Jan 24th, 2015
Conditions: cool (icy underfoot), sunny, with stiff westerly wind
Devils Burden is a 4 section relay [hill] race which caters for all runners from road to fell. Although some potential for some waiting around, it is a fun day with loads of soup and bread at the end. What’s not to like!
Team Name: The [Penicuik Harrier] Cuikie Creams:
Micheal, Rob, Chris, Sadie, Mark and Andrea
Leg 1: Michael McComb: Falkland to Strathmiglo: 7.5km, 220m
Leg 1 was by far the easiest leg, which I was more than happy about. It was approximately 4.5 miles, but felt a lot longer. This is the first hill race I’ve entered – I don’t think I’m hooked yet – but I’ll definitely be signing up for more. It was really cold at the start but thankfully it was sunny, although it did still take a couple of miles to warm up. The route itself was enjoyable. It was really icey in some parts, especially on the tarmac but luckily for me I somehow managed to stay on my feet for a wee change. There was only one checkpoint on my leg, woohoo, unfortunately after the checkpoint it was mostly uphill until the last 200ish metres which gave me the chance of a, faster than usual, sprint finish.
After a swift changeover it was back to the hall for me for a rather long wait, and loads of amazing soup.
Leg 2: Mark Snodgrass and Rob Wilson: Strathmiglo to Kinnesswood: 10km, 680m climb
Theoretically the toughest of the legs although Leg 3 is a smidgeon longer (less height). I have always ran the East Lomond leg in its varying forms, so was happy to get my teeth into something new. The 1/2 changeover was in a cold icy field and luckily all runners could wait in Stathmiglo village hall before braving the elements. I had put myself with Mark and was a little anxious that he would be constantly putting the pressure on me to keep up. I told him to take it easy for the first few kms as it was on road and I did not want to pull a muscle. As he was a “little” hung-over from the previous night, he said this would be no problem.
The first 2.5 kms was on a small tarmac road which was very icy in places so care was needed. This then morphed into a forest track and then contoured westwards on a sheep track below the steep slope of the Lomonds hills (and scarp) above. Mark was struggling a little which gave me time to look at the map and plan the route. I know these hills quite well and I very nearly made a huge mistake. Checkpoint 3 is marked on the 1:50 000 map beside the “Bunnet Stone” label. This is a well know sandstone formation at the base of the steep slope below West Lomond. I did not understand why everyone was slowly contouring upwards. Surely it would be better to stay low. In the end, I decided to follow lemming-like the quick runners in front as they seemed to know what they were doing. This was the right decision. The checkpoint was not at the Bunnet Stone at all but at the top of a small spring just below the scarp. Phew – sometimes it pays to be a Lemming. Moral of the story – use the damn grid reference provided and look at the map properly before the race. This time I was lucky.
A bit of a slog up to the top of West Lomond where the views were amazing. The mild panic on top as I lost the punch card allowed Mark to catch up and we were then off for the very runnable 2nd half of the leg. Conditions were snowy and icy, but generally OK. One section appeared to be a frozen river, which needed some care but overall, with the sunny conditions and excellent views, this was a real pleasure. Mark was suffering which allowed me plenty of breather time at each checkpoint to have a rest and look around. Even managed to have a pee in Glen Vale behind the wall which resulted in getting tangled in barbed wire and a friendly runner had to stop to help me as I had fallen over and was slowly getting myself more and more wrapped up. My ‘skins’ will never be the same again. The final section of the leg is a steep run down to Kinnesswood (the beginning ascent for leg 3). I waited for Mark at checkpoint 7 and we plunged down. This was a great bouncy descent so long as you stayed in the longer grass so you would not slip. My knees are behaving so this was great fun. I reached the bottom where what looked like 100s of runners were waiting to start leg 3. I met up with Chris and Andrea who said, “Where’s Mark?”. I looked back – he was nowhere to be seen. Mark came in a couple of minutes lately, looking quite exhausted and sweating profusely as if he had just completed the Marathon des Sables. There’s a moral here I think……..!
Leg 3: Chris Downie and Andrea Wilson: Kinnesswood to Maspie Den: 11km, 360m climb
Leg 3 was a 4-legged variety run of about 11km. The first stretch, “the leg warmer” up towards Bishop Hill, was the ideal remedy to get your muscles moving after waiting around for some 2-leggers whose face was a similar shade as the frozen grass (maybe have a pint less next time, Mark?). I thought the first stretch was fairly safe, but Chris did get attacked by a violent prickly bush. After the short sharp climb, the body is just warm enough for sliding down to the 2nd leg, “the hairy leg”. I had to concentrate on not slipping on the ice, but if I had looked, I would have probably admired the gorgeous runnable track through a nice bit of forest. The 3rd leg winded through farm tracks, along fields, never ending small roads and bridges. Quite nice for those who enjoy a fast uneventful stretch of road. It reminded me why I never want to run a marathon. At least I had good company to cheer me up. Leg 4 , “the cruise”, takes you gently downhill through some forest towards the hand-over. Don’t forget to smile at the sweaty leg 4 runners, who stumble their way up towards East Lomond while you are enjoying the downhill cruise.
Leg 4: Sadie Kemp: Maspie Den to Falkland: 5.5km, 390m
The changeover from 3/4 was a 20ish minute walk from the hall so that I had plenty of time before my section. I spent it with a couple of fellow leg 4 runners (Kirsty Loudon and Margaret, a Carnethy runner) doing a walking recce of the route. The weather was cold but fresh and sunny and we had time to enjoy it and the lovely views. I popped back to the hall for a bite to eat and to drop off my warm clothes before heading along to the changeover. I didn’t have long to wait until I received a text from Rob to say that Chris and Andrea were on their way. After a bit of stretching the leg 3 runners appeared. Leg 4 started in the woods behind Falkland house and followed a winding track up through the woods and onto the moorland. After stamping the card at the gate I headed up the winding track that leads to the summit of East Lomond (Having flashbacks of Lomonds of Fife race). Once I had stamped the card at the summit I made my way down the other side of the hill. Here there is no proper track and much fun was had jumping down over the tussocks – a fellow runner shouted over to me at this point ‘this is the most fun I have had all day”. There was a large stretch of snow/ice that a couple of runners in front of me sat down on and slid over so I did the same and saved myself a bit of running and was the closest I have got to sledging this winter. I made my way down to the next checkpoint and over the stile. From there it was just a case of following a woodland trail that turned into a more substantial track, there were a few steps and some of it was a bit rocky, but still quite runnable and made for an exciting finish. It was great to see the rest of the team waiting for me at the finish and Rob was ready to take an unflattering photo as I crossed the line (thanks for that :-)) I really enjoyed the whole day and it would be lovely if we could get a couple of teams together next year.
Final time: 3:53:14
64th from 123 teams.
Imagine what we could have done if all the team members had been sober.