Arrochar Alps 2009

What a beast of a race! This resurrected long classic lived up to its billing as a SHR Championship counter this year by providing a brutal course, testing conditions and fantastic Westies hospitality. 100 runners started out, 73 finished in a variety of interesting route choices and a couple of dozen found (or not found) it all a bit much. I was pleased with my own wee race, starting nice and steady out along the wooded path in Glen Loin to the Loch Sloy dam getting nice and warmed up for the first brutal slog of the day up to Ben Vorlich. Up top in the mist people seemed everywhere, but Steffen and I seemed to hit the summit cairn reasonably well, before we then started worrying about where to make the cut-off down the steep slopes to the dam wall. A rollicking slide/controlled fall down a couple of thousand feet deposited us nicely at the bottom before having to do it all again up the craggy and claggy ascent of Ben Vane.

Steffen, Louise Burt and I teamed up to pool our random guess-work round the numerous crags and outcrops and managed to find the top quite well, coming across quite a bunch at the top, including fellow Westie Ellen. I lost ground on the descent here and made a slow plod up Beinn Ime, where magically I found the Westie crew on the summit shrouded in mist and barbeque smoke. A handy point off in the direction of the path set me off into the gloom where I came back across Steffen, who advised me that the wheels had just fallen of his mean German racing machine. Together we found the meandering path down to the bealach where Dave Calder and Elsie Riley were doing a grand job.

Being careful to not go up the Cobbler, as some indeed did, the last and easiest slope up Narnain felt quite good and I managed to pull away from Steffen. Val and Christine greeted me at the top, and that only left the tough descent all the way back down to sea level – sounds easy said quickly! It was a tricky descent, full of twists, turns, scarmbles and jumps and I gingerly made my way down with no one around to spur me on till I realised that arch rival Davy Duncan was fast approaching. That was the last thing I wanted after almost 5 hours on the hill but I was determined to stay ahead, and he was equally determined to catch me. So we both hared it along to the finish along the last mile of forestry track at full pelt, and I just held him off to finish under the 5 hour mark.

Only then did I realise that may of the runners I had assumed were well finished were in fact nowhere to be seen. The stories all emerged back at the hotel where the Westies crew put on a great spread of food, goodies and huge amounts of Loch Fyne ale for the prize winners. A great day out and a well organised event by Rob and the dozens of others who all helped to make it happen. Cheers everybody.



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