Sunday, 7 February 2016

The Devil's Burdens Relay

West Lomond

I blame the red wine. It was over a delicious Italian meal that Chris casually mentioned that Cosmics didn’t have enough runners to make up the ladies team for the Devils Burdens relay and so flushed with an enjoyable snowy hill race during the day and a nice bottle of red accompanying dinner in the evening I said I would run. I hadn’t really had any plans of doing the race this year as my Lynx pack team of last year had been decimated by injuries and a serious bout of “can’t be arsed-ness” and I had very nearly come unstuck the year before in the race by trotter disorganisation (the club revels in it but it’s got to be said it really is not my style) so this seemed like a good opportunity. The very next day I received an email saying that Cosmics did have a full ladies team but would I mind running with Colin Russell in the mixed team. I am not sure who thought it might be a good idea to put me with a much faster runner over the hilliest navigation leg but I was left hoping that Colin had been informed as to just how slow I am. To put it mildly, I was panicking.

Team Captain Gillian getting us all organised
One week, one broken leg and another poorly runner later I seemed to have found my way back into the ladies team although I was feeling very sorry for Liz who had come a cropper on the winter ice and now had a leg in plaster and Pauline who was also missing out. The mixed team and the ladies team were all going for the 9.30am early start so we all met up at Riverside drive at silly o’clock in the morning to sort out car share. Fortunately Gillian was captain of the ladies team and she really is organisation personified so all I had to do was turn up and run. Perfect. 

A muddy spot for the leg 1/2 changeover in Strathmiglo

Race Marshalls Frank and Dave
Alex, who is a very speedy runner, was doing leg one for us which generally recognised as the runnable trail section of the route out of the village of Falkland however with the recent wet weather it had been left very wet and muddy underfoot and the field into which she arrived to hand the baton over to Gillian and Michelle was getting very churned up and heavy underfoot with thick mud. Fortunately there was no rain on race day and it was clear and dry. It was really nice to catch up with Frank and Dave who after marshalling the changeover in the increasingly muddy corner of the field were going to be running leg 4 later in the day.

Alex coming into the finish
Gillian and Michelle setting off....
.......into the distance
Next came the bit I was more than a little nervous about – driving Gillian’s car round to the leg 2/3 changeover at Kinnesswood. Fortunately we decided not to hang around at Strathmiglo so we managed to get a handy parking spot just at the gate before the track to the changeover point before the streets started getting busy. By now it was dawning on me that it really had been quite a long time since breakfast and I think Lynn was feeling the same way and so a little picnic was in order. I was feeling a bit chilled and was glad I had bought a thermos of tea. As we were happily munching away I spotted Geoff Simpson and Robin Livingstone heading towards the start line and to be quite honest Robin looked like a man who had been condemned to death. I’m not sure I’ve ever seem someone look so unhappy at the prospect of a hill run! Geoff though was his normal cheery self. I’m pleased to say that when I saw Robin in the tea queue in the village hall after the race he looked considerably happier, it’s amazing how a cup of tea and a slice of cake can make the world feel like a better place.
Leg 3 starts with a bit of a climb
Alan setting off on leg 3
Someone is having way too much fun!!
Alan and his partner Debbie were running in the mixed team on leg 3 and set off a little before us but it wasn’t long before Gillian and Michelle came into sight and it was time to go. I have to confess to struggling a little bit up the first climb towards the checkpoint on White Craigs. Lynn set a steady pace as I puffed along behind but as soon as we were on the grassy track heading towards the Bishop Hill I felt decidedly happier and picked up the pace. It was good fun seeing the faster leg runners who had been in the later start go past and knowing that their leg 3 runners would shortly be coming past. At the checkpoint on the gate near the bishop hill we had caught up with Charlie Love and it suddenly occurred to me that I had done the very first edition of this race in Charlie’s team many years ago. In fact I have Charlie to thank for getting me into hill running in the first place. 
We caught up with Charlie Love at a checkpoint

This was yet another revision to the course as a grouse shoot had put areas of the hillside out of bounds for us runners and I found that I really enjoyed this version of the course. This was supposed to also be a “navigation leg” but with it being such a fine clear day route finding was never going to be an issue. At one point I actually felt as though I was getting a bit too warm which is a first for the Devils Burdens race. The new route skirted around the base of the west Lomond until finally reaching the main path between Craigmead and the hill and so the final few miles were on very runnable track and I enjoyed it. By now I was trying to do some quick calculations as to how far ahead Alan and his partner had set off and if there was any chance of overhauling them but they managed to keep their lead over us. The final stretch down into Maspie Den was fun and my legs were definitely doing that shaky-just-run-hard-downhill thing once I had finished. We had to both avoid crashing into runners coming up hill to start leg 4 and faster runners overtaking us (and I have to admit they were in the start…reality check!) and so it did feel as though we were dodging people all the way down the track. Lynn and I seemed to have been well matched speed wise and both of us gave the new improved version of leg 3 the thumbs up. Lynn also had the responsibility of the punch card and marking it at each checkpoint and so i was able to take a few photos while she was doing this.
The revised leg 3 route was really good
Fife AC legends Frank and Dave
Finally it was Lesley’s turn to take over with the final leg starting with the climb back out of Maspie Den and summiting East Lomond before finishing at the old factory buildings on the edge of Falkland village. Quickly starting to cool down and get chilled Lynn and I walked back to the village hall in search of soup, tea, cake and warm clothes. Thanks very much to number one team supporter Liz for buying us cake! It was much appreciated. Thanks also due to Fife AC for again putting on such a great event that really kicks off the hill running year in style and special thanks for the great post-race soup.

In the final analysis we appeared to have finished 7th out of 14 Ladies teams (94/131 Total)
Leg 1 (4.66 miles & 722ft) Alex Mills 0.35.47
Leg 2 (6.21 miles & 2231ft) Gillian Glunas & Michelle Hickey 1.44.39
Leg 3 (7.15 miles & 1345ft) Louise Provan & Lynn Smith 1.14.01
Leg 4 (3.4 miles & 1279ft) Lesley Clark 0.43.28

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