Deuchary Hill Canter 2021

Distance: 18 km
Elevation: 800 m

I signed up for Deuchary at the last minute in a desperate attempt to test my hill-racing fitness ahead of the Two Breweries later in September. It had been rescheduled from its usual April slot for obvious reasons, which led to some route changes as parts of the course were now hiding under thick fern growth. Not usually a problem in Spring! I headed up courtesy of a lift from Rob and Andrea (just Rob and I running the race), and it was so good to see them and have a good chat about all things running and more. We arrived in Birnam for registration in plenty time, so grabbed a coffee in the Arts Centre cafe. Just ahead of us in line for registration were a couple of very fit-looking ladies, one in tiny green shorts and with an Amazonian build that made my nerves kick in. I started to feel anxious, under-trained and just a little over-fed!

After a short drive up to Cally car park, Rob and I took a jog along the last bit of the race route, so we could recce the bits that had changed. After a bit of head scratching and doubling back, we were eventually satisfied we’d found the course so jogged down to the start line for the briefing. Unfortunately, with the slightly clammy conditions, our recce jog had resulted in a prematurely sweaty head and my hearing aid batteries shorted and could not be revived in time for the briefing (I take them out for racing). So I stood at the back of the very small field (only 47 runners this year, 8 of whom had started early at 10:30) and missed the whole thing. I was now terrified I was going to get lost, so took my map out and scrutinised it. According to Rob the only important bit I missed from the briefing was the explanation about the rerouted end section we’d already recced. I needn’t have worried though as the course was actually very well-marked from beginning to end.

We set off just after 11 and Rob quickly disappeared from view. I deliberately held back as I know I’m not very fit at the moment and didn’t want to burn out too fast. Before long though I’d moved up five places, and was enjoying the gentle climb up through the woods. Rob had described the route as ‘annoyingly runnable’ and he’s right. It’s undulating but apart from the last climb up to Deuchary itself, there is a lot of forestry track which you can get quite a bit of speed up on. I passed a couple more people on the first track after the woods, and then spotted those tiny green shorts not too far ahead! For the rest of the climb to Deuchary, I kept tiny green shorts lady (TGSL) within 20-50 metres in front of me. I still wasn’t sure I could catch her, but on the last climb up to the summit I was getting closer and closer. Andrea appeared on the hill just before the final climb, taking photos and cheering us on. She had cycled up the trails and climbed up and down Deuchary twice to see us, so she’d probably done more hard work than both Rob and I that day!

After a quick photo stop at the summit (it was quite a nice day with no rain so it would have been rude not to!) I followed the red and white tape off the hill. TGSL was powering down ahead of me and I thought that was it, but when we hit the forest track at the bottom of the hill she started to slow down. This was my chance! I hauled my 45-year old carcass past TGSL and another male runner along the track. I was determined not to be passed again so pushed up the pace and despite gasping for breath and muttering swear words under my breath I didn’t let up until the course dropped off the track back into the woods.

The rest of the course is mostly down hill, with a short climb up onto a grassy moor and a wonderful, fast descent onto the forest tracks again. I glanced behind me and TGSL was nowhere to be seen. The last few kilometres are pretty horrible forest track but fast running nonetheless. Soon I was crossing the car park again and onto the last kilometre. Suddenly I tripped on god knows what and did a commando roll into a clump of nettles, right in front of a young family getting into their car. The dad looked over at me with concern, but I jumped up, did a quick once over and shouted “I’m OK!”. Luckily it took a few minutes for the nettle-stings to kick in so I powered down the trail to the finish, passing another female runner on the way.

I was almost on for a sub-two-hour finish, but in the end crossed in just over 2:03. Rob was waiting there, and had been for twenty minutes bless him! We made our way back up the trail to the car park and met Andrea on the way. Another quick coffee back in Birnam Arts Centre and then back down the road, feeling good about the race and glad that I wasn’t last. It felt good to put my harriers shirt on again and I really enjoyed this race. Just a little bruised and stung the day after!

13th – Rob Wilson – 1:43:17
29th – Jan Dawson – 2:03:14

Full results here

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British Fell Running Championships 2021

Website info:

2021 British Athletics Hill & Fell Running Championship Race over a variety of terrain on the edge of the Eden Valley and Pennines. 11km with 900m of climb.

Race will start next to the iconic fountain in the centre of Dufton and it will finish in the field behind
the Stag Inn (Dufton). A fell race that effectively finishes at a pub, what’s not to like!

Post:

I entered this race quite late as I just happened to see it mentioned on the SHR website,
and was surprised that I got an entry. But I wasn’t surprised to see Des’s name on the start sheet!

It was a mere 2:10 drive from Penicuik down the M6 to Penrith and then the A66 followed by a wee scenic windy road to Dufton. Very cute little village with a cafe, pub, village green, campsite, sheep, etc.

Des had driven down on the Friday afternoon in his campervan to check out the pubs and the course
and was quite surprised to see me (and delighted – cannon-fodder). We had the usual booked time slots for registration in the village hall where we picked up our Sportident contactless timing card and had our kit checked.

The race started at 12 o’clock on the village green and there was the usual initial sprint. After a mere 100m 200 runners funnelled into a gate-sized space between two stone walls, but fortunately no-one got crushed or trampled. The first km or so was along a knarly stony farm track with a gentle climb which turned into a well-trodden path until we came to the first of four steep climbs. This one up Dufton Pike was about 0.6 km and took about 10 minutes. I knew that I had to keep Des in sight for as long as possible to get a reasonable time and at this point he was about 10 runners in front and didn’t look too far away. If I had tried to keep up with him, I would have blown and it would have been game over.

