The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Glen Ogle 33 race report, by Georges brain

Things were going swimmingly well, recovering from a torn ankle ligament meant chocolate biscuits, crisps, peanuts and beers whenever I wanted.  I'd give him the order and off he'd trot to fulfil my request.  I managed to stop him from running, convincing him he needed to rest and recover rather than run in the dark.  I even managed to dissuade him from doing ankle strengthening exercises, the wobble board stayed firmly packed away while we lounged on the sofa watching tv.

Things went downhill on Friday though, my life of excess and slumber came to an abrupt halt.           I knew he hadn't withdrawn from the GO33 but I wasn't too concerned as time went on.  There wasn't the usual pre ultra activity of drop bag packing or looking out the required kit.  I convinced him the seven hour round trip and early departure wasn't worth it, plus he'd only ran 15 miles in two months.
We came home from work, I gave him the usual Friday night order - it's the weekend, go get a beer. He reached into the cupboard and took out a North Face water bottle.  WTF?  I said a beer, you've made a mistake, put it back!  He didn't put it back, instead we spent the next two hours arguing as he dug out a back pack, running kit, a foil blanket and food.  I told him this was not on, he was forsaking a Friday night of beers and Saturday morning long-lie to shuffle in the rain.

I'll foil this in the morning, the alarm was set for 3 o'clock, there's no way he'll get up at that time.     Sure enough the iphone chimed at 3, switch it off and turn over , that's my boy, time for some serious sleep.  0320 and up he gets, I almost had him, he almost fell into a deep sleep before getting up.     You're going to pay for this, I'm going to make your race hell for going against my wishes Georgey boy.

I sat in the corner mulling things over while he drove to Killin, there was a glimmer of hope when he got lost at Dunkeld but google maps soon had him on the right road along Loch Tay.  We were directed to park at a grass field in Killin, he could barely contain his excitement.

Yeah yeah, go and register and chat with your like minded ultra buddies, I'll just sit and wait.

So off we went, through the main street of Killin, we all disrupted local traffic as hundreds of runners ran past the Falls of Dochert.  As vehicles slowly followed behind runners I managed to sneak in some negative vibes, telling him he's not fit enough and could hardly keep up.  I felt the relief as he turned off the road and hit the uphill forest section.

And so I began my assault, I called on lungs to restrict oxygen.  He struggled to get into a rhythm while I suggested turning back.  It wasn't too far to turn back and call it a day, after all he hadn't trained for this.  He wouldn't listen though and carried on panting up the steep trail.

We eventually reached the forest summit, he was stubborn, and began the descent to checkpoint one. It was time to throw another spanner in the works, bowels, do your stuff and stop this nonsense.  What do you mean there's nothing you can do??  If I can rely on anything to ruin a race it's the runners trots!  He went before the start?  Damn it!

Escorted across the road and straight through the checkpoint he went, still dragging me along.  He's enjoying this now, the spectacular view from the railway line down Glen Ogle keeps a spring in his step but I'm not finished yet, I have more disruption planned.

At least I can rely on someone in my quest to stop this run, hip flexors step forward and take a bow.  Lack of training meant something had to give, look how he runs like John Wayne, keep up the good work.

Checkpoint two and he had the audacity to run straight through, Mr smarty pants has carried all he needed.  Just after the checkpoint he consumed a boiled egg and packet of crisps, stomach, I'll be calling on your services soon.

He was really hurting on these road miles, not only that but a fellow runner told him we have to run back up Glen Ogle.  It was time to ping in some negativity and break his spirit, especially as it started to rain.

He likes autumn, soft golden pine needle covered trails, leaves displaying colours from green through to copper, mist rising from lochs and rivers, I couldn't have this positivity, time to call on my old pal stomach to break things up.  Come on, where is the nausea?  Threaten to throw up!  Refuse to take any form of food.  What do you mean you're fine?  Oh yes, you know who your friends are, just sit in the corner and consume the eggs, cheese, crisps and twix, I'm all right jack eh?  Don't forget it's me who looked after you and got you to this size.  Don't come running to me when he decides to start a training regime, you and I are finished.

He was not in a good place, the penultimate checkpoint came and went, then back up Glen Ogle.  It was a steady incline and all I had left to disrupt the race was muscles and tendons.  The hip flexors were doing a good job but I needed something else to chuck a spanner in the works.  With seven miles to go, step forward my old pal, Achilles tendon.  Achilles tendon last disrupted running back in 2007 which sidelined him for five weeks, this was a pain he was not going to take chances with.  In fact he thought his race was over and so I thought I won before he stopped at the side of the trail and took his shoe off.  He must have applied the physio tape too tight which affected the tendon.  He removed the tape, put the shoe back on and almost danced up the trail, the pain was gone and I was running out of ideas.

