Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Ben Nevis Race 2010

Only someone as clumsy and accident prone as me could smash my knee on a bedpost so hard that I had trouble walking, let alone running 6 days before I was due to run the Ben Nevis Race. I managed a bike ride 4 days before with some success but tried running 3 days before and didn't last more than 400m so I was a little apprehensive on my way up the day before the race.

Mark picked me up at Glasgow airport and we made our way to Fort William on a beautiful evening; me in a hurry to arrive, Mark getting tired after more than 5 hours in the driving seat. Even the stairs in the hotel had my knee complaining but to be honest I think it was more down to me worrying about it and noticing every niggle.

Saturday was a lovely morning and with a bit of time to kill we had a stroll around Fort William where Mark was spotted in the local butchers of all places by Ian and Pauline so he was soundly ribbed about being in search of pies already!

While warming up on the field I was happy with the fact that my knee would hold up, at least uphill! Mark was looking a bit nervous, he had been worrying about making the cutoffs since entering and there was nothing I could say to him that seemed to help. With the sun out it was reasonably warm and I was feeling great lining up for the start.

I'm not a fan of the first and last mile of this race but I think it's a necessary evil due to the size of the event. I took my time up the road, impressed as I always am by the quality of the runners at this race; the field was already stretched out far up the tarmac. I enjoyed the climb, I left it until as late as possible to cut off left through the Bracken following one other solitary runner off the path while everyone else had already headed up and this was quicker probably due to the fact that you don't get held up being bunched together on the narrow trod.

The clear skies were a blessing giving us views all around and it was inspiring heading up towards the Red Burn being able to see the huge line of runners slogging up to the summit. I had a gel and filled my bottle up at the stream before beginning the hands-on-knees trudge straight up through the scree, hot work where there was no breeze but thankfully most of the time the wind was there to cool you down. It wasn't much further along that the leaders came crashing down, just as I was passing the cameraman from the TV crew that were filming the race.

As the path became more rock than scree and the flow of runners steaming back down increased I ate a little coconut treat I had brought with me and drank the rest of my water, picking up the pace as the gradient eased. It was quite busy up there; in places it was hard to keep up a pace while trying to keep out of the way of runners heading back down and negotiate your way past all the walkers out enjoying their day.

Handing my tag in at the summit there was a rush of noise coming over the cliffs which at first I thought was a gust of wind but it was the rescue helicopter heading up over the north face, maybe they had another tv crew on board? I hope so since they would have got some fantastic shots from where they were.

I made a real effort now to pick off the people in front; my descending is much better than my climbing and I had a lot of fun crashing down over the rocks and through the scree, the only drawback being you have to concentrate really hard on the ground in front so you can't enjoy the view. I heard Mark shouting some encouragement to my left and I was glad he had obviously made it that far then a bit further down I had to slow down a bit since my knee had started complaining after a stumble where my leg got a little bent underneath me.

Reaching the grassy bank I was surprised that there was no sign of the taped off ground we had been warned about. It's steep here; my thighs had started complaining as I got near the stream at the bottom, relieved again to have only fell on my arse a couple of times.

Then it was just a case of trying to keep up a decent pace on spent legs, remembering where the little short cuts through the bracken were and trying to get to the finish quicker than in previous years. I thought I was in with a chance at first but I just couldn't run fast enough; all the downhill had taken its toll on my thighs so all I could manage was to pick off a couple more runners in front who were struggling even more than me before reaching the tarmac.

This was the usual torture; fighting off the urge to just walk back then on reaching the first little incline in the road some walkers tried to sound encouraging and said: "Well done this is the last little hill", "Oh no, I mean one more.... no two.... no hang on..." to which I had to laugh and just shout: "Stop it!".

Entering the sports field I realised I could just about beat 2h20m if I picked up the pace so a last spurt with a grimace for the cameraman there had me 2 seconds under by my watch at the finish. I couldn't have felt much happier!

It's always good to get a drink and a sit down in that field after the race, especially when the sun is shining. After a little rest I went to the car to drop my kit off and get the camera before waiting for Mark to finish by the entrance to the field. Just as I was getting a bit concerned for his time he appeared down the road, looking as knackered as everyone else does by that point. He was well chuffed to have finished in 3:07.

After loitering for a bit, chatting, eating cake and drinking tea we headed back to the hotel for a clean up and then headed out to the Grog n Gruel for the second time that weekend to eat. I was feeling ok, Mark seemed to be suffering a bit and we were both a right state travelling back Sunday. Even today 3 days after racing my legs still complain when I walk downstairs, whereas Mark reckons his aren't too bad; maybe I should try his black pudding diet he ate about 12 of the things over the course of 2 days. The Stornoway ones were nice though and I don't usually eat them.

I remember at my first Ben Race thinking it's a long way to travel and that I would only do it that one time, now I am counting down to getting my plaque: only 17 more to go! It makes for a great weekend in the Highlands and a bonus for me this year that we were blessed with good weather. Well done to all who ran, it was good to meet lots of friendly people and also finally meet some of the 'virtual' people I had previously only known online.

1 comment:

  1. Nice work both of you. Good report of a great race. My mate and me did it for the first time this year. We said we would only do it once to tick the box but are already thinking of next year. My legs are still feeling it 4 days afterwards.