Getting hounded up the rocks by Jablonski!
photo: Neil. G. Campbell.
You don't have to be Maddy Moss to run this race (haw haw)...but it would surely help. I've heard of it for years and put it off for all kinds of reasons. This year's reason was that I'd read the course description on Chris Upson's Scottish Hill Racing site and phrases like "frighteningly fast and tricky" and "near vertical plummet" gave me much pause for thought. The downhill aspect of this hill running business - not my forte!
Still, come Wednesday, I was idling, on a day off, doing stuff around the house so I'd be fresh for the club session and I happened to notice on the PRC noticeboard that Tony S. was going thru' for Maddy Moss and had seats in his car. I like a trip out with Tony because he's so buoyant and I knew the mad MacMillan was going too, so if only for the fun of being out at a race I went and prodded the Buchanan into agreeing that we would go. His only reservation was that as I'd been saying that I wouldn't do the race he'd gone to Tuesday night intervals at the Meadows and his legs were already trashed.
It was a hectic afternoon involving the council's noise team, our neighbours and the police and it was good to get out in the air and away to the open plains of Stirlingshire and the surrounding Ochils. Standing in Tillicoultry glen in the warm evening sunshine I was wondering what I was doing there. I was feeling sleepy!
Anyway - up the hill a wee bit to the start - a little recceing that only served to confuse me and we were off.
It was then, except for one short and alarming rocky down on a narrow path with a good drop off to a river, all up. Up and up and up we went and I made my way slowly forward. Early cries from the ever-feisty Derek Jablonski that I'd need to get 5 minutes ahead of him to the top or he was going to wipe the floor with me died down as I moved on up. I enjoyed and was rather flattered by Jablonski's attentions but I think some of the runners around me were not sure how to take it...I was glad when it stopped though because he was making me laugh but I was also breathing hard and he was breaking into my rhythm.
The sun felt very hot and it was a relief when it was veiled by the odd thin wisps of cloud. My face was frankly dripping with sweat. I disciplined myself to do the 50 steps of walking, 50 steps of running thing - which was very effective. I had to lie to myself after a while saying "just one more set of 50 and then you can walk the rest" over and over in an attempt not to just give up. I had no conception of where the top was but had been warned it was a considerable up - I'd say about 1.5 miles to the first summit. At the top we turned back on ourselves for a while so it was a chance to see who was behind. I'd also seen some of the sharp end coming back the other way as I'd neared the top, including Peter who was looking focused. For a while it was nice to run steadily downhill and let gravity work for me rather than having to push, push, push...and I seemed to open a bit of space between me and a pack behind me fronted by some purple Ochils vests. After a while my lack of downhill skill started to show though and they started to gain on me and I was losing my zen-like sense of spaciousness and delight. It is hard to get caught on the downhills after you've put all that effort into the ups.
It was not even into the difficult down territory either - that was to come soon in the shape of the narrow trod I'd heard about, where overtaking is very difficult. I didn't need to overtake anyone except one chap in yellow with combat trousers late on, other than that was the awareness that people kept catching up to the back of me and then needing to get past. There was very little I could do to accommodate this other than stop and stand to one side which I wasn't willing to do. Some people managed to overtake skillfully at corners and others took daring leaps of faith across the rough stuff and I hoped I wouldn't be responsible for anyone launching themselves into space off the vertiginous side of the hill while the sheep looked on...
It was a narrow, rutted, rocky path and took a real toll on legs, feet, ankles and concentration. Towards the end of it my nerve and my legs were shaken and I couldn't bring myself to do much to get past the aforementioned man in yellow. I hovered behind him for some time til a natural space opened out. By now I was insanely thirsty and even the wet mud was looking somehow appealing. My brain wasn't working too well by then either and as the final marshal said "straight down here girls" (another female had appeared at my shoulder and overtaken) - I thought he meant go straight into the ferns and thistles which is what I did until I saw others running down a clearly marked path! ...a last few stumbles on shaky legs down a mercifully dry slope ( last year it was wet apparently and everyone fell) - the Mudclaws bit and held and I was still vertical...and...finish! A little while later I saw Jablonski crippling in on what looked like crampy legs. At the time I felt it was right to shout abuse at him... along the lines of "stop pretending to be injured Jablonski, I beat you fair and square"...and only later had a little worry worm that maybe he was injured! If you're out there DJ - I'll see you at the next one!
Results are not out yet but times seem to be similar to Carnethy times. I was a little disappointed with myself in the second half of this race but I'll just need to get out and do more.
It was a spectacular drive home with a big yellow moon hanging over the horizon and the pink glow of sunset behind the hills. We arrived home filthy and bruised at 10pm - another late dinner. I'd lost 4lbs out there in the hills and had a razor sharp thirst on me for the rest of the evening. If the shops had been open we'd have bought some beers to reward ourselves but perhaps luckily we were too late.
I better get myself ready for work now.