Pentland skyline - 1st (just under Murray's record)
I had been looking forward to this as I've heard a lot about the race before. I was also keen to avoid a repeat of my late disintegration in Trahenna two weeks ago. In the last week I'd had a good look at the map and read Murray's write ups, so I knew the sort of thing I was facing.
The pace from the start was pretty relaxed with Murray leading us out up Caerketten. My legs felt a bit heavy going up here so I was quite happy when we got to the top and I could have a relax on the downhill. The main thing I took from Murray's write ups was that the downhills need to be easy the first half or you'll destroy your legs - so this is what I did.
A lead group of Murray, Spongey, Andy Fallas, Jethro and me (and Peter) had formed by the time we were going up Allemuir. Once again I took the descent really easy and a gap opened up between me and the group. I closed the gap going to Castlelaw but once we came to the descent I was gapped once again. I managed to catch back up by the farm and enjoyed the fact that my legs were starting to feel a bit more alive.
After a quick drink I decided to shake things up by putting a steady pace up Turnhouse. I focused on tapping out a comfortable but hard rhythm interspersed with a few glances back to see who was going to follow. Spongey followed on the lower slopes but was overtaken by Andy as we got to about halfway. I summited alone in the lead and relaxed down the descent (although not to the extent I was earlier). I repeated this over Carnethy and Andy caught me at the bottom of Scolds Law. I was quite glad of the company as it is still a long way to the finish from here.
We ran well over the next section, careful not to go into the red. I took a gel over the kips and we arrived at the Drove road checkpoint 2 minutes slower than Murray when he set the record (Actually only 1.17).
I got a small gap down the marked section of Hare's, which was the first rougher terrain we had encountered, but I didn't want to push too hard too early. I was aware that the next section was the toughest and could be make or break.
I found a nice trod up into Black hill but it climbed too sharply and when I looked back across Andy had picked up a better line which climbed more gradually onto the ridge. When we came together he had reversed the gap and my 10m lead had become a 10m deficit. I gradually closed this on the uphill so we started the descent together once again.
From most of the chat I had heard beforehand, the right of the re-entrant going up Bells is nicer running than the left, so it pays to cut off the path early to make your way across to that side. I started to look for a way across but Andy was still heading down the path. I went for it, praying that I wouldn't regret it. I found some nice lines down the hill and a nice trod up the other side and came out at the same time as Andy who had gone on the path the whole way.
In my head I was home dry now. I knew it was fast running from Bells to the finish and with noone in sight behind, Andy and I would be first and second. I had worked hard but still had matches to burn. Nearing the top of Bells, I started to get a bit of a gap. This is it. Close enough to the finish to press on.
All thoughts of saving my legs were gone now and I focused on getting over and down off each hill as they came. I asked the spectators what the gap was over Capelaw and was met with 'not a lot'. I risked a glance back going up Allemuir and it seemed big enough. At this point I looked at my watch and saw that I was on about 2.05. I remembered Murray's record write up where he had reached the top of Allemuir with 15 minutes to get to the finish to break the old record - 2.22. As I got to the top I was pretty much level with that. Could this be on?
I pushed the run across to Caerketton as hard as I could, whilst trying to do the maths in my head. It could be on, but it would be close. I flung myself down the hill in the hope that my maths was correct and when I got to the finish line I had just snuck under. Nice. Andy came in not long after to set the third fastest time ever.
It was a really nice race, good running all the way. The conditions we got were pretty much ideal and it was good to have Andy to race the whole way. I didn't think about the record for most of the way and after a relaxed first half felt good on the second - this is almost certainly the best way to run it. The way my legs were feeling after, I have no idea how Murray did this, the 6 stage and then went on to race again in the afternoon.
Splits in the comment
Testing the waters up Turnhouse