#10: Camperdown

I don’t hate driving. I do find it confusing though how some people love it. The end result of course I can fully appreciate. I can go anywhere I want, at any time. This great country is mine to explore. When adverts talk about the great driving experience though, I have almost no idea what they mean. Are they talking about the big motorways where I can go as fast as 70mph? Or do they mean those tiny single track roads where I spend the entire time with my face on my windscreen in fear of a fellow road user appearing from around that blind bend so I have to slam on the brakes? Maybe they mean those A-roads where although I’m going at about the speed limit for the road, I seem to be causing a frightful delay for that big thing sat right on my bumper.

With that in mind, I chose to drive again this week to Camperdown Park. Camperdown Park is to the north (never, eat, shredded) west of Dundee a good few miles from the centre of town, and crucially the train station. As wifey was also free this weekend, it made sense to take Gruber (our car) along.

“The great thing about running is the simplicity of it. You just put your trainers on and go.”

This statement is sort of partially true. It’s true in that to go out for a run, this is most of what you need to think about. If you do wish to continue with running as a pastime / hobby / obsession though, and you are no longer lucky enough to be in your twenties, you are probably going to need to consider also doing some strength training, Pilates, stretching and maybe even in extreme cases, taking up sw*mming. You’ll definitely need to get yourself a foam roller, and at a point in time you will forget, the pain that these innocuous looking things cause will start to become a good thing. At this point, your journey to the dark side is complete.

I’ve had a pretty OK week with getting back into training again after a stop start sort of year so far. I’ve upped the number of times I’m running each week, but only increased my overall mileage a little bit. Training on Wednesday was one of those sessions where I felt at the time like I really struggled, but afterwards the numbers were alright enough to convince me that it went quite well. Toward the end of the week I felt a bit tired, having gone a bit daft at the start of the week, and my bringing kit to work to give myself ‘the opportunity’ to run at lunch time on Friday instead turned into a passive aggressive guilt trip at myself.

Having consulted with a few club mates about Camperdown, I was informed from a few folks that this was a toughie, and featured more than a little bit of climbing. How bad could it possibly be though, I wondered, after all, I’ve done #1 Drumchapel. The one piece of advice I was given was to make the best of the downhill start.

Is there such a thing as a truly great takeaway? Most people I think would mark any sort of takeaway meal based on the obvious things, such as the taste and possibly the speed at which it is delivered. You might also consider the price, reliability etc. I would like to suggest a couple of additions to the scoring system. We first of all give the meal a score out of ten based on the above criteria. We then deduct a point for every additional 200ml of water it’s necessary to consume before going to bed. Further points are then also deducted for any signs of, ahem, digestive discomfort. As we left the house, I reasoned that the lazy food option I’d scored maybe a 6 the night before was now probably down to a 2.

The drive went without incident, and we arrived into Camperdown Park just after 9am. Camperdown Park is a very large park, and we were near a duck pond. The next job was to find the start line. We saw a few runners going past as we got ourselves ready, so we at least had a vague idea of which direction to head in. Some vague meandering and we saw on the horizon the unmistakeable fluorescent glow of a running event and off we went.

Seconds out and off we go! I’m in amongst the hoard, and since I’ve learnt from the briefing that much of the first mile is downhill, my game plan is to enjoy the downhill, run within myself and then wind it up on the climbs later in the course. The ground is fairly uneven underfoot, but pretty solid. So far. We reach the end of this section of the park and hang a right hander to follow the bottom end of the park. The ground is getting softer, with a bit of mud here and there to keep us interested. At this stage, it’s still fairly easy to avoid and stick to solid ground for the most part. We hang a left and we’re onto a tree lined lane and again we’re going downhill. By the time we come to the end of this lane it occurs to me we have been going downhill for quite a lot of time. We take a right turn and we’re into the trees. At either side of the path there are bushes which are just budding now, making a hazy blurring effect on the wooded pathway. The ground gets softer still, and we now can’t avoid the mud so it’s likely we’re going to start going back uphill again soon. Mile #1 is done in 7.18, and though I could probably have made more of the downhill, I’m feeling pretty good and ready for what’s coming next. I think.

Round to the right and we’ve had all the handouts we’re getting. The ground is firm trail now, and we’re snaking our way up hill. The course shimmies from left to right and back again, with a bridge here and there as we crisscross a stream I can hear. In front of me I see a man who’s moving his arms in such a way as to make me wonder whether he has the theme tune from Monty Python’s Flying Circus stuck in his head. It seems to be working well for him. Throughout this section of the course, the woodland allows me to see only the next 15-20 metres ahead, with always a little more of the climb revealed as I graduate through the last section. This helps me to break down the climb into short sections which I’m able to tackle one by one. We turn to the right and suddenly we’re on tarmac again and onto what I think is a false flat. Another short climb then Camperdown House comes into view and we swing round right to run past it. It’s a hulking great thing, but I’m now focusing on the slope we’re about to go down. Mile #2 finished in 8.22, and although that’s not a great time for a mile it feels like this course is flying past.

The downhill doesn’t last too long and we’re round a left hander and onto a kind of bridle way which is pretty soft under foot. I start to wonder to myself what runners really mean by the word ‘trail’. I figure there’s not exactly a firm definition, which is somewhat appropriate. As we turn left, we start to climb again for home. The gradient isn’t too severe, but I’m struggling for grip as almost every step I take slips from under me. I manage to stay right side up and compliment a lady we go past on her excellent wellies. There are snowdrops everywhere in these woods, and though the effort is tough, I’m genuinely enjoying myself. This is a clear sign that I’ve not tried hard enough. All too quickly we emerge from the woods, and I see the path we started on leading up to the finish line. It’s the first time in a little while I’ve had something solid under foot and I surge my way home. I’m beaming as I cross the line, which the volunteers seem to think is unusual.

As had been suggested to me, this is definitely quite a testing course. Though it is physically demanding, the hills are broken down into bitesize chunks for you by the woods, and the downhills are at the right sort of gradient so that you can really take full advantage  of them. It’s a bit of a beast, but a nice beast.

Scores! 27th place, 23.56

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