Glenmore 12 – round and round we go again.

More of an 11 hour woodland walk and a one hour dash around a field.

A couple of weeks before the race I picked up an injury at the John Lucas Memorial Relay. It was still bothering me a week later and I had to turn back just half a mile into our Jedburgh recce and revert to vehicular support person. I didn’t run again in the week up to the race but I did do a bit of cycling including 19 miles for Cycle to Work Day on the Thursday before. I went for a massage and I hoped things would come right on race day.

We headed up on Friday, this year I had my mum’s motorhome and no intention of being cold like last year. The Ems would arrive on Saturday morning and my perfect, repeat support crew would be complete. It turns out if you’re a nice runner who minds their P’s and Q’s your support crew is willing to come back for a repeat performance.

I messed about a bit, had a wee shot on the mechanical bull and didn’t make the party until most sensible folk had gone to bed. There is no photographic evidence of my outfit…

Not my best look, granted!

Not my best look, granted!

On Saturday morning it was lovely to see lots of familiar faces including some of my local training buddies who were having their first taste of an ultra in the relay but I was a bit subdued in the run up to the race – I saw the worried looks on my crew’s faces as they gave me extra hugs before the off. The thing was, I was a bit worried too.

I’d had high hopes for this race, I’d been keen to break 50 miles but so far my year had been somewhat blighted by niggly injuries and training had not been the best.

I was right to worry, within the first two miles said injury was already causing a problem. I tried stretching out my hamstring and calf and Helen Munro asked me if I was OK but answered the question herself with, “no, you’re not OK.”

I decided to walk and see how I got on, but I knew the reality was that a PB was out of reach on this day and with this injury. I walked a while with Helen and Heather, saw Amanda and Gordon at the water stop before continuing to plod up the hill. Amazingly I managed to pick up a jog on the downhill although it was nothing compared to how I flew down it last year. I’d been thinking of pulling out but the thought of how far my crew had travelled to be there for me made me want to push on – sod it, if I had to walk for 12 hours then I had to walk for 12 hours. Amazingly the second lap felt better and I decided I’d be able to keep going a bit longer and whilst I was walking a lot more than the previous year I wasn’t only walking.

I had ups and downs over the day. I had great support from other runners on the course, and once they knew I was having a painful day they were even more encouraging every time they saw me. The official photographer fell into step with me for a bit as I told her of my woes – she never failed to give me encouragement every time I saw her.

I saw the competition at the front of both the 12 and 24 hour races unfolding in front of me as the runners lapped me time and again – without fail everyone that ended up with a podium place passed the time of day with me and gave me encouragement to carry on. My friend James Stewart¬†ultimately won the 24 and utterly demolished the course record but every time I saw him he gave me words of support and sometimes a reassuring squeeze on the shoulder. I couldn’t be more delighted to see him win the race, especially after his own race was cut short last year by injury on the course. It’s a testament to his hard work and determination, and a thoroughly deserved win. I may have been more excited about it than him, somewhat like his recent win and course record at Clydestride. He’s too modest by far, so I’ll big him up for a paragraph or so ūüôā

Now, it all sounds really tough and awful but there was a load of good stuff too and plenty of smiling as well as wincing. I had a daft game going on with Lois, my Ukrainian flapjack dealer and ended up singing Star Trekking Across the Universe¬†with Des in the dark in the woods at night. It was going through my head because I had a conversation about keeping moving forwards and backwards being the wrong direction so obviously the lyric about ‘only going forwards, we can’t find reverse’ sprang to mind and led to “clingons on the starboard bow” and “we come in peace, shoot to kill” renditions at something like 10pm – Ian was support running with me at that point and I’m not quite sure what he made of that.

I won’t go into all the laps but when I got to 20 miles I was pleasantly surprised and decided I should bash on to 7 laps and 28 miles so at least I’d have gone ultra, not wasted my crew’s time and would be happy taking a medal. 28 miles came and went and it looked like I could still manage 40+ miles, which had been my target last year. Indeed I completed my 10th lap at about 10.20pm. I was pleased to make it to 40 and whilst I knew I would still be going when the hooter blew I decided I really didn’t want to go another long loop, although it was achievable even at a walk – my feet were hurting like mad, a PB wasn’t on the cards and I decided I’d take a wee rest until the small loops started and then see what I could do in the last hour. My crew didn’t argue with me, which probably tells you something. I snuggled up in a jacket, foil blanket round my legs, drank coffee and snacked. Before long it was time for the wee laps…

I started off with my jacket on and carrying a coffee to keep me warm but both were quickly discarded as I heated up. I don’t know if it was the rest and refuel, the soft grass under my feet or the amazing support of my crew and the mad party tents (Noanie, Sarah, Keziah, Carol were just amazing and I can’t believe I YMCA’d after 40 or so miles) but I started to fly round that field or at least that’s how it felt and according to those watching it was also how it looked. My feet had got so sore that I’d stopped feeling my pre-existing injuries and now the soft turf was like balm to my feet. I reckon I packed in about 3 miles in the last hour, which isn’t really flying but it seemed like it.

The long and the short of it is that I think I’m only about 3 miles behind last year despite thinking the game was a bogey right at the start. I definitely walked more but maybe I’m a wee bit stronger even in spite of being crocked, I don’t really know. My watch says 42.6 miles and I reckon the official result will be about 43 miles.

What I do know is I couldn’t have done it without Tom, Emma and Emily looking after me, Ian coming a couple of laps with me, the PARTY TENTS, and all the lovely runners and marshals that make me feel part of the community and who helped me to find the strength to dig in and keep going.

