I took the Friday off work, more because of the hill race that evening rather than prepare for the ultra.
I arrived at the Spittal in plenty time expecting to help the race organisers but all was done including marquee set up.
This meant a relaxing afternoon chatting to early arrivals.
The forecast heavy rain started and I began to regret entering the hill race. I didn't expect such rubbish weather and only brought one pair of running shoes. It was cold and snow could be seen at the peak of the hill we were due to run, however, this was all training for the 6666.
Needs must though, I certainly wasn't going to back out now. Once in running gear and at the start, the sun broke through the clouds making perfect conditions for the 5 mile race.
The instructions from George were simple, follow the markers and I'll see you back here. At 1900 we were off (after pushing a car out of the muddy field). It's a rude start, a sprint along the road and straight onto the Cateran downhill finish, only we were going uphill. With no warm up my breathing was all over the place, running as much as possible then walking when it became too much. We passed Mike and Flora who were at the point of return when coming back off the hill. As it happens, Mike didn't see many runners return on the proper route as quite a few of us missed the markers on the hill.
The top of the hill is Lairig Gate then turn left and follow the crest of the hill. At this point runners were spead out, the runner in front of me was too far ahead to see and follow. There was a layer of snow and the mist moved in. I thought Lairig Gate was the peak but no, there was more climb ahead. I followed the footprints which whittled down to one set, not only that but there were no markers, I had missed the turning point. I stopped to chat to the runner behind, we decided to follow the one set of footprints down, they finally disappeared. Before long we could see the Cateran camp site way over to the left. From here it was every person for themselves as we headed back as the crow flies.
I managed to get back on the Cateran trail before crossing the finish line half a mile over the 5. This hill race turned out to be good fun, a one off as a thank you from the organisers to the marshals who have helped out at the Cateran over the years.
I wasn't sure how to do the Cateran, my PB was 11 hours 45 minutes but I didn't want to go after this. I wanted quality over speed in training for my main event in June. I decided to run as I felt, keep it comfortable and more importantly finish injury free.
After a cold night the day was bright and clear, perfect for running one of Scotlands best long distance trails.
I ran with various runners, quite a few doing their first ultra distance. Don't take things too seriously, a reminder from marshals at various checkpoints in fancy dress and costumes. I was feeling exhausted and a bit low on approach to Blairgowrie before being escorted accross the road by a chicken, this sort of thing that brightened my day.
On exiting this checkpoint I bumped into a familiar runner, Minty. Perfect, good company which made the miles go by. We stuck together then was joined by Mike. Once again it was a perfect race, beautiful scenery, lovely weather and great company.
For the past 9 years I have been part of the Cateran Ultra in one way or another. Seven finishes, one DNF at the first double and one marshalling when injured 2017. George and Karen were organising the Cateran for the last time before handing the race over, I must admit to being a bit emotoinal on approaching the finish line. A finish routine would be good so all three runners decided to have an argument as to who crosses the line first before joining hands and crossing together.
Twelve hours 37 minutes, I'll take that as part of my build up to 6666.
Now I need to say thanks to George, Karen and the marshals for organising the superb Cateran Ultra.
Thanks to Karen and George whom I first met in 2010 and encouraged me to enter the Cateran, the catalyst for me continuing to run ultras over the years. Enjoy your rest and I'll see you at future running events.