Thursday, 17 May 2012

Kerry and Rhian on the Highland Fling

On April 28, Kerry and Rhian took on the Highland Fling. This is the first 53 (!) miles of the West Highland Way, from Milngavie to Tyndrum. Here's Kerry's account of the day:

Rhian and I headed off to Glasgow on Friday night ready for an early start in a taxi to Milngavie.

On the Saturday morning, we arrived at Milngavie train station just after 0500 and the next hour flew by as we got registered and ready to start at 0600.

Everyone had advised us to start slow and we did but this felt hard when so many people were passing us. We arrived in Drymen in 305/307th place in a time of 2.10. Our mantra at this point was to run our own race and ignore everyone passing us.

Drymen to Balmaha was good and Conic Hill didn't give us any problems.

We probably wasted a bit too much time at the check point retrieving our drop bags decorated with pink feather boas and chatting to Jeff, who only just made it in time.

On to the next section which felt much longer than it really was. We were still feeling happy and comfortable. We got into Rowardennan in 280/281 place and time of 5.29. We didn't know it then but obviously we were slowly moving back past people who had set off faster. Jeff told us Susan would be waiting for us at Inversnaid so off we went!

Rhian led all the way along here with me trying hard to follow her footsteps and basically just do what she did. I was beginning to crave crisps and I knew that there were none in this drop bag so spend quite a bit of time hoping Susan would have some for me. Sure enough, when we arrived she did! We again spend a while in the checkpoint refuelling and Rhian washing her face and fixing her hair for the cameras.

Onwards to Beinglas where we thought we had no support. By this time we had some quiet periods(yes we did stop talking for a wee bit). We were surprised to see 2 blue Harriers jerseys as we approached Beinglas and were delighted to see Liz and Phil cheering us on. I had had a hot spot for a few miles so checked that out and restocked my waist belt then Rhian and I ditched everything we thought we could do without. We were now in 233/234 place and at a time of 9.06.

By this point we told ourselves it was only Comrie and back, so barring any major injury we were finishing this. The next 4 miles were our target as we were going to have some support there, a bit earlier than we thought. Jeff, Sav and Levi had ran out so they ran with us for a short while and we then saw Liz and Phil again briefly this time. After leaving the others and beginning to climb a hill we had to pass cows(with a calf or 2). This really unnerved me and spoiled the section for me. Thankfully Rhian is a big brave girl and she made me pass them. We were starting to flag a bit now when Karen P appeared and joined us up another hill - it was good to have a wee chat and lift our spirits. By now we only had the equivalent of the Crieff 10k to go. We thought we could just possibly get under 12 hours now if we kept working hard.
As we crossed the road and realised that we only had about 3 miles or so to go I just wanted to push on and get it done.

As we were nearing the finish a few men passed and were chatting away, everyone had different views of how far to go and that was a bit annoying. The next person we saw was Levi sitting on a bench waiting to run in with us. As he joined us and we headed in we could hear the piper and then all our fantastic Harriers support cheering us on to the finish in 11 hours and 55 minutes and in 209/10th place.


Monday, 14 May 2012

Harriers here and there, mid-May

This was another weekend with Harriers racing all over the place. 

Saturday’s events were the Ben Lomond junior hill race, where the Sweeney boys had another fine showing. Levi was first up for the fun run which really only had 1 other challenger. He ran the 1.6k course in 9.41 to win the fun run and he was delighted.

Sol was next in a 2.7k run. He led to the top and was overtaken by a Lothian boy on the way down to finish second. 

For Sol, this was the second in a series of three junior hill race championship races. We're not quite sure how the points work out over the whole series, but Kerry reckons that Sol has 40 points for 2 second places and is probably leading the championship at the moment. The final race of the series is at Menstrie on September 2.

The second of Saturday’s events was the Loch Leven Half Marathon. We had a big turnout at this race last year, but this year, only Allan and Graham made the trip to Kinross for the jaunt round the Loch. Allan finished in 1.47.09, comfortably inside his target time of 1.50, and Graham just missed the 2 hour mark, finishing in 2.01.35. Good marathon preparation for both the chaps.  