The party tents!!

The party tents!!

I have wanged on about James a bit, but it would be very remiss of me not to mention that Neil MacNicol (of RunRecover in Burntisland) who came second in the 24 hour race also comprehensively crushed the previous course record this year. It is amazing to think that James and Neil each ran over 100 miles more than me in only double the time. Astonishing.¬†Wullie Bishop ran a blinder for third place and the ladies were all blooming lovely too – Lorna Maclean, Jenni Rees-Jenkins and Shona Young. As to the winners of the 12 hour, I really should have paid proper attention to the race I took part in but I got a little distracted by the excitement of James’ performance in the 24 but I do know the lovely Gerry Craig won the 12 hour race and I will update with full results when they come out… [Edit: full results here¬†and my official result was 43.25 miles, so my guesstimate of three miles under last year’s result of 46.17 was pretty well bang on. Position 40 of 60].

Next year, I just might give the 24 hour race a bash – as long as I’m not injured!!

Delighted with my medal and cider. Earned them!

Delighted with my medal and cider. Earned them!

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2015 Devil o’ the Highlands 43 mile footrace

The ascents were lung busters, the descents were leg destroyers and the flat bits were really quite hard. Apart from that it was fine!

This year has been hampered with injury and therefore a lack of training. I had been debating whether to start this race at all in the weeks leading up. Training really had been minimal and what I had done was crammed into the month leading up. I arrived for the start severely undertrained and nervous but feeling that a finish was probably achievable. Race registration was buzzing with nervous excitement and I was glad of the distraction of catching up with lots of running friends. Further to my poop problems at Great Glen, I was relieved to achieve pre-race pooping! I may even have shared that information with a few folk, they seemed pleased for me. Soon it was time to start – Donna and I almost missed the start while taking our pre-race selfie…

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Tyndrum – Bridge of Orchy, 7 miles, 1:24:22, pos 187 (last place)
This section was relatively straightforward and I was blissfully unaware that I was in last place with the sweepers keeping a very respectful distance at this early stage in the race. The last time I’d been on this section, had been in February and my friend Heather and I were forced to turn back due to blizzard conditions. It was a lot more pleasant this time around! Great support and encouragement from the marshals – there was a timing team, road crossing team and water stop. It felt like five star treatment. I had a swig of water and headed off up Jelly Baby Hill. I tweaked my right calf on a training run the previous weekend, unfortunately it began to niggle within the first few miles. I tried to stretch it off but to no avail. I decided I’d just have to keep an eye on it and consider my options if it got considerably worse.

Bridge of Orchy – Glencoe, 11 miles (18 miles cum), 2:50:38 (4:15:00 cum), pos 186 (second last)
I marched over the hill feeling quite happy, I’d power hiked it and back the previous weekend and told myself well at least I only have to do it once today. I enjoyed jogging the descent and a few tourists asked me questions and gave me encouragement. I spotted ultra legend Ray just ahead of me. As I got to Inveroran and the tarmac section a car slowed to give encouragement and I peered inside to see Robert Osfield smiling back.

I slogged along the road, taking some walk breaks and getting some food into me. Ray remained ahead. I was glad to get off the road but also knew the Drover’s Road is deceptively tough – it looks so runnable but there is a long, steady climb. I was glad to see Ray wasn’t doing a tremendous amount more running than I was. After a while I caught up with him and we had some chat. We yo-yo’d back and forth a while as we made the long trip over the moor. I dropped back so I could go for a wee. I think it was just after this that I heard voices and realised the sweepers were on my tail. I wondered if they were sweeping another runner but a glance over my shoulder confirmed I was in last place. I got a bit upset and tearful and had to remind myself that I was fully expecting last place anyway and I’ve always been proud of a finish whether last or not. I also got hit by nasty abdominal cramps and realised that unfortunately my prediction of getting my period was spot on. Just have to get on with it.

I turned a bend and saw a comical Ray sight – he has a notoriously bad sense of direction, truly a thing of legend. I swear he’d got lost in a plastic bag! Actually he was negotiating himself into his poncho as the weather was becoming less friendly. I would also have to put my jacket back on. We had some more chat but I fell back and enjoyed the solitude, realising that I wasn’t feeling very sociable at all and hoping that 1. the sweepers would keep their distance and 2. my mood would be more sociable by the time I picked up my support runner at Kinlochleven.

There is a rather more stubborn climb before you get the descent towards Glencoe ski centre, but I was glad of it as I knew the descent and cheery checkpoint would be coming soon. The descent was very welcome and I became incredibly motivated to get well in front of the sweepers and see the friendly faces that surely awaited at the checkpoint. I overtook Ray, who by his own admission has quite an erratic style and he told me he’d come over quite tired suddenly. I met Cat walking her dog George so got lovely dog hugs and asked Cat for a hug please and she obliged! I pressed on and got to the checkpoint where Katy Smith gave me a lovely welcome and none other than Debbie Martin Consani tended to my drop bag needs – I guess I didn’t faff too much as she didn’t seem to feel the need to chase me out! As I’d been entering the checkpoint, my friend Marianne was leaving and we shared a hi-five. I was leaving the checkpoint as Ray and the sweepers were arriving.

