I guess running ultras is a bit like getting tattoos. Once you’ve survived the pain of your first one, you can’t wait to do it all over again! So it was that I found myself at the start line of the Glen Ogle 33, just over 6 months on from my first ultra, the John Muir Way 50k.
The Glen Ogle 33 is exactly that, about 33(ish) miles from Killin, up and over Glen Ogle, down into Lochearnhead, a loop round Strathyre, then back to Killin again. Part of the BAM Racing series, it’s not an overly technical route, mostly forest trails, cycle paths and a fair bit of tarmac… a wee bit too much tarmac actually! Thanks to some advice from Gilly, who’d run it the year previously, I packed my road shoes and left my beloved trail shoes at home. I also had the newly added stress of drop bags to contend with, faffing about over what to put into which one without really knowing how I was going to be feeling at each checkpoint. There are 4 all in all, but I only took bags for three of them as I reckoned I wouldn’t be needing anything by the first one at mile 6. Dropping mine off at the hall the night before I was astonished at the size of some of them! I’d heard that ultra running is a bit like a mobile picnic and it looks like that’s true! I left mine there, slightly worried that I hadn’t put enough in them…
There were a record number of nutters, er runners, signed up this year. Of about 450 sign ups, 349 made it over the finish line on the day. This is a great race to pop your ultra cherry on as it’s easy to follow, spectacularly well marshalled and has some spectacular scenery, which helpfully takes your mind off the pain. There were quite a few newbies there, along with seasoned ultra runners, enjoying one of the last races of the year. The sun was out too, although it was pretty cold at about 4 degrees C. After a quick briefing by “Mike of BAM” (Adams), we were off up Main Street and out of Killin, passing the beautiful Falls of Dochart on the way.
The first part of the route climbs up through forest tracks to the top of Glen Ogle, where you cross the road and head off down towards Loch Earn along the old railway viaduct. The views on this stretch were spectacular. Autumn colours made them even more so. Glancing at my watch I realised the views had been distracting me a bit too much and I’d been running way too fast the last few miles. A nasty bit of twisty downhill at the end of the viaduct slowed me down and I told myself to take it easy from now on. I knew there was no chance I’d repeat my accidental success at the John Muir ultra, as there were many strong and seasoned ultra ladies out on the course. I told myself this was my race and to enjoy it without putting any pressure on. To ensure I kept my energy steady I forced myself to eat from an hour in, then every 3 miles after. The marshals at the checkpoints were fab and offered to help you refill water, get stuff out of your bags and even unwrap your goodies. Bless them all for doing that with a smile whilst standing about in the freezing cold for hours on end.
After passing by Balquidder the route moves onto the road and loops round the wee country lanes leading to Strathyre, past the church where Rob Roy is buried. It was at this point though that the tarmac started to wear me down, and I started to feel pretty tired. I’d reached half marathon point at about 1:45 so knew I had to slow down a bit more if I had any chance of finishing without burning myself out. Just when I needed cheering up, I crossed the road at Strathyre with the help of a marshal in a blue saltire morph suit with a lollipop with “MTFU” (man the f•ck up) written on it. Top class.
By mile 23 cramp had set in so I scoffed a bag of salted cashews (thanks again to Gilly for recommending I take something savoury) and felt instantly better. Off I bounded before realising a few minutes later that I’d accidentally bumped my Garmin when faffing about with my bladder pack and it had stopped recording the race. I had Strava on my phone in my backpack though, but for now couldn’t see how far I was along the route so just relaxed and went with it.
On the return up the viaduct there were quite a few folk suffering with cramp. As I passed I asked if they were ok, did they have water, etc. Most just wanted to walk for a bit to ease it off so I pressed on. Back at about mile 20 I’d been doing the same when I got chatting to a guy from Aberdeen, who’d done the race a few times before. He walked with me for a while, telling me how he wished he’d gone to bed earlier, as he and his running buddies were in the pub till late the night before. That’s what I love about ultra runners, they don’t take things, or themselves too seriously!
I made it to the top of Glen Ogle and through the last checkpoint, where I only took a bit of Kendal mint cake out of my drop bag. I’d eaten half of what I’d packed so needn’t have worried after all. There were about 6 miles to go from here, and mostly downhill, so I put some effort in again and ran down towards Killin with a big smile on my face. Yes, I was hurting, but mostly my arms for some reason. I looked at the time and thought I could still make it within 5 hours, which is what I’d hoped for. When I started to pass groups of walkers with dogs I knew I must be close, and before long I was running back along Main Street towards the finish. Mark and my brother-in-law Chris were in the field waiting for me, camera at the ready. They’d been off up some Munros while I was running, so was impressed they’d made it down in time to see me finish. I even managed a sprint finish across the line and finished strong in 4:50:47.
After a shower, a pint in the Falls of Dochart Inn and the biggest portion of fish and chips known to humanity, it was time for the ceilidh. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to walk let alone dance, but runner after runner slowly hobbled into the McLaren hall, where the splendid ‘Reely Jiggered’ were providing the night’s music. There was also a raffle and spot prizes including one for ‘the shortest shorts and the whitest legs’. It was a cracking night, and by the end of it we were all up dancing, sore legs or not. Well, that’s one way to cool down after an ultra marathon! Bit of a sore heid the next day though!
Thank you BAM Racing, for a fantastic event. I’ll be back 🙂
Jan Dawson 04:50:47
Position 48 / 10th female