The descent off Dufton Pike was less steep than the climb up and was a compact grassy track and was quite fast if you had the legs and the confidence. Sharp turn near the bottom and around the flank of the hill and a km to the start of the second climb up Brownber Hill. This was a slightly longer climb up to 519m and was designated the KOM timed hill climb. But I was at my limit and there was no way I was contesting this! (The winning time was 8 minutes, I was about 12 minutes.)

A steep drop-off the hill with a bit of scree and rocks and then down a narrow grassy valley. At the bottom we met the main valley again and started up the third climb. This began with a gentle incline up towards a very rocky gully which looked a long way off and high up. By this time the lungs and legs were complaining a lot and it was exceedingly hard to not lose any places. However the gully itself was far better fun – steep, big rocks, scrambling and midges! At the very top of the gully there was another sharp turn back to the SW and onto a fabulous grassy path mostly gently downhill for over a km to the last climb. I was enjoying this so much that I closed the gap on a bunch of runners just ahead.

Climb number 4 was up Dufton Pike again, this time from the east. I think this was even steeper than the first ascent, but at least shorter. Last climb so big effort. Ouch, ouch, the top! The first part of the descent was pretty steep and crikey, rocks and scree! After a few tentative steps it was apparent that this was ‘good’ scree and I started pounding and sliding down. Scary but fun and ‘tentative’ didn’t appear to work as some runners were sprawling all over the place. Now down to the gently-sloping fields and attempting to go as fast as the knackered legs would allow. Aware of runners behind, this was hard work. Through a gate and then a slight hill to the finish.

Well I sort of enjoyed that! Interesting post-race blether as the local accent was hard to understand at times! We chatted to Alan Smith of Deeside Runners who I knew from previous races, but we didn’t see many other Scots – Edinburgh Uni, Shettleston Harriers, Moorfoot Runners, Highland Hill Runners, Fife AC and Deeside Runners were represented.

Inevitably our legs turned us in the direction of the Stag Inn and we partook of the local brew (or brews in some cases). Next time I’m bringing my tent so that I can partake more fully.

Des was 1st M60 with a time of 1:15:43 (with a trophy!) and I was 4th M60 with 1:20:11 (full results on the sportident website).

Many thanks to the organisers, marshalls and locals, the trip south of the border was well worth it.

Next up (south of the border) is the British Fell Relays Champs. If you have been inspired, we still need a sixth man for a six-man M50 team. Raymond has said that he is interested but may not be back in the country soon enough (or with recovered legs) after the Chicago Marathon. Juliane was also interested, but we weren’t allowed to enter a mixed team unless it was 3-men, 3-women.

Duncan Ball
5th Sep. 2021.
Penicuik Harriers.

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Glenshee 9 2021

The forecasts leading up to race day were not great and the race organiser posted a low-level route on the Friday in case of thunderstorms. This was very disappointing as the last time I did this race was in 2016 when we ran a 15-mile low level route in 100mph winds and climbing just one Munro! Thankfully when we arrived on Saturday morning, the thunderstorm risk had subsided and we were just left with a cool south easterly with mist and drizzle. The full course, wahay!

Due to Covid, we were sent off in three waves at 10:00, 10:30 and 11:00. For some reason I had chosen the last group with the faster runners – ha ha! Some relief that Michelle was in the same group (although she held the F50 course record). At registration, we were issued with ‘divvers’ for the checkpoints – at the end of the race, they were handed back in and you were issued with a wee printout of all the splits and finish time and placing.

The only good thing about the Glenshee 9 is that once you are up the first Munro, the next five do not involve too much climbing. In fact, the ‘only’ beast of a climb in the whole race is up the steep east side of Carn Aosda (Munro 7).



Although there are paths between Creag Leacach and Glas Maol, a lot of it involves tricky, sharp, jagged rocks and requires lots of concentration. Glas Maol to Cairn of Claise was quite fast running, mostly on ATV tracks and with very little descent and ascent. It was still very misty at this point with visibility down to about 50m, but the tracks made navigation easier. A few runners attempted to run a more direct route, but ended up slower ‘off track’.

Three down, six to go! That was quick! The Cairn of Claise to Tom Buidhe leg now appeared quite daunting as there were no obvious tracks at first. However, I set the compass to 094 and headed off with a couple of other runners. Surprisingly, the running was still pretty easy and mostly gently downhill with not too much heather or bog. After a while, we picked up some tracks and the mist started to lift. 100m to our right, several runners appeared – I was sure that they had been in front of us! And then the bulk of Tom Buidhe appeared ahead and we could see the front runners on the descent and on the way to the next hill. Munro number 4.



A short descent across a burn and ascent to Tolmount (11 minutes apparently) and we were atop Munro number 5. Now quite a long leg across to Carn an Tuirc. It was quite interesting matching up the landscape with the map but we were heading vaguely WNW towards a bealach to the north of Cairn of Claise (I had studied Steve Fallon’s brilliant description of the route). Hard ‘running’ this time with soggy bogs, heather and no paths – a bit of a slog. We had caught up some of the slower runners in the front groups and it was a delight to run alongside and blether to (and overtake) a variety of people. I had remembered a few of the club strips earlier and was amazed at the number of times I met them again later on.

It was a relief to see Carn an Tuirc roll into view and it was a short and firmer climb to its top. Wow, the views were opening up and we could now see a vast expanse of Cairgorm hill tops and then the A93 snaking through the valley to the west (drat, no camera). And of course, the dreaded three Munros still to do!

The descent down to the checkpoint at the road was very enjoyable as the legs were still functioning at this point. But what was this, I mean who was this this? Angela Mudge? Oh dear, she must be injured (she had to withdraw from the race). Lots of support and cheering at the road crossing – we needed it for the ensuing climb.