Glencoe-Kinlochleven, 10 miles (28 miles cum), 3:09:02 (7:24:02 cum), pos 180 (joint last place)
It’s downhill out of the checkpoint so I picked up a jog. I could see Marianne and she didn’t seem that far away, I thought maybe I’d catch up with her and we would have some chat. I dallied a little too long at the road crossing getting hugs from Noanie, Lorna and of course Sam the dog. Noanie and Lorna told me I was going well and could definitely make the seven and a half hour cut-off at Kinlochleven. At this point I felt reasonably confident of it too as I was at 4 hours and 19 minutes, leaving me over three hours to get there – surely do-able?

Off I trotted, but my undertrained legs were asking for walk breaks when they really shouldn’t or perhaps it was my brain. Marianne continued to remain beyond my reach for quite some time. I could see her jogging up small ascents that would reduce me to a walk and I admired her so much for her strength. It was not until I got into some traily descents on the section between Kingshouse and the foot of the Devil’s staircase that I eventually caught her up and she complimented my speed over the section and I declared my admiration for her uphill running! We jogged along in single file for a while, I slid and cracked my foot painfully on the rock of a drainage culvert – Marianne checked I was OK and I pretended I was but in fact it hurt like fury but we were making progress and I felt it would ease off if I kept moving. The weather started worsening, some kind tourists held a gate for us. When we got to the Devil’s staircase Marianne told me to go on ahead.

I slogged up,¬†passing walkers more frequently than I expected given how my legs were feeling. I know this hill, I’ve been over it several times and know what to expect but not usually with as many miles in my legs first. I kept thinking the next turn would be the last and it wasn’t. I muttered swear words and bent my head to protect myself from the wind and rain. Happy days – I heard cowbells and some friendly faces came into view, Pauline Walker and Fiona Rennie were braving the weather in rather fantastic outfits and giving out sweeties and encouragement. A boost to help me make it to the top. By now I could see Ray making great progress up the hill and knew he would be overtaking me again. I could see the sweepers on the path below. I kept pushing on trying to stay in front of them and thankfully was able to pick up my pace for the descent.

The descent to Kinlochleven goes on for-absolutely-*******-ever. The weather became worse and worse, the descent became ever more difficult and the cold water flowed down the path and around our ankles, freezing our feet and ensuring this would be one of the rare occasions I would get blisters. I met Susan Addison coming up from KLL, she gave me a hug and told me I looked great, I kept the tears until we parted ways. I spent some time with Ray and worried about him, he didn’t have enough clothes on, he couldn’t feel his arms. He pulled ahead of me and when I would lose sight of him I worried I’d turn the next corner or dip and find he’d fallen but I should know better – Ray is the most resilient of us all! I know the descent is long but it was taking forever just to reach the fire road and get away from all the slidy, pointy rocks. The cut-off seemed to be slipping away, the going was tough and the weather awful. I found myself thinking that it wouldn’t be all bad if I got timed out, it might be for the best.

Marianne really sped up to make the cut-off, Ray was a bit more chilled (as usual) but we eventually made it into the checkpoint in a group with about six minutes to spare.

The sun came out, the marshals were lovely, my boyfriend was there (a surprise and more surprisingly I didn’t just ask him to take me home!) and my incredibly cheerful support runner was waiting for me and all ready to do her best to help me finish. Damn sun, damn nice people and thank goodness for the G&T in my drop bag. Bolstered by dutch courage, sunshine and the kindness of others I set off, let’s do this!

Smiling again, unbelievably! Photo: Matt Williamson

Smiling again, unbelievably!
Photo: Matt Williamson

Kinlochleven – Lundavra, 8ish miles (?) (36ish miles cum?) , 2:34:28 (9:58:30 cum), pos 178 (3rd last)
I walked out of this checkpoint, explaining to Ruth that we were about to do a horrible climb and I was not sure how much running I would manage at all over the final 15 miles. I hoped the G&T I’d guzzled would sit OK and that it would make me drunk enough to continue! We slogged up the killer climb, my slowest mile of the day was the first mile out of KLL. Thankfully with the nicer weather we did have beautiful views – that was something. Ruth’s enthusiasm was infectious. I had cheerily said to Marianne that there had been joint winners and perhaps we’d be joint last place to top and tail things nicely – she wisely told me it was a bit soon to think about that. Although Ray had left the checkpoint after us, he got a second wind (and I know he was worried about making his bus) and he passed us and off into the distance. ¬†Just as we were heading out onto Lairig Mhor we met Terry Addison coming the other way and I got another Addison hug and words of encouragement that the worst was over and this was ‘only undulating’. I surprised myself by picking up a jog for downhill sections but I had nothing for inclines and not a great deal even on relatively flat bits.

We’d been told another woman was not far in front (having been mistaken for me initially at KLL by Tom and Ruth due to her purple jacket). She came into sight and Ruth made it a bit of a mission to catch up with her and her support runner. I was not convinced but we did eventually catch up and it was my friend, Donna. I thought that was it and we’d be finishing together but after a little socialising, Ruth kept pushing me on. My feet were sore by now and there are some of the pointiest wee rocks known to man on the Lairig. A couple of ouchy moments but nothing serious. Amazingly the Lundavra checkpoint came into view and I hit it at just under the 10 hour mark. It was lovely to see Alexa, Norma and Robin there. Some flat coke and a hallucinatory unicorn later and I was on my way – I felt I had to keep walking and not stop too long. Two hours left but still seven tough miles to get through.

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Thanks to Norma Bone for capturing this moment!

