Saturday, 25 February 2012

Conic Hill Race

Results | Photos

The 2nd edition of Scotland's most scenic short hill race proved popular with the runners who turned up on the day, plus we were lucky enough to have Scotland's leading hill runners Prasad Prasad and Angela Mudge setting new course records.
The ridge off Conic Hill

Not surprisingly Prasad launched off into the distance straight away, but it was great to see new Westie Alastair Graves giving chase. I pottered along further down the field, and reached the gate to the open hill path level with Angela Mudge. You then get a short section of flattish running before hitting the steep section of wooden steps leading up to wet area below Bealach Ard. From here the race route picks up a small indistinct path that leads straight up the nose of the hill, with patches of steep and slippery conglomerate pudding stone.
Prasad in a class of his own
I was steadily dropping places all the way to the summit, which arrived sooner than I was expecting. I was jostling places with Craig Love and Damien Theaker as we turned to drop back onto the West Highland Way path. At first this was slightly uphill again, but on good surface, but as soon as you crest the rise and start descending the surface was impossibly slippery, and I suddenly realised I was aqua-planing down the hill on my back, going much faster than I could have run. Luckily I didn't smack into any rocks and got back onto my feet, slightly more wary.

Once on the lower section the running suddenly got a whole lot easier on smooth billiard table grass. I could sense I was catching runners in  front but tried to stay relaxed.  I worked hard to close the gap across the rough boggy section before the wall, and ended up in a walking bottleneck at the fenceline and clambering up through the forest. But this allowed me to get my breath back and time my final attack on the plummet to the finish.  Just as we crested the rise into the forest I jumped past Catriona Buchanan, Paul Thompson, and a couple of others before launching my kamikaze descent where I jumped Grant MacDonald and John Hammond just before the line, with 8 of us piling in within 11 seconds.
Dropping off the ridge at Conic Hill
I just managed my sub 30-minute target time, with 29:48 for 18th place overall, and enjoyed giving away a range of pot plants from Roots and Fruits at the prize-giving. And proceeds from the race raised £200 towards West Highland Way footpath repairs.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Scottish National Cross Country

Results | Photos | Route

Perth, North Inch
2004 - 0:42:03 (166th)
Irvine Beach Park, Magnum Centre
2005 - 0:49:39 (129th)
Falkirk Callendar Park
2006 - 0:47:09 (131st) - Slightly different course
2007 - 0:44:44 (88th) PB
2008 - 0:44:48 (107th)
2009 - 0:45:11 (133rd)
2010 - Missed race with gout. Took photos instead.
2011 - 0:46:27 (111th)
2012 - 0:49:18 (180th)

Saturday was my 9th Scottish National Cross Country, and by far my worst ever result. Almost 3 minutes and 70 places down on last year. I guess that's what happens with 6 weeks of sleep deprivation, combined with a virtually non-existent training regime.
Race Start from Scottish Athletics Facebook page
I had tried to cram some training runs into lunchtimes the past couple of weeks, but that only served to give me shin splints and a painful right adductor.  I therefore hobbled off ridiculously slowly around the first lap, thinking that I'd be able to enjoy the next 2 laps, passing a constant stream of runners. However it didn't quite work out like that. I got round Lap 1 in 15:57, about a minute slower than last year, but was finding it heavy-going on the slippery muddy hills, and was generally feeling pretty washed out, and not really in the mood for it, and very close to just dropping out altogether.

Photo by Mary Hunter
Anyhow, I battled on, counting down the kilometres, and waiting for that second wind to arrive, whilst listening out for the shouts behind me and trying to guess who would be the next runner to pass. At the start of the final lap I was caught and passed by Danny McLaughlin of Greenock Glenpark. We exchanged a few words, and I let Danny go. But once we reached the 3km to go point, I decided to start trying a bit harder and managed to catch Danny again and possibly also caught Craig Love. It was all getting a bit blurry by this point.

I think I maybe caught another couple of runners, including Grant MacDonald of Bellahouston Road Runners, and put a token gesture sprint finish down the final straight. All poised to catch another 3 or 4 runners in front, when suddenly it didn't seem that important to dive into the funnel before them, so I pulled out of the sprint and Grant nipped back in front right at the line.

