|Race map and profile (c Scottish Hill Racing)|
Last month Fife AC lost a club stalwart and a friend. Frank Cation was a larger than life character who was instrumental in my, and many others, introduction to hill running. The number of stories of his antics would make a couple of blog postings on their own as there are stories abound of the mischief he got up to, often with the assistance of partner in crime Tom Ross – from trying to put a donkey into a fellow runners tent and when they failed to extract the, by now somewhat nervous, animal from its field they settled for a duck and a chicken. Or the nights in the pub when Frank would disappear and then suddenly reappear, lurching through the assembled crowd with the pubs supply of toilet roll stuffed up the back of his jumper to form a hump, growling “The bells Esmerelda, the bells” much to the amusement of the Fifers and the consternation of other unfortunate pub goers. This also may have been shortly before his false teeth found their way into the bottom of somebodies pint glass only to be noticed a little later by the lucky recipient.
And then there was the running, unexpectedly finding yourself rugby tackled to the ground while running uphill on a training run or swimming in the reservoir mid run on a sunny Sunday morning. Frank was an enthusiastic, hard as nails hill runner of the old school and if somebody was complaining on a training run that it was too hot, too cold, too steep, too far, too muddy etc they would be met with a withering look and the line “does your mummy know you’re here?”
This seems particularly pertinent over the last few weeks where people have been giving each other “kudos” on social media for getting out running in the snow and ice and people actually reporting on social media that they are not going running because its too slippy and “dangerous”. I think I know exactly what Frank’s response would be to that kind of behaviour!
Many races were cancelled in the face of the “Beast from the East” so it was purely down to good fortune that conditions were not so bad that Chapelgill had to be called off and I can only blame an excellent piece of persistent badgering by Jocelyn that saw me drive from Aberdeen to the borders and back in one day to do a race that was less than 2 miles long. I swear that woman could sell ice to eskimos.
Chapelgill was the first counter in the Scottish Hill Runners championship series but there is not much to say about the format of the race. Run up the hill until the summit where the race marshal directs you back down. Simple as that. There was no doubt about it, it was cold. Very cold. The Beast from the East was showing his claws. It was less than zero deg C in the car park so I’ve no idea what the temperature was at the summit that the summit marshalls had to endure but I know it was very windy. At times the weather seemed to clear, if not warm up, then all of a sudden another of flurry of snow would blow through in the relentless wind. Ian and I quickly registered then sat in the car prolonging the inevitable. I know, I know, what would Frank have said?
Eventually there was no choice and we had to extract ourselves from the nice snug interior of the car to go and run. Happily, there was a bit of shelter from the wind in the valley where the race start was located and after warming up I summoned up the courage to remove the second layer of waterproof clothing that I was wearing all the while staring in bemusement at the folk wearing shorts. If the course was steep or slippy in any point and bum-sliding was a requirement then that is going to hurt!There was still a bit of snow lying and the ground was quite hard but not frozen so in that respect conditions were quite good and personally I was happy that there seemed to be no icy cold water to run through at any point. The field of 130 runners set off and I had a good climb staying just behind Michelle Hetherington, slowly losing all feeling in the right side of my face in the strong icy wind as I climbed. I managed to keep all feeling in my fingers though, always a problem for me when running in the winter. On reaching the summit we went round some fairly cold looking race marshalls and then Michelle took off and ran away from me but overall I was pleased with my descent only losing one place within two hundred meters of the finish as my legs became a bit shaky with effort.
|It looks like the weather is clearing...|
|......Oh no its not!|
With people taking slightly different lines of descent it was difficult to know who was in front of me and who was behind me by the time I finished especially as most people were well wrapped up in layers of waterproof gear. Most people scurried off to the warmth of their cars after the race rather than hang around and, as one race marshall commented “race photos? No chance!”