The 2018 Pentland Skyline Race opens for entry on Sunday 19th August. Details can be found on the race webpage. Carnethy members should follow the instructions sent to them on the email list.
In incredibly hot and slow conditions, Angela Mudge, Hilary and Andy Spenceley recently ran the Thyon-Dixence race in Switzerland, a 16km race from the ski resort of Thyon (near Sion) to the finish on top of the high dam of Dixene. All the race is on narrow twisting paths and the whole race is above 2000m. It is one of the most beautiful runs imaginable. The only downside (apart from the heat and altitude) is you can see the dam virtually all the way and it never seems to get nearer! In a very classy field (as it’s used as a warm up for the international Sierre-Zinal a week later) of about 400, plus another 870 in a separate challenge run, Hilary and Angela made the podium – Hilary 4th Over 60 and Angela 2nd Over 40, while Andy struggled to 12th Over 50 – not too bad when considering he is the wrong end of his age group and all those in front of him were much younger – will be in the Over 60s in this race next year! Race web page here.
The sky was ominous, but the rain was light and refreshing on a warm, fly ridden evening. The course fast, though some turned left at the gate on the ascent and gave themselves a hard time. Ascending Maiden’s Cleugh the sun broke through and a dazzling multi-hued vista opened up at the col, with a rainbow bright against the dark sky. Nice!
With several Carnethies signed up for the Tiree Ultra in September we decided that a beach run would be good training and an opportunity to have a day out! Talk after Caerketton focussed on the weekend weather forecast which couldn’t seem to make its mind up. However, our fears were unfounded and Saturday dawned bright and clear. In fact it would almost be too hot at times.
13 Carnethies (or should I say 11 plus 2 possible new recruits) set off from Longniddry Train station at 9am. To avoid the dreaded tarmac we nipped through Gosford Estate and headed for the coast. We were now on the official John Muir Way but we would soon join Keith Burns alternative route as we headed across the footbridge to enchantment and into Aberlady Bay nature reserve. Billy adopted Willie’s mantle and took us on a detour to some wrecked WW2 submarines for our history lesson of the day!
Gullane beach now beckoned, some headed over the rocks clinging to the coast while others followed the rollercoaster path above, their reward being a helter skelter descent down the sand dunes. By now we were feeling peckish so the first detour of the day led us inland to Archerfield and the Walled Garden. Bacon rolls were on everyone’s mind but typically Scottish customer service of the Morningside variety met us (as in “you’ll have had your tea”!) Breakfast was no longer being served. We could have coffee and cake or buy something from the deli. Luckily the deli staff had attended customer service training!
Suitably refuelled (Jeff managed his first beer of the day), the next stop was Yelllowcraigs via the Fairy Trail. A further detour via the children’s play park (think Craigmillar has a rival here) and we hit the beach just in time to see the dolphins frolicking in the sea!
North Berwick and the Law were now in sight. We hadn’t scheduled a stop here but Fringe by the Sea was in full swing and it would have been rude not to have a look, especially when we spotted the Curious Brewing tent! A swift half (or more in some cases) and we were off. Chris left us here – probably a wise move as we had now covered 16 miles and none of us realised we would end up doing the same again!
Past the paddling pool and along the East Beach we soon left North Berwick behind, our minds now firmly fixed on Canty Bay and the new Drift Cafe. It had been a long time since we’d eaten! The cake and the views were worth the scramble up to the road plus the dolphins made a reappearance.
There was to be no storming of Tantallon Castle today but luckily the combines had been out which made our descent to Seacliff easier. The tide was well in now so yet another detour up though the farm was necessary before we could rejoin the beach at Ravensheughs. Here was our biggest obstacle of the day. Crossing the Peffer Burn is usually a knee deep affair but as Michelle started to wade through she started to slowly disappear! Even Lucas was waist deep! Just as well it was warm.
Dunbar looked to be in touching distance but first we had to follow the secret trail through Little Binning Wood and then the Tyne stood before us. None of us were willing to swim (sorry Mark!) so it was time to detour again though a field of cows and across the condemned bridge. All safely over, the mileage was beginning to tell on some (it would be the furthest 3 or 4 of the group had ever run). So three made their way to Fox Lake and who do we meet now but Keith on his mountain bike saying what are you lot doing out here? Did I not get an email?
The remaining 9 soldiered on, into John Muir Country Park, a quick wave to the llamas at East Links and on to Belhaven. Time and tired legs now won the day and we headed up the Back Road past Winterfield Golf Club and to our waiting cars at the swimming pool!
