My first hill race since dropping out of Glenshee, 3 weeks ago.
The first half of the race went pretty well. I started OK and ran behind Oleg, Stewart Whitlie and Andy Fallas up the forest track, chatting with Mark Harris as he went past.
I remained in 5th place until the stile above the forest, where in my haste to cross with Peter Simpson bearing down on me I skidded and twanged my right knee, which then hurt for the rest of the race. Peter of course went by and disappeared off in the distance with Mark Harris.
Next to pass was Craig Mattocks, and looking back Claire Gordon was getting extremely close as I reached the summit of Innerdownie. The ground then flattens out with fast running all the way to Tarmangie. I held position here, although Adrian Davis, Dave Godfree and Will Hensman were all closing me down. Then all went past as I hobbled off Tarmangie with a burning sensation behind my right kneecap, and I was thinking about dropping out at this point.
Climbing up King's Seat I got a second wind and pulled ahead again, and stayed ahead over Andrew Gannel and The Law. At this point I was 3 minutes ahead of last year's time.
Climbing Ben Cleuch, a few squally showers came through. I ran to Ben Buck and Ben Ever with Will Hensamn and with Dave Godfree starting to pull away. I then made my first big mistake.
When we reached the peat hags I should have just taken the line I took in 2009, but out of interest I followed Dave and Will on some huge flanking manoeuvre on a rough quad-bike track that avoids the peat hags to the south, but also adds on at least 400 metres of distance and some extra re-ascent. This route was not only 2 minutes slower than taking the direct line along the northen edge of the hags, it also required faster running to cover the extra distance so trashed my legs more, and this gifted 2 minutes to anyone chasing me down. So I was a bit annoyed and frazzled when I reached Blairdenon that I hadn't just stuck to the more direct route.
I was also conscious that the extra effort at trying to speed up to cover the extra ground had suddenly completely wasted me. I then made my second but less significant mistake, and that was to hack straight across the bowl south of Blairdenon. Again, I should have followed by route from last year where I avoided dropping right into the bowl by skirting slightly to the left whilst descending.
I could feel now that these 2 mistakes had totally trashed my legs, and there was nothing in the tank as Bruce Poll came lolloping past through the tussocky boggy section before descending towards Jerah. I knew I was in trouble now, as I tripped on tussocks and my legs shot into cramp. I felt like everything was slowing down and the ground was barely moving, a sensation confirmed as Andrea Priestley, Adrian Davis, Craig Love and Graham Nash all came bounding past.
This suddenly awoke me from my torpor and I tried to kick start the dead horse.
I flogged my body to keep moving to get to the climb towards Dumyat, where I then consumed my entire drink - which I should probably have been drinking earlier - and took a gel. This gave me enough oomph to get up the hill and pass Adrian, Craig and Graham, but I couldn't get back to Andrea who was finishing very strongly.
The effort of climbing Dumyat had finished off my legs altogether, so I could only manage a slow shuffle down the hill. Adrian, Craig and Graham all flew past again as I repeatedly pulled up with my legs twanging into cramp. I couldn't compete on the descent, but was astonished when I saw they all chose to ignore the track heading down towards the finish, and they were too far away to shout back (unlike Iona Robertson last year).
This was just the fillip I needed to galvanise myself back into action. I was pretty sure I had every chance of getting to the finish before them, with their self-imposed detour.
I was still ridiculously slow on tottery legs down through the bluebell woods, and after the steep slappy tarmac road I was reduced to a walk up the back lane, until I saw Graham Nash barrelling down on me again.
There was no way I was going to drop a place with 1 kilometre to go, so I forced my legs to start moving through a curtain of pain, with stupid cramps firing off in every muscle.
I finished the race in 3:12:25, more than 6 minutes slower than last year, which was a bit frustrating given that I was 3 minutes ahead of last year's time at Ben Cleuch.
Oleg Chepelin knocked a minute off the course record to win in 2:46:36.
Ellie knocked 27 minutes off her time from 2007 to finish in 3:33:24.