Photo's from Criffel hill race... by James Callender
THE START OF THE 2017 SCOTTISH HILL CHAMPIONSHIP
I have checked it out and, at Ufford Park Health Spa (no, I have no idea where that is) you can have a half hour mud treatment for £29 all on your own! Why pay so much for so little when by entering Criffel Hill Race, for as little as £8, you can enjoy (in my case) 1hour 28 minutes of total emersion in black blog alongside 200 other head cases?!
Having disgraced myself in Scotland last year (think back to the DQ in The Highlander and getting lost and taking 3hrs in my own back garden in the navigation leg in the FRA relays) it was evident I was in no way fit or competent to hold let alone run with a map. Time to look to tamer racing environments where banner tape and gigantic fluorescent arrows painted on the floor are present every 200m mean that navigation really shouldn’t be too big an issue.
So with a get out of work free card until mid-March and Leyre on a work placement in Geneva with a free flat on the edge of the Jura mountains, I of course jumped on the opportunity to take up my new part-time role as cleaner/chauffeur/professional housewife whilst Leyre did hideous hours in the lab Monday-Friday. Whilst taking my professional duties very seriously, it did allow me ample time to profit from the unseasonably warm February weather and get in plenty of hill running and cross-country skiing.
To the racing- things are pretty sparse in the alps at this time of year with most complaining that it’s too cold and dangerous (ie hard) anywhere when there might be a possibility of encountering snow. However there are a few small regional races that attract the ‘hard-core’ of the alpine running scene. The first of these that we decided to attend was the Trail des Huilles in the small village of Bourget-en-Huille in the Massif de la Belledonne. We decided to prepare well for the race the night before and cut down the morning drive by staying with some old housemates in Chambery. Needless to say the electro festival in an abandoned industrial unit complete with oysters and hot tubs perhaps wasn’t the greatest idea as we stumbled back to the house at 3 in the morning. Feeling slightly worse for wear, the prompt 8am start was just lovely. Leyre deciding to get the pain over with shortly and sharply opting for the shorter parcours at 16km and I deciding on the slow and painful 30km option. Courses were to be commended, both picturesque and ‘technical’, I mean at one point there was actually snow and a little of this unknown medium known as ‘mud’. My personal highlight during the race coming with one Frenchman asking, whilst referring to my Westies vest, as to why on earth I was wearing a netball bib to run a trail race? I guess I didn’t really know my indeed I was wearing a netball bib to a race…
Finish line arrived and Leyre putting in a formidable early season performance was 4th woman. I on the other hand was nowhere to be seen on the race list. Dismayed not have been included in the final classification, I did surprisingly notice another Westie who neither Leyre or myself recognised on the list- a certain “Coddy Lunningham” was 35th of 170 overall in the long race.
So on to the next weekend then and this time we opted for the 26km Trail de Gros Foug, a race starting at sunset through some vineyards near Aix les Bains before reaching some arbitrary point about 70m below the summit of the hill “Le Gros Foug” at 1000m and before coming back down an old forest track. The race was made fairly interesting by the carrying of head torches and the UV painted arrows on the trail made navigation fairly simple (although I still managed to take two wrong turns on the descent). Apparently the year before the race had attracted nearly 200 but biblical rains and wind (think of an average evening on the Campsies) obviously left it to the real hard-core and we just over 80 at the starting line.
Couldn’t complain with results, especially seeing as there were two French gents with the medics at the end of the race with what looked like early onset Hypothermia and everyone was denouncing the horrendous conditions (again think Campsies in early April). 22nd for me and I think (if I’m not wrong?) first Westies win of the year with Leyre taking first female senior along with a bottle of local wine, 25€, flowers and most importantly a bloody good Tefal frying pan! Now you definitely don’t get that from Carnethy 5 do you?
