Stuc a Chroin 2014

This was my second attempt at this Scottish classic. Last year the weather conditions meant it formed a rather brutal introduction to the sport, thankfully the conditions this year were a little more manageable. I was joined by my brother on that occassion, an occassional 10 k runner, who  politely informed where i could stick any further race suggestions as we passed each other on the ridge between Beinn Each and Stuc. This year i was joined by 15 other Westies, a cracking turnout in a field of 163 runners. 

The race starts with a short climb out of the start/finish area to join a forrest track which then seems to go on and on and on. Its only just over 2 miles but as usual i managed to mix up ambition with ability and was soon jog walking thinking why am I here again. It’s then a short climb through the trees and we were soon out onto the open hill trudging up Meal Mor knowing that the real hills were yet to come. My aim was to try and dip under 4 hours this year so i knew if i could at least still see a few Westies in front i would have a chance. The drop into Glen Ample gave me a chance to pick up a few metres, so by the time I reached the bottom of Beinn Each I was pleased to see a few W’s slogging their way up through the heather. Head down for the next  35 minutes or so and I was soon enjoying the water and jelly babies on the summit. The next bit, dropping onto the ridge, is a touch technical as i found out to my cost. I managed the hard stuff at the top passing a few more tentative runners and then came a cropper on a traverse which had a nice little drop on one side. I think I slipped and one foot shot off the edge and in order to to stop the rest of me following, my hands instinctively went for the rock with the best purchase. This was near my waist so there was nothing to stop my upper body rocking forward until my eye and cheekbone met the path. Ouch! Quick check – not too much blood and no obvious depression so just keep going. The ridge is sometimes described as ‘undulating’ and ‘runnable’, maybe for some but not for me. The last bit up to the summit of Stuc is good old slog. I hadn’t seen any W’s for a while but this was getting to be a good sign as I knew they hadn’t passed me on the way back yet. Soon the faster Westies came piling past and I tried as best as possible to give them some encouragement. I reached the summit in around 2 hours 20 mins which meant i was still on for sub 4, just keep going. By sheer coincidence I met Steve Abram(past Westie) and his wife Trish at the top. They had been up Ben Vorlich and thinking the race might be on made their way to Stuc.  I tried to pick up the pace on the descent to Glen Ample but on feeling the first signs of cramp I eased off knowing I needed something for the climb up Meal Mor. I obviously went ok on the descent as i caught George, Peter and Grant only for them to pull away again on the last climb. I struggled up and didn’t get going for a good few minutes once at the top, by that time the W’s were vanishing into the distance. Once moving again things got a little easier and by the time I reached the track I had caught Peter and George. Quick check on the time – 3 hours 30 minutes – no problem its only 2 miles and downhill. Well mostly downhill apart from the uphill bits near the top. I walk jogged for the first half mile in which George and another runner went by. A third runner passed but this time I made a determined effort to stick with him, I knew if i could reach the steeper trail at the end I would have a chance to pass. I managed to keep the gap to 20m and had just enough in the tank to make my move on the way down to the finish field crossing the line in a smidge under 3 hours 53 minutes. 

I see from the race website that our top runners won the mens team prize, well done guys. 

As usual the race was well organised with plenty of tape and marshalls to tell us where to go, and water and sweets to keep us going that direction. If you haven’t managed Stuc yet its a bit of a brute but well worth it in the end. 

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