Penicuik 10k 2024

On behalf of the Penicuik Harriers Running Club, we want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for participating in the Penicuik 10K Road Race yesterday. Your enthusiasm, determination, and sportsmanship truly made the event a remarkable success. From seasoned athletes to first-time racers you all got on with it and our community and club members hopefully made you feel welcome and supported.

We extend our sincere appreciation to our volunteers, sponsors, and spectators whose contributions were invaluable in making this event possible. Locally we use Inspired by Tweed for our medals and trophy coasters, they work right up to event day ensuring we have enough medals for everyone.  Colorprinz printed the numbers and lots of other printing needs that we had and again worked quickly for us.  Flowers by Lindsey and Fran Jones Massage Therapy provide vouchers for local winners and these are real treats for those that win them.  Our bigger sponsors are Nicol brothers and Carnethy Woodfuel whose contribution helps us to make the event happen and for this we are very grateful.

It goes without saying, and you will all have witnessed, the support of Midlothian Council and Police Scotland who ensure that we can close roads, have parking restrictions in place, have barriers and cones positioned and bascially are the reason that our race gets to run through the town.  Scottish Athletic provide our permit and the officials on the day which means that we are a respected and trusted race in the racing calender.

We are very lucky to have, as one of our club members a very talented photographer in Michael Philp.  I saw him capturing you all at the end and he was out on the route too, I will share the link to his photos on out facebook page and website when I get it.

Up&Running gave us a discount on our prize vouchers which is another great way to support the race – many thanks to them for this.  Blast Running allowed us to borrow gazebos, tables and other race equipment – all of this helped to make the event what it was.

Our fundraiser for Lymphona Action on behalf of our club memeberJan Dawson has raised a staggering amount!! Through the Just Giving page, the cash in the buckets and the QR code being scanned at the baking and refreshments table we have raised………….£612.74 also 2 Euros, a dime and a quarter 🙂  This is way beyond any amount we thought possible and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  We have always raised money to support charities that have helped our club members and this year you have helped us achieve this incredible amount.

There is a link below for the results and photos will be on the website and fb page as soon as possible.

Our category winners yesterday were :-

1st Senior Male Murray Pryde Lothian RC 33:06
2nd Senior Male Donald MacAuley Corstorphine 34:34
3rd Senior Male Sage Pearce-Higgins EAC 35:22
1st Male 40+ Douglas McKinnon Corstorphine 35:42
2nd Male 40+ Yassine Houmdi Portobello 40:06
1st Male 50+ Richard Taylor Andy’s Man 41:45
1st Male 60+ Stan MacKenzie Cambuslang Harriers 42:01
1st Junior Male Daniel Fawcett U/A 65:15
1st Local Male Donald MacAuley Corstorphine 34:34
1st Senior Female Sarah Kyle-Playford Portobello 44:30
2nd Senior Female Kathy Henly U/A 45:13
3rd Senior Female Mary Coll U/A 47:46
1st Female 40+ Kiri Langmead Moorfoot 48:27
2nd Female 40+ Shona MacDonald Portobello 51:11
1st Female 50+ Suzanne Beattie Musselburgh 48:43
1st Female 60+ Aileen Ross Portobello 54:12
1st Junior Female Zoe MacDonald Portobello 52:17
1st Local Female Sadie Kemp Penicuik Harriers 51:44

Please share your photos and experience with us if you like, either on facebook, through the website or directly to me sooz@planetmaxwell.co.uk
Click here for 2024 results

Keep running and being the most fantastic race entrants that we were lucky enough to have!!

Susie Turnbull Maxwell
Race Director

 

Posted in Race Reports | 1 Comment

Devil’s Burdens 2024

Saturday 3rd February 2024

For the uninitiated, Devil’s Burdens is a popular hill relay race run from the pretty village of Falkland, Fife. Teams of six runners take on four legs, with legs 2 and 3 run in pairs. The aim is to mark all the relevant checkpoint letters on a sheet that’s then handed to the next set of runners. Apart from leg 1 that sets off in Falkland, the rest of the legs start/finish in a field in Falkland Estate, which is far better than the old format of shuttling cars around the hills from Falkland to Kinnesswood and back! This means that teams can set up tents and there was a real festival atmosphere this year, helped by the fantastic weather.

Harriers team tent! Luxury

We had two teams entered this year, initially a ladies and men’s team, but due to last minute injury and illness ended up as one mixed team and one ‘vintage’ men’s:

Penicuik Harriers – The Peni-Pensioners (Open 50+)
Leg 1 Raymond Richford
Leg 2 Des Crowe & Stuart Sanderson
Leg 3 Duncan Ball & Rob Wilson
Leg 4 Julian Hall

Penicuik Harriers – Ladies (Mixed Senior)
Leg 1 Adam Gray
Leg 2 Sadie Kemp & Jan Dawson
Leg 3 Lauren Johnson & Georgina McAllister
Leg 4 Gilly Marshall

Plus top support from Juliane, who despite having to pull out came along to cheer us on, take photos, make tea and be generally wonderful.

Raymond finishing leg 1

Adam, ladies leg 1 runner!

Sadie & Jan, ladies leg 2 team

Des & Stuart, leg 2

A few of us had done recce runs in the weeks leading up to the race, but there were still nerves and last minute scrutinising of maps and routes. The race started at 10:00 and by 11:00 both sets of leg two runners were off. I was in leg 2 with Sadie and quickly found the CP I had missed in my recce, then watched as runners scattered like marbles out of the woods and headed towards West Lomond. It was tempting to follow runners in front but I was sure where we should be going so forged our own path to the hill. The men’s team leg 2 runners (Stuart and Des) caught us just as we reached the bottom of the hill and powered up and away. We took a more conservative pace on the climb, but flew down the other side, which felt almost vertical in parts, to bag ourselves a Strava crown! I was sure it would disappear as the faster runners uploaded their runs, but it’s still there this morning. Chuffed!

After a slightly technical descent into Drumdreel wood it was plain sailing along the forest paths to the finish, where Lauren and Gina were waiting to set off. Gina says she spent a little longer than hoped finding their second checkpoint, but they still flew into the finish in an impressive time. Then it was up to Gilly, who pointed out that she’d “never had to get up so early to run so late!” to bring the harriers ladies team home.

Duncan & Rob, leg 3

Gina & Lauren, leg 3

Gilly, leg 4

Julian, leg 4

Gilly was set off in a mass wave of leg 4 runners, which made us question the difficulty of processing results, but they were uploaded pretty quickly to Fife AC’s website soon after. Well done on an impressive event and seamless organisation, Fife AC!

The men’s team had finished about half an hour before us, with orienteer extraordinaire, Julian tackling the bonkers leg 4. This one involved picking off the checkpoints in any order, which saw runners heading off in all directions with their own optimum route in mind. Well done to Gilly and Julian for taking that one on.

After all harriers were safely returned to camp, there was much hilarity taking down the team tent. Probably a great cool down with lots of stretching!

Team tent packing!

I first did this race in 2013, my first ever trail/hill race and it totally converted me away from road running! It was so good to be back this year and the event has definitely improved. Hopefully we can get a few more teams in next year. It’s great fun and a fantastic day spent with the Scottish hill racing community.

Results:
The Peni-Pensioners, 43rd, 04:02:48
Penicuik Harriers – Ladies, 74th, 04:38:21

Full results here: https://www.fifeac.org/events/fife-ac-events/devils-burdens/1423-devils-burdens-2024.html

Posted in Race Reports | 1 Comment

Greenmantle Dash 2024 – Race Report

A record number of 124 runners and 19 juniors turned up to this year’s Greenmantle Dash – thanks everyone, all the happy and muddy faces made it a great day for us volunteers, too!

We were again treated to good weather, but the rain of the previous days had transformed the field into an epic mud bath (check the video on FB!). It was very impressive to see people running through that…

Congratulations to Eddie Narbett from Carnethy (15:39) and Pippa Carcas from Doss AC (19:75) for their wins. The Michael Greens trophy was awarded to Angus McClelland from HBT, who totally smashed the Fun Run with his remarkable hill running skills.

Watching the juniors enjoying the mud and burn – all of them with big smiles – was a highlight for all of us volunteers!

The record number of runners meant for a crowded Village Hall, as runners enjoyed their post-race soup and the home baking. We received a generous donation of £122 for Youth Vision and will increase that to £200. We were not expecting so many sign-ups on the day, if anyone was not able to get a finisher beer, please get in touch. The popularity of the race means that I just have to order double the amount of soup and beer for next year ?

Results for the main race will shortly be available at the SHR website, please check them as we are expecting some (hopefully minor) errors due to the bib number fiasco. Apparently, my German efficiency has suffered by living abroad for so long…

Keep an eye out on “Michael Philp Photos” FB page (https://en-gb.facebook.com/michaelphilpphotos/), who captured the race with his outstanding photography skills.

The race would not be possible without my many helpers from Penicuik Harriers and local support – thanks to volunteers from Broughton and everyone who came to watch the race and to landowners for giving us the permission to run it. Like last year, we supported local businesses: prizes were bought from Broughton Village Shop, Claire Wilson Art and Durty Brewing, and the soup was prepared by Penicuik Storehouse – I’ve heard it was delicious!

Juliane

Posted in Race Reports | 3 Comments

Penicuik Harriers November News

This month we celebrated some non-running success as club member Daniel Greens graduated with his Masters degree in History from Edinburgh University.  Congratulations Dan, great work there and obviously using running to manage the stress of studying!

Another success for the club as Tony Henry won senior male in the Scurry Events Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill 5k, great running with a time of under 23 minutes.  The muddy cross country fun continued with trips to Lauder and Peebles as part of the Borders series and we also ran the Edinburgh University Braids Hill race.

A few of our hardcore girls took part in the John Muir Nocturnal Ultra which consists of 6 hours of 5k loops under the cover of darkness.  As if the challenge of a daylight ultra wasn’t enough!  We also attended the Glen Ogle 33 Ultra and the Glentress, Water of Leith and Wooler half marathons – a much more civilised distance with a win for Angus Robertson in the MV50 category at Wooler.  Well done, Angus!

Our Tuesday speed session has now returned to Quotient as the travellers have moved on and we hope to remain there for the rest of the winter training season.

We are busy making preparations for hosting our next race – the Greenmantle Dash which takes place on 2nd January 2024 in Broughton.  This is a short fun filled race with a bit of everything thrown in so expect hills, walls, burn crossings, bog wading and fields!  Fancy dress is most welcome and hot soup is provided post race to help you warm up.  Entries are now open on SiEntries, please come along and join in the fun!

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, our training sessions are Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at Quotient) and Thursdays (alternate weeks of hill reps and group runs, both 6:30pm at Bellman’s Hill).  All sessions cover a wide range of pace/ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance.  Please contact secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk for more information.  You can also find our club website and Facebook page online.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

Penicuik Harriers October News

A fun month for the club as cross country season begins (mud mud mud!) and the wackiest race ever took place – the Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra with 38 miles of bats, dinosaurs, unicorns and a play park thrown in for good measure!!  As always this race was well attended by club members in both running and marshalling capacities – head over to our website or Facebook page for some great photos.  A special mention goes to Adam Gray who finished in first place, very proud of our boy!

