Archive for June, 2008

Cairn Table Hill Race – Tim Downie

Well, the weather *was* good and as Alex said, it is a good one for newcomers to hill running.

Not so sure about being entirely runnable uphill for ordinary mortals (I probably ran about 90-95% of the uphill route) but the descent is great. Not too steep and if you avoid the main track and follow the quad bike trails instead, the footing is very good and on bouncy peat so little impact to worry about. Never too steep and you can fairly fly down it.

There were only 20 of us at the start and for the first half mile, I found myself in 3rd position which felt a bit odd given the experienced runners around me but I think the effort of last week’s Merrick hill race had slowed quite a few runners.

Of course, my third position didn’t last and I was soon passed by 3 runners dropping me to 6th which I held till about 2/3rds of the way up. Rather surprisingly, I then caught Findlay from Irvine and regained 5th, a postion that I then held all the way to the finish.

The winner finished in 33:48, I finished in 40:31 and Alex limped over the line in 43:10, clearly suffering with his hip injury from last weekend.

Great views from the top and well worth visiting just for a walk if you don’t fancy running up and down it.

The Merrick Report (over 18s only) – Alex Drain

Horrible, horrible, horrible. This is the only way to describe the ‘new’ course for the Merrick Hill Race. It didn’t help that I was nursing a cold and my hip pain had returned (probably as a special appearance for the Merrick).

Last year, folk moaned that the course was too difficult so Nat made the change. To the best of my knowledge, the wimps who whinged didn’t turn up this year. As a consequence and following our complaints, the course will revert back to the original (well, the original as far as last year goes).

The Merrick has run over many different courses over the years. It has gone from the straight forward tourist route to variations that take in many of the hills and sights that can be found in this beautiful but rugged area. However, this route is without doubt, the worst ever. It’s not that it’s technically difficult, it’s not that it’s very steep and it’s not that it’s exceptionally long; but it is a slow, lingering, hard 14 mile drag with much of it through featureless forestry wasteland.

Rod Pugh led all 15 of us away from clouds of midges and kept out in front for the first ½ mile. His good form continued to the end and placed him 2nd >50 to Tom McCulloch’s 1st (I was 3rd).

From the start to the top of the Merrick is virtually all uphill – that’s 7 miles uphill! The first 4½ miles are on forestry track that at points could do with a bit of attention. It’s not like trail running where there’s variation and constant reappraisal of speed and style. No, this course is the most monotonous muscle burning, strength sapping, mind numbing horror that I’ve suffered in a long time. I traded places with Ian Davidson of Girvan a number of times but it didn’t feel as if we were racing – just surviving!

When we eventually reached the hill (bottom of Ben Yellery) it was a huge relief. Unfortunately, I think many of us had already decided that death might be preferable. The field had by this time stretched out quite dramatically especially considering the few runners, there were huge gaps. Struggling on, I was passed for the final time by Ian who opened up a gap that got wider and wider. I knew that with the field so spread, there would be little chance of catching anyone, even downhill, so I opted for continued existence and plodded on.

The top was very misty but no one got lost – even me (though I did have a moment further down). The marshalling was exemplary with more marshals than runners. They’d clearly decided that safety was an issue so every marshal had a walkie talkie and called in the position of each runner on passing.

Downhill was almost as much of a drag as the uphill. I could have gone much faster but was feeling pretty bad by this time. My head was incredibly fuzzy, my throat was burning and my hip had given up shouting and taken to screaming! With about 3 miles to go I noticed that someone was about 300 to 400 yards behind – so I stopped and waited (how often have you seen someone do that in a race!). It was the first lady (not Bush’s wife). We jogged the rest of the way together and she appeared to be suffering even more than me. The track down seemed to be even longer than the track up and we were so pleased when we reached the finish. Water with a liberal sprinkling of midges welcomed us back.

At the prize giving Nat agreed that the new course was ‘pants’ and announced to great acclaim that next year’s course would revert back.

My drive home was carried out with me in a total dwam. Into house, shower and bed. Thank goodness I’ve got a year to recover!