I should finally report from the third race of the year just this weekend but alas it was not to be. Leyre being her typical Spanish self, “misread” the start time and when we turned up at 12 o’clock the winners had already arrived 45 minutes earlier and we were politely (and rather pitifully) informed that the race started at 9 o’clock. A coincidence, or did Leyre just fancy 3 hours more in her bed? I’ll let you all decide. Needless to say it was a glorious spring day of sun and 20 degrees and seeing as the course was still marked, we decided to go and run the 30km anyway.
A grand total of 7 Westies turned up for the Glasgow University Hares and Hounds 5-Mile Road Race on Saturday. All interest was focussed on the semi-elite end of the field with the long running rivalry between Grim and Struthers being re-kindled. At the start, new member Chris and his pal went off at a pace I couldn't match so I settled down to churn out some consistent kms, pretty difficult with the course having more ups and downs than I realised. On the 2nd lap people were starting to struggle a bit and I moved up a few places and crept past Chris and pushed on to the finish.
Highlight of the day, however, was watching the battle between Grim and Struthers. Grim entered the last 250m with a 20m lead only to see it come down to 1 or 2 metres as Struthers pushed hard for glory. However, Grim held on to win by 1 second in his best time since 2013. For those of you who remember the classic battles between Seb Coe and Steve Ovett its a bit like that, except in slow motion.
Alas, no points gained on Winter League leader Don who also turned up. With his attendance at Devilla on Sunday and the National XC next weekend he's looking good for the Winter League 2016/17.
41) Ian Thurlbeck 32:16
48) Chris Butler 33:16
56) Don Reid 34:09
58) Chris McKiddie 34:27
107) Graeme Orr 41:29
108) Ian Struthers 41:30
123) Eileen Hamil 46:01
And it has only just turned February. I travelled down to Yorkshire to take part in the Rombalds Stride, which is a grand tour of the Ilkley moor, plus surrounding hillocks. The race was marketed as a long distance walk organised by local scouts, but the majority of the folk lining up at the start were definitely planning on more than just a leisurely stroll. Without warning, the masses started galloping down the lane so I quickly got myself together and set off after them (do people not even bother with a 3-2-1 nowdays?). We headed towards the forest leading to the village where Emmerdale used to be filmed – apparently this is some sort of TV programme. The pace at the start was very leisurely, but seemed to get very slightly faster all the time. Soon enough, there was no longer any time to take in the sights, my focus solely on trying to stay on the heels of the local lads in front. This was crucial, since they were required to take care of the navigation for me around the various lanes, footpaths and whatever these ‘snickets’ are that my girlfriend kept on talking about. I was quickly questioned about who I was, and what was I doing in the front pack, before I was accepted as a part of the leading group, who were very friendly thereafter. The same was certainly true of the marshals, though I would have been slightly faster had it not been for one old lady who engulfed me in massive hug at the second checkpoint, asking “Are you o.k. lovey?”. The refreshments along the course deserve a mention too, which included the culinary delights of gingerbread men, parkin and swiss rolls on route as well as good helping of pies and peas in end. The only downside was that there were no prizes for 3rd place; only the top two got to take home crystal tumblers, but this is Yorkshire after all. Grand weather, nice day out, 23 miles / 1600 feet of climb, mud, sweat but no tears. (Thanks also to my ghost-writer for the help….).
The forecast for last Saturday said it would be dry; it was sleet on the day. BAH. The Vets' races were to be run in Camperdown Park, a happy hunting ground in the past; but changing and registration were a mile away. HUM. Parking was on offer in the park near the race start; so why could I only find a soggy boggy space? BUG. Here begins a dreich race report: Bah Humbug!
First to line up were the men's V65+, together with the women's V40+, over a classic cross-country course. It may have been half the distance of the Senior men's XC course at Falkirk, being over only 2 laps, but boy it felt just as long. Almost from the "off" (no scary start gun for Vets!) we had a steady climb over boggy grassland, followed by a headlong charge downhill to a woodland trail. From that point, less than half a mile into the race, it felt like the course was somehow all uphill. I was way out of my comfort zone - why did I leave my gloves? freezing fingers! - but that's how you feel if you try to stay with the evergreen Gibby Fleming. On a less dreich day, this would have been a cracker of a course...