A few more huge achievements for the club with Angus Robertson and Susie Maxwell running the 31 mile Bennachie Ultra Marathon (BUM) and placing 1st and 4th respectively in their age categories.  Michelle Young placed 3rd female at the 50 mile Ochil Ultra and Steve Watson ran the Run for All Yorkshire marathon in under 4 hours in the M65 category.  Great running from these guys!

At the other end of the spectrum in 5k news, we met up with some Jog Scotland members for a run around Penicuik Estate and Sarah Burthe completed her 50th parkrun at Hay Lodge Park in Peebles.  Anne Watson and David Brownlee joined the 100th parkrun club, big achievements can come in bite size chunks!

We took part in an unofficial Pentlands Skyline run as the official event was unable to go ahead this year due to difficulty with access permissions from the land owners.  A few members also attended the Glen Clova Extreme Duathlon, taking on a 21k cycle and 5k run in the wettest conditions (well it is Scotland in October!).

Our Tuesday speed session has temporarily moved to Cornbank Park due to the presence of travellers at Quotient making it unsuitable for training.  We will return when we can and thank the Cornbank residents for accommodating us meantime.

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, our training sessions are Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at Cornbank Park) and Thursdays (alternate weeks of hill reps and group runs, both 6:30pm at Bellman’s Hill).  All sessions cover a wide range of pace / ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance.  Please contact secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk for more information.  You can also find our club website and Facebook page online.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

Penicuik Harriers September News

The ultra madness continues with two of our members vying for top spot this month!

First up is Mark Dawson who completed the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc TDS Race from Courmayour in Italy to Chamonix in France. Mark ran 95 miles with 30,512 feet of ascent in 43hrs 55mins – 15 minutes inside the cut off time for this race which has a 40% drop out rate due to the extreme nature of the course and tight cut off times.  An absolutely awesome achievement for Mark and a tense wait for us when it was so close!  You can read the full race report and see some amazing photographs here.

Next is Gilly Marshall who took on the Dragon’s Back 6 day race through the Welsh mountains, running for 65 hours over the course of the event. This took place during September’s heatwave with temperatures dangerously high and runners being evacuated from the course with heatstroke. We’re very glad our girl stayed safe while still turning in a very impressive performance! Read about Gilly’s adventure here.

Jan Dawson took on the Ben Nevis hill race, making it up and down the 4,400 feet of this iconic mountain in 3hrs 15mins. Amazing running when the average walking time for this is 7-8 hours and the race is described as the most daunting hill race in Scotland with the roughest, toughest descent. Well done Jan!

We also attended many other “sensible” races in September, including the Great North Run, Dalmeny Estate Trail Half Marathon, the Scottish Half Marathon, Auchterarder Running Festival, Peebles Duathlon, Woodchester Park Trail 8M, Stirling 10k and various smaller hill races.

Our weekly training sessions have now moved to our winter venues with details given below. The Thursday session is now a fortnightly mix of hill reps one week and group runs the next. The group run can be easy paced social or faster paced tempo runs as decided by members on the night.  We also have a Couch to 5k session on a Wednesday evening at 6:30pm leaving from the horse sculptures at the Vet School. This is aimed at new members or existing members returning to training after injury.

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, our training sessions are Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at Quotient) and Thursdays (alternate weeks of hill reps and group runs, both 6:30pm at Bellman’s Hill).  All sessions cover a wide range of pace / ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance.

Please contact secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk for more information. You can also find our club website and Facebook page online.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

Dragons Back Race

This is more of a tool for me to process all the events of my week rather than a race report but you might find it interesting and if anyone has any plans to do this in the future it might be helpful, although hopefully you won’t have a heat wave so you won’t need any of this ?

Registration
After being on the volunteer team last year, I saw how beautiful Conwy was and persuaded Alan to come down with me for the weekend before the race start. We stayed in a B&B which was right opposite the registration area, which was even closer than I initially thought so a really good spot, the majority of the other guests were also would be Dragons. We had a wander round the town on Saturday afternoon and evening in the sunshine. It was lovely weather for a holiday! On Sunday, I registered early, had my kit checked and handed over my dry bags, which was a relief as I had packed and repacked them numerous times over the last few weeks and I knew as long as I had them, I would keep re-arranging them. There are strict rules for your dry bags and they must be particular Ortileb models and the Camp bag no more than 15kg and the support bag no more than 2.5kg. My camp bag was under weight – phew, but my support bag was overweight. I had to make a few last minute decisions about what I would ditch and what I could transfer over to my camp bag. I was glad I decided to do this now as I did not need that stress at 5am on race morning. After a wander round the castle walls and a quiet afternoon, race briefing was at 6pm – I don’t think I have ever felt such a feeling of imposter syndrome, everyone looked so fit and toned and strong. There were a few professional athletes – looking very professional! I was a bit subdued after this but Alan soon talked some sense and confidence into me as we went for fish and chips. It was an early night but I am not sure I slept very well thinking of what awaited me.



Day 1 – Conwy Castle to Nant Gwynant
I was feeling incredibly nervous and sick, I queued for the toilet about 3 times and although we were meant to be in the castle walls by 5.30am I was still hanging around at 5.40am. Eventually I could put it off no longer and Alan and I made our way in, through the gift shop, across the bridge and up the zig zagging path to the Castle entrance, here we split. Competitors into the ground floor of the castle, and supporters high on the castle battlements looking down on us. It truly is one of the most magical race starts I have ever experienced – a medieval castle, male welsh choir singing, dawn breaking and the supporters looking down on us surrounded by all the different nationalities flags fluttering in the wind. The choir stopped singing, we were given our briefing and then we were off. I hung back so I was one of the last ones out of the castle, down the zig zagging path, across the bridge, through the gift shop (how many races do you get to run through a gift shop) and onto the castle walls. We ran along the castle walls until we reached the far end of town and then dropped down onto the road and out of Conwy into the mountains.


I spent the beginning of the race taking it easy but slowly passing and picking off other runners. I checked off the first couple of checkpoints, they are little flags like you get in orienteering and you have to touch them to be recorded. If you miss more than three over the course of the week you are no longer able to be competitive and if it is deemed that you have gained an advantage by missing them, you get time penalties. As we came to the 2nd or 3rd checkpoint of the day I heard accordion music and thought it must have been a local come up to cheer us on and play music, but it turned out to be Carmine who ran the whole event with an accordion on his back and played it at the top of every hill! I was mindful of my time but I was doing well, the sun was climbing and it was getting warmer but I felt good, well within the time limits and still passing people. At about 20k we started our steep descent towards the Ogwen Valley it was getting so hot, I really had to concentrate as it was rocky and not something I could move fast over, I was glad I had spent a day running around on the Cobbler as there were sections that felt very similar to that. There are not always obvious paths so if you have not recced the route you don’t know the best lines to go and can get deeper into bogs or onto a sharper rockier descent. All the time as we got lower down the heat was increasing. When I came to the bottom of the descent there was a short road section, the heat was incredible down here. I was too hot to run along the road and just walked. The reservoir that we were passing looked incredibly inviting. I came into the support point which was set up in a car park at the bottom of Tryfan with gazebos for cover and lots of chairs. There are 2 main points to each day, the support point and the water point. At the support point you are given your support bag which you have packed and has whatever you may want at more or less the half way point of each day, more food, a change of clothes, socks, shoes. The race does not provide you with anything apart from water during the day – so anything you want you have to pack it. It was a lovely feeling coming into the support point as there were lots of familiar faces from people I had met the year before when I was a volunteer, who were back to volunteer again this year. It really did make a difference to see some friendly faces as I had gone down on my own not knowing anyone. I was well ahead of the cut off at the support point so sat down in the shade, ate some food, changed my socks, fixed my feet and tried to cool down a little. The event staff had collected buckets of water from the reservoir for you to dunk your head/buff/hat so I soaked my buff and headed off up Tryfan. As I left the checkpoint there was still about 45 mins to cut off so I felt relaxed and thought I was making good time. However, as I started to climb Tryfan the heat seemed to multiply tenfold. It was so hot, I was moving so slowly. I had recced this section in May so I knew what was to come, I knew it was steep and there was scrambling at the top but it was not so bad, today was a very different story. Every step was laboured and I had to keep stopping to get my breath. There was no wind, the sun was like a furnace and the heat was radiating back off the rocks. As slow as I was moving – no one was moving fast, the whole hillside felt like it was in some sort of time glitch, no one ahead or behind me was moving any faster and it was just a total slog to make it up to the top. As I climbed I passed some runners who were just sat at the side of the path, they said they were okay or it was just cramp and I continued on my way. As I scrambled up to the very top I thought I had reached the checkpoint as there were 4 or 5 people sat down in a shaded corner, however it was not the checkpoint they were just sheltering from the sun and after a hello I carried on scrambling until I located the checkpoint. I looked at my cribsheet of times and could not believe I was only about 5 mins off the advised time, what on earth had happened! I was so far ahead and now I was chasing cut offs already.


The next section is a rocky, bouldering, scrambling section across the top of Tryfan towards the Glyders. There were some climbers up here enjoying the sun, bare chested with helmets jumping across the rocks making it look very easy, but I was on 3 points of contact trying to manoeuvre across and down. The climb up to the Glyders is a scree filled hillside and it is tricky to climb without sliding back down or sending a rockfall onto the runners below. I reached the top but although you are on flatter ground, it is not easy ground to negotiate with large rocks scattered around and boulder fields to clamber over and one section looks like something in a science fiction novel with huge angular rocks stretching far into the sky like fingers. We passed another runner who was flat out and had one of the hill crew with him, they were calling for help on the radio and saying he would need evacuated out. I was with a little group of runners and we stopped and asked if we could help or if there was anything we could do, but we were sent on our way. I knew I had another steep tricky descent to the water point and cut off was at 16.40. I had about 20 minutes to descend and I decided to go for it. I ran as fast and hard as I could down the hill but it is not a smooth runnable hill and I kept going over my ankle or twisting my knee so would have to slow down and take it easy for a bit and then try and pick it up again. I was desperately trying to remember the line I had taken when I had done the recce and which way we had been advised to go to miss the bogs, but I ran straight into them. I could see the Pen Y Pass car park and Youth Hostel from where I was which is where the cut off was and realised that I was not going to make it. It was tantalisingly close but I knew it was out of reach. I still wanted to get there as quickly as I could but as I descended the temperature was just increasing and my extra exertion in trying to run fast down the hill increased my body temperature and I could feel my breathing turn into panting. I arrived in the checkpoint 10 minutes past the cut off and that was that. My race was over. I could not believe I had timed out already – I had not even gone over Crib Goch or the Snowden horseshoe. Caz and Sy who were at the water point were lovely and gave me a big hug, told me to sit down in the shade and that the youth hostel had cold juice and ice lollys and to go and get some, so thats what I did. As I sat and ate my ice cream the checkpoint filled up with more and more runners who had also missed the checkpoint. A minibus came and collected us and took us back to camp which was just a 10 minute drive. It was not the way I wanted to enter camp for the first time.
Once in camp, we went through the finish funnel, had our numbers scanned and were asked if we were going home or staying on as a hatchling.


