The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Speyside Way Ultra

This was my third race at Speyside, a lack of training meant I was very nervous during the run up.  The ankle niggle re-appeared, zero miles were completed leading to the race.  My plan to junk the watch and run by how I felt fell apart somewhere on Ben Aigan.

I must be getting old, I'm really enjoying coach trips at the start of ultra races.  The weather was looking perfect as we meandered up to Ballindalloch.  The bus was very warm, I could easily have fallen asleep.   We arrived and were piped off the bus, a nice touch.  There was a bit of time to kill, I tried uploading to FB but had a weak phone signal.

At nine o'clock over ninety runners set off past the piper and made their way to Buckie.  The disused railway line was very muddy in places.  We struggled for grip, especially on the suspension bridges.  This is a really nice route crossing ravines with streams tumbling down to the Spey.

The field spread out and I felt very comfortable.  It was early in the race and there was no sign of how bad I would be later on.  I crossed a bridge where one of the marshals handed out jelly babies.  I took two looking to try and keep my energy levels up.  The light along this track was beautiful as it shone through the leafy trail, shafts of sunlight in contrast to shadow where the trees made a canopy.  There's a tunnel, although short it's dark and the ground is a bit uneven.  Care had to be taken here, I was using Hoka Mafate today due to the ankle issue.  After the tunnel I knew the first of two checkpoints was approaching which was just as well, I was needing something to eat.

Heather was here who kindly fetched my food while I refilled with water.  Boiled potatoes were scoffed, I pocketed plain crisps and a double decker.  The hills begin after the checkpoint, I started eating the crisps and was immediately passed by a few runners.  I couldn't have that and immediately started running up the hills.  This was a big mistake, I knew I would pay for it later on but that didn't stop me.

Onto the forest road now and more uphill running only this time I walked a wee while to eat the chocolate bar.  This wouldn't go down so I began to feel a bit rough, in fact this is where things went downhill.
Some nice chat with a few runners before arriving at what is affectionately known as Mordor.

I can hear the Killers ahead, they've either come all the way to Speyside to play a gig or it's Jenni Coelho and her gang providing a water stop.  Needless to say it was the latter which was much appreciated.  A quick water and cola before heading down the treacherous and slippy slope.  This is a really nice track with a great view over the Spey and surrounding countryside.  It also has some huge Fungi of all sorts including the proper red capped variety.  I make a mental note to come back with the SLR and take some photos.

I felt tired as the route levelled off, it was a quick transformation from being comfortable to being rough, maybe something to do with Ben Aigan.  A good few road miles were required to reach checkpoint number two, I couldn't keep a steady pace and began walking some of the time.  This annoyed me as it was on the flat.  Eventually I reached the checkpoint after being passed by a few runners.  Boiled potatoes? No. Crisps? No.  I drank a lot of water before pocketing a chocolate bar and heading off.  Only 13 miles to go.

Downhill to Fochabers, passed by another few runners here, my apologies, I wasn't the best of company.
A few walking breaks through the town before going under the A96 bypass.  Another really nice section, through the forest and alongside the river once more.  I watched the water as it flowed toward the Moray Firth.  It's one of the fastest flowing rivers in Britain and it's going quicker than me.

The track heads for Spey Bay where I walked for long sections.  I was done in by now.  So much for a comfortable sight seeing well paced ultra.  There's a marshal standing by his car who offers water.  It's gratefully accepted as I can't stand the electrolyte drink in my water bottle.  Right, "time for music" I thought to myself.  With no headphones packed I played King Creosote through the i phone speaker.  As slow and deep this album was it got me running again.

Spey Bay and more water from the lovely marshals. Around six miles to go and I'm not in great shape despite the music.  Another beautiful trail through woods then it's a very long straight to Port Gordon.
I could see a runner in the distance but there was no catching up.  I dare not look back, I didn't want to be passed by any more runners.  There's a gate at the end of the straight, I looked back.  Blast! Runners are catching me up.  I'm determined not to lose any more places and run as much as possible.

Through Port Gordon where I declined the kind offer of sweets from a marshal, I really couldn't face eating anything.  The seals are here, I count ten wallowing on the rocks.  Buckie, along the narrow pavement I ran playing Leona Lewis "Run" funny enough.  About a mile to go, no one passed as I made my way to the finish.  It's a cruel end, uphill to the square and over the line.

I was drained and exhausted but a finish is a finish.  This race taught me a lesson - the miles have to be put in at training to run an ultra well, there are no short cuts.  My miles have been very low over summer and it showed.

I'd like to thank Sarah Louise Grigor and all the marshals for organising a great ultra in a beautiful part of the world, the message boards of encouragement throughout the race were a great touch.

Mon 03, Sat 36.  Weekly total 39 miles.


Monday, 18 August 2014


Thought I'd better pick up the laptop and blow the dust off my diary, a bit like my running really.  Once again I've struggled to keep going through the summer months.  After the disappointment of missing my holiday race, the feet recovered enough to do a 14 mile run to Naudech, a couple of days before returning home.  It was a small consolidation and a fraction of the miles I intended putting in on holiday.

Things didn't improve once home, an ankle niggle meant a zero mile week and serious loss of motivation.
The Post Fling training run and BBQ came along just in time.  Seven circuits of a really nice three mile course was just what was needed, that and a few social drinks in great company.

The low miles have returned though, and this just before my next race - The Speyside Way.  I'm not expecting a great race with so few miles done in training, think I'll dump the watch and run by feel again.

Just two weeks after Speyside is the G24 and to be honest I'm not too sure of this one.  This was supposed to be a more relaxed time for support crew but a clash in dates means I'll be doing this alone.  I've only just realised accommodation will have to be booked after the race, I won't be fit to drive home after running 24 hours.

It's been a sad day for my favourite race, the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel has burnt down.  This has been Cateran Ultra headquarters for a long time.  The best ultra race finish is no more.  Good luck to Karen the RD in finding another race venue and keeping the Cateran Ultra going,  I'll be there whatever the arrangement.

I've not forgotten about my East to West challenge.  I am running out of time to do it this year.  I've been thinking of attempting it in October, but with only around 12 hours daylight available this could be a tall order.  On the flip side, Autumn is my favourite season and where better to experience fall than the forests of Speyside.

Week ending 27th July - Tues 5, Thurs 5, Sat 14. Weekly total 24 miles.
Week ending 03rd Aug - 0 miles.
Week ending 10th Aug - Mon 4, Tues 4, Wed 4, Thurs 4, Sat 21. Weekly total 37 miles.
Tues 3, Thurs 3, Sun 3.  Weekly total 9 miles.