Glen Ogle 33 Ultra Marathon

Glen Ogle 33 is an Ultra marathon that sets off from the McLaren Hall in Killin. It’s roughly 33 miles in a figure of eight through beautiful forest trails and cycle tracks. There’s a long switchback section in the centre as the route passes far above the A85 and A84 down towards Lochearnhead with great views over to Loch Earn. It then heads down to Balquhider next to Loch Voil, and then onto the ‘Shoogily bridge’ crossing before Strathyre.

The main reason for wanting to run this race was the spectacular railway viaduct which I’ve often looked across to when passing on many a trip up north on the A85. You run across this on the way down and again on the way back, so sounded fantastic. The race is run by BAM Racing who organise the race brilliantly. There’s a pre race briefing and a fantastic group of marshals along the route as you pass various check points. The route is marked really well so there’s no need to worry about navigation. It’s a great race to do for anybody who is thinking of running their first ultra, as it’s about six and a half miles over marathon distance and not too hilly or too flat. There’s a few road crossings but they are well marshalled. I’m very glad I took road shoes as there’s a lot of tarmac on the mountain bike trail sections and the forest tracks were not slippery enough to need trail shoes. The cushioning of the road shoes were greatly appreciated as there was far more tarmac than I had trained for. All my training had been for the Lakes in a Day race three weeks earlier, which is mostly on the mountains and then trails.

Alan Thornburrow offered me a lift early on the morning of the race which was great. We set off at 5:15 which gave us plenty of time to get there on quiet roads at that time of the morning. We were at registration for about 7:00 where we met Gilly. You can register on the evening before the race but if you register on race morning you have to be registered by 7:30. There’s a very informal race briefing in the hall at 7:45. The main information from BAM Racing to runners was how to not be ‘fannies’. We all then headed out to the Main Road where a very loud horn was blasted and that was that. I had my watch all ready for starting at the start line, but there wasn’t one, so just set off down the village streets, then over the bridge next to the famous Falls of Dochart. The forecast was right with it chucking it down with rain all day. This made the falls the most spectacular I’ve seen them as the river was very high.

I was well covered for the elements so didn’t let the rain bother me. There was high winds forecast but with the race being in the glens it wasn’t bad. As we came to the first ascent of the many hilly forest trails I realised my legs were still not recovered from the Lakes in a Day 50 mile Ultra three weeks ago, and the Scafell Pike trek a week later. I still thought though, if I could just push on as best as I could till at least half way it would give me a chance of an okay time, even if I slowed towards the end. Storm Callum had decimated any course times I had in mind for Lakes in a Day, with heavy rain, high winds and flooding. I hoped to still have a proper run today. As I cracked on up the very hilly first 4 miles or so of forest trail I thought I could hear Gilly and Alan talking behind me. I thought if I keep on like this it’ll be great as I’d be pleased with their pace but I didn’t have the breath for too much of a chat on the up hills. It was a shame to be missing the brilliant views on such a rainy misty day but could still see some fantastic scenery here and there.

 

After quite a push to the top of the forest trails we had a really fast downhill section which zig zagged down on hard tarmac. I had a good run down here which was possibly a bad idea as it wasn’t long after my legs were not too pleased about anything steep. By around 11 miles or so I realised I was going to have to make do with just getting through the race as my legs didn’t have too much in them. I was still enjoying the route though and I was really chuffed to be running across the railway viaduct. The views were amazing as I looked over the glen from the opposite side from normal, down towards the road I usually look up at it from. The background hills were very dramatic with numerous waterfalls after all the rain we had had. There was so much, I had to keep holding my mitts upwards to tip the water out of them! Even in this rain it was not too slippery in road shoes. I kept skipping between the gravel sections of the trail to the central grassy area when it wasn’t too slippery, looking to lesson the impact of the hard ground.

I passed a couple of check points before crossing the highly acclaimed ‘Shoogily bridge’. It did wobble, but not quite as much as I was expecting. I was then into the Strathyre checkpoint where you ‘Dib your Dobber’ (putting your timer chip into the devise that records your time). You only have to do this twice. Once here for your split time and then at the end. I had packed my vest backpack to avoid having to stop for a drop bag. I thought the 2 litres in my bladder pack would be fine to get me round, and if not I’d get some more at the last water station. In the front pockets of the vest I had my phone along with 5 jells, 2 Power bars, some peanuts for getting some salt and 5 small Snickers. This worked out great and although my legs were trashed I had enough provisions to keep me going. From here it was just trying to keep moving and not end up walking. I was getting passed by so many runners now, but I was fine as I knew I’d normally do much better. I just hadn’t had enough recovery time after 21 hours 26 minutes running in the quite brutal conditions of Lakes in a Day (Race report up for this too).

I got speaking to a few people on my way which was good as I shuffled along trying to keep my legs going. My left hamstring felt like it was going to twang so I stopped a few times to stretch it and my right one felt really stiff too. The tarmac was making my uncles really battered, but generally I knew I just had to keep going and I’d be fine. It was brilliant to be going back over the viaduct and the views were still great. It was a pity though how we were missing all the autumn colours under so much mist in the rain. I kept on counting down the miles and eventually I was managing a slow jog through Killin on my way to the finish line in the park. The locals were all very supportive and cheered me on as I passed. Earlier a family was passing and their young son gave me a high five. It was funny how much of a splat my saturated mitt made as hands were slapped. Finally I was at the park and the finish line looked so far away, with the route taking me round the full race track. I eventually got there and again ‘dibbed my dobber’.

I walked back to the hall (just a few steps from the park), and met up with Alan and Gilly. We got our photographs taken just on our phones. This was the 1st time they had been out as it was so wet on the course. The medal and T-shirt are a great design, so are a brilliant memento of the race. It was a shame I wasn’t staying for the ceilidh as it was really good a couple of years back when Jan ran the race. I bought some coffee and cake which were great. The profits go to cancer research. Gilly and Alan had had a good race and we had a chat about the various sections before Alan I drove back down the road. I was home for 5:15 which was fantastic, being up and back within 12 hours.

 

Gilly Marshall: 6:01:18
Alan Thornburrow: 6:10:40
Mark Dawson: 6:41:41

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Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra and Relay 2018

The Jedburgh Running Festival attracts Penicuik Harriers every year, including 2018, where Ngeme, Sarah, Chris and Romana (aka the Peni Possums) and Allan, Gillian, Rob and Stuart dressed as Allan (aka the Peni Pinchers) competed in the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultramarathon Relay, while Sadie, Tracy and myself tackled the whole 38 miles.

The registration was very well organised, as were the facilities and the positive and crazy atmosphere the Jedburgh Three Peaks Ultra is famous for, soon started to take over. We runners tried to carefully divide the remaining time until the start between the toilet and the warmth of the radiators. The weather forecast for the race day was sunny, but cold, and in addition to my usual nervousness before big races, questions about the appropriate clothes were buzzing around in my head: Shorts or tights? Gilet or jacket? Everything? Thanks to Rob’s advice, I was confident with my choice of clothes and could start to concentrate on the hours that were lying ahead of me (I’m being sarcastic here).

