January Hill Races

The plan was to take a little break over Christmas, have a couple of weeks to build back up my base mileage then run a couple of short, fast hill races in mid-January as a bit of a sighter as to where my fitness was before pushing on with a big training block ready for big races later in the year. That plan went out the window when I was floored by the winter lurgy over the New Year period and didn’t even manage my first run on the year until the 6th of Jan! So what were supposed to be two ‘effort’ races with decent fitness became a case of ‘push as hard as I can and hope for the best’… oh well 🤷‍♂️

First up was a new local race that was announced late on in 2022 – the Falkland Yomp. Hosted by Lomond Hill Runners, this is an 11km route in and around the Falkland Estate, an area we have often gone for walks in but never run in yet. Although the route doesn’t go all the way up to the top of East Lomond, it does pack in two mile-long climbs up to the top of Maspie Den via the Temple of Decision, then back up again to the Tyndall Bruce Monument, and a final kicker within the last mile called the “Wee Bastard” – a total of 1400 feet of climbing. The race is almost all on good forest tracks or fire roads, except for a couple of boggy sections.

From the start, it took about a couple of minutes to realise I didn’t have the fitness to stick near the front of the pack and I was passed by lots of people on the way up the hill. Didn’t seem to be too much wrong with my descending legs though and I took a couple of places back on the fast track down Maspie Den. The route passes the start and Julie was there to wave me on, and the cowbells that we bought last year but keep forgetting to bring to races finally got some use. Along the flattish “Beech Hedges” track my legs felt dead, and with still half of the race to go the climb up to the momument was a bit of a slog. Downhill was fun again, and the “Wee Bastard” wasn’t as bad as its reputation suggested – at least I was able to pass a few people here, and hold them off on the quarter-mile sprint down to the finish. Just missed out on finishing under an hour with a 1:01:20 time, and 31st place out of 117. Not bad all things considered! A really fun course, and I hope to come back again in future, especially as it’s only 20 mins from home.

Downhill finish, just about held off the guy behind me!

The following weekend, my legs had just about recovered and we headed down to Selkirk for Feel The Burns, the hill half-marathon that we both ran last year. My expectations were somewhat dampened by last weekend’s result, plus the fact that my cousin Dougie wasn’t there this year to chase! Julie was also running today, but as she was on day 15 of a January Accumulator challenge (more on that here), with a couple of extra miles to do before and after, and 16 miles planned the next day this was not the time for an all-out effort!

It was a bright, calm day, perfect weather conditions for running. There had been a lot of rain around so anything grassy was expected to be boggy, and there were reports of snow lying at the top of the Three Brethren. Over 260 runners gathered for the start in a very muddy field at the Corbie Linn but soon strung out on the way up to the top pond and then up the grassy and heathery slopes of Peat Law. This was a longer climb that anything the Falkland Yomp had to offer and by the time I reached the top I was a minute or more down on last year’s time, and lost another minute by the top of the Three Brethren.

The run along the Southern Upload way was snowy, but made for good running conditions and great views to distract from the hard work. At the turnaround point after Brown Knowe I had lost another couple of minutes and resolved just to push as hard as I could on the down and see how I got on. The three miles of descent to Broadmeadows is great fun – unfortunately mid-way down two of my lace loops on my right shoe snapped, fortunately the top one held so the shoe stayed on as it would not be a good place to try barefooting. The final big climb up and over Foulsheils hill was as grim as always, but at least from there on it’s pretty much downhill all the way to the finish. In the end I crossed the line in 2:04:45 and 81st place, about five minutes slower than last year. I’ll tell myself most of that was due to the muddy conditions, but I suspect it was more to do with my condition!

Julie finished half an hour later with a 2:39:15, and promptly kept running to finish off her 15 miles for the day! After a well deserved hot soup and haggis pie, we headed back to my parents’ for a Sunday roast dinner, what better way to end the day?

An easy-paced run for Julie but still plenty of energy left to sprint past two people at the finish 🤣

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