I can vividly remember this climb from the 2016 race. Back then, with a shorter course I had been running a lot quicker and was pretty knackered, and compounded with 100mph winds at the top, it was horrendous! Not so tired and not so windy this time but still a very slow and painful steep slog. A bit like the last hill of the Two Breweries but longer! After a very long time, the summit cairn of Carn Aosda appeared and I thankfully beeped my divver.

Oh shoot, the relief was short-lived as we could now see the next hill – apparently ‘only’ 2.7 miles away, it looked about 10! Oh well, dig in. Although it was downhill past the tops of several ski-tows, the rough, stony track made progress slow and painful. Once abreast of The Cairnwell it got a bit easier but it was becoming increasingly more difficult to actually run up any sort of incline. Fortunately, everybody else was having the same problem, which made it a bit easier to handle. What a slog, Carn a’ Gheiodh was taking an awful long time to get any closer. At least the runners coming back down looked as though they were actually running and mostly in control.

A shortish steep climb to the summit – Munro number 8! It took several minutes coming back down, but eventually I coaxed my legs into some sort of jogging and retraced back down to the two lochans. Aha, there was Michelle on her way up and on course for 1st F50.

The end was now almost in sight, but first the last slow climb up The Cairnwell. The sun had by now come out and it was getting quite warm. Phew, Munro number 9! I would like to say that I ‘ran’ down to the finish at the Ski Centre, but it was more of a hobble and a slide (less than half a mile down the steep slope took me 8 minutes). Under the Finish Arch and a welcome cheer and divver beep.

After walking around slightly deliriously for a couple of minutes stupidly grinning at people, I handed in my divver and collected my soup token. The SportIdent printout said 1st M60 – that can’t be right. I then joined the soup queue but got fed up waiting on sore legs and went to change my shoes and socks. The soup token actually got you soup, bread, tea, juice, cake, which I managed to eat most of. I obviously didn’t try hard enough (or it wasn’t too hot) as normally after such a gruelling run I am not able to eat anything for a while. The other advantage of it being quite cool is that I didn’t get cramp at all! (or good-quality carbo-drink in my camelback).

No, 1st M60 was correct and I collected my bottle of wine – a nice bonus. (Interestingly, if it had been 3 months ago, I would have been 13th M50!)

So, chuffed to bits at having survived what is quite an epic hill run, I should now persuade others to do it next time! I am pretty sure Des, Rob and Stuart (and probably several others) could survive it. The route involves lots of different terrain types with plenty of runnable sections (only 5580 feet ascent due to starting from the Ski Centre). I reckon on average it would be about 50 minutes longer than the Two Breweries.

Many thanks to the Organiser Ali Hubbard and his team and the Braemar Mountain Rescue Team (not to mention the soup people).

Duncan Ball, Penicuik Harriers, 8th Aug. 2021.

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Lakeland 100 – by Gilly

Lakeland 100

Before the race

Alan and I drove down Friday morning and pitched our tent in the event campsite, it was already very hot. As we had been driving down I watched nervously as the car thermometer climbed degree by degree as we got further south. As we pitched the tent it was 27 degrees and I was starting to get worried, I don’t really do heat. Once pitched we headed up to the marquees to get through kit check and registration. The temperature was even higher in here and I joined the end of the queue – slowly we went through the different stages from ID check, kit check, registration, tracker, by the time I got my photograph taken to go on the open track website I was par boiled!

The briefing was at 4.30pm so we had a few hours to get something to eat and pack my kit and I hoped to get a bit of a sleep or at least lie down and just relax, unfortunately when we got back to the tent it was stifling, I tried to lie down and rest but it was too hot and I couldn’t breathe even with all doors open, I organised my kit but was restless and starting to stress there was no shade and no wind and I had no where to go and rest, Alan suggested the car, but I tried that and it was still to hot. I went for a walk under some trees and dunked my feet in a river worrying that this was not the preparation I needed for a long hard race.

I started getting ready and then went up for the briefing which was in the school hall, luckily it was slightly cooler than the marquee. At the briefing we were told about any changes to the route, to make sure we were hydrated and that it was going to be hot, very hot. One of the things they do at the briefing is ask you to turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself and tell them a bit about yourself, then after this Marc the RD says the Lakeland 100 has a 50% drop out rate so to turn back to that person you were just talking to and decide which one of you would finish! Well the person I was talking to was a multiple finisher and I had to finish, so it must be the 2 guys in front of us who were going to be the dnf’ers!

Race Time

We congregated at the start area and filed through the tracker gateway into the start pen, I felt so unready for this. I was already too hot, my body sweaty and my hair sticking to my scalp, I had not got my planned rest and that made me nervous as I knew i was going to be out for 2 nights. The start of the Lakeland 100 is preceded by an opera singer singing Nessun Dorma (none shall sleep- very apt for this race!) As the singing began I knew it was going to be a tough road ahead but I was ready for this and there was no way I was not finishing.

The start of this race is one of the most exciting and incredible starts I have ever had the privilege of running in, as the runners come under the start gantry up the road all the way up to Coniston town centre the pavements and roads are packed either side with cheering, bell clanging, clapping crowds willing you on, I had watched it in 2019 but this year I was part of the running throng and it felt amazing.

As we left the village we turned up towards the Coniston mines, the runners were packed close together and we were marching up the hill, I did not appreciate how long we would be a big conga line for, most races have had the runners strung out much quicker but because of the climbs it kept everyone bunched up for much longer, I was feeling so hot and on and on we climbed I was starting to feel nauseous which is not something I really suffer with but it kept coming in waves and I just tried sipping on my water and trying not to worry about it or think about it. This got harder as people around me were either being sick or retching this became a theme for most of the first night! I have never seen so many people being sick in a race. I soon settled into a nice easy pace and was very conscious about pushing too much early on, I had run this section in a recce so was mentally picturing the route remembering where the climbs or tricky sections were and just soaking up the scenery and atmosphere, there were a few people chatting with each other but I was just concentrating on pushing on and finding my own pace.

