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.

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