Pulpit Rock is a hilly map as can be seen from the fact that it uses 5m contours rather than the 2.5m favoured elsewhere in Woodhill. By the time I had finished a gentle warmup jog from the event centre (and finish area) to the start further up the road I was out of breath already. The blisters I had acquired in May had all healed up, my heels were strapped and I was ready to give my Inov8s another run in the forest.
The first leg was a question of when to leave the track and head into the forest. I used the track junction as a guide and then ran on a compass bearing over the hill, finding the control just where I expected it to be in the re-entrant. From there I began the first of what would be many uphill slogs, finding an animal track that made running easier but led me out onto the road a lot further east (and lower) than I had wanted. From here it was mostly track running to 2 and then a nice jog through open, pleasant forest to 3.
A couple of hilly legs followed and then one mostly following tracks with a deviation around the edge of an extremely swampy clearing thrown in for good measure. The leg from 7 to 8 would be run twice, it was a fast run down the centre of a depression that almost, but not quite, could be considered to have some sort of track present. I hit the fence too low but the control was visible further up the hillside so I climbed up to it. I understand this control was difficult to see when approached from above, presumably a number of people used the track bend as an attack point.
The green stripes present on the map between 8 and 9 indicated the presence of thick, tall cutty grass. This was runnable although slow and, as the name suggests, cutty. I used the track network most of the way. Most of the distance was a gentle uphill and, unfortunately, I felt the first familiar twinge of blistered heels. I also ran the tracks on the leg to Control 10, overrunning it but realising fairly quickly and getting back without drama.
A number of route choices presented themselves for the long leg to Control 11. I chose to run the tracks down to the swampy clearing, this time using the track on the other side of it, jumping puddles as I went. I also used the windy track through the green, which turned out to be a patch of native bush. I kept an eye on the vegetation on either side thinking it may be useful for the later leg from 24 to 25.
After a leg across the forest to 12 the first loop of the race was finished and a long uphill road run followed to Control 13 which was in the same part of the forest as Control 1. My thoughts on first looking at the map had been that Red 1 was a combination of Red 2 followed by Red 3 (or vice versa) but chatting afterwards suggested this wasn't the case. In theory, a route choice to the right of the straight line would have cut out a lot of the climb but I didn't hear of anyone taking it. The relatively flat surface of the road meant that my heels didn't hurt as much but back into the forest the pain from the blisters returned.
The next few controls were variations on the first few controls of the course with the next control of interest being Control 17. This was in an erosion gully in a badly mapped part of the map that contained a number of erosion gullies. I dropped from the track to the lip of the gully and looked both ways; nothing. I made an educated guess, turned left and headed uphill. Soon I could see the track just above me and it was obvious that I had guessed wrong. I returned the way I had come just as Toby ran to the same spot on the gully lip and made the same (uphill) decision. Of course, the mistake cost him a lot less time than it cost me and he was just ahead of me when the control appeared a little further down the gully.
I climbed back out onto the track and track ran through to 18. The forest from here and through 19 and 20 was open and a real pleasure to run through. My concentration lapsed a little as I made some weird decisions about which tracks to follow on the way to 21. Controls 21 and 22 were the same as 7 and 8 and as I had been pleased with my run on that leg the first time I chose the same route again, deliberately hitting the fence low so as to take advantage of the good running lower down in the depression.
I had no technical difficulties with Control 23 but the uphill nature of the leg reduced me to a slow hobble as my blisters made their presence felt. Likewise, on the leg to 24 I took an awful long time on the uphill part and, although my track makes it look as if I had missed the control and had to back track, it was in fact a deliberate decision to circle around to the control rather than descend and ascend either side of a very deep re-entrant.
From here there was another long leg back to the southern part of the map. I really struggled up the hill at the start of the leg but was able to run a little faster once the tracks headed downwards. Again I cut through the native using the track but this time took advantage of some easy running forest to cut off the track rather than follow it westward. I was a little too high and ran past the control but recovered easily enough.
One last uphill hobble to 26 and then it was downhill all the way to the finish. I lost a lot of time on the final loop, finishing probably 15 to 20 minutes later than I would have if my feet had cooperated. Interestingly, my time of just over two hours was good enough to place me in the middle of the field.