An epic day – 31.6 miles according to my strava – great weather and good company. Got to love these Carnethy social runs 😊
One mile into the race today with nothing but mist to look at I suddenly realized that because Digby was down in Selkirk I could actually write a report this week! So bear with me as I have a wee blether. My parents are visiting from Canada so the family were spending the weekend at a cosy farmhouse outside of Cupar. The initial plans were for me to drop them in St. Andrews, run the race and then come back to get them. The day started out looking grim and the family were quite happy to hunker down under duvets with books and mugs of tea. I ignored the fact that the race is entry on the day and I could have easily skipped it with no loss. As the clag came down further and even the edges of the fields were no longer visible I decided to get on with it. There were three other Carnethies at the race: Euan MacKinnon, Liam and Helen (apologies for not knowing your surnames). In general it was a smaller field than usual (60 instead of the usual 100 odd). “60 or maybe 61 I can’t remember” the Race director muttered as he counted us through before the start. I’ll assume he got the count right as we only had to do it once. Some thought the turnout was low due to the impending Ochill 2000s SHR Champs race next week but I think it may have been the weather. After a short race briefing that involved the mention of first aid being available at the bottom of a very slippery decent (bum slide from hell) off of West Lomond we were off. The route had a longish start on tarmac (never fun) but quickly got onto some forest tracks followed by some other stuff and then it was mainly quad/land rover track for most of the way. We even had a water station with Jelly Babies! Up and down East Lomond and there were no views to be had. Back for more Jelly Babies! The field had spread out a bit and for me in the mid to back pack the only thing I could see was the faint outline of the person in front of me. We stopped and had a chat at the bottom of West Lomond about the which track we were meant to take. Consulting maps (Him: “That’s the old map its wrong!” Me: “I downloaded it from Scottish Hill Racing!”) Of course we were taking it on faith that the summit was up there somewhere. As I reached the top the marshall popped out from his shelter behind the trig point and yelled something about the marked trail down. To be honest the wind was so loud I didn’t hear him. Luckily I picked the right direction. However, soon enough I wish I hadn’t. The aforementioned bum slide was quite frankly the most terrifying few minutes of my life so far. I definitely underestimated exactly how slippery the descent down this (thankfully mostly) grassy slope would be. I almost immediately was sliding down completely unable to slow down or stop. In a panic of trying to dig my shoes into anything available I managed flip over onto my stomach which just meant that now I couldn’t see where I was going. I managed to stop myself briefly but then promptly resumed my uncontrolled decent. I finally stopped myself quite close to guy who had done the same as me a few minutes earlier. He was a bit less lucky as he had managed to go up and over a rather rocky part of the decent. After making sure that he was alright (just winded and maybe a slightly banged up hand) and able to shuffle down the rest of the slope I carried on. As I climbed back up the side of the hill I saw and heard more carnage on the grassy slope. I stuck around to see if the marshalls needed any assistance as it looked like a few runners would need help getting off the hill. As there were enough hands on deck without me I carried on. The rest of the race was rather uneventful. Coffee, cakes and some crisps at the Strathmiglo Village Hall. A nice low key race. If it weren’t for the bum slide of doom I would say I highly recommend it and will be back to run it again. As it stands I’m not sure.
It was looking bad on the drive over to Selkirk with rain and torrential downpours, however we were lucky and it stopped, leaving just a very damp mist which was not at all cold so it was quite a sweaty run. Not good conditions though for photos or views.
5 Carnethys present – at least I *think* Fergus is a Carnethy…
1st V60 prize for myself due in no small part to the apparent lack of any other V60s. Prize being a Selkirk bannock and race glass bearing the legends ‘Three Brethren 7 mile race’ and oddly, ‘Tibbles 4 miles’, presumably chasing after a lost cat at Tibby Tamsen’s Grave.
Lots of goodies from local sponsors with lots of race finish healthy snacks, race prizes and medals for the juniors. Volunteer troops manned the kitchen and laid out a spread of sandwiches and cakes. What other race has a spot prize of a round of golf for four? Or candles! Great stuff.
About 5 years ago, on a whim, I went to a talk hosted by Carnethy where Charlie Ramsay gave his presentation about Ramsay’s Round. Inspired by the talk I joined the club and started going along to Wednesday Social Runs and this was my introduction to hill running. Since then Ramsay’s Round has always been on my mind in one way or another and it was inevitable that one day I would give it go.
After good overnight recces of two key sections of the round, a decent race at the Lakes Sky Ultra in July and some well-placed words of encouragement here and there it seemed that the time was right to give it a shot. I sent out a few messages and emails, assembled a great support crew ready for the first weekend in August and hoped for a good weather window.
Leg 1 – Mamores
I set off on an anti-clockwise route at 11pm with a 23:55 schedule just as the last light was leaving the sky. We made good progress up the very wet lower slopes of Mullach nan Coirean and headed into the cloud as we reached about 800m. After tapping the summit cairn we continued along the ridge of the Mamores, passing summits and traversing the out-and-backs in a mixture of wind, rain, clag and the occasional magical moment when the cloud cleared to reveal the black mass of the next peak or the light of the moon. Mark had dropped back on the first climb so it was just myself and Jonny making our way through the dark and we were more or less bang on schedule as we ticked off the peaks.