Final checkpoint, some familiar faces including one of the race directors - Bill.  Coke, he was needing coke but all that was left was a dribble at the bottom of a bottle, ha ha.  He was kicked out of the checkpoint for the last, mostly downhill 4 miles of the race.  I made it as uncomfortable as possible, downhill comes as a blessing for most runners but not for Georgey boy today.  With aches and pains he made his way down being passed by countless runners and willing for the finish.

Back through Killin he dragged me, on the pavements this time towards the park, then a circuit round the park before running under the finish arch and another ultra medal, one he didn't think was possible after injury.
So thanks a bunch Bill and Mike.  Thanks to you and your team of BAM volunteers putting on a great race, George had an amazing time and got his mojo back.  He's going to start training again and is talking about doing Marcothon... mmmbbbwwwaaaa.....  :-( :-(

Saturday 33.  Weekly total 33 miles,


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Jedburgh Running Festival

I didn't quite get off with my G24 "smash and grab".  After the race, although I could put weight on my right foot, it was very swollen and painful to drive.  RICE didn't seem to calm it down and with an impending visit to Pulpit Rock I visited the doc.

Tendinitis was the diagnosis, so off I went thinking a few weeks rest and I'll be back running.  Pulpit Rock was spectacular, with walkers and runners of all abilities making the trek.

4 weeks after the G24 and with the Jedburgh ultra looming I ventured out, a nice easy 4 mile run.  The ankle still was not right and swelled up once more.  I called the physio who managed to squeeze in an appointment at short notice.

"What took you so long to get in touch?" was the question before a really thorough examination of the ankle.  I was hoping it would just get better with rest, that and trying to fit the appointment in around work.

I got the news I was expecting, no running and certainly not my last two ultra races of the year.  A torn ankle ligament, so off I went with instructions to get the foot compressed, cooled and get the swelling down before the next appointment and we'll take it from there.

I withdrew from the Jedburgh ultra and volunteered to marshal.  I couldn't bring myself round to withdraw from the GO33 as it seemed a while away.

Two weeks later and a positive visit, the ankle was better.  I was shown how to support with tape and given the green light to run, short distances on road I must add.  A set of strengthening exercises, wobble board and tape are now part of my running team, for the time being anyway.

It's been a good few years since I ran a 10k, I don't really enjoy frantic all out running but I entered the Jedburgh 10k as an incentive to get going again and felt rather apprehensive.

Team Chalmers packed the van and headed south, a couple of days at the stunning Northumbrian coast before heading across to Jedburgh for the running weekend.

The borders were at their best in the autumn sun.  We pitched at the camp site then geocached around Jedburgh before visiting the impressive abbey.

Our duties were to marshal checkpoint 2 of the ultra, just before hitting the three peaks.  The route looked stunning and for the first time I really missed not running the ultra.  The weather was very wet for a while before clearing up.    The marshals, led by Helen, got to work preparing the checkpoint before getting to action stations as first of the runners came through.

Marshalling for the first time was stressful for team Chalmers, I stood a bit down the trail and yelled runners numbers to the timing crew and Lynne / Skye.           It was frantic at times when large groups of runners arrived together, after a few hours all was done and we went back to help at the rugby club.

I enjoyed being on the other side, helping out race organisers so runners get a really good experience at the event.  Excellent soup and rolls were served along with a beer for the runners, a reward for their efforts.  After packing up and tidying it was time to hit the very busy Belters Bar for some food, drink and socialising.

Sunday, and it was my turn.  Did I mention I don't really like 10k's?  I cycled to the start, registered and chatted to runners.  Unknown to me, orange running shirts were proof of doing the dirty double, the previous days ultra and the half marathon.  I felt a bit of a fraud wearing one for the 10k but this was a big run for me in getting back on track.

Jedburgh high street was a great atmosphere with a pipe band seeing off the runners.  As far as I can remember, my 10k PB was around 45 minutes.  I knew I wouldn't improve on that but wanted to get as close as possible.

