Monday, 27 August 2012

Milnathort Dash, June 21

Just realised, months late, that I haven't written anything about the Milnathort Dash, which took place in very wet conditions in June. Although this was a club Championship race, there were only 3 of us running - myself, Allan and DaveG. The rain was pretty torrential in the hours before the race, and it was much colder than you'd hope for in June, but by some fluke, the rain died down for the race itself.

Although there's a King and Queen of the Hill prize for the first runner to the top of the very first hill, there wasn't a very pell-mell sprint from the front, and it all seemed very orderly. I was first Harrier home in 35.26 - a bit more than a minute better than last year - and was 2nd M50. Sadly, no prize. Allan was next in, in 41.14, and DaveG followed in 48.57. The post-race food was of a very fine standard.

A busy weekend for the Harriers, August 25 and 26

We had a busy weekend at the end of August, with Harriers competing in races on Saturday and Sunday, and with an Olympic Legacy open day for the Juniors on Sunday morning.

First up on Saturday was the Killin 10k. This is the second year this race has been run, and after a good start last year, it’s got better this year, with more runners and a higher quality field. Kirsty and Elaine ran last year and liked it so much they decided to come back, and they were joined this year by Fi. I would have liked to have done it if injury and other priorities hadn’t got in the way.

Elaine was first Harrier home, in a time of 49.48 – over a minute faster than last year. Fi was next in, in a fine 52.09, and Kirsty wasn’t far behind in 55.54 – again, a minute faster than last year. Top scoff in the village hall afterwards.

Also running on Saturday was Morgan Oates, in a real step up into the big league, competing in the Scottish National Track and Field Championships at Grangemouth. Morgan was running in the under-14 100 metres, and won the B final, essentially making her 9th best in Scotland! A very impressive effort for a first exposure to this standard of competition.

Sunday was the Perth 10k. This is a fast flat course, and sure enough, Angela put in a terrific effort to finish in 40.07 – tantalisingly short of her target of 40 minutes, but evidence that her training is paying off and it should only be a matter of time before she gets below the elusive 40 minute mark. This followed Angela’s great performance at the Sherriffmuir Challenge the previous weekend, where she finished 2nd woman in a very fast 1.15.36. Also running in Perth were Nicola, finishing in 48.35, and Mary O’Kane, in 57.45. Patrick was also running, but chose to wear his HBT vest, so we won’t say anything about his time (except to say that it wasn’t bad for someone who’s injured!).

Sol was also running in the Scottish Nationals at Grangemouth, in the under-16 1500 metres on Sunday. Sol is young in this age category, so he was running against boys a year older. It’s a real mark of his ability that he made it to the final, finishing in an outstanding time of 4.45. For some reason, Sol was listed in the official results as running for Stornoway Running AC – maybe someone needs to look at their handwriting!

Meanwhile, back in Crieff, there was a very busy scene at Dallerie where the Juniors open day saw a big turnout of current and prospective new members. There was a fine workout by all concerned, and it seems this part of the club is in very good shape – the coaches and organisers should be very proud of what they’ve already achieved in the short time that the junior section has been running.   

Friday, 17 August 2012

Islay Half Marathon, August 4

I’d entered the Islay Half Marathon with a view to doing something a bit different and going somewhere I’d never been before, and of course with the hope of a decent time – close to or faster than 90 minutes. In the weeks prior to the race I’d been troubled with a niggling calf muscle, but it seemed to be under control. Alternatively, being really honest about it, I was fairly sure I was pushing things a bit and it was only a matter of  time before it went ping – but not just yet …

Two days before, we had the Comrie Fortnight race, so it wasn’t quite the ideal preparation. And then the day before we had a very early start to get Fi’s Dad into Perth for a train to Newtonmore to visit friends there. But on the flip side, the drive down to Kintyre was nice, and the ferry was fine, and the drive across the island was quick – it’s not a very big island. Having checked into the Harbour Inn in Bowmore, we drove round the course, and I was happy to see it was quite benign – bit uphill to start with, bit of a short sharp belt downhill at about the halfway point, and then a long straight flat bit leading back to Bowmore.

Breakfast on race day was the usual porridge, and then it was out to registration, and assorted trotting up and down to try to warm up and get some life into the legs. The weather was turning out to be warmer than expected, but didn’t seem too hot.

The start leads straight up the main street in Bowmore and then does a wee diversion round a couple of side streets (to get the distance up, I guess) before heading out onto the country roads. After about a mile, I was in the first 15 or so runners, and starting to feel quite good. Maybe a decent time was on the cards after all. Half a mile later it all went horribly wrong, with a very sharp pain in the calf which reduced me to a walk. Cue all the internal conversations – do I stop, do I carry on? How much damage will I do if I keep going? What does it mean for the Ochil 200s? It’s a bloody long way to come to run a mile-and-a-half, and I’m sure I can run it off. So I carried on. 

Just to make my mood worse, the water stations (of which there were lots) were providing water in cups, instead of bottles – I hate trying to drink from cups and I’d specifically asked the race organiser, to be told that bottles were used. Oh well…

Considering how sparsely populated the island is, there were nice pockets of support dotted along the route, but I hate to think how grumpy I must have looked. Over miles two to five, I was doing sums to work out how much I needed to speed up get back on track for a decent time. Then I looked at my watch and realised I didn’t have a chance. The my foot started hurting. Oh, and my leg was still hurting – run it off indeed! And it was hot.