It was a relief to finish, and I was glad that I hadn't just dropped out, but I didn't enjoy too much feeling quite so far off the pace.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Carnethy 5 Hill Race

Results | Route

My 9th attempt at Carnethy 5. In 2001, it was my first proper hill race since joining Westies, and I remember being in close contest along to West Kip with Charlie Campbell and Kate Jenkins, the then record holders for the Munros and West Highland Way.

2001 - 1:05:14
2003 - 0:57:14
2004 - 0:57:53
2005 - 1:01:14
2006 - 1:00:40
2007 - 0:56:26 PB
2008 - 0:56:49
2011 - 1:00:57
2012 - 1:02:17

The next 4 out of 6 races were well under the hour, with two 57s and two 56s. In 2009 I was in Wales and 2010 I was crocked with a long term adductor problem. I returned in 2011, not very hill fit and just missed the hour. In 2012, i.e. last Saturday, I was probably the least hill fit I've been in years. Plus I was feeling somewhat shattered less than 5 weeks since the arrival of Benjamin.

I arrived at Beeslack School in plenty of time to deliver the SHR calendars. I then went to the massage room and attempted to get some sleep by lying on the floor behind the desk, only to be woken by Angela Mudge and Andy Spenceley discussing Carnethy secrets, before Rob Jebb came bounding in with his 2 daughters plus Sharon Taylor.

I attempted to waken myself up a bit by jogging the 4.5km up to the start with Stewart Barrie. It was refreshingly cool but bearable in the field before the gun finally went off shortly after 2pm.

The usual stampede ensued, this time of more than 500 runners charged for the gateway after 600 metres or so. Having done virtually no hill running in the past 4 or 5 months, I settled in pretty gradually and tried not to overdo it on the climb up Scald Law. I topped out with folks like Oli Blomfield, Greig Glendinning, Peter Buchanan, Catriona Buchanan, etc. and thought I wasn't doing too bad.

The first climb up Scald Law 
I hung on reasonably well past South Black, and the climb up East Kip was caught by Alan Smith and Johnny Knox.  I think I was also caught by Scout Adkin on the climb up West Kip, but managed to pass quite a few on the descent and held my own to The Howe, apart from being passed by Bruce Smith.

The next section, the long climb up Carnethy, was where I came properly unstuck, and dropped at least 15 places to the likes of Ronnie Gallagher, Scout Adkin (again), Ali Welsh, Cameron Burt, and all sorts of other folk I didn't recognise. My legs were clearly in no state for climbing. However once on the descent I had the rare experience (probably because I was now so far down the field) of being passed by almost nobody. Just one young guy flew past and then Charlotte Morgan bounded past me through the heather, springer spaniel style.
Approaching the finish
I thought I would easily track Charlotte and catch her on the flat run in after the gate, but instead I dropped 2 more places crossing the bog to Adam Anderson and Ewan Dytch (down as Steven Heeps). But with 200 metres to go I decided to make a move, so surged past Ewan and Adam, and almost caught Charlotte before the finishing funnel.  The overall result was 73rd place in 1:02:17, which wasn't too bad given the circumstances. I then enjoyed another 4.5km jog back to Beeslack for a delicious school dinner.

Photos courtesy of Paul Dobson at

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Scottish Masters Cross Country

Results | Route

My 6th outing at the Scottish Masters Cross Country, and first time on the Kilmarnock course. Previous outings had been at Cupar, Bathgate, Irvine (x2) and Kirkcaldy.

Arriving at St Joseph's Academy, the weather wasn't too bad. Just raw, cold and a bit rainy. But shortly before the women's race started, conditions deteriorated rapidly, with heavy freezing unpleasant rain. John Quinn and I hurriedly pitched the gazebo for some much needed shelter, and carried out a minimal warm up, and zero course inspection, so I had no idea what to expect once the race started.

There was the usual jostling for position for the first few hundred metres, and perhaps I should have started a bit faster, since there were repeated stretches of narrow trail through woodland where the field virtually ground to a halt. Some downhill stretches were good for easy overtaking, but I felt pretty feeble on the long climb on the 2nd and 3rd laps, and lost ground here each time. On the final run in, I managed to jump past Andrew Ronald and Scott Martin for 40th place, and 7th M45, although I was only 28 seconds off bronze medal place, which wasn't too bad since I've done next to no running or training so far this year.