At eleven we were off,  I tried to keep a steady, quicker than normal pace.  Very quickly I was out of breath with my heart hammering.  Around two miles in a stitch appeared.  The good news is my ankle held up as I had strict physio instructions to stop if in pain.  At the half way turn around I grabbed a bottle of water, don't ask me why, it just seemed like a good idea at the time, even though I didn't open it.  Back towards Jedburgh I felt myself slowing, I tried to keep the same pace but began to suffer.  The finish line was a great atmosphere, with an announcement on crossing the line in 50 minutes.

With a long drive home we had to pack and leave straight after the race.  I'd like to take the opportunity and thank race directors Angela and Noanie for allowing the Chalmers family to be part of the Jedburgh Ultra Race.  The whole event is a very easy, laid back affair run by some of the nicest people around.  We will be back next year, only this time I'll be running the race.

Week ending 4th October - Sun 04.  Weekly total 04 miles.
Week ending 25th October - Sun 06.  Weekly total 06 miles.
Sat 05.  Weekly total 05 miles.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

G24 2015 race report, a smash and grab.

Glenmore Forest Park, a beautiful part of the Cairngorms with trails, streams, purple heather, towering trees and Loch Morlich.  It's early September where BAM Racing organises a unique ultra running event, the Glenmore 12, 24 and relay races.

I thought I'd missed the opportunity to run this race but organisers added another 20 spaces for the 24 hour race, one of which I quickly snapped up.

The North East weather was dire running up to G24 weekend, the forecast for Aviemore was pretty good even though we drove through a storm to get there.  Work and school meant a late Friday arrival where the car park was almost full.  The perimeter spaces were taken so we parked beside a few more campers in the middle of the car park, forgoing the party for an early night.

On race morning we woke up, the only camper left in the middle of the car park.  With no choice I reversed back onto the grass to what must be the best support location of the race, across from the the steps entering the car park.

My tactics worked so well last year I decided to use them again, even though virtually no training had been done.  I wasn't sure if I was fit enough to hit the ton but I was going to give it a go.   So here is a reminder from last year - 6 laps in the first five hours then 1 lap per hour gives a hoot of the horn.

It was a relaxed race briefing from Bill before being reminded by Sean to remove rings which I duly did.  As forecast the weather was cloudy and dry, I didn't expect this to change so conditions were perfect for running.

The horn sounded at midday which signalled the start.  The hayfield circuit was wetter than I expected but nowhere near as bad as last year, my feet were dry and would remain so for the rest of the race.

Lap one, it was good being back on the 4 mile loop.  Through the technical section next to the loch then onto the track, pass Rays bench before the uphill to the 2 mile watering hole.  Continue to the top before a one mile descent overlooking Loch Morlich and back to the hayfield.

A quorn mini egg and sup of water every lap, I was even mirroring last years fuelling strategy, this time I had Lynne and Skye for support so I could put in an order for hot food rather than relying on flasks.

I settled into the race and made sure each round was completed under 50 minutes including refreshments.  I chatted to two runners doing an ultra distance for the first time, the G24 makes perfect sense as you can run as much or as little as you want.  After lap six I was well ahead of schedule and reminded myself to slow down.  Lynne was away on her bike which threw a spanner in the works.  I had planned something hot to eat after lap 7 but this would have to wait if Lynne was still out.

I can hear the relay runners long before seeing them, they are running flat out.  Now that must be a real tough shift, 24 hours of running as fast as you can, cooling down then having to warm up and go, I take my hat off to them.

At the end of lap 7 Lynne was back.  I allowed myself 15 minutes to have tomato soup and quorn sausage rolls.  I struggled to eat for a few laps after this, relying on Starbucks Latte coffees to see me through.

Two runners approached, running the route in the opposite direction.  It was George and Karen, an amazing sight and one I would recall several times in the early hours of Sunday morning.

As the sun set we were treated to some beautiful views, one of the runners (sorry, I didn't get your name) commented on the colours of the landscape.  As nice as this was it meant one thing, it would soon be head torch time.

I struggled to get my appetite back.  I couldn't stomach any more quorn mini eggs so tried half a bounty instead.  I would normally demolish a bounty but not this time, I took ages to eat  before trying to spit the ruminants from my mouth.

I managed to squeeze in a lap before darkness fell then resorted to the head torch.  The batteries were dull so I asked Lynne to load new ones into my second head torch which I would pick up next round. This was a mistake as I struggled to make out the trail in the dim circle of light.

All was going well,  I was around 1.5 hours ahead of my schedule, if I kept this up I would be able to put in another lap and beat my distance from last year but don't count chickens before they hatch.
Lynne and Skye were turning in, I had another soup and sausage roll then would use my cool box for food and drink through the night.

