Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Carnethy 5

A nice wee covering of snow
It’s the headlong charge into the icy swamp that always does it for me, a sharp intake of breath, feet in the icy murky sludgy water while desperately hoping not to fall and have my head used as a stepping stone by another competitor. It’s a wee bit like that children’s rhyme “We’re going on a bear hunt” after all “we can’t go under it, we can’t go over it, oh no! we gotta go through it...splosh splosh”. Some people went for full body immersion into it even before the race started but that’s just taking things too far – eh Peter?
Carnethy Hill
After the swamp it’s the gate and the gorse bushes which cause the field to grind to a halt as 500 people try to squeeze through a very small gap then a tricky wee descent before starting the ascent of South Black hill. My slight lack of confidence and big lack of discipline had seen me start too far back in the field and I was well and truly caught up in the crowd by now and going nowhere fast. The covering of snow had made the ground very slippery which made overtaking while climbing a slow, tiring and ultimately pointless exercise so I resigned myself to the slow plod upwards and contented myself with threatening to throw snowballs at Sula who was spectating on the summit.

Race Map
 The horrible rain and sleet of the morning had dispersed just as everyone had kept assuring me it would  and, given how cold the wind was on the summit, I was truly thankful for that. In fact we were amazingly lucky with the weather – beautiful and clear – and although I was decidedly nervous of taking my eyes off the treacherous slippy ground in front of me I did manage to glance round a couple of times and take in the views.
Fantastic photo borrowed from Peter Buchanan's blog
The next 3 summits seemed to pass quickly enough and I stayed on my feet (mostly) for the descents before slipping and slithering my way down off West Kip into the valley. Then there was a stretch of muddy track, not at a steep angle but muddy and waterlogged after more than a month of wet weather. It was here that Mairead skipped delicately past me while I was grubbing about in the ankle deep mud before finally giving up and going for the full bum slide descent of the last little downhill. (“we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh on! We gotta slide down it…..aaaarrggh!”) I must say I was rather impressed by some of the more artistic interpretations of the downhill bum slide that other folk managed, particularly the head first and legs in the air one. Next year there should be a special race prize for this.

The descent from Carnethy (c Peter Buchanan)
As I crawled (literally) out of the ditch I suddenly found that I was really quite knackered but still had the last hill – the big one – to do. So it was another slow crawl up Carnethy exchanging comments with Paul (well ok we were both knackered so they weren’t really comments, more like grunts).  On the way up to the top of Carnethy I glanced at my watch, oh crappity crap, it was going to be a slow one. And so it was.
The Finish Line (c Peter Buchanan)
After rounding the summit cairn it was time for the bit i was dreading – the big descent off Carnethy. There seemed to be a marshall missing as the entire race field plummeted down the normally off limits scree avoiding the very popular (not!) descent through the heather. The descent brought on a bad bought of my scree - and - heather - related tourettes syndrome so I apologise to anyone who was in the vicinity at the time. After what seemed like an eternity I reached the bottom of the hill and narrowly avoided a crowd pleasing face plant in the mud and from there it is a straight run to the finish........and through that bloody swamp once again.

Through the swamp... (c Peter Buchanan)
I look like i'm enjoying it far too much (c Peter Buchanan)
Having worked up a reasonable amount of body heat during the race as soon as I had finished I started to cool down quickly so I decided that it would be too cold to wait around for the bus and joined team HBT for a wee cool down jog back to the school in Penicuik where showers and the world famous Carnethy race chicken pie were awaiting. The prize giving was also a bit of a high point for HBT who were winners of both the men’s and women’s team prizes as well as Orlando being the race winner overall. As usual this superbly organised race is a great chance to catch up with folk that you haven’t seen for ages and it really does feel as though the hill running season has begun for the year. It almost makes the icy swamp seem worth it. Almost.
Race Map - including the jog back to Penicuik just in case anyone thinks i did a longer race.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Devils Burdens Relay 2014

The Lomonds of Fife....on a clear day (photo stolen shamelessly from wikipedia)

 Aaaah…choices, choices…don’t you just love ’em? First choice of the day was whether to climb over the fence or to climb through the wire. The wrong choice was made and Mairead, my running buddy for this leg of the race, had to untangle me from wire as I couldn’t extract my less than agile body from it. Next choice of the day was whether to follow the fence line and then head directly uphill to the gully where the checkpoint was hidden or whether to contour gradually up the hill. Despite my dislike of contouring we followed the crocodile of runners up the hill and the two runners that I had spotted out of the corner of my eye following the fence line were behind us at the first checkpoint, unfortunately meaning that the contouring route was probably quicker and therefore I should select this route again. Damn.

