Sunday, 14 February 2016

Carnethy 5 Hill Race 2016: Pentlands Snowfest

The forecast was for snow showers yesterday, but driving up to the Pentlands yesterday, my sixth sense told me otherwise. Maybe the mattress of soft, thick snowflakes streaming across the windscreen at Grantshouse was a hint. I picked up our kid at Eskbank at noon. She moseyed over to watch the February running spectacular that is the Carnethy Five hill race. Its one of the biggest, juiciest fields in fell racing, early doors, and the 600 who got through in the ballot, me being one, had come from all quarters. I heard Irish voices and later ran for most of the race with a lass wearing a Goteborg top. I wondered if she had run the strommingsloppet or kistaloppet. Lets not talk about the Lundaloppet.  We drove past the start, already peppered by marshalls and the odd runner all looking cold in the white conditions as the snow pregnant sky threatened more.

 At Beeslack school, race HQ, there was a big crowd, and soon it was off in the fleet of buses to take the 2 mile trip to the start. As the buses left and began heading up to the hills, the sleet in Penecuik turned to snow and as we disembarked and made our way to the start on the moor it just kept coming.
I've done the Carnethy once before in 2008, when it was sponsored by Tiso and before global warming was invented. I was in the ascent then, but I recalled leaving the event with a feeling of...well, mild contempt, I suppose; that I'd been ambushed by something and hadn't been sufficiently prepared. However, I couldn't put my finger on what the problem had been.  It was certainly tougher than I'd expected.

This time around, I knew I was not carrying any extra weight and had been out during the week to buy some new tights having anticipated that the 'Ron Hills' would sag badly in the wet and nobody wanted to see my builders crack wearing the old 'New Balance' ones that don't go high enough up my waistline. My pricey ''OMM' ones were the biz.

The race kicked off 15 minutes late, and the organiser advised there were around 100 marshalls on the hill. Looks like we got ourselves a posse. I paid badly for my slow start, fannying around with my garmin and eventually slipping into a line of runners as the snow continued. As we climbed the first big long hill, Scald Law, I knew it would be tough trying to get past folk and every so often there was a little surge from runners behind as they and me passed a few on the outside, then tucked back in where the thickening snow had been trampled to something resembling the route. I could have been going anywhere and with around 50 metres of visibility, the constant ups and down and false summits would have allowed for some great photos, had I had my camera. but today, I was racing, so it was onwards.

I had three layers on and a scarf and hat and halfway through congratulated myself on getting the attire right. It was sheltered and snowy in the hollows, but blowy and snowy on the tops and I reckoned I was around 150th or thereabouts. I gave it some welly on the downhills and the cambers along the narrow track off 'the Kips' on  polished snow was very tricky in places. I gave myself a mental workover to get up and over to get up the last climb, when Goteborg girl got past me again, but over the top she slowed and I galloped down over the snow and exposed heather, only to be passed by a girl from shettleston who lopped down the hill with the spring of a gazelle.  A runner from Irvine came past on the way down, but the hellish camber on the heather as we headed off the hill was tortuous and he went down like a sack of tatties.

I caught two on the run-in at the end and was thankful for the scouts coffee tent where we grabbed a drink and headed off, picking up dinner later at the Steading.  Great to run in character building conditions like that. The organisation was excellent and the marshalls huddled around the routee, hiding behind walls or just stood erect in anonymous waterproofs with snow plastered to one side of their torsos were the real heroes. Even though my time was 1;12 compared to 1;05 in 2008, I left knowing that I'd had a better run and had been ready for all the sharp climbs the race had to offer. The snow was a bonus. (Some fotos courtesy of the Carnethy website).
A truly memorable day on the hill.  Some great shots of the leaders at


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