Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Nick and Doug’s Excellent Adventure (Show)

My running over the past month or so has been pretty lumpy – going from weekend race to weekend race, with very little in the way of decent training in between.  After the marathon came the Two Breweries, followed by the Man(or) Mouse double, and next up was the Jedburgh Three Peaks ultra.  I’d only been out twice in the fortnight since the Skyline.  It feels a little like trying to cross a fast-moving river in spate, jumping from stepping stone to stepping stone, with the gaps between them growing ever wider (as my fitness declines) and the risk of a freezing dook increasing.

But I was pretty excited about Jedburgh.  The route sounded good, but I hadn’t run much at all of it before, the drive wasn’t too long to get there, and the start was relatively civilised for an ultra race (8am).  And as an added bonus, the BBC’s Adventure Show was going to be there filming – a chance to meet Dougie Vipond!

Preparing drop bags again brought memories of the Fling flooding back – I wasn’t sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing that I felt so much more relaxed for this, when I’d been so nervous for that.  Hopefully a lack of nerves didn’t mean I was being too blasé about it.  I tried to learn from my gastric horror show in the immediate aftermath of the Fling, and left out all caffeine, included some salty options, and limited the number of gloopy sugary gels.  Shoe selection was trickier though.  The course was meant to be a real mixed bag – a lengthy outward leg on a mixture of tarmac, trails, fields and mud, with a mile or two of steep hills around the middle, and then more or less the same back.  Standard road shoes were discounted immediately, as were my Mudclaws – too little midsole and far too deep studs for the road sections.  Which left a straight choice between the Hokas and the Fellraisers.   The deep cushioning of the Hokas was very appealing, but the outsoles on them now look like a bald tyre.  I opted for the Fellraisers, as the cleats have worn down enough, and they have at least some midsole.

Having registered, deposited my drop bags and got changed, I went off in search of a war memorial so that (all being well) I could bag my Tynecastle Bronze for October.  Conveniently, there was one only 100 yards from the car park.  Hmm, an hour to kill then until the start.

I had a bit of a blether with Matthew C from Carnethy, Ivor N from HBT, and David Gow. And watched with some amusement as a chap wandered around in a full furry squirrel outfit – hopefully not competing, for his own sake.

We were called into the packed and steamy hall for our race briefing (favourite line – “don’t be a dick”, which could be a pithy replacement for the Ten Commandments). 


And were then walked over to the start line where we were promised a compulsory warm up.  I was expecting some zumba type nonsense, but instead the squirrel led the dancing to YMCA.  Slightly surreal at first light.  Ivor and I agreed that the first 5 miles or so would be ample warm up and declined to join in.  Risking an instant disqualification!

The first few miles on the roads were pretty rapid for an ultra – 6:36, 7:02 and 7:01 as I settled in near Matthew and fellow Carnethy Mark H. 

Approaching the shoogly wooden bridge over the Teviot at around the 4 mile mark, I counted back from the front and found that Matthew and I were in 6th and 7th.  The bridge itself was very odd – an unsettling vertical bounce rather than lateral movement.  Not scary, but difficult to judge when you were going to make contact with the floor – like miscalculating how many steps there are in a flight of stairs and reaching the bottom earlier or later than expected.

(Photo: Steven G Somerville)

There was then quite a nice section of winding woodland trails.  Despite being well enough marked, some of the paths were a little indistinct with the abundance of newly fallen leaves, so I was grateful that Matthew had done the race before and knew where he was going.  We then left the trees and began a gradual slog up the roman road to the brow of the hill at about 7 and a half miles.  A supporter just before the top promised that we’d get our first glimpse of the Eildons in 100 yards.  A bit of distance still to go to reach them however!

Matthew and I had by now been joined by another runner who introduced himself as Alan.  He was back after making this his first ultra last year, an injury coming off the hills forcing him to limp home in a very creditable 6:30, all things considered.  A chest infection had then ruined his plans for the Devil o’ the Highlands, but he had managed the Fling fine.  He asked if we had any supporters out (we didn’t – my family would almost certainly still be in bed!), and then revealed that his wife was buzzing around the course despite being 6 months pregnant.  I said that she should have been running.

The short –ish tarmac section before Maxton at around 9 miles coincided with a torrential downpour of rain – really bouncing off the ground.  Which was a shame, as the course would have looked really lovely in good light.  The grey morning meant that my camera largely stayed in my bumbag, although the rain did ease off quite quickly again, and the wind wasn’t much of an issue on the lower sections of the course.