As the sun began to set we had a beautiful sunset ahead of us as the sun dipped behind the hills. Shortly after the sun set we got treated to the most amazing red moon, as I looked back to the climb I had just come up was a snake of headtorch lights with the most incredible moon and sky, it really was magical. Even though it was now dark, it was still incredibly warm, when we were on the tops of the hills it was cooler with a slight breeze but as we dropped down it was still like an oven, I wore my vest all evening and never at any point felt any chill at all. I really enjoy running in the dark there is something quite special about it, especially with a full moon, a sky filled with stars and the lake reflecting it all with a little trail of head torches bobbing along in front and behind me.

We soon came to Black Sail Pass descent which I had been nervously anticipating, when I came down this section on a recce it was slick with mud and multiple sharp rocks and I slid and slided all the way down and that was in daylight when I could see, but as it was so dry I thankfully navigated my way down quickly without any incidents the route then passes the beautiful Black Sail Youth Hostel, there were a few tents dotted about and a couple of runners were taking a nap on the benches outside. Up Scarth Gap and another rocky descent and a lovely run along the side of a lake with bats swooping down and catching moths that were attracted to our headtorch lights.

As the sun came up and I made my way through some more checkpoints I started chatting to the other runners, there are some incredible people running and listening to their stories and being part of their journey is quite special. I had covered most of the route on either recces or when doing the 50 but I had not covered the section between Buttermere and Dalemain so it was really nice running on parts that I didn’t know, and coming across unexpected climbs, well you know there is going to a climb you just don’t know how long or how steep!

As we were coming into the Keswick area (about 50 miles) the route became much more runnable with steep rocky climbs and descents and rough tracks giving way to cycle paths and some country roads, unfortunately my feet were starting to really ache, all runners love to discuss “what shoes should I wear” and I possibly made the wrong decision for race day. I had on my Salomon Speedcross for the first half and was planning on changing into my Altras at Dalemain where we had a drop bag. Although I have worn my Speedcross up to 50 miles with no problems before, today was not that day. I wore them as there are some boggy sections and a couple of tricky descents that can be muddy but the incredibly dry hard ground and rocks pummelling my feet were just too much and my soles were taking the brunt of it. Bits I could and should have been running I was walking however I met up with a great group of runners and we joined forces and ran/marched/walked together for a number of checkpoints. As we hit 60 miles we arrived at Dalemain where the 50 runners started at 11am, they do a 4 mile loop in the  Estate and then continue on the main route, we missed the main body of the runners but caught up with the walkers and as we ran past them we got cheered and shouts of “hundred runners coming through” and the path of walkers would clear in front of us with everyone clapping and telling us how amazing we were – it certainly boosted the ego!

Coming into Dalemain was such a relief, I could change my socks and shoes and T-shirt, freshen up and brush my teeth. I sat in the grass with some food and bare feet for about 10 mins and it was absolute bliss! I did not want to hang around for long though so new shoes on and now using poles, I hoped that would be the end of my foot issues. I was now on known territory again, it was still hot on the Saturday but not as hot as Friday but I knew there were some climbs coming and in the heat and with miles in my legs they would not be easy. One of the first climbs after this checkpoint just outside Pooley Bridge were a couple of ladies sitting on a rock guessing if runners were 100 runners or 50 runners, they were deciding this on how dirty their legs were. They guessed right with me.

The little group I had been running with before started to reform as we all caught up with each other. I was glad of the company of Rachel as we faced Fusedale, it’s not known as the furnace for nothing and as we climbed we dunked our buffs and hats in any water we could find, at one point Rachel got right in and sat in a stream of water right up past her waist. I was tempted but was worried about chaffing so just emptied handfuls of water over my head and neck and soaked another buff. We soon reached the top but there were quite a few 50 runners/walkers coming back down, I think they must have decided that their race was over and their day was done. At the top of Fusedale we met some more of our running group and we continued on.

The descent and path to Mardale Head seemed to take for ever, the rocky path was painful on my feet and it was obvious that the change of shoes had not completely solved my issues and that the damage was already done. It was a slow march along the waters edge willing Mardale Head into sight, it felt like it was never going to appear, eventually we arrived, filled up on soup and jam sandwiches and readied ourself for the next climb, Gatescarth Pass. The climb is steep, and rocky (are you sensing a theme here?) but it’s the descent I find much harder, it is a real thigh burner and there is lots of loose stones on rock so I never feel particularly confident about running down, and today that was just out of the question, further down there is a lovely picturesque scene of a winding track, high stone walls, rolling fields, livestock and pretty farms but i spend so much time watching my feet and trying to find the easiest smoothest path I never get to look at it. It was also starting to get dark and the midges were out and I had no insect repellent and was getting bitten all over.

It was dusk as we arrived at Kentmere and just before the checkpoint there are a number of incredible stiles that I have only seen in the Lakes, steps jutting out of the stone walls like a ladder never easy at the best of times but definitely not when you have 80 odd miles in your legs. As we came down our group had splintered a bit, so Martin and I came in a bit behind the others (we were searching for a lost  charging cable which turned up in a pocket). There was pasta on the go at Kentmere but unfortunately they had just finished the last batch as I arrived and were waiting on more cooking, I ummed and awed about waiting the 5 mins I was told it would take to cook or to just have a sandwich but I thought I needed some hot food in me so waited. By the time the pasta was ready some of our group were getting a bit stiff so needed to get moving, so thinking we might catch up off they went. Martin and I ate our pasta, got some extra layers on, dug out our head torches and off we set. Not much running. Sore feet. Strange hallucinations – neon dancing penguin anyone? No just me then! Luckily chatting to Martin made the miles pass easily and I knew I had a secret weapon at the next checkpoint, Ambleside.