After a short and rough race briefing, we made our way to the start in joyful anticipation of the “YMCA” warm-up. In my opinion, this should be mandatory before every race, it diminishes the nervousness, puts you in a positive mindset and of course, warms you up. Focusing on my dance moves, the signal to the start was rather surprising and so I spent the first few metres fiddling on my watch. Unlike shorter races, no one tried to frantically overtake other runners or to sprint away (Rob would probably do that though) and we even started to chat with each other. It seemed a bit weird first, but I liked the more relaxed atmosphere. I tried to keep up with Sadie for a while, but shortly after we left Jedburgh I had to let her go (speedy lady!) and settled into what felt like my own pace.

Sadie at her best

The tarmac at the beginning was easy to run on, but I was happy when we finally hit the trails, as running on the fallen leaves on the dry (!!!!) paths was absolutely fantastic and felt like running heaven. The first 10 miles to CP1 at Maxton were everything but boring, what looked quite flat was undulating (I would even say it was uphill most of the time) and we had to conquer wobbly bridges (fun fact: I got my HeartFrequencymax here) and hurdling fallen trees. After Maxton, the route flattened, and we were blessed with a sunny run along the autumnal Tweed and stunning views of the Eildons in the distance (another plus of Ultras: you have enough time to admire the surroundings, probably unless the distance broke you and you just suffer and damn your life). What worried me a bit were the numerous stairs and bridges of this section: although they were a nice distraction at this point, they might be treacherous with tired legs on the way back.

After CP2 at Rhymer’s Stone, where Ultra runner legend Gilly and Ultra runner supporter legend Aldo provided us with food, coke and good vibes, we finally reached the Eildons. I was looking forward to the Eildons section, because I love running on (at? in?) them and thought it would be a nice change for the legs and indeed, the views on this clear day didn’t disappoint and it was a nice break from running. However, the cold wind froze my legs and apparently also my brain. It’s funny, how I had the time to chat with others, eat some food at the CPs and admire the views, but not to put on a god damn jacket (the same happened during the Ochils race, I never learn…). So, I shuffled up (slow!) and down (even slower!!!) the hills with frozen legs, stoically following the runner in front of me as I couldn’t think straight anymore and had no idea where to go. The reward for surviving the arctic Eildons was a piper who greeted us with his music at one of the hillside paths, a true goosebumps moment!

(these nice shots were taken by Eoin Lennon)

The next highlight awaited us at CP3: we were cheered on by the wonderful Ellie and the mad but lovely cow Jan and could satisfy the inner child at the famous playground, while Yan and his crew threw a party in the background. And there was coke!

Our very own mad cow <3

CP3 gave me a boost after the strenuous Eildons section, but the boost disappeared on the short bit of tarmac that followed, my legs didn’t like it at all… Somewhere on the way to the final checkpoint at Maxton, I found my running form and strength again. Although I normally don’t like out and back races, it was nice to hit familiar grounds and to know what is coming. Funnily, the numerous stairs felt easier than in the morning (maybe because I didn’t feel anything anymore?) and the roots and rocks were not as treacherous as expected. Also, it was nice to see relay-runner Chris, who overtook me at this section, and to “buddy up” with Chiara, who I know from other races and far too much shopping, until the end of the race. All these factors together with a very caring volunteer at the last CP4 put me in good spirits and I happily started the climb out of Maxwell, ready to smash my first Ultra on this final and what I thought mainly downhill section. Well, it turned out, I was wrong. Somehow, the climb just went on and on and on. This section must be a “magic” section, as it feels uphill in both directions…

On the final few miles, we met Romana who was giving everything for her team, and Gilly and Aldo were at the last street crossing (thank god with coke again!!!) to direct us to the finish line. A bit of uphill running on the road, a few metres of cross country in the woods, and a never-ending tarmac stretch in Jedburgh, before the cathedral finally appeared and we sprinted (Haha!) on the grassy patch to the finish.

Doing the “extra” mile

I thoroughly enjoyed this race, maybe because the conditions and surroundings were perfect, but definitely because of the friendly and crazy atmosphere between runners, marshals, other volunteers and everyone else who was involved. I’m sure this race will remain a constant in the Penicuik Harriers race calendar, no matter if for Ultra maniacs, fancy dress worshippers or tired-runners support enthusiasts 🙂

Happy Harrier

Ultra results:

Sadie Kemp                     06:37:20               8th F       39th Overall         (PB)

Juliane Friedrich               06:47:06               10th F     48th Overall

Tracy Philp                      07:56:50               35th F     123th Overall

(and this crazy lady also did the half marathon the next day)

Smashing the Dirty Double

 

Relay results:

Peni Pinchers                    05:26:06               2nd Combined   3rd Overall

Peni Possums                   06:50:46               8th Combined    12th Overall

 

Finally, in tradition with my other race reports and as this was my first Ultramarathon, here is what I have learned:

  1. Training on the trails/ hills is so much more fun than training on the road
  2. The biggest challenge is not to eat all the stuff you bought for your drop bags in the week leading to the race
  3. Doing an Ultra involves waking up at stupid o’clock (I think I’m quoting one of the Dawsons here)

 

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Flash Mob Hill Run

This is an evening race up Castllaw Hill in the dark 🙂 Adam and I entered and joined a mixed bag of runners with our headtorches on for the dash up and down. The route is really well marshalled and marked with glowsticks, if you got lost on this then you are a worry.
When I was about 100m off the start of the steep climb along came Adam leading the race by a good bit from the lady in second place. The surface has been improved on this steep section so it meant that you could run back down without thinking you were going to slip on all the loose stones.
I got back about 20mins after Adam who was doing a good job of recruiting the 2nd place runner to Harriers 😀
Adam got a nice Stewart Brewing hoody for winning and all the finishers got a t-shirt and beer.
I’d recommend this race, it’s a bit different and good fun.

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Lakes in a Day Ultra Marathon

I entered Lakes in a Day after watching aerial clips from a previous year on Facebook. The runners were crossing the mountain ridges in brilliant sunshine with outstanding views. I had heard it was bad weather last year and knew that the weather could turn out to be vary changeable in the Lakes just like here. I hadn’t noticed how much elevation was involved in the race though, and realised quite far into the training that I’d have to get far more hill ascents done before the race to avoid a nasty shock on the day. Luckily the Pentlands helped me out there and I hoped I had just done enough to get me through, as the 50 mile course has 4,000 metres ascent (13,100 feet).

Looking at the elevation I knew my time would be affected greatly by the number of hills in the fist 29 miles of the course to Ambleside. The race then changes from a fell run into trails along the lake sides. The organisers offer a shoe change at Ambleside which is a great idea. I had missed quite a bit of training and just hoped to finish within cut off times, but I still was holding out for hopefully finishing by possibly midnight. The race starts at 8:00am from Caldbeck in the very north of the national park. The vast majority of runners stay at the end of the race which is in the very south in Cartmel, and get a race organised buses up to Caldbeck at 5:45am, which took about 1 hour 20 minutes.

 

Any hopes of good weather had long gone as we drove down to the lakes during Storm Callum in lashing rain and high winds. Jan dropped me off at Cartmel Race course where I’d booked camping before the race, and I could also stay another night as I’d be back late from the run. I was soaked by the time I got my tent up. Jan and the kids headed off to the holiday caravan site as we were making a week of our trip down there. I didn’t get much sleep just listening to the lashing rain all night and wondering if I was totally mad to actually even start the race in this? I set my alarm but this wasn’t needed and was up well before it. I had plenty of time to get organised and head up to the buses to Caldbeck.