East Lomond

The start
 After the first checkpoint it is straight up to the summit of West Lomond. No choices here. The cold wind at the summit felt especially raw since we were soaked from an earlier rain and hail shower but on the plus side the wind kept the mist at bay so the views were good although I am not entirely convinced that Mairead appreciated me pointing out the landmarks of Fife. After posing briefly for a photo for a very cold looking Pete Bracegirdle we got to the summit…at exactly the same time as a group of walkers who decided to park their backsides down on the concrete base of the trig point as we desperately hunted around them for the checkpoint flag. Helpful. After looking under a few rocks we concluded it wasn’t there and it really wasn’t a day for hanging about so off we went. Colin Wilson and his partner reached the summit at the same time as us and they immediately disappeared down into the valley. I had lost sight of Louise Burt and Susan Harley which was a bit disappointing as I figured that as Fifers they would have spent the last 6 weekends recceing the route and would know the best way. I was completely bemused as to where they had gone….had Fife AC finally built a secret tunnel enabling them to sneak between the peaks unobserved? As it transpired Susan had simply removed the bright yellow waterproof that she had been wearing early in the race and I was looking for someone wearing a bright yellow top. Sneaky. (Well it fooled me)

There's always one...

Louise B
Susan (sneakily hiding her yellow jacket!)
I decided to head slightly further over to the left (I expect I should be using navigation terminology such as “South south west” and “Bearing” but anyone who did that leg will know what I mean) than Colin had and make a line for the path on the basis that there was less descent and therefore less ascent to be faced when coming back out of the valley but mainly because running on the path means less heather bashing. We followed the path through the gate and as it climbed gradually, eventually leading us to another wall and fence that needed to be scaled. This time it was Mairead’s turn to get tangled up in it. I know SHR offer hill navigation courses etc but I think maybe there’s a need for fence climbing classes…

The previous year Phyllis and I had taken a more of a direct route to the Bishop hill which was quite boggy, slow going and unpleasant so this year I chose the path and again out of the corner of my eye I saw another team opt for the direct route. Last year it was so claggy it was impossible to work out which teams were ahead or behind so this was going to be an interesting experiment. We reached the summit of Bishop Hill before they did so I suspect the path is marginally quicker and it is certainly more runnable. After the Bishop Hill there are 2 more checkpoints, no more route choices and a near vertical descent to the finish. Ok that’s an exaggeration but it sure feels like it and yet again my pathetic downhill running (in)ability was plain for all the spectators to witness as I slipped and stumbled towards the finish however I was mightily surprised to find someone worse than me at going down hill – HBT’s very own Gash!

Leg 2 - Course profile
 Yet again captain Eilidh had given me leg 2 to do. I think her reasoning is something along the lines of because I used to live in Fife I therefore I know my way round all of its hills without getting lost. Fortunately I think I have managed to maintain this illusion for another year and on another positive note Mairead was still speaking to me at the end despite suffering my dubious navigation skills and dismal chat.
Leg 2 map
 I managed to scrounge a lift back from the finish to pick up my car in Strathmiglo before heading to Falkland where I knew I would be faced with the last, and probably most difficult, choice of the day – what type of soup to have! Yet again Fife Ac excelled in providing a mass of food and drink to hundreds of hungry runners, not to mention a superbly well organised race. Yet again.

Last year the HBT women’s teams were named the “Brown Bombshells” and "Brown Babes" but for some reason this year we were the “HBT parasites” the “Desperados” and the “Rejects”. I’d like to say "Parasites" has a certain ring to it but…. Anyway the “HBT Parasites" finished 8th team out of the 28 womens' teams to finish and the HBT A team (God knows what they were called on the day) finished first.  Thanks to the other “Parasites” Sinead (nice bit of punch card minding....), Miranda (Great to see you, albeit briefly) and Sandra and Phyllis. Also a big thanks to “Ronnie” of Forfar road runners who kindly took our bags to the finish of our leg so we wouldn’t have to stand around in soaking wet gear after running, that was much appreciated.

* The fantastic action photos from West Lomond were all taken by Pete Bracegirdle and many more can be found on the Fife Athletic club website