This is a great low key event that Nick Brown of CAAC set up last year. Back then I was only just getting back from a lame foot and was heavily involved with the Speed of Light project. Last year there were 19 runners – this year about twice that. It didn't really occur to me that I was in much better form this time.
While warming up on the first section you can look back to the finish line.
(And last 2.5 hills.)
Nick (right) starts the race.
Fergus (in black) and Bob (in Ochils vest) retained their leading positions throughout!
I'm NEVER laid back enough to start in last place!
Steve C gave me a lift there. We had allowed for a bit of time in case town was busy but I think most of Edinburgh was lying in bed with a hangover. We arrived loads early and had plenty of time for a good warm up and a chat to fellow competitors. I was so busy chatting to folk that I was towards the back of the field as we got ready for the off. Instead of pushing through to the front I took a couple of pics of the start and ran from pretty much last place through the pack to near the front as we all cruised along the only half mile of tarmac before the gate and off into the hills proper.
Behind the peak with only thin cover on top is Baddinsgill Reservoir
Michael and Phil long ways off.
gaps between runners open up
catching up slowly
I went from sixth up to fifth during the initial climbing. Round about the first or second summit I could see Michael Moorfoot and Phil W of Central who were in 3rd and 4th. They were some distance ahead but rather than try to close the gap immediately I thought it might be a better tactic to make up the distance slowly over the rolling bits along to the first big dipper. I don't know where all this laissez faire attitude came from – normally I throw myself into races as if every one was a 10k.
Not exactly stigmata, I admit. At various points we climbed barbed wire fences. At this one I had the camera in my right hand so just stepped over at which point I realised it was higher than my inside leg and I impaled my shorts lightly on a barb. Swinging the other leg over I caught my gaiter also, and then had to balance on one tippy toe while I used one hand to un-impale the 2 contact points. Somehow I managed to avoid anything requiring stitches but took this photo to remind me of the incident. (The gaiters were excellent and kept all the swamp filth out of my socks, and my laces remained tied, although why Inov8 can't make them non-absorbent is a mystery.)
The plan worked out nicely – I was catching the 2 ahead as we descended towards the first swamp. I wanted to get in close for a photo – should anyone go in up to their neck I wanted to capture the moment. Fergus and Bob in first and second were only just visible here disappearing over the top of the next hill. That was about the last we saw of them. Phil was leading Michael, and I noticed he had jumped over the fence and was descending the right side. (Steve said later he had checked out both in last week's recce and neither side was that much better when you hit the low spot and potentially waist deep muck.) I jumped over the worst of it but still my foot went down to over knee deep in the greenish sump.
As we climbed up the other side Michael asked if I was going to do the 2 Breweries. I said I thought I might well – that I had fond memories of it but on reflection that that was more about the free beers at the finish than the course which can be trying or words to that effect. A couple of years back he and I spent a lot of the second half, sharing the joys.
Down to the Drove Road crossing
Phil making headway down the technical descent.
Last year I was unable to keep up with the 2 Chris's on this climb with the result that I took a wrong bearing off the eventual summit cairn and lost a quarter of a mile on the way down to the Drove Road. I was determined to stick with Phil and Michael as Phil seemed to know what he was doing. (I think the result of a recce Bob Wiseman was talking about later.) He (Phil) had a map in his hand at the summit cairn and he didn't seem to have it out just to mop his brow.
After the summit cairn we retraced our route slightly and headed left (South) down the steep and bumpy path. I took a photo pointing back to see if a better more direct path through the blocky boulders comes down the front of the hill but there doesn't seem to be one. Half way down the hill there were a group of rucksack wearing hikers. I noticed Phil put 100+ yards between himself and Michael and I. We both remarked upon this and I thought if I am going to beat this dude it will have to be on the ascents and don't leave it till the last down hill mile because he is VERY fast on technical descents.
This photo looking back to show the distance Phil dropped by slowing to eat was taken a moment before I went head over heels. Take your eye off the rutted ground for a second and you were down.
First significant gain over M and P.
Also the skyline from top right to top left is roughly the first half of the course.
Stopped to check map: it's the big one on the right not the small one in the centre.