When I first signed up to Lakeland, I said to Alan it would be a fab weekend for him, there is a brilliant set up, event campsite, marquees, live music, bars, food court. After the 100 sets of there is a kids race, the Lakeland 1. He could go swimming, chill out and enjoy the atmosphere, however friends of ours who were in charge of one of the checkpoints contacted Alan – the pingdemic had hit the volunteers and they were short, would he help out? Of course he said yes, so he would now be volunteering at Ambleside with Jeni and Sharon from 9am Saturday morning til it closed on Sunday morning at 4am! Now that’s some shift! Huge respect and kudos to all the amazing volunteers at these events, without them us runners would have no races. I have volunteered myself so know it is a very long, exhausting day but I have never had to put in those kind of hours.

As we arrived into Ambleside there were so many familiar friendly faces, it really lifted my spirits and of course Alan was there and it was so good to see him, I told him about my feet and he asked if I wanted to dnf. No chance, I said, I need to finish this so I don’t have to come back and do it again! With that soup, tea and jam sandwiches appeared, we sat inside for 5 mins and whilst there our friend Noanie and her dad, Brian appeared. Noanie had been in charge of the first checkpoint of the 100 and was then walking the 50 with her Dad, we kept bumping into each other at checkpoints with them arriving as we left. There was a special surprise for Brian at Ambleside, it was 1am and now his birthday so he was treated to a rendition of us singing happy birthday to him with Sharon on the fiddle!

We had 15 more miles so needed to keep pushing on, we were finishing this. We got a bit of pace up for the next section but my feet were really hurting however there were more smoother sections here so we made up as much ground as we could while we could. As we were leaving the next checkpoint of Chapel Stile we bumped into Noanie again, she asked how I was doing and I said fine apart from my feet. Have you got any painkillers? she asked, em yes I replied, lots. Mmmm why don’t you try taking them! Doh! Of course, that would be a good idea! I had enough paracetamol to OD on, but it had not crossed my mind to take any. I popped a couple and as we left the sun was coming up. With the combination of pain killers and daylight we got a fresh boost and ran all the next section passing lots of other runners. Unfortunately just before the last checkpoint my foot started feeling wet, I looked down and could see a big stain on my shoe – a blister I had on my little toe had burst, I tried to keep running but I could feel it was not right, I had to stop and fix it. It was a bit of a field patch job but it enabled us to keep moving. Final checkpoint, 3.5 miles to go. We had one final climb then a bit of a steep tricky descent then we were back in Coniston coming down into the village, it was nearly 9am and there were people dotted around cheering us on, it felt really emotional, we ran downhill into the school under the finish gantry and we were finished! I was now a Lakeland Legend!

Distance:   105 miles
Elevation:    22,500 ft
Finish time:  38.43.56

Post Race

Once finished and given my medal and photo Alan and Ross, who had run the 50, were waiting for me, it was so good to see them.  My first stop was the medics to try and sort out my foot and field dressing (I will spare you the details!) then it was beer time! Who says 9am is too early 🙂 It was so good to sit down and stop and relax at last. I wanted to stay for the award ceremony as I had missed it last time I was here and I knew it was a bit of an event in itself. After a shower and a bit of sleep we found ourself a patch on the grass in the sun and waited for it to begin. Music was blaring, (the theme for the whole weekend was “getting the band back together” from the Blues Brothers as we had all missed last year so the music was really bouncing) the volunteers were dancing it felt like a real party atmosphere. The winners and VIP’s were in a little VIP area with fresh fruit and drinks and then there was a double line of dancing volunteers lining the route to the stage, each winning group that was announced came down the aisle, frequently running or racing each other, of clapping, dancing, cheering volunteers to massive cheers and were given their awards on stage. As well as age group winners for the 50 and 100, there were awards for the youngest and oldest competitors, special slate awards for 500 Legends, those that had completed the 100 course 5 times! Then there were the overall winners which included Nicola Duncan who came 2nd in the 50, she obviously got our biggest cheer of the day.

The Lakeland 50 & 100 races are not easy, they are certainly the toughest ones I have done and the high DNF rates reflect this, it’s physically gruelling but it’s also mentally challenging, you don’t have the support crew you have with the West Highland Way to look out for you and pull you through, and preempt any issues, you don’t have anyone telling you to eat, or drink, or take painkillers! But you do have the most amazing checkpoints, all themed with fancy dressed volunteers with big smiles and welcomes who look after you and feed and water you and send you on your way and of course you have most incredible runners on the course who all pull each other through and look out for each other.

Big thanks to Martin, Rachel, Jon and Ross who made the miles pass quicker, took my mind of the sore bits and kept me sane wondering if Mardale Head would ever appear.

#everybodyneedssomebody

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Virtual race raises vital funds for Mental Health Charity

Thank you to the runners who took part in our  virtual  race?
The Committee and Club Members have been amazed at how many people got involved in our race and our plan to raise awareness and funds for the mental health charity Penumbra. As we said in our ‘Race Description’ we wanted you to take time out to run with others or alone and to reward yourselves with a coffee and cake – we would normally have provided you with a great route, support and plenty of coffee and cake but you guys all had to motivate yourselves to do this and you nailed it!!
? Quick numbers – £960 raised in entry fees and £155 raised on Just Giving page so a total of £1115 so far going straight to the charity.
? Evidence – The ‘evidence’ is still coming in but I think nearly all of the 160 entrants ran their virtual 10k between our dates. Some ran further than 10k, some ran it more than once because they enjoyed it so much! I have replied to every email and posted photos if you sent one and a bit of information on our facebook page so please have a look. It has been so great to see you all and where you ran ? Ihttps://www.facebook.com/penicuikharriers/?ref=pages_you_manage
? Medals – I have ordered 135 of our unique medals from The Workshop at Aberfeldy and they arrived and are now ready to be delivered.