The first checkpoint at Maxton was nice to tick off, and my spirits were (as you’d probably expect so early in the race) still pretty high.  We were rolling along nicely – more than a quarter distance done in around an hour and fifteen minutes represented good progress.  There were a large number of marshals and supporters who were all very cheery and helpful when it came to collecting items from drop bags and so on.  One said “keep going”, which seemed a little strange – we’d started so it would have taken a bit of a disaster to be thinking about throwing in the towel at this point!

Round the church, through a wee glen with slippery duck boards, and it opened out into a field beside the Tweed where there were a bunch of cows lurking.  One had planted itself close to the path, so I was glad when it turned out not to be a bull, and gave no indication that it was about to stampede.

After a section along the margins of a golf course (flat enough and ok paths) there was quite a steep hill up towards St Boswells.  I broke out the walk part of my walk/run strategy, and was passed by Matthew and another lad for my troubles. 

There followed an undulating section beside the river, with a number of flights of stairs up and down – not unlike the nadgery bits beside the Tyne in the Traprain Law Race, or at the Peebles XC.  Before long I came to a right turn off the path across a little wooden bridge, and because there was no signage, decided to carry on.  The race info pack was quite clear that you should “stick to the path you’re on until told otherwise”. But Matthew, who was now about 30 metres behind me, shouted me back.  He was sure that we were meant to cross the bridge, despite the lack of an arrow.  He was right, and more than a few people went wrong – presumably the result of kids who thought it would be fun to try to spoil someone else’s day out.

A short section of old railway line with only the rough rocky bed remaining reminded what I was missing in the shape of the Hokas.  I’d have barely noticed the rocks with them on, whereas with the Fellraisers I felt every lump and bump, and already had quite an urgent pain from a blister on my right pinkie toe.  And they actually made little difference in the slippery mud – it was still a battle to stay on my feet at times.

Shortly after crossing the A68, with the Eildons looming large, two or three fast boys came blasting past.  Matthew identified one of them as Lee Kemp, who would go on to win, and appeared to be a victim of the missing signage.  I was relieved that we hadn’t genuinely lost places – their passing us was just a reversion to the natural order of things.

The second checkpoint came at 17 miles at the Rhymer’s Stone, and that signalled the start of the hills.  The first was by far the longest and steepest, with me walking most of it.  Matthew lived up to his Carnethy DNA, and managed to run much of it - having been gapped, I didn’t regain touch with him for the rest of the race.  The second hill was also quite steep, but much less of a total climb, and when I reached the summit I was pleased to look back and see that the following runner (on his own) had only just reached the top of the first.  A decent enough lead.

View from the top of the first Eildon

Matthew in the distance

Two and Three to come

The last of the three was pretty benign and ordinarily eminently runnable.  I had a wee walk though, crouching a little to hide myself from the BBC camera at the top, and then broke into a run (and sustained it) until I’d rounded the cairn and had descended safely back out of sight.  Maybe cameras all along the course would encourage better performances?

The trail back down through the forest should have been very enjoyable after the slog, but there were worrying rumblings afoot in my stomach.  Something deeply unpleasant was stirring.

On the approach to Bowden there was an arrow attached to a signpost.  With the arrow slumped towards a gate and path off at 90 degrees left of the straight path that I was on.  It took me a good minute or so to reason that there was a little hole at the top of the sign, which suggested that it must have had a drawing pin in it above the one that remained at the bottom.  Therefore the sign was surely for straight on, rather than left?!  I could really do without mental gymnastics like these!

I ploughed on and was delighted when a chap standing at a gate about 400 metres further on opened it for me and said well done.  I tried to tell him about the sign, but he said “I’m not a marshal”, and pointed me towards a yellow-bibbed woman a little further on.  Happy to be on the right track after all, I had a swig of flat coke at the timing station and shuffled on.

(photo: Peter Dalgleish)

By this point the sun was starting to come out, which put a bit more of a smile on my face (I think!).  Although the recollection does become a little hazier from then on.  The jog/walk strategy was becoming more and more skewed towards the walk, and I was having to focus a fair amount on “emissions management” to maximise my intestinal comfort.

I’d also begun the internal bargaining and mental arithmetic based upon the distance left to run and the pace necessary to deliver the desired sub-6.  Not a good sign.