 
The rain and wind had calmed down a bit by the time the race started at 8:00. There were some great views as we headed up the first set of quite gentle hills, and then down to the river crossing which we had been told there was a rope placed because of the high water levels. This was great as we all crossed and then got further up into the hills. There was then the thought of getting the right route for doing the recommended course which went over the ridge at Blencathra. I wanted to do this and not the diverted version for those who wanted to avoid the ridge. It turned out there was a marshal at the top diverting people to which version they wanted to do. With it being so wet, the rocks were really slippery and my Inov8s slid like I was on ice when I wasn’t careful, so I took it easy on the way down. A guy took a bad tumble right in front of me and was lucky not to hit his head as he went right down over onto the rocks. It had now started raining a lot and I was now drenched but the wind wasn’t too bad at this point. The views were brilliantly moody on this section and I stopped to take a few pictures.

The first feed station is roughly ten miles in at Threlkeld and they had an outstanding amount of great savoury and sweet food as well as coffee and tea. I had a baguette and coffee and then filled up my water for the longest stretch from there to Ambleside. This is over the most hilly section covering Clough Head, The Dodds, Helvellyn, Grisedale Tarn and Fairfield and taking us to 29 miles into the race. This section would be the navigational test. I was very pleased to have done two Munros in really bad weather with my GPS and map as a tester just two weeks beforehand, and was confident now all should be okay. I was still a bit worried about taking a wrong turning and adding miles onto tired legs though. The first section had taken longer than normal with the wet slippery rocks coming down off the ridge. I was a bit worried about slowing down considerably after 30 miles, so I had to keep it going so I could take it easy if needed on the last section without any thoughts of being timed out. I met Sharon Hassan at the feed station who I had ran part of the Ochil Ultra with, so I ran with her and her friend Paul for a while. It was great to chat a while on route. I had to stop so many times to check my GPS against the map as the weather had come in really heavy by now with very high winds and little visibility and I was getting blown over at points. Clough Head was exhausting to get up, really steep! It was great to finally get to the top and again take a bearing to know what direction to head off in next.

There was a part in the route where some runners missed out a peak and headed to the right of the trail. I wasn’t sure if a required peak would be getting missed, so I headed up to do Great Dodd. After looking at the map again I saw they were right and I didn’t need to have done it. I am a bit of a bagger and was pleased to have included it, and it wasn’t that much further to do. It was very misty now and nobody else was in sights, so I took another bearing and was pleased to see I was correctly on route. This went on for ages and I eventually started to descend towards a lochán after getting bashed all over the place by 80 mile an hour winds. At one point I shouted at the brutal weather, “Is that the best you can do!” as I took two steps forward and one step back! My map holder was getting really quickly thrust round and round me, so it was quite tight and restricting my movement, so I regularly was having to untangle myself from it as well as avoiding it battering me in the face!

Most of the hills had been done by now and I had one last push to get up Fairfield, which was a great rocky hill. I realised I had left putting my gloves on till a bit too late as it was quite warm till then. I crouched down to get all the stuff out of my hands, such as GPS and map etc, and get myself sorted out as I was getting quite tired. Three young guys from St Andrews called back to me to see if I was okay. They helped me get my gloves out of my backpack without having to take it off. Sounds like an easy exercise but I get raynauds, so my fingers turn to death claws when they get cold. They were in the race just to finish like myself in these conditions, so I ran with them for the rest of the race. We were delighted to get the last mountain done, but it was starting to get dark and we wanted to get down to Ambleside as quickly as possible. We got our head torches out and headed down the slippery rocks in heavy rain and strong winds. There was a bit of scrambling down over boulders required here, but not too bad.  Unfortunately there was a poor person getting medical aid as we passed. I hoped it wasn’t as bad as it looked, as they had to cover them completely to shield them from the elements. We headed down a trail next to a fence and it was never ending till we saw the street lights of the town. We had trouble locating the feed station from the map we had, but got there after asking some locals. The food was brilliant here at Ambleside with pasta and pizza! We got our change of shoes for the change in terrain to more trail running. I had packed in my back pack a change of top and running tights too which were so good to change into. We had spent a bit of time here, but we headed off now thinking that that’s the tough part done, it’ll be normal trails from here on. We hadn’t taken into consideration the amount of water that was gushing down off the hills and had now flooded most of the trails, as we made our way over and along rivers that had burst their banks and the lakes that were now considerably higher than normal, and were now covering the trail right up to the top of my legs!

 

We were in quite good spirits though as we just treated the race more like an endurance test rather than an actual race. I’ve never ran in anything quite like it. The race however is brilliantly organised and the three feed stations with great food and support kept us going. This last 21 miles is over lowland trails and so was out of the wind now. The rain was still quite heavy but it eased towards the end section. I was wanting to not get totally drenched again as it was getting colder now with it being night time. I was taking care not to trip fully into the lake as my feet hit roots and stones below, which I couldn’t see as my legs were totally submerged. This went on in some sections for some time before going along muddy trails and then back into the lake. As we approached the last feed station at Finsthwaite I was thinking how good this would be if this was the end. Giving up however wasn’t an option, and so we sat down to get some hot soup from the brilliant marshals and I got some cake too. We didn’t hang around here too long but had a good chat with the helpers there. It was very late now but we had hours of cut off time left so were very confidant of finishing fine eventually. The marshal told us that this year’s weather was far worse than last years bad weather. It was windy till mid day last year and then fine without the rain too.

We headed off for the last section, just under 8 miles. There was very little running possible. We were all very knackered at this point and just digging deep to finish. The wind over the hills in the first 29 miles had taken it out of me quite a bit, but I was pleased to have managed the most elevation I’d ever done in one day. There’s not too much I remember about this section other than it was very dark, muddy and slippy and I was thinking night running really isn’t for me. We still were fine though as we talked about other races we had done and wanted to do, as well as places we’d travelled to. With this the eight miles passed and we were eventually coming down off a muddy hill into Cartmel at last! As we approached the finish line we held our hands up together and the four of us went over at the same time. There was a photographer here as well as other various points in the course. These shots were all free to download a few days later. There was a meal token handed to us as well as our medal and I had a fantastic lamb stew. We then picked up our bags in the hall and I headed back to my tent. I had heard the Race Course had since been flooded, so I was very worried on my walk back there, but was pleased to see the area where the tents were, were okay.

Jan and the kids picked me up in the morning and I chucked my sodding tent into the roof box and Jan made me a full English breakfast back at the warm caravan which was fantastic. I had about 5 hours sleep and then went out for a family pub dinner in Cartmel which was brilliant.

A superbly organised race. Just really pleased to have finished, even if it was about five and a half hours later than I was expecting! I took comfort in the fact that I had finished and not got lost like so many had done. Finished at 5:26am, so 2 hours and 34 minutes within cut off time. There were 238 finishers with over a third of runners dropping out with 139 retiring.

Finish time: 21:26:06….. Ooofff!

