My 8th year in a row at the Two Breweries, and as seems the norm with this race, all early morning fog cleared to leave a beautiful sunny autumn afternoon.
The Two Breweries is an exceptional race in that it traverses a great chunk of land from Traquair to Broughton, and feels more like a journey than a normal hill race.
The race started steadily enough along the mile of road where I almost resisted to being the first runner to the farm track. Once we had turned uphill I stepped off the track to allow all the faster runners past and then jogged/walked up to the awkward fence crossing. I was in 2 minds at this point whether to nip leftwards round the corner or batter straight up Grieston Hill into the heather. I stopped and asked Manny and David what they were planning on doing and the consensus seemed to batter straight up on the old traditional route.
We could see that race leaders Andy Symonds and Scott Fraser had also ploughed straight up the hill, but all the next runners behind Scott and Andy had nipped left around the corner. Anyhow, Manny, David and I flogged up through the heather, which I'm not sure was the best option since the track along the top was heavily overgrown.
Once on the main track to Birkscairn, Manny took off and David also went past. I more or less caught Matt Sullivan by the top of Birkscairn and then followed a couple of Moorfoot guys to get a good line down to Glensax, catching Manny at the river crossing.
I plodded up Hundleshope with Manny, and thinking we might catch Al Hart who was just ahead. After Hundleshope I followed Manny towards Stob Law taking a much lower line than normal. I thought this must be a clever trick of Manny's but instead turned out just to be a lower line meaning we had to re-ascend to get to the re-entrant that picks up the Stob Law track.
At the bottom of the big descent to Glenrath I tried in vain to chase down Manny towards the water station, but he was already gone. Instead, after the road crossing I focussed on closing down Mark Mon-Williams of Ilkley Harriers, and caught him just before the Whitelaw firebreak, then after that point I didn't saw another runner within range for the rest of the race.
Dave Calder kindly supplied me with a replacement bottle at Stobo containing GO Electrolytes that were supposed to stave off cramp, and this seemed to work as there were no twinges of cramp on the climb up Trahenna, but of course as soon I lifting my trailing leg over the famous fence on the descent - bang, my right hamstring when into comedy spasm without any warning.
It made me laugh that all the High 5 and GO powders and potions had made no difference whatsoever.
I saw Steven Fallon and Malcolm Patterson lurking on the hill for the final descent, and hitting the main road realised I wasn't going to make sub 3:10, which meant I could just potter into the finish in a fairly average time of 3:15:40.
Manny finished a full 10 minutes ahead of me, so must have taken about 9 minutes out of me in the second half. David finished just behind me having experimented with the gully option for climbing out of Glensax, and finding it wasn't the best option.
Steffen put in a solid run for 3:51, and Ellie finished a few minutes later with Stewart Barrie in 3:58 which was an astonishing run given that she'd donated blood less than 48 hours previously and looked totally washed out at the start.
The race was won by Scott Fraser in 2:47:30 running his first long Scottish hill race.