2 June 2012

This race – one of only two uphill only races in the calendar – has been on my to-do list for a long time, but an annual get-together with old schoolmates on the first weekend of June had always scuppered my chances of running it. This year the reunion venue was just down the road in Glen Shee, so as my mates settled down to an afternoon pint at the Spittal, I managed to slip away before my round (I am an east-coaster, after all) and nip along to the start at Glenlochsie Farm.

After the heat of last weekend and a week of pishy weather, conditions were perfect, with bright sunshine and a cooling breeze keeping the temperature down to a pleasant 12 degrees. There was a good turn out of about 40 runners – more than double last year’s field – including the remarkable Jamie Andrew running on his prosthetic titanium ‘blades’, and a good gaggle of Dundee Hawks who are now the organising club. Brenda was the only other Westie competing in the adult race (noting that once again I’d cancelled out her single-Westie championship bonus points), while Manny had some lame excuse about a jog on Jura the week before; but young Maisy was looking well psyched up for the kids ‘T Toe Tickle’ race (we need a full race report and results, Maisy, when you get the chance).

The race starts with a fast mile-and-a-half run-in along Glen Lochsie, crossing the burn a few times before the track steepens suddenly up onto the shoulder of the hill proper for a fairly unrelenting three miles and 2000 odd feet of climbing. After the first dash I settled in behind last year’s winner Paul Faulkner of Carnethy and Forres’s Kyle Greig, who gradually pulled away to a 30 second lead by the foot of the climb. At this point Paul began to open a gap on me and I found the first steep, zig-zag section hard going before managing to settle into a more comfortable rhythm. One of the good (or maybe bad) features of this race on a clear day is that you can see exactly how far ahead the other runners are, and by the time we reached the shoulder of the hill where the gradient eases for a bit, I could see Paul was already the best part of a minute ahead with Kyle still clear out front. At this point I began to hear the familiar sounds of footsteps and peching not far behind (which I later found out belonged to Dave Weir) so I dug in hoping to be able to hold my place. Up ahead Paul seemed to be closing in on Kyle as both of them began to walk for the first time, and I managed to pull back the gap a wee bit as I kept up a jog on the final pull up to the summit, but there was never any danger of me catching them. In the end, Kyle held off Paul by just 13 seconds and I was the best part of a minute further back, with Dave Weir, setting a new v50 record, not far behind. 25 year-old Chloe Cox of Lothian had a great run to finish first female and sixth overall. Brenda looked in fine form as I passed her on the way down: she must have had energy to spare as she was out again the next day tackling Scolty (and picking up that elusive single-Westie bonus at last).

Although Tulaichean isn’t the prettiest of routes, with the scar of the land rover track and a fairly featureless climb, the views from the top are stunning and the novelty of a summit finish and a leisurely descent gives you ample time to enjoy them. Many thanks to the new race organiser Dave Hanlon and his team of helpers who did a grand job, including laying on a fine spread in the barn afterwards.

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