Another bad sign was the frequency with which I was looking over my shoulder.  I reckoned I might be somewhere near 10th, but had visions of being swallowed up and then spat out the back of whatever the name for an ultra-peloton might be.  Between St Boswells and Maxton I suddenly heard the thundering of feet behind and thought that the moment had come.  Fortunately it was a single runner and, even better, he didn’t count because he was the first of the relay teams. 

The 3rd checkpoint at Maxton was the next big target.  I arrived in a little bit of a daze and elected to fill my empty bottle of generic supermarket sports drink with plain water to give my poor guts a rest.  Johnny Fling was on hand to help pour.

After leaving Maxton, a look back on the tarmac revealed a chaser in pink – the first lady perhaps?  No, as she passed me I saw that she was the final leg runner for the second relay team - phew!!!

The remainder of the race took on an erosive quality.  I was telling myself that every step was a step closer to the finish, and the more that I could run rather than walk was time saved.  But my lack of long distance training was really starting to tell.  Ticking off the quarter miles was a grim business.  I had to gee myself up by setting targets that I could see and try to run all the way to them without walking.  Particularly on the slog back up over the hill on the roman road, with the seemingly endless succession of stiles and gates. 

I did a bit of a double-take when I was passed again by the Pink Lady near the woods just prior to the shoogly bridge.  I’m not sure how or where she’d gone wrong, but it had cost her a fair bit of time.  I reassured her that she hadn’t lost any places though, which seemed to cheer her up a bit.  She went on ahead again.  But I found her again a few minutes later unsure about which path to take – she was concerned that she seemed to be going the wrong way along the river bank.  Once more I reassured her that we needed to go that way to the bridge (before doubling back on the other bank), and pointed out that the path was extremely churned up from all of the traffic on the outward leg. It’s funny how the stress of a race situation (particularly when you are carrying the hopes of team-mates) can get to you like that.

There’s not much more to report.  I managed to wallop my knee off the Armco barrier crossing the A698 near Bonjedward (too tired to lift my feet).  But it was a real relief to get back onto tarmac.  Although, just like in the half marathon, it always seems like a bloomin’ long way from the start of Jedburgh to the finish at the far end.

The finish was bathed in bright sunshine and Dougie V was on hand to help co-organiser Angela announce me as “Norman Williamson”.  I think he is an Irish jockey – a horse would have been a boon on the second half.  They swiftly corrected it, but I wasn’t caring anyway – I was just pleased to have finished in 5:46, a good bit under my target, on what was a difficult day at the office.

I was initially disappointed to be told that I was 12th (in my head I’d thought about 10th, but could well have lost track at checkpoints, or in the confusion of who was or was not a leader that had gone wrong), but then quickly realised that places don’t really matter much anyway unless you’re in the top 3!  Matthew had had a great run – 8th and sub 5:30, continuing his recent good form demonstrated by his 5th at the Isle of Man mountain ultra.  Poor Alan (from miles 7 to 10) had to withdraw injured after around 20 miles.  Best of luck with the wee one when it arrives.

And I’m pleased to report that Dougie V is as nice as he seems – a top man!  Although I was nowhere near the front of the race, I am hopeful of getting a little bit of time “oan the telly” when it eventually airs.  I tried very hard to keep the gurning, bogey blasting, burping and farting to a minimum when the cameras were in the vicinity, so with any luck will not find myself consigned completely to the cutting room floor.

Crappy picture of the Eildons on the way home

A nice wee friendly race this, with great scenery – I might even come back and try it again.

Now to rest up for the Glen Ogle 33 in a fortnight…

Monday, 12 October 2015

Squeak Squeak – Man(or) Mouse

After my recent experience at the Two Breweries, the prospect of a similar race did not exactly fill my heart with joy.  I had been somewhat naïve about the Two Breweries, having never set foot on any part of its course, but had a much better idea of the Skyline terrain having run or walked on much of the route.  So I knew exactly how steep the climbs were, and how many of them there were.

Although I’d entered well in advance, as recently as Wednesday I’d have said that the odds of my withdrawing were probably “evens”.  But then I invested in a new Inov8 Race Elite bumbag from Pete Bland Sports, which I was itching to try out, and that just about tipped the balance.

Sitting in the house on Friday night, I noticed a post on FB from the Stave about the Manor Water Hill Race the following day.  And the fact that it formed part of a race double with the Skyline called the “Man(or) Mouse Challenge”.  Suitably “refreshed” and emboldened, I reasoned (ha!) that the condition of my legs was still rather uncertain after a fortnight of not doing very much at all, so a run on the Saturday might provide vital clues as to whether the Skyline was feasible or laughable folly.  If I couldn’t handle the more gently inclining 10 mile race, then I’d be sensible to avoid antagonising its bigger meaner brother.  There is a sort of logic to it.

