Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mighty Deerstalker

I ran this event last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was so different to anything I’d ever done. With this in mind, I entered it again way back in September, never thinking that I may get injured in the interim. Well I did. I developed a severe foot problem on Dec 29th. The medics did not diagnose the problem correctly until March 7th, by which time I had pretty much worked it out and had healed enough to start back running. A stress fracture of a metatarsel.
Anyway, I didnt run in January and started back very gently off road on 27th Feb. I ran every day since then, nearly all off road, and felt I could complete this event as there is inevitably a lot of walking due to the nature of the course.
I was lucky enough to have a friend drive me the hour to Traquiar. We arrived just as registration was closing and only had 30 mins before the race started. I felt sure it would start late due to the light night. I was wrong ! I got changed into my running kit and ridiculous check shirt, tie, deerstalker hat and fake moustache. I took ages to get my chip tied on comfortably, had a tiny warm up and we were off. It was a lovely evening, no wind, ideal for running. I set off fairly near the front with the usual lunatics sprinting past me. Soon I settled into my race plan : run how i wanted to. Quickly we were upon our first obstacle, which is a mud splash. I jumped in, sunk up to my knees, hauled myself out and carried on. I was puzzled as to why there were three guys feeling the bottom of the bog ! Guess one had lost a shoe ! Now we started to ascend, rapidly. This stage of the event took us up through a forestry plantation. As it was so steep and narrow, we had to walk. I knew this and without losing position, used it to conserve energy I knew I’d need later.
Once we had reached the peak, which had allowed some running, we started back down. Light was fading and the head torches came on in the woods. Rapid descent, through dense trees, in half light is just such good fun. Remember being 8 years old and just not thinking about the dangers ? No, because you didnt think of them then ! There was a small crowd watching us as we slid out of the woods back onto tarmac, cheering and clapping. Transitioning to running again, rather than slithering and sliding, was quite hard until I got a rhythm going. We crossed the Tweed and then ran along its bank for a bit. We dipped through the river for the first time, knee deep, ran on to the only drinks station. It was at this point that I heard the siren go off, indicating that the first idiot had made it to the top of the scree hill. First thought was “bloody hell”, second thought was “I’m about a mile further on than last year”.
Now came the long water section. We had to wade approx 400 yards up the stream leading into the Tweed. It was knee deep this year, rather than thigh deep as it was last year. Obviously it was slippy as you cant see what you are treading on. I get wet, very wet from the splashing.
The next section is probably the one I find hardest. Cold and soaked we have to start climbing up a fairly steep grassy path. To make it worse, we then ascend steeply again, before traversing the hillside for a while. Again the terrain and the path make this basically walking pace, so I got a breather before the scree hill. I cant really describe this. Its steep. The second half is hands and feet climbing. All I could see was the feet of the person in front of me and the rocks they dislodged. I felt a sense of relief when I hit the grass at the top. I should have known better ! A bloody army cargo net crawl. Bastards :-)
The section is down, down, down. I managed to pick up quite a few places here as I just let myself go and trusted my feet (perhaps not the best idea give said stress fracture ). I did notice a couple I passed here, pass me again on the run in. I could descend faster, but they could run
faster. This stage lead us back into the town briefly. There were some crowds whooping and clapping us along, which was just such a good feeling. I was totally alive at this stage. I seemed to remember from last year that from here it was a long slog home so I tried to settle myself into a rhythm and go home. We have to drop down off the road and go under it in a tunnel. The crowd was cheering everyone on as they jumped into the water. Well I thought, lets jump ! In I went and promptly fell backwards. Soaked up to my neck now, I waded through the tunnel to much laughter and headed for home. The final trail is wooded and quite hard to see where you should be going. Once in the final arena there are a few final obstacles. The pipe/tunnel was fine but the cargo net was so tight it was very tough. I’d taken my headtorch off because I knew I’d lose it in there. Then the last 20 yards had 2, I repeat 2, walls to get over. These were prob 7 foot and totally smooth. Two attempts got me over the first one and fortunately the marshall gave me a leg up over the second one. I crossed the line shattered and elated. I heard my name being called, then the time around 1hour 50 and then finisher 200 was approaching.
I could hardly get my laces undone to remove my chip. Quickly I was so cold I was trembling. I found my friend Fiona, got back to the car, changed with her help. She had to undo my other shoe, pull my socks off etc. I got all the dry clothes on I could find (including her socks !) and slowly warmed up.
I fancied a beer. Well you do dont you ! It turned out that I would have had to pay £10, yes £10, just to get into the beer tent. The beer would probably have cost me another £3-4. I was so pissed off I used the f word to the guy on the door/flap. Not his fault, but really this is awful, profiteering behaviour and has left a bad taste.
That notwithstanding, the Mighty Deerstalker is such a great event. The combination of crawling up rock strewn mountain sides, wading through freezing rivers, mud, trees, having to use a head torch is just immense. I can honestly say I loved every minute of it until I finished and got cold.
I havent seen the results yet, but to please me even more I know I took about 15 mins off last years time, went from position 460/1760 to about 185/2500(starters).
And my foot didnt break ! Do it again? Maybe not tomorrow, but next weekend ? Hell yes !
Another downside? Doubt I’ll enjoy road running as much ever again.

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