Devil’s Burdens Relay (Jan 23rd)

Way back in the dim and distant past on a cool but fairly mild day in January, 12 intrepid Harriers burdened themselves with a jolly through the Lomonds of Fife. Apologies that it has taken me so long to put pen to paper, but blame all those school kids applying for University places in Scotland. Not all my job is hugging trees you know!!

I’ll therefore keep this short and much of the text below has been kindly arm twisted out of people who normally prefer to run than write.

The DB is a relay consisting of 4 legs:

Leg 1: 7.5kms, 220 m http://www.fifeac.org/files/races/maps/devils_burdens/devils_burdens_leg1.pdf

Leg 2: 10kms, 680 m http://www.fifeac.org/files/races/maps/devils_burdens/devils_burdens_leg2.pdf

Leg 3: 11.5kms, 410 m http://www.fifeac.org/files/races/maps/devils_burdens/devils_burdens_leg3.pdf

Leg 4: 5.5kms, 390 m http://www.fifeac.org/files/races/maps/devils_burdens/devils_burdens_leg4.pdf

We entered two teams:

The Penicuik Panthers

Leg 1: Kevin Anderson

Leg 2: Duncan Ball and Stuart Sanderson

Leg 3: Yan Horsburgh and Rob Wilson

Leg 4: Michael Greens

The Penicuik Pussies

Leg 1: Rachel Drummond

Leg 2: Sadie Kemp and Chris Downie

Leg 3: Andy Briggs and Sarah Burthe

Leg 4: Des Crowe (having already ran Leg 2 for Dundee).

Although a little muddy, conditions were pretty good on the whole and there was a slight south-westerly that probably hindered the leg 2 runners a little.

Of the 131 teams that ran, our final places were:

Panthers: 33rd, 3:29:49

Pussies: 89th,      4:13:18

Full split info here:

Capture

Here are some choice words from a few of the runners:

Duncan – Leg 2 Panther runner with verbal diarrhoea

At just after 9:30 we left the warm hall in Falkland and Chris drove Rachel’s posh BMW with the four leg 2 runners to Strathmiglo to be in plenty of time to catch the leg one runners Kevin and Rachel arriving. We did a little bit of warming up whilst keeping an eye on the tops of the hills which were periodically swathed in cloud.

Just after 10am, Kevin appeared in the distance and we removed tops, etc. ready for the changeover. Stuart grabbed the checkpoint card and we were off up the side of a muddy field. Then on to some boring tarmac and a massive puddle. Stuart sploshed noisily through it whilst I daintily skirted round on the verge, trying to keep the feet dry for as long as possible. On to the forest track and we were running with Des and his running partner – fortunately for us as we would have missed the first checkpoint!

After about a mile and a half of running, we were out of the forest and on to the northern slopes of West Lomond. As it got steeper, the traverse got trickier and tough on the ankles. We were keeping up with Des though and reeling in a couple of other teams. I was working pretty hard trying not to slow down Stuart too much – and although I sensed he was champing at the bit somewhat, he was behaving himself and didn’t blast off as usual into the distance.

Left turn up the grassy gully and another checkpoint. Then the steep slog up to the summit of West Lomond. Whilst Stuart punched his card, I found my compass and set it to about 200. We had been told to head for a snazzy new style and sure enough after some pleasant bounding down heathery slopes, there it was. I was conscious that the last time I had run this race, we had headed too far left and I overcompensated a bit until there were some corrective yells from Stuart.

Also in contrast to last time, visibility was good and navigation was very straightforward with new paths (well long soggy sandpits) and a wall to follow, not to mention two teams ahead of us. We were still keeping up with Des but didn’t seem to be gaining on the leading team.

Up on to Bishop Hill and into a strong wind, but good running underfoot. We were now getting quite knackered but I was quite enjoying the running and the competition with the other teams. Phew, the last checkpoint and the fun steep slidy descent down towards the leg 3 changeover. We could hear loud yells from the four Harriers leg 3 runners and we had made it! Second team in? Brief exchanges and Rob and Yan were off back up the steep slope.

We related our experiences with Andy and Sarah (and ate one of Sarah’s energy bars), donned emergency full body cover and waited for Chris and Sadie to arrive.

The leg had taken us 1 hour 12 minutes, which seemed a bit slow, but neither of us were in peak condition and we should be faster next time!