We come round to the end of lap 1, and...Ouch! the right quadricep muscle gave its verdict. That's what non-runners might call thigh cramp; it gave following runners and spectators the Grim sight of me hopping along, trying to massage the muscle back into shape. The temptation to drop out did cross my mind, but Westies are made of sterner stuff, so onward I hobbled, losing places - including to Helen MacP, who smiled pityingly. I managed to finish the race, and a kind French lass helped out with a jar of Badger Balm, or some such strange goo, to loosen the legs. Right enough, you never seem to see cramping badgers around much these days...
The "junior male Vets" (V40 - V60) was well worth watching, as the 2 leading runners made light of conditions to win by a minute from the following pack. Interesting to see whether a "hills & country" runner (Jethro Lennox) would beat a "roads & country" runner? (Robert Gilroy). Westies may be pleased to learn that indeed the hill-runner prevailed, by just 3 seconds. 3 Westy men and one second-claim Westy followed: see results below.
Post-race, I can report hot showers, and a grand spread of filled rolls, cakes, and tea laid on at the changing facilities by the hosts (Dundee Hawks?). Also, Ronnie Morrison (esteemed time-keeper and "blazer") tels me the race venue will be Camperdown Park again in 2018. I'll be there as a V70!
Selected times and placings
V65+ Men (6km) : 17. Gibson Fleming 32m 22s; 26. GrimGraeme Orr 35m 04s
V40+ Women (6km): 20. Val Houston 27m 45s; 54. Lorna Mahoney 30m 33s; 94. Helen MacPherson 34m 04s
V40+ Men (8km): 1. Jethro Lennox (Sh*tts) 27m44; 41. Brian Bonnyman 30m17; 49. Chris Upson (RH Cam) 30m37; 165. Dave Calder 34m21;
230. Don Reid 37m06
The Devil's Burdens, 2017 It was going to be my first relay race. I hadn't raced anything that short on hills since I was a teenager; I prefer longer, slower runs, so the speed required had me a bit worried. Waking up way before normal, I made it out of the house in good time to be picked up by Lorna, Christine, and Gordon. They were great company, as all Westies are. Despite the thick fog, we all arrived in good spirits and began searching for our corresponding team members to hash out the logistics of getting race numbers out to everyone. The hall was crammed full of racers. With about 150 teams, it was a bit insane. Before we got the informational talk from the race coordinator, I scared the crap out of Charlotte by asking her if she had a map, compass, etc. She had no clue that there might be kit requirements, and even though we were both only doing leg one, I thought we needed everything. Luckily, Niall assured her that she didn't need anything. Only those doing the orienteering legs would have kit checks. A few of us headed off to the start of leg one, and already we (or just I) didn't know where we were going. We followed other runners on the 10 minute jog. I had been worried about my right knee which had been giving me trouble on and off since the Wednesday night club run. Instead, my left leg's lower, inner calf was tight, which had never happened before, and I was just warming up. I made sure to do some good stretches before we were all called over to line up for the start. I was right behind Charlotte, and when the whistle was blown, I shot off with the crowd. After maybe a quarter mile, I was thinking that the pace was a bit too fast. I checked my watch, and, indeed, we were doing a 6:50 mile. No way was I going to keep that up for long, especially since we were now starting to go uphill, so I allowed myself to slow down. The mud was pretty well packed down, and the forest trails reminded me of many runs back in Colorado. Quickly all but one woman were ahead of me, but I kept another runner in view for the rest of the race. She would walk on the steeper uphills, so we did a back and forth bit for a while. I'm glad I kept her in view, otherwise I might well have missed the checkpoint, even though it was quite clear. It was seemingly all downhill from there, so I just kept trying to run as fast as I could. By the time I made it to the paved cycle path, runners were coming back towards me. They were going fast enough that I was briefly unsure whether they were just running back to the hall or if we had to turn around somewhere and maybe go back to the checkpoint as our finish. I didn't think that was right (but I really had only taken a cursory look at the map 2 weeks earlier), and my watch said I was just at 4 miles (of a supposed 4.5), so I slowed down for just a bit. Luckily, Niall was heading back and yelled at me to sprint the finish. So, I booked it on the final descent and was done in no time. I had wanted to finish in under 40, and I did it in just over 38. If I had realized the finish was so close, I could have maybe knocked 30 seconds or so off. Note to self: look at the actual map closer to race day. Surprisingly, the knee and my weird calf/ankle