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Glencoe Marathon Gathering 2018

Mark had run this event in 2016 and had praised it highly, so when Sarah Burthe offered her place to a fellow harrier in the event of her withdrawal due to injury (hope you’re on the mend soon, Sarah) I snapped it up. It’s quite a pricey event, which had put me off in the past – £50-60 to enter, NOT including t-shirt, bus transfers and, most shockingly, food at the finish. There are no prizes or goody bags and all you get for the price is chip-timing, feed stations and a medal generic to all the events at the festival – Glen Nevis 10k, Mamores half marathon and Glencoe marathon. They do say they raise a lot for charity though, so I hope a large chunk of that goes to good causes. Anyway, I donated to a charity of Sarah’s choice in return for her place, so will stop whingeing about price now!

The night before the race, Mark and I checked into the brand-new Garrison Hotel in Fort William High Street. It’s a refurbished former police station, and I had originally booked a double-bunk ‘cell’ room, a budget option for an overnight stay. When I asked if there was a kettle in the room, as I was running the race and wanted to make up a porridge pot before checking out early, they upgraded me free of charge to a double as cell rooms don’t have them! The double room was lovely, modern and cosy and it was a struggle to get out of bed the next day at 5:45 am.

We drove to Ben Nevis visitor centre where the event hub and finish line is, so I could catch the shuttle bus to the start at Red Squirrel Campsite. Mark headed off further up the glen to Polldubh, to run a couple of Munros in training for Lakes in a Day ultra in mid-October. The weather was pretty grim already, having rained heavily overnight. Forecast was for showers and moderate winds, so I put my waterproof on and didn’t take it off until the finish line.

When the bus arrived at the Red Squirrel start line, it became clear what a tough race this was by the queues for the ladies loos! There was pretty much no queue for us and a long line for the gents. Nerves kicked in and I visited the lovely queue-free loos 3 times before the race start. Hot drinks and snacks were available for runners, so I warmed my hands with a cup of coffee. The race went off in waves, a couple of minutes apart. Apparently, we’d received an email to tell us which wave – A, B, C or D – but I hadn’t so made a rough guess that wave B would be about right. I’d set a target of 5 hours, based on my previous race times along that section of the West Highland Way, but the climb out of the Red Squirrel was new territory so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

Wave B set off at 09:02 and we headed up the old military road towards the top of the glen. The first few miles were fairly innocuous, and the narrow track helped keep my pace in check as I stayed in line behind other runners, negotiating slippery wet rocks. About 3 miles in the route became very boggy, exacerbated by recent rain. There were a few trips and falls (myself included, goodbye nice dry gloves) as we trudged our way through mud, bog and wet grass. 4 miles of energy-zapping bog later, I was so glad to see the Devil’s Staircase – hard ground at last! The route joins it about half way up, so no nasty climb after all that bog. Near the top a marshal shouted “You’re 6th lady, well done!” and I did a double-take as loads of runners had passed me on the boggy section. It gave me a boost though, and I really enjoyed the long, steep descent into Kinlochleven. There was a motor bike race going on near the bottom of hill, so we had to keep our wits about us as bikes zipped up as we ran down. Their race was way-marked in similar coloured flags to ours, which caused a bit of head-scratching amongst those not familiar with the WHW route.

Into Kinlochleven and the second aid station, I stopped for some Lucozade and a handful of peanut M&Ms. I didn’t stay long though as I’d passed another female runner on the descent and was excited about the prospect of a top-5 finish. I’d passed half way in 2:15, so was ahead of target even if I ran a slower second half.

The Mamores half marathon had joined us at KLL, setting off at 10:00, so the route was quite busy now. After an initial climb, the drove road towards Lundavra offers a welcome chance to run without too much climbing, and I settled into a comfortable pace. The route was very wet though, so I trudged straight through the streams and puddles as it was pointless trying to stay dry. The sweeping views of the Mamores were glorious, though slightly dampened by the constant showers. It was pretty windy here too – a headwind, of course. I looked up the valley and spotted a runner coming down off one of the hills. I thought either they’d gotten lost, or had gone for a comfort break. As they got closer I recognised the gear they were wearing – it was Mark! By complete coincidence he had descended into the valley just as I was passing. We stopped for a hug and kiss and laughed at how random it was! It was freezing cold though, so we bounded off on our respective routes feeling really cheered up.

I reached Lundavra in around 3:45 with about 6 miles to go and was feeling positive about beating my 5-hour target. I’d passed one more female I was sure was in the marathon, although it was getting hard to tell now the half marathon had joined us. So, I relaxed and enjoyed the next section, which snakes through deer fences and forestry works and finally breaks out above Fort Bill. Ben Nevis was hiding under a hat of thick cloud, but I felt its presence looming as I hit the descent into the glen. The last few miles were fast downhill, and I was surprised my knees were still holding up. I passed quite a few runners here, and before long I could hear the tannoy at the finish line.

Just as I turned onto the path leading down to the final field, I heard a lady shout “Harsh, but I’m going for a sprint finish!” and the legend that is Jeni Rees-Jenkins sped past me. Darn it! I knew she was in the marathon as I’d spotted her at the start. Oh well, if you’re going to get pipped to the post at a finish line, it might as well be by someone like Jeni! I did consider pulling a sprint and passing her in the field, but didn’t want to look like a twat, so I crossed the finish line just behind her in 4:38:23 – well ahead of target. Mark turned up shortly after having run his two Munros, and we paid £5 for a hog roast roll and drank a ‘free’ cup of tea before the long drive home.

A couple of days later I checked the results. There had been some errors to sort out as runners who had swapped to the half marathon from the full had gotten marathon gun time results, and vice versa. Turns out, by chip time, I was actually 3rd lady. Didn’t need that sprint finish after all!

Glencoe marathon is not for the faint-hearted, but it is a fantastic trail race with a bit of cross-country thrown in. If you’d like to race the WHW but aren’t ready for the distance of the Devil o’ the Highlands Footrace (which is a superb race, by the way), this is a good alternative. Just maybe take a packed lunch for the finish line 😉

Results: http://www.kitst.co.uk/glencoe-marathon-2018.html

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Loch Ness Marathon 2018

I have had a pretty duff year so far with several colds and heatstroke at
the Lairig Ghru, so when my wee brother mentioned he was thinking of running
the marathon, I jumped at the chance of a different challenge.
As it was, my brother injured himself dinghy sailing and couldn’t train!
He’s thinking of doing the Coigach Half (Achiltibuie) in three weeks time
instead.

As my road shoes were about 8 years old, I had to dish out loads of cash for
new ones. And then I had to find some tarmac – euch. Actually it wasn’t too
bad and I ran to work and back once and managed a 20-miler 3 weeks before
the event.

The marathon route goes from the high ground between Fort Augustus and
Whitebridge on the south side of Loch Ness and drops down through Foyers to
the Loch, past Dores and into Inverness. The start was at 10am, but because
we had to be bussed to the start, we had to arrive at Inverness Ice Rink at
7am. If you wanted to catch a bus in the Highlands that day you were stuffed,
they were all in Inverness!