A reminder that our medals were sponsored by local business Carnethy Woodfuel. The proprietor Mark is a club member who was more than happy to come on board and support what his club were doing. https://www.carnethywoodfuel.co.uk/ They supply and deliver Hardwood logs, kiln dried logs, wood pellets and briquetttes to Edinburgh, Midlothian and Borders.

? Results : Did I really promise a results list for our lovely non-competitive virtual race? I will try and work out something, it won’t be a full results list but I will pick out a few notable runs, maybe even manage a top 3 but every run was so different and varied; some being in the hills, loops of football pitches, walks, dog walks, out and backs, trail and a group who walked and did a litter-pick at the same time. All different and all suited to the individual who took on the challenge to run 10k.

? Just Giving – I set up a just giving page because I was asked by a few people how they could donate to the charity in Harriers name to further support what we are doing or couldn’t take part but wanted to donate. This page will stay open until the 31st of May https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/penicuikharriers

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Invite – Penicuik Harriers would like to invite you all to take part in our actual race next year! We promise you a beautiful route with a wee hill on the way out and stunning views of ‘our’ Pentland Hills on the way back, great support the whole way and most of all we promise you coffee and cakes baked by our club members. We can’t wait to meet you all!!! Here is a date for your diary – Saturday 14th May 2022
Thanks for supporting our club and our efforts to support mental health and the awareness of it.

Susie and all at Penicuik Harriers
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Susie's Penicuik Virtual 10k page
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The Lairig Ghru Race – musings from someone who was beaten by this race – twice!

As so many Harriers have signed up for the Lairig Ghru this year, I felt that my difficult experiences of the two times I tried this race could provide some insight on how you should consider preparing/training for this race.

At 43kms and 680m height gain, it just enters the “ultra” category although it is always defined as a category C long hill race. It is basically a marathon on generally tarmac or forest roads with a modest elevation gain. On paper, it appears “easy”, but there is a gnarly ca. 17 kms middle section between ca. 15 and 32 kms which can be the undoing of many. It is rough, technical and a “normal” fitness for a road marathon will NOT be enough to get you through this section fresh.

In my training, I planned a modest 10kms/hr pace. I would be faster on the road/easy trail sections and slower on the technical sections but hopefully finishing with an average 10k/hr pace – leading to a race time between 4:15 and 4:30. Looking at my pace plot from last year, it is clear that through the technical section, I was woefully slower than this 6 mins/km pace and even after the technical section, my back and legs were clearly gone and I hardly managed to get back to the 6 mins/km pace.

Rob's pace

My Pace plot for 2020 LG race

So – first tip: Don’t underestimate how technical that middle section is. You will be much slower through this section. You must practise running on very technical rocky tracks – WITH tired legs.

Suggestion: Maybe run around the Pentland easy tracks for about 20kms, then do reps on the track on the NW back side of Black Hill between the Green Cleugh and the eastern end of Threipmuir Resevoir.

Running the Stuc O’ Chroin ridge would also be good practise.

 

Anyway – A quick run down of the route – see numbers on maps below for brief descriptions of sections:

LG – 1st Half

1–2: Nice fast, gentle start on single track tarmac road up the Dee valley. Great views. Under Covid restrictions you will probably be running in groups of 5. This worked very well last year and even if you are ahead, the Dee river crossing at point 2 is very obvious. You cannot go wrong.

2-3: Now on well-maintained tracks and the route takes you through and around the back of the old stables at Mar Lodge. Once on the tracks behind, you need to turn off to the right after about 1.5 kms. I think this was sign posted last year – but there is only one track, so not really an issue I think.

3-4: Straight forward forest track up to the confluence in Glen Derry. There used to be a water station here but under Covid restrictions, I don’t think there will be one. Just after Derry Lodge, you will cross the river on the foot bridge. This confluence is an excellent place to camp.

4-5: My favourite section of the race. Nice bouncy peaty and very runnable track. Alas, this nice running section is only a few kms.

5-6: Now things get tougher. Possible that you will get wet feet crossing the Luibeg burn. In fact, I advise you to just go through and get wet feet rather than trying to skip across the rocks (can be wet and slippy) and risk falling. Once you have crossed the burn, the route starts climbing for the first time. The track now starts getting more technical. Once the track diverts from a westerly to a northly direction you will get your first view of the fabulous U shape valley of the Lairig Ghru. Also – however – you get your first inkling of how long this rather technical section is – it seems to go on forever. Little elevation gain, but a continuous gnarly track. The final 2 kms of this section takes you up towards the Pools of Dee. It is at this point where you will enter the famous granite boulder fields of the central Cairngorms. The good news is that being granite, the rocks are really not that slippy, even in wet conditions. HOWEVER – you don’t want to fall on this stuff, so take it easy. There is not always a clear track through the boulder field, so skipping across rocks, some of which might shift, can be risky if you try it at speed. Remember, you will be at ca. 27 kms at this point, so your legs will be tired and might not function how you want them to.

LG – 2nd half

6-7: Slightly steeper descent after the divide but the path is still annoyingly technical, and I have found muscle cramping a problem here. These few kms seem to go on and on but the terrain/path steadily gets easier.

7-8: As the route leaves the open hillside and enters Rothiemurchus forest, the trail becomes a nice forest track although be careful of roots. This is another section that is really quite pleasant to run down even if your legs are rubber by this point.

