Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Heb 3

Route comparison – Skye V Harris V Barra

Elevation gain (according to Louise’s garmin)
Skye – 1115ft
Barra - 1207ft
Harris -1010ft
Skye half marathon
So Barra is the hilliest? Well, who knew? Apologies, this is incredibly geeky but it has been a topic for debate ever since I first started doing the Heb 3 and I decided to find out once and for all (unless, of course, anybody else's Garmin stats say differently?)


After starting my Heb 3 campaign at Skye it was off to Barra a couple of weeks later. Barra, the party island of the Hebrides - at least thats how it feels. A fantastic race and celidh, curry at the Kisimul cafe, the Castlebay bar, the Vatersay Boys, sun, sea beautiful beaches, sitting outside with a chilled glass of wine on a patio overlooking the castle... What more could you want? I should think everyone who visits Barra is bewitched by this magical little island and its stunning approach past the castle. 
I wonder how many photos of this castle i now have...

Unusually the summit of Heaval was clear of clag and mist so it had to be done. As I reached the summit the magnificent sight of the little green islands sat in a shimmering sea rolled out in front of me, remonstrating with me that despite many visits here there is still so much that I have not seen.

Is it possible one or two of us overdid the partying given the number of no shows at Breakfast time eh Bert?...eh Wilson?....eh Simon? It was some party, the Castlebay bar was jumping, with people dancing on chairs and on the pool table. The floor was literally awash with beer.
My Heb Half Nemesis

A great way to recover from the race (and the post race party) is by taking a dip in the ocean. Simon had invested in a go-pro camera so he could film his swim in the sea, it would be memorable on such a stunning day in such a stunning location, but somehow he seemed to forget about the camera as he spent most of his time floating on his back resulting in approx 20 mins footage of the sky. Donut. However on the return voyage to Oban he managed to capture on film a large pod of dolphins that followed the boat, an incredible sight.
Simon emerging from the depths..
I was less than a mile into the half marathon when i happened to glance into a garden at the side of the road and spotted an Ostrich. Yes, really. Well that kept my mind occupied for a fair amount of the race as did battling with Abby who gave me a good run for my money but I felt pretty good and ran strongly to the end. Despite photographic evidence to the contrary, I did actually enjoy the race, Barra is most definitely my favourite Heb half. Geoff and Karen are well into marathon and ultra marathon training and so i said i would join them for a wee run after the race to bump up the miles. I didn’t last very long though and soon slunk back to Castlebay to enjoy a nice swim and sauna before the buffet was served and the post race festivities started in earnest.

Post race chillin'
 Despite the race and the party I couldn’t help my mind going back to the ostrich that I had seen. Worryingly no one else had. Even more worryingly people were starting to walk backwards away from me when I mentioned it. The next day I was on an ostrich hunt with Simon in tow. We walked a little way out of Castlebay and sure enough in a pen at the side of the road there they were, although neither of us could good agree on what they were, personally I thought that they were baby ostrichs but I was later informed by Bert and John that they were indeed emu’s. Clearly Bert and John had also been curious to see if I was in fact going insane and had gone on an ostrich hunt of their own.  
Simon finishing (C Barrathon website)

Champions! (C Barrathon website)

Me finishing (C Barrathon website)
Ostrich!!! Well, Ok, an Emu.

All too soon it was over. Leaving Barra is always a sad moment. We got back to Oban and had fresh seafood sat outside the little seafood shack near the ferry terminal in glorious sunshine desperate to extend the weekend out just that little bit longer...

Leaving Barra



Skye sunset, en route to Harris
Everyone said that it was going to be a tail wind. Everyone lied. It was a hot windy day which when added to the hills on the route made for a tougher than usual day out with most of the runners in agreement that their times were slower than anticipated. I tried to “zone out” by taking in the magnificent views across the golden beaches over to Taransay and watching the runners up ahead as I was feeling ever so slightly lethargic something I put down to the heat and a late night before the race.
Dont you just hate it when someone else turns up wearing the same outfit?
 Maybe I should have taken Andy McMahon’s advice as John did and eat Jelly worms during the race, maybe Jelly worms are the new carbo shots although I think carbo shots and gels survive a race in the heat in better condition than do jelly worms – the one that Andy still had pinned to his vest after the race certainly looked a little past its best. My Jelly worm didn’t even make it to the start line as I scoffed it on the bus on the way to the start!
Jelly worm anyone?
 Simon had zoomed off at the start and then fell back behind me before overtaking me and disappearing into the distance along the long ribbon of smooth tarmac winding its way in front of us over the boulder strewn landscape. 

I was enjoying the peace and quiet until some numpty tried to start up a conversation with me, his opening gambit being “you don’t like the hills do you?” Eh? WTF?  How do I attract them? What am I doing wrong? Maybe I should wear an ipod when running as a deterrent? Shame, because I like to hear what’s going on around me especially in places like the western isles but being cornered on the run by these idiots is actually starting to get me down. 
Anyway once I got shot of him I could relax back into the run and pick up the familiar landmarks on the way into Tarbet such as the pond full of hebridean white lilies, the still pools of water glistening in the sunlight. (The photos below were taken last year - i didn't stop during the race to take them!)

From the top of the hill it was an enjoyable steady plod down into Tarbert and I was amazed to see YP trot effortlessly past me, “Hmmm" thought I, YP might be giving some people a run for the age group prize in the Heb 3 next year! Watch this space...

There is always a bit of a buzz before this race, the last in the Hebridean half marathon series with people keenly watching the results from the preceding races to see if all could be lost or gained in this one race. Ok, by that I mean that pot hunter extraordinaire Bert had spent weeks analysing the results, his and mine, and had worked out what I had to do to win a prize. As far as I could work out all I had to do was run as fast as I could. This strategy did prove successful although I was not to find this out until returning from St Kilda a week later. Bert’s strategy, whatever that turned out to be, also proved to be successful as he won a prize too. Geoff had decided that a brown t-shirt was not a big enough incentive to complete his 3rd Heb race (how could he think this?!) and chose to stay home to do a long run and prepare properly for his forthcoming marathon. In the Bert V Geoff competition, Bert had the upper hand – a full year on since breaking his foot during the Skye half marathon race…while still beating Geoff…but we don’t mention that…it’s a sore point…
Heb 3 Trophy
The Harris half marathon always features a good bit of post race alcohol induced relaxation but this year we had to forgo the festivities in order to drive up to Miavaig to start our St Kilda adventure. Even when getting on the ferry at the start of the day I was just about bubbling over with excitement especially once i saw the kayaks being loaded on the ferry. Better still, Kayak coach and trip organiser Gordon had assured me that the weather over the next few days was going to be great and that there was a good chance of us getting out to St Kilda. Unlike Geoff who is focusing on his marathon training I chose to do the half marathon then spend the week in a kayak and do another hill race the following weekend...I guess I’m really going to suffer during this marathon next week!!

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