MdS challenge 2017

A challenge of the self


October 2015


After what seems a long time, the organisers of the MdS have written to us.

“Registrations for this event will open in December, date and time have yet to be specified.  We’ll write to you 1 – 2 weeks ahead of this, and let you have full details of what you need to do to register.”

Let’s see what happens now.


Where is the finish line?

On Sunday the 11th October, David, myself and A.N.Other took part in the Pentland Skyline race. 16(ish), more like 17miles and a bit, across most of the tops in the Pentlands, covering some 6,200ft gained ascent.

David & I arrived at race registration to collect our numbers, my first ever race number! I was excited, and nervous a the same time. This would be the longest I had run to date, after starting my running programme some three months earlier, and, it would be the longest I would push my body, and feet, to date.

The race was scheduled to commence at 11:00 and prior to the start, we had all agreed that we would make it to the half way by the scheduled cut off time, some 2Hrs 15mins.
We gathered at the start line for the kick off, and then got told that random kit checks were going to take place. With over 270 competitors, 4 numbers in 4 blocks were called out. It had already been detailed, no essential kit, no competing. As far I was aware, all runners returned to compete.

The race started at 11:15 and immediately, went up! The front runners, people who would go on and complete the race in 2Hrs 30mins (approx) were all ready at the top of the first rise as we crossed the line. I saw a pattern developing.

Pentland Skyline

As we climbed away from the start line, quickly the race turned into a single file ‘slog’ up the first hill. The opportunities of passing in the first stages were limited but I did manage to get passed a few, leaving David & Alistair behind a bit. This was not my intention, I got ‘carried’ with the field and as the pace was ok, I stuck with it.

On approaching the first top, David & Alistair came up and passed me, running onwards to the first change in direction. They were gracious enough to wait for me and we all descended the first hill. As I had ‘held them up’, I just go my downward head on and started passing others again, leaving David & Alistair for a bit. It wasn’t long before they passed me and continued onwards.

A few miles in, we were all going well but could see the biggest hill (Turnhouse Hill) looming in the distance. A quick study revealed the front runners, running along the ridge already! Phew, they were making it look easy.
Turnhouse hill started at one of the lowest points of the course and we had 300m to climb/run/walk across 1.5k. The going got tough. We all slowed down and walked up the hill.
There was more to come as the first 300m climb saw a false summit and the summit was further along and another 50m higher. More running up hills!
By this time (10k in) my legs, in particular my calves, were starting to feel the strain. However, we were all on pace to reach the half way point in the given cut off time. David & Alistair would reach that point, well in front of me and have time to get food and fluids. I however, would pick up an orange juice and a couple of biscuits and keep going.

The turning point came, and went with a friendly voice saying “almost at half way”, I knew then, I would complete the course. As much as my legs were saying to stop.

Picking up my orange juice and regrouping with my colleagues, I had made the half way point with 7mins to spare. There were still lots of competitors still behind me. I imagine some would go on for a DNF. It was requested throught the race organisers, that if you didn’t make it in time, you sought to get a lift back to the start line in the van. I guess due to time taken to finish, some may finish in darkness if this tactic was not employed.

I must admit, I had mixed feelings about continuing, with the rest of the race. My legs were tired, I had almost forgotten to drink/eat enough (despite bringing water and snacks in the back pack) and felt dehydrated. To combat this, I decide that as I had reached the half way, I would walk a bit and recover, eat some food and drink. This was a good idea! Some things you’ve just gotta learn whilst doing it. This race was also a learning experience.

The return leg was good, after my rest of walking. I found new legs (mostly) and kept on running. Some of the route was also know to us, as we had (in previous blog post) run some of the hills already. So, we knew what was coming and I felt better for that.

I would love to say that I ran all of the way back, but, no. I had to walk up most of the hills. However, every opportunity I had to run, I did. Across the slightest of inclines, across the tops, and downwards, I continued to run.

At this point I was determined to compete it, regardless of time.
I got to chatting to some of the other competitors who were also finding it tough at this stage of the race. I found that comforting too. No connection to those people, other than the experience we were all doing on the same day. Some good chat, combined running for parts restored my body and heart. I was running again!

The last ‘encouragement’ I was given was at the bottom of Harbour Hill. “Only four more tops to go!” For a moment, I didn’t thank that person, but the realisation of every time I topped a hill, that was one less. That kept me going too.

The last four hills came and went, and one in particular I will never forget. Bells Hill, is a short, yet steep/very steep hill which saw me produce enough sweat to fill a bath tub.
I would’ve loved to see how the front runners went up it, to learn the art of trail running. However, I guess, seeing as I’ve only been doing this running thing for three months and had only trained on hills twice, hard work and determination, along with repetition was probably key.

