the area was a chaotic mess so the course this year was modified to ensure that runners were not going through clear cut areas. This resulted in perhaps more forest roads than normal. This also changed the course length/height to 14kms and 700m (according to my Garmin).
The start of the race is a fast half kilometre of tarmac road. Unlike the Breweries I comfortably (but possibly unwisely? ;-)) managed to start off in the lead pack. Of course, once we crossed the river, my legs developed that leaden feeling, and I started losing places. The next few kilometres were a continuous climb at just the annoying gradient to force you to keep running. At this point, I seemed to be an almost lone runner between the lead pack ahead and the bulk of the runners behind. The people behind slowly gaining on me, and the runners ahead creeping ahead. I hate forest roads – with fell running studs, you might as well be running on tarmac. Bad for the knees!
At ~4kms, we left the decimated woodland and ran out on to the more open heather moorland. At this point, I am not sure what happened, but I somehow felt pretty good and I just seemed to bounce through the mud and not only started catching up the tail end of the lead pack, but managed to pass some runners on the way up the steep ascent to the main peak. This has never happened to me in a race before – what a great feeling! Obviously a breakfast of Wheetabix and spaghetti bolognaise is what I should do more often. From the summit of Ben Venue, the path became much more technical for the next kilometre or so – very rocky. However, I seemed to morph into a reckless madman and just flew off the rock steps and somehow never quite managed to kill myself. I continued to pass runners who were being a little more cautious than me. The route than followed the ridge line that was delineated by a rather rusty fence. This next kilometre was very similar to the very boggy section on the Ochils2000 race (Which Mike and I detested in 2011) where there were ~1meter drops into deep peat bogs and you then have to climb out again. Somehow, my body was still packed with energy and it was great fun jumping in, squelching through ankle deep peat and then slithering out at the other end. Of course, this was a slower section, but I still managed to pass a couple of runners.
Tip of the Day: Always follow a Carnethy red vest – they always find the best route!!!
At ~8kms, the route descended down a steep boggy slope which was definitely not for people with weak ankles. I took this fairly steadily (all recklessness duly repressed) as I did not want to antagonise my knees which had been almost pain free so far and there were many hidden holes. At the bottom of the slope, the route joined itself again. Someone had attached some bungee to the gate back into the clear cut forest zone to ensure that it would close, which meant that the gate nicely ricocheted back at my head as I flew through it. Although my head hurt a lot, I found that the extra pair of legs helped for a while. 😛
The last few kms on the road was hard as finally my legs started feeling heavy. However, I was determined to try and keep my place (I had only lost a few on the descent). At least most of it was downhill. The race did not finish at the same point as the start – in fact, they made us run an extra half kilometre up over into the Ben Venue car park. Although a little rise, I suddenly realised how tired my legs were.
With relief, I crossed the finish line to see a nice spread of cakes and sandwiches with plenty of drinks. I was ravenous.
I have no idea yet where my relative place was, but I think it was quite high as I came in many minutes ahead of individuals I normally cluster with. My final time was 1:39:47 which turned out, perhaps, to be a longer race than I wanted to do before the Skyline next week. But no regrets – what a race – what a day! The only minor down side is that I have pulled my left hamstring a little, but hopefully that will stretch out through the week.
UPDATE: was 30th from 100 runners (http://www.shr.uk.com/NewsItems.aspx?NewsItemID=1302)