Lundavra – Fort William, 7 miles (43 cum), 2:08:04 (12:06:34 total time), pos 178 of 180 finishers
It’s a wee climb and some undulating trails after Lundavra, I tried to get my stomp on, I was staggering around and took something to eat after which I did manage to jog some downhills. I was hanging on for the bit when you get into the forest for a change of scene and some nice pine needle covered paths. The change of scene was good but the paths were reduced to slippery rock thanks to the rain. Steps are difficult when your legs are tired but they had to be done. I knew this section of the route from one recce but Ruth didn’t, I told her there would be a big downhill coming once we got onto the forestry road and I knew I would need to try and make the most of it, although I knew it was going to hurt. In my head the race was 42 miles¬†but now it definitely seemed to be 43 miles and had some new hill at the end that I had never reccied – I felt pretty nervous!

We got on the forestry tracks and picked up a jog, Ruth urged me to let the hill take me – I was trying but only hitting about 12:30 to 13:30min/mile pace, I pumped my arms to try and get my legs to follow and managed to push the pace a little but couldn’t sustain it. I spotted a welcome sight in the distance – a tall man and a wee boy walking toward us, it must surely be Craig and wee Duncan setting off on their father-son adventure. Ruth tugged me away from them, but I insisted on getting my hug and hi-five. We nearly caught Ray again but then he pulled away and I knew he was into his finishing sprint – the kind that those really experienced ultrarunners seem to be able to start from about 2 miles from the finishline. Once we got off this path and onto the road that leads to Braveheart Carpark I was struggling to run and in fact was sometimes more able to manage a 13to 14min/mile pace by walking. Ruth got me to run a bit but I started to feel a panic attack coming on and she managed to talk me down. Cowhill, well that is more than a sting in the tail – it may be smaller than the climbs so far but it’s steep and tough after what you’ve already done. We finally got to the top and Ruth was still thinking we could make it under 12 hours but I suddenly recognised where I was (I had walked my dog on these hill paths behind the leisure centre when I was supporting at WHWR last year) and I knew that I would not get there in less than a minute but I did manage to jog down the hill albeit probably no faster than if I’d walked. I saw the finish line. Everyone joined in the cheering and whooping that Ruth had been doing for the last quarter of a mile (convinced that the finish would appear any second). Round the play park and up the finishing funnel at what I hoped was a run and I was done – in more ways than one. “You fanny!” I exclaimed to the race director, John for the new finish!

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Thanks to Helen Munro for the photo.

Photos by Colin Knox

Photos by Colin Knox

A great welcome with hugs galore. Tom was waiting for me with my wee dog who jumped all over me with her muddy paws and of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Jemma offered me her trousers. I love a reference joke – she was frozen at the end of the Fling and I offered her mine (I had running tights underneath) but a seat and a hot coffee did the trick. If I listed all the hugs, this would go on for some time but it was lovely that people who had finished their race much earlier had stuck around to support the final finishers. I was able to cheer Donna and Marianne over the finish before going for a painful shower.

The nasty finish hill aside, a huge thanks to John Duncan for taking on this race and keeping it in the calendar – the organisation and team of volunteers were outstanding and the atmosphere was wonderful. To those volunteers – thank you for looking after me and especially all the slower runners, you put in an even longer day than even the slowest runner. Special thanks to Noanie for her advice before the race (it worked), Tom for being the very accommodating driver for the day and to Ruth, who was an outstanding support runner.

Thanks to Ruth for this photo

Thanks to Ruth for this photo

It wasn’t my longest race but it was definitely the toughest I’ve done so far. My strava stats say it was 43.8 miles with 6,679ft of climbing but I think there’s quite a bit of variation between people’s gps devices. I look forward to taking this race on again at some point when I am properly trained for it, I think I could do it a little bit faster and definitely under 12 hours. For now, I’m happy to have completed it and I don’t feel like I could have tried any harder on the day.

Thanks Donna for this photo - somehow we've managed to look like we haven't just run 43 miles...

Thanks Donna for this photo – somehow we’ve managed to look like we haven’t just run 43 miles…

The story of a happy, if predictable, DNF.

I haven’t been running much lately. I’ve been a bit injured and have been getting chubbier, cycling a bit and stressing about work, whilst seeking a bit of poking and prodding treatment for the injury. I’ve been quite enjoying the cycling and even made the bold move of clipping in for the first time just the other day, but that’s another story.

I have tried not to moan too much about not running. It is just a hobby and worse things happen to folk than having to take some time out of training. It has been a bit frustrating though and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing out on good stuff. In particular, I was very sad not to be support running at the West Highland Way Race again this year although that worked out into a different kind of adventure – crewing for an ‘orphaned’ runner and getting to swoop in hero stylee along with the lovely George to save the day. Also another story for another day.

Anyway, sick of missing out and despite being in no way ready or able for it I went through the following decision making process about my Great Glen Ultra entry: 5ee6f2624302743c80248bcb03995830 Yes, I decided I would toe the startline despite it being what most people would probably describe as a stupid idea. I would like to highlight that the race wasn’t a sell-out and there was no waiting list or anything so I wouldn’t be robbing anyone of the chance to run by going along myself.

The Great Glen Ultra is 72 miles running from Fort William to Inverness. I’ve given away the outcome in the blog title, there is no mystery to this – I didn’t finish it. A few things happened but the main and overriding reason for this failure was my lack of training and it’d be disrespectful towards the well trained runners who toed the line alongside me to say otherwise. That’s the main reason and even without any other issues I reckon the outcome would have been the same, or maybe I’d have plugged on for an extra checkpoint but certainly no more. I also chatted to one of the race directors a couple of weeks before at the WHWR and he was OK with me coming and giving it a bash.