Of course, this wouldn't happen without support and sustenance from friends and family.  The horseshoe shaped camp was full of crew giving words of encouragement from tents or sitting round camp fires.  The fires looked cosy in the cold air, I particularly liked an ornamental looking one which burned all night.  Then there was the row of party tents where music, lights and dancing went on into the small hours.  On reaching the top of the grass slope the sound of two cow bells would ring out where two superstar kids would encourage runners to keep going, every lap.

It was after midnight, the 12's were done when I started another lap.  In the technical section their are some low hanging branches to avoid, this is why Sean recommended clear glasses.  This was ingrained in my brain where I would tilt my head to the right a couple of times every lap.  Just after the 'S' bend is a stealth stump of wood.  It looks like the ruminants of a fence post, rising out of the ground about two or three inches.  This stump does not reflect light like the stones around it so I reminded myself to watch out for it.  Then bang, my right foot smacked into it and I stumbled head long in the darkness.  My head was forward, like a sprinter making for the finish line but there was no finish line, only the blur of my reflexes taking over and stopping my face planting in the dirt.  The runner behind enquired if I was okay and said he stubbed his foot on the stump earlier.

I ran on mentally checking things over.  Apart from some sore muscles I seemed alright, a pulled muscle in my left arm, my right foot would protest later in the race.  I had to do something, so next lap I removed a spare glow stick from the bushes and placed it round the stump where it stayed for the remainder of the night.

The halfway checkpoint is perfectly placed with a soft glow of lights powered by the comforting sound of a generator.  The marshals stand in the cold and dark serving up cups of water with a sprinkling of midges.  This must be a tough shift with no respite from the biting insects and is much appreciated.

0313, I'm in the car park approaching the line and the air horn goes off, "what on earth is going on?" I thought to myself.  Someone has completed 100 miles in 15 hours 13 minutes so I knew something special was going to happen today.  The course record was about to get smashed by James Stewart who would go on to complete 144 miles.

Darkness hung on for as long as it could, an overcast sky delayed dawn, I couldn't wait to ditch the headtorch.  I didn't lose any time from my target through the night and was looking forward to breakfast.  Lynne was up at dawn and was surprised when I said just five more laps and I'll hit 100.
I put in my order for breakfast, a hot Aberdeen roll and a cup of coffee.

The roll and coffee went down well.  The sun appeared making it a warm run towards the end of the race.  I calculated 100 miles at around 1020 leaving plenty of time for one more circuit.  This would equal 104 miles plus the small circuits.  There was one fly in the ointment though,  The top of my right foot and lower shin was in pain.  I couldn't understand it but then I remembered about the trip in the early hours.

100 miles felt so much of an achievement I decided to kiss the line.  With a couple of laps to go I informed Lynne of my plan then regretted it.  How on earth was I going to manage to get down, kiss the ground then get up without incident or needing assistance.  I began to doubt myself and changed my mind, I'll just run through normal.

I began to doubt my sums, what if I go through where I've counted wrong and the air horn does not go off.  All was on schedule when Ada announced "next time George" as I crossed the line.  On this round though the right foot was in pain and felt like bursting out of the Hoka.  I contemplated crossing the line at 100 and calling it a day but that wouldn't be a PB.

It's hard to explain the feeling when that air horn goes off.  It sends shivers up your spine when it goes off, especially if it's for yours truly.  It was my turn, over to the van for a scoof of coke then approach the line.  Ada is there of course and says "you ready George?".  I'm ready Ada as the horn announces 100 miles I never thought I would make.  Then sod it I thought, I'm kissing the line, down and up in one swift movement, it couldn't have worked out better.

Photo by Lois Simpson       

It's the farewell lap.  Mentally I said cheerio to all the landmarks and scenes on my last lap.  One last drink of water infused midges and the last long downhill to the campervan.  Lynne and Skye were waiting, I sat down with a coke and contemplated my next move.  My right foot was done in, so do I just cross the line at 104 miles and call it a day or join one of the best spectacles in the Scottish racing scene?

Yep, sore foot or not I joined the small loop, no way was I going to miss the cheering, camaraderie, cow bells, encouragement and bonkers of the campsite circuits.  Round and round to the incredible support till midday where the air horn sounded the end of the G24.

So now it's time to say thank you, to team BAM and all the marshals, helpers, supporters and runners' crew for the dedication and hard work in making this a great Ultra running event.  Thanks to Lynne and Skye for giving up yet another weekend to support and look after me at another running event, much appreciated x.

