Thursday, 19 April 2012

Harriers a-go-go

It was one of those weekends where Harriers were scattered far and wide in search of thrills, adventures and goody bags. The biggest contingent were the juniors who made up the ‘magnificent nine’ (© at the first race of the 2012 Junior Hill Running League on East Lomond on Sunday. Conditions were apparently fine, and the boys and girls did the club proud. Keir was second in the under-12s, with Levi 4th, Duthac 6th, Finlay M 7th, David D in 8th beating his brother Finlay D by a mere 5 seconds. However, Finlay gets a special mention for carrying on after a nasty fall (with thanks to Digby for the support and encouragement). Catriona R won the under-12 girls with what sounds like a convincing 52 second margin, to follow her win at the Emily Hill race. Sol couldn’t quite maintain his winning streak but managed a very commendable second in the under-14 boys. It sounds like Maddy had a tough time on what must have been a long course- there were only two runners in her under-16 girls category, and unfortunately Maddy could only manage second. Great efforts from all concerned.

So from the wilds of Fife to Paris. Allan MacInnes was running his second marathon of the year, which frankly sounds like two too many to me. Allan tells his own story elsewhere, but suffice to say that despite things not quite going to plan, he still managed a very creditable time in one of the biggest marathons in the world, with 35,000 entrants.

Also on the marathon trail was Colin T, in the slightly less well-attended (and possibly less attractive) Lochaber Marathon, which takes the scenic route out of Fort William along the A830 to Mallaig and back again from a random turning point somewhere just past the end of Loch Eil. Sadly, Colin’s training since the start of the year has been disrupted with illness, so when things started feeling uncomfortable at the 19 mile mark he decided to call it a day for fear of doing more damage and scuppering his chances in the Edinburgh Marathon, coming up at the end of May. I’m a bit worried about this apparent outbreak of sensibleness from Colin, but I guess it has to happen sometime.

Phil M and Andy Greaves had a marathon of a different kind with their outing in the Highlander Mountain Marathon. This year’s course had them wandering around Slioch and Beinn Eighe – 55km and 3300m, in a bit over 14 hours, to finish in 11th position in the ‘A’ category. Sounds like a very fine effort to me. The whole things was filmed for the Adventure Show, and our heroes were interviewed extensively, so we’ll have to look out this when it’s shown. I’m sure signed DVDs will be made available.

And finally, Fi and I went to Glenlivet at the suggestion of a friend to run the Chest, Heart and Stroke charity 10k. We drove round the course the afternoon before and decided it wasn’t really going to be a fast time – there’s a big lump between the 1km and 4km marks which rather slows you down, and sure enough I was 2 minutes behind a 40 minute time after the first 4km. So with that taken into account, and the slightly-less-than-ideal preparation (24 minutes chasing Will at the Saturday morning speed session), I was quite happy with 42.29, in 18th position. (According to the published results, I was 1st supervet, but we didn’t stay for the prize-giving, so I missed out on my prize.) Fi did a very good 53.57, which I reckon should translate to 52 minutes on a flat course. We now have more whisky to drink, courtesy of the Glenlivet Distillery which hosted the event.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Newtyle Hill race 11 April

After last year’s prize-fest, it was a bit more humdrum this year, with only three of making it to the Loch of the Lowes for another Adrian Davies special. As I was driving over from Crieff, I could see heavy weather in the direction of Dunkeld so I was expecting a bit of a soaking, but the rain had passed by the time the race got underway and it turned out to be quite good conditions.

As I was parking, I saw Robbie Simpson and realised that any chances of decent championship points had just evaporated (not that it was ever a very realistic prospect, what with this being a hill race and hill races not quite being my strongest suit). Sure enough, the only time I saw him in the race was as he was hurtling down the hill as I was toiling up it.

As seems to be the case with Adrian Davies starts recently, this was a bit shambolic. We’d all assembled at the start in good time, and then he arrived to announce that bum bags with full body cover were needed, so at least half the runners had to trot back to the car park to collect whatever they could – cue assorted blagging of gear, which was then not checked. Quite why we couldn’t have been told to carry gear while we were registering wasn’t clear. So we all traipsed back to the start, by which time Adrian had gone for a run and left his mate to give a barely audible briefing which had a lot of ‘umms’, ‘aah’s and a few ‘as far as I can remembers’. The Adrian came back and gave the same briefing without quite so many umms and aahs and a bit louder, but some people still managed to get lost. New for this year was an orienteering-style control at the top of Newtyle Hill, with an instruction to clip your number.