The hatchling is a way to keep timed out or injured runners within the event, it has always been there but this year it was official and you would be awarded a hatchling trophy at the end of the week instead of a dragon if you stayed on course. I chose to go onto the hatchling course, my aim was to get to Cardiff and if took the hatchling to get there, then that is what I would do.

I was shown to my tent that would be home for the week, I was in tent number 2 and there were already 2 of my tent mates there, they had been timed out at the support point earlier in the day. The big blue tents are famous at Dragons Back and each tent sleeps 8 people in 4 pods. Our camp bags were already in here so I pulled out my mat and sleeping bag and then set about heading to the marquees to get something to eat and head down to the river to have a wash. Each camp is always set up by a river or a stream and these are the only washing facilities while you are away.



I prepared my hill pack with food and set out my clothes for the next day and then sat in the communal tent eating and chatting to other competitors. It was obvious there were a lot of people who had been timed out or had succome to the heat in one way or another.

As night went on, our remaining tent mates returned from their race day, some late into the night.


Day 2 – Nant Gwynant to Dolgellau
I had to inform the Info Team which hatchling course I was deciding to do the night before, I had chosen the morning section as it had the longer distance and most elevation.
Ourea Events had also decided that in light of the heat and the effect on the runners on the first day that now there would be an additional half hour given at the support point. Normally this event is renowned for its strict cut off times and you have to be through and out the checkpoint by the cut off time. However because of the weather you now just had to be in the check point by the cut off time and you had an additional half an hour to cool down, rehydryate and eat before leaving the checkpoint. The cut off time at the end of the day had also been extended to 10.30pm. The extra half hour would not be added to your time overall.

Our tent was awake by around 4am with everyone getting dressed, taping feet and preparing for the day ahead, as 5 of my tent mates were still on the full course, I let them get ready before I started getting prepared myself. Once ready, I had breakfast – there is so much food available but I found it hard eating so early in the morning, but was aware that I needed to fuel as much as I could. I went through kit check – you need to have a kit check each morning where you are asked for 3 random things from the mandatory kit list, handed over my camp and support bag and made my way to the start line.


The course opens at 6am every morning, the majority of runners try to leave at this time so you have the most time on course. The faster runners are told that they cannot leave before 7am or 8am so they don’t arrive at checkpoints/support points before they are set up and to give the camp team time to collapse camp, move on and set up the next nights camp.

I left around 6.15 and ran out of camp, the first few miles were on road before turning off onto some farmland and then climbing Cnicht, it was still hot but today was windier and I enjoyed the wind and the cooling effect it had. I had such a negative mind set, not something I have really experienced before and although moving well and keeping up with the pack I was beset with thoughts of being a rubbish runner and not good enough and why was I even on this journey. I was running on my own and in a real dark cloud of my own making.

 

After Cnicht I experienced the famous bum slide down the hillside and spent the rest of the day picking grass and heather out my shorts. There was a steep out and back to the top of Moelwyn Bach and I reached the trig point at the same time as some of the lead runners, they disappeared out of sight quickly while I negotiated the steep, rocky slopes. The descent led to a path that was head high with ferns and broken walls down towards a railway track but as we got lower, the sun got hotter and all the wind we had had higher up completely left us. I was having to walk as I was so hot and trying to pick my way over the ground. We ran a short section along the Ffestiniog Railway and had the people from the steam train waving at us as we ran past. The water point is always a high point as you get so much support from the volunteers and they were always dressed up with costumes and wigs, it was always fun seeing what todays outfit was.


After leaving the water point, we snaked along the valley and then up to open hillside, the heat was building again, and the runners I had been with earlier had spread out. I was walking a bit and following my map, trying to stay on route. Another runner joined me and we navigated together. It was incredibly hot and the bogs that we were walking through were the only thing that was keeping us cool. I noticed that the runner I was with was getting quiet and seemed to be struggling a bit, it turned out his hat had blown away in the high winds earlier in the morning and he had no protection for his head, he was running out of water and was feeling severely dehydrated and unwell. I kept with him and told him we had another few kms until the support point, there was no shade but nothing else to do but keep moving. I gave him my visor and although it did nothing for the top of his head, at least it kept some sun off his face. My tent mate came past and I told her the situation and she ran on ahead to let the support point know that we were coming in and that we might need medical assistance. It seemed to take an age to get down to the support point, but as we did the medics swooped into action and took him away into the shade and got him to lie down and doused him in water and made sure he was drinking. Relieved we had made it I sat down, ate and waited for the minibus to take us back to camp.

Back at camp our tent hatchling count had increased as one of my tent mates had missed the cut off at the support point. Our tent now had 7 occupants, 1 had gone home with an injury, 3 of us were on the hatchling and 4 still on the full dragon.

Camp Admin is so important and the one thing I had drummed into me prior to the event, I was starting to get my routine sorted, I had a recovery shake, sorted my hill pack, food and clothes for the next day, made my bed up for evening, jumped in the river and had something to eat. The river today was wonderful and we all lay about it in for about 40 minutes, this is a luxury you do not have unless you are one of the very fastest runners – or on the hatchling course.

Day 3 – Dolgellau to Ceredigion
Again I had chosen to do the first section, it catches the coolest part of the day as well as again being the longer section with most elevation. I was getting into a routine now and was up early, just after the full dragons in my tent, my feet had taken quite a battering the first couple of days and I had bad blisters that I had tried to pop and dress. As part of the compulsory kit you need to have a big blister kit and I honestly did not really think I would use it, it turned out I nearly ran it dry over the course of the week. My feet had only just recovered from Lakeland 100, they were quite tender and some of the blisters were in exactly the same place as I had them previously. I don’t think I had done myself any favours as the skin was new and fragile and did not like this new abuse I was putting them under. I changed my shoes to my Altras thinking they had a bit more cushioning and would switch up the hot spots. I had got some advice from the medical tent the night before about taping so was trying some new techniques.



I started running at about 6.10, oh and it was my birthday today too! The first few miles were sore underfoot, before long we started climbing and I could see Cadar Idris in the distance. I was trying to keep my feet dry for as long as possible as I had put moleskin on my feet however there was not much chance of this as the lower slopes were boggy and my feet got wet pretty quickly. I had to sit down shortly after the first checkpoint and try and sort my feet out, once done I started running again but minus some of the padding I had started with. I absolutely loved Cadar Idris, after the harsh rocky landscape of the first couple of days. A few people said that all their recces up here the weather had been awful and there had been no views but today the views were incredible and you could see for miles, I was having such a lovely time. There was a long steep descent down to checkpoint 5 and the water point, it was so incredibly hot. We stopped at the few water sources on the way down and dunked hats, buffs, heads under and into the water and as we got into the valley it was stifling. I got into the water stop well before the cut off and filled up my water again, each day I was carrying around 2.5 – 3 litres, 1.5/2 litres in my bladder and 2 x 500m in my front water bottles, I was drinking it all and refilling completely at the water stops. I don’t think I have ever drunk so much, I am normally lucky to drink only one of my bottles, it was a real sign of just how hot it was, but it is also incredibly heavy carrying all this water along with your mandatory kit.

After refilling all my water I set off again, there were a few steep inclines and then a road section, after leaving the road the path headed up, it was a track with open hillside on either side – and absolutely no shade and so still. I was leap frogging with a runner who was still on the full dragon course and we chatted and pulled away from each other then caught up had another chat and pulled away again. There were a couple of little streams that cut across the path and we stopped at every one soaking our hats and buffs and pouring water over our heads and neck. We were moving pretty slowly and after a bit came to a larger river, another runner who knew the area shouted that this would be our last water source so to make the most of it and he took off his pack and lay down completely in the river, water flowing right over the top of him. He lay there for a few minutes, jumped up put his pack back on and said make sure you get in. Both myself and Mark who I was leapfrogging had quite bad blisters on our feet and we did not want to completely submerge ourselves and make our feet worse.

 

I soaked myself as much as possible and started moving onwards. In the distance we could see a steep hillside that looked like it had little trees on it, but we soon realised they were not trees, they were people and that we would soon be one of those little bent over figures moving incredibly slowly up the very steep hill. After summiting this hill, I waited for Mark to see that he was okay as I could see he was struggling, he soon made it to the top, both of us complaining about how incredibly hot it was and then continued running. I decided to stop and phone Alan as I had not spoken to him that day and I had a phone signal. After chatting to Alan for a bit I began running again and before long came across my leapfrog buddy. We had just passed a couple of other runners who had been sitting on the crest of a little hill and they followed on behind us. Mark started staggering and was caught by the two German runners we had just passed. We sat him down and I got my waterproof out and held it above him trying to create some shade while one of the German runners asked Mark lots of questions about how he was feeling, got him to drink some water and gave him a bit of a time out. Luckily it turned out he was ex-army and red cross so knew what he was doing. After a while we all started moving again, but very slowly. Another couple of runners came up behind us knew the route, they said that there was a lovely cool shady woodland shortly but to get there as quickly as possible we needed to miss out the next checkpoint which was just an out and back up a big hill. Now in the shade, Mark was starting to feel a bit better but as we moved through the woods, suddenly one of the German runners who had helped us started feeling unwell and was wretching and being sick. We all sat down again giving everyone a chance to recover, it turned out that both of the German runners has been feeling unwell when we came across them, but a collapsing runner trumped the nausea they had been feeling. We started moving again down the hill, we were about 4/5kms from the support point and we realised we would never make the cut offs now. As we rounded a corner, Kieran, one of the runners that had been with us earlier was sitting with another runner at the side of the path, this poor runner had woken up in a bush after falling unconscious while running down the hill, he was so lucky he was on more benign ground than we had been on earlier. We all sat down beside this new casualty who had luckily managed to pick himself up, although he did not know how long he had been out for, and got himself into some shade by the main path. There were more phone calls made to race control and medics were despatched to help this fallen runner. There were now 6 of us, 4 ill runners, myself and Kieran. After sitting with the runners for about 10 minutes Kieran and I knew that we needed to get going, the unwell runners were now starting to recover, we made sure they all had lots of water and the medics were on their way to look after them. The would drive as far as they could and walk the last section and these runners would get driven back to camp – but we knew that we would not be collected and still needed to get to the support point.

It was a long walk to the next checkpoint and we passed the medics on the way up as we made our way down. The Support Point was in the village of Machynlleth and we eventually arrived after the checkpoint had closed. My feet were so sore, I think walking is actually more painful than running, I could feel the sores and blisters and I had some new hot spots that I knew would need attention. I could not wait to take my shoes off.
We were bussed back to camp and as we were scanned in, I saw a big sign saying happy birthday and then the start/finish team all started signing me happy birthday. This was not a birthday I was going to forget in a hurry!



Our tent had another hatchling tonight, another one of our tentmates was timed out so we were now 3 dragons and 4 hatchlings.

Day 4 – Fagwr Fawr to Rhandirmwyn
Again I chose to run the first part of the day, when I originally signed up for this race, I thought that I would be going for the full Dragon, and if I got timed out, I would still try and run full days. Things were not panning out this way, the heat was really affecting me and each day I was only running the half day, although I had set off the previous days with an idea in the back of my head that if I reached the support point in time, I still had the option to do the full day.

