Sunday, 30 March 2014

Largo Training Camp & The Birnam Classic Hill Race

I've been away all week at the Fife spring training camp. For some lucky enough, its Majorca for 10 days. For me, a week in Largo. That said, we had a dinky cottage and the weather was fine; cold, but thankfully the biting easterly had the courtesy to take its teeth out. The location was ace though with beach, abandoned railway lines and the nearby Law to run around. The Neuk should be busier than it was, but many of the cottages are used as weekend getaways and second homes. The quiet lanes were ideal for biking and I clocked up a useful 80 miles through the week to go with about 35 on the road and trails.

We took off to Birnam for Adrian Davis's River Tay nigh time dash on the Friday night and then the Birnam Classic hill race on the Saturday.

It was just after 7pm when we arrived on Friday armed with head torch and double layer of training tops. I couldn't help thinking this event might be better an hour earlier as I registered with a small group present and mulling around in the commodious guest house. After a briefing we trekked down to the bridge at Dunkeld and about 20 of us set off for the 5km along the riverside in the pitch black. A group of 5 got off in the front and after 1km or so I was on my own, occasionally catching glimpses of the torchlight well ahead. You get a heightened sense of speed running in the dark as objects and the road ahead comes within your field of view more quickly and I thought I was clipping along very nicely in a tempo-run sort of speed. At the turn which took us around the sole marshall and through  a narrow field and back onto the track, I passed a couple of the back markers and with only one stop to check my route, I was soon nearing the finish, marked by a gaggle of head torches and earshot of the hushed, echoey voices of organisers and finishers already gathered at the end underneath the bridge arch. It was a quick cuppa and digestive afterwards and back to the cottage for a nightcap and bed.

Saturdays Birnam Race was much better attended with registration of the 70 strong field at the nearby Arts Centre. A few of the lads from the Hawks club were in attendance and after a natter we were soon off into the wood that takes you up the 1200ft climb to the top of the Hill. It was a straight up slog over the gravel and heathery peat and just before the top Crowe and Mathews who I might have stayed close to had
already disappeared from view.

I topped out with a lad from Dundee Road Runners and a Coniston fell runner as we cut our way over the trail and round the back of the hill, concentrating hard on trying to up the speed while taking the best line off the muddy track and avoiding the jagged boulders and cobbles lying in wait. We were soon on the way down where we picked up another runner. I hit the front of the group for a wee while but was flat out and when the gradient eased back into the woods, two came past as we picked up a runner from Perth. He still had some energy left though and rallied and it was me who was dropped as the group split on a series of short sharp and twisty inclines that took us back onto the tarmac and into the village for the finish. About 40 minutes for this event and it was more trail than moor, but I still worked up a sweat. Having a social pre-booked we took off pretty sharpish afterwards but an enjoyable event and a decent turnout. It was much more runnable than Criffel two weeks earlier. Bring on next weeks duathlon.....


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