I have googled the meaning of “Stuc a` Chroin” and there appears to be two definitions bouncing around the inter-web.
- Peak of the little sheepfold
- Peak of harm or danger
For anyone who has ever run this race, I think they would all agree that the latter definition is probably more apt.
I have ran Stuc twice before (the first time in 2012 failing due to a pulled muscle) and the 2nd time in 2013 in probably the worst weather conditions I have ever experienced on a hill race. For more on that, see the 2013 report:
so, it was high time for a nice weather problem free iteration of this race. Ha!
Last year, they changed the route slightly and instead of the first (and last) 3 kms being a nice easy forest road (blue), the route now passes through poorly trodden and very boggy woodland tracks (red). In fact, the distance of the new route is ~1km shorter, but this beginning and end is much more technical than the old route (with major implications for tired legs after 3 hrs of running!). This has therefore turned an already technical race into an uber-technical race and there is almost no respite from intense continuous concentration through boggy holes, half sunken trees and rocks.
So – this race is really not for the faint-hearted and while Yan, Kevin, Tracy, Chris, Susie and Gilly plodded their way along 53 miles of the Hoka Highland Fling Ultra (slackers!), me, Duncan, Stuart, Mike, Tim and Andrea braved the Munro Stuc.
The forecast was cloudy with bright periods and bar some drizzle at the beginning and some hail at around the half way point, the weather was actually almost perfect – I would have overheated if I had ran in my leggings! The ground conditions were however far from perfect. Very soon from the start, we already entered the melting snow line and the run up through the wood for the first few kilometres was a rather slithery affair. Fine when one is fresh, but did cause some anxiety for the return. The melting snowy/boggy mess continued after we left the forest and traversed northwards up towards Creag Mhadaidh. Strangely the steep plunge down into Glen Ample was snow free although typically wet and slithery. However, this is where I started picking up places and really enjoyed this rather reckless descent and only slithered on my tush once.
Blah! What can I say, the steep > 400m climb out of Glen Ample up Bein Each is horrible. Really no way to pass anyone on the thin very steep muddy track even if you had the energy in your legs. However, on reaching the top, despite quite a lot of residual deep snow in places, I raced an American along much of the ridge for the next 20 minutes or so and passed several runners who were taking the rather treacherous route more sensibly. This was the best section of the whole race. It was only on the final ascent up Stuc itself through the deep snow that I realised that maybe I had pushed a little too hard and my leg muscles were already starting to twitch.
Just before the summit, Stuart, followed closely by Duncan, came flying past (well – actually – it was more of an uncontrolled slither with mad desperate looks in their eyes). Blimey – I was not that far behind them – again – clear evidence that I had probably ran far too fast. I quickly chomped my way through yet another muesli bar to ward off cramp. From the peak, the profile hints at a mostly continuous run down. However, the course really does undulate rather annoyingly and my steadily tiring legs were now losing their precision control and I was less than spritely down to the turn off from the ridge. I took the descent down into Glen Ample steadily – the melting snow and contouring not making it very easy on tired legs. I lost a few places, but decided that a steady slower place was better than forcing myself towards a cramping disaster.
Although relatively short, the return ascent out of Glen Ample is a grim steep affair. I passed one guy who was suffering awfully from cramp and I stuffed down my last muesli bar to hopefully ward of a similar attack. From the top, it was all downhill although by no means easy. The snow had continued to melt and was probably even more slippery than on the original ascent. The return through the wood was exactly how I had worried earlier – slippery, hidden boggy holes and slimy slippery fallen tree stems – urgh! However, I somehow kept plodding through. For some reason I had 3.25 as my 2013 time and felt that I might just be able to beat it. Alas, I was a tad deluded on that score, and in the end was a tad slower than my previous time of 3:18. So, not a PB, but with the conditions, was very happy how the race went.
This is a serious race – a fabulous race and a perfect start to the Scottish Long Classics Series:
Here are the final results with individuals BPs to highlight how much tougher the new course and conditions were:
163 runners completed the race.
Winner: Finlay Wilson: 02:25:24 (BP = 2:12:51)
Stuart Sanderson: 36th: 03:06:28 (1st time)
Duncan Ball: 39th: 03:10:30 (BP = 2:53:51)
Rob Wilson: 60th: 03:21:52 (BP = 3:18:05)
Mike Brooks: 90th: 03:37:26 (BP = 2:58:03)
Tim Doyle: 121st: 04:02:56 (BP = 3:53:13)
Andrea Wilson: 150th: 04:28:55 (1st time)
Roll on Slioch in 3 weeks