Wednesday, 17 August 2011

So Close And Yet So Far........

I don't figure in the placings for races as a rule. It was a real shock to hear my name being called at prizegiving after Glas Tulaichean earlier this year, despite the low numbers. And, despite several high-placed finishes since living up north, I do expect to see the lead runners pulling away into the distance pretty early on.

So it was a surprise, after 1/4 mile of the Assynt Games Hill Race, to look back and see the field dropping away and only two younger lads (they were running juniors and seniors together) for company. It was a strange position to be in, but it didn't take long to weigh up the fact that the younger lads probably wouldn't keep that pace up for over 2 miles and therefore things were looking good.

There was no information on the race route, so no real idea of what it entailed. We were just told "follow the marked course up through the woods and round". With my focus on maintaining the pace, I had no real idea how long I'd been going or how far, but was aware that there was nobody in sight behind me, and just the two lads a wee bit ahead but not far.

And I was feeling good and going well and I was already relishing the prospect of entering the games field as first male. And then I came to a T-junction. No markings, no arrows, both ways quickly turned tightly so I couldn't see where the two lads had gone. I had no idea where to go. I quickly scooted right to see if I could tell which sign. Back to the T-junction, I scooted left, again no clues. Back to the T-junction and the first of the other runners were now coming through and all looking confused. A couple headed right and kept running. I looked around for any clues. Then Kirsten came around the corner as well and, with several people having taken the right path, we decided to follow.

This, of course, put me way back in the field again, and I doubled my efforts, particularly once I saw what had been the 2nd placed male not too far ahead. I worked really hard and finally caught him on the last rise before the drop down into the Games field, only to have nothing left in the tank for the fast finish.

And so I finished just behind him. But, lo and behold, there were already quite a few runners back at the finish, having taken the left hand option which cut out at least a mile! So, from being 1st male, I finished somewhere mid-pack. Kirsten still hadn't appeared, which worried me slightly, since she had been just behind the 1st lady when I last saw her.

Eventually, she came jogging back in, accompanied by a young girl who, it seems, had got lost at the same place, wandered around and became distressed thinking she was never going to get out of the woods! So, Kirsten stopped to help her, having heard her shouting for help, and in the process lost out on 2nd lady.

All a bit disappointing in the end but, perhaps more importantly, a bit worrying youngsters could be heading off the wrong way in the woods on their own. Something to remember if/when I get some short woodland races going next Spring. I can't imagine I'll be in that position again, being right at the front, but I can now say I know what that buzz feels like when you look back and realise you're pulling away from the field... lovely!

Other than that, I had a lovely day on Fionn Bheinn a couple of weeks ago. A splendid grassy munro, toiled up at race pace in less than an hour and a half, I contoured along the ridge and then dropped down a perfect grass descent to do the whole round in less that 2.5 hours. Not many munros you can do that on!

Then, last Sunday, myself, Kirsten, Richard R and Claire headed up Ben Wyvis from the main car park on a cloudy, blustery day which turned into an absolute cracker, with glorious warm sunshine. Some effort on the up, particularly from Kirsten...good training for Langdale! A nice trot along the top, a grassy descent into the bealach, a contour on a deer track before a heather-clad plunge down the side of the burn, which again Kirsten tore into, descending superbly.

It was quite tough thereafter, with boggy ground making the traverse back to the path tiring, but good company ensured it passed quickly. Back on the path, we headed down at a good pace to finish the whole round in 3 hours of fun, including some bilberry picking! A lovely day out.

And so to today, the sun is finally shining and, once I've got some chores done here, I may head over to Strathconon for a wee traverse of the Sgurr a Mhuillin ridge. More to follow....

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