Mon 8, Sat/Sun 105.  Weekly total 113 miles.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Speyside Way Ultra 2015

Running and blog posts go hand in hand.  A healthy training regime and race program equals regular and varied reporting.  Long training runs gives time to think about topics and experiences to share, I have not done long training runs over the summer so here I am, forcing myself to sit down and post.

I have rescued my ultra running year with my bank card and entry key on the computer. In the space of a couple of weeks I'd entered four races, two I've never taken on before.  First up was the Speyside Way Ultra, my fourth time running this race:

I knew a PB would be out of the question, low training would see to that.  With trepidation the camper was packed and the family headed to Strathlene camp site in Buckie on the Friday night.  The beautiful Moray coast at sunset helped calm the nerves as I turned in for an early night and got plenty of rest for race day.

The alarm went off at five, I felt like shutting it down, turning over and going back to sleep.  Further proof of not quite having running commitment.  The camper skylight showed a nice enough day so I dragged myself up and got ready for the challenge ahead.

I estimated about half an hour walk to the start.  Another runner was camping at the site who gave me a lift to registration.  
It was good to catch up with running buddies and go on my yearly bus trip up Speyside, thanks to Leon for the company and chat.  This year we started from race sponsors premises - Cragganmore Distillery.  A free adult tour pass in the goody bag means I'll be returning for a visit.

Five hundred pounds was up for grabs for the first person to run the 37.5 route under 4 hours, I'd be struggling to get in under 7.

After race briefing we set off, the first four hundred yards on road till we hit the Way to some motivational music.  The forecast was for cloud and about 19 degrees, this would be slightly too warm for me.

The disused railway and associated bridges gave great views.  I didn't have any tactics for this run apart from keeping things steady and comfortable.  Comfortable I wasn't as stomach issues started to affect my race.  After a comfort stop at Aberlour I stepped the pace up a bit to make up for lost time.

I usually grab food and eat walking uphill after the checkpoints.  This year I decided to spend time getting food down before setting off.  This meant I could run as much as the Ben Aigan uphill as possible without trying to force down food.  This tactic seemed to work as I managed to run most of the ascent but I would pay the price of such effort later on.

The day was warming up where Jenni's water stop leaving Ben Aigen was much appreciated.
The fungus trail to the shooting range was very scenic before hitting the tarmac towards Fochabers.
I was still running which was a good sign, time would tell if I could keep it up after the 2nd checkpoint.

Two custard pots, two boiled eggs and a Lucozade Sport set me up for the last 12 miles.  Pauline went though the checkpoint at the same time as me, she was keeping a steady pace ahead.  I decided to try and hang on, this would help me run through my nemesis, the forest section after the bridge.

It was very warm in the forest, the air was still with no cooling breeze.  I wished for a splash of rain but this was not in the forecast today.  I was beginning to struggle, I always do at this stage of the race.  I managed to hang on, only just, until Spey Bay before taking walking breaks. Good to see and chat to Fiona here who took a couple of pictures, many thanks.

Photo by Fiona Rennie
After Spey Bay I struggled to keep running while Pauline went on to a strong finish.  Time began to slip away, I wondered if I would finish under 7 hours.  The tide was in at Portgordon where seals splashed about in the bay watched by onlookers.

Encouraged by marshals, I managed to get running through the streets of Buckie.  Up the hill to Cluny square and completed my fourth ultra of the year, 6 hours 54 minutes.

The grass was a comfortable place to recover with Lynne and Skye while chatting to Alyson and Rhona.  Lynne had brought the campervan to the finish, I was grateful I didn't need to walk the two miles back to the camp site.

Thanks to Sarah Louise Grigor and all who helped marshal this great ultra, much appreciated, I'll be back next year.

Week ending 9th Aug - Mon 3, Tues 3, Sat 18.  Weekly total 24 miles.
Week ending 16th Aug - Wed 4, Thurs 4, Sun 4.  Weekly total 12 miles.
Week ending 23rd Aug - Wed 5, Sat 37.  Weekly total 42 miles.
Sat 8.  Weekly total 8 miles.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

WHW Crew Report 2015

The West Highland Way Race was fast approaching, I didn't have anything planned for the longest day.  I kept an eye on the Facebook page, there didn't seem to be the usual cries for help at the last minute.  I started making plans for my own longest day run when the message came through.  An appeal, a runner was on the verge of pulling out due to no crew or back-up.  Well I certainly wasn't having that and immediately messaged Ian to offer my services.