We got to the start at 8:45 – which was just as well as the queue for the
portable toilets was 25 minutes! It was quite chilly at the start and I left my
extra clothes on until the last minute. We could see some of Loch Ness a
long way in the distance and it put into perspective the sheer distance
26 miles is! (OK, for you Ultra runners it’s just a short Sunday morning jog)

I found the 3 1/2 hour post and did some loosening-up with my bin bag on
and chatted to Graham from work. Some attempt at a countdown and we were
off! Although there were over 4000 runners entered, this is a relatively small
marathon and we got to the start line in about a minute. As the start is so
high up, tne first few miles are quite a lot downhill, and the temptation to
go too fast is very great. But as I am very old and very wise(?) I ran at
at a relaxed, easy pace.

It wasn’t all downhill though and in fact there are several quite steep
uphill bits. I was very careful on these and told myself that the few runners
passing me here would all blow later on! I suppose the good thing about
tarmac is that you don’t need to watch your feet much and can enjoy the
scenery more! And the scenery is good.

Six miles in and we were at the loch-side. My GPS watch said I was averaging
7:15 minute miles, but that was probably about right for the net descent.
You would think that beside the water the road would be flat, but actually
there were still a lot of bumps. This part of a marathon is usually very
enjoyable as the pain hasn’t really started yet. I concentrated on a steady
pace and in no time at all hit the 13.1 mile point. A good moment, but my
legs were already starting to feel well-used. Still, only another 4 miles to
Dores and the end of the loch and then only another 9 miles after that.

We had been well-doused with quite cold rain a couple of times, but by the time
we got to Dores, the sun was out, it was warm and there were crowds! Well
at least 20 people cheering. I caught up with the French chap I had met on
the bus (again) and we ran together up the dreaded Dores hill. I seemed to
remember from last time (2008) that there was this hill and then it was all
down hill to Inverness. In fact there was this hill plus several others which
all conspired to lock up the leg muscles and slow the pace. Head down and
steady jogging.

At last we were on the egde of the town (sorry, City) and with only 2 miles to
go, finishing was now a possibility, no probability. The last couple of miles
are always a mixture of non-responsive legs, huge amounts of pain and the
relief of knowing you can get to the finish without any assistance. It is
quite hard to grin and acknowledge the cheering spectators when your quads
are on fire. I managed to pick up the pace in the last half a mile and I think
I crossed the line actually running rather than hobbling. A very good moment.

The French chap came in just a few seconds behind me and I asked him whether
he was still going to climb Ben Nevis the next day (!). Apparently he was!
Adam was also running, but I didn’t see him at all as he was miles in front
and clocked a massive 2:48:12 and 15th!!

Big thanks to the organisers, volunteers and supporters – a lot of hard work.
Although I had a great day I won’t be doing too many marathons – I want the
shoes to last another 8 years! Our times were:

D. Ball 3:28:42 275/2810
A. Gray 2:48:16 15/2810

Posted in Race Reports | 4 Comments

Salomon Mamores VK

Ellie did this amazing run two years ago, and since then I had been considering entering as it sounded like a brilliant event to be a part of. So early this year I decided to go for it – for anyone who hasn’t noticed, I do love an  uphill, and what’s not to love about a day off work to run in that part of Scotland! I did consider entering the Ring of Steall race as well but that moment of madness passed. Next year :-).

The Momores VK follows the International Skyrunning Federation format of following a marked course gaining 1000m of elevation in less than 5 kilometres, with runners setting off at timed intervals. This meant climbing the munro Na Gruagaichean as fast as possible and then making our way back down pretty much the same route (steeeep!). Ellie also decided to go for it again this year, so much kudos to her doing this and fitting in training so soon after having her little girl!! The VK was the first race of a weekend of racing, finishing with the mighty Glencoe Skyline on the Sunday. International runners flock to Kinlochleven for these races, which makes it all very exciting for us mere mortals.

The day of the VK arrived, as did a forecast for some pretty changeable weather. It was a slow drive up through Glencoe and the hills were shrouded in mist. I arrived and managed to catch up with Ellie and her two friends at registration in the Ice Factor. Kit check was very strict – they were checking the level of waterproofing on trousers etc, and given the conditions over the weekend I can see why! Ellie was setting off just after 2pm, so I got to cheer her and her buddies off, and then had a full hour to sit and contemplate the madness ahead. I met a couple of HBT ladies too, who were doing this for the first time as well and it was good to see some familiar friendly faces. At 3:03 it was my turn, and at this point the weather was thankfully reasonable.

The run to the start of the climb was lovely trail with some little streams to cross and a bit of mud, but all very runnable. Of course, a VK doesn’t stay runnable for long, and the climb after this was relentless. The route is marked straight up with little red flags, and involved plenty of using the hands to grab tussocks of grass / heather and later the slithery rocks. I can say that I hugely enjoyed about three quarters of the climb, but the  deteriorating weather made the last traverse to the summit anything but pleasant. I had to wrestle into my waterproof jacket and shortly after met Ellie on her descent. The rain, wind and mist on the ridge made it so difficult to see and to avoid bumping into runners heading down again and it was such a relief to get to the marshals on the top. Once there, you plug your clever timing do-dah into a device which reads your time. The temperature up there was low and with the rain and the wind chill, we needed our full waterproof body cover – the problem was trying to put kit on with completely numb hands. Folk were helping each other with sleeves, gloves etc, and it would have been comical if we hadn’t all felt close to hypothermic!

The ‘run’ back down passed in a blur. I have never been that cold on a hill and it was a little scary until further down and when some feeling came back to my hands and feet. Runners were still setting off and I really felt for them heading to the summit in the awful weather. All we could do was cheer them on and marvel at how speedy some of them were! Worth mentioning that the organisers moved to the ‘bad weather route’ for both the Ben Nevis Ultra and the Glencoe Skyline. They took a bit of stick for this from some runners on the online forum but given that there were a number of runners treated for hypothermia at the VK and the severe weather forecast for those days…..seemed sensible to most folks!

By the time I reached registration to hand in my timing device I had recovered and was already thinking about next year. The marshals on the route were all amazing and were so encouraging, the organisation of the event is extremely slick, and there is a great atmosphere to it all. I’d love to manage the RoS race and to stay up there for the  full weekend to see the elite skyline runners!

Gill Cairns 1:09:49

Ellie Tudhope 1:34:34 (PB by 3 mins)

 

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Glenmore 24 Trail Race

Everyone I have spoken to who has done this race always has such great things to say about it and some who do it come back year after year after year.  I did not really intend to do both this and the West Highland Way in the same year, but with the way entries work, I had to apply for this before I knew if I would get a place in the WHW and as fate would have it I got into both.

  

The premise for this is easy you enter either the 12 hour or 24 hour race then you run as many 4 mile loops round the wonderful Glenmore Forest as you can. There is a base camp at the start/finish where you can pitch up your tent and your supporters wait for you to come round each time and feed up you and kick you back out.  Vicky and I were both running this year and Yan was also there supporting another runner.   Vicky (who was also celebrating her anniversary this weekend) who has run this a number of times before was doing the 12 hour race and I was doing the 24 hour.  On Friday evening there was pre-race fancy dress party – this year the theme was Hawaiian, then on Saturday at 12 noon everyone starts running and the loops begin, it is entirely up to you how you run this and as long as you get at least one lap in you can’t even DNF!