I decided to prepare for the best case scenario of completing the race and have drop bags at every CP, just in case cycling fitness is amazing and I had one of those good days that life sometimes just bestows. More than anything I just wanted to get to be part of this brilliant race and hang out with the lovely people that would be there. I’d marshalled at the final checkpoint last year and had reccied the last 20 miles or so of the route on the final day of my friend’s Easter walking holiday. I had a good idea about the part of the route I was least likely to be seeing!

On the Tuesday before the race I had my first sick day from work in years, thanks to a stomach upset which I think was a case of explosivebottomitis or maybe it was an exorcism, but at the opposite end experienced by Emily Rose. It was pretty bad; I hoped to let it run its course but by the early hours of Wednesday morning I gave in and took a pill to stop it and so I could get back to work (really can’t afford to lose the pay!) I was later to wish I hadn’t taken that capsule.

I headed to my mum’s on the Thursday night before meandering up to Inverness on Friday with her and her motorhome – I was doing this the luxurious way after deciding tents are too cold for ultras after G12 last year. I ate well, food that has normally fuelled me well for long runs but sadly the recent medication had slowed my digestion right down.

After settling in at the campsite that is literally a stone’s throw from the race finish, and failing to get much kip, I grabbed my stuff and popped around the corner to board the coach taking us to Fort William and that was the last time I popped round that corner in a fairly limber state!

It was good to catch up with folk as we waited to get on the bus and I have to say it’s this social aspect that I didn’t want to miss out on as much as the running itself – possibly more, given how out of practice I’d become at running! Thanks a bunch dodgy heel.

I didn’t sleep on the bus, the chair wasn’t too comfy for someone as short as me – the headrest is in the wrong place for a teeny and just pushes your head forward, plus I was sitting with Craig MacKay and we found ourselves chatting (quietly I hope) most of the way. Craig pointed out parts of the route as we drove to Fort William; at one point the driver had to come to an almost complete stop for a deer in the road.

Once in Fort William, we encountered the usual excellent race organisation. I dropped off my drop bags and headed into registration before joining Craig on the floor in an attempt to doze a while – on getting up I found a number of other runners had done the same. I made several more somewhat distressed visits to the ladies but ended up heading to the start-line without a successful toilet trip and everyone knows how important it is to ‘shed your load’ before you start the race! Ach well, there was nothing more to do but run.

I had only decided with a few days to go that I would definitely start the race so my race strategy was a bit last minute and essentially involved going off really slowly and then getting slower. I can say I stuck to that strategy!

The race starts at 1am at Neptune’s Staircase and continues along the canal path for a good six miles or so. I stayed at the back and pretty much everyone came past me, including Antonia who had already run the route in reverse from Inverness to Fort William, had a short rest and then started the race. Yes, you did read that right – she ran it in both directions. Soon, Terry who was sweeping appeared at my side but I actually had to send him back the way to check – I believed there to be one runner behind me and I was a little concerned for anyone going off even slower than I had!

I was glad it was dark as I am not a huge fan of canal running, I saw Terry from time to time as he dotted between me, the person in front of me and the person behind me. The gaps were quite big between us and I worried that Terry would do a ridiculous mileage if he kept this up. After a while I think he must’ve agreed and hung back and I didn’t see him for quite some time again. The night was muggy and humid, I congratulated myself on wearing a vest top even if it had been a bit chilly when we were standing around at the coach and startline. I didn’t feel hungry and was still peeved at the lack of poo action, I didn’t feel like eating but decided I’d have to try and take on some food and that I’d kick this off as a celebration of getting off the canal path. I kept sipping water yet couldn’t seem to quench my thirst at all – I didn’t want to gulp it down though in fear of making myself vomit, and also because as a slow, heavy, middle-aged female runner I’m at higher risk of hyponatremia and you really, really don’t want that.

Once off the canal I had my first walk break up a bit of a hill and ate a froob, I felt pretty indifferent to the froob but excited by the change in scenery although it was still dark and I was on a section of road. From here to the first checkpoint would be around 4 to 4.5 miles and I was a little ahead of schedule due to the ‘easy’ running on the flat canal paths. What followed was a combination of road and trails through forests that took me across the road and down to the lochside. There was a traily little descent at one point where I had a bit of a slip which reminded me to take care – I’d thought about the reasons for DNF and the ones I’d considered were lack of fitness, timing out or problems with existing injury but I’d forgotten that you also need to take care not to go out thanks to a new injury or accident. During this time I had a second froob, half a babybel and continued to sip water. None of these things were really hitting the spot.

Despite my insides feeling like a concrete breeze block I really enjoyed the wooded traily sections before arriving in the millionaires’ row of Clunes – some big fancy houses there! The checkpoint came into view and I was all chuffed to reach it about 2 minutes ahead of my estimated time. I got there in 2 hours and 28 minutes, which is good enough to be allowed to continue without even the need for discussion – yay! Mike, Norry and Hamish looked after me here and I think I actually went through the checkpoint reasonably swiftly. I had a sip of pepsi, sipped some of my apple juice which I took with me and I put the froobs and peanut tracker bar from my drop bag into my race vest pockets.