Sunday’s main event was the Ignis Women’s 10k race in Glasgow. This is a very popular race, with over 10,000 entrants this year. Five Harriers made the trip this year, with Maddy gunning for her Mum’s time in her first 10k. Angela was for first Harrier to finish in 41.49, in 43rd place overall, shortly followed by Kerry (slightly bizarrely listed in the results as Jeff Sweeney!), finishing with a pb in 42.44, in 58th position. (A 10k pb a fortnight after doing the Highland Fling is a pretty major achievement in my book.). Maddy didn’t quite beat Nicola’s best 10k time, but her 47.21 was very impressive.  

Kirsty has run this race many times before, but this year’s time was her best result, finishing in 54.54. Possibly the best news of the day, however, came with Jayne’s run – it’s not that long since the doctors were suggesting she might not be able to run at all, so to come back and do 57.49 was a terrific effort.

The final event of the weekend was my run in the Outdoor Capital Trail Half Marathon, at Nevis Range, near Fort William. I know, I should have known from the name it was going to be a bit dodgy. There now follows a bit of rant, so those of a nervous disposition should look away now, but if you want to know how not to organise an event, read on…

The thinking behind doing the event in the first place were a bit woolly. I like half marathons, and I fancied doing something a bit different, and this one seemed a decent off-road route with a fair amount of ascent and descent, without being too gruelling. In other words, it did have the potential to be quite good fun. However, even in the week leading up to it, the weather forecast was grim – wind and rain – so I was wondering about the benefits of doing it. Then I told myself to man up and get on with it, and if nothing else, treat it as a training run. So, it was up earlyish on Sunday morning and into the car and off into the steadily worsening weather. Getting blown about on the road across Rannoch Moor wasn’t exactly promising. As I was driving up, I decided I didn’t have the right gear, so I stopped in Fort William and bought myself an extra top, and as I was chatting to the woman in the shop, she said she thought the event was cancelled. Oh joy.

As I drove into the Nevis Range car park, sure enough, there were no signs of any kind of activity or event, and chatting to a couple of other would-be runners, we were on the verge of heading off when I had a look in the cafe, and sure enough, hidden away in a far corner, was a registration desk where numbers were being handed out. That was a start, but I was a bit  less than encouraged when someone asked about water stations, to be told that there were three, with the last one being about 8 miles from the finish – “you mean, 5 miles from the start?”. Cue considerable confusion over the marked map, which showed 26 somethings. Half miles, presumably. Who knows?

Warming up wasn’t really on the cards – the wind and rain made any excursion outside unpleasant, and I figured the first mile or so of the race would be a gentle roll downhill to get me going. As it happened, that was the case, sort-of, but it shouldn’t have been. Apparently we were supposed to take a left-hand fork at some point down the road, but if there was a sign, it was carefully hidden, and if there was a marshal, he or she was being careful to avoid drawing attention to themself. So I followed the people in front, in the mistaken assumption they knew were they going. We got a fair way to Fort William before we were turned around by a friendly van driver, who said he’d seen all the other runners taking the turnoff for the North Face car park at Torlundy. We turned round and made our way back to Torlundy, grumbling as we went. Sure enough, when we got to the car park, there was a water station, and we were back on track.

There were no mile markers, so we had no idea how much of the course we’d run. If there was a upside to our misnavigation it was that there were now more people to chase down and overtake. This was quite good fun. At one stage, one of the runners we passed did ask “where did all you fast guys come from?”. The route at this stage was good fun. It was a mix of narrow forest paths and wider Forestry Commission tracks, and it was all in the woods, so was quite sheltered from the wind.

Eventually I got to the finish, after a close encounter with a mountain biker on a narrow track (Nevis Range being a bit of an MTB hotspot), and an unnecessarily fiddly finish on a forest path. Emerging blinking into the daylight at the car park, I looked in vain for anything that looked like a Finish. There was one marshal who seemed to be trying to avoid eye contact but did eventually point me vaguely in the right direction. I didn't really know what was going on until a woman poked her head out of the door of the cafe and shouted at me to come inside. I'll admit I had a bit of an undignified rant, but was really disappointed in the organisation of the event.

In fact, I was so cross I just went straight back to the car, dried myself off, pulled on some dry clothes and went home. If I’d stayed, I’d have found I was actually 8th overall, and 1st Senior Vet, despite having run too far. Hey ho.

The drive back was interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much water coming off the Glen Coe hills, and the sight of two high-sided vehicles wrecked at the side of the road over Rannoch Moor kept me on my toes.