 

   

 

I have never run a lapped course before – apart from Parkrun and I was not sure how I would find it, it was not as bad as I thought, the loops are quite long and they feel quite different each time.  I did struggle after a few laps as I did not really have a goal so running round and round with no target was really hard especially as it started to get dark and I was questioning why I was there, but after a bit of a kick up the arse from Alan who was once again acting as my support crew and setting myself the target of hitting 100 miles, things improved mentally. I decided if I could hit 14 laps by midnight I was on for the 100 and would manage to run the 25 laps required by 12 noon, otherwise I was going to go to bed for a few hours and re-evaluate.  I got through my 14 laps just after midnight so decided I was going to tough it out and go for it.  It was hard during the dark hours of early morning when the 12 hour runners had finished and a lot of the 24 hour runners seemed to go to bed and it was very quiet with few runners around, but I cranked out a few laps with my friend Ross, who I have run with at every Ultra I have been at this year and it certainly helped eat up some miles.  He too peeled off to bed as he had not been well and I was left on my own with only a few hours to go.  My times had been slipping and I was getting longer and longer on each lap and after a bit of mental arithmetic I realised I needed to get a shift on or I would not hit my target.  Luckily I had such an amazing support crew that stuffed food down me even though I did not want to eat, filled my water bottle and told me to drink, shouted encouragement and made me realise I could do this and did not let me stop and kicked me back out on the course each and every time.  As the sun came up it got easier and the course got busier as those that had had a few hours sleep during the night came back out onto the course.   I finished my 25th lap and hit 100 miles a 11.37am to a cheering finish line, my brothers and their families had even come up to watch me run so it was wonderful to have them all there at the end, except its not quite the end, it was not a 100 mile race, it was a 24 hour race and I still had 20 minutes to go!  In the final hour of the race, they open up the short loop which is basically just round the campsite and lots of people put their fancy dress on from the Friday night, it’s a real party atmosphere as everyone is out cheering you on and the music was blasting, we also had the sun shining as it was a really warm day.  I walked around the short loops chatting to some of the runners I had been on the course with and soaking up the atmosphere and at 12 noon a horn was sounded and you stop where you are and put your numbered pin in the ground and, if you are like me, collapse in a heap on the ground!

 

I can see why everyone loves this race so much, it is so well organised and is like a festival of running.  The supporters tents have fairy lights and signs up, music blaring, people dancing, disco lights (that might just have been our one!) people encouraging and shouting you on.  It is totally up to you how far you go and how much you challenge yourself and whether you stop for a while or keep going.

Results

Gilly – 100.91 miles

Vicky –  34.70 miles

Posted in Race Reports | 9 Comments

The Ochils 2000 Race – 2018

Apart from the Maddy Moss race 2017, I have not spent any time in the Ochils and with the weather forecast being rather alarming (hill fog and headwind), I met with Rob the day before the race to discuss the route and navigation (I even invested some time in a navigation YouTube tutorial – worth it!).

We arrived at the campus of Stirling University around 10am, where we registered, got ready and waited for the busses to the start. My mood changed the whole time before the race from excitement to “Oh god, what am I doing here” (it was a SHR and SAL championship race this year, and everyone looked so super fit and speedy). I have never done anything similar before in terms of distance and climb and my goal was to make the cut-off times, and then just do as many hills as possible.

The race started almost on time, and the first bit was very runnable: an undulating track followed by a path through a forested area up to the first checkpoint (CP) at Innerdownie. I enjoyed this bit and the next CPs, the weather was perfect, the ground bouncy and even leaning in the headwind at the downhills was good fun. At the downhill before Kings Seat I started to worry a bit about the cut-off time, so I stepped on it and could even overtake a few people. Unfortunately, this was my last fast downhill. I didn’t get the nutrition right, so I had stomach cramps on every downhill throughout the race (apart from the last), which slowed me down a lot.

From Kings Seat, it was the first time we left the path to contour down to the climb up to Andrew Gannel Hill (following a path again) and from there to the Law. Until here, I had no problems to navigate, as we mainly followed paths, there were plenty of people around and the visibility was OK. Then, the fog came. I knew Ben Cleuch from the Maddy Moss race, so I recognized the CP when I finally could see the cairn 20m ahead of me and relying on the path and my compass I reached Ben Buck. Luckily, the direction to Ben Ever was SSW, so I saw a few runners before they disappeared in the fog. I reached Ben Ever well ahead of the second cut-off time, which was a relief because I finally found the time to put on my rain jacket (I was already soaked) and I knew that from there no one was going to stop me (apart from myself).

From Rob I knew that navigation from Ben Ever to Blairdennon Hill would be tricky, as would be the terrain. I solved the first problem by buddying up with another runner who had done the race before and by using the compass (I am not kidding, the little thing was helpful, especially because Rob and I prepared it in the bus for navigating between Ben Ever and Blairdennon Hill, so we just had to follow the travel arrow). For the second problem, there was no solution. Seriously, I have never seen terrain like this before and apparently it can be even worse: bogs after bogs, deep bogs covered in moose (I think I found Duncan’s bog; http://penicuikharriers.org.uk/2017/08/29/ochils-2000s-long-classic-hill-race-2017/), bogs you had to climb in, and bogs followed by dunes of black soil [RW comment: The Scottish moose is not as rare as you would think despite it (the Elk) becoming extinct in the 10th century. Ours are green and hide in bogs 🙂 ]. Quite surreal, especially with the fog. Finding Blairdennon was a relief again, because from there we went southwards just by following a fence.

After Colsnaur Hill, we were finally out of the fog, which seemed to be a good thing at first but then I saw Dumyat. I’ve tried to raise my courage by euphorically shouting “Just one more hill”, but my fellow runner felt the need to remind me that this hill is very steep. We took a steep short cut which brought us to the track taking us down to Menstrie. The short cut was probably not the best idea, as there were many rocks and hollows overgrown by moose [RW comment: It’s those pesky moose again], grass and thistles. First, I stepped into one of the hollows and then I slipped and twisted my knee. The hard and rocky track was not very pleasant either, so I have no clue which route I would choose the next time. The way down to Menstrie was the downhill I enjoyed the least. The rocky underground fatigued my legs and my stomach cramps were bad. At the CP in Menstrie I had juice and grabbed as many jelly babies as I could and started the climb up to Dumyat. On the way, I met a marshal with further jelly babies, so I had some more. The climb was steep and a struggle, but I still was happy as I knew from this point that I will finish the race. At the summit, I scared some poor marshals with my mad grinning (as I said, I was happy, but very exhausted at that point) and my bad German jokes [RW comment: Speaking from experience, they’re all bad!]. The downhill to the finish I just loved: maybe it was the sugar, maybe the knowledge that this is the last bit, maybe the downhill itself, I don’t know, but it was great, and I even managed to overtake some runners. The path in the forest was quite tricky (steep with roots and some turns) and poor Rob fell and bruised his shoulder there. After the forest, I got lost L. First, I followed the road a tad too long and had to run back again, and then we (a runner I had overtaken at the downhill) got distracted by cheering coming from another direction and we mistakenly left the correct path to follow the noise. After crossing a golf course, it turned out that the noise came from a football match. Consulting the map and some spectators, I finally found a track that would bring us to the finish. Without this little detour I would have finished exactly at my predicted finish time of 5h, but this didn’t affect how happy and glad I was.

