Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Pete and Alan do Stuc

Stuc A Chroin 5000 was a race I ran last year and had, as a consequence of the brutality involved, decided not to do it again. However, at some point (possibly a moment of madness) late last year, I thought I would run all long classics in 2017. So I signed up again for Stuc A Chroin.

The plan was a good one - until I missed the entry cut-off for Jura (one of the 8 other long classics). Having tried again recently to get in to a ‘withdrawal place’ and been unsuccessful – I wasn’t too mithered about the Stuc run.

But…Pete H had signed up and asked if I was going. I wasn’t…. until the Friday night before. This was due to a number of reasons including upcoming runs, a dented knee gained the week before, from a fall at the end of a 22 mile off-road run, dread at the thought of running/clawing my way up 5000 feet (not to mention the downward 5000!) and, very importantly, my new off-roadies were still in the post.

Saturday morning and the sun is shining. Pete’s car is loaded and we are off to Strathyre. 

We stop for cake and caffeine and are in the town with a good hour and a half to spare. There is glen to glen sunshine but kit check insists on full body cover and gloves and a hat.

This year’s run is a UK Championship counter and the town is full of vests from all over the UK. Pete and I park and grab a pre run cuppa and watch as the nation’s hill running talent passes by. Pete’s goal for the day is to reach the summit in 2 hours 15mins. Mine is to finish in a time with a ‘3’ at the start. Last year, I had a ‘4’ at the start. Nothing against ‘4s’ – just feel I deserve a ‘3’ on my second visit.

The 1.00 p.m. start nears and we make our way to the starting area. We decide to begin at the back of the pack – work our way through…ahem!. Some brief instructions are uttered and the hooter sounds. A cleated clan of 359 attempt to negotiate the single track that runs up through Strathyre Forest. With the large number of runners, there are numerous bottlenecks – and opportunities to catch a breath – before some mushy traipsing to the steep corner at Tom na Moine. This is followed by a deceptive 350ft climb by Meall Mor. Around this point, I pass an ‘older’ runner. It turns out to be Hill Running Legend Wendy Dodds (she has completed the 3 Peaks Race 33 times!) – she returns 12 minutes before me. Respect.
Both have in-cheek Jelly Babies - I reckon she has two. (Courtesy Matt Curry)

From this side of Glen Ample, it is a 650ft drop to the valley floor with a 1400ft climb on the other side to the top of Beinn Each. This is hard work! The downhill drains and the uphill siphons fluid from within. Fortunately, there are numerous marshals with water nearby. I take a few sips from each as I pass them. Nearing the top of Beinn Each, something seems wrong and I find myself travelling with an unhappy stomach – verging on nausea - from then, until getting back to the car park as things worked out. I can still run but breaths become shallower.

Picture above shows the Stuc 975 m (3,199 ft) – small pimple in the middle of two rounder hills on the left. The steep climb to the summit not visible from this angle. Clambering runners can be seen in a line above the forest to the right. (Courtesy Matt Curry)

Close up of crag on top right of pic above. 4km to the Stuc from here and 11km from there back to the finish! (Courtesy Matt Curry)

The route and profile

The run along the ridge is a challenge and there are ample opportunities to ‘come a cropper’. Much of it is rock hopping and falling would certainly result in a trip to the nurse's office. Around 9K, there is a tough slog to the top of the Stuc – a quick view check from the cairn and it is 360 degrees of king-sized dramatic scenery- Fantastic…..and now down again.

I wasn’t sure, until the descent, if Pete was in front or behind. However, as I head down, we exchange words and he sounds ‘uncomfortable’ as he heads up to the peak.

Descending feels good for a change, but after another 2km of jumping and climbing rocks, my thighs become strained and I find myself starting to deal with cramp. I quickly ingest a gel and some fudge. It seems, eventually, to help. I am soon on the traverse that leads to the track at the bottom of the final ascent out of Glen Ample. A quick top up on water and off for the dreaded final climb.

It is an arduous, knee-pumping, mind-over-matter, thigh flog (though not as bad as last year) to get to the top. I feel better knowing that it is mostly downhill from here. There is some rough terrain to cover and I tuck in behind a Cheshire Hill Runner, who is not grinning, but struggling along. I follow him ‘off piste’ but after some back-tracking, we find the path again.

Here, it’s a fine line between pushing on and invoking crampy spasms in the hamstrings so I pick a steady plod. On the final homeward stretch, one of the swampy-moss, forest-carpet monsters steals a shoe and after a soggy rummage, I am reunited and off again. I am at the point where I just need to finish as the nausea I have been carrying around is getting very unpleasant. The finish line appears and I am soon over. Relief! I find somewhere shaded to lie down and wait on Pete coming in.

He’s not far behind. We have a brief post run chat and make our way to the car. Cramp arrives in spades – inner thighs and abdomen at the same time. Not pleasant! 

And this is what we do for enjoyment!

Pete must have been close to his 2.15 to the peak target and I managed a time with a ‘3’ at the beginning (even managing to take 25 minutes off my previous time!) So job done!

Not sure what caused the nausea (heat/dodgy coffee/T/Water/sheer effort) but Pete had a similar experience and had to take a few moments on the way up the final climb.

Finlay Wild was 11 seconds of beating the existing record. Phenomenal running! 

A record 359 started. 16 didn’t finish – evidence that this is a beast! (I heard chat at the end, putting this run in the top 5 or 6 toughest runs out there. Another saying that, even though shorter, they found this harder than The Two Breweries)

Alan -  3.53.17

Pete - 4.02.48

The trip home was quite ‘eventful’ too – but that's a story for a 'first Tuesday pint'.

Full Results here :

Fortunately, the day went from pain to pleasure. The new off-roadies arrived while I was away! Mmmmm…..Shoes…

For info:

Meall Mor – Great, bare, lumpy, rounded hill
Tom Na Moine – Small, rounded, mossy/boggy hillock
Stuc a Chroin - Peak of harm or danger ( I would agree with that!)

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