Start photo from Haddies website
Jablonski at 17,500ft, feeling like he's been out at the pub til 3am.
Yesterday's race was the Largo Law Hill Race, my 28th race this year. I first did this race last year, really liked it and was looking forwards to it but felt a bit older and achier at the start than I might have hoped. Also along was Michael Geoghegan, needing some Scottish Hill racing action as an antidote to the dulling effects of living "down south".
Its a wonderfully informal-feeling race organised by the Anster Haddies. I know I'm sounding like Peter Buchanan's mini-me but £5 gets you a well-marked and interesting and well-marshalled race route including not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 stream crossings!!! Well its (presumably) the same stream but you cross it 4 times. Fast and involving single-track, a good stiff hill in the middle, then also water, a medal, a packet of crisps and jelly babies at the end - plus a free drink at the Crusoe Hotel on production of your race number. The staff at the Crusoe hotel are remarkably un-sniffy about having sweaty racers squeeze into their pleasant environs. The results were processed pretty quickly and were up on the web-site by the time we got home. Compare this to the Scottish Gas "Gassy 10K" where you get to do your least favourite local run, a sniff of the Granton Gas tower, a series of bottlenecks and a guaranteed headwind all for the princely sum of £13.
I had it in my head that this race was 7 miles long and took me 1hr and 2 minutes last year. Wrong on both counts! Its pretty much exactly a 10K distance and after bewailing a 2 minute loss of form at the end got home to find I'd run about 20 seconds slower than last year. A mere nothing, in the grand scheme of things.
Still I wasn't feeling very race-tastic as I barrelled through the ferns and thorns and tricky rocky muddy bits. On the first descent to the first stream crossing I found myself slowing down and taking care, picking my way cautiously through the water which meant I didn't really have my racing hat on. I can be pretty cautious but usually at least some of that goes with the excitement and adrenaline of racing. For entertainment I had my yellow vested racing nemesis Derek Jablonski along for company. He is off the boil at the moment, and trying to find his motivation. I suggested to him that given time it would come back on its own, but I don't know if that's really true and spent a good bit of the race weighing over in my mind whether its better to actively seek motivation to continue our running or to let it go on the back burner from time to time...I suspect pride is a major stumbling block for people who have been going really well and then for whatever reason can't perform up to their previous standards...
Anyway, Jablonski's talents lie in the area of utterly fearless downhilling. He bombed past me at the river crossing, caring nothing for boulders or slippery bits, but I caught him on the uphills where his lack of enthusiasm for training and his voracious drinking until 3am the night before was telling on him. We swapped places a few times on the slowly climbing trails up to the main hill, but I got away from him quite decidedly on the steep up and I wondered if I'd see him again. However, I was at my nanciest coming downhill, not liking the dry soil which had formed itself into a friction-free ball-bearing type surface where not even the eager grip of my Mudclaws was any guarantee of staying on my feet. Towards the bottom of the steep bit I heard a terrifying roar and feared, it turned out justifiably, that this was Jablonski coming for my soul. He burst out from between the high gorse like the original mad man, uttering strange oaths. He took the gate at the bottom at a single bound and bowled on down the rocky path below.
Well, I sped up a bit, now that I was on easier ground - but it wasn't that easy - plenty scope for ankle-twisting and my legs felt pretty wrung out from the steep up and down. Jablonski must have been suffering from the hellish mix of Guinness and other beverages he had imbibed only 12 hours earlier and I caught up to him once again, getting past him on the trails. Then I was on my own or swapping places with a guy from Central AC (who appeared to be wearing a fleece neck warmer!) and as the route twisted and turned you had little awareness of what was happening just ahead or just behind and it did occur to me that I could slow down and "nobody would know" and it was only the thought of Derek coming back at me that kept me moving as quick as my tired legs and burning lungs would allow. At the final river crossing Peter was there with the camera already (I cursed at him - that meant he'd finished, got the camera and then run a steep uphill to get there in time for me!) He was just telling me I'd have to go round again to get a decent shot when there was a thrashing in the bracken and Peter let out a warning shout that Jablonski was once more hot on my heels! He let out a roar and I let out a scream and sprinted uphill as hard as I could - then kept the pace up every inch to the final turn onto the steep downhill on tarmac where my Garmin tells me I ran the last wee bit at 4m51s pace...
Good game again!
No prizes for the Porties except for Peter who got not one but two spot prizes! Peter came a respectable 6th and Michael came in 7th. I was roundly beaten by those Fife AC women who had decided to rub it in by wearing pink fairy costumes.
Today I am sore and very tired, partially due to being awake from 4am to 6am to get the police round to intervene with our 18 year old techno-loving, party-having, arrogant fuckwit of a neighbour. (The police had been round at 1am already, called by somebody else. And we thought we'd just put up with it for the sake of a relatively peaceful life - but then it got louder at 4am.) I am hoping I can harness my desire to do him extreme mischief into the motivation to go for a long run on this miserable, wet, grey uninspiring Sunday.