David said : I did the inaugural Devilla Forest 15k two years ago but missed out last year due to snowy/hazardous driving conditions so I was keen to do it again. Since the Carnethy 5 the previous weekend I’d been suffering from the cold and an ongoing Achilles problem so I didn’t get much preparation.
I was awakened in the early hours of the morning to the sound of slates sliding off my roof and smashing on the ground due to the high winds. It sounded ominous but at least I wasn’t running up the Pentlands this time! I arrived at Tulliallan Police College with plenty time to spare so after I collected my number, timing chip and bottle of beer I sat in the car while the rain lashed down. I left it as long as possible before getting out to make my way to the start.
I had a very quick warm-up before lining up to start. I didn’t have to wait long and then we were off. The first 200-300 metres is on a tarmac road and then we were into the forest and onto a nice muddy path. It was quite crowded with people dodging left and right trying to avoid the worst of the mud and big puddles but I decided to just plough on through. I wasn’t expecting to finish with clean trainers so I thought I might as well get on with it. I soon realised I should maybe have worn a t-shirt under my ERN vest instead of a thermal top as it was milder than I thought and I had to take off my gloves and roll up my sleeves. Being in the forest we were reasonably well sheltered from the wind and the rain was just a fine drizzle.
There was a shortish section were the trail narrowed to single file so for the most part it was a case of just going along at the speed of the person in front unless the opportunity (i.e they got slipped or got stuck in the mud) to nip past presented itself. I knew that first water station was meant to be at 7k so I was surprised when it appeared so quickly and I looked at my watch to find we had barely done 5k. I just assumed that they had re-located in a different place for some reason.
We carried on through the forest on rough, muddy, single track road before dropping down to the side of a loch where we were exposed to the wind and driving rain. This section probably only lasted about 5 minutes but now I was glad of my thermal top and put my gloves back on. Once we got to the other side of the loch it was more sheltered again and passed the 10k sign. I was expecting the second water station at 12k so knew it wouldn’t be long. As I approached the water station I looked at my watch and it was showing less than 10k. This time I just assumed that my watch was playing up, as it sometimes does.
The road on the last section was quite rocky underfoot and I had already noticed a growing pain on the underside of my left foot just behind my toes. The rocks weren’t helping and the pain was getting worse but I just tried to blank it out and keep pushing hard for the finish as I was determined to beat my time from two years ago. We emerged out of the forest and back onto the tarmac for last 200-300 metres. I was feeling pretty tired but I still managed to put in a sprint finish and passed 4 or 5 other runners (always a nice feeling!).
As soon as I crossed the line and stopped I started hobbling about as it felt like the underside of my foot was on fire. (When I got back to the car I discovered a nasty blister was to blame – not good with more races in 3 and 7 days time!) As I was collecting my bottle of water and mars bar I heard a couple of people discussing how the route was shorter than it was meant to be and suddenly it all made sense. No wonder I felt like it was all over quite quickly!
I’ve since discovered that someone apparently sabotaged the course and put tape over the path we were meant to take. Whoever it was I’m sure they thought it was hilarious at the time and felt very proud of themselves. I was pretty disappointed that all my hard effort to beat my time from two years ago was in vain but I think I was on target to be faster (that’s what I’m telling myself anyway!) and despite the blistered foot my Achilles didn’t bother me at all while running so there were some positives. Although it was shorter than advertised I still enjoyed the race even more than last time, maybe because of all the mud and I’ll definitely be back to do it again in the future….. after all I still have to beat my time from two years ago!