pain were no problem during the race. I wish I had seen a bit of the sun, but in retrospect it's a good thing I couldn't take in the views. That would have slowed me down. After the run back, I enjoyed some hot soup and tea. Then a bunch of us went to cheer on the finishers. There was a guy cheering on the Carnethy runners who could have held his own against my father-in-law in his Drill Sergeant days. It was interesting watching the different approaches taken to the final set of stairs. Some did them one at a time, some skipped a few, others took the bank to the right or went back and forth between steps and grass. No matter the method, every single runner seemed to be going full steam ahead. There were several close calls, but I saw no wipeouts. And then it was back to the hall to chat and wait for the results. The Westies didn't win any categories, but I think everyone can be proud of their racing that day. There was so much support, and I could feel the enthusiasm and love of the sport from everyone. I foresee many more races with the Westies in my future.
Written by Laura Furia
Firstly let me say, it was a great pity that the Ladies’ B team for the Devil’s Burdens melted like snow off a solar panel – a great shame for those that really wanted to run – Brenda and Sharon, and for she who actually did – on her own – Claire!
An email from John Hamer prompted my entry to this hill race. There's not many races going on in January and good excuse to blow away some Christmas excess. January approached and I thought it may be worth checking where Selkirk is, probably Loch Lomand/Trossachs kind of area… think it may be worth car sharing for this one. After many offers and counter offers two car loads of Westies headed to the Borders with a sprinkling of others making their own way.
The race was using the facilities of Selkirk rugby club so by hill running standards this was like staying at the Ritz as there was a changing rooms (with showers) and a large warm hall for race registration. Like a true pro I was so busy proving my worth to the kit check person that I walked off and left my number on the table, he would have been well within his rights to deny me entry on this basis alone.
Off to the race start and there was time for a bit of attempted Westies photo bombing of the Carnethy team photo before we were off (a quick look at the photo on the Carnethy website shows we failed miserably!). I thought I'd try out a new positioning technique at the start of this race, if someone looks old enough to be my grandparent then I'll stand in front of them, sibling behind them but roughly at an age where they could be my parent then i'll stand next to them. In many cases this could backfire (Gordan McCaffery) but it seemed as good as any technique I've used in the past.
Anyway, the race started with a dash through a muddy field with plenty of early race slippages and onto a track to get you warmed up before hitting the first hill. Having looked at the map before the race it seemed like none of the hills were particular monsters but as this race was a bit longer than previous hill races I'd done in the past I didn’t want to knacker myself out too early. Because of this and the narrow track I settled to the age old hill running approach of running when the person in front does and walking when they do. The cairn came along fairly quickly followed by a good few miles of brilliant running across first grass/heather, onto a track and then onto some open moorland and fields. Most of this was relatively flat and so suited me better than the really hilly technical ascents/descents that can be found in other hill races. The next major hill approached and this was a nice steady climb where if you were in a low enough gear could maintain a steady pace to the claggy cairn. The gradient got a little steeper at the top but unfortunately there were a few marshals standing there which meant the indignity of a walk for the final 10 metres wasn’t an option. What followed seemed like a never ending descent on a path that had turned into a stream with all the melting snow. I At this point I realised that I had neither overtaken anyone nor been overtaken by anyone for about the last 5 miles and had that happy place where you keep the person in front within your sights but the person behind was far away enough to not be annoying. With a bit of extra effort I managed to gain a couple of places on the down hill and then crossed the burn to start the final ascent. This started with a nice track and then proceeded to a pretty steep hillside where the only option was to walk. Having grown up down south where the highest hill to walk up was the upstairs toilet in McDonalds I always struggle on these kind of hills. At bit of cramp in my hamstrings meant I lost 5 or so places here which was pretty disappointing but managed to get a few of these back again on the final downhill run back to the start.
