As a preparation for LAMM I scheduled this race for mileage and hill training. However, too much travel this year, battling with a cold few weeks ago, and not much endurance training suggested this race might turn out ”interesting”. I managed to persuade Romana and Janez to join me as spectators and spend a glorious day out hiking. We left sunny Penicuik in high spirits only to realise that weather was getting grimmer as we neared the destination. Sadly, Strathyre was completely overcast and one could not see a hill from the valley! I met Rob and Gillian at registration, while Romana and Janez started their hike soon after this to gain some distance. After a short warmup a sizeable crowd of runners gathered for the start. Weather conditions made it tricky to judge what to wear – I opted for short sleeves and gloves and obviously full body cover in the backpack – organisers made sure you had all the required kit even before giving you a number – this is so much better than kit check just before the start. Rob ensured us that even in bad weather there should be no problem with navigation in this race as there are many marshals and flags, which was indeed the case.
This year race organisers moved the initial track to a forest road (the original/old route?) due to waterlogged forest. I found the runnable road a nice way to burn into the race, but with the steady climb I found it quite hard to keep with my “progress meter” – Gillian;) She is stronger on climbs and if I manage to keep her pace I am content, but weary I might burn out too soon. After we left the road underfoot conditions changed – there was so much water everywhere that even running in Inov8 x-claws was tricky and slippery business. At some point I jumped over few “streams of water” and suddenly left Gillian behind. Soon after that Romana and Janez gave me additional boost, but it only lasted few meters for me to slip on my all four in an instance – bloody water! I was muddy all up to my knees even before the first mayor climb. I pushed towards Glen Ample. The descent into the glen was steep, and did I mention wet?, but keeping to the heathery side I managed good pace. It felt very encouraging. However, the climb to Beinn Each out of the glen was tough. I could not really see where we were heading. I simply followed the well-trodden track, which had massive steps in places. It felt more like a never-ending cross-fit training than hill running. Gillian caught me in that section and we stayed together for quite a while. The visibility up there was very limited, but it would have been hard to get lost with the well-trodden track and so many marshals and flags. More importantly, underfoot conditions were bad – lots of stones and rocks everywhere and boy were they slippery! Very tricky. It took quite a while before we reached the Stuc. In the morning I was hoping for nice views from this Munroe alas no luck. I took a sip of water from the kind marshals and started to descent. I dreaded this part with all that slippery rock, mud, and water, but it went surprisingly well. I started to feel the legs, but somehow completely forgot about them by focusing on the active descent When we passed the turning point the rocks and stones were gone, but heather and tussocky grass made the going still challenging. I managed to leave Gillian behind at this point and dashed towards our spectators. This time they managed to take a photo of me and Gillian, but they missed Rob who was well ahead. The contouring descent was gnarly, but I was able to dash through heather and overtook some runners. I reached the bottom of Glen Ample in no time and in high hopes to smash the final climb out of it. Dang! At the start of that climb I got a massive cramp in groin area and could barely walk – only to realise that Gillian is just few meters behind me. I guess a sachet of tailwind and two bars did not provide enough electrolytes and energy to prevent cramps. I can’t see how I could have drank or eaten more. Anyway. I pressed the cramp area with fingers in hope for the better and with tiny steps climbed the darn hill – at places it felt more like walking up a stream than a hill! The cramp eased and ahead of me was a mild long final descent – just what I like most. I managed to pass some runners on a grassy/bogy part and some more on the road. I reached the end with a good finish. Gillian followed soon after me. Rob was already well rested by then. This was definitely a challenging race and great training for LAMM. I kind of like its toughness and the weather definitely made it “interesting”. I am looking forward to run it in nicer conditions.