I jogged out of the checkpoint cheerfully but I already had a feeling that this was going to be my last section. This didn’t get me down, but the fact I’d pretty much made up my mind about it and was entirely comfortable with my decision did mean I started fannying about a bit too. I kept thinking Terry would catch me up anytime and sweep me into the checkpoint. I’d no idea how far away he was. This section was undulating and largely forestry type roads – totally runnable and very like trails I run close to home in the Carron Valley but I wasn’t running much of it. I would run downhills and then pick up a stone in my shoe and lose my precious little time gain having to stop and get it out – I really should have turned back on Thursday when I remembered I’d left my gaiters at home.

I padded quietly past sleeping campers in their tents and dodged frogs on the path. I gladly turned off my headtorch which was irritating me by now and also causing a constant stream of insects to fly into my forehead. I remember shaking a moth off my wrist and saying ‘Hey, no passengers!’ All ultra runners talk to themselves or the flora and fauna.

All the time my concrete stomach continued and it didn’t seem to matter what I tried to eat I didn’t feel like anything was being absorbed – it was just sitting there uncomfortably on top of yesterday’s lunch and dinner. The apple juice that tasted so nice, gave me acid. The arches of both my feet hurt – this was new! I continued towards the sunrise and was surprised when I looked at my watch that despite it becoming more of a death march I wasn’t too far out on my hoped for pacing in this section. Even so, I made up my mind to still stop at the second checkpoint. I felt it was the sensible decision – if I wasn’t absorbing fuel then I would only go downhill, also my lack of fitness meant I’d mainly be walking and even if I could do the whole thing at a walk within the time limits, it wasn’t how I wanted to do it.

I stopped, not just to procrastinate, but because the sunrise was so beautiful I had to take a photo:

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If you go out running at stupid o’clock in Scotland you will have your reward! Sunrise and the dawn chorus.

Once the sun was up I stopped being too hot – partly due to slowing but largely due to the rain coming on and a distinct drop in temperature. I put on my long sleeved top, which I’d packed as a precaution and hadn’t thought I’d need.

I saw a tiny frog, I must’ve scared it and it ended up stuck on its back waggling its wee legs in the air. Obviously I stopped and righted it before moving on.

I continued jogging some downhills and picked up more stones in my shoes – I had just been sorting out a shoe and was re-tying my laces when I heard voices, the first I’d heard since the checkpoint. I think I must’ve been at about 15.5 or 16 miles. It was Terry on foot and Mike on the bike. What a shame they came round the corner to the sight of me bent over – poor lads! I told them my plan and both were happy with my decision making and supported me in that. I suggested Mike continue ahead as the person in front of me was certainly quite a lot faster. Terry continued with me to accompany me into the checkpoint. He was great. I had pretty much resorted to a stomp and he got me back into running the downhills. He’s lovely company. He gave me jellybeans, I chewed on them but ultimately had to spit them out.

The scenery was lovely with boats on the loch and wee birds flitting about. When we got to the checkpoint I decided to do a sprint finish as this was my finish line. I was only 13 minutes behind my target time into the checkpoint despite numerous stops, walking and procrastinating big time. Not bad and actually I would’ve had the option to continue had I wanted to – I didn’t, possibly if my guts had been co-operating more I’d have liked to try and cover one more section but to be honest I’d covered 20 miles despite a dearth of training, lack of fitness and dodgy insides. I was happy to bow out gracefully while someone was still behind me and I wasn’t a pest to the race team.

Alexa, Bill and Scott looked after me well at this checkpoint ensuring I had copious amounts of flat cola (the only thing I was finding palatable) and the loan of a hoody to keep warm. I found one of my friends also at the checkpoint having pulled out with issues more like my explosive Tuesday episode – much more of a shame than my DNF as Wilson would otherwise have been fit for the full distance. Eventually the guys had to go and retrieve the other person from the course who was well over an hour behind me – he must’ve been having a really rough day but I didn’t manage to get much conversation out of him.

The lovely Alexa drove us back to Inverness where I had a shower and a sleep before going to the finish line to cheer, drink gin and give out the odd goody bag. Very civilized.

My mum had a lovely time cycling along the canal, walking into Inverness via the lovely islands and browsing the Botanic Gardens which are right next to the finishline. She is looking forward to next year already and also plans to bring her cossie and visit the leisure centre – it’s a great location for your family to come to as well, there is plenty for them to do while you are out running.

The next day was the prize giving and I loved seeing everyone getting their whisky tumbler and Bam dram. I wasn’t in the least upset about my DNF and I was surprised and delighted to receive a spot prize (for appreciating the marshals in the form of sweet treats).

I was so happy to be back out on the trails again, I have missed them so much and that has definitely added to my recent melancholy mood. I was happy to cover 20 miles, my longest run for ages and get some time on feet plus I got the experience of a 1am race start and a spectacular sunrise. I missed the worst of the weather too! I can wholeheartedly say that although the DNF was pretty inevitable I don’t regret going and taking part in the slightest, I had a fab weekend.

I aim to return next year, hopefully injury free and well trained, because as John Munro said there’s a Bam dram with my name on it!

Loch Katrine Marathon. To be disappointed or not? That is the question.

