What a difference two weeks make. I barely know where to start with this and it would be easy to go on at length…(it will)
When I booked this race I aspired to doing 50 miles in 12 hours. As the day approached I revised my expectations as training hadn’t gone too well, I’d had on-off niggles and a whole load of other stuff to think about with a change of job. Until this point my ultras to date had all been in the thirties of miles with the longest being 36.5 and my longest time on feet being 9:34. It seemed sensible then to aim to break 40 and to continue for 12 hours as both would be new PBs. My recent performance at Speyside had me doubting whether even that would be possible, but I figured it would be a really safe environment to give it a bash and I was looking forward to the social side of the event too.
I’d had my support crew booked for some time and as they are particularly awesome, I was glad I’d got in quickly before anyone else snapped them up. I am, of course, referring to the Carr-Martins or the Ems as Tom and I found ourselves referring to them over the weekend. I’d never had a support crew before, Tom had never supported anyone before and the Ems had never experienced Glenmore before. I think we did pretty well for a bunch of Glenmore virgins.
We all arrived on Friday night, the others set up camp and insisted I not do anything too strenuous (I began to enjoy having a crew immediately!) and then we popped along to the pirate party, as you do.
It was lovely catching up with folk and trying to recognise people in their pirate outfits. People really went for it! I mingled and drank my coffee but was starting to feel a bit cold and anxious about getting to bed. I was right to be anxious, it was freezing and even though I clambered into the sleeping bag fully clothed I could not get warm and had a rubbish sleep. I got up before 6am and took the dog a wander. It was damp and misty and every other tent had a snorer – how I envied those somnolent runners! Thanks to moving about my feet had finally heated up so I went back to ‘bed’ and managed to dose a little for a couple of hours but the cold seeped through me all the same. I got up at 8am and was glad that the camp was stirring into life, including my crew. Emily set to work with the camp stove making me proper coffee and making bacon rolls. As the race didn’t start until 12noon, there seemed to be loads of time to faff about. I was served more coffee and an early lunch of corned beef hash, as I’d had this genius idea that it would be great fuel – it was, but only in so far as pre-fuelling went as I never wanted it during the run at all.
More runners were arriving that had travelled up that morning and the reunion feeling continued. My friend Jennifer arrived, feeling nervous about her first ultra. Next up race briefing and the rain becoming torrential. Eek, this was really happening and I was feeling a bit nervous now.
I won’t describe every lap, that’d be a bit tedious and I’m not sure I can easily differentiate them. The first lap acted as a recce and I spotted where to run, walk and then really run (the big down hill). The first few laps I did with Jennifer but I lost her when she went for food and I continued moving. The first couple of laps I didn’t really need anything much from my support crew as I was running well on bacon rolls and corned beef hash (seriously, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it) but Emma was really good at checking what I’d been having while out on the loop and carrying coffees and watery cokes whilst I continued walking round the camp perimeter which forms part of the route. I didn’t see Tom every lap as he was looking after my dog but he often caught up with me just as I would be heading out of base camp again. Everyone said I was doing well, looking strong and one lap I even arrived ahead of schedule taking my crew a little by surprise. Going round the camp edge was great as I knew so many other support crews there and their endless encouragement kept me topped up on positivity – afterwards many said that I never stopped smiling, I think it’s because I was smiling at them all! On one of the laps, just as I was leaving and giving Johnny Fling a wave, we were suddenly assaulted by huge hailstones and these have gone down in legend! They flooded the camp, our tent and car had to be moved while I was on that loop and where I was the puddles looked like boiling water thanks to the ferocious hail. I don’t think it lasted that long, luckily as I had ditched my jacket when the rain had gone off and the sun came out for a while.
A lap went something like this – passing through the hayfield (basecamp) get feet thoroughly frozen and soaked, head through the only really traily part of the route which was full of very cold puddles before popping out onto forestry roads which were largely runnable until you hit the climb towards the water station where you might be greeted by a karaoke pirate and parrot combo or John Munro and Mike Raffan playing Chariots of Fire on the iPod and insisting you run up the hill to them or miss out on water! After the water station the mega climb, which I always walked, once I saw the yellow arrow pointing left I would speed up my walk to warm up my legs a bit and then pick up a run as I rounded the corner then I proceeded to throw myself downhill for about a mile to the bit where the course passes the route coming out when I’d have a walk and compose myself on a wee short hill before a left turn down some steps and run into base camp and call my number to Ada in the timing tent. Happily, I was never on the receiving end of anything but words of encouragement from Ada, leading me to believe that her cattle prod may have been more for show than anything else… Meet the team and start again. Over various loops I passed the time of day with lots of runners, sometimes running along or walking with them or just sharing a few words of encouragement with those that lapped me and the very occasional runner that I lapped. It’s very social and the atmosphere is great – of course, being primarily Brits on the course we were delighted to have some proper weather to talk about.