I enjoyed the whole day and I cannot recommend this race high enough (especially for the Harrier Ladies! [RW comment: Surely a thrown gauntlet to the male fraternity]), it is good fun, quite a challenge but a nice race! Rob and I did figure out though, that a recce of some parts of the route might be useful 🙂

Times:

Rob                        4:14:30 (PB!!!!)

Juliane                  5:15:17

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Philliphaugh Hill Race

 

This is a nice race that follows similar paths to the Feel the Burns race but is half the distance. Shiela Cochrane organises both races and both raise money for Tweed Valley Mountain rescue. It was pretty rainy as we headed down to Selkirk and it stayed that way for most of the race.  The main climb is up to the Three Bretheren, that we could barely see today and then you head downhill and across the moor before climbing Foulshiels Hill and continuing along the pretty rocky, peaty paths. The route surface changes a lot for the second half of the race as you run through fields and woodland before reaching the final few fields for some easy running to finish the race. Thank goodness for lots of marshals and signage because this route changes all the time.

Hats off to Shiela Cochrane for organising this race and grateful thanks to her army of marshals!

14th Graham Flockhart 59m 44s
33rd  Mark Denholm !h 9m 53s
47th Susie Maxwell 1h 22m 56s

Susie

 

 

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Ben Rinnes 2018: A tale of fine margins

Back in 2015, I ran the Ben Rinnes hill race for the first time. I loved it. The weather was warm and sunny, I was physically in fine fettle and the 22.4 kms (1435m) there and back route left me with an exhilarated feeling of speed and lightness. I have since been rather frustrated as I have always been away and kept missing it.

Ben Rinnes is the “easiest” of the Long Classic Series races and as it is a runnable long[ish] hill race, it is well worth the effort to drive up to Dufftown, especially if you make a weekend of it. To top it off, it is associated with the Dufftown Highland games which is a hoot – with many a tossed caber, pipe bands, dancers and all the trimmings that come with a traditional Highland Games.

Start of race – a tad soggy but warm at least

My bronchial illness of June had really messed my training up. I also lost 3kgs, so my strategy for July was to eat as much, and race as much, as possible to try and get back some muscle mass into my legs. I will say this now – 5 races (Dollar, Maddy Moss, Cairn Table, Lee Pen topped off with Ben Rinnes) in 3 weeks was perhaps not an ideal strategy for attaining race fitness. I am mildly broken at the time of writing this.

Harriers in attendance: Moi, Stuart and Gillian + better halves/kids/dogs etc as we made a holiday of it although we all disfunctionally stayed in different towns (Aviemore, Aberlour and Nethy Bridge) which made socialising post-race a little harder.

 

Race Profile

The forecast was not brilliant – potential thunder, lightning and rain. The heavy rain, while eating breakfast at 8am on Saturday morning, did not bode well. However, at the start, bar some initial dampness, the temperature was nicely mild, and most runners ran in vests. Ben Rinnes is basically a 5 peaks race and most of the gradients are runnable, or at least, one can alternate between walking and running. This year, the race was part of the Scottish Hill Championship, so there were more runners than usual – and more pressure!!

At 12 noon, we were off. The first kilometre is on tracks around fields with a slow incline until we crossed the Dufftown Golf Course. It was the climb after the golf course that I realised that this would be tough. My legs were heavy and my right Achilles was not going to forgive me for running Lee Pen the week before. At the top of the first hill (Little Conval) Andrea, Lorna and the two carpets (Alfie and Rowan) were there shouting/barking encouragement. We were only 4 kms in, and I was already feeling worryingly fatigued. I managed to pick up speed on the downhill, gained some rhythm up over Meikle Conval and made up some places on the steep descent to the road crossing. This was the last time I had some semblance of strength in my legs!

Race Route

The ascent up Ben Rinnes is a long winding track – quite rocky which studied fell shoes are not perhaps ideal. It was at this point when the “weather” hit. The wind picked up markedly and the rain came sideways from the south. Luckily, the air temperature was mild enough that I decided that I could still walk/jog/run in my vest, so I slogged my way up into the cloud above. I remember fabulous views from 2015, but this year, the weather was clagged in, and it was an ever increasingly wild ride as we gained elevation. Not far from the summit, Stuart came running towards me (with jacket on!) – he was not that far ahead of me. He later told me that he had also been suffering and had consider pulling out. Luckily, he had dug deep and kept going.

The summit

I would like to say that Stu, not being that far ahead, would have spurred me on, but the sidewind by this point was very strong and it took all my concentration to keep from not skidding off course to the right. The granite tor of the peak, over which we had to run, was a wet treacherous scramble, but the turnaround was briefly pleasant as we were sheltered from the wind. It then hit again on the descent, and we then had the gnarly granitic track to contend with in the misty, windy rain. At the time, I noted that I had not seen Gillian coming up and I remember thinking “I hope she has not been blown away” – little realising that she was not far behind me and it was me that would later be blown away.

The descent down the track was relatively fast and the weather steadily improved. The steepest section on the whole race is the climb after the road crossing on the way back up to Meikle Conval and it was on this short section that my legs decided to remind me that they were utterly exhausted and started to cramp. Remember – this was effectively only 15kms into the race – those pins were not happy. Damn Lee Pen! I managed to get control of the muscles and stumbled on. Gillian finally caught me up just before the summit of Little Conval. I think she assumed that I would “gawp”, say something highly non-PC along the lines of “I can’t let a woman beat me” and sprint away, but my legs would simply not have it. We stayed together for a while, but I am pretty sure Gill was simply being nice. After the golf course, she apologised profusely and said she needed to catch the next female and daintily scampered off ahead of me. I tried to keep up, but my legs were useless lumps of lead by this point. I decided to settle into a comfortable non-cramping pace for the final kilometre.

Running is a bizarre sport. 3 years ago, I ran Ben Rinnes and felt amazing. This year, the whole thing was a slog and a massive effort. But in the end, the difference in my time was only 8 minutes (2:36 (2015) vs 2:44 (2018)). There is some comfort from this. No matter how you feel, don’t assume you are doing that badly (or well either). In the end, I am sort of happy that I did the 5 races (plus plenty of cycling) this month. Hopefully that has caught my fitness up and I can now rest and recharge my legs over the next few weeks for tougher longer races to come.

The hero of the day was Gill. Her time was excellent – a good 8 minutes improvement on her previous PB. AND – don’t forget, this was a Scottish Hill Championship race. Gill was 3rd in her category. No mean feat!

You deserve this one Gill, but I’m gonna make you sweat next time!!

Rob 🙂

Of 159 finishers, out time and places were:

Stuart: 74th, 2:34:08

Gill: 89th, 2:42:47

Moi: 95th, 2:44:16

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West Highland Way Race

Apologies, I have not mastered the art of a short race report.

I first went to a West Highland Way inspiration evening back in 2010, I had watched clips of the headtorched runners setting off in the dark up through a shopping precinct to shouts and cheers on YouTube long before I had entered the Fling or ever set foot in Milngavie, I crewed for Chris in 2016, entered, but did not get a place so volunteered in 2017 and finally 2018 I was on the start line!  Its felt like I have always been heading here.

