Set in the rugged, beautiful Scottish borders is the remote village of Traquair. This mountainous area is quiet, but once a year the fells and forests come alive during the evening as hundreds of lunatics tackle The Mighty Deerstalker. This weekend, I was one of those crazies.
This race involves running, scrambling and a hell of a lot of mud. Throw into that mixture a crazy amount of uphill climbs, some almost uncontrollable downhill running through forests and about 7-8 dips into freezing cold rivers and streams and you have The Mighty Deerstalker. Oh, and you do most of it in the dark. Just for a bit of extra fun!
The race is roughly 15km – 16km, or so I am led to believe from a couple of GPS routes I found online. It is listed as a 10km run but the official story on their website goes on to explain how this was the word of a man who had a few whiskies in him at the time haha. Trust me, this is not a 10km race. My 10km PB is under 38 minutes and this event took me 1 hour and 43 minutes to complete.
I was buzzing before the race, itching to get going and I started right at the front, flying out of the traps like a giddy kid running out into the yard at break time.
As soon as we jumped over the hay bails and hit the first bend, I realised that I was in pole position and I had a decision to make… Do I go hard early on and see if I can stay at the front? Or do I pace myself a little more realistically and drop back ever so slightly? Of course I choose to push on. Aim for the stars! Haha
I estimate that I held position number 1 for roughly 1 mile. I got overtaken by a handful of runners as I entered the first stream and accidentally missed my turning back out of the water! A regular occurrence for me on race day haha. I never regained that position but it felt great to lead the race for a section of it. In the future, I’m determined to finish a race like this as number 1!
The inclines took us up path ways through trails and forests and at one point there was an almighty scramble up a hill face that was covered in loose rocks.
This was a mixture of crazy and epic all in one climb. There were moments where so much of the rockery was giving way underneath me, I was struggling to progress to the summit and it was rather dangerous. All part of the fun though! I did shit myself a couple of times when losing my grip though! 🙂
As I reached the top of this particular climb, I took a moment to look back over the surrounding hills. There was a scattering of hundreds of head torches across all of the surrounding areas, leading down the beast that I’d just conquered and flowing up and down the fells I’d already tackled. It looked pretty amazing. As I gazed at the madness, I do remember using the words…
“We must be off our fucking heads!”
I’m not sure I was laughing in my usual sadistic way when I said it either hahaha.
The waters on this course make it so much tougher. The hills themselves would be tough enough, oh yes… They’ll give you plenty of leg burn! But the rivers add a whole new dimension to everything. In particular one that is somewhere in the middle of this race where I had to drag my freezing pins through what felt like a pretty speedy current considering I was going in the opposite direction! I estimate that I was in that water for roughly 200m but I was bruised, battered and freezing at the time, so you can take that estimation with a pinch of salt 🙂 I was sweating like a trooper during this bit. Bastard river hahaha
This is where I know I do ok in races, coming back down. I reckon it’s probably because I’m a bit of a fool when it comes to taking risks and this brain dead attitude enables me to really let my legs go as I try and find the fine balance between going fast downhill and not smashing my face into the floor below me as it comes hurtling towards me at an alarming rate. This became particularly difficult towards the final section of the race as I couldn’t feel my legs fully due to so many river dips, it was pitch black and the forest floor was steep and slippery in parts. On the final big decline, I was simply zig-zagging and purposefully throwing my body into every other tree just to stop my pace getting out of control.
This is what I do at the weekend for fun…I throw myself at trees, in the dark so I don’t spiral out of control as I fly down hills in forests after losing the feeling in my legs due to scrapping my way through freezing cold rivers. Haha. What a tit.
After this kind of punishment, I deserved a beer. Or two…Well, a few. I also deserved some good live music and a bit of crowd surfing. All of my wishes were granted at the after party 🙂
The party finished at midnight and the group I was with had a few whiskies as we chatted outside our tents. What a great finish to a day that probably stirred every emotion I’m capable of showing.
Unfortunately, there was a terrible tragedy that we were made aware of on the following day.
One lady got into trouble just 1 mile into the race and unfortunately died. I’m not going to go into the details of it but I couldn’t write this report without mentioning it and sending my thoughts and wishes to the poor family and friends of the victim. Life really is precious.