I was looking forward to this marathon and then suddenly I wasn’t. I won’t go into lots of detail but I have been really, really sad and down recently. I also did a 16 mile training run on the route and experienced the hills and tarmac for real – that was a sobering experience. All in all I was really dreading it, and in fact spent the night before and a fair proportion of the whole week before¬†it in tears. It’s really out of character for me but that has been the reality lately, hey ho.
I put a lot more training miles in cumulatively before LK compared with Edinburgh. I hadn’t been sitting on my laurels over the winter, there had been hill reps and interval sessions most Thursdays and consistently three to four runs a week although I hadn’t run longer than 16 miles for a few months. When I trained for Edinburgh I pretty much did one run a week, because I was commuting a long way. I was still a novice runner at Edinburgh, I really felt I should be able to do better at my second marathon. This would only be my second marathon for a marathon’s sake as any others took place during an ultramarathon. I have been harbouring the desire to do a sub-5 marathon, just once to have an official time starting with a 4. According to race calculators, it should be achievable going by my 10k and half marathon PBs.
It was not to be at LK, although I could have guessed that after the training run! It didn’t stop me hoping for some kind of race day miracle though.
The first, and possibly biggest, achievement of the day was that I turned up to the start. In spite of hugs galore from lots of good friends, my confidence was still in my boots. This is a really, lovely race – great, friendly atmosphere and a relatively small field even including the 10k and half marathon that make up the Loch Katrine Running Festival. As for the scenery, it’s simply gorgeous.
Once we started, I fell into pace with my friend Heather and actually continued like that for much of the first half. My first half was actually not bad at all, I even ran most of the hills, and if I’d maintained the pace I wouldn’t have been much over the 5 hours. Cue a pretty significant positive split; the first half was about 2.33 (faster than my first ever half marathon!) and the second half was 3.07. Probably a fairly common phenomenon on that route. I’m not sure if the hills are tougher on the way back or if they’re similar but you’re just so much more tired and each hill saps you a little bit more. My friend Minty likened it to being in a boxing match and the cumulative effect of each blow – individually they might not be that bad but put it all together and it’s a potential knock-out!!
Unfortunately, it was painful from the word go. My calves were inexplicably tight despite a proper taper and a sports massage on the Tuesday before, both my Achilles were complaining the whole time. On the return route even downhills were really hurting and I experienced a new pain in my shin, which has since shown up with bruising, but I managed to pick up the pace in the last three miles and passed another runner who was also suffering courtesy of the hilly course. I even managed a little finish line sprint, not the usual triumphant one but more out of desperation to be finished! I think there were three people behind me, fourth last is a new spot for me!
I got a wonderful welcome over the line from RD Audrey, my boyfriend Tom and my lovely friends Katherine, Heather, Ross, Noanie, Amanda, Lois and Robin – it turned into a bit of a group hug and it’s just brilliant the way a hardcore bunch always hang around to cheer in the later finishers.
So, yes I did tough out the whole course and I’m hugely grateful for the amazing support from fellow runners and the wonderful marshals in particular…long list coming – at the water stations: Lois, Lorna, Helen, John, Robin (yes, Robin Wombill who coached me to the end of GO33!) and Ross; at the turn Stuart and Spot the Duck; and on the bikes Norry, Douglas and Dougie. Not to mention one of the homeowners on the route who put out refreshments for the runners – the orange segments were like manna from heaven! Truly these people are absolute gems and I’m so lucky to count them amongst my friends.
I want to give some of the other runners a shout out too. First off, my boyfriend Tom who did his first marathon on this ridiculously brutal course and smashed it. My friends and running buddies Heather and Katherine, who both ran brilliantly and are going to demolish the Highland Fling in five weeks time. The lovely Amanda, who made sure I was suitably hugged before, during and after the race! Gerry, who won – yep I’m chums with the elite athletes too, don’t you know… an absolutely stonking 2.53! A very well deserved win for such a dedicated runner. Just superb to see so many fab folk out on the route and I won’t manage to mention everyone but what about Chen Chee Kong and Fiona Rennie who put in blistering performances whilst nonchalantly photographing all the other runners, marshals and beautiful scenery while they’re about it?! Seriously! Also my friend Fiona who did her first half marathon and put in a stonking performance despite recent injury and the gruelling course. Well done to all the runners, without exception they were encouraging of their fellow runners and respectful of the route. A huge congratulations to Janice who achieved her triple crown having progressed from 10k to half marathon and now full marathon during the three years of the festival – outstanding!!
Nitty gritty time. Performance. Eugh.
I did 5.40.26 (watch time, official race times will be published shortly). Not a PB, a PW in fact. OK, I was pretty disappointed. I’ve done so much more running in the last two years, so many more miles, hills and even began doing speedwork and yet…
I really would have liked to do better but maybe I can cut myself a little slack when I look at the elevation compared with Edinburgh. 174ft versus 1784ft, that’s a pretty hefty difference. Hopefully, 7 minutes slower with ten times as much climbing is actually an indication that my running has improved a bit at least. Based on that, I reckon I probably could go sub 5 at Edinburgh or a similarly flat marathon.
For the sake of some more navel gazing (guess what? There’s nowt but fluff in there), I compared my marathons with my marathon times during ultras.
Marathons (evil tarmac all the way)
March 2013 Edinburgh Marathon – 5.33.20, elevation 174ft
March 2015 Loch Katrine Marathon Р5.40.26, elevation 1,784ft
Marathons during trail ultras:
November 2013 GO33 – 6.17.25 (total 31.5 miles, 7.35.40, elevation 2,728ft)
May 2014 Kintyre Way Ultra – 7.05.35 hilly (total 35.5 miles, 9.35.02, elevation 4,374ft)
August 2014 Speyside Way Ultra – 6.33.36 (total 36.5 miles, 9.24.23, elevation 2,104ft)
September 2014 Glenmore 12 Р6.17.12 (total 46.17 miles, 12.00, elevation 3,348ft)
I’m not sure how those marathons within ultras should compare with marathons for a marathon’s sake but they’re all a good bit slower anyway and the time period is just under two years. Is two years still a novice? I don’t think I’ve drawn any concrete conclusions from my pseudo-analysis right now, except that I do believe I’ve still got more potential and I can do better.
I will keep trying. I don’t do giving up!
Photo courtesy of Lois, bringer of flapjacks and deliverer of hugs and encouragement.

