Monday, 9 February 2015

Devilla Forest 15 Km Trail Race

I've been told that my report on last years race could be interpreted as less than positive, so straight out the blocks I'll put on record THIS IS A GREAT RACE!

Thanks to a combination of great venue and route, seamless organisation, chip timing, lovely weather and a bottle of beer as a memento, I can't actually think of anything negative about the full marks to Carnegie Harriers, go straight to the top of the class.

I had hoped by harping on to Dumfries Harriers that we might get a decent crowd up for the race, but I ended up as a team of one. Yes only one person sporting our distinctive "where's Wally" club colours.

The venue is the Scottish Police HQ at Tulliallan, central, easy to get to with bags of parking, huge hall for registration (no queues) and its own proper coffee shop for my pre-race Caramel Latte and proper showers to get cleaned up afterwards.

This is one of the growing number of races that seem to sell out extremely quickly, in most part because its a good race, but also the recurring and apparently increasingly common Facebook frenzy phenomenon.."if your not hanging over EntryCentral on the day it opens you wont get in".

Anyway, enough rambling as Burns said "To our tale...."

The race starts in front of Tulliallan Castle, with the first 400 metres on a wide tarmac road to allow the field of over 500 starters to thin out, before progressing into the forest itself. I'd made the mistake last year of starting too far back. So this year I positioned myself about 1/3rd of the way back, not too optimistic but minimizing the danger of being caught up with the racing snakes.

The early parts of the route are on wide trails rather than forest roads so they aren't quite wide enough to allow easy overtaking, I had the bad luck to get stuck behind a chap in a red top who couldn't make his mind up if he was running in the middle or right of the trail. I persevered with his zig-zag style until his failed attempt at a snot rocket narrowly missed me and I surged past him.

The route is mainly on well maintained forest roads apart from one narrow section around mile 2 and the Western loop around Peppermill Dam, so after passing Mr Snot overtaking did not present any further problems.
The route

My tactic was to focus on a particular runner up ahead until I passed them, then pick another target. I didn't have a particular time in mind, but was steadily passing other runners and was aware that all the miles alerts on my Garmin were nearer 7 minutes than 8. I was feeling pretty good and relaxed and indulged in a bit of gamesmanship by chatting to other runners and saying thanks to all the course marshals, in  my head if I pass someone who is gasping for breath on an uphill and make a nice cheery comment, they're unlikely to be passing me anytime soon, hey it is a race after all!

Where's Wally top
The very muddy section round Peppermill Dam (the larger of the two lakes on the map) was still frozen solid, so disappointingly avoided a mud fest. Back past the water station, where the route crosses itself above  and we're on the last leg. A quick skirt round Moor Loch and the route is downhill all the way to the finish, I say downhill, but with 430 ft of climb in total over 15 Km the route isn't especially hilly. There is a handy day-glow sign announcing 1 Km to go..pick up the pace, I can sense someone on my shoulder, I can hear his panting. A couple of leisurely greetings to spectators "thanks for coming out", "lovely day isn't it" and I can feel I'm pulling away from him. 
One last sharp left turn and its back onto the road and I really let go, no-one now close enough for me to pass, but I'm damned if anyone is going to pass me.
Over the line 1:08:28 109th place out of 506 finishers, average pace of 7:17 (by my Garmin), 20 seconds per mile quicker that last years shortened route, I'll take that thank-you very much. 

Before heading for a quick shower I chatted to Keziah (who'd got 4th lady) and Craig from Harmeny, who in addition to racing, were planning a 20 mile run to Linlithgow via the Kelpies and were both looking fresh.

I'm really happy with my run, I did 8 miles the day before on icy trails, I was faster than last year and I felt absolutely fine afterwards, so another successful marker passed on the route to the Malta marathon in 2 weeks. 

I know its not much of a race report, but you'd lose the will to live if I gave you the full blow by blow account. But hopefully still enough to give you a flavour of this event, you never know....if you're quick enough next year you might even get an entry.



  1. Great to see you Keith (or, "spot" you in a large car-park, you just need the matching hat now so we can play the game properly) and well done on an excellent run - that's a great time! And there were three lochs we ran past - most people don't notice the first one because of the twisty trail at the point. But wasn't it stunning weather and a stunning route?

  2. Don't know why I've never done this one.... Sounds like a splendid and speedy day out for you. X