That was my Meall a’ Bhuachaille count before Saturday, the product of a year living a mile from the summit. Easy runs, hill reps, heather bashes, snow plods, once, twice, three times a day, I’d even raced up it a couple of times. Yet I had never done the Proper, Actual, Though Not Necessarily Better Meall a’ Bhuachaille Hill Race.
Setting out from Badaguish, I got more and more depressed as people floated by on the first few kilometres of runnable fire road, easing along while I drew squares with my clunky Meccano legs. Hope returned once we joined the tourist path from Glenmore and started heading uphill, passing perplexed walkers and rocks I know so well that we’re on first name terms.
To absolutely no one’s surprise, Finlay Wild was first heading down from the summit. I imagine for most it became a race for second as soon as they saw him floating around the car park. How can you hope to compete with a guy who has his own Wikipedia page?
Round the cairn (honk) in 6th or so and back down to the bealach, trying to be polite enough to encourage those still climbing while remaining mindful of where I was putting my feet. It would be poor form send half the field back down the hill on their arses, regardless of how supportive you were while doing it.
Moving into 4th as we bottomed out at the bealach, I near enough convinced myself the race was over. I have a peculiar, and probably not all that helpful mentality when it comes to racing; I’m convinced I haven’t a hope of catching the people I can see in front of me, yet once I pass someone I assume it’s a done deal that I won’t see them again.
By this stage the first part was probably true; Graham Bee’s half marathon leg speed and Tim Gomersall’s long flowing locks weren’t disappearing into the distance, they were already distant. The latter part less so, as I could hear, and I’m sure occasionally feel Dan Whitehead’s breath for most of the climb up Creagan Gorm.
The descent from there is one of those where all the rocks are pointing the wrong way, and I added my own voice to the gentle chorus of ohmyfuckingankles which surely wafted around the hills for most of the afternoon.
Winter to Do List: fix that Left Ankle Thing.
Wincing, hurpling and quietly swearing I made my way to Craiggowrie, almost missing the top entirely (honk) as the path skirts round. In fact, that may have been my first trip to the summit.
I usually enjoy the fast, peaty, slightly wild descent to the woods, but with the menacing presence of Alec Keith only one pratfall behind me, things were a little more fraught than I would have liked. The couple standing at the top of the single track provided equal parts support and fear.
Well done, you’re running well . . . he said . . . aye, but he’s affy close behind ye . . . she added.
Getting back on the fire road it was a case of run hard and hope. Momentary consideration was given to the notion of trying to catch Graham, at this stage maybe only 60 metres ahead, then I came to my senses and he vanished from view, seemingly instantaneously. A mountain biker just outside Badaguish reassured me there was no one too close behind . . .but keep going! The Meccano was creaking, apparently it showed.
Winter to Do List: get better at running.
I’m glad Alec didn’t catch me. In a way I’m also glad I didn’t catch Graham. On this same weekend the last two years I’ve been 4th at the Mourne Skyline. I’ve never really like change and another Beaventh place had a reassuringly familiar feel to it.
A fortnight off after Glencoe, nothing resembling speed work for several months, and five or six hours running in the two days before the race meant I was never going to be particularly sharp on Saturday. Still, there’d be no shame in being beaten by Finlay, Tim and Graham even if I was fit, fresh and full of beans. It would be nice to have a less stressful run to the finish though. Alec is a far more intimidating presence than any vet50 has the right to be.
Many thanks to the organisers and all the volunteers for putting the race on, my 151st ish trip up Meall a’ Bhuachaille was a cracker.
Transient Glory: by virtue of living very close to the race I plugged my watch in before Finlay or Graham, so for two marvellous days I got to hold the Strava CR for the HHR – Meall a` Bhuachaille Hill Race segment. I wish I’d take a screen shot, I’m down to third now and I didn’t show my mum.