Richard Whitaker from Leeds and no stranger to the Fling.  This year he completed the Fling then flew to London to participate in the Marathon next day, an incredible feat of logistics and endurance. This was going to be his first WHW race and I was looking forward to meeting and crewing for him.

Green on green makes black and blue, it's a well known saying in the horse world.  I was concerned, an entrant doing the WHW for the first time and a runner crewing for the first time could equal disaster.  The rules say at least two members of support are required, experience was desperately required.  Cue Angela Barron, an experienced marshal, support crew member, runner and race director, team Whitaker was complete.

Organising e-mails were sent between us all before meeting at the Premier Inn car park three hours before the race.  My car was the support vehicle, driven by Angela so I could be support runner from Kinlochleven or Glencoe if required.  With Richard already registered, we loaded the car and made for the train station, the atmosphere was electric with runners getting ready to take on 95 miles.

Richard was quiet but looked calm as we chatted to various runners and support before race briefing. We wished our runner well before finding a prime spot on the High Street to see runners pass.  I must point out it did feel strange being on the other side, cheering runners through.  I wished I was running the race but at the same time I was looking forward to crewing and looking after a runner.

Torches, up the steps they came cheered on, filmed and photographed as they headed north towards Fort William, in a couple of minutes they were gone.  The street was eerily quiet as crews dispersed and made their way up the course.  Angela and I went straight to Balmaha,  not going to the Beach Tree and opting for some kip before Richard arrived.

The Oak Tree opened early for crew, egg rolls and coffee before heading out to meet Richard.  The car park was full and a hive of activity as runners appeared for their first stop.  I felt like an expectant father willing and waiting for Richard to arrive.  Angela took notes at each checkpoint, a great idea so I'll put them on the post in blue -

Balmaha - In at 4.29am.  Looking chirpy, had some Mueller Rice, a jaffa cake, some coke and took a bottle of water.  Ditched the white top at this point and departed at 4.38am.

Richard teamed up with another runner from the start, Ruairidh whom he ran with at the Great Glen last year.  Once the majority of runners went through it was time for another kip and coffee before heading up the course.

Bienglas Farm where I was on car park duty last year.  This was a busy stop with awkward access but all was handled very efficiently by the marshals.  We had time to spark up the stove and make something hot for Richard.  I had two flasks so thought I would heat tomato soup and make coffee, one of the flasks which was previously used for lentil soup didn't look great inside so Angela went to the campsite to try and clean it.  Not wanting to poison our runner, this flask was ditched and soup heated (wrong choice as Richard likes his coffee).  It was time to walk up to the checkpoint, Angela was stationed at the gazebo and I stood waiting to guide our man to the checkpoint.

They arrived soon enough, I nipped to the cafe to fetch Richard a coffee while Angela fed him.       By this time we were getting to know our runner and to say he was easy to crew for is an understatement.  He was concerned for his support always asking if we were okay, we had to explain we were fine and there for his safety and to make sure he was okay.  

Bienglas Farm - In at 9.49am.  Checked runner had eaten at both drop bag checkpoints which he had.  Had Mueller rice, a jaffa cake, coffee with milk and sugar, topped up supplies with water, mountain dew and cereal bar.  First sock change here.  Smiling and in good shape, departed at 10.02am.

We stayed a while, clapping runners through before packing up and heading off.  Richard had thoughtfully provided running magazines to pass the time, I was surprised how little spare time there was while crewing, the magazines were never opened.

Auchtertyre Farm, well marshalled parking once more, in a field next to the trail.  This was perfect for setting up camp and having a picnic before Richards arrival, I felt a bit guilty sitting in the sun.
Action stations, this is a weigh in checkpoint.  We had the card ready and previously advised Richard not to worry about the weigh ins,  just run his race as he normally would.

Auchtertyre - In at 12.18pm.  Had pringles, nuts, jaffa cake, coffee with milk and sugar.  Packed water, iced tea and a cereal bar.  Still running and very positive.  Departed 12.32pm.

Richard and Ruairidh were still running together,  I began to think that if they stayed together Richard would not need a support runner from Kinlochleven and I would continue to crew till Fort William, but there was a long way to go.  I asked Richard to meet us at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel car park, knowing how busy it can be at the checkpoint.  Angela and I packed and headed north.

