31st March & 1st April
This is a new event on the mountain marathon calendar, organised by the same people who put together the Strathpuffer 24 MTB race. The venue was some wonderful hill country on the Strathconon Estate, about 20 miles WNW of Inverness.
The field for each of the classes was pretty small; maybe due to the newness of the event, maybe the travel distance, or possibly the risk of some wintery late March weather! The end result was about 180 competitors and only 4 Westies: Trevor & Dave in the A class, and Matthew and me in the C. For the rest of you that didn’t make it, you missed a well organised race with what may well prove to be some of the best weather of the year.
Matthew and I drove up on Friday night, arriving about 21:15 at the tiny village of Milton. Then it was registration, coffee and cake at the village hall, tent pitched and a couple of last minute purchases at the Compass Point shop. A good nights’ sleep, together with a couple of hot rolls from the marquee, saw us refreshed and ready to go for our 08:42 start on Saturday morning. While buying our rolls, we also discovered that the BBC’s Adventure Show were there filming.
Day 1 was 23.5km and 1650m of ascent, initially heading SE from the event centre and looping round clockwise to the mid-camp, a few miles West of the start. There was a nasty sting in the tail, with the biggest climb of the day saved for the last hour! The ground was pretty dry underfoot with some good running in places. Unfortunately the running was usually interrupted by big peat hags every few hundred yards, which made for a slightly stop-start feel to the day. Despite stopping numerous times to take photos, admire the scenery and several herds of deer, and get interviewed by BBC cameramen, we were pleasantly surprised to finish day 1 in 5th position, only 32 minutes behind the leaders.
Mid-camp was very different to my previous MM outings, with a flat, dry and spacious campsite, hot food and drinks provided in a marquee, and even a ceilidh band for a couple of hours! Saturday night was clear and cold, with some frost on the inside of our tent in the morning. We were up at 06:15 to get to the front of the queue for more tea and hot rolls, then out for the chasing start at 07:32.
Day 2 was 20.5km and 1050m of ascent, taking us North and West before a long run East to get back to the event centre. A stiff climb straight from the start warmed us up nicely and we made decent time until our last climb of the day. At this point we slowed dramatically, paying the price for me talking Matthew into a route with a horrifically steep climb! From there it was downhill for the last few km to the finish, where we came in a respectable 8th out of about 25 teams.
Despite the long drive and relatively high entry fee, I’d really recommend this to everyone for next year. Look out for coverage on the Adventure Show soon, which will apparently be the first show of the new series. It should include the A class winners posing with the trophy: a dirty big claymore!