After doing the hockey run in the morning (and, incidentally, competing with Carnethy’s Neil B to see who could contain their frustration for longest before blurting out exasperated instructions of “get it away”, “shoot”, “tackle her” and the like at a bunch of 11 year old girls – a thrilling 4-4 draw being the final score), I made my way back towards Peebles.  It turns out that the Manor Water route crosses the Two Breweries course at the evocatively named “Dead Wife’s Grave”.  Let’s hope that it doesn’t turn into “Dead Nick’s Grave” and I can find some sort of redemption on these unforgiving killing fields.

Arriving in my customary good time (more on that later), I had an opportunity to take a look at the preparations for the sheepdog trials to which the hill race is an adjunct.  I also got to have a quick chat with Messrs Lynch and Son, before they headed up to the highest point (the Scrape, at 719m) to act as sweeper runners off the hill.  Mike said that he hoped we wouldn’t be running together.

Did I leave my specs in the West Wing or the East Wing?

Entrants in a different event

Game face

The off (part 1)!
Points to note - (i) me in "numpty vest" second from left, and (ii) Brian M with bare feet second from right
(photo: Digby Maass)

Coming under starter’s orders, I noted a number of faces I recognised including Carnethys Graham N, Jim H, Neil “Harry” G, and the aforementioned Neil B.  Oh, and a barefoot Brian M of Haddington!

The start was gentle enough, and I managed to resist the urge to tear off too quickly, take up an inappropriately high position in the queue when it got steeper and then hold everyone up. As we started with the younger junior and older junior races, it was difficult to be sure which of the youngsters were in our race or in their own.  I did spot one lad naughtily ditching his mandatory kit by a wall after about half a mile, presumably with the intention of collecting it on the way back down, and then pretending at the finish that he’d had it with him all along.  A poor show.

Anyway.  I settled into quite a nice rhythm behind a chap that I would later learn was Magnus.  We seemed to be pretty well matched in terms of when we’d run and when we’d walk.  Happily I found that we were running for a decent proportion of the first 4 miles, and the walking was brisk enough when we weren’t.  I also had the visual cues of Harry G just ahead, and Neil B just behind, to give me the reassurance that I was making a better fist of this race – much better than at the Two Breweries for instance, where Neil B ended up trouncing me by more than half an hour. 

It was a pleasant thought to get to Dead Wife’s Grave and know that I hadn’t had to clamber up that f*cking god awful firebreak in the forest.

The last section up to the Scrape did kick up a bit more, but the proximity to the turn was ample consolation, and everyone I could see seemed to be walking as well anyway.  Brilliant – all the hard work was very nearly done.  A few words with Mike at the top and I piled headlong into the descent.  Forgetting that we actually still had 5 miles to go.  And that there were a couple of small, but not insignificant, climbs on the way back.  I must have airbrushed those out on the way up.  The places gained on the first half mile of the return were therefore very quickly lost again.  And more when Magnus and Neil B (both of whom I’d summitted just ahead of) came past.

Mike and son
(photo: Digby Maass)

(photo: Mike Lynch)

(photo: Mike Lynch)

As we approached the last mile or so, the ground levelled off, and I was able to increase the pace a little to the finish, managing to pip the 2nd lady, and Harry G.  Which is a pretty good return as far as I am concerned.  I certainly didn’t feel too disheartened by the outing.  Indeed, I was left thinking that I had almost enjoyed it, that my legs felt better than expected, and that the new bumbag had performed well in comparison to the far heavier hydration rucksack.

Afterwards I had a good chat with a number of runners, including Magnus.  Jim H and Neil B then invited me to sit with them outside the refreshments tent while we waited for the prize-giving and legendary raffle (but no prize of a live sheep this year!).  I laughed a lot when Alex described how he’d managed to have a crap on the course, without losing a single place, remaining in 6th.  Skills!  Which led to a very amusing discussion of further faecal misadventures, including the record 17 evacuations on a Ramsay Round (name withheld to protect the unfortunate victim).  Good times!

One Man and his Dog

Overall winner (a V40!) from Borrowdale
Quick turn around leads to desperate drying measures

Precautionary measures were taken on Saturday night – submerging the legs in cold water, foam-rollering, and drinking only alcohol-free beer.  Newly enthused, I wanted to give myself the best possible chance of waking up on Sunday and feeling that the Skyline was “on”.