8-9-10: When you leave the fell track and hit the forest trail in Rothiemurchus. FFS, turn left! Right goes to Loch Morlich!! This section is pleasant with the river on the left. Just to remind you how tired you are, there are some Himalayan large steps up over the footbridge over the river which normally you would skip up. You will groan as you lift your legs up. But soon after the bridge there will be a fork in the track. Go right and then stay on this easy flat gravel track all the way to Coylumbridge. On a hot day, the shade from the pine trees can be a blessing, but the track does go on and on.

10-Finish: Coylumbridge to Aviemore all pavement beside the road. As I hate road, this final 3 kms always felt endless. Note that my map for last year might not be quite right for the final km or so. Read carefully the instructions for how you are to cross the railway and enter the main street in Aviemore.

 

Last year, the conditions were almost perfect. The winner came in at 3:03 which might give you an idea how much slower the LG is compared to a normal marathon. My two times were 4:49 and 4:48 – at least 20 mins slower than I would have liked but both times it took me weeks to recover and I still have back problems from last year.

 

My last tip is related to hydration and food.

I don’t think there will be drink stations but there are fairly major river crossings at 11.5, 13.8, 16.8, and 36 kms. Depending on weather conditions, there could be small streams coming off the hills. I ran with 2L of water on my back which meant I did not have to faff at the rivers. Personal choice, I guess.

You need to be careful with food. The race is runnable compared to more normal hill races, so you will need to ensure you eat appropriately at the right times through the race. When I first ran, I completely forgot to eat anything until well past Luibeg (18kms) when I started feeling hungry. Too late. I then stuffed myself to catch up and my body spectacularly rejected the food from more than one orifice. So get the energy input right. You will need that energy for those last 16kms!

Anyway – Good luck to the Harriers running this year. It is an epic race but don’t underestimate it.

Rob

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Virtual 10k Medal Sponsorship

We are delighted to announce that we have a sponsor for our rather lovely wooden race medals ??

The guys have come on board to support the Virtual Penicuik 10k and we are so grateful. Anyone who said they didn’t want a medal but would now like one please comment here or email roadrace@penicuikharriers.org.uk

Wooden Medal

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Penicuik 10k has gone virtual with all proceeds to charity

 


Full details 10k Road Race | Penicuik Harriers Running Club

Enter here – Penicuik 10k Virtual Road Race – EntryCentral.com

The chosen charity is www.penumbra.org.uk

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The purple and the white: running in the time of coronavirus

And now for something completely different. Not a race report, but a no-race report. Yes, there have been virtual events (I’ll come to those later), but with the last event that was clinging to my race calendar cancelled and switched to virtual at the last minute, and the cancellation of the XC season, I felt the need to have a little vent.

2019 was an incredible year for me. The best I’ve ever had, with four podium finishes and leading the females in the unofficial ‘Triple Crown’. I pushed myself further than I’d ever gone with the West Highland Way Race. Finishing the year with Wooler marathon in the torrential rain didn’t dampen my spirits at all. I had planned a quieter year in 2020, to not only allow Mark some well-deserved training time for his UTMB TDS race, but to give my body a bit of a rest. Just the Fling and the Devil, and maybe Wooler again, with some shorter races thrown in. Oh, and the matter of attempting to run the EMF 10k in a T.Rex costume! Little did I realise that in March, those modest plans would be wiped clean by COVID-19.

Out of nowhere, running became a source of intense anxiety. I got grief from walkers just for running near them, blocked from familiar trails by paranoid landowners and forced onto the Midlothian backroads with nothing but the ever-increasing fly-tipping spots to look at. It became a chore just to get out of the door. Slowly, with postponed events being pushed further and further away, virtual events began popping up. I took on a few of them, my favourite being the virtual West Highland Way Race. But after each event, my desire to run got weaker and weaker. Why was that? I’ve been philosophising on this recently, after recently completing the virtual Wooler marathon, and have surmised as follows.

The Purple

Virtual events are vital in the running community in these strange times. Not only to ensure that there are still races to run in the following years by supporting organisers (who have had their income decimated, sometimes when they have already outlaid our entry fees on merchandise, fees, insurance, etc.), but also to give runners a sense of purpose – something to get out of the door and train for. For some they have been a godsend, to others a raging disappointment. They are not suited to everyone, but it’s all we currently have. A ‘purple patch’ in an otherwise desolate racing calendar. Runners could still collect medals, if so inclined, and feel a sense of competition, albeit a socially-distanced one. Some have found their own personal challenges, and a record number of FKT (Fastest Known Time) attempts have been achieved across the UK. For some, 2020 has presented an opportunity to try something completely different, without the constraints of a race calendar to hold them back. A shout out here for the incredible Yan Horsburgh, for his 24-hour 122+ mile virtual Glenmore 24 back in September! You are an inspiration my friend.

The White

For runners like me, it’s been a time to reflect on why we love racing, and why we miss them so much. The pre-race nerves, the start line excitement, catching up with running buddies, the group selfies with heads pressed together and arms wrapped around each other. And the sweaty, finish-line hugs. Oh my, I miss those! Especially those from the ones who’ve picked you up near the end and kept you going with no thought for their own times or goals (thank you, Sadie Kemp). So there are now blanks – ‘white patches’ – punched into the virtual race experience. At the end of a virtual race, what is there? An upload to Strava and some kudos from your running friends. A t-shirt and/or medal through the post. Checking your result on-line, but in the knowledge that it won’t count for much as virtual results are extremely difficult to regulate or compare. I know there are many who would disagree with me, but for me personally, it’s a bit of an empty experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t disagree with the restrictions that have ravaged the 2019 racing calendar. They are keeping us safe and ensuring that at some point next year (I hope) we can get back to racing. To travelling 2 hours to Paxton House to run less than 4 miles around the estate, through glorious amounts of mud and jumping over streams. To sharing cakes out of a car boot after running Tinto hill race in the snow. To marshalling the best local road race in the Lothians (Penicuik 10k of course). To everything that makes racing so fun and friendly. I just need to find that spark, that motivation to get out the door that doesn’t include a race number. I’m pondering a Pentlands Round at some point. Perhaps I should just get that in the calendar and pull up my big girl pants!

