Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Mighty Deerstalker

Saturday saw my fourth running of this slightly off-the-wall event based at Traquair in the Scottish Borders. A beautiful sunny day meant that the start was delayed by 20 mins to ensure we experienced some night time running later in the race so at 5:45pm 1,500 of us set off up the grassy avenue of Traquair House and within 100 yards encountered the hay bale hurdle - the first of many obstacles we were to encounter.
Having run this several times before, I knew the key was to start fast to ensure you didn't get caught up in the bottleneck of runners formed at some of the later obstacles. I was feeling good and ran the first section well and comfortably (I think someone had been dredging the "pond" as what had previously been a waist high water feature was now chest high!). Up the long climb before a mad descent down the mountainbike trail of hairpins and jumps and through the forest into the catch nets by the road.

After a spectaular head over heels just before the nets I was laughing with guy behind me when this picture was taken.
Onwards and along by the river before descending into said river for 300 yards of upstream wading before emerging onto the muddy bank and heading for the main climb of the day up the scree covered side of the hill. Over the top and over a log bridge before once again, plunging down hill through the forrest in the fading light. One particular section of muddy bank was so steep, they provided ropes to help you down - I preferred the "bum-slide" method!

Another river crossing:

and then back through Innerleithen and the finish at Traquair (with a few more tunnels / rivers etc. just for fun!)

I finished 92nd out of about 1500 but to be honest, the placing and time is irrelevant. I was running well within myself and just set out to enjoy the day. It's a great atmosphere and a really fun event and so there is no pressure on you for times or pb's.

I changed into some dry clothes and shivered my way through an excellent plate of haggis neeps 'n tatties before getting back into my car for the journey home. As I left the field I looked up to see a trail of head torches still snaking their way up the hill I had battled with 1.5 hours earlier. There would be some very weary, wet and cold stragglers out there for a while yet. See you next year!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Sticks and Stones (twice)

My first ultra of the season is now only 5 weeks away and I'm starting to panic! I've been putting in some regular sessions but nothing of any great distance so, yesterday, I decided to take a day off and run out from Rowardennan to Beinglas Farm and back - a distance of 28 miles.
I have run this section many times before and so I knew what the stretch from Inversnaid to the top of the loch was like but I've never done an out and back over it. The run out was fine and I was skipping over the rocks, roots and trees quite happily although feeling the effects by the time I reached the Doune Bothy. A quick stop at Beinglas Farm for a pot of beans and I turned and headed back the way I had come.
It puts a whole different perspective on this stretch running it backwards (not literally!) and the constant clambering up and down and around was starting to take its toll on my weary legs so I was delighted to see the Inversnaild Hotel coming into view once more. Another brief stop and a marmalade roll (food of the gods) and I set off on the last stretch along the lochside to Rowardennan. I'll not pretend it was easy - coz it wasn't. I was relieved to finally emerge back in the car park 5hrs 50 mins after I left with some concerns over my ability to do the same again plus another 25 miles in a few weeks time - still a complete lack of preparation, ability and talent has never stopped me before!

My legs feel ok today which is just as well as Saturday sees me running my first race of the year - The Mighty Deerstalker. This will be the fourth time I've run this race and I know some people don't like it but 2,000 of us seem to turn up each year so they must be doing something right! It's billed as 10k and a bit but that "bit" is actually another 5k. The route takes in river crossings, tree bridges, culverts and lots of mud and is timed so that the later stages are run in the dark. All good wholesome fun!
The last few years, the whole family have come along to support and we've stayed in a local hotel afterwards. This year however - as my dog has very selfishly broken her leg and is confined to her crate, I'm going down with my eldest son and one of his pals and driving home after the finish - That post race beer may have to wait slightly longer this year!