And lo, the legs did feel ok.  And my mindset was pretty positive as well.  While attempting the double might, on the face of it, seem like unnecessarily making things harder for myself, I think it was a benefit in that the Skyline was now just a component of a larger undertaking – something simply to be completed, rather than raced on its own, with the associated pressure to “get a time”.  I returned on more than one occasion during the run to the thought that, rather than being only e.g. 8 miles into the Skyline, I was 18 miles into the MoM, and therefore well beyond half way.  Whatever gets you through the long lonely nights I guess.

Having organised my race kit, I sat doing the crossword, to kill some time until my planned departure at 10.30am.  A nagging doubt entered my mind at 10.15 that I should probably just double-check that the race start was at noon.  F*cking f*ck – an 11am start!!!  I had to get from Dunbar to Hillend in 45 minutes!  In fact sooner, as I had to register, change, pin my number on, etc, etc.  F*cking f*cking f*ck!!! I regularly have dreams of being late for races, so this was literally the stuff of nightmares.

If I’d been driving a DeLorean, the flux capacitor would undoubtedly have fired up, and I’d have found myself back in 1955, instead of in the present, abandoning the car in a totally unsuitable spot at the foot of the hill.  A sprint to registration (collecting number 274 out of 276 – a couple of souls apparently taking a very relaxed approach to timekeeping), followed by a faster than welcome run up to the start, saw my heart-rate elevated and with no need for a warm-up. 

There was then (sods law) a delay for a random sample kit-check – what was my hurry?!?!  Which gave me a chance to say a few quick hellos to clubmate Lee, Porty Roly, Carnethys (some on a second claim basis at any rate) Kathy H, Graeme D, Gordon E and Matthew C. 

The off (part 2)!
(photo: Matthew Curry)

I then stood well back, waited for the gun, and strrrolllled over the start line, conscious that I didn’t want to blow it on the very first schlep up Caerketton.  In the melee I bumped into workmate Anna, returned the day before from a week in Portugal, who said that boyfriend Gareth was a little further ahead. 

I was speaking to Magnus from the day before as we joined the near horizontal path above the dry ski slope.  Noticing just how many people were ahead in the slow moving queue, the fact that there was a nice strip of shortish grass just above the single lane track, and having a sudden attack of the “gah, I’m way too far down the field”s, I mirror, signal, manoeuvred into the fast lane and high-tailed it past around 50 or 60 people.  That’s a bit better.

I then found myself in quite a nice wee group that contained quite a quick looking young lady and a slightly older useful looking chap in a white vest with horizontal blue and red stripes around the middle.  I stayed relatively close to them all the way out to the Drove Road and beyond the turn.

After the initial mist on the tops burnt off, we were treated to some nice sunshine on the trip down to the water station at Flotterstone.  I saw Mike at the farm at Castlelaw, and he made me laugh when he suggested that I vault the gate rather than use the kissing gate.  He must be getting confused with my namesake who runs for Carnethy (and incidentally was my son’s Geography teacher) who turned it on for the Adventure Show cameras at last year’s event.

Descent to Castlelaw farrm
(photo: Mike Lynch)

(photo: Mike Lynch)

(photo: Mike Lynch)

Since I was carrying no fluids other than a couple of energy gels, I made the most of the juice and water on offer at Flotterstone before embarking on the longest slog of the day, in terms of total height gained from bottom to top, up Turnhouse.  Dauntingly, there was a long stream of runners ahead, reaching all the way to the peak.  A quick chat with a Penicuik runner helped to pass the time as we trudged.  He commented that his familiarity with these hills was both a blessing and a curse – he wasn’t subjected to any false hope, but equally knew exactly what was to come.

Carnethy and Scald Law were both ticked off in reasonably regulation fashion, as it was still early days and the legs were holding up fine at this point – the run/walk strategy not overly taxing them.  And I continued to benefit from a more upbeat, determined, and stripped back approach – no fannying about with the camera, no feeding the five thousand, and no f*cking bitching and whining and feeling sorry for myself.

Speaking to a lad from Stonehaven, he said that he’d got confused going up Carnethy, thinking it was Scald Law, before reaching the summit of Carnethy and realising that he was a whole hill worse off.  I’d know how he felt in due course, when I completely forgot that Bells Hill came between Black Hill and Harbour.