In the meantime, let’s reflect on the good times and know that they will be there in the future too. ‘Mon the Purple and White!

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Altra Virtual West Highland Way Race 2020

Continue reading

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Harriers Day – Road Race Day

Our road race couldn’t go ahead this year so our club members turned Sat 9th May into……

Harriers Day –

They ran alone or with their kids, they also biked and walked wearing their club colours so that we could all be together – but apart!

Some ran the actual route and others ran closer to home or in the hills and the Penicuik Estate. But nearly all of us were out there being active and happy on what should have been our race day.

We are all really proud of our club coming together (but apart) to do this and hope we can all be running, training and racing together again soon ?

Thanks to Euan Maxwell for putting all of our photos together for us ?

https://www.facebook.com/penicuikharriers/videos/248168736526281/

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Glentress Trail Marathon 23 02 2020

Distance: 42K Ascent: 1500m

Driving down through the snow to Glentress early Sunday morning I was nervous and excited to see what the conditions would be like for the race. Some of our crowd had done the cross country the previous day in horrendous weather, Juliane has been injured and Gilly has been battling a cold and recovering from a cycling injury so we were all discussing the possibility of just doing one lap. Looking at the weather the previous day I was glad the marathon wasn’t then. Although the wind had dropped a bit the ground underfoot was waterlogged and there was quite a lot of snow on the ground. Running through the forest was like a winter wonderland in places with the snow topped pine trees. The exposed areas on the hills were a bit wilder and I was glad to get back to the shelter of the branches. I find the hardest bit of this race is getting yourself back out for the second lap, especially as it is uphill almost immediately. Once you are committed it’s more enjoyable in some ways than the first lap, although you are tired and achy the field is more spread out so you can settle to your own pace and take in the scenery. On finishing the race I got cold very quickly and dashed home to get a hot shower and eat. It wasn’t until I checked the results I realised I had come in first in my category. Damn, I should have stayed for the prize giving. It was a course PB for me which I am pleased with especially considering the conditions. I really enjoyed the race this year, High Terrain host some very testing events and they are always well organised and their volunteers are friendly and supportive, many thanks to them.

Some of Michael Philp’s super images from the day:

Full results http://www.timingupnorthresults.co.uk/results.aspx?CId=16576&RId=3087

Sadie Kemp 05:07:57
Tim Doyle 06:02:39
Tracy Philp 06:02:45
Juliane Friedrich 06:07:52
Gilly Marshall 06:10:40

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Carnethy 5 Hill Race 50th Anniversary

This years race will remain etched in our memories and on our faces for a long time!  Storm Dennis was forecast and didn’t fail to disappoint. My excitement before the race turned to fear on top of West Kip where I thought I was going to be blown off, luckily there was a bent leg of a marshal trying to stay upright that I grabbed onto and pulled myself forward.

Lots of Harriers were doing this race for the first time and what conditions to be doing it in – it must surely be better weather next year, like it was……hmmmm 2015 I think was the last time I think it wasn’t a battle with weather!!

Here is the link to Olly’s report – he describes the race so well. http://carnethy.com/2020/02/carnethy-5-race-directors-report/

A huge thank you to the Harriers who came out to support us and especially to the marshals and officials who were all incredible.

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Strathearn Trail Festival 1st & 2nd Feb

This festival consists of four races split over two days. On the Saturday there is a Light 10k at 1pm then a Dark 10k at 5pm then on the Sunday there is a 5k at 11am and a Half Marathon on 12.30pm.  When I looked at this I thought I might enter the Dark 10k because the route was trail and in the dark which is what I like.  Then I noticed that there was an option to run all four races….. Hmmm, well that would certainly test to see if my injury could cope with upping my milage – so I entered all four!

The races were based in the grounds of Crieff Hydro and each race took you on a route over the Knock except the 5k. The trails were nuts! So muddy, technical and constantly undulating or climbing. There must have been downhill but I don’t remember much about them apart from the rocky paths one….

The results aren’t out yet but Strava tells me:
Race 1, Light 10k, Elevation 1,073ft – 1h11m
Race 2, Dark 10k, Elevation 1,085ft – 1h18m (went a bit wrong at one point)
Race 3, 5k in the snow, Elevation 514ft – 37m16s
Race 3, Half Marathon, Elevation 2,161ft – 2h54m27s

I completely loved all the races because of the route, the organisers and the atmosphere.  I met a bunch of nice people and came home with four medals and some really muddy, wet kit!

They might be doing the same kind of thing in the Summer and I totally recommend it to all of you – hopefully trails would be less muddy.

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Feel the Burns 19-Jan-2020

Distance 21.4 km
Climb 800 m

The weather was mild this year which gave us near perfect running conditions bar the mud. As always this is a much enjoyed race by the harriers, could that be something to do with the lentil soup and haggis pie at the finish? 😉

Full results: https://www.scottishhillracing.co.uk/RaceResults.aspx?RaceID=RA-0299&Year=2020

87 Rob Wilson M40 2:04:09 146.0%
141 Yan Horsburgh M50 2:14:53 158.6%
176 Sadie Kemp F40 2:21:53 166.8%
194 Tracy Philp F40 2:30:23 176.8%
198 Gilly Marshall F40 2:31:11 177.8%
251 Mark Dawson M50 2:55:12 206.0%

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