I really should have stopped and given in, but I didn’t. The last four miles were as unpleasant as I’ve ever run. Every step hurt. Walking hurt. Bugger. Finally, a welcome face – Fi had worked out something was wrong and had walked up the course to find me. I’m not sure I said how pleased I was to see her, but it was the only decent thing that happened the whole way round. Not long after, I ran down the main street and hobbled to the finish. The hobbling carried on for some time – I’ve never been in so much pain after a run. Despite the pain and the walking, I still managed to finish in the top 25 (although if I'd manage my target time, it would have been closer to the top 10). Not sure I'll be back next year to try to improve - there are lots of alternative half marathons available.

It did put a bit of a damper on the rest of the weekend, although the Saturday night was enlivened with the Ennis/Farah/Rutherford Olympic successes. On the positive side, the Harbour Inn in Bowmore does do very good food – slow roasted pork belly, and a particularly nice chocolate dessert did help ease the angst.

Need to find some more island half marathons for next year!

Comrie Fortnight race, August 2

Once again, Harriers provided the majority of the runners for both the adults and the juniors races in the Comrie Fortnight hill race, which was the final club championship race of the season. Worryingly for most of the adults, Sol elected to run in the adults race rather than the juniors, ensuring he’d be showing most of us up as old plodders.

There was a mild kerfuffle at the start of the juniors race when it was decided that the adults should start first. This despite the fact that there was still 15 minutes to go to the advertised start time and we were still waiting for Cathy and Fran, who did make it before the eager starter got the race underway.

Race order was quickly established, with Andy Greaves hitting the front, closely tracked by Sol. Jeff decided on a burst for glory over the first half mile or so, and then decided to stick to a rather more sensible pace. PhilT was making a very welcome return to racing after a long injury layoff and soon settled into third position. Angela and I were boxing and coxing with the only non-Harrier in the race, who seemed strong on the uphills and less so on the downhills – I eventually pulled away from him crossing the field heading towards Shaky Bridge. I’m afraid I don’t know what was going on behind – feel free to fill in the gaps.

By the time Angela and I hit the Glen Lednock road, Andy and Sol were out of sight, Phil was only occasionally visible and I was failing to close the gap to Angela. Nothing really changed as we descended through the woods, although Phil did seem tantalisingly close as we came out of the woods at Cunningham’s yard. But no, positions stayed as they were all the way back to Laggan Park.

AndyG won the race in a time of just over 35 minutes – none of this fancy split second timing for Comrie. Sol was second, about 20 seconds later, I don’t think it was huge gap to Phil T. Angela was fourth, and I followed her, another 20 seconds later. I’m afraid I lost track of the rest of the finishing order. I know Emily was second woman, battling the after-effects of a hectic evening the night before, and I think Cathy was third woman. Also running were:
Jeff, Allan Laing (who has, I believe, finally joined the Harriers!), Kirsty, Nicola, Fran, Grant, Adrian and Jayne.

There was a very strong turnout from harriers for the junior race, but I’m afraid I have no idea who won the boys race. Catriona won the girls race.

Clydestride Relay, July 21

The Clydestride ultra is a relative newcomer to the Scottish running scene. It follows the Clyde Walkway from Partick Station in the centre of Glasgow along the River Clyde to the World Heritage Site at New Lanark. Last year was the first time the organisers had included a relay option to the race, which our men’s team duly won, and in which the ladies team also put in a very fine performance.

This year, expectations were a bit lower, but we still all had a good time. Assembly and registration at the Morrison’s supermarket in Partick seems a bit weird, but it’s convenient for the start and has a decent amount of car parking, so it all seemed to work.

Leg 1 is the only truly urban leg, heading south-west out of Glasgow centre. Susan and Gordon G were our Leg 1 runners, with this being Susan’s first competitive outing since the Alloa half marathon. The new M74 extension made getting to Cambuslang for the first handover a breeze, and Susan was first in of our runners in a very creditable 1.25. Gordon wasn’t far behind. Susan handed over to Kirsty, while Gordon handed over to DaveG.

Back into the cars and onto Strathclyde Park for the next handover. Al had made his own way to his handover point with his loyal support crew and it was good to catch up. We had a wee bit of a wait for Kirsty and Dave. Leg 2 is advertised as only being 8 miles, but Al was convinced it was longer than that last year, and that seemed to be borne out by other runners this year. Kirsty took a bit more time out of Dave, so the ladies went into Leg 3 with an 11 minute lead over the men. Leg 3 runners were Fi and Al, and they both put in really good runs. Fi came in first, handing over to Elaine with a 6 minute lead. Al was chuffed to put in the 8th fastest time for the leg – good going for someone whose training has been disrupted for a lot of the year.

Leg 4 is distinctly hillier than any of the other legs, and the hills tend to be a bit short and sharp, complete with steps in some places. However, it’s not really hilly by Crieff standards. I was under instructions not to overtake Elaine, but I’m afraid I didn’t stick to that, passing her just as she was regaining the correct path after a bit of misnavigation (not her fault – blame the runners ahead she was following).

The last mile or two are a bit frustrating. You run within 100 metres or so of the finish in New Lanark, only to be sent off on a long loop upstream, which is terribly scenic, but does seem a bit arbitrary. Anyway, it ends up leading to a splendid finish, through a gate in the wall and nestled in among the fine old mill buildings.

The Sizzlers ended up 12th overall, in a total time of 6.11.09, and the Sirens were a couple of places behind, in a time of 6.21.55. I’ll certainly be game to give it another go next year – it’s a really nice friendly event, and logistically it’s not too hard now that we’ve mastered the routes between the handover points. Oh, the t-shirts are good and the hoodies even better.