A late entry to this race meant little preparation, or rather little time to study the details. I did buy a tourist map of the Great Glen Way but paid little attention to it. After looking at the elevation I knew the majority of hard work was at the end of the race with steep climbs after Fort Augustus. I lacked hill work after the DC so expected the latter half of this race to be tough.
The run up to Friday was busy, so busy I missed doing a blog post. The Ultra season is using up my holiday leave so I had no choice but work the Friday before making my way to Inverness. The crew and I departed straight after work form Aberdeen, I was worried about traffic on the A96 but all was clear. We were going to stop for a fish supper but continued to Inverness instead. A quick pizza and chips it was before making our way to Bught Park.
A quick goodbye to the support crew who were having some time off for a change and it was time to board the bus. The journey to Fort William was quite subdued where I tried unsuccessfully to get some shut eye.
The evening was still with a nice clear sunset over the lochs. Motor homes were parked in scenic lay byes taking in the loch views and atmosphere.
It wasn't long before the bus pulled into Fort William and dropped us off at Neptune's Staircase. A wine bar was registration before meeting Mike Trails and having a cup of tea before race start, very civilised.
Half past twelve arrived where we all crossed the canal for race briefing.
0100 and we were off. I stayed near the back of the pack, I wanted to take it real easy for the first half of the race. The first part runs alongside the canal, everyone around me was quiet, maybe contemplating the distance ahead. After a few miles I pulled off to water the verge. Once I rejoined the tow path I looked back but found no head torches. I knew I was near the back, surely I'm not last I thought to myself. I could see runners ahead so decided to keep them in my sight as I wasn't too sure of this route.
There was a bit of a bizarre moment where someone was heckling runners from their house on the opposite side of the canal, a few too many sherries no doubt. We were marshalled by Lorna across a bridge and onto some back roads before turning onto forest trail. Now I've seen some beautiful sights in my last four years of ultra running but the scene at Loch Lochy just about takes the prize. The forest trail skirted a remote part of the shore where the water was like a sheet of glass. The Loch split mountains silhouetted by a not quite dawn sky, but just getting light with different colours of purple and orange. I was torn on whether to stop and try to picture this or run on, I decided on the latter. I arrived at the first checkpoint, Clunes, with a few other runners.
A pot of rice, Chia flap jack, pocket peanuts (which wouldn't get opened till near the end) before being chided by John for staying too long at the checkpoint, it was time to go. I caught up with and passed a few runners on the forest track. The sunrise was looking spectacular but was obscured by the trees. I wanted a picture so stepped up the pace a bit, hoping to come across a clearing. I caught up and briefly chatted to Rhona before the track opened up to reveal a cracking view of boats sitting in a misty loch with the sunrise in the background. Some runners from Ireland were in the clearing, camera phones were passed around so pictures could be taken with the scenery in the background. I had some good chat with the Irish runners before pushing on to checkpoint 2.
We were taken well care of by the marshals as usual, chat to Carol then another pot of rice, pocket a babybel cheese, refill of water and off I went feeling pretty good. I caught up and chatted with Colin on this section before dropping back down to the Canal once more. I passed a couple of runners on the way down and was unsure if I should follow the canal. I stopped and waited for the same runners to catch up and confirm I was going the right way. As beautiful as the morning was with mist rising off the the canal, I must admit this was my least favourite part of the race. A flat five miles on the canal tow path all the way to Fort Augustus. You can see far ahead and there was no choice but get your head down and run a steady rhythm to cover the miles. A few times I had to fight the urge to walk and managed to keep running all the way to checkpoint 3.
Ada and her team did another great job turning runners around and setting them off. After use of the facilities at Fort Augustus I was on my way but my right quad was not feeling too great. In fact, I couldn't work out if it was the quad or IT band that was tight. I found a post and did the Morton stretch but this didn't do much good. Negative thoughts began to creep in, IT band issues could make the run interesting on the downhill sections but I shoved them to the back of my mind and pushed on. I followed a couple of runners, David Searil and Ivan I think, past the turn off where we had to double back a short distance. I ran a lot of the section to Invermoriston with David, a chance encounter that would see us team up and will each other through various stages of the race. We ran into Invermoriston together and arranged to leave together after the pit stop.
BaM have managed to clone marshals, it's a great idea as runners don't require support crew over this 72 mile course. At Invermoriston we have clones John and Noanie taking care of runners. The cloned John was just as bad in trying to hurry me out the checkpoint. There was the usual efficient turn around from marshals, including another clone, this time Kynon. After refuelling and a rendezvous with David it was time for some serious ascent.
Cursing, swearing, sweating, panting and more cursing from both David and I on this section but the views were worth every bit of uphill effort. I have never been high above Loch Ness and the views were breathtaking, overlooking lochs high on the other side. We stopped for a photo opportunity before making our way towards checkpoint 5 at Drumnadrochit. This was a hot and dry section where we both ran out of water. We caught up and chatted to Karen who advised there should be a water stop soon. This was going to be most welcome as we were all parched. Sure enough it wasn't long before Helen and Mark Legget replenished our water bottles, supplied coca cola and advised 5 miles to the next checkpoint, much appreciated. The five miles are mostly on quiet country roads, there were a few runners here including Alyson from the DC110. Mike Trails also caught up and passed on this section, it was good chatting to runners whom I knew. My quads were complaining as we ran into Drumnadrochit checkpoint where I used the facilities before getting my drop bag. More efficiency from the marshals, including a second clone of Kynon, BaM have been busy.
David and I leave the checkpoint, it's quite a distance along the pavement before turning onto the hill and more hill climbing. And more climbing. I'm so tired I take a seat in the sun to rest before I'm buzzed by flies and catch up with David once more. There's a heavy hail shower where I don't bother putting on my waterproof, getting soaked cools me down. We clear the trees and David points out the remarkable similarity between the lay of the land here and Rannoch Moor. We come to a forest track junction, were not sure which way to go but both of us vote left. There's a lack of GGW marker posts but it's not long before we come across one to confirm all is well. A campervan is ahead, it can only mean one thing, checkpoint 6.
We have reached Elaine, Fiona and Angela in the middle of a midge outburst. They look after us despite the midge attack, Angela dishes out midge repellent but the blighter's are determined. I hand Angela my midge net before setting off for Inverness, this ultra is in the bag.
We're on the last section, single file through the overgrown nature reserve, some quiet back roads then a really nice long downhill trail towards the city. Clones Carol and Lorna are here with water, sorry I don't stop, I've a full water bottle and want to get the run finished. This trail would be lovely if run on fresh legs but it goes on and on and on. I'm running low on energy but good chat with David sees us reach the edge of town before hitting the canal once more. Cross the road, into the stadium and a 400 meter sprint and handshake with David over the line. Job done. My third longest ultra run completed in 16 hours 32 minutes.
This is my first BaM event and I can't speak highly enough of it. The laid back atmosphere, efficient organisation, expert marshalling and drop bag system can only see this race grow in popularity. Thank you to Bill, Mike and all the hard working marshals, you have created a unique race.
My quandary for 2015 is, do I enter West Highland Way or Great Glen Ultra? It's a really difficult decision to make, one I'll have to decide in November.
So what's next? I'm going on holiday and have my eye on this -
No, it's not an ultra at 22 miles but it does have 2,400 meters of ascent, and with the hot climate could be quite a challenge. I'll decide next week.
Week ending 29th June - Mon 10, Wed 15, Sun 3. Weekly total 28 miles.
Week ending 06th July - Mon 3, Wed 3, Sat 72. Weekly total 78 miles.
Thurs 3. Weekly total 3 miles.