I really ought to have studied the map a little more before the off.  I couldn’t remember if we went directly to the Kips from Scald, or had to go to South Black Hill first – maybe that was just on the C5?  Ah, no, that’ll be a line of runners going to South Black.  Oh well, at least the run out there is reasonably flat, so I told myself to enjoy the pleasant running.  Because the steeper descents were already starting to make my feet feel uncomfortably warm as they slid forward in the shoes and my toes banged off the front.  I was also a little worried by the fact that my thoughts had already turned to the water station at the Drove Road.

Where again I had a cup of juice followed by a cup of water.  The lady who appeared to be head marshal told the fast girl that she was 2nd lady, and that the first lady was not that far ahead.  While putting my cups in a bin-bag, Eoin from Carnethy/Hoka (who in my slightly dazed state I confess I hadn’t noticed) said hello, and I said well done on his recent Glencoe Marathon win.  I then ruined the effects of the liquid taken on by grabbing impulsively at a custard cream, which quickly turned to dust in my mouth and took the best part of five minutes to clear.  Not quite spitting feathers, but certainly spitting crumbs.

Once more, I made sure to enjoy the good fast (hey, it’s all relative) running on the Drove Road, and decided that Hare Hill (up next) looked not too bad.  I’d been warned that the return leg quickly becomes quite tricky with a lack of good paths until you get back towards Capelaw.  But going up Hare Hill seemed fine – the path was narrower, akin to rabbit scrapes, but there was still a line through the heather. 

All that changed when we started down the other side, which was marked with flags because no path was discernible through the heather.  High knees were required, but even that wasn’t enough to stop us from stumbling.  One guy had been going pretty quickly before wiping out.  That seemed to convince him to “ca’ canny”.  Plus, it started steep and then turned near vertical towards the bottom.  There was plenty of slipping and sliding from those in front, which almost made it seem worthwhile scooting down on my ass like a toddler going down stairs.  

This was where the really hard miles started.  Each successive climb seemed progressively harder, although I’m sure Black and Bells would seem murderous wherever they featured.  Bright spots on this section were harder to come by, but nevertheless arrived in the shape of first Graeme (who I passed running in the same direction and didn’t realise it was him until I recognised his voice from behind shouting “well done Nick” – he wasn’t racing, but just “out and about” to support Kathy), and then Charlie Ramsay who gave me a “good running Dunbar”.

I was becoming increasingly doubled over on the ups, at times with my hands on the ground in front.  But this just increased the tension down the back of my legs and put more pressure on my glutes.  I tried to put my hands in the small of my back, keep upright and take smaller steps so as to keep my weight closer to my vertical axis – hopefully using the bigger muscle groups and avoiding straining calves and other more vulnerable areas.  But everything was starting to sing by this point.  I just kept trying new things – hands driving the tops of the thighs, hands driving the knees, etc.  And it was obvious that my feet were now completely shredded – there was little doubt in my mind that blisters were ripping and new ones forming where the old ones had been.

As I mentioned earlier, I felt the Stonehaven guy’s pain when (having mis-remembered the number of hills on the way back) I asked a couple of hillwalkers if we were approaching Allermuir, and they said “no, Capelaw”.  Holy shit sauce.

The disappointment was made a little better by seeing Matthew C at the summit of Capelaw with what he described as his “austere aid station”.  Fizzy juice, water and Haribos seemed pretty generous to me, since it hadn’t been advertised.

But some progress through the field continued to be made – the 2nd lady had now dropped back, and the 1st lady (surely not!) gradually hove into view going up Allermuir.  I caught her as we made our way up the final climb to the cairn at Caerketton, and told her that she had a safe enough lead on 2nd place.  Whether this caused her to rein things in a bit, I don’t know, but I was able to make more of the gradient back down to the finish than she was, and finished a little ahead of her.

All in all, I am very happy with how the weekend went – about as well as I have any right to expect given how little proper hill training I do.  The main thing (as you can tell from the pictures that Mike took) is that I actually enjoyed myself in the hills again.  Which has to be the most important thing, surely?  If you don’t enjoy it, go and do something else you weirdo!

My positions or times aren’t going to set the world alight, but I’m glad they are respectable, and I don’t feel like I am wasting my time.  And I am glad to have avoided the award of the Mouse trophy – coming nicely in the middle of the pack as some sort of man/mouse hybrid – DangerMouse perhaps?!  I’d take that.

Most of the friends that I spoke to afterwards seemed happy with their runs – in particular Lee, who knocked 8 minutes off his PB, and Kathy who slashed 15 minutes off of hers and was delighted to go under 4 hours for the first time.  Well done both!