Overall a great runnable race which actually seemed to have more downhill in it than uphill. Special mention goes to the haggis pie at the end, Helen for winning the F60 category and Maya/Rob for helping an injured runner.
15 Gregor Stewart Westerlands CCC M 01:45:58
33 James Callender Westerlands CCC M 01:55:59
51 Marc Roper Westerlands CCC M50 02:01:00
63 Russell Crane Westerlands CCC M 02:05:58
73 Christopher McKiddie Westerlands CCC M 02:09:56
75 Val Houston Westerlands CCC F50 02:10:19
119 David Dickson Westerlands CCC M50 02:23:30
142 Maya Hernes Westerlands CCC F 02:34:23
143 Rob McQuater Westerlands CCC M40 02:35:14
151 Angus Farquhar Westerlands CCC M50 02:38:42
154 John Hamer Westerlands CCC M50 02:39:24
166 Helen Macpherson Westerlands CCC F60 02:46:41
The Greenmnatle Dash – at least 25 years since I had last done this race, but for 2017 I decided that the pros outweighed the cons;the pros being: a Westie winter league counter,a crisp sunny forecast, Davey’s offer of a chauffer drive, being hangover free and having the opportunity to dress up (fancy dress was after all, de rigueur for the Dash – well it was 25 years ago!); the cons being: a seasonal chest infection and the inclination to hibernate. The pros won out but my dilemma was, what fancy dress would be appropriate to lend Westie Woman panache to the event?! I whittled down the options to fallen angel wings with slipped halo and a fetching tunic and hat; PBs packed and we were good to go.
After a pleasant drive through a Borders’ landscape of frost furred hedgerows and sparkling fields we arrived at Broughton village hall; the initial scene was familiar – the bumbling bonhomie of race organiser Dick Wall, the kitchen bustle of soup-making ladies and a babbling, fidgeting gathering of runners. But there the warm familiarity ended – I recognised only a handful of faces in amidst babbling gathering, thankfully including a smattering of Westies (Don, JD, Steve H, Craig Freshwater and Chris McKiddie); everyone looked deadly serious- sprinting to and fro, kitting and re-kitting and to my huge surprise, not a wizard cape, set of fairy wings, dinosaur tail or even a Santa hat in sight – not even with ten minutes to go! After some hesitation I sheepishly folded away the elf tunic, retaining only, as part of essential ‘full body cover’ – my elf hat tucked secretly into my bum bag. Two minutes to go and suddenly in a spirit of defiance and nostalgia, I whipped out my elf hat and plonked it (back to front) on my head before sprinting off down the distillery drive towards our first obstacle!
No ‘tens from Len’ for my efforts with the obstacles – a clumsy clamber over the stone wall, a lucky lurch over the field fence and quite frankly a pathetic plunge across the burn, but these obstacles overcome I recovered my composure, called upon some elfin magic and got moving in proper hill runner style. Felt I did not bad, especially on the climb and as much as you can, I thoroughly enjoyed this crazy, painful wee race.
Westie players acquitted themselves well – with Steve Halsall finishing in 4th position followed by Craig Freshwater and then either Don or Chris, then JD and then me. Some beers were won – some ‘properly’ and some inadvertently by virtue of the fact that Dick could n’t read his men’s Over Fifties results’ sheet properly, but for JD’s sake, I draw veil – justice prevailed in the end!
Well done to Westies and well done to Dick for his 35 years of organising (kind of!) this lovely event and in particular, for his very successful efforts to encourage junior participation.
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