Almost immediately we are at the Drove Road and the marshal offers us a drink and jelly baby. I have a quick swig of lightly flavoured water. Tasty! I am carrying various items – water proofs (obligatory) and a camera (oblogatory) but to save weight, consumed sufficient water before starting. It's only 2 hrs after all. Bizarrely, Phil slows to walk and when we catch up and enquire is he ok, he says he is having some food to eat. Again I think it's only 2hrs and my 7.30 breakfast will do fine. I have a gel in case I have a fainting fit but that's really only emergency. I wonder is Phil daft or a genius. Could go either way, but he lost a bit of ground at that point and continued to drift back during the next climb, following the wall with the 90' turn then up to the top of that bit and some nice running.
Around here I took the “lead” from Michael and passed on the small amount of nav info I knew about the next section. Good running until we veer off into the knee deep heather, then it's an ugly descent through heather to the valley and a long slog up the other side. I was now in third place and feeling pretty good. Once onto the higher ground I got out the map and checked which hill we were aiming for. While most of the route had sections memorable from last year there were quite long stretches where I had no recollection and wondered if I was still on course. The lead 2 – Fergus and Bob were so far away you would have needed a telescope to see them. I realised I could easily misdirect the entire field bar 2. Michael was not going to be much nav help as he readily admitted he didn't have a clue. I was fairly sure I took an almost identical turn off to the one I followed the 2 Chris's on last year. There was some very tussocky heathery stretches but also some good sheep trods that took us down to the ditch in the valley and up the other side.
Last year this stomp through knee deep heather seemed to take forever. This year I was definitely fresher and got to the fence corner as the ascent first levels off with much more left in the tank. I sensed I was pulling away from Michael and nearly made a three finger gesture to the camera feeling third place was (barring disasters) in the bag.
However chickens not to be counted and all that, I kept my fingers to myself and hurried along the side of the fence. Nick had said a marshal would stand at the corner where we would climb the fence and take a right turn to hit the last peak. Last year 3 people missed the turn off and seeing the finish down below, made a direct line for it and were promptly disqualified!
The last peak was further away and higher than I remembered. Last year I must have been anticipating the end being in sight and felt nearly home. This year I thought there was still room for someone to have a second wind and romp past robbing me of a podium place. I took the direct line rather than follow the quad bike trail along the skyline. It was a lumpy descent but with an occasional sheep track and the look that runners had been by this way recently – the grass flattened in the right direction. I had an occasional squint back to see if Michael was perhaps taking a better route and about to overhaul me but there was no sign of him. I wondered if he had taken the wrong route directly to the finish, especially when I saw the next person up the last peak was Phil as I was descending off it, a safe distance ahead. (I took photos of the topmost point. Nick said it was unmarshalled and trusted us not to cheat. Last year Grant Wilkie had marked the spot, this year the marshal was posted at the turn off – a better use of resource: I would be very surprised if anyone even considered cheating. If that sort of attitude pervades your nature you are not the likeliest candidate for starting an 11 mile romp across challenging terrain.) Michael had lost sight of me and had indeed ended up lost and fighting the undergrowth and swamps coming in behind the fourth or fifth finisher and sadly earning a dq.
unmanned check point
The last mile is a superb reward of speedy downhill on good terrain. Taking the quad bike trail over the last bump and down to the finish would have been the fastest ground of the day and a great end to a diverse course. All the soft ground – and there is a lot – saps the energy, but it is a good natural circuit and on a mostly clear day like today you can see and get a feeling for how far you have come and what is left to do.
The finish line
On the horizon just right of the flag is the fence over which you cross for the last peak.
Always the individual, Ian approached the finish from a unusual direction.
a flimsy excuse!
I was delighted to finish third and first v40 / 50. (7 minutes faster than last year.) (Beer and envelope!) I ran faster than last year's winner and so technically I could boast that I now hold the vet record time for the course. Yeeha!
Steve's second hill race completed successfully.
Many thanks to Steve for the lift there and back and for patiently waiting around for prize giving in a pub while unable to drink! Thanks again to Nick for making it happen and all the helpers, organisers and marshals. When I see the overpriced big city mainstream events – crowded and costly, I almost always think of races like today and that I'd rather be doing this: a thin line of runners across open hills, great, friendly competition and a course full of fun and splosh. Top quality event!
Results here at bottom of page.
Results here at bottom of page.