Richard is low on Mueller rice, the Green Welly does not stock it so we just have a coffee instead. The road out of Tyndrum is parallel to the West Highland Way where Angela blasted the horn to cheer on runners, most acknowledged with a wave.  The Hotel car park was busy but we found a space and got into our routine once more, the stove was lit for making coffee.  The WHW crosses a fast road to the checkpoint, Angela and I signalled runners when it was safe to cross before meeting our two.

Trench foot, or rather trench feet.  I can relate and at this very checkpoint.  Lashings of Sudocreme and a change of socks were required before Richard checked in and met Ruairidh.  The sun was shining as we saw the runners off and returned to the car park.

Glencoe Ski Resort, time for another nap before seeing to our runner.  This time Angela watched the trail while I got the car ready.  There was a cool breeze despite the sunny spells, on arrival we wrapped Richard in a sleeping bag to keep his temperature up.  This was the first full WHW for both runners and I knew sub 24 hours was possible for them.  Not wishing to put pressure on, I advised they had seven hours to complete a marathon distance to do sub 24.  Both Richard and Ruairidh were enjoying the event and would just take things as they came.

Glencoe - In at 5.37pm.  Some Mueller rice (last tub), a ginger biscuit, jaffa cake and coffee with milk and sugar.  Packed Irn Bru, coke and a cereal bar.  A gel was taken before Glencoe as you felt yourself flagging a bit.  Still in pretty good spirits and you had made great time.  Jacket on and waterproof trousers into the back pack under instructions from Search and Rescue.  Departed 5.54pm. 

We packed the car and moved on to Kinlochleven, looking out for runners on the trail in the evening sun.  With a bit of time to kill we refuelled at the Tailrace Inn which was very busy to say the least.     I felt a bit guilty tucking into macaroni cheese while our runner was climbing the Devils Staircase.  
It was getting near arrival time for our runners, this time I went out to look for the runners while Angela waited at the community centre.  It was a midge fest as I stood waiting to guide our runners off the trail.  Runners would appear way in the distance before getting closer where I could identify if ours.  I applauded each one as they passed but there was no sign of Richard and Ruairidh.  I was getting the anxious expectant father feeling again and this time I was expecting twins.

My phone rang, it was Angela advising they took a wrong turn and asked if I could make my way up the trail.  I ran along the street before meeting a group of runners ahead and was relieved to see Richard and Ruairidh.  Richard was suffering, his feet were needing attention.  I phoned ahead with the news, Angela asked the doctor if he would do some patching up.

Kinlochleven - In at 8.46pm.  A ginger biscuit, a coffee with milk and sugar.  Forced to take your usual checkpoint jaffa cake.  Not too interested in food by now.  Doctor padded your blistered feet to get you through the last section and got fresh socks.  Packed a Snickers, water and coke.  You were still strong but felt you were slowing a bit and felt slower than Ruairidh.  Departed 9.02pm.              

It was here I was supposed to be support runner but very quickly decided against it.  Richard and Ruairidh started the race together and were seeing each other through, they still looked strong and would obviously look out for each other on Lairig Mor and besides, two's company, three's a crowd.

We dropped bags off at the Premier Inn Fort William before making our way to the finish.  We sat and applauded runners as they arrived, cheered on by support and family.  It was like an ultra runners A & E.  After the elation some managed to walk, others hobbled to waiting vehicles.  Some needed to lie down, others needed a moment to recover.  It was fascinating watching the finishers after 95 miles of hard graft but we needed our ones to arrive.  The anxious feeling returned where I wished every runner arriving was ours.  One o'clock came and went, under 24 hours it wouldn't be but we needed them back safe and sound.  As the minutes ticked by I began to imagine the worst and regretted not support running.  What if one was in trouble or someone was hurt.  No news is good news, no phone calls meant we just had to wait for Richard and Ruairidh to arrive.

Finish - 1.47am!

24 hours 47 minutes, a well executed debut WHW run completed in a time I would be chuffed with, well done Richard and Ruairidh.

I can now see the attraction of being WHW support and can see why this is Skye's favourite race to crew.  I came away with an accomplished feeling, as if I took part in the event.  Thanks to the race organisers, marshals, volunteers, Angela and Richard, it was a great experience supporting a runner.      

