Believe it or not, this was actually only my second individual hill race with the club – despite being a member for a full year – after the Pentland Skyline last weekend.
I had plenty time before the race, so I managed to get a short warmup run in along the first section of the route. This allowed me to check my leg muscles still worked properly after yesterday’s cross country, get a good view of the final section of the route, and – most importantly – realise it was pretty warm to run in more than one layer.
Over 100 of us started the race, which began on a short and narrow section of footpath leading up from the stream to the foot of The Nebit. I found my self towards the middle of the field at the start line, which meant there was no pressure initially, what with there being so many runners in close proximity.
I guess you would probably expect this at the start of most races, and it wasn’t like I was actually in any rush to get to the steep climb out of Tillicoultry – nor was it long before the path widened and the opportunity to overtake with ease became possible.
Despite being warned to take it easy on the trail from Alva to Tillicoultry, I didn’t really go as slowly as I should have. The result? I was cream crackered at the foot of the steepest climb.
Luckily, the climb wasn’t quite as steep as I had imagined. I mean, it was steep enough to force me into walking, but pretty sure I could have run it slowly if I hadn’t gone quite so fast just before it.
I was now getting overtaken, but I didn’t let this bother me, since I discovered from last week’s race that I was stronger at descending than I used to be. I kept walking until I got my breath back and began running again when the path finally levelled out at the cairn.
The next section of the race probably wasn’t my strongest, as I could now see Andrew Gannel Hill, and it seemed higher than I had anticipated – even though it was still very much in the distance! Quite disconcerting – but I stuck with it, and eventually found the right pace to allow me to overtake 2 or 3 runners on the way up the next hill.
The section of the race over Ben Cleuch and Ben Ever was probably where I pushed the most. Two reasons for this. Firstly, I wanted to keep Iain Walker in my sight, who was two or three runners ahead of me, and try and give him a run for his money on the final descent. And, secondly, as i’d never done the route before, I kept assuming that be at the final descent before I knew it. Needless to say, I was wrong, it took its time in making an appearance.
Thankfully, I found that when I did get to the final summit, I still had enough energy to have some fun coming down landrover track, but there was no sign of Iain. Well, perhaps there was, but I wasn’t thinking about him anymore, since I had two other runners behind me – one right on my heels. I held the closest runner off until half way down the winding landrover track, at which point he took a sneaky wee shortcut, much to my surprise, down the steep section of grass between two sections of track. He was now ahead of me by 5 or 10 seconds which wasn’t exactly very pleasing.
Luckily for me, there was one final section of grassy downhill which I could really let the brakes off and get past him before rejoining the track we started the race on. I finished just ahead of him in a time of around 1:23:25 I think – well within my target of 1:30:00 – and only one place behind Iain Walker. So, despite the early pacing issues, I was pretty happy with my time at the end of the day.