Monday, 25 February 2013

Scottish National Cross-country Championships, Falkirk, February 23

February 23 was the date for the Scottish National Cross-country Championships held as ever in Callendar Park in Falkirk. This event seems to be getting bigger every year, with record entries and hundreds of runners in each race. There is a full range of races for the juniors and seniors, and we had runners in the juniors boys races and senior men’s races.
 Conditions on the day were well-nigh perfect. Unlike last year, the ground was firm underfoot in most places, with only a few muddy patches to slog through, and there were no snow flurries to contend with.
5 boys did us proud in the U13 race in which there were over 150 taking part. Lewis was first Harrier home in 49th position, in a time of 14.31. Keir (94th, 15.36), Levi (110th, 61.33), Fraser (116th, 1701) and Andrew (124th, 18.18) all did well too.
In the Under 15 boys race, Sol ran a really measured and intelligent race. He stayed off the lunatic pace for the first 1/2 mile or so and then worked his way from 25th to 13th to 8th and finally came home in 7th place, in a time of 14.12 for the 4km course. Angus struggled through two very sore shoulders to the finish and then spent 10 minutes or so in the first aid tent applying ice and TLC.
 For the senior men, Patrick was first home in 139th position in a time of 46.29. Next was PhilT, in 272nd position, in 50.39. I was next in 334th position in 53.13, and Gordon completed the field in 444th position in 58.38. The race was won by Wegene Tafese from Ron Hill Cambuslang in a fine time of 38.41, and second was the familiar face of Robbie Simpson in 38.55. Apparently Robbie is Patrick’s second cousin, so we need to persuade him to come and run for us instead of Deeside. There were a total of 503 finishers. I was quite pleased with my run. Not only was a bit faster than last year, but I improved my position, as did Phil.

Strathearn Harriers’ first championship weekend

The 2013 Championship series got off to a flying start with two races over the weekend of 16 and 17 February. On Saturday, Rhian Evans, Andy and Emily Greaves raced in the classic Carnethy 5 hill race on the Pentland Hills. This is one of the most prestigious races in the Scottish hill-racing calendar and attracts a very high quality field. Andy was first Harrier home as 114th man. Rhian just pipped Emily on the final section, with Rhian finishing as 37th woman, and Emily in 39th position in the women’s race.

On Sunday, we hosted a new race in our race calendar, a special 5 kilometre race on Lady Mary’s Walk. On a perfect February morning, a total of 21 seniors and 9 juniors turned out in what is hoped will become a regular part of the racing season. There are not many races when juniors and seniors can run together, so this proved an ideal opportunity for the youngsters to show what they’ve been up to with their regular training sessions.    

Winner of the men’s race, in a very fine time of 17.37, was Patrick O’Kane. In his debut race for the Harriers, Chris Clark was second, followed in third place by Sol Sweeney. Sol is still a junior but is more than capable of showing a clean pair of heels to most of his older club mates. In the women’s race, Maddy Watson was first home in a very good time of 21.27, followed by Steph Niven and Emily Greaves.

As is customary with Harriers events, the race itself was followed with a splendid spread of cakes, organised with great aplomb by Lesley Johnston, making a Harriers debut of a different kind!

So, after the first weekend, the Championship looks like this:
Andy Greaves 24.7 (1+1w)
Patrick           16.1 Phil T              14.7 Tony                14.1 Chris               13.4 Jim A              13.1 Jon                  12.9 Andy Gall        12.9 Allan                10.2 Al                     9.8 Ally                  7.5 Colin T             4.4 George            4.1
Emily     23.2 (1+1w)
Fiona M  14.8   Steph     14.7 Cathy    14.3 Maddy    14 Liz          12.5 Rachel    12.2 Mary       10.5 Rhian      9.1 (1w)

Monday, 11 February 2013

Devil's Burdens 2013

It was a gloomy Saturday morning, disturbingly early, when the Strathearn Allsorts gathered for their trip to Falkland for the early start in the Devil’s Burdens race. 
The Allsorts ready for the off!

Gordon and Julia starting Leg 2
The Allsorts, with a combined age of something in the region of 300, featured three runners new to the Devils Burden’s experience. Alistair’s pre-race estimate of about 50 minutes for his opening leg proved to be wildly inaccurate as he came in with a storming time of 40.15, and looked duly shattered at the end of it. Alistair handed over to Gordon and Julia, who was making her DB debut. I doubt Julia could have had a better co-runner than Gordon for her initiation into gnarly hill races, and they put in a very creditable effort in difficult conditions – it was cold and claggy, and visibility on the tops was limited.  

Meanwhile, as Julia and Gordon were tackling West Lomond, I was driving round to Kinnesswood with Alistair, slowly recovering from his efforts and the men’s and women’s teams were starting in the late start, having had an extra hour in bed. The parking situation did seem to be a bit easier here than the previous scrums at Scotlandwell, so this order and direction of running the race may become permanent. Angela turned up a wee bit later, followed not long after by Phil and James, with reports of a terrific run from Wendy, who had run the third fastest women’s Leg 1, finishing not far behind James who put in a fine effort for his DB debut for the men.

James finishing Leg 1

Wendy finishing Leg 1

Will and Colin at the start of Leg 2. Maybe Will's gurning is the secret of his success?
Emily and Rhian looking focussed at the start of Leg 2

Gordon and Julia came bouncing down the hill to Kinnesswood to hand over to me, and I retraced their steps up to White Craigs rather less quickly. As I was heading up, I was nearly mown down by Will and Colin on their way down, moving at great speed – they put in the second fastest time for their leg, just 35 seconds behind the Carnethy A team who eventually won the overall race. Meanwhile Emily and Rhian were putting in a solid performance for their leg, with the fifth best women’s time.

I managed to pass a few walkers on the way up White Craigs, and then passed a few more when the running started properly. I only fell over once in the snow banks in the firebreak, and for a change managed to avoid breaking any bones.

Jim and Andy on Leg 4

Ali and Fi on Leg 4

Wendy and Cathy on Leg 4, looking like they're enjoying themselves!

I handed over to Ali and Fi in her DB debut and a day after her birthday – possibly not the birthday celebrations she might have thought likely not so long ago. Phil T came in a few minutes after me, leaving Andy and Jim (yet another DB debut!) to chase Ali and Fi. They eventually caught them at the top of East Lomond and followed Ali’s heading down the hill. The boys did manage to overtake Ali and Fi and brought the men’s team home to finish in a fantastic 9th place in the men's race, in a time of 2.50.25. Ali and Fi weren’t far behind and finished their leg in a very creditable 58.47, to give a final time for the Allsorts of 3.56.54, and a finishing position of 9th mixed team and 89th overall – sadly the provisional positions of  6th mixed team and 68th overall proved a little generous as it turned out a lots of teams had been incorrectly recorded as having done the early start.

For the women’s team, Angela had her usual strong run and recorded the fourth fastest women’s time for Leg 3, before handing over to Cathy and Wendy T (the last of the DB debuts!) for a cracking last leg to come home in 3.20.07, as 5th women, and 39th overall. The women were only 100 seconds off third place, so a top 3 finish next year is a very realistic target.

Overall, it was a cracking day out. I was hugely impressed with everyone, but particularly the half-dozen for whom this was their first Devils’ Burdens race. As Phil said in his Facebook post, they took themselves out of their comfort zones and performed really well. They may even be back next year!

Overall winners were Carnethy A, in a time of 2.30.41, and the women’s winners were Carnethy Ladies, in a time of 2.45.39.