In retrospect, it was quite a good run, if I just think of it as a training run, but I don’t think I’ll be giving NoFussEvents a second chance.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Dumyat hill race

Four Harriers travelled to Stirling Uni to run the Dumyat race on Wednesday 9th, in cool conditions and with mostly dry ground underfoot (apart from one really boggy bit about half way up!) It's a fairly short race - only 7.8k - with about 400m ascent.

Murray Strain of HBT set a new record of 32.23 at the head of a huge field of 362 runners, up from 326 the year before and 289 in 2010.

Not surprisingly therefore there was more queueing than in previous years at two or three points early in the race, but Dumyat is still a fine race and many runners will share the new record holder's view from his blog that "The descent off Dumyat has to be one of my favourites: steep enough to be fast while remaining controlled; rocky enough to be exciting without being dangerous."

Tony Wayte was first Harrier home in 48.53, a very respectable time for his first go at Dumyat. Gordon Morrison was pleased to finish largely pain-free in 51.47 - a couple of minutes down on last year but quite encouraging after months of hamstring problem. Cathy Tilbrook ran 56.04, her first time over 55 minutes for Dumyat but the extra queueing time must have contributed.

Dave Griffiths paid a return visit to the Dumyat race after a three year gap, racing in a Harriers vest for the first time. Unfortunately the hill wasn't co-operating and Dave's asthma did not relent, but he soldiered on to complete the course in 96.30 - slow, but not last!
Judging by his comments at the end, it wasn't an enjoyable experience so perhaps the wise move would be to consider the Dumyat box honourably ticked, and move on to another race!

Full results here and Murray Strain blog here

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Balmoral 10k, April 28

A Monday-run inspired trip saw a bunch of us taking part in a big 10k round the royal grounds of Balmoral Castle. The 10k is part of a big weekend running festival, with races for primary and secondary school children, a 5k and the 10k on Saturday, and a big multi-terrain race on the Sunday. There's lots of sponsorship from oil companies, and the whole event attracts thousands of runners. The weather was chilly, but the rain/snow held off, and race conditions were pretty good.

The race is described as 'The race with the hill',  on account of a severe hill from 3.5k up to about the 5k mark. The first k of the hill is quite steep, so it's not a course for really fast times (although no-one seemed to tell the winner that). The flip-side of the ascent is the descents down the other side, which were nice and fast and good fun.

The start was a bit chaotic, with the timing banners being poorly organised and placed, so starting near the front, as John and I did, was a distinct advantage. Starting in the middle or towards the back did seem to entail lots of shuffling and jostling for some way. By contrast, the closing kilometre was great - lots of noisy support, particularly from the hundreds of children.

Results were:
Winner of the men's race: Andrew Douglas, 31.33
Winner of the women's race: Carolynn Milne, 40.22

1st Harrier: me, in 41.53 (3rd SuperVet, so I should have got a prize...)
2nd Harrier, John Davidson, in 43.43
3rd Harrier, Shirley, in 54.00
4th Harrier, Fi, in 54.26
5th Harrier, Julia, in 57.34
6th Harrier, Seonaid, in 59.57
7th Harrier, Edward, in 1.02.23
8th Harrier, Fiona D, in 1.03.01
9th Harrier, Elaine D, in 1.04.15

And a good time was had by all.

Kinross 10k, April 26

5 of us made to Kinross for the 10k race - Will, Fi, Allan, Angela and myself. The course was completely changed - Kinross House has changed hands and is no longer accessible to the public, so the new route started near the church in Milnathort and followed some of the same route as the Milnathort Dash, without the loop up the hill and through the farm, but carrying on along the road to a turn-round point. It's an undulating route, so not as fast as the previous Kinross flat-as-a-pancake route.
Weather was cold, with a very chilly wind, but hey, at least the rain stayed off.
The men's race was won by Murray Strain in 31.58 – he seems to be having a pretty awesome season so far. The women's race was won by Claire Couper in 38.02.

Our times and places were:
Will: 6th overall, 36.41
Me: 25th overall, 41.33
Angela: 28th overall, 4th woman, 42.00
Allan: 65th overall, 49.37
Fi: 83rd overall, 23rd woman, 53.23

I spent much of the second half of the race expecting Angela to pass me. Allan came in well inside his target time of 50 minutes, and Fi put in a fine effort in her second Championship race.