The Deuchary Hill Canter (18.7 kms, 770m) is the final race of three held near Birnam over the weekend (Tay Dash (night-time 5km) and Birnham Hill Classic (7kms, 535m)).
Andrea and I had signed up weeks ago and went north as other Harriers went south to run the new 10 mile Eildons trail race. I think we got the better weather – sunny and mild, little wind and a few spots of rain – but better weather does not always mean a better run!
Since my last proper hill run 3 weeks ago, learning from my marathon training friends, I have been busy preparing – sitting, standing, cutting wood, and more sitting while embracing all the healthiness that North America can offer – burgers, pizza, Asian food, beer, wine and whiskey. Add on the 8 hour jet-lag and I was about as prepared as one should [not] be for a 19 km hill race.
Official start was 12 noon and Andrea and I arrived for registration at Birnam at 11am to find out that the race actually should have started at 11am. The website was wrong. In true Adrian Davis fashion, he could not understand why the website was wrong. Luckily, we were not the only ones to be “late”, so the race was delayed until at least 11.30. This unfortunately scuppered our plans of driving to the finish and jogging down to the start to get a feel for the weather and what clothing would be appropriate. That could have made all the difference to what was to come.
So – anyway – we drove to the start and as there was a chilly wind, we assumed it was going to be on the cool side. I layered up in typical Rob fashion.
At the start Adrian then dropped the next surprise that the route had been changed due to logging activities. Supposedly the new map was on the website. Well – I can only find the old one (see edited version). The good news was that it was a little more straightforward than the original route and after last year where most of the field got lost, the new route (in blue) was actually better in my mind.
The race started at 11.40 and after the first 500 m, I was in the leading pack. Whey hey – I could hear Stuart chuckling from afar. However, as the route climbed, I realised that the weather was not only mild, it was tending towards hot – especially when the sun was out (i.e. most of the race L). I was sweating buckets. Long leggings and 3 layers were way too much. By about 2kms in, I was a broiled lobster and was already flagging. I stupidly decided NOT to stop and strip and thought that a good sweat would do me good. Ugh!
I was definitely slower than normal but as Mike B was not running, I had no one to really compete against, so decided to set a comfortable pace. I did after all blow my calf last year on the same race and really wanted to get around this time. The route, at this stage, is made up of small tight undulating forest tracks and trails – really nice actually and should be quick. From km 7, the trail steadily climbs and after 1.5 kms, the route leaves the trail and goes up Deuchary Hill itself (I did finally stop briefly to take one layer off – not enough!). This climb seemed much longer than the last time I ran it. I was starting to feel tired and I was not even half way round the course L. I found my legs a little coming of the peak and managed to pass a few people. On returning to the track however, my legs felt like rubber and that did not improve. I haemorrhaged places. The next few kms were really tough and I was regretting my OTHER mistake of the day. I had not eaten enough and I had forgotten to have a snack while going up to the peak. At 14.5 kms, I had to walk – the track was not steep – but I had to eat and drink. I was losing my legs badly. The final bit of “new route” was a short hill up and I could barely make it. My legs started cramping and I was quite miserable at this point. Luckily, I knew that once at the top, it was downhill all the way. Although tortuous, I managed to make it to the finish line without serious cramp although every little rise seemed to morph my muscles into undulating quivering spasms of putty. I crossed the line at 1:51:28. Utterly exhausted.
I had promised Andrea that I would walk back up the route to jog her in. Och – the regrets of life! After a 10 minute rest of drinking the rest of my Camelpack and eating anything I could get my hands on, I looked back up the hill and started walking. After about 10 minutes, Andrea came running down the road not looking too dejected despite having got slightly lost (again!). I jogged with her for a while, until an old bloke passed us and Andrea realised she had slowed down so I could keep up. She left me and then battled with the man to beat him over the line at ~2:16 – a PB ~9 min improvement on last year.
Moral of the story – expect to be a little tired after lots of travelling – but at least eat properly and wear the bloody appropriate clothes. It at least was a good training run.