We were a bit early and were given friendly greetings, pre-race coffee and the offer of cookies which we resisted only out of politeness. At £4 this race did not break the bank! There were nice small numbers instead of stupid big ones that catch the wind. Fortunately they were water-proof as in a twitchy moment I slopped coffee all over mine and the potential for having a bit of a swim in the burn crossings was also there.
Gareth and Michael G. arrived closer to race time and bustled about a bit getting ready. The sketch is that you put warm things in the back of a pick-up that goes up to the top ahead of you so you don't freeze when you get there but you don't have to carry too much.
I practised my start a bit, as these things are important, although Peter pointed out that what I had there was not a starting position so much as a hip flexor stretch. Well you only learn by trying things out. Tony showed us his Usain Bolt moves. Jamie Andrew arrived at the start on carbon fibre legs, 2pm arrived and we set off.
It starts off at a relatively tame angle on a good track although one on which you have to keep an eye on your feet because there are many stones and the threat of a nasty trip was ever-present. There was a bit of jostling early on but fairly soon we settled pretty much into the positions in which we were going to stay. There were quite a few burn crossings, 2 of which were fairly deep - about up to my knees. I chose to treat these with respect. I heard Gareth did some acrobatics and ended up with a nasty shin gash.
The route steepened and I did a bit better, taking a few places along the way. I think I was close to overcooking it because I started to feel a bit sick and was developing a belly-ache. I gave myself a talking to - no sense having some horrible time, I backed off slightly and tried to attend to what was going on inside of me and everything kind of resolved. I got in a rhythm that seemed to be suiting me - by no means all out, but then there was a fair way to go. Only about 2.5 miles in did it occur to me to try to figure out just how far I had to go. The race was billed as 7.6 or so K, so I had not thought beyond "less than 10K then". Having some time free now I tried to work it out and figured that it would be a bit less than 5 miles. In the end it turned out to be just shy of 4.5.
Up and up we went, til finally we turned right up a steep heathery hill and I tried to keep some kind of pace to the top and to the finish!
When I straightened up I looked casually to see if there was any kind of a view and there was a stunning one. Hill upon hill upon hill receding into the distance. I jogged back down the hill to the pick up to get a top to put on because the wind was sharp, and met up with Michael G. et al and we went back up for another look at the view, this time with clothes on. The landowner Simon, who'd run the race, talked us through what we were looking at. My reference points are rather sparse for the Scottish Hills, but there were a few names I recognised. Looking really quite splendid and eerie was Ben Macdui and the Lairig Ghru which we raced in 2008. I could see Michael G. wanting to run it - it was written all over his face!
Up the hill came Jamie Andrew, looking strong, and not far behind was our Tony, who had given Jamie a shoulder to lean on going through the deeper burn.
The cold started getting to us and the thought of the post-race food so we set off back downhill. It seemed a surprisingly long way! We weren't racing it. Part of the appeal of this race is that Michael's recovering from a knee injury, Peter's getting over plantar fasciitis, Tony's beaten his PF only to get knee niggles. Gareth is fine, and I have no excuse. I didn't want to run fast. It was great running down the hill chatting. You had to watch your feet though. Michael and Tony both hit the deck but luckily sustained no permanent damage.
Then food - I had three kinds of cake, ignoring the more sober cheese roll option. And we rehydrated on coffee because we were cold, ignoring the juice that was on offer, which is probably why I am now thirsty as the blazes. Prizes time rocked around quickly and we were delighted with a team prize for the Portobello Men. (We think this might be a first in hill racing circles. As someone said, "Isn't that a road running club?") Lots of prizes were given out but there were still more left so the organiser went back to the computer to see who else could get a prize and I was one of those number. I might have been 2nd vet. Who knows though. I think that possibly all the women got a prize. Which is only right. So I have a bottle of wine to broach. Probably quite soon.
Michael and Gareth went off somewhere with the plan to stay up and do another hill or two tomorrow but we were glad to get back down the road. Which is where we are now. So now we need to...do the dishes, buy something for dinner, cook something for dinner, rehydrate on something other than tea or wine...and formulate a plan for meeting up with Richard tomorrow to discuss team tactics for supporting him on his WHW race in a few weeks time, so I better get on it...
Top day out though - would recommend it to anyone! Well maybe not my mum.