I ‘enjoyed’ this race so much last year that I thought that I would try
it again – and as this would be my 4th Long classic of the year, the pressure
would be off to complete the Series requirement. Although the forecast was
quite good, it had been raining quite a lot during the previous week and we
were warned that it was rather soggy underfoot. We weren’t to be disappointed!
The race route goes from half way up Glen Devon (3 miles past the Yetts o
Muckhart) up and over most of the Ochils bumps, down to Menstrie, back up
Dumyat and finally descending back down to Stirling University in Bridge of
Allan. At almost 21 miles, it’s quite a trek.
Registration at the Sports Centre at Stirling University was all very
organised and we were handed out envelopes with our electronic orienteering
doofers and even a map inside a waterproof case! Two coach loads of about
65 runners set off at 10:45 towards Dollar for the start at 12:00. Without
Rob for company, I was more nervous than usual, but was soon chatting to
other apprehensive runners. There seemed to be a lot of new faces – people
who had experienced the race before were sensible enough to go for the
‘easier’ options when competing in the Series.
It was sunny and warm at the start so a running vest was sufficient. Of
course, I had forgotten the suncream. I quite like the long races starts as
nobody feels the need to warm up much and there is no sprint! The route starts
off in woodland and forest up a nice track and then onto a hill trail. It
didn’t seem too soggy at first – this must be the dry side. The climb up to
the first checkpoint at Innerdownie (611m) is very steady and not too steep,
and was almost a pleasure! .
It was great to be now up on the ridge and the views were opening up to the
south. The path was still very good, wet but firm enough for fast running
along the ridge to checkpoints 2 and 3 (Whitewisp Hill at 643m and Tarmangie
Hill at 645m). I like these electronic thingies – much easier than those
fiddly stampy things. Then the drop down to the Burn of Sorrow and the steep
climb up to Kings Seat Hill (648m). My competitive nature was now kicking in
and I was probably going slightly too fast. Walter was in front of me and
seemed to be going well.
Another drop down and less steep climb up to Andrew Gannet Hill at 670m and
Checkpoint 5. The next three checkpoints are on the highest part of the
Ochils Ridge: The Law (638m), Ben Cleuch (721m) and Ben Buck (679m).
Although not so much up and down, the ground was quite wet and becoming
harder work. Again I was trying to keep up with another couple of runners
who were probably going above my pace.
Another zig-zag south to Ben Ever at 622m and then the dreaded leg north-
west to Blairdennon Hill (631m). I can remember it being hard last year,
but this time it was harder and definitely wetter. I gave up trying to
skirt around the green slimy pits and ended up just splodging through them.
I had just successfully negotiated one of these and decided that this was
the new way to tackle the beasts, when on a lump of dry-looking heather, I
disappeared down a huge hole up to my crotch. It was rather a ‘sooky’ hole
and I had a brief vision of becoming ‘Bog man Dunc’ dug up fully preserved
in a couple of hundred years time.
At last, after more arduous slogging up to Blairdennon I bleeped in at
Checkpoint 10. Three more to go! Left turn back south and we just had to
follow the fence for another soggy two miles all the way to Colsnaur Hill
(553m). At this point I didn’t feel too bad and was keeping up a steady
pace. The path down towards Menstrie was actually quite good and ends up
on a rough farm track half way down. The track unfortunately has massive
bends in it and the temptation to cut the corners is very great. I attempted
this twice and both times regretted it and ended up staggering through
very lumpy ground which triggered the first twinges of cramp.
At the bottom the sun was fully out and it was boiling hot. After saying Hi
to the marshalls, I jogged to the foot of Dumyat and started up the steep
path. What is this, why aren’t my legs working? The last hill was a mere
418m but I could see that it was going to be horrible. Although I had been
drinking gallons of carbo-drink and electrolyte, I had definitely hit the
wall and was just suddenly completely knackered! Half way up it was so hot
and I was going so slowly that I actually sat down for a minute to catch
my breath and pretended to enjoy the view!
I eventually crawled up to the summit and wobbily started the last descent
back down to Bridge of Allan. Probably my slowest descent ever off a hill as
the legs weren’t doing anything useful and were cramping up every couple of
minutes. I passed one runner who had actually stopped on the path. I asked
if he had cramp but the response was not really decipherable. Maybe I wasn’t
that bad! At last the cool wood and I managed to sort of jog to the finish.
Phew that was tough.
Compared to last year it was a miserable time 4:14:18, but I blame the
soggy ground and the heat. And looking at other peoples’ times, several
were also 10 to 20 minutes slower this year (except Walter – what’s he on?!).
Never mind, it’s all useful experience. On the plus side, the Breweries
will probably be a piece of cake!