Daylight started to make an appearance around An Gearanach and by the time we were on the summit of Na Gruagaichean the head torches were off and we ran along the broad ridge to Binnien Mor in the early morning glow. After Binnein Beag we picked up the lovely we track that runs along the hillside and enjoyed a little bit of actual running before the big pull up to Sgurr Eilde Mor. The descent from Sgurr Eilde Mor gave good running for the first 1.5km or so before cutting the corner of the river and heading over tussocky, bumpy ground to a bridge over the Allt Eilde where Pete Curtis was waiting to join me for leg two. We were very punctual, arriving almost exactly on schedule!
Leg 2 – Luibeilt to Loch Trieg Dam
Pete and I headed off following the Abhainn Raith towards Loch Treig, walking at first then picking up the pace once we were on the North side of the river. Sometime along this section I misjudged how much time I had to get to Beinn Na Lap and it wasn’t until just before the railway bridge I realised I was going to struggle to get to the summit on schedule. Pete pushed on and I followed but we were about 15 minutes behind by the time we tapped the cairn and headed down the ridge just as the rain started and the wind picked up.
The descent to the Allt Feith Thull was good but the climb up the other side felt slow and laboured and I knew I was lagging behind again. By the time we got to Chno Dearg we had lost another 5 minutes. We took the wrong line from the top in the clag and dropped a bit too far and had to climb back up to make the ridge, I was feeling low at this point as I was sure I was going to keep losing time and knew my schedule was tight. As we headed south on the ridge to descend to the dam the sun came out and we got a view down to the loch and over to the Easains which gave me a boost and we managed to claw back a wee bit of time as I chased Pete down towards the railway line.
We were greeted at the dam with lots of food and drink but with the schedule slipping I didn’t have time to hang around – just time to get some coffee and a few mouthfuls of chilli and chocolate before I was off along the track to start the next big climb.
Leg 3 – Grey Corries, Aonachs, CMD and the Ben.
I was joined by Jeff, Alex and John for the next section. Alex and John had been up to support another Ramsay’s runner who had abandoned his attempt earlier in the day – something I was grateful for as their support in addition to Jeff’s was to become invaluable as time went on.
We enjoyed a spell of good weather over the Easains and it looked like it was going to last for a while. Plenty of encouragement, lots of food and a “carrot and stick” approach meant I started to make back time from the first hill which, combined with the improved weather, gave me a real psychological boost. I started to find the first few minutes on a climb were tough but always eased off when I got settled into a rhythm. After the steep, grassy slog out of Lairig Leacach we picked up a good hill track and made quick work of the rest of the climb up Stob Ban. Anthony Hemmings was waiting at the lochan at the bealach and I said a very speedy hello as I passed, not wanting to lose any more time. John stayed back and picked up some food for me while I continued up the climb to Stob Coire Claurigh.
The Grey Corries flew past and there were a few moments where I know had a stupid grin on my face as we ran along the ridge, looking back over to the Mamores down to the Abhainnn Rath where I had been hours before.
As we contoured Sgurr Choinnich Beag the weather took a turn for the worse, the rain started to come down heavily and the wind picked up, I hoped it was just a shower but the stormy skies ahead said otherwise. We headed up Charlies Gully and round onto the shoulder of Aonach Beag – as we climbed towards the summit I was really worried we had lost lots of time again and I was having a bit of a crisis of confidence. I asked John and Alex and they reassured me we were now over an hour ahead of schedule but warned that we would need as much time as possible to get over the arete, the Ben and down to the Hostel, particularly in this weather.
The conditions seemed to get worse as we went on over Aonach Mor, down to the bealach and up the big climb to CMD but I knew the end was in sight and finally felt confident that I was going to finish within 24 hours. Alex guided us along the arete and we scrambled up the boulders to the top of the Ben – Jeff snapped a few photos of me looking a bit worse for wear before we headed down, taking the zigzags as we had some time to spare. The long descent was one final struggle for me but before long we had the hostel in sight and just had to switch the torches on for the last fifteen minutes or so. I made it down and over the bridge in one piece, tapping the hostel sign 23 hours and 23 minutes after leaving!
My grand plans of having a beer and some food to celebrate faded as my exhaustion overtook me and I fell asleep almost immediately when I got back to my tent – thanks for Jeff for making sure I was okay!
Huge thanks to all my supporters:
Mark Hartree, Jonny Muir, Pete Curtis, Glen Roseberry, John Ryan, Alex McVey, Jeff Roberts and Anthony Hemmings. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you! Thanks to Graham Nash for some valuable route advice and some general guidance. I also need to thank the club for getting me out in the hills in the first place and for creating the running community that made this round possible.
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This month the excuses were not just foliage and tourism although there was a bit of that
“someone’s been planting gorse and bramble on my favourite routes!”
Many were citing sun related slowness “food beer, sangria and paella” ,“general holiday fatness”.
But it was “All quite close together today with 4 or 5 of us heading up the gutted haddie around the same time.“
Mike was chasing down Fraser and almost caught him at Dunsapie, but Fraser gave it the full beans
His descending skills down the scree of Whinny were enough to see Mike off.
Peter Gardiner still had “head still full of beer from the weekend” but still managed a handicap beating sub 30.
But Gordon is the August 2018 winner. Well done!
Plan to be there Monday September 3rd for post festival running