My morning followed the now usual routine, I had another taping technique for my feet, the change of shoes had helped the blisters and my new skills with K tape were showing. I had a couple of sores that were causing me issues but I was managing to get on with it.

I left camp at around 6.30, my latest time yet and the extra time showed as I had very few runners around me to begin with. There was a big climb out of camp and then a boggy traverse before the woods of death! I had seen a couple of photos of these woods from recces but I could not remember where they were, I soon found out. The descent was so steep and muddy and slidey with a bit of a drop at one point that I was concerned I would go over the edge, the trees also had lots of broken branches just at face height, as I got to a really tricky bit all the speedy and front runners came by. I tried really had to get off the path, but there was just nowhere to go. I watched how they negotiated the slopes and mud and fallen trees and when there was a gap tried to match what they had done, but not very successfully! This day was lovely, it was cloudier and a bit of wind and I was running well despite my feet, we had tussocks and bogs and lots of grassy trods, I was gaining on and passing lots of other runners. I don’t think they enjoyed the terrain as much as I did. We ran through a wind farm and some country roads and more moorland, I ran and walked and chatted with friends and ticked off the checkpoints. As I got into the Support point, we sat down and had some water and food, there was still a long time to the cut off. The full dragons were getting big cheers as they went back out onto the course and I was annoyed with myself. Today had not been as hot, I had got into the half day mindset and if I had set of earlier, taken food supplies to last a whole day this could have been the day I got my full day in.



When we returned to camp there was lots of activity, and we were told there would be an announcement coming soon. Shane appeared and told us that the next day was forecast to 28/29 degrees, this was the day we were going over the Brecon Beacons. Due to the excessive temperatures – apparently we were now in an official heatwave – there were going to be multiple options for the following day. As well as the usual options of starting at camp and running to the support point, starting at the support point and running to the finish, there would be 2 additional options. You could start at the water point which would be a shorter day still on the 2nd half of the Brecon Beacons, or you could skip the day completely. If you chose that option you would no longer be eligible for either the Hatchling or the Dragon, but you would be transported to the next days camp – which is completely unheard of for this race, normally if you don’t run then you get dropped at the bus stop and have to make your own way home! It really must have been extreme temperatures forecast. For the full course they also brought in another half hour rest this time at the water point which meant that the course closure time was now 11pm.


I was really torn, I knew the first section, although it would be cool to begin with, was on a lot of roads and did not really appeal to me. The 2nd section would be over the majority of the Brecon Beacons but would be ridiculously hot and I really didn’t know how I would cope and the third choice would be much shorter, but you would still get to go over the main points of the Brecon Beacons. Myself and a couple of friends chose option 3. I had the intention to do the short route on day 5 so I could do the full day on day 6. This would give my feet a chance to recover a bit too.

Day 5 – Into Bannau Brycheiniog National Park
I woke up feeling a complete fraud, why on earth was I picking the shortest route? I had entered this race to test myself and so far I had not done a single full day and now I was opting for the shortest choice. I had quite a lot of negative headspace that morning and was really questioning myself. As we were starting at the furthest point, we were bussed to Llandovery where we would spend a couple of hours before being picked up and taken to Pont ar Daf where we were allowed to start running at 1pm. We hung around Llandovery and watched runners doing the full day running through the village – It did not make me feel any better, the whole time we were waiting, I was berating myself for chosing the easy option. Eventually we were taken to the water point and were allowed to start running. It…was…so….hot! I struggled with the first climb, any slight spot of wind, I stood and let it cool my body. I was really pleased to be with 2 friends and it made the day so much more enjoyable, we took photos and marvelled at all the people who did not look like walkers who had chosen to come here at the hottest part of the day under their own violition. There were a lot of very white bodies that I am sure were quite a very different colour that night. Bannau Brycheiniog was beautiful and I was starting to give myself a break that I had made the right choice. It was incredibly hot, we were not doing much running and we were having such a great day out. As we returned to camp there was the usual steep descent but there was beautiful waterfall and river that ran alongside the path, we dunked ourselves in and for the rest of the descent, we passed crew members who were off duty all splashing around and making the most of the river. I had been using lots of sun screen but my skin was sore, as I looked at it I realised I had the most horrific heat rash my arms and legs were swollen with a really angry rash and the rash extended to areas that had been covered by clothing too. When we got back into camp, I went to my tent and lay down – everyone else was still out on the course and I had the tent to myself, I could feel my body starting to shake. I headed to the medical tent and they took me in and checked me over, I got some antihistamine tablets and had my temperature checked. It was a bit elevated, but I was going to go and lie in the river for a bit and try and cool my skin so they said that was a good idea but I was to come back after I had been in the river so they could check my temperature to make sure it was coming down.

.

After about 45 minutes sitting in the river my skin was starting to look a bit better so I got dressed and went back to the medical tent and although still with a bit of a high temperature it was going in the right direction so with a warning to go back to them if I started to feel unwell I went to the mess tent and had something to eat and chill out for the evening.

I had to make a decision about day 6 though – I had planned to run the whole day but we were now being told it could be the hottest day yet, I was not feeling great after my short day being cooked on the Brecon Beacons and I was unsure how my body would feel in the morning. If I chose to run the whole day and got timed out for any reason or was unable to make the checkpoints then I would be out the race – that was it – no Cardiff, no hatchling. I did not want to come this far and then not get my hatchling on the last day. After chatting with my tentmate I chose to run the shorter day.

Day 6 – To Cardiff Castle!
I woke up after having a rough nights sleep and thought that it was good I was doing the shorter day, however after eating breakfast and getting prepared, I was feeling better and having second thoughts, however it was now too late to change my mind as it was nearly 7 and I had missed my window to start running. We got ready and waited for our transport. The camp was on a narrow road which was too tight for coaches so we were driven in a fleet of minibuses to the nearest town where we waited for the coach. Unfortunately the coach was about an hour late, as I sat and waited I ruminated on my choices. Eventually we were on our way and when we arrived at the support point and waited to run, the heat was intense. We were ushered out and started our final run to Cardiff, after running along a cycle path we soon moved through a town and up out on a moor road, there was a bit of a climb but when we reached the top there were some lovely views to all the surrounding countryside except there was rubbish everywhere. It must be a favourite spot to drive, park up and eat fast food/drink alcohol and then chuck all the contents out your window. There were cans and bottles everywhere. It was really quite sad and disheartening especially after running through all the pristine beautiful Welsh countryside over the week to be met with this. I was saying this to another runner, Andy who agreed with me and said he wished he had a bag to collect it and then we spotted a Tesco bag for life that had also been dumped. Andy picked up the bag and we ran along together picking up cans and wrappers and boxes and putting it in our bag until it was full, we ran together passing the bag between us like a baton for quite a few miles until we reached the water point where we disposed of it beside the race rubbish. The water point was at a pub and it was glorious! There were ice creams being given out and runners were going into the pub and getting pints of beer and cider and juice. The pub was also selling filled rolls and crisps and there was a lovely outdoor covered area that had a nice breeze so we sat down. I enjoyed my pint of fresh orange and lemonade with tons of ice and packet of crisps, it was so refreshing and so much better than the electrolytes I had been drinking all week. We were soon on the move again and back on the tarmac and the final 10 miles to Cardiff.

The route followed the Taff Trail which snaked alongside a river and had lots of lovely trees to shade us, I was running on my own now and as we got closer to Cardiff the number of people increased, there were lots of bikes whizzing past with nearly everyone shouting encouragement and telling me I was nearly there. Some of the trail made me feel a little bit nervous, I was alone but it was light and I was glad I was not running along there when it was getting dark – there were gangs of kids smoking joints and some shouting comments that were not entirely encouraging! One group had gone past me a couple of times really close on an electric bike and the next I saw they were dragging it down an embankment towards a weir – I fear the bike never made it back out. The trail opened up into a big park with lots of people sitting around having picnics and kids playing. A familiar voice shouted behind me and I turned to see Megan who I had been running with earlier in the week come by. She was on a roll and I told her she was running faster than me, to keep going and go for it. There was a bit of confusion with all the paths in the park and Megan and a couple of other runners missed the turn, I shouted and they came back. We found the correct path, saw the Castle walls, had a sharp right turn and suddenly we were running over the drawbridge into the grounds of Cardiff Castle with people cheering along the finish straight and our names being announced on the loud speaker and we were over the line. I was so glad Megan was there, it was good to have someone I knew at the finish line. We hugged and cried, I don’t think I have ever had so many emotions crossing a finish line before. Relief, happiness, pain, disappointment, exhaustion, sadness that my journey was over.



We felt a bit lost as we crossed the line, what now? There were so many people around and we did not know where we were meant to be going. We collapsed on the grass and Megan called her mum and I called Alan. After our calls, we went to the bar and got a pint of beer each and lay on the grass in a bit of a haze.

It’s been a strange journey that I feel like I am still processing. I had the most amazing time and met some fabulous people, I had great tent mates and doing the hatchling meant I got to spend more time in camp so really got to appreciate camp life, chatting to others, eating at leisure, spending time in the rivers which were like an outside spa. I got to enjoy my runs in daylight and got to nail my camp admin. However, I did not run the race I thought I would be running, despite the heat or maybe because of the heat I don’t feel I got to test myself in the way I anticipated, I did not manage to run a full day. I think the thing that sums it up was when talking to someone I had volunteered with previously who had run this year, although she never managed to get her Dragon and was still officially a hatchling like me, she said she was not disappointed as she could not have given it any more. I can’t say that and that is the thing that is eating away at me.

The flip side is that I looked after myself. I did not succome to heat stroke or collapse, I understand how my body works and I kept within my limitations. The day I ran the shortest route and ended up with swollen limbs and heat rash is testament to my knowledge on how bad I am in very hot sunny conditions and how I made the correct decision for me no matter how rubbish I felt mentally. I helped other people who were not feeling well and were suffering and I made sure that they were safe and were able to get off the hills to receive medical help. A persons safety is more important than a race and I would never change the decisions I made on the hills to stop and look after people.

So what’s next? I don’t actually know. I think I have some more processing to do.

Stats!
Day 1 23.17 miles – 9,232 ft – 10hrs 53min
Day 2 23.54 miles – 7,313 ft – 9hrs 37min
Day 3 27.74 miles – 7,363 ft – 11hrs 43min
Day 4 20.44 miles – 3,770 ft – 7hrs 15min
Day 5 10.26 miles – 2,703ft – 4hrs 30min
Day 6 20.10 miles – 1,936ft – 5hrs 10min

Total distance 125.28 miles – 32,316ft – 41 hours 7 mins

297 starters
87 Dragons completed the full event (29%)
134 Hatchlings (45%)
The rest of the field never made it to Cardiff

Posted in Race Reports | 3 Comments

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc TDS race

Ultra Trail Mont Blanc TDS Race 2023.
From Courmayour in Italy to Chamonix in France.
Normally 145km (90 miles) but extended with bad weather route to 153km (95 miles).
9,300 metres ascent (30,512 feet).
Finishing time: 43 hours 55 minutes and 52 seconds.
Runners: 1649. DNFs: 651. Finishers: 998.

