Scottish Island Peaks Race

Too knackered and out of sorts for a full write-up, but here’s a taster…

Ran the prologue in Oban unnecessarily fast (who ever would have expected that of Chris and me?!) then jumped on our extremely speedy boat in 3rd place, which we held all the way to Salen. Foul weather. Horrible 4-mile run in along the road to the track-end. ‘Orribly boggy hill-side. Exposed my shameful lack of training in short measure and I lagged behind Chris for the next two sweary hours up over Ben More. Managed to get a bit of life back after the long traverse away from checkpoint 3 and skipped along the track feeling reinvigorated. Unfortunately this coincided with a dip in Chris’ form, and by the time we rejoined the road he was shuffling badly. I took his bag for a few hundred yards while he got some food down. This slight effort was the straw that broke the donkey’s back, and by the time I got shot of the extra pack my legs were shot through. I hobbled the final 3 miles along the road, very much in the wake of a revitalised Chris. Arrived back at the boat wondering how the hell I was going to drag myself around Jura.

Pretty eventful overnight sail to Craighouse. The boat carrying Jamie Thin and Phil Mowbray ran aground and almost capsized. Chris turned a lurid green colour shortly after leaving Salen and spent part of the night chundering first over the side and then into a holey Tesco-bag in the cabin. I had nicked off into the tiny aft cabin and slept like a log, unaware of the drama surrounding me.

I reported on this race 5 years ago, and at the time declared that Jura is unfit for humans. This year’s event did nothing to dispel this notion, and I had a woeful time. The site of the first pap always fills me with dread and fear. The boggy preamble to the first real climb just sucks dry any vestige of energy left over from Mull, and I hate it. The climb up Pap #1 was better than expected, but the descent is a real sod. Found that I was climbing reasonably well, but my knees had started giving me hell, and I was in agony on the descents and picked my way down all three paps very slowly and gingerly. Had a chat with Adams Ward and Anderson on Pap #3 then watched them disappear into the distance as I dawdled and whimpered down to the boggy stuff. Absolutely shagged by now, and lost the team a good half-hour stumbling and sliding back to the road then alternating walking and shuffling back to the boat. 4:39 was a pitiful effort. Fortunately Chris kept a lid on his disappointment. He appeared to be too busy rejoining the battle with his guts.

Sea rough as billy-o around the Mull of Kintyre. Chris lay down below dosing fitfully and unable to eat anything while I sat on deck peppering the crew with silly nautical questions, which they answered with patience and grace. Managed a few hours’ kip before being dumped (after an hour-long crawl into Lamlash) back on dry land.

After Jura I had spent some time trying to drum up the courage to tell the rest of the squad that I’d shot my bolt and that they’d need to find another runner. Surprised and delighted to discover on waking that, although still very tender, my knees were much recovered. Kicked off our final run at 01:30 and trundled fairly comfortably over to Brodick and across the deserted golf-course. Chris struggling with a foot problem caused by an excessively tight shoe the previous day, and progress up Goat Fell was sluggish to say the least. Posted out tag on the summit, and I immediately dropped off the wrong side and ran for a few minutes towards North Goat Fell before realising my mistake and digging out my compass and map and working out where I was (which I thought was pretty damn impressive!) Corrected the error and rejoined the correct route having lost us a further 5 minutes. Chris once again bottled his frustration at his dim-witted team-mate and we set off together on the descent just as dawn broke and the head-torches came off. Chris still having bad time, so we trundled gently back to the boat pursued by Coylie and a brace of his pupils, in a distinctly mediocre 4:06.

The instant we were back on board Chris’ demeanour changed completely and he became animated for the first time since we’d left Oban. Methinks he approaches these things pretty seriously, which may be no bad thing! Arrived in Troon in 3rd place overall, second in our class to the very obvious delight of our merry skipper. That we finished in such a lofty position is thanks almost entirely to our heroic crew and the trusty boat.

I have resolved to stop entering events for which I am so hopelessly under-prepared. It just hurts too bloody much. Please see that I keep to it!

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