After not that many hours of sleep on a Real Working Farm(tm) on the Saturday night – after the JOK AGM, we were up bright and early on a piercing cold day for the National Race (and VHI Individuals) on the Sunday. The temperature gauge was barely above zero at the Assembly area, but it was clear and sunny.
It was a tough race, no doubt about that. My 6.7km M21S felt longer than most M21L long races I’ve run, and this was without doubt the toughest race I’ve run for a couple of years – and that include the Trossachs. It was relentlessly physical, the switchback course went from one tough area of forest to another. It was suprisingly technical too and I made several large errors – one at the second control was may be due to poor mapping in the area, or perhaps my pace being too fast (I got the fastest time to the first control.) One just after the fifth was due to the distractions of large numbers of competitors arriving at a control from the same direction. I made a silly blunder and headed up a path at 90 degrees to where I wanted to go – and had to backtrack due to the steep terrain. Immediately after, I confused a shallow rise for a shallow dip in the contours and so spent a good while thrashing around in “green” forest, wondering why what I thought was “white” forest was so tough. This was on my approach to 6 – see the map extract here. A further error coming to 9 meant I ended up in the wrong section of open, and had to my first “formal” relocation for a few months, up to the track to the north of no. 9, before trying three times to come back in to the open. The forest was tough out there. I absolutely loved 9-10 though – this big leg had it all – physical, technical, lots of key decisions to be made about where to aim for and how much climbing needed to be done. Needless to say I messed this one up too, stopping too short and too high, but I loved the technical challenge here – see extract below. Some legs were simple and designed as a “tourist guide to the area” – see 4-5 in the extract above, which was a long a path weaving through monkey-puzzle trees – very pleasant.
After the problems in the first half of the course, I knew I wasn’t going to be getting a good time, so set out to enjoy the rest of the course. A visit to a control immediately below the spectacular “Kyloe in the Woods” cliff was dramatic, as was a control in a depression in a sudden small area of deep, dark and positively spooky piece of wood, before emerging back out into the sunlight. Just like a scene out of Harry Potter. There were many legs where if you didn’t look ahead and plan the whole leg, you would end up the wrong side of a cliff. And some legs where you either had to plunge through a “green” area, or spend twice as long going around – great route choice decisions to be made.
2: Navigational error/distraction/poor mapping
6: Navigational error/distraction (leaving 5)
6: Inverted contours
8: Poor mapping
9: Navigational error/map reading error [relocation]
10: Hesitation/map reading error
17: Navigational error
I loved this race and its relentless test of physical AND technical skills, without imposing huge amounts of plodding up hills as many physical courses do. It was physical and technical without a rest, all the way to the end. But next time I come here, I’m going to do a serious amount of training first though. My time – 94:51 for 6.7km, 220 climb, was pretty awful, the winner took 60:52. Not counting the numerous large mistakes I made (I’ve recorded 7 for Attackpoint) I would estimate my time would have been about 75 minutes.
A possible candidate for my Top 10 maps of the UK, although the I suspect the planning, rather than the area, was the key.