This was my first Ben Lomond Race since 2009, the year of the freak snow storm when I ran 1:24:02. The 4 years before that I ran 1:21, 1:17, 1:17 and 1:21. So today I was kind of expecting to run around 1:20.
The race started quite slowly, so I lead the first 800 metres, as far as the new deer fence with Gala's Fergus Johnston right on my heels. I had no intention of trying to maintain the lead once through the gate, so immediately drifted to one side and allowed runners to pass.
Once Paul Thompson caught me up I decided to start trying again, and was also having a bit of a battle with Gregor Heron who was climbing strongly.
Halfway up the climb I seemed to be catching Andy McCall, but never quite closed the gap. Des Crowe caught me for a while but I managed to pull away with Gregor.
At the base of the final climb, I was caught by Sarah McCormack with Gregor and Graham Munro just ahead. I managed to nip in front of Gregor and Graham just as we hit the summit ridge, which was enshrouded in thick mist. I tried to move along this ridge as quickly as possible and reached the summit in a fairly disappointing 54 minutes, a full 5 minutes slower than my quickest climb.
Anyhow, I wasn't really that bothered, I was more interested in trying to descent quickly with about 20 metres of visibility. I knew that by opening a gap it would harder for folk to chase. I dropped off the summit slope almost on the heels of Alastair Robertson and Alan Smith, but they took off much faster than I could follow, although I did pass Lochaber's John Binnie.
But for most of the descent I saw nobody, until lower down I caught glimpses of Niall coming backwards rapidly. I could see that I would easily catch Niall so long as I did nothing stupid. Perhaps I should have attacked a bit harder, but I just pootled down through the forestry section until I could suddenly hear Des Crowe and James Jarvis chatting very close behind me. This was sufficient incentive to shift a bit and get through the lower deer fence as fast as possible, now just metres ahead of Niall.
Barreling down the gravel path towards the car park Niall, James Jarvis and myself were almost neck and neck. Niall and I jumped onto the road simultaneously where I planned to launch my final attack, but Niall preempted me and flew away in an instant. I thought he'd gone to soon and I'd still catch him, and tried to generate the pace necessary, but it was all getting a bit too painful. And my final effort was too little too late, so I hurtled across the line 5 seconds after Niall for 10th place in 1:22:14. Barring the snowy day, this is was my slowest time in 6 years, but was the fastest I could manage on the day, which is all you can do.