There’s quite a lot to organise before heading to Chamonix, accommodation being the main priority as it’s a very expensive town, and if you’re not quick, affordable places will be impossible to find. I ran the TDS race last year and the CCC in 2019, so knew I had to get things booked quickly. Even with this I missed out on getting the Chamonix Lodge hostel I stayed in last year. I was however just in time to get one of the last beds in Chalet-Gite Chamoniard Volant Hostel. This was a big relief as you can cook your own meals in these hostels and they are very friendly with lots of good chat with runners and travellers from all around the word.

I had great weather for the CCC in 2019 and managed to finish. It was the stunning Alpine views that made me come back for more. The reason I went back to run the TDS is because I had a DNF last year. It was a combination of it being 31 degrees during the day, and the forecast for it to be even hotter the next day. I also felt nauseous two thirds of the way round at 2:00am in the woods before check point 7 at Beaufort. I had my first hallucination while running there on the second night. When somebody is running behind you in the dark with a stronger head torch, you see your silhouette in front of you. This particular time I also saw silhouettes of dragons, one on each of my shoulders! There were runners resting looking scorched in the mid day sun up the mountains earlier in the day, and I didn’t want to be in that state in the middle of nowhere with no bus transport back. I had given it a good shot and had covered 100K out of the 145K and around 6,000 metres ascent out of the 9,100 metres (Normal route, bad weather route is longer and a bit more elevation). I thought it safer to take the bus back to Chamonix from the main check point at Beaufort.

My flight out from Edinburgh was a very early 7:00am, so I had to be there for 5:00am to get through security etc. I didn’t sleep too great through the week, so I was quite tired when I arrived in Chamonix. I had booked Mountain Drop Offs to take me in a shared mini van from Geneva airport to my accommodation. This worked like clockwork. A brilliant firm I’d highly recommend.

I arrived on the Sunday, which gave me time to go down to the event village and pick up my race bib that was booked between 2:00 and 4:00. My running bag was that big they didn’t do a kit check. I found from previous races I just can’t fit what I need in a small running vest without it bursting at the seams, I’m much better running with a bigger running pack I can get access to everything quickly. This worked well for me at the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 100K race earlier in the summer, so I was okay with this.

Chalet-Gite Chamoniard Volant Hostel was a lot more basic than Chamonix Lodge that I stayed in last year. It didn’t have the USB ports for charging my phone, I just expected them to have this as Chamonix Lodge had them in your room. I looked round Chamonix for a French adapter when I went into town for water, but had no luck finding one. I had taken two battery charger packs, so wasn’t too worried about having no phone battery on the trails.

I was sharing the room with an Indian guy, an Australian girl and a guy I’m not sure where he was from as he didn’t speak English, he was in the bunk below. I tried to get an early night to top up my sleep before the race, but knew this would be a challenge in a hostel. I however did expect to get some sleep with ear plugs during the night. Unfortunately the guy in the bunk below kept juddering the bed throughout the hole night, waking me up about three times, I eventually realised I was going to get next to no sleep before a mountain race involving running through two nights! I did eventually ask the guy to stop shaking the bed, but it was too late for proper sleep by then. I headed down to have my porridge in the kitchen dinning room area. I felt even more tired than I did before going to bed the previous night. I was worried this could result in a DNF through not being able to stay awake on the run. I spoke with a Swedish guy who said there was a lot of snoring in his dorm, but as he was the closest to the guy snoring he said, it was his responsibility to wake him and tell him to stop snoring. I then felt very British about me just putting up with the guy juddering the bed all night long.

The race was to start at 23:50 on Monday, so I had a lot of time to spare. I had to go back into town for more water as the hostel water was disgusting. It was a pity the UTMB village wasn’t up and running yet, they were still constructing it. It was all set up by this time last year. I took a long walk down to the car park where I would get my booked bus to the start line in Courmayour. I wanted to know how long it would take me to walk down there that evening. I didn’t hang around after as I wanted to at least rest my legs before the race in bed.

I headed down for my booked time of 21:45 for the bus. There had been a landslide on a major road in the area which resulted in extra traffic being diverted through the main road to Courmayour. UTMB buses had priority but it still held things up. This caused a long wait at the start line. We put our drop bags in for the main Beaufort check point pick up on arrival at Courmayour. It was quite the festival atmosphere at the start, but it soon became quite a drag as we waited about an hour past the official start time. After sitting on the road for ages, the time had finally come to start heading off.

It’s quite chaotic at the start as everybody tries to make good time early on to avoid the bottlenecks before the first couple of check points. The locals and runners’ friends and family were all out cheering us on and it’s quite an experience, especially at night with it now being almost 1:00am. I got quite a fright when a woman came running back the way she had come! I had to put my arms out to avoid a full collision. She must have dropped something? A suicidal decision when everybody is moving quite quickly and so tightly packed through the little streets.

I was quite pleased with my pace, not fast but a bit better than last year I thought, and I didn’t feel too tired from lack of sleep. It took a while to get out of town and then we were right into a big climb up to the first check point at Checrouit – Maison Vieille. The cold weather running kit had been made mandatory the day before the race, so I had started the race in my running tights and full waterproof jacket and trousers. I soon had to stop and get my gloves on, then stop again to put on the glove liners too as it was really cold and lashing with rain! I was very pleased I had packed everything I needed and could not believe how small most of the runners bags were. There’s no way full kit requirements could fit in many of them.

The temperature around Chamonix the week before had been 36 degrees! I was very worried about this, so I was pleased to run in proper Scottish weather for the first night and day, and not bake like last year! I got all the views over the first 100K last year and the great thing was the weather was to be good on Wednesday, covering the area I didn’t do.

Onwards and upwards in the lashing rain. We were soon in snow…… snow in France in August! So glad I had good gloves and proper waterproof mitt liners. I found out later from the UTMB site that it was -5 up the mountains. I passed the first check point which is very busy and hard to get anything as so many runners stop here. I was glad I didn’t need anything and made a dash for check point 2 which had the first cut off time of 3:30, now 4:30. With the delay to the race all the times were added to by one hour. I remembered from last year that this was a tight cut off and I’d best keep going as quick as possible. The route was muddy with so many runners churning it up. Not bad to run on at this stage though. My polls kept getting trod on my other runners passing here and there. I was glad I’d taken my mountain trail ones, rather than my slightly lighter running ones. The reason was that I had a problem with one of the polls which needed some WD-40 to sometimes get it to work, something I wasn’t going to pack in my back pack. Anyway, they were more sturdy for the mountains. The next few hours were quite harsh in the cold rain, but I was well wrapped up and feeling good. I remember lots of zig zagging up and down trails in the night here. The hundreds of head torches looking great in the dark all the way up the mountains ahead. It was great when we were climbing up to Col Chavannes at 2,591 metres elevation. I heard the very enthusiastic “Allez allez!” over and over again that I remembered from last year. This is a proper mountain with a great trig point. I got my bib scanned here and then quickly headed down towards the valley. With the race being delayed by an hour, dawn had arrived earlier on route than last year, and I was treated to a stunning Alpine view to my left of massive mountain peaks covered in snow, and to my right, mountain peaks poking up through the thick mist bellow them. I wanted to stop and take a photograph, but my camera was in my bag and I was worried about check point 3’s cut off time at Col du Petit St Bernard. This long stretch of trail was quite runnable and we had all opened out a bit after Col Chavannes. When I arrived at check point 3 they had some great meat and biscuits here, the only check point that I thought the food was any good at. I think a lot of the better food had been scoffed by the faster runners later on in the course. There was mostly just soup made from stock cubes and really terrible thin noodles left with some okay biscuits and little cubes of cheese. Very poor selection for such a big race. I was glad I’d taken a lot of gels and my energy bars.

It was roughly mid day now and it was raining heavy again. Some of the official race photos are quite comical how drenched we all were. I couldn’t download them though as I wasn’t in them. After filling up my water bottles and eating a little I headed off on a very undulating section. It started to get more muddy as we went over various hills and some very nice small bridges. At many points there were very noisy cows with the Swiss style massive bells on them. We weren’t in Switzerland though, the TDS coveres just Italy and France on the west side of Mont Blanc. At one pont a few of us ended up stuck in amongst a massive herd of cows. They were mooing very loudly but didn’t appear to be annoyed by us. The noise of the bells was quite brilliant! I was quite pleased to get away from them though as the memory of being surrounded by cows in Yorkshire on my longest training run after doing the Three Peaks there was not so relaxed. I had to dash out of the field on a section of the Ribble Way during the night. Shortly after these Yorkshire cows I got charged by a bull in a field about a mile down river from them, he was quickly joined by another three or four bulls who appeared out of the dark making tremendous angry mooing noises just after I was able to jump up onto higher ground away from the first bull! It was about 1:00am after my long three peak run during the day, so quite a scary return journey. I’ll be avoiding the Yorkshire Ribble Way from now on.

Back to the TDS. It was a very heathery steep climb out of the valley and it took longer to get to than I remembered from last year. It was great to get out of the very muddy trail below and I eventually set off down a much firmer under foot section. There was however a very steep descent down towards the woods before crossing a river which was also very muddy and slippery. There are some fantastic views of the hills we had just come down from here. I took a quick photo before heading up into the woods. I could tell I was getting quite tired, my legs were fine though. I remember getting a shock when I was getting a gel from my bag as I was running past a guy. I suddenly noticed a massive ditch to the left of me which would have been a bad fall. It was important to keep focussed as it can be very dangerous in parts. There were fantastic views of the valley and mountains on our left as we gradually made our descent down this great open trail section towards Seez, just before one of the main towns, Bourg St Maurice at CP4.

We passed an old water wheel before going past a water trough that was fantastic to dip my head in to cool down. Now it was daytime, it wasn’t cold, just very wet. I quickly got some water at Seez and knew I had to be quick to make it to CP4 before the cut off time. From here it was running from one side of Bourg St Maurice to the other, through parks and streets. I made it with about 10 minutes to spare. By the time I got some water and had some of the soup, I left with one minute to spare. That was too close! I spent a few minutes getting my bag sorted out, then headed down through the town for a bit till the next hilly section. This was very steep and hard going. Quite a beautiful wooded section with some great views. This part of the route had a diversion away from the highest point of the race at Passeur de Pralognan, which is at 2,563 metres elevation. This was because of the bad weather warning. Unfortunately in 2020 a Czech runner fell from the scrambling down rocky section there in bad weather and died from his injuries. I did this section last year in good weather and it was one of my favourite parts of the race, but I wasn’t too disappointed about this as I saw it in great sunshine last year and we were seeing a different stretch of trail now. There was a little bit we ran along a road section but it still had stunning mountains on each side of us. I don’t think any elevation was lost with the diversion route, I think 200 metres extra. There was a large aid station at CP5 at Cormet de Roselend. I stopped here for a little while to get a coffee, filled up water bottles and had some of the quite horrible soup. I was pleased the check point was still quite full when I left, which meant I had made up some time over other runners. It was very steep from here on in up to Col de la Sauce at 2,311 metres elevation.