Photo courtesy of Lois, bringer of flapjacks and deliverer of hugs and encouragement.

Front of back of the pack.

For most folk it wouldn’t be anything to get excited about. I’ve become quite accustomed to being last or third last in races with small fields, when only a couple of hundred people are running it’s pretty reasonable that almost a couple of hundred of them will run faster than me. I ran the Gartmorn 6 on Sunday. It’s a lovely wee route and at six miles, the first ‘short’ race I had done in a while. The route goes along a small amount of road before heading into woods with muddy trail following a meandering wee burn before popping out at the Gartmorn Dam, which you loop then retrace your steps to the start which is now the finish. There are small undulations and a steep wee bank up to the dam but it’s not hugely hilly. It’s very pretty and was loads of mucky fun after torrential rain the day before; we enjoyed sunny if blustery conditions. I put myself right at the back, it was a small field after all with quite a lot of clubrunners jostling at the front, all opting for a high speed start to avoid the inevitable bottle necks once into the woods where the trail and little bridges make passing difficult.

A strange thing happened, I started passing people straight away even though I was settling into a relatively comfortable pace – now that’s something that only normally happens if I run in a mass event filled with walkers and newbies. Then I saw a guy on his hands and knees, so stopped to see if he was OK and the answer was no, he felt dizzy but he didn’t want to stop other racers. There was a faster guy, who must’ve been pacing some folk, who offered to stay and wait for marshal help, as he could catch his runners up. Another lady stopped who had a phone on her. Runners are a good bunch.

I went on my merry way, merrily re-overtaking folk. A little later the faster chap did pass me and reassured me that guy was being attended to by a marshal – I asked after him at the end of the race and thankfully he was fine. Funny thing. I didn’t just overtake the people I had previously overtaken but I passed a few more.

I caught up to a runner that had seemed out of reach for a while, just after half way and saw her with a hand in the air and reckoned she must have a stitch. I asked her and checked she was OK, luckily it was passing. We got chatting and realised we knew each other from marshalling at Clyde Stride. We ran the rest of the race together with another minor pause as another lady we caught up had a wee fall but was OK. We were both pushing ourselves a bit and each thinking we were pushing to keep up with the other – that worked out for us both anyway!

Fab photo courtesy of Fishy Gordon

We finished with a sprint (of course) and a pretty respectable 1.01 over a traily wee 6 miler with some stops. I was pleased as punch and quite surprised to later find that I was 35th from the back, unlike my usual last to third last place.

Amazing refreshments were generously provided by the Wee County Harriers back at the hall – what a spread! Such a lovely, friendly wee race and truly suitable for all levels of ability. I’d recommend it to anyone. No wonder it sells out.

Glorious Glenmore

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.

Aaaaaarrrr! Photo credit: Go Al Gannet

Aaaaaarrrr!
Photo credit: Go Al Gannet

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.

Running :) Photo: James' Dad

Running ūüôā
Photo: James’ Dad

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 РI 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 Рthis 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!
Getting my medal and cider...

Getting my medal and cider… ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Photo: Catriona Adams

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And a well earned hug.                                                    Photo: Catriona Adams

 

 

 

 

Speyside Shuffle

It wasn’t a bad day as such, but it wasn’t a great day either.¬†Training hadn’t gone brilliantly since Kintyre and I’d aggravated something in my calf at an interval session with the Wee County Harriers (I had been getting on well until the oo-ya moment) the week before Speyside, a 36.5 mile trail ultra from Ballindalloch to Buckie. I ummed and ahhed a bit about going but we’d entered, we had accommodation and psychologically I needed a long run before Glenmore.

Startline positivity...and a canicross reunion.

Startline positivity…and a canicross reunion. ¬† Photo: Chen Chee Kong

To sum it up quickly, the route was lovely, the race crew and marshals were fantastic. We timed out, coming in about 24 minutes after the cut-off. We did the distance and we still got a medal, goody bag and a hug from the lovely Sarah, the RD. As a bonus we also spent much of the day with Sean the Sweeper, he apparently was delighted to be sweeping sweaty girls instead of sweaty men for a change – I’m sure we were incredibly glamorous…

If I had stood on the start line of Speyside in the same shape as I started Kintyre, I’d have completed it comfortably within the cut-off (comfortably, not spectacularly). That wasn’t the case but at least it was a long run, it was more practice and I learned some lessons.

Recovery consisted of:

  • paddling in the sea at Lossiemouth
  • eating amazing ice cream at Lossiemouth
  • an agonising sports massage
  • a couple of cycles and a short run in the two weeks before G12, and not forgetting a fantastic Daftie night out.

I really want to go back and do this race again and do it justice, because I know that I can do better.

The last checkpoint where I got hugs from the wonderful marshals, who Katherine said distracted her so much with their positivity that she forgot to DNF...

The last checkpoint where I got hugs from the wonderful marshals, who Katherine said distracted her so much with their positivity that she forgot to DNF… ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† Photo: Pink haired mummy marshal (I think)