Stuart – also Leg 2 Panther runner

Duncan and I set off in almost perfect conditions, 20 seconds ahead of our new member Des, (running for Dundee at this point) but within 500 m he and his team mate had already caught us . The gauntlet was set and I thought we were in for a hard fought battle. Des continuously skipping ahead and setting the pace, unfortunately for Des his mate wasn’t quite as fast and Des had to keep dropping back. As Dunc and I hit the first hill Des was slipping backwards. (no fault of his )? Enough of Des, this was a PH race (he has his own PH story to tell) . As Dunc and I climbed West Lomond we gradually passed a number of competitors, eventually descending in 2nd place (of the first wave). The pace picked up again as we were joined by another team? Between the 4 of us we made good ground on the leaders but not quite enough to catch them. I started to flag a bit but Dunc kept pushing on to the changeover point dragging you know who down our final descent. Where Rob and Yan took control of the PH batten.

Sadie – Leg 2 Pussie

Once we had picked up our numbers and wished each other luck, the Leg 2 runners headed straight to their start at Strathmiglo. It is near the Lomonds of Fife race start and if you have done that race you will know there is stretch of path that takes you to the woods that seems to go on for quite a while. Once Rachel had come in for our team (the Pussies) we ran straight up the muddy field and on to the path which at one point was completely flooded. I ran through it. Chris chose to go up the side but said he thought this was worse as it was very muddy. We then headed up through the woods (1st checkpoint) and out onto the side of West Lomond. This was a free for all where a number of different routes were taken, Rob had advised us to gain height quickly so we did this as we made our way round the hill to our second checkpoint. Then it was a calf burning climb to the top of West Lomond. Once at the top the view to East Lomond was rather obscured by the low cloud but we could see where to go and headed across the open ground to Bishops hill. The rest of the route was undulating and quite muddy in places. Rob and Yan passed us going in the other direction doing leg 3 for the Panthers, they were both putting in a massive effort and were the first leg 3 team through. We caught the rest of our checkpoints and even stopped for a quick picture on the top of the last hill where a photographer was positioned. Then it was a steep downhill to the end of our leg. I was thinking I am glad we are going down this and not up, as the leg 3 runners would be. I was hoping Andy and Sarah wouldn’t be cursing me too much on their way up for giving them a leg with such a brutal start!

Rob – Leg 3 Panther runner

OK – gonna keep this short due to all the winging about my blogs posts!!

Stuart and Duncan CAME IN THIRD, but when Yan and I started up the steep hill out of Kinnesswood, we were not far behind the first two teams. That first kilometre is a killer on the calves, but Yan huffed and puffed behind me and by the time we got to the top we were already 2nd and very soon were leading the first wave. At this point I was so happy that Mike B had been injured as this new leg 3 route is fabulous – very runnable (bar that start section) and Yan and I were pretty well balanced. I being a tad quicker on the ups but he be much quicker on the flat and down. The 2nd place pair were never far behind and bar some cautious navigation along Glen Vale and up towards West Lomond we did not go too far from the proper route. Once we hit the main track just east of West Lomond, it was a sprint down to the changeover and Yan was very patient with my slower track speed. Overall, we made pretty good time and it was damn weird leading a race for once as you’re constantly thinking whether your route is correct. It was a nice relief to pass the punch sheet over to Michael who flew off – from what we heard later – in the wrong direction!!!

Sarah – leg 3 Pussie runner

I was feeling a large amount of trepidation about the race, having not raced for so long, but I had a thoroughly brilliant time. Leg 3 started with a pretty brutal hill climb, the most risky part of the entire race was dodging the super-fast people descending at break-neck speed, but once that was over, my calves had stopped burning and my lungs stopped threatening to explode (really need to get fit), it was a magical run across the muddy hill tops. Andy and I were pretty well matched in terms of pace and enjoyed the view from the hills and running through lots and lots of mud.  The last descent back down into the valley was superb – in fact I thought the race was going to last a bit longer and the finish line came as a surprise! Leg 3 was about 7 miles with ~400m ascent according to my watch. Great race- would thoroughly recommend.

Final word from Rob

Des ran legs 2 and 4 so kudos to where it is deserved. Michael messed up a little with the route of the final leg, but we’ve all done it (some worse than others……….Amy!!!) – it just means that next time you’re guaranteed a PB.

I love this relay and we really should try and get as many teams in as possible next year. Logistically it is a lot easier than other relays and the soup, food and camaraderie at the end when we all get back to the Falkland Village hall makes it all worthwhile.

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