Eventually we got started. I started far too near the back and the first hundred metres or so were a frustrating and annoying shuffle along a path that was too narrow for the numbers of runners. Angela and Cathy both started ahead of me and I managed to catch Cathy after about 500 metres. Once we got onto the open track, I could see Angela ahead of me, and I was closing the ground between us. I did get to within touching distance as we were standing in the queue at the control on Newtyle Hill, but by the time I’d got back down to the track, she was flying down and that was the last I saw of her until after the finish.

The next notable part of the course was the obstacle course in the woods above the golf course. Lots of trees were down and so there was much scrambling over and under and round the debris. After the wooded section, there’s a mad dash down a grassy slope with a couple of paths at the foot of it – Cathy and I spoke to one guy who had taken the wrong option and taken a bunch of followers with him. This option does join back with the ‘proper’ route quite soon, but he was a bit miffed that the course wasn’t better marked.

And then there’s a steepish road for a bit and a track to the finish, where I managed to pick up a few places. Angela was waiting for me, having finished ahead of me in 36.46. My time was 37.49, and Cathy finished in 43.20. Angela’s time would have won the women’s race last year by a comfortable margin, but HBT seem to have a particularly strong group at the moment, contesting every race they can find and winning a lot of them.

Cathy’s performance was pretty impressive considering she had spent the weekend beating Doug in assorted orienteering events, coincidentally held in the Dunkeld area, and just to top it all off, Cathy also picked up a bottle of wine as a spot prize! I was a bit disappointed in my time, since felt I was running better than last year but was about a minute slower. I’ll put it down to the queue to get through the start gate, the queue at the top of Newtyle Hill and the obstacle course in the woods.

Final times and positions were:

Men’s winner: Robbie Simpson, 27.04

Women’s winner: Sarah O’Neil, 32.44


Angela, 29th overall, 5th woman, 36.46

Me, 36th overall, 37.49

Cathy, 53rd overall, 12th woman, 43.20

Monday, 2 April 2012

National Road Relays, March 31

On Saturday 31 March, we sent two teams to the National Road Relays in Livingstone, a first for the club as far as anyone present on the day could remember. For the men, the race comprises six legs, alternating between the short (3 miles) and long (5.8 miles) legs, while the women run the same legs but only doing each one twice, instead of three times. Most of the course was on cycle paths and pedestrian routes and by Crieff standards, was pretty flat.

When I say we sent two teams, I should perhaps say that two teams managed to get to Livingstone somehow, just arriving in time, with only a wee hint of panic. Question marks were first raised in the car park at the Recreation Centre when Allan didn’t show up – it turned out he had an urgent appointment at IKEA in Edinburgh, but he did assure us he’d make his own way to the race (which he did do, in plenty of time for his leg).

The next point of confusion arose thanks to Kerry and Jeff’s satnav, which decided that a tour of the motorway network of West Lothian was what was needed, rather than simply following the signs to Livingstone. And then the convoy split three ways with the start almost in sight and we wondered if we’d ever see Angela again, or if she was doomed to a fate of Livingstone roundabouts

So there we were at the start, apart from Kerry and Doug, the Leg 1 runners, who were about 100 metres down the road, oblivious to the 1-minute whistle, having a chat and generally looking quite relaxed. I managed to put an end to that and grabbed them in time for them to get a quick warm-up/sprint to the start, getting to the line with at least 5 seconds to spare. We actually had a race underway!

Kerry was apparently leading Doug most of the way round, but Doug’s ego managed to summon up sufficient energy for a final dash over the last 100 metres to finish 3 seconds ahead of Kerry. Their times of 20.35 and 20.38 were both pretty fine efforts.

Leg 2 runners were PhilM and Angela. Despite his aversion to tarmac, Phil put in a strong run, but couldn’t hold off Angela, who passed him and ran her leg in 38.44, 13 seconds faster than Phil.

