This year’s race was memorable for several reasons, especially the weather which threw everything at the runners, including sun (briefly), rain (lots of it), sleet and a good smattering of snow on the top, all served with high winds.
The other amazing thing was the dead heat finish but more of that later. The first hassle of the day was whether to allow the runners to go all the way to the summit or turn them back at the bottom of the zig zags. The Lomond MRT (who were absolutely fantastic) were uneasy about letting the runners summit (bearing in mind the conditions) because they were having problems with communications to the summit marshals. Fortunately, Muffy Calder, who had just come back from a run to the top, thought it would be ok as long as nobody tried to run without full body cover (as one person, who shall remain anonymous, tried to do!).
A big cheer came from the runners as I announced we were going to the top, and off we went. The main point of interest for me this year was a runner from America by the name of Judson Cake. He had contacted me several months ago for an entry, stating that he had won several road races in the USA but was a competent trail runner too. He would be on holiday over here and could he get a run. I met him a couple of days before the race to show him the route, and we discussed tactics. He said he was going to take it on from the start. As we set off, he was true to his word, and as we headed into the forest, I could see him already stretching a lead with Brian Marshall and Euan Jardine in hot pursuit.
As we emerged out of the remnants of the trees, I could see that he had extended his lead but the pecking order behind was the same. That was the last I was to see of the leaders until I reached the finish. Conditions at the top were pretty horrendous with most runners pulling on jackets as they climbed the final steep slopes through slushy snow. Visibility was about 50m and I began to worry that maybe I had made the wrong decision for the race. Incredibly, the first runner I passed as soon as I turned at the top was only wearing a vest (though was carrying a bum bag!).
So how did the race end? Judson was leading to the top gate when Brian swept passed doing one of his demonic descents. Normally when Brian passes someone, there’s no coming back, but nobody told Judson that. Somehow, he managed to hang on, so that when they emerged on to the road, Brian only had a meagre lead of less than 50m. Judson used his road speed to close Brian down and as they entered the tight funnel, he was right behind. Just as Brian was about to cross the line, Judson dived forward and Brian did likewise, the pair ending in a pile on the deck scattering time keepers into the shrubbery!
After lying on the ground for about 30s, during which time the time keepers thought the pair must have injured themselves, Judson got up, pulled Brian to his feet, they shook hands and declared it a draw! Just wish I had been there to see it for myself! The winning time was 1:12:38, not near the record but hardly surprising given the conditions.
Euan Jardine was third and Steve Fallon was first v40. I managed to sneak the v50 prize after battling all the way to the top with Tom Scott, and first v60 was Eddie Dealtry. I must make apologies to Carnethy for announcing Ochils as first team. Sorry guys, I will sort you out later.
How did the ladies do? As usual they confused me by letting a v40 win the first prize, namely Val Houston of Westies in a time of 1.33.52, and first sen lady was Alayne Finlay of Ochils. First v50 was Jocelyn Scott 1.50.45, and the ladies team prize went to Fife.
An innovation this year was split times from the summit (though how the guys managed to do it in the conditions amazes me!) and if you study the extra columns in the result sheet, I have ranked runners by descent times too. It make interesting reading.
Finally, I would like to say a big thanks to Martin Hyman for marking the junior courses on awful weather on Thursday, the mountain rescue and the other runners who came to the aid of Andrea Pogson who took unwell on the hill (she is fine now!) and gave her extra clothing. I would also like to thank all the marshals, especially those on or near the summit and anybody else who helped on the day and allowed me to get a run (again!).
PS I have some kit left over including a pair of black over trousers, red innovates, blue hilly gloves, A black nylon poncho and a black fleece with red stripes. Contact me and will get them back to you.