Loch Katrine in the Trossachs. The event start was on the hill to the right.
The Trossachs are a long way from London, but they are in my opinion the best map in Britain, and also the one map that I’ve never completed a course at, despite several attempts. The promise of snow in the hills, and a holiday on Monday was the clincher – so I ended up catching an early flight (up at 4am, flying at 7am) to Edinburgh, where my dad picked me up and we headed over to The Trossachs, via the spectacular Duke’s Pass. Little snow in sight, but wonderful weather – cold but clear and sunny.
I ran M21S and yes – finally! – made it around the course. And in a pleasantly good time too. At one point I was second on the results list, behind a fellow JOKer, Jon Marsden. This slipped to 5th place once some faster EUOCers came in. However I was definitely in the top half, with an above-par time for the first time in ages. The course itself was lovely, a classic as always in this area, although staying to the north of the road, meaning the roughest part of the map was missed out – it was still extremely technical and extremely physical, and I made two big mistakes on the first two “real” legs of the course – 2 to 3, and 3 to 4. Both times I headed too far left, going far too high (most mistakes one would assume would be from going too low. I blame my compass) and having to double back both times. These mistakes only amounted to 5 minutes each though and the rest of the course was fine.
My time in the end was 88:30 for a 5.3km course with a most un-English 440m of climb. Now, 16.7 mins/km might sound extremely slow, and on most maps, yes, it would be a disaster. But consider that many of the best runners in Britain were running on the map (it was a FCC and Start race event) and that only one managed to run in less than 10 mins/km, and that puts thing in perspective. In southern England, British champions would typically do 6 mins/km, and I would be happy with 8 mins/km, and disappointed with 10 mins/km. But here in the Trossachs, 16.7 mins/km is just fine, and probably my second best run this year, after the week before. The winner on my course did a 73:43. I reckon I could have made around 78 minutes if I had had a run free from major mistakes – a virtual impossibility in terrain like this.
The Trossachs are possibly the best UK-based training I could have done for my next race: the 38th Annual Oxford vs Cambridge Varsity Match in Sweden, next weekend. And unlike the Trossachs, the snow is still very much there. Looking forward to it.