I think I did eight laps before picking up a support runner, in the form of Emily. I guess that was about 7.45pm/7.50pm – at this point I was getting both in and out of base camp before the top of the hour. I felt good about this but also suspected that the loop was measuring shorter than 4 miles. I didn’t waste too much time worrying about that. I took Emily through my wee lap routine and she chatted away and appreciated the scenery which reminded me to look at it and not just the run/walk reminders I had decided on like ‘the wee trees after the bench’ and ‘the curve in the road’. I love running with Emily at the best of times, so it was fab to be out with her and on one particular point it was really handy. I was able to ask Emily to use her rather fresher brain to remind me that I did want a jacket because I was cold during the uphill walk but I would forget it because I had always heated up by the time I got to basecamp after leathering it down the hill and trying to make time up. As the day went on, Emma was being slightly more assertive in getting me to eat and she had made fantastic noodle soup which tasted great, replenished my salt and was easy to take on in small amounts. By lap ten it was head torch time and I was definitely starting to dip a bit and hurt a bit – the inevitable happened and even the downhill started to hurt but my ten loop goal was in sight, I was definitely going to hit my target of 40 miles with oodles of time to spare!!
I’m not sure how I gave my crew the impression but they thought I was planning to stop at 40 miles and Noanie was urging them not to let me stop. Luckily that was never my plan but with aches, pains and cold starting to find their way in I decided to ease back a bit and I asked for my woolly hat, fleece and jacket so I could walk the next loop. I had got my 10 loops done in under 10 hours and I knew I easily had time to walk a loop and still get back in time to do some of the small, finale loops. I thought 44 miles would be a cool finishing mileage and anything over it would be a bonus. Tom set off walking with me on this loop and then I realised he’d come with my bag and if I took anything from him it would be muling so I sent him back. It was so silly, I didn’t even click that he’d brought my bag and it was only when I was going to ask for a jelly baby that I realised – I didn’t even take a jelly baby from him to be sure of sticking to the rules! I don’t think he really wanted to leave me but I wasn’t going to get lost now – the route was etched on my brain as it was! He ditched the bag with the Ems and walked out the other way to meet me as I was coming down the big hill and walked back in with me. I think this was the only big loop that took me over an hour, as I just walked it all. I then went onto small loops, which meant constant encouragement from all the support crews but I couldn’t seem to will my feet to pick up. I did get some more mighty squeezes of encouragement from my crew and Noanie too. I have to particularly mention Lynn Heron, Gayle Tait, the Moonerty’s, Katherine, Norrie, Lorna, Keziah and Sarah Self (and her fairy light adorned marquee) for their brilliant support as I suffered my way round. Unbelievably, when it came to the last ten minutes I actually managed a bit of a jog (bit toasty with all my layers!) and even jogged up the wee hill twice which I had religiously walked throughout the day. When the final horn sounded I was relieved to put my peg in the ground and then didn’t really know what to do with myself but luckily my support crew came round and found me.
I managed to go and find Katherine to celebrate her birthday with Fling prosecco before heading to my freezing bed again. Again I could not get warm and then had a bit of a melt down because 1. I could not get warm and 2. I really had to go pee. I had to get up and make my way to the portaloos – I was shaking so badly that my torchbeam turned into disco lights that might have gone well with the earlier checkpoint karaoke. A miraculous thing happened when I got back to the tent though, Tom put his big woolly socks on my swollen feet instead of my wee socks and thankfully I heated up for the first time in what seemed forever – this allowed me a few hours of somewhat better sleep than the night before albeit punctuated by 100 miles horns being sounded for the gutsy 24 hour runners.
I optimistically set an alarm for 11.30am to ensure I wouldn’t miss the end of the 24 hour race. Who was I kidding? I was up at the back of 7am and in search of hot water to make coffee. The rain sounded really heavy during the night and I felt for the 24 hour runners. I felt done in after 12 hours, I was in awe of the folks doing twice that.
We watched and cheered the finish of the 24 hour race and managed to stick around for the prize giving, even with Noanie’s hot water bottle held directly against my skin I was struggling to get warm but I was determined to be there for the prizegiving and to pick up my medal. According to my watch I had done just over 45 miles, I was really surprised when my final distance was announced as 46 miles – wahey!
I love that first and second place in the 12 hour race were taken by women – in pretty spectacular times, Elaine Omand came in first and Antonia Wesley in second, both ran so strongly and were always lovely when passing us slower runners. The 24 hour race saw the lovely John Duncan getting his first every podium finish after a stonking run and Lorna MacLean who won the ladies’ race had also been a familiar face passing by with friendly words of encouragement whenever she lapped me. I was disappointed for my friend James Stewart who led the 24 hour race for so long and must’ve been the recipient of that very first 100 horn, as he had to stop early due to injury. That said he was very philosophical about it and it was his longest run to date regardless of his early finish and it was a performance to be incredibly proud of.
There are so many people I would love to mention, at an event like this everybody’s day, adventure and achievements are completely interwoven into a colourful tapestry of shared experience to which I cannot possibly do justice within a single blog post. Let me say though that every runner, every crew member, every marshal and every race director – you were awesome and each of you made my day wonderful.
A couple of quick observations to close:
- I embraced the lap format rather than fighting it, I stuck with programme and delivered ten pretty consistent laps
- I tried not to stop much, always walking round the camp area and never coming off the course and I believe this helped
- I definitely fuelled better and benefited from having a support crew (Ems and Tom – you are the best!)
- Grazing and not gorging helped keep the stitches at bay for a solid nine laps
- Camping sucks
- We need a camper van
- Glenmore 12 I’m coming back and chasing down a 50 mile target next year and I can’t wait!