It pains me to say this, but this was a day for the girls.
Mike, Hillary, Sarah and I left Penicuik at 10am – race start time 12pm. Forecast was sunny with little wind. It was a hot one!
If you’re looking for a quiet Sunday afternoon drive, the A702 drive to Durisdeer is fabulous. It is only marred, if you’re planning on running the race, by the appearance of impossibly steep hills as you drive through the Dalveen Pass as you get close to the village and you suddenly realise that these are the beasts you’re about to run through.
The Durisdeer Hill Race is 15.4 km with 1250m of climb. It is that extra height (and steep gradients) which makes this a tough race. Obviously many hill runners knew about this already as only about 40 runners turned up. They were probably all running Traprain Law – wimps!
Click here for the route map
Figure caption: Durisdeer Hill Race route. Locations of cat/mouse overtaking of Harriers is noted. e.g. MoR = Mike overtakes Rob; SoM = Sarah overtakes Mike etc.
The start/finish was located in the centre of Durisdeer, a cute little village of about 10 houses in the middle of nowhere, dominated by a large church full of cake! After a short warm up run along a track and across a burn, the route takes a long slow steepish climb up Black Hill. It was hot! Sweat was pouring off me and I was salt blind pretty much most of the way up the hill. However, I could see the beginnings of what turned out to be a rather competitive race between us four Harriers (Hillary included, despite her wearing a Carnethy top – spit!). As is the norm, I lost my top five place quickly and Mike passed me followed closely by Sarah – the latter running most (if not all) of the way up the hill. Sarah soon then passed Mike. I reached the top of Black Hill already sucking on my electrolyte drink and saw Sarah in the distance – Mike already having passed her. Time to disengage to neutral and let gravity generate some speed. The run off Black Hill down to the A702 crossing is the steepest descent in the race. However, it was not rocky and the depth of Blaeberries was not too bad so it was not too bad although my thighs were burning. As I had hoped, I managed to pass Sarah on the steep descent and was only about 300 meters behind Mike after crossing the A702. However, after such a descent, my legs were like rubber, and it took a while before I could manage to get some normal function back into them. The next few kms were quite runnable and although Sarah was not too far behind I managed to keep ahead. Mike had flown off and was a good half kilometre ahead at this point. Mercifully, while following the steep-sided river valley at the north end of the race route, the sky clouded over for a while which gave us all some relief from the relentless heat. On the ascent up to the second col, Sarah passed me again and told me that Hillary was not far behind. That provided me with the impetus to push a little and I left Sarah at the col and pushed for the descent back down towards Dalveen Pass. This was a more technical descent than it had appeared on the map, but I luckily found a good route through the steep sided gulleys and as I got close to the valley floor, I saw that Mike was not that far ahead. I tried to push harder but my legs were starting to feel heavy. On crossing the A702 again, there now started the final major ascent up to Well Hill. Mike was about 100 meters in front and the girls were not too far behind. The climb was awful. There was no give in the hard dry uneven hummocky ground and the route took us up the NE side of a valley which meant that we were contouring on a very steep slope for most of the way. There were also sections of scree just to add some spice. Running was very difficult, even when the route flattened a bit. At ~10 km just at the beginning of the final steep ascent up Well Hill, Sarah and Hillary finally passed me. My legs were junk by this point and I knew that I was not going to catch them. I shouted up to Mike ahead and said that male honour was now in his hands. I think I heard him gurgle back.
From Well Hill, the route is “mostly” downhill until the finish line and normally would be a pleasurable run. However, I was finished and simply assumed a rather stilted wobbly running style trying to battle the cramp that was not far away. I could see Sarah, Hillary and Mike in the distance, but there was no way I was going to get any speed back to try and catch up. I thought that the descent from Black Hill was going to be pleasant, but everything seemed to hurt and there was definite signs of blisters – everywhere! Running down just seemed to go on forever.
I finally crossed the line in just over 2:17 to find that Hillary was the first woman back in about 2:12 (she had overtaken Mike on Black Hill) with Sarah close behind as second woman. While Mike and I were wrecked, the two girls look pretty fresh in my mind!
It turned out that many people had suffered. Whether with the heat or the many kms of contouring almost everybody complained about blisters. One of Mike’s heel soles had almost completely been shredded off. He was quickly on the phone to mummy to patch him up when he got back to Penicuik as he has the Edinburgh 7 Hills next week and he could barely walk.
Overall, this was a really tough race due to the steep ascents, the heat and the constant contouring. However, it was a lot of fun, despite the pain that most of us felt in the final kms.
Kudos to Hillary and Sarah. Hillary was definitely the tortoise who slowly took her time and passed all the hares. Sarah is just a hill climbing beast. If she learns to run downhill quicker there will be no stopping her!
Update: Results are in. Of 39 runners, 34 made it.
12th: Hillary Holding 2:12:12
13th: Mike Brooks 2:12:53
14th: Sarah McKechnie 2:14:14
17th: Rob Wilson 2:17:39