Leg 3 runners were Liz and Jeff. Jeff followed up his terrific performance at Alloa with a very creditable 21.49. Liz had a fight with some of the local vegetation because we hadn’t had enough drama for the day. Suffice to say the photos of Liz after her leg don’t show her at her best. Despite her battle wounds, Liz ran a fine leg of 24.41.

Leg 4 runners were me and Rhian. By this stage, the race was quite spread out, so I could see a couple of runners ahead of me, but it wasn’t exactly intense racing. I managed to overtake a few people, but was also passed by a few as well – it’s always so discouraging to see just how quickly faster runners disappear from view when they pass you. My time for the leg was 37.59, while Rhian finished in 40.51. The women’s team finished in a total time of 2.05.54, in 17th position.

Our Leg 5 runner was Allan, who was buoyed by the success of his trip to IKEA and stormed round in a fine time of 22.49. However, we were a wee bit off the pace of the leaders and PhilT was part of a small select group released in a mass start. Phil probably shouldn’t have been running, given the problems he’s been having with his Achilles, so he gets big brownie point for fighting his way round in a time of 38.16, and he is now allowed to put his feet up and recover. The men’s team finished in a total time of 3.00.25, in 43rd position.

The winners of the men’s race, for what it’s worth, were Central AC, in a total time of 2.14.51. Personally, I’m not sure about the ethics of having runners who can do 3 miles in 15 minutes, or 5.8 miles in under 30 minutes, but if they think they can get away with it, good luck to them. The women’s winners were also Central AC, finishing in 1.44.36.

Highland Boundary Series, including the Birnam Hill race

The Highland Boundary Series is an Adrian Davies creation comprising three races held on consecutive days over the weekend of March 23-25, in and around Dunkeld and Birnam.

The first race was the Tay Dash, a night race of 5km alongside the Tay, at night, run with headtorches. Race winner was Robbie Simpson, and Angela Mudge won the women’s race in 18.42. Digby and Wendy ran this one, with Digby coming in 7th, in 18.18. Wendy was a very good 3rd place in the women’s race, in 20.07.

The second race was the Birnam Hill Classic. This was a club championship race, but after the high numbers of club runners at the Alloa Half the previous weekend, it was a small contingent of just the four of us who made it for this one – Digby, Angela, Grant with another one of his last-minute decisions, and me. Reasons for not running ranged from bruised ribs (that’s what happens with mountain biking), injured Achilles, injured hamstrings, post-D33 recovery, pre-duathalon preparation, to essential parental duties watching offspring playing football/rugby, work, illness, plagues of frogs and locusts and so on, to the extent that the reasons for not running outnumbered the runners by at least two to one.

The start was mildly frustrating, with Adrian Davies insisting on taking a school register at the start to ensure no-one was left behind on the hill, which is sort-of understandable on a longer race, but on a 6.5km up-and-down seemed a bit excessive. Anyway, we eventually got going and by the time most of us started the ascent, Robbie Simpson had already won. Well, almost. So, up we went with varying degrees of running, shuffling, walking and wheezing. I lost sight of Digby ahead of me quite quickly, and I could just about see Angela for about two-thirds of the ascent, and then she disappeared from view. Having huffed and puffed a lot on the way up, I really enjoyed the descent – none of it is very technical, and a lot of it is quite straightforward, so I was able to overtake a few people on the way down.

The race was won by Robbie Simpson in a new record time of 28.14, beating second place Calum Gilhooley by two minutes. Sarah O’Neil won the women’s race in 33.06, 24 seconds ahead of Angela Mudge. Digby was first Harrier to finish in 23rd position, in 37.17. Angela was next home, in 38.20 in 6th place in the women’s race, after what sounded like a great race with Jacqui Higginbottom. I bumbled in a couple of minutes later in 47th position, and Grant followed a bit after me.

The third race of the series was the Deuchary Hill Canter, an 18km run round Craig O Barns and up and over Deuchary hill. Once again, Robbie Simpson won, in another new record time of 1:23:58, and Angela Mudge won the women’s race in 1.36.02. Andy Greaves coped well with his bruised ribs to finish in 29th position in 1.46.47, and Digby wasn’t far behind in 35th position in 1.48.04.