Soon there was a lot of snow around again and it was quite boggy in some parts. I stopped to take a photo of a couple of runners on their phone and they took one of me on my phone at the trig point. It was quite impressive in the snow and mist. At that point other runners stopped and wanted me to take their photo, but started to take ages, so I just had to say I’m off. It was very slippery in the thick mud on the descent and I was very pleased to finally get to the bottom of the mountain as I was falling all over the place and covered in mud and got very annoying with quite a lot of swearing! There was a large river here that we crossed before going along it and up a very rocky section. I was very pleased that the huge gorge section with the very steep drop to the right into the river below was not one of the parts lost in the bad weather diversion. Picture below looking back.

   

I remembered this from last year. I had my phone in my bag then and I was wanting to get a photo of it this year. One of the best parts of the route! It wasn’t as great as last year in the very hot sunshine, but much better to run in and still brilliant. After taking a few shots I headed along and looked down to the valley below where CP6 was at La Gittaz. This was also a big food station and I still felt fine here.

I could still stomach the soup a bit and had some bread before heading off up the mountain into the start of the next night. I got speaking to a French guy for a short stretch but it really wasn’t that easy to chat with people with the language barrier on such an international race. It was quite cold again but I was well wrapped up. The nights are the hardest to run through as there’s no views to keep you going and it seams to take for ever to run through it. I knew that if I kept going, all would be fine when I eventually saw the dawn again.

  

My head torch was still good after last night and I clambered up the mountain. This was a long rugged section up Pas d’ Outray at 2,178 metres elevation. I was very worried by the thick mist that came down over this high section as the weather was still bad. It made seeing the markers very hard as my torch wasn’t picking them up. It was easy last year in good weather. Most of the other runners had stronger head torches and I found myself having to go with where I saw a head torch ahead of me. Not the best as I knew I didn’t have enough spare time to take a wrong turn. I was really having to move fast to keep up with some runners with better torches but knew everything was fine as I saw the markers as I passed. This went on for quite some time. My torch suddenly cut out, going from on to nothing as the battery had run out. I stopped to get my second torch out which should have been fine but it was really dim and hard to see. I definitely charged it before the trip, so didn’t know why this had happened. I was running with it in my hand and keeping it low to the ground to see. This was ridiculous and I was so pleased I did take a third torch. It turned out my old torch which I had to take to show I had spare batteries for one was really not that bad and all was fine again. Quite a relief! After forever running about in the dark in the mist I was finally descending towards CP7 at Beaufort. There’s a 1,370 metre descent to it though and it takes ages in the dark woods. Since I could see the town lights from high up last year it gave me a false sense of getting there soon and I forgot to fuel up as I went down the endless forest trail which was like a black route bike track and very hard going. Just like last year here I started to feel nauseous. Thinking about last year I thought I just needed an energy bar. Just after finishing it though I retched and was horrified to do a massive projectile vomit! I retched again and the same happened, then again!!! This has never happened to me before and it was quite shocking. I did however feel a bit better after and managed to have a gel. I set off down the creepy woods. There was a very strange sight ahead of me. I was sure I was seeing it and it wasn’t a hallucination like last year. As I got a bit closer it was a runner who had luminous lights on his back which made him look like a big spider as his arms and legs moved…… brilliant! A bit further on and there was the figure of a woman just standing at the side of the trail. She had a cloth over her head and it looked like two slits cut in it which looked like creepy eyes. I quickly passed her as she was freaking me out a bit, sure she was just a runner having a rest though. Those woods are not right! I eventually made it down to the Beaufort CP7. My stomach was quite sore from the violent retching and I managed to get some milk which helped a little. I had an hour before cut off here which was great after the mist in the mountain above. I however felt very rough. I picked up my drop bag which was dropped off at the start to be picked up here. It was great as I had lots of caffeine gels in it. I thought I’ll rest for half an hour and have some pasta, the only aid station with a main meal. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to eat hardly any of it. I used up the full hour there in the end, but was determined to carry on and not duck out here as I’d regret it so much later.

I headed out at the last moment and was off again into the night. I was now worried about cut off times again, so made an effort to pass a few runners as the route went up a long wooded trail and quite quickly to the next aid station at CP8 at Hauteluce. The four miles up through the forest went very quickly, so I must have been really motivated after cutting it fine leaving Beaufort. I didn’t hang around long at Hauteluce but there were a lot of runners there when I left. It was now dawn and I was looking forward to all the views as the weather had taken a dramatic turn for the better. There was a long slog up Mont de Vores at 2,062 metres elevation. I passed a field full of cows with huge mountains in the background. There was a large trig point at the top and an aid station was a little further along. There was some bread, cheese and soup. My stomach was still quite sore, so I had very little to eat, but enjoyed a tea. The marshals were totally brilliant like they had been all along the race. I headed off towards Col Du Joly which was 5 miles along the mountain tops from here. This section was churned up mud that had quite a bit of cow poo mixed in and went on for ever!

I had to just fast trek it as I was slipping all the time and fell over twice! With this it took ages to get to Col du Joly and even got stuck behind a cow on a very thin part of the trail with bushes on each side. I had trouble running at this point as my stomach was sore when I tried. I got speaking to a guy from Bradford later in this section. After all this we had however got to the check point with plenty time to spare. I looked at my watch though and realised the last section had taken an age to get through, with all the mud and lack of proper running, so I started to worry it may not be as easy to make cut offs if I got hit with further sections like that. I had a coffee at the Col de Joly CP9 and headed towards Notre Dame de la Gorge. This turned out to be quite an undertaking to get down, but I was quite pleased with my footwork hopping from rock to tree route etc. as I went. It took a while but I was then off to Les Contamines at CP10.

This section was very runnable through an urban area taking me along to the large town which was quite beautiful. I got scanned automatically as I entered the large tent. The marshals were great and wanted me to stay longer to eat more. I said I was worried about time and just grabbed a couple of bits of cake which was very good and filled a water bottle. I had to ask directions from a marshal as I left who was very helpful. I was off up a very steep suburban small road passing lots of modern wooden large houses built in the traditional Alpine style. It was quite hot now as it was after mid day. I had to stop and take off my waterproof trousers and jacket. The weather was really good now which made for fantastic views. This steep section went on for a very long time, I was soon out of the town and in the woods. It then got quite rocky as the route descended down Chakets du Truc. I saw a lot of runners coming back past me, so I thought we had to get to a check point and turn back and head somewhere else along the trail. This worried me a lot as the descent was very steep and I didn’t think I’d have time to get back out in time for the next cut off time. Thankfully I spoke with an Italian runner who pointed up to this really high ridge and said we’re heading up there and down the other side.

 

This was great we didn’t have to head out the way we came as the other runners I saw must not have been part of the race. However it looked like quite a climb and I wasn’t any more confident about being up there in time. I also realised I hadn’t filled up enough of my water bottles as it was quite hot now and it was quite a stretch to the next check point. I was very pleased to notice a small trickle of very clean looking water coming out from the mountain, so filled up two bottles half way up the tough climb to Col de Tricot. When I reached the top there was a great French guy who was a marshal. He said to me as we all had our names on our bib numbers “Mark, if you want to finish, don’t stop!”, then repeated it with some urgency. This actually picked me up really well as I thought there still must be hope to make it. I followed the markers along this quite thin ridge, I had to take a few seconds to look at the view as I dashed along the top as the views were fantastic, looking down on both sides at beautiful Alpine scenery in the sun. I was running with a few other people on this section which made it good to keep motivated. I was really surprised my footwork was reasonably quick as I dashed from stone to stone on the very steep descent. There was then a massive waterfall crashing down on the right of this thin cable bridge with wooden slats. The guy in front was going really slow here and I wished he’d get a move on.

After getting to the other side there was a lot of undulating hills before making it to Bellevue before the new 18:30 cut off. I made it and thought now things may be okay! Off down to the final check point at Les Houches. The trail was now open grassland trails before heading down through some more woods. I got to Les Houches along with some very happy French women runners who said it’s only 8km to go. They were in high spirits as it was very likely we’d make it now. I had all the check point cut off times on my sheet with kilometres converted to miles. I knew from this that it was just 4.8 miles to go. I made myself stick to no slower than a 15 minute mile as I had roughly quickly worked out that this would get me to Chamonix on time. I know that’s slow but I had done 90 miles at that point already with the bad weather route additional 5 miles added, and had next to no sleep for three nights, including the troublesome guy juddering the bunk bed all night the night before the race.

I was right down from the hills now and the last stretch was quite flat. It was fantastic to get a lot of warm words of encouragement from everybody I passed from here on in towards Chamonix. I remembered the special Chamonix finish from my 2019 CCC. That’s a 100K race that goes from Courmayour to Chamonix too, but on the east side of Mont Blanc and is 6,000 metres ascent). The TDS also starts in Courmayour, but takes the west side around Mont Blanc and is also quite a different, wilder route from the normal full UTMB’s west side of the race, where as the CCC is the same route as the east side of the full UTMB.

I had to work hard to keep to 15 mile an hour pace when there were any parts that were a bit hilly. I passed a couple of runners and they said they thought we’d make it on time. With the race starting late because of the landslide disrupting traffic in the area, it was starting to get darker. This made it a little more atmospheric when I eventually got into Chamonix. It got more and more lively as I started getting closer to the centre with people from the bars and restaurants cheering everybody in….. “Allez allez! Bravo!” A few guys from balconies shouted down how many minutes there were to go, which made we worried as I still had a little bit to run. They were however just joking to make me worried and I did have enough time. It was quite chaotic just before the end stretch and I almost took a left when somebody passed in front of me, I was quickly corrected by being pointed in the right direction by lots of people there. I was now running down towards the famous UTMB arch and over the line!

There were a lot of people at the end cheering and slapping the side of the UTMB railing boards as I passed. There was a photographer right at the finish line. I asked where I could pick up my finisher gilet and I was pointed to a small tent quite far away. No wonder some people missed picking their one up. I got it and then picked up my free beer which I was pleased to see was a full pint and not a half pint like at the end of the CCC. At this point a Strava friend came over to congratulate me. He had been tracking me all the way and he was there with his family for the full UTMB race. He’s mega fast and was asking me how the race went. I was cutting it very fine at a few points. Being ill at Beaufort had set me back quite a bit and especially having to just fast trek for a few hours too with my stomach being sore. Thankfully I managed to pull things together after CP9, just before Notre Dame de la Gorge!

Jan called shortly after I had finished and it was great to chat a bit about the race and how I had somehow finished the 95 miles and 9,300 metres ascent with some very short times to play with at cut off points! Salim (Strava friend) knew where the finisher free meal restaurant was and it was on the way back to his hotel, so I walked along the street chatting with him and his family on the way. It was the same restaurant as the 2019 CCC finisher meal. This was proper food and a lot of selection, unlike the check point food which was mostly terrible. I had some chicken and strangely picked fish too. Didn’t really go normally but both looked good. I had to pace myself eating it though as my stomach was still not right. The restaurant staff were fantastic and got me a red wine too. They were all so enthusiastic about the races.

