As I've said the weather has been great since we arrived on the islands and we haven’t suffered with the wind that battered us a bit last time. Today though, we could actually do with it being a little cooler and as if on prescription, the week of glorious sunshine abates and it’s quite a bit cooler, Just what the doctor ordered both for us running and for the dogs not running, waiting in the car.
However, when we said cooler we didn’t actually mean we wanted a gravity defying Hebridean breeze, otherwise known as gale force eight (approx).
Just what you don't need when you’re about to do the Heb3 Part 3 with a bad back. I blame a dodgy sleeping position in the our ‘green tent of tranquillity’ E.g. sandwiched between two dogs who like half of it, each, rather than L roughing me the wrong ‘shade’. ‘That book’ has sort of dominated our conversation this week.
Our campsite by the beach at Horgabost is at mile two on today's course and several times this week we’ve driven along the other eleven miles, experiencing the experience of the route to Tarbert in advance, only with wheels. It was actually quite exhausting just looking at it from the car. As for running it? Oh my.
This morning we drive up the course again. The tables are out with water bottles and cups on them ready for the race, all weighed down with rocks against the wind. Then after we’ve registered a bus takes us all the way back up the route again to the start at Borve. This race is an A to B, in roughly a straight line, give or take a few hills, into the wind. Nice. Not. Holy cow.
The bus actually stops a mile from the start. Loo stop, on the beach. It's very well organised though. Men to the left, women to the right. Just hope the women weren’t downwind from the men, one’s aim could seriously go amiss in this wind. We both stay on the bus.
Then we travel the rest of the way to the start where we all huddle in some bloke’s driveway sheltering from the wind. No peeing in his hedge allowed, apparently he doesn’t like it.
It’s already quite apparent that today is not going to be a day for fast times. Although at first my pace isn’t too bad, as we run along the beautiful coastline and I hide from the elements in the middle of a bunch of about ten hardened Scots folk. I think this is a good strategy or was, until the group somehow dissipated. I think perhaps some of them got blown into the sea but I can't be sure.
My times were good until the serious hills began after about four miles and from that point onwards I took up a new, previously untried, racing position of being bent double against both the gradient and the horizontal ‘breeze’ from which there isn’t a degree of shelter anywhere. Scenery? What scenery? Nice tarmac. I spend 90% of the race looking downwards. My bad back is going to be even worse after this.
The wind is that strong it half rips my race number from my chest. Using my lightweight race pins to attach it now looks folly, a nail gun might have been more appropriate.
Oh my, this is tough. It would be a hard course on any day but today’s conditions are simply cruel. I look on the bright side, at least it isn’t raining.
If Barra was supposedly like pushing a wardrobe uphill then, holy s***, this was like pushing the entire bedroom suite. Fifty shades of hell.
For a while I battle with my nemesis, the winner of the over 60's category at the other races and likely to do the same again today, with knobs on. I beat him at Benbecula but here, like at Barra, he leaves me floundering in his wake. For some reason my 'inner runner' vows to keep chasing, pushing onwards and upwards or is it downwards? The wind is a great leveller, making everything seem impossible. My 'subconscious' meanwhile is in the pub knocking back its third Red Cuillin and whiskey chaser.
Apparently we have now crested the main peak but the 'mostly' downhill last five miles is not very evident, not with this fierce wind trying to push you back up the hill you’ve just come down.
Tarbet is just around this corner I’m sure or is it this corner? or this one? It’s here somewhere or at least it was yesterday. Finally I see the man trying to hold the finish line up against the prevailing gale and know that it is all nearly at an end.
1:47 is slower than Barra but that wind must have added ‘hours’. The boys and I sit by the finish and await L, watching all the others runners ‘plummeting’ down the final incline like tumbleweed in... well, quicksand.
The post-race buffet isn’t as bountiful as Barra’s but doesn’t need to be and at least they have tea. They also have Heb3 t-shirts, which is what we came for. In black as well, very nice. We also have our medal with its Harris Tweed ribbon, very authentic.
Afterwards in the Isle of Harris Hotel, the Red Cuillin is actually on for the first time this week, only it doesn’t taste like it... Some mean feat to taste off on its first night on. Then we find out that the 8pm ferry to Skye is running an hour late, which actually means we head into the Hebrides Hotel for a meal and a bottle of wine which is very nice. Perhaps gale force winds have a silver lining after all.
(Saturday 7th July)