Monday, 14 April 2014

Dark Demonic Deeds in Dunkeld

There was an eerie silence through the woods and a low swirling mist over the hilltops, the forces of malevolence and darkness were at work there was no doubt about it, the devil had a hand in it…after all this area was the setting for Shakespeare’s supernatural masterpiece of murder and witchery.

Well ok I am being a tad melodramatic. Basically some naughty person had altered the race route markings leading to all sorts of chaos and mayhem. 

Anyway while I am on the subject on unearthly and mystical occurrences Simon had entered the hill race which itself is certainly a once in a blue moon event. He did look most unhappy about the whole prospect of tackling the hill that morning and disappeared into the Hilton hotel for a double dose of scones and jam as his warm up while I jogged around the forest freezing my backside off.
The perfect warm up routine...
The start was slightly delayed as Adrian carefully counted each runner through the startline – maybe he did expect to lose one or two after all..??

The race starts at the Hilton Hotel
And off we went. Past a picturesque little loch and off up into the forest on nice runnable trails. As far as hill races go this is not a particularly gnarly one and I started to enjoy it trotting along in 4th place with the 3rd placed female runner a few paces ahead. After just over a mile I turned left on to a wide track ...only to be met by a big bunch of runners coming back towards me, maps in hand. We all stopped at the junction and from here the group split with half of us going in exactly the opposite direction along the track and the other half disappearing back the way they had come in search of an elusive missed checkpoint. By now Simon had caught up with me so deciding that the game was over we trotted along together and about half a mile later we were passed by the race leaders confirming that we had most definitely taken an unintentional short cut, not that we were in any doubt really. Although initially I was annoyed at myself for falling into the old trap of simply following the runner up ahead and not keeping my eyes open for any other trails or turnings, after all I’ve done enough hill races to know better, but then I took my foot off the gas and it now became a pleasant Sunday run and I started to enjoy myself I’m not too sure that the same could be said for Simon who seemed only able to communicate in grunts.
 I went on ahead searching out any missed turn offs in the undergrowth and managed to get to the mist shrouded summit of Deuchary Hill without further incident. On the summit I was informed by the marshal that people had appeared at the top from all different directions. It was silent and eerie on the hill waiting for Simon and for a fleeting moment my mind drifted back to MacBeth. My first thought was that if I see a forest on the march anywhere I will a) cut back on my alcohol intake and b) get the hell outta there!

 Happily though the only apparition looming on the horizon was Simon appearing through the mist.
He did enjoy it, i'm sure of it!
The route back was a nice gentle predominately downhill track and I’m sure on a sunny day the views would be great. When I lived in Dundee I used to train over some of these trails and it is possible to watch Ospreys diving in the lochs but sadly this wasn’t going to be happening today. When I estimated that there was only a mile or two to go to the finish I started to crank up the pace a little which may seem a little mean having run with Simon for most of the way but believe me, i did not want to be in the situation of having Simon on my shoulder with 100 yards to go as he doesn’t take any prisoners. It seemed like a bit of a long slog before the sharp turn through the trees to the finish line and on finishing there was nothing for it but to follow the lure of fresh scones back at the hotel. Resistance is futile!!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Newtonmore and Chips

The Pasta Party...

So I booked them all into the pasta party as all good runners are supposed to do the night before a race and what did they all order? Chips. By the bucket load. Maybe it was comfort eating whilst faced with the prospect of another Newtonmore 10 mile run in a blizzard, after all the snow was just starting to fall. 
With double helpings of chips!
 We need not have worried though, the snow held off for the duration of the race and was replaced by a biting headwind for the second half of the out and back course making it less than conducive to even splits. Still it was worth running like a maniac for the first 5 miles just to see the look on Bert’s face at the turning point when he realised that I wasn’t all that far behind him despite this resulting in my complete and utter disintegration in the second half of the race.

My Heb Half Nemesis


Shortly before I was outsprinted on the line
  Anyway there I was trotting along minding my own business, contemplating beer and chips back at the hotel, when some weirdo latched on to me and proceeded to coach me around the race. I put in a sprint to get away from him but clearly that was too subtle as he caught me up again and continued with his gibbering. I politely enquired as to why he didn’t feel the need to offer the benefit of his wisdom to the not inconsiderable number of male runners in the vicinity and was told to “shut up, I’m just trying to help you”. I later found out that my knight in shining lycra had spent a lot of the race “helping” another female runner behind me before moving on to the next. I can’t work out if he was just being patronising or if he was being pervy, neither excusable but in some ways I feel that pervy would be the more forgiveable. Anyway if you are going to jog around annoying people rather than race then it begs the question why enter the race in the first place? Maybe he thought it was some new form of speed dating.
I think it may have been a record field this year, certainly the Trottettes had appeared en mass and it seemed as though the post race tea and cakes were bigger and better than ever. 
The other changes were more unnerving - it seemed as though our favourite tatty-at-the edges highland hotel had undergone improvements – the sauna now worked, there was hot water coming out of the shower in my room and the doors now all have keycards and an alarm to warn you that your door wasn’t properly shut. Hours of endless amusement were to be had watching Bert figure out where the noise was coming from. We were all getting worried about how much improved the hotel was until Geoff and Mike announced that they had no heating in their rooms, phew – normal service was resumed. And the hotel still didn’t have muesli on offer at breakfast for Bert who had to sneak in his own supply of muesli and soya milk – certainly an eyebrow raiser for YP who had joined us for breakfast and was busy tucking into the full breakfast fry up. This was the Lynx Pack’s first meeting of the legend that is YP, the only man ever to achieve the Isle of Man TT – The Triple Ton – drink 100 pints and run 100 miles in 100 hours, a record that the Guiness book of records refused to include as it was considered to be too dangerous (‘elf & safety gone mad etc etc). Little wonder he eyed the man who brings his own carry out of muesli and soya milk to a race with an expression bordering on incredulity. Geoff and Mike seemed to be embracing the YP philosophy and going for the full fry up.
The cake was supposed to be a Newtonmore wild cat. Unfortunately it looked more like a tasmanian devil
All for me?
More chips
 After the race we made the most of the newly refurbished sauna and pool before celebrating Mike’s birthday with a wee celebration drink and cake....and chips. Meeting YP earlier in the day certainly seemed to inspire Geoff who, over dinner, came up with several interesting ways in which we could celebrate Bert’s birthday all of which involved drinking 60 pints somewhere along the way and running silly long distances.
Happy Days!
Where all great plans are hatched!

The next morning, as we lined up for the hangover mile, 60 pints didn’t seem quite such a top idea as it had the previous night and it would be fair to say that we didn’t really have a particularly heavy night. Basically we are a bunch of lightweights, although to be fair most people are when compared to YP.
The hangover mile was cold and brutal as ever but fortunately it was over quickly. Again I went off hard and had the novel sensation of my legs actually buckling in the last 200m but I wasn’t the only sorry sight on the start line that morning. 

The Hangover Mile
 After breakfast Bert and I went on a wee expedition which will from this time onwards be known as The Coldest Bike Ride In The World. I can’t say I hadn’t been warned, Geoff had done his best to let me know what I was in for. I thought a bike ride would be fun but Geoff had previous experience of this. Bert had some genius idea about cycling to Loch Ossian but fortunately I managed to get this reduced to a loop of Loch Morlich. Call me a wimp but I was none too keen on the prospect of a 6 hour foray into the hills in winter conditions and, five minutes after setting out, I knew I was right. My hands were frozen and I was not a happy bunny but there was no way I was going to confess this to Bert so I peddled on furiously until at last I felt that welcome pain of the blood returning to my extremities. Unbeknown to me Bert was suffering too and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that he wouldn’t have been too upset if I’d called time on the whole idea. Sitting freezing on the bike seemed to have jogged his memory into recalling that the last time he undertook the Loch Ossian bike ride it was during the summer. I shall remind him of this when he suggests it again after next years’ Newtonmore race…
Scene of The Coldest Bike Ride In The World
( *Running photos all from website)