19 October 2010

Dallam have fun in Fife

A report from John Leech on the FRA Relay weekend.

With Dowy damaged (but mending nicely) Steve took over running this year’s team for the FRA Relay being held up in Falkland, Scotland. Only one Dallam team this time, but the extra travel meant a ridiculously early start, or a more civilized additional day in order to make the most of the journey.

An early meet in Milnthorpe on Saturday (why has the school got two car parks?) and away we went, heading for Ardvorlich part way along the Southern side of Loch Earn. A portable DVD kept the kids happy in the back seats watching a Baz production of Uncle Stuart’s BG. Once the film ended Ray started to kick up and told us he’d increase VAT to 130% if he was made dictator. Ah, just when I thought my favourite tax couldn’t get better - though he had no plans for curbing eastern imports.

Steve had our well being at heart, two minor Munros for us to scale on Saturday, a mere 4,000ft(ish) in final preparation for the relay on Sunday. We were treated to some fabulous weather, sunny and not a breath of wind, the hillside being surprisingly dry with the only water being rivers of sweat pouring out of us. The top of Ben Vorlich gave a superb panoramic view of most of Scotland - an ideal backdrop for our lunch break. Ray could hear cows in the distance... until Stuart suggested they were more likely deer. He then went into sensory overdrive to locate them. The other surprise spotting was our Doctor from Grange, what’s the odds of that?

From Ben Vorlich a short dip then up an entertaining scramble to Stuc a Chroin, the views now being broken by mist. We then descended to an easy contour path back round Ben Vorlich and dropped down to the main path to the cars. With all that sweating we needed to stop at the earliest opportunity to restock on salts accompanied by protein rich fish and a dash of vinegar, washed down with a pint of complex carbs.

Stirling Youth Hostel for the night. ‘The top quality 4 star hostel is only a few minutes from the castle. Built behind the facade of a historic church next to the Old Town Jail, it offers superb en-suite rooms modern facilities and a friendly international atmosphere’ the noo. Copied from their website. The night was yet young, and there was still a need for more carbs, rounded off with Adam’s introduction to the Kebab. We enjoyed the evening in Stirling. An odd crowd in the first pub, but everywhere we went people were coming up to chat, a very friendly atmosphere and a live band in the last pub. While in there Steve, Stuart and myself were wearing this years bright Three Old County Tops tee-shirts. It struck me afterwards that locals may have thought were were an aging music trio.

Not the best night’s sleep, I felt too much like a chicken on a spit. Roasting hot and constantly turning, but a better night’s rest than earlier this year kipping in Steve’s car with Adam and Mike McKenna while awaiting Mick’s arrival in Wasdale! We left at sunrise arriving at a well organised race HQ on the cricket field in Falkland. Despite a bright start to the day the breeze was up and visibility deteriorating.

Ray and Stuart kicked off leg one. Just over 10 miles 3280 ft ascent. This involved topping the main summit, dropping very steeply off, a run up another bit of a hill and down, then steep back up the main top again. They returned to HQ in 76th position, slightly later than we had all calculated, but turns out Ray wasn’t his usual self on the ups. Maybe the tweeds had weighed him down more than expected on Saturday’s prelim?

Adam had a good run and was our top performer on the day, he came home in 71st position for his leg, the results I’ve found don’t have the usual info about places gained/lost. 5.1 miles, 1550ft. He bounced into the field, handing over to me and Steve for the nav leg.

First checkpoint was the gentle introduction, a huge monument at the top of a forest trail. We then headed off the tracks and into the tussocks to pick up the 2nd point before following a wall line leading to the main climb. Steve had noted a possible path alternative, but the wall line looked good... for starters. It deteriorated badly further on and I found it hard going, though would have preferred more of the same rather than a slog through heather towards the end! However, we didn’t appear to lose any places to the main summit. After a tortuous descent with a 180° turn and straight back up the same hill we picked up a good path for a fast gentle descent to the final checkpoint. We slowly reeled in two teams before branching off to pick up the last dib - but the terrain was playing tricks with us. My nav circuit had long since shut down reserving all mental power to instruct which leg to move next (I’m not sure it ever switched on) everywhere looking the same. Steve pointed out we were one lump further over than expected. Suddenly a number of teams were all converged on the final point started the mad dash down the hill for home. The race HQ was clearly visible, still a long way to go, but several teams all pushing each other, one of the most exhilarating finishes I can remember for some time. We managed 74th place for our leg before handing over to Martin Benson for Leg 4.

This was a repeat of Adam’s leg so we had a reasonable idea of how long he’d be. Ray had taken the camera for a walk along the route so managed to get a few shots of Martin flying up on the hillside. 80th place on his leg, so we ended up just being pipped for the overall first place by 77 other teams.

107 teams started, 3 dnf.

After a brief freshen up we hit the road. A bit of research before hand would have seen us on the motorway all the way home, but instead they listened to me and we took a more scenic alternative which theoretically cut a corner through some of the border towns. Well, I did say my nav circuit had shut down, but look on the bright side, the chips we had at Bigger we infinitely better than the ones the previous day - I even suspect they were made from potatoes. Ray and Adam continued on their quest to out-eat each other, though I’d say it was too close to call.

Thanks to Dowy for starting up the process, Steve for taking over, plus Adam, Martin, Ray and Stuart for making such an enjoyable weekend.

I’ve uploaded some photos to flickr: