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

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