 

Continue reading

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Lairig Ghru Race


After reading Rob’s report on his effort in this race last year, I had decided that this might be my next race challenge. Having not run a marathon distance and having ruled out attempting a road marathon, this race seemed very tempting. As a family we have spent a lot of time in the Aviemore area but with young children never get to venture far into the hills. Rob’s description of some of the ‘challenges’ he faced was not quite enough to put me off! The route runs 43 kilometres through the Cairngorms, from Braemar police station to Aviemore police station, with 640m elevation and some of the most amazing scenery and views! So when entries opened earlier this year, I had decided I was going for it, along with a few other Harriers.

As race weekend approached, a combination of illness, injury and circumstances sadly resulted in a smaller group of us Harriers heading to Braemar, i.e. me, Al Hind and Duncan, who had managed to get a last minute place. Rob – I am sure you will be there next year and your memories of last year’s race will have faded entirely!! I am very glad that I had some Harriers buddies there, as real nerves set in as Scott and I drove up on the Saturday. The focus of my nerves had shifted from the distance to cover etc, to the weather forecast for unbroken sunshine and temperature in the mid 20s. I was beginning to wonder ‘what on earth am I doing?!’. We arrived mid afternoon and after a brief interview with the lovely Adventure Show people, we booked in to our B & B and met up with Lori and Ritchie for dinner (lots of it!) and one wee glass of wine.

As promised, we woke to gorgeous sunshine and the lightest breeze. I managed to shovel down a half – decent breakfast and then got ready to head to registration, kit check and the start. Duncan and Al had come up that morning and were there, both looking a tad nervous too. There were a few familiar faces amongst the runners, but so many looked like elite marathon or ultra runners – cue more nerves jangling. 10am came and we were off!

The nice thing about the longer distance is that there is no need to sprint off at the start (unless you are Rob and looking for a photo opportunity :-)). So for the first few kilometres on the road I settled in to a half decent pace and felt very comfortable despite the rising temperature. I had a catch up with one of the lovely HBT ladies Cat, who I’m used to battling with in hill races, and managed to distract myself from worrying about the mileage and the challenges ahead. I was happy to get off the public road soon after and on to the track at Mar Lodge, and enjoy some slightly more varied ground. However, along here I realised that we had all acquired our own team of what I affectionately call ‘cheerleading’ flies. Oh my god, they just would not go away, and with no breeze they just carried on with us for miles!! The other issue at this point was that I’d managed to tie one lace too tight and had a dead foot. I reached Derry Lodge at 1 hour 15 (1 h30 cut off), and had to take my shoe off and revive my poor foot. Rooky mistake!

We had no problems with crossing the Luibeg burn as it has been so dry lately, but it was nice to have a paddle at this point as the heat was difficult to ignore. After this, the route climbs and was really enjoyable, especially as the flies seemed to have given up the chase. The trail became more technical later on, and my pace began to drop quite a bit. You can also see where you are heading and I began to wonder about why I’d thought I could manage this – it went on forever. I had not taken any photos at all so far, so as we approached the boulder field, I stopped briefly and took one of the view ahead and one of the where we’d come from. It was worth stopping to look at the scenery, just absolutely stunning!!

I had been worried about the boulder field but although it was challenging, it was not as bad as I’d imagined and I quite enjoyed this part. There was a drone filming us overhead, and an Adventure Show camera man filming our feet as we hopped balletically from rock to rock (at least that’s how I imagine we looked :-)). At the far side, the pools of Dee looked incredibly tempting as the heat now was definitely taking its toll, plus the lack of breeze. However, if I’d stopped again here, I might never have left! I’d also for some reason thought that the next part would become more runnable but it was way tougher underfoot than I’d imagined. I had to have a wee chat with my negative thoughts and focus on not falling over. The nausea had also firmly set in, and it was getting harder to force down the tailwind or water. I also remembered the warning from those who have done the route that you can see Aviemore from many miles away and that it’s best not to think about the distance! There was another cameraman who asked how I was doing, but I hadn’t noticed him and just muttered something like “good to see you” – oh dear….

At this this stage, a few of us were running in a little group which really helped me and the pace suited too. I did then manage to pass a few runners as we began to head downhill, and then came across Duncan sitting on a rock. He had succumbed to the crazy heat and all I could do was walk with him to the next marshal checking our numbers and then leave him to keep walking slowly down. There were a number of heat casualties on the day.

I was very glad to reach the Rothiemurchus forest trail which gave a bit of shade at times and was nice running underfoot. I felt briefly stronger here and picked up the pace. There were a couple of lovely marshals somewhere around this point who had some water for us, but one of them said something about “only about 50 minutes running to go”. For some reason, that number made me feel suddenly like I could not possibly run another 2 minutes, let alone 50 – so I had my second mental meltdown. Thankfully it was a brief moment of darkness, and my legs were working just fine so I shuffled on. I caught up with one of the ladies I had been running with earlier and we reached the road at Coylumbridge and ran to Aviemore and the finish together. Scott had walked to the last bridge to take photos and we were just about able to smile and wave. I have never been quite so glad to see the finish and we had a comical moment of trying to decide which of us would run through the finish first. All thoughts of placings had clearly left us as were both just so relieved to be there!

I had a brief teary moment on my own at the finish, just so glad to have made it. I could not quite face the amazing array of cakes supplied by the lovely Mountain Cafe people, so had some soup instead. Al came in to the finish a little later, also very glad to be done but also slightly broken by the heat. We sat with our soup, along with many other dehydrated souls, waiting for Scott to bring Duncan back from where the route joined the road. Unfortunately poor Duncan then had to get on the race bus back to Braemar and drive from there.

Safe to say this was a year for finishing and not for PBs, and I felt very lucky to have made it to the start line injury free. I was more than happy with my time, as I’d hoped for around 5 hours. Will I be back next year? Absolutely!! I hope a few of us, especially those who had to pull out this year can make it too.

102nd Gill Cairns 5:04:57

155th Al Hind 5:43:04

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Posted in Race Reports | 5 Comments

Seven hills of Edinburgh 2018

Thankfully not as hot as last year!

Race
23 Adam Gray 1:56:01
130 Michael Greens 2:22:53
159 Kevin Anderson 2:28:57
187 Charlie Crawford 2:40:23

Challenge
21 Gordon Bee 2:25:56
50 Sadie Kemp 2:33:26
101 Mark Dawson 3:03:39

Full results: http://www.seven-hills.org.uk/PDF/Race-18.pdf

Posted in Race Reports | 4 Comments

Strathearn marathon 2018

This is a cracking wee race and it lived up to its name as a friendly event. Pipers, cake and bucket loads of support from the marshalls.

6. John Gibbs M 02:58:38
36. Jan Dawson FV40 03:37:50 (First FV40)
43. Sadie Kemp FV40 03:43:32 (Second FV40)
49. Allan Dunbar MV40 03:48:39
71. Tracy Philp FV40 04:02:03

Full results: http://www.strathearnharriers.org.uk/media/1671/strathearn-marathon-2018-race-results.pdf

A wee film made by Michael Philp of the event. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH6cYLazdn8&feature=youtu.be

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