Sunday, 9 March 2014

Not the Devilla Forest 15K Trail Race

I'm not entirely sure how I ended up on the start line for this race, I suspect I fell prey to the Facebook hype of "get your entry in quick or it'll be sold out!". Never the less Sunday 23rd February found me doing just that!
The weather on Saturday night was truly foul, with torrential rain and gale force winds in Dumfries and it didn't abate for the drive up either, on the railway bridge at Nunholm, one rain squall actually blew horizontally across the road, yes horizontal rain and gales ideal trail racing weather.
My geographic fail for the day was deciding that Tulliallan Police College was miles over the Kincardine Bridge, rather than the 3 minute drive it actually is. I must have been about the 3rd car in the car park, arriving well over an hour before the 11am start.
Collecting my race number, chip timer and bottle of Scheihallian beer took all of 5 seconds, surname beginning with A, your name is pretty much always top of the list.
I had time for a leisurely coffee in the onsite Costa Cafe, pin on my number  and decide that I was going to be soft and wear my OMM Kameilka, plus hat and gloves. I bumped in to an old friend from Venture Scout days, Susan Martin, who was running along with her husband David, it was nice to catch up however brief.
My back was still playing up a bit, so I decided that I'd lie down in the corridor to ease it off, so yes I was the weird person lying flay out on the floor near the loos.
The chip timer was of the loop it through your laces variety and since my Speedcross 3 trail shoes are of the speed lace/closed loop variety I headed off 10 minutes before start to grab some cable ties, this was first time out the box for these trainers, having arrived from Amazon only 24 hours previously.
I managed to squeeze in (or out) another two pre-race pees before we were called forward for the race brief, which as usual no one could hear. I'd tried to gauge my start position in the crowd of 500 or so, as about 1/3 of the way from the front, but as soon as we were off it was clear I was too far back. The first 300 yards or so are on tarmac where I overtook as many as I could then it was straight onto  forest roads.

Now a good wide forest road, on a trail race, should be somewhere you can pass people, unless of course you're trying to pass people running as a couple chatting merrily away, or having to dodge people who are trying to avoid the mud and puddles. Its a trail race for Christ's sake, you are going to get wet and muddy, if you don't want to get wet and muddy why did you sign up for a trail race in the first place? OK rant over, that's it off my chest.
I've written before on this blog that I'm always tremendously impressed by fellow bloggers who seem to remember every twist and turn, every runner they pass and every nuance of the course, as usual I can't actually remember much detail of the course. I do however recollect about 2 miles in, taking  left turn off the road onto a very narrow "path" and coming to a complete stop on a couple of occasions due to congestion and thinking "this is a bit narrow early on in a big trial race", virtually nil overtaking opportunities, now remember this point because it'll be important later on!

Whilst the route isn't flat, its probably the closest trail race you'll ever find to flat, there were a couple of slopes, but nothing steep at all!, My poor choice of starting position was confirmed as I was pretty much passing people all the time, which proved tricky on the muddier sections and boy were there a lot of muddy sections. Any concerns I had about wearing brand new shoes, were outweighed by the fact that like a well known brand of industrial adhesive, they "stick like sh*t" to the ground and dropping down half a size seems to have cured the problem with insoles slipping too, result!
Descending a longish muddy slope across a potentially tricky plank bridge at the head of Peppermill Dam, the mud thickened and then it was back onto forest roads. The organizers had thoughtfully sprayed almost every protruding root and rock on the route with dayglo paint, Well done!
We passed a sign stating 10KM and I glanced at my Garmin, 5.3 miles?, I asked a guy I was running next beside, what distance he had "5.3 miles too". Must just be a random sign then. Still overtaking consistently I was picking up my pace, I was running very comfortably, pacing myself for the near 10 mile route, I was slightly surprised to run past a 1KM sign 4 km later, "Naw can't be right", a couple of hundred yards after that a marshal shouts only 600 yards to go. "Naw still cant be right", 200 yards further another marshal "nearly there.... only 400 yards to go!".
Bugger, those signs must be right after all. I turned on the burners and kicked, quickly hitting the tarmac, I had two younger guys wearing BMF t-shirts in my sights. As I blew past them, one guy gave up, the second responded and just pipped me over the line, not that it matters that much on a chip times race, but I have my pride.
Over the timing mat 7.83 miles 59:47, 120th out of 518 finishers  not the Devilla 15km as advertised. Every runner with a Garmin seemed to agree the distance was short but no-one could shed any light on why?
Into the finish gazebo to ditch the timing chip and a ridiculously cheerful lady carelessly wielding a large pair of scissors parted shoe and chip, giving instant visions of speed laces becoming normal ones.
I decided not to hang around but head for the advertised showers while hot water was still on the menu. Grabbing my bag from the car and depositing my magnificently mud caked shoes outside the sports block, I joined fellow runners in the communal shower. I've never seen as much mud in a shower, everyone was caked from ankle to thigh except the poor guy who'd slipped and whose entire right side was caked in mud, resembling some strange Dr Who half man, half mud alien and still smiling all over.

Comic moment of the day were the two guys discussing the fact that they'd run the race 10 minutes quicker than last year, neither with a GPS watch
sorry to burst your bubble guys but it wasn't 15 kilometres.
The only topic was of course the distance, again everyone agreed it was short but no explanation as to why?
Once showered and changed I mooched back to registration, but as 

aka The Mystery of the missing miles

a- nothing was happening and 
Not the Devilla 15 Km
The Correct Route (courtesy of John Kynaston)
b- there didn't seem to be any-one around providing an explanation so I opted to jump in the car and head off.
I appreciate that  as a race report what I've written so far could best be described as "a bit rubbish", short on detail and substance and long on verbiage. But in my defense I always feel the key question on any report is "would you do it again", and in the case of the Devilla Forest race the answer is unquestionably and absolutely yes!
Apart from the obvious lack of distance, do I have any criticism?

As with almost every race,  toilet provision at the start was limited, perhaps a sign pointing out there were additional toilets in the shower block would have helped?

I wore trail shoes, there was a Facebook post in the days leading up to the race suggesting road or trail shoes would be OK, if I'd turned up with road shoes on this basis I'd have been a seriously unhappy bunny. Its definitely and clearly  a trail shoe route.

Its a great route, with a nice mix of road, track and mud and as flat as they come for trail races.

The Mystery of the Missing Miles

After a drive home which included a detour to buy a new pair of road shoes (Mizuno Wave Inspire 10s), I was keen to find out what had happened to the missing miles. As you'll see from my GPS map, compared to John K's from last year, there was a chunk missed out the route, but then we all knew that anyway. How did all 518 finishers go the wrong way?

Had the race been shortened by the organizers due to mud?.... No

Had the lead runners accidentally gone the wrong way?......No

Had the race been sabotaged?.......Well apparently it had, between setting out the course in the morning and the start of the race, someone had stretched barrier tape over the correct route and sprayed arrows pointing off the correct path (remember the left turn after 2 miles, I told you it was important), only some quick thinking by marshals had directed the race leaders back onto the route, salvaging something from what could have quickly become a farce.

There were suggestions that a disgruntled ex Carnegie Harriers member had been responsible. I suspect it will be difficult if not impossible to prove who was responsible, but off all the small minded and stupid things to do, to spoil what is after all only a hobby, this rates pretty highly. I doubt the culprit will read this blog, but if you do, but if you do you are a Fud of the first degree.

Happy Running


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