Week ending June 21st - Tues 3.  Weekly total 3 miles.
Week ending June 28th - Tues 4, Wed 8, Thurs 3.  Weekly total 15 miles.
Week ending July 05th - Tues 8, Wed 3, Fri 4.  Weekly total 15 miles.
Week ending July 12th - Mon 3, Wed 8, Thurs 3, Sat 13, Sun 4.  Weekly total 31 miles.
Week ending July 19th - Mon 6, Thurs 4, Sun 4.  Weekly total 14 miles.
Week ending July 26th - Tues 6, Wed 10, Sat 23.  Weekly total 39 miles.
Week ending August 02nd - Wed 10, Sun 8.  Weekly total 18 miles.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

North Sea Trail Ultra

I took a while to recover from the DC110, a numb and tingly right leg needed some time off running.  Coach lined up some DIY jobs, taking advantage of my lull in running.  After doing a bit of joinery and plaster boarding I needed to get back out there, nice and easy at first before running some distance.

My 2015 in 2015 took a bit of a hit in May where I dropped below the monthly average for the first time.  With no ultra races on the horizon I had to make up my own, The North Sea Ultra.

I've posted a run from Cruden Bay to Peterhead in the past, this time I wanted to follow the Nave Nortrail coastal path from Peterhead to Aberdeen.  This would show off the beauty of the east coast perfectly.  The weather wasn't too great, pretty dull and overcast with patches of light rain.

Saturday 13th June 0940 hours, The Lido at Peterhead where one runner turned up for the exclusive North Sea Trail Ultra.

The route passes the prison and reaches the coast within 1 mile.

The first of three sandy bays on this ultra.

The route passes through quaint fishing villages.

Boddam lighthouse and castle ruin.

It's not long before I'm up on high cliffs,  Erosion is a problem on these paths with steep drops to rocks below.

There are some marker posts but they are old and not in good nick.

The track is varied as it winds it's way across the cliff tops.

I love the layout of the land, with wooden steps and rope handrails.

It's nesting season, the bird life is spectacular, birds dive and swoop to protect their young.

The cliff tops are littered with hundreds of broken seagull shells, the crows have had a feast.

Plenty of caves can be seen, accessed only by sea.

Longhaven quarry, deep and dangerous water.

Slains castle comes into view.

Another steep drop at the path edge, I walk these sections.

Even on a dull day, the flora and views are spectacular.

The famous Bullers of Buchan.

The haunting cliff top ruin of Slains Castle.

Cruden Bay, 12 miles in.  Time for a nutritious shake and boiled egg.

Cruden Bay, the second of three sandy beaches.

The cliff top path to Whinnyfold is narrow with steep drops.  Sheep and lambs are here and threaten to jump off when I approach.  Not wishing to cause carnage, I have no choice but enter the field to Whinnyfold which cuts off around half a mile of coastline.

It's a road section from Whinnyfold to Collieston.  There is an old castle ruin on the coast before Collieston but I need to pass through a farm to reach the coast. Not wanting to have a run in with farmers or dogs I just continue along the road to Collieston.

Another quaint village with an ice cream shop.  No cones for me today as I pass through on my way to Newburgh.

Forvie Nature reserve, a magical spot for wild life.

Hackley Bay, a lovely remote piece of paradise, the trail skirts round the cliff top.

I follow the path inland, Forvie sands has a no go area during the summer to protect nesting birds.  I need to cross the Ythan on the road bridge which is a wee bit inland.

Ythan estuary from the road bridge, the tide is in.

After 23 miles I'm dehydrated and have no energy,  A shake and boiled egg have not been enough.  I sit on a bench and have my lunch before heading to the shop.
I buy water and a litre of chocolate milk before heading off.

Ythan estuary meets the North Sea.  Hundreds of seals are basking at the other side of the river.  Their ghost sounds are haunting.

The third sandy bay run of this ultra, a full eight miles all the way to Bridge of Don.  On a clear day, Aberdeen can be seen in the distance.

Eight miles of sloping sand plays havoc on the joints.  The sand is soft in some places which saps the energy.  The city can be seen but doesn't seem to get closer.

The finish line of this ultra can be seen about six miles away, it's Aberdeen harbour tower.

Bridge of Don, heavy rain starts.  I phone Coach asking for a lift from the finish. In land once again to cross the river Don at the road bridge.

Aberdeen Bay, almost done.  My Suunto battery runs out at 34.5 miles.

The harbour tower and finish line, approximately 36 miles from Peterhead.
A spectacular and diverse ultra run with great scenery, I'll be back next year.

Week ending 31st May - 0 miles.
Week ending 07th June - Mon 4, Sun 6.  Weekly total 10 miles.
Mon 4, Thurs 5, Sat 36.  Weekly total 45 miles.