Since I joined the club I admired the Skyline race. I find this race name so catchy and attractive. I must be making some kind of translation error. At some point, I made a mental note that one day I will run it. Yet, I dreaded to put this plan into action. I often run in Pentlands and love the area, but how does one go about the whole Skyline? After a good summer of hills reps and an odd hill race I was getting intrigued, albeit afraid. A couple of club members encouraged me to give it a try. I really appreciate such encouragement, but it is easy to encourage someone else! to run that beast! A recent recce with Gillian made me realize that I might be able to do it in time without falling apart. After much deliberation, I entered the bloody thing and hoped for the best. I was not disappointed!
Plan: My plan was to get around without much pressure on time. Recce with Gillian and discussion with Rob suggested that I should be able to get around in ~4h. This is easy to plan, but harder to realise in race. There are so many things that could go wrong with so many hills. So, I decided to take a “stress-free” approach and go with a flow. I uploaded some music to my phone and planned for an “easy” first half to have a chance of battle with the second half. I also decided to walk most hills, but with a decent pace to keep within time. This strategy served me well.
Race: At the start the lead organiser had a funny introduction and started the race at 11am sharp. A long line to Caerketton formed, but the pace was good for burning into the race. At some point the frenzy walk turned into nice running over Caerketton. When approaching Allemuir I noticed a long line of runners along the fence and decided to take the path on the right. In this way I overtook many! by taking seemingly a longer route. Great! Run down towards Castlelaw was nice with all the sunshine and we reached Flotterstone in no time. Going up Turnhouse seemed to take ages and I started to feel my lungs and hearth pumping hard. I focused on steps and climbed the damn long hill. Then finally? some running towards Carnethy and again a series of steps, a dash down, a series of steps, a dash down, … At a couple of points, I saw Gillian and Alan in front, but could not keep the distance to them.
Soon I reached the Drove road. It’s funny. It is a long way from the start to the Drove road, but once you do it, you do not think it is that long anymore. Strange. Perhaps because one still dreads what is about to come next. I was glad I was about to do another stretch of proper running on the Drove road. The only thing is that by the time the Drove road starts to gently climb up, you realise that you cannot run that well anymore. Then the route leads you to boggy Hare hill, which enforces the realisation of tiredness. Despite this, I did well on this section and overtook three runners. The descent from it was … well … interesting. When I reached its edge a lady in front-left of me was waiving at me. I reckoned she knows the way and ran to her only to realise she is asking me which way to go. Well I was not 100% sure either, but we had to get to the hill on the other side. So, we should go straight down the hill into the valley. Straight down on the steepest part! Gosh! It seems a lot of runners were not sure which way to go (I got these Flybys from the Carnethy website):
To be honest, the descent proved “fun”! I considered bum-sliding, but there was too much undergrowth. In no time, I was pumping steps up the Black Hill and cursing its long ascent. I caught and overtook Alan, which gave me a boost. Sorry Alan! Soon I reached boggy top. I still do not understand how can water accumulate on the top of some hills in this country. How does that water defy gravity? I run over the top and did not mid the bog too much, though it does suck energy out of you. Then, a nice descent followed. I enjoyed this bit of the race the most!!! Long downhill that is not too steep and nice underfoot conditions. By aiming straight for the Bell’s hill, I managed to cut some runners that overtook me between Turnhouse and Kips. Awesome! I felt very smug for the second time in the race. Bell’s hill is a pain, but I expected that and got over it eventually. Did not even had energy for cursing. On the descent I started to fell knees badly. Did I over-stride on descent from Black Hill? The Penicuik Harriers “camp” at Maiden’s Cleugh distracted my mind and I was already climbing the next hill. At this point I was getting sick of the race. The taste of gels and Snickers bars I was munching for energy felt disgusting though I felt strong in some sense. I wanted to finish as soon as possible. Easier said than done at that stage! It took me a while to get over the remaining hills as my knees were in agony with every descending step, but I managed to finish somehow in 3.54. Very close to the predicted time without aiming for it. Cool!
I am very pleased the way my first Skyline turned out. There is now a PB that I can race against next time, yay! Gosh! I am also very pleased by all the support we had up in the Skyline from the club. There were so many of you, with so much energy, that it was a pleasure bumping into you guys! Also thanks for the photos that I nicked for this post. Now that I have done the Skyline, I am in a search of a new dreading target. Julian and Rob suggest LAMM. Stay tuned for that.