It was properly dark now and I had to put my gilet on over my sweaty T-shirt as it was a bit cold. With going to the restaurant at the finish, I had missed any likelihood of picking up my drop bag which was at the other side of town. I headed down the streets towards my hostel with my quite heavy race bag. A Scottish guy congratulated me in the street as I had my gilet on. He had been running the TDS too but had dropped out at CP6 at La Gittaz. He said he’d take my bag for me as I went back to the hostel which was great. Had a good chat about his race and others he had done, including Lakeland 100 he had finished this year! When I got back fairly late I definitively needed a shower. I was disgusted by my feet which were engrained with the mud and cow poo mix from parts of the trail! I spend ages washing them but they still stank in the morning after just five hours sleep. I had to set my alarm as I had to sort out my bags for airport security and be ready in time for the taxi picking me up to take me there. Thankfully I had allowed a quick dash into Chamonix into this time scale and I went down to the expo to get a TDS hoody, cotton T-shirt and a few other momentos. I also asked a couple of other runners to take a photo at the main stand area and UTMB arch with my finisher gilet on, a nice momento to quickly get before having to dash home as I couldn’t get one more nights accommodation when I booked the hostel.

 

When I got to the airport my flight was delayed and I was really worried about falling asleep and missing it. I ordered a fantastic pizza and a large coffee which helped for staying awake to the new boarding time.

It was an epic adventure and four years in the making. COVID holding it up by two years, then a DNF last year. It was all about just finishing as I knew my time wouldn’t be fast. It seamed like ages ago that I was at the first few check points early on Tuesday morning up the mountains in -5 cold rain. Thankfully the weather was so much better on the Wednesday and I got the views.

Posted in Race Reports | 3 Comments

Penicuik Harriers August News

What a month for the club as the madness of ultra racing season commences!  Topping the list of achievements (quite literally with a total ascent of 7,218m) is Adam Gray who took part in the 215 mile Race Across Scotland, placing 3rd overall and 1st UK finisher in just under 63 hours and 32 minutes.  To give some perspective to those not in the know, this race follows the Southern Upland Way which most people take 12-16 days to complete.  An epic performance!

Close on Adam’s heels are our trio of ladies (Michelle Young, Tracy Philp and Edite Gailite) who placed 3rd, 4th and 5th in the Loch Ness 24 endurance trail race – a crazy event where you run as many miles as you can in 24 hours.  All 3 ran over 75 miles with Michelle going over the 100 mile mark for her 3rd place. This achievement was made doubly hardcore due to the unkind weather which soaked everyone and everything but of course they all loved it – great work girls!

A few of our harriers also took part in the Devil o’ the Highlands ultra hill run, 42 miles of rain and midges which apparently is “conditions normal” for this race.  It didn’t put Chris Burns off however, returning for his 5th go at this beast and also completing his 26th informal half marathon round Mendick Hill the week after – a gentle cool down??  Credit also goes to Angus Robertson who placed 4th in the Mhor Marathon, a beautiful but tough race route through the Trossachs National Park.

Going a bit off-piste, several of our club members decided to do a bit of cross training on a “social” 55mile cycle down towards Peebles and Biggar.  Over 3 hours in the saddle, well done guys n gals but ouch!

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, come along to our regular weekly training sessions which from mid-September move to our winter locations. Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at the Biocampus loop in the Bush estate) and Thursdays (hill reps 7pm at Bellman’s Road, Penicuik).  All sessions cover a wide range of pace/ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance. You are welcome to come along and try a session before you join, you will be made very welcome.

Please get in touch by email to secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk to let us know you plan to come or for more information.  You can also find our club website / Facebook page by searching “Penicuik Harriers”.

Posted in Race Reports | 1 Comment

Penicuik Harriers July News

A huge achievement for Gilly Marshall this month running the Montane Lakeland 100 – a 100 mile ultra tour of the Lake District fells in just over 37 hours.  The route covers some very technical terrain which is super tricky to navigate (especially in the dark) and has a drop out rate of around 50%.  We are extremely proud of our girl for completing this race and with such a great time!

The annual Scurry to the Sea took place in July with several of our members navigating their way from Hillend, up to the summit of Allermuir Hill, and down through Edinburgh to the finish along the beach at Musselburgh.  The race can be run in around 11.5 miles, but can be much longer if your navigational skills are not up to scratch!  A favourite of the club, the Musselburgh 10k, also took place the same weekend, with Harriers attending as always.

Our Thursday hill rep session has temporarily moved to the John Clerk estate due to the construction work currently going on at Hillend.  Club members are enjoying the change of scenery running hill reps in the field behind Penicuik House while appreciating that the Highland cows have moved premises!

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, our training sessions are on Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at Beeslack High School) and Thursdays (hill reps 7pm at Penicuik House).  All sessions cover a wide range of pace / ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance.

Please contact secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk for more information.  You can also find our club website / Facebook page by searching “Penicuik Harriers”.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

Penicuik Harriers June News

Another hosting success for the club with 79 runners taking part in the Turnhouse Hill race on the beautifully warm and sunny evening of 14 June 2023. A new route record of 22m 53s from Jamie Crowe, a great effort in such hot conditions!

A fairly quiet month on the racing front but 2 massive achievements for our ladies with Michelle Young completing the West Highland Way 95 mile ultra in just under 24 hours and Jan Dawson finishing as 3rd lady in the St Cuthbert’s Way 100k ultra. Adam Gray also won the Sunset Marathon at Cramond completing 6 x 4 mile loops in under 3 hours – we are very proud of all 3!

A few of our members completed a navigation course in the Pentland Hills this month learning to navigate with map and compass in the old style way – no reliance on technology or GPS allowed! New skills and confidence were acquired and everyone enjoyed the experience.

If you are looking to join a lovely running community, our training sessions are on Tuesdays (speed sessions 7:15pm at Beeslack High School) and Thursdays (hill reps 7pm at Bellman’s Road). All sessions cover a wide range of pace / ability and qualified coaches and jog leaders are on hand for guidance.  Please contact secretary@penicuikharriers.org.uk for more information. You can also find our club website / Facebook page by searching “Penicuik Harriers”.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

Penicuik Harriers May News

We had fantastic weather for our 10k road race on 13 May 2023 with 168 runners taking up the challenge and success for the club with our boys (Dan McQueen, John Gibbs & Simon Jarvis) scooping the prize for 1st male team.  We are very proud that our home baking stall raised £250 for the British Heart Foundation, thanks to all for taking part and for their generosity in making this happen.  Thanks also to the local residents for their patience with the road closures and for coming out to support our runners.

The junior races at Penicuik in the Park were well attended with 48 youngsters taking part and earning their well deserved medals, great fun was had by kids and organisers alike!

A special mention goes to Alan Thornburrow for taking part in the Marathon de Sables; Chris Burns for his 21st consecutive outing at the Edinburgh Marathon; Jan Dawson, Tracy Philp & Rachael Drummond for 1st ladies team in the Edinburgh to North Berwick 20 mile road race; Tracy Philp & Judith Crichton for their podium takeover (2nd & 3rd FV50) at the Wobbly Bridge Trail race; Michelle Young for running 12 laps of the Cowshed Backyard Ultra, Tracy Philp & Adam Gray for their 90k Cateran Trail Race and Mark Dawson for the 100k Ultra Trail Snowdonia. A high achieving month all round!

Turnhouse Hill race is next up on 14 June 2023, entries are open on Si Entries and places are also available on the night.

Posted in Race Reports | Leave a comment

St Cuthbert’s Way Race Against the Tide

Friday 23 July 2023
Distance 100k, elevation 8000 feet

Me and St C!

I first did this race in the East to West direction back in 2017, from Holy Island to Melrose. When the race organisers (Trail Outlaws) decided to switch directions to ‘race the tide’, to make it across the causeway linking Holy Island to the mainland before the sea cuts it off, the challenge appealed to me again. Besides, after a couple of stints volunteering at Trail Outlaws events in 2022, I’d earned enough credit for a free place.

After experiencing some ‘navigational issues’ in the 2017 race, I decided to recce the route this time. I knew some sections quite well from previous races (Jedburgh 3 Peaks ultra and Wooler marathon), so concentrated on the less familiar sections. I ran out and backs, and it was funny how different the route seemed in each direction! I’m so glad I did this though as on the day itself, reaching familiar ground was really reassuring. I barely needed my map at all in the race, whereas it never left my hand during the recces.

St Cuthbert’s Cave

Racing the tide times also meant a drastic change of schedule. From a respectable 8am start in 2017, to a less respectable 10pm! Night running has its own challenges, particularly from a navigation point of view, which as it turned out went awry very early on for a lot of us. At the start opposite Melrose Rugby Club, race director Tim warned us a) don’t follow the runner in front as they might not know where they’re going and b) don’t follow the yellow race signage at the start as that’s for another race the day after (3 Eildons race). Unfortunately I was in the Portaloo when he said all this! Not that I can ever hear race briefings anyway due to being almost deaf. Turns out not many folk must have been listening as around 30 of us quickly went off directly up Eildon Hill North, following little yellow flags up loose scree. Scree? On the St Cuthbert’s Way? That’s not right! After bashing through knee-high heather and scrub we eventually found our way back onto the nice, runnable SCW trail. One poor lass was spotted on the race tracker running in circles round the top of the hill. She was eventually retrieved but dropped out of the race.

Talking of trackers, this is the first time I’ve ever had to wear one. Those things are heavy, and have to be worn on the outside of your kit, near the top so they can pick up signal. Mine was taped to my race vest on my left shoulder, but settled into position over my collar bone, bouncing off it in a very annoying, uncomfortable fashion until I took off the buff from my head and stuffed it underneath it as a pad. Buffs are awesome, so many uses!

Bonjedward CP, with VIP Active Root!

As the race pack made their way through the darkness, I found it quite challenging to stay upright. It was raining quite hard for the first few hours, so all I could see was raindrops flashing in front of my headtorch. There are many obstacles along this first section: tree roots, nettles, over-grown foliage, wooden steps and bridges and narrow, rutted paths. All made a bit more tricky in the rain. However, after many stumbles and stubbed toes I miraculously managed not to hit the deck. I did not enjoy running in the dark though, and was very glad when I hit Cessford Castle at around 3:45am and switched off my head torch for good.

Cessford Castle (photo taken during recce)

I felt I was running quite well up until Morebattle, a lot better than in my recces in fact. I was remembering to eat and drink, and had arranged with the head marshal, who I know through volunteering, to pick up ‘VIP’ supplies of Active Root between the main checkpoints (thanks, Lee!). I reached Morebattle in just under 6 hours, so stopped for a few slices of watermelon (yum) then tried and failed to eat my peanut butter and jam sandwich. I didn’t linger though so binned my sandwich and headed out to tackle the highest point in the race, Wideopen Hill.

