I have been looking forward to writing this blog for months!
With registration opening at 6:30am in Buckie (a 4 hour drive from home) I chose to drive up the night before and found a nice and well priced B&B in nearby Cullen. I had a quiet night and ate well at the Three Kings Inn before getting a good night’s sleep.
I didn’t need my alarm having been awake about every hour and in the end rose at 5:45am to get organised and get some porridge into me and a coffee.
I set off from the B&B about an hour later and got to registration about 7ish where a steady stream of bleary eyed runners were now filing in. One guy crawled out of the back of his van where he had obviously slept for the night.
With registration done and my drop bags for the two checkpoints at Craigellachie (mile 12.5) and Fochabers (mile 24) sorted I waited for the bus. I bumped into a nice guy from Glasgow who had also recently taken up running at the same time as quitting smoking. I was in good company.
On the bus and it was a nice drive to Ballindalloch. I sat alone and just took in the scenery not thinking too much about the race ahead. We were piped in as we got off the bus which was a great touch then had a quick race briefing before mustering at the start line.
I was more organised than I’ve been for any race with my pace per mile, per hour etc all mapped out. I had also organised all of my food and drink into how many calories and carbs I could process each hour. It was measured out into ziplock bags. It seemed like overkill but during the race it made it easy for me to know what I’d had and still needed to have. I stuck pretty closely to both fuel and pace strategy.
The route itself is stunning. Right through whisky country. We passed Tamdhu distillery, Aberlour and many more. Each wee place along the route nicer than the last. The first leg to CP1 at Craigellachie was all trail and a gradual downhill. I breezed through the CP, collecting my bags and keeping moving. Next was a long slow climb on road then trail up Ben Aigan. The height wasn’t an issue but it continued for some 4 or 5 miles which was tough going.
Once at the top I got to make some time up by flying down the other side. I absolutely love downhill running and was knocking off the miles in record time. Coming off the hill we were soon onto a tarmac section which continued for quite a while. Midway through the first section I’d got chatting to a couple of guys in front who were at the same pace as me – a father and son from Lossiemouth Bill and Richie. We had a laugh and kept each other company for a good while.
Bill dropped back and Richie and I continued through to CP2 at Fochabers. We both agreed it would be sensible to stop and take some time to stretch off a bit and re-fuel. Bill caught up and after a few minutes we got underway again. Both Bill and Richie were tightening up by the time we had done a marathon so I cracked on and kept my head down.
The next few miles back on trail were good, I was mentally strong but my hamstrings were tight and I was tiring a bit. I reached more tarmac at Spey Bay, a short stretch and was soon back off road. By this point I was past 30 miles and was quiet chuffed with myself but starting to wonder if I had taken a wrong turn as no one else was around and I was running through small forest track.
I soon saw signs and popped out again into the daylight where I wasn’t far from Portgordon. A marshall said 2.5 miles to go but my watch counted at least another 1 on top! I was aware of someone on my heels and decided with just a couple of miles left I would actually race a bit now, having been very controlled throughout not to do that. I picked up my pace and we played cat and mouse right to the finish.
I crossed the line in 6:45:28. My planning had been for a 7 hour finish, possibly 7.5 depending on fatigue so I was really pleased overall. I stretched out, got some pictures and waited for Richie and his dad who weren’t far behind at 7 hours 15 minutes. We all headed up to the community high school for a cup of tea, sandwich and hot shower.
I then had 4 odd hours to reflect on a great day out on my drive home. Thoroughly enjoyed it, felt pretty good throughout and other than the odd dodgy toenail I am in excellent shape and ready to run later this week. Next up is the Borders Three Peaks Ultra in October, pushing it slightly further to 38 miles this time.