Almost at the finish, I did wonder where the finish line was. It seemed that “only four more hills left” maybe wasn’t an exact call. I seemed to have done five or six and yet no end in sight. I knew I was going in the right direction as there were runners in front of me, and thankfully, also behind me. I wouldn’t be last. However, I didn’t care if I was. I just wanted to see the finish line.

A happier me in the space of half a mile saw some recognisable trail (we were running part of the start as a finish) and my heart lifted, my pace increased. And, although a slight detour was taken, I crossed the finish line some 4Hrs 25mins after I started.

I had finished my first race. Something I had set out to do. I wasn’t looking for a great time but had hoped that nearer 4Hrs would be a goal.  A clear combination of under preparing and lack of food & drink saw a slower time in reality. So what!? Job done.

David & Alistair were waiting for me at the finish line. Alistair was the quickest, with an official time of 4Hrs and 40seconds. However his watch said 3Hrs 45mins.
David came in at 4Hrs 4mins, again with a quicker ‘running time’ I guess I slowed them down but we were all happy to finish it and we all agreed, it was a LOT harder than we had imagined it would be.

Will we back doing it again next year? Well, immediately afterwards, David & I said no. One week later, we are all agreed… we would!

Thank you to David & Alistair for their assistance and camaraderie during the day.

Number 78, your time is up
Number 78, your time is up
These helped me for sure
These helped me for sure

Ben Cleuch

This Sunday (04-10-15) saw us (Kristian, Stefan & myself) going to Alva for some preparations before the Pentland Skyline Hill Race next weekend. Meet up time 8am at the car park just near the golf club. After a wee warm up and the visit from some locals taking their dogs for a morning walk we headed to the steps & forest area before the hill.

The route was going to take us up, out of the car park, through the glen, up the winding farm track, up Ben Ever, across the top of the false summit of the Cleuch and then up the Cleuch ascent. Down was all done in reverse.

It was very clear from the beginning that today’s run wasn’t going to be easy, a very steep path up the hill were we try to run it as much we could but decided to go for walk/run option, before the hour mark we reach the top hill 710m elevation around 5km mark. After a water break & brownie we were on our way down while I was taking my time the other two were enjoying the speed.

Altogether we ran just over 10k and that gave me some confidence about what is going to come next weekend. I’m looking forward to running the race on a route I’ve not done before.

Run 04-10-15

Another day, another hill

In preparation for the Pentland Skyline, I decided to do another hill run. This time in Fife, across the Lomond hill range. The course was going to be direct from the East car-park, up the East lomond then on to the West lomond, and return.

East to West (and back)
East to West (and back)

I enlisted a friend, Stefan (who has run a few ultra distances before) to run it with me. It’s good to have company when out and about, although I guess, like a lot of other people, running is a solitary thing so the little company we get from time to time, helps.

Coming from Fife, and being born not too far away from these hills, I knew what was in store. I have walked these several times and even stayed on the top of the East overnight.

We set off from the East car-park and steadily got into a jogging pace. Even from the car-park, there is a rise, which, unsurprisingly doesn’t stop until you hit the top. As we set off, I could feel my quads from the Wednesdays exertion of our Pentland frolics. Ah well, had to finish regardless!

The top of the East was reached pretty quickly and the route towards the West is clearly laid out in front of us. Down hill with an efficient manner is always a ‘skill’ and for me, a small but frequeWest Lomond from East Lomondnt step is preferred. A free flowing pace downwards is balanced with braking and takes time to develop. I’m still learning.

The route along to the West is easy enough, although a stop along the way was required (a 100m or so to stretch the tired calves) but we ran most of the way, until we hit the slope of the West. The West Lomond is steep and it did take some effort to reach the top. However, the top WAS reached and we had a little stop on the top to take on some fluids and nutrients.

The run back was exactly the same as the run in, same route, albeit a little detour of course by a wrong chosen path off the East back to the car park. This saw us wade across bracken, deep grass and heather. 100m from the finish and both Stefan and I managed to stick, at least one foot in a boggy patch. Just great! Dry feet all the way up and back, until then.

It was a great way to spend a Sunday morning.
Many thanks to Stefan for joining me.

A milestone – DONE!

Half MarathonWell, I’m 12 wks in to training now, and done my first half marathon distance. Yeah!
I recall that my legs were a bit tired from doing a 10K the day before, however, I had already set my goal to do that, and the 13mile distance across the weekend.
Back to back training seems to be paying off.

Although I had planned to complete the 13miles in 1:45:00, the effort used the previous day (10K in 45:15 which is a few mins off my previous best, so I was happy with the result), meant that had to settle for a slightly longer time of 1:54(ish).
All well and good though. A milestone done!

Now…. work up to the marathon distance over the next 12wks.

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