Wideopen Hill

I like this hill, it has a great view back to the Eildons in good weather (which it was, a wee bit too warm even overnight in fact) so I took a moment at the top to appreciate just how far I’d come. Wideopen is roughly halfway through the course, so a good time to take stock of how you feel. There was a lovely cool breeze and the rain had cleared but there was no spectacular sunrise, just sweeping views on all sides. I could see Kirk Yetholm from here and wondered if I’d see any summer Spine racers come in as I passed, as their finish line crosses the St Cuthbert’s Way at the Borders Hotel, Kirk Yetholm. They’d been going since the previous Sunday, making this race feel very short in comparison! I passed the famous Spine finish arches and headed up into the Cheviots. Two female runners passed me here, looking very strong. I was hoping they were both 45-mile runners (this race has two distances, 100k and 45 miles, the latter ending in Wooler) as they seemed very sprightly, whereas I was beginning to flag. I tried to keep pace but I lost sight of them just after we crossed the border into England. The descents were starting to hurt my legs, and my left hip flexor was complaining quite a bit. I wondered if I might have to pull out at Wooler if it didn’t improve. I took a couple of paracetamol and hoped for the best.

Approaching Hethpool

I caught up with one of the female runners again at the Hethpool check point. She complimented my tartan skort, so I flashed her the Saltire undershorts which made her laugh! I refilled my bottles with more ‘VIP’ Active Root and hobbled along the road to Yeavering. Talking of undershorts, Flanci ones have amazing pockets in them. I had my compass in one side and my phone in the other. However, I took my phone out to check it to find the dampness and sweat had made it take 70+ photos of the inside of my pocket. I took a zip-lock bag from my bum bag, wrapped my phone in it and stuffed it back into my pocket. Big mistake. The resulting rubbing caused a HUGE patch of chafing on my thigh which I didn’t notice until the last stretch of the race. Ouch.

When you’ve already run 50k

Climbing out of Yeavering and past yet another steep stile, I had a bit of a second wind. I suddenly felt really good and didn’t stop running until I reached Wooler. The male lead from wave 2 of the race, who started 3 hours after wave 1, went breezing past me on the way down to Wooler common. I passed the female runner from the Hethpool check point, but still couldn’t see the other one who passed me at Yetholm. As I reached the YH, there she was sat on a bench wearing a 45-mile medal and tucking into some food. I headed inside for a wee sit down and to try and eat something more substantial from my drop bag. A marshal asked me how I was feeling, and I realised that my hip flexor pain was no more. It had been replaced by a more generalised pain and fatigue from head to toe! Still, only 18 miles from here to the finish, so I knew I could do it now.

I ate some apple slices dunked in peanut butter, chugged a chocolate milk and chased it with a ginger and turmeric shot in a vain attempt to counteract inflammation. I stuffed my bacon crisps into my bum bag, where they remained uneaten, slathered on some sun lotion and headed out. The clouds had cleared and the day was beginning to warm up, as it was now 9am. I shuffled down steep Church Street and onto Brewery Road where it rises slowly up onto Westwood Moor. My nutrition choices and speed of consumption came back to haunt me, and my stomach was quite angry from here to St Cuthbert’s Cave. I must have fast-walked most of the way until the cave, but couldn’t see any runners in front or behind me, so didn’t panic. I actually had no idea where I was in the race at all, just knew I was on for a slower finish than my previous of 14:55hrs. Again I was glad I’d recced this section, as there is still some lingering damage from Storm Arwen that made some of the trails through Shiellow/Kyloe Woods quite patchy in parts. To get lost at this point would be soul-destroying! Soon though, after some hearty cheers from a group of female hikers, I turned down into Fenwick and to the last checkpoint at the crossing of the A1, greeted by the sound of cowbells.

A lovely marshal took my buff out from under my tracker, dunked it in a jug of cold water and tucked it back into my vest. Heaven! It was really hot now and I was pouring with sweat. Another marshal informed me that only two other females had passed here so far. “No way, it must be hot!” I said. This put the fire in my belly and I wondered, if I could just stay ahead of the only female in wave 2, I might even come third. So, over the A1 and out into the barren fields towards the causeway. After a bit of a long detour to avoid the railway crossing, I could see the start of the causeway. My god, does it look long and intimidating from here. The finish at the village hall seemed as far away here as when I’d first spotted the island just after coming out of the woods at St Cuthbert’s Cave. I tried not to focus on the distance and instead concentrated on the road just in front of me. The causeway doesn’t have good footpaths either side of the road so I had to jump out of the way of a lot of cars. I swear to god a friend of mine waved and tooted at me from a van here, but a later text conversation assured me I was merely hallucinating! I spotted the brightly coloured t-shirt of the female runner I’d passed before Wooler, so she must have run out of Wooler ahead of me. Then I noticed another female runner. She was walking though, so I hobbled slowly past her and kept my focus on the bright t-shirt in front.

Every now and then I glanced back and the other female runner was nowhere in sight. There was now a sizeable gap between me, the first lady and the third. The heat was getting intense and after what seemed like another 64 miles, the road turned up into Holy Island village. It was hooching here due to the great weather, and I struggled to see where the finish line was through the crowds. Eventually I spotted the top of a Trail Outlaws flag and headed towards it. Lee was there taking photos and I ran through the gate of Crossman Hall and up the slope to the entrance doors. A marshal shouted ‘You can stop running now!’ as apparently the finish was the gate itself! I collapsed on the grass and another lovely marshal brought me watermelon and a cola. Bliss.

Relief!

A minute or two later another marshal came over to tell me I was second lady in, but the wave 2 female runner was still out there. She ran in not long afterwards to finish in an impressive 12:51:36. I finished in a more modest 15:22:28, 27 minutes behind my previous result. Considering the heat, the hours of darkness and the rain, I was very happy with that, and it secured me 3rd female, 20th overall. I was not expecting that at all so I was over the moon, as you can see from the prize-giving photo!

Cheesin’

I had a bunk booked at Wooler YH so hopped on the shuttle bus back for a much needed shower. After a nap on the bus and another in my bunk, I was ready for food. Hannah, the lovely partner of Tim the race director, had cooked up a storm at the YH. She offered me some lasagne and gave me some ice poles to cool down. Just wonderful. Then later I joined them in the lounge for a couple of beers and a blether. They’d all been awake since Friday morning too, so I was surprised when I looked at my phone and it was suddenly past 10pm! I thanked them all and made my way to bunk for a restless sleep plagued by the usual post-ultra leg pain.

All in all another great event by the awesome team at Trail Outlaws. I’m spectacularly chafed, have bruised feet, am covered in random patches of sunburn but happy to have beaten that tide!

Results here: https://www.trailoutlaws.com/event_results/saint-cuthberts-way-results-2023

Posted in Race Reports | 3 Comments

Turnhouse hill race 2023

Turnhouse 2023 – A warm dry evening for a short sharp race. Perfect conditions but maybe a tad too hot for some.

This year we managed to cajole the 79 runners to stay on route with Jamie Crowe (Central AC) smashing Hector Haines’ previous 2011 record of 00:24:46 by 1 min 52 seconds. Kudos to Jamie for a great run. There were tears in his father’s eye, but I think that might have been his allergies.

A wee shout out also to Alistair Masson (Carnethy) who was yet again 2nd, but like last year (sticking to the correct route) also managed to beat the previous course record. Alas last year, as a third of the runners had cut a corner, shortening the race by ca. 250m, we could not count the record time for last year.

1st lady was Ellen Crombie (Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds) at 00:29:45.

Junior fun run (2 runners) was won by Rowan Tayor of Lasswade in 09:41.

Congratulations to everyone who ran.

Happy to say no major issues although the look of panic on one of the runners when he dislocated his little finger and did not trust our 1st aider as he popped it back with minimal pain just shows how important it is to have a calm 1st aider on hand.

Next year I hope the Pentland café will be open again (Alex was on holiday) so everyone can have some post-race cakes/tea etc while waiting for prize giving.

Finally, apologies for those who entered on the day. Yes – it should have been £8 and not the £10 I told the helpers at registration. My cock up. The extra funds will be donated to the Pentland Hills Regional Park.

See you next year.

Rob

————————–

Main results:

Males:

Senior

Jamie Crowe                            Central AC                                                            00:22:53

Alistair Masson                       Carnethy Hill Racing Club                                    00:24:02

Angus Wright                          Team East Lothian AC                                          00:24:15

M40

Gregor Lawson                        unattached                                                          00:30:23

M50

Justin Carter                            Cambuslang Harriers                                          00:28:29

M60

Micky Anderson                     Westerlands Cross Country Club                        00:30:36

M70

Murdo Macleod                      Westerlands Cross Country Club                        00:39:28

 

Females:

Senior

Ellen Crombie                         Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds             00:29:45

Polly Edwards                          Carnethy Hill Racing Club                                    00:32:00

Emma Wilson                         Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds             00:33:33

M40

Wiebke Lammers                    Westerlands Cross Country Club                        00:45:51

M50

Michelle Hetherington           Carnethy Hill Racing Club                                    00:36:00

M60

Carole Fortune                        Carnethy Hill Racing Club                                    00:40:45

Posted in Race Reports | 1 Comment

Penicuik 10k 2023

Penicuik 10K 2023

What a day for our 38th Penicuik 10k race – the sun shone and there were 168 runners on the startline.  A huge thank you to everyone who came along and ran in our race, we hope that you enjoyed it and felt well supported the whole way round.  The club members work hard in the months leading up to the race to ensure that everything is in place even to the point of going round the route with brushes and shovels to ensure that the surface is clear.

I have had so many lovely messages thanking us for the race – lots of first time 10k runners and some stalwarts of the race like Linden Nicolson who has been running it since the 1980’s. Her name may be familiar to local people as she taught most of Penicuik PE at Primary and High School.

We raised £237.80 from our home baking stall and the club have rounded that up to £250 which will be donated to the British Heart Foundation today.  A small gesture that we can make in Brian Tyndall’s name.

I was very pleased that the First Aiders weren’t needed and they got to bask in the sun and enjoy a coffee from Mel’s Brew52 Coffee Van. Grateful thanks to St Andrew’s Ambulance for always being a reliable back up in case we need them.

Thanks also to Police Scotland and Midlothian Council who ensure that our race can actually take place on the roads in and around Penicuik, without their support you would not all get the pleasure of Pomathorn Hill.  Scottish Athletics Officials looked after our timing and race referee Alex Jackson was in the lead car ensuring no rules were being broken.

A race report wouldn’t be right if we didn’t mention Scott Jenkins who juggled or joggled as I now know it’s known his way around our 10k in a very respectable time of 40m 38s.  Please read about him here.

Our club now holds three races every year and three club members organise these.  However, none of this would be possible without the club members all stepping up into positions of responsibility to ensure these races are safe, well marked, timed but most of all enjoyable.  Thank you Penicuik Harriers for being the incredible force of nature that you all are and supporting your club so well.

Grateful thanks to our sponsors :
Nicol Brothers

Carnethy Woodfuel

Up & Running

Flowers by Lindsey

Durty Brewing

Fran Jones Massage Therapy

Brew52

Durty Events  for lending us equipment

Here are the results and thanks to our photographers who stepped up at the last minute Olivia Jones  and Carol Taylor

Here’s the link for Turnhouse Hill Race  on the 14th June if any of you fancy it. We also have the Greenmantle Dash in January.

Susie

Posted in 10k Road Race, Race Reports | 1 Comment