The Deer Runner

The Deer Runner

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A Cateranis et Latronibus

After the D33 it was time to hit the hills.  On Saturday the 21st I completed the Gordon Way, an out and back equalling 23 miles.  The trail crosses the Bennachie range so provides much needed hills to strengthen my leg muscles for the Fling and DC110.  I struggled walking up some of the steeper hills and wondered if I have left this sort of training a bit late.

I've dropped the training program.  It's been calling for 70 mile weeks which there's no way I can fit in.  Life is limiting the time I can commit to training, whether this will be detrimental to completing the DC110 remains to be seen.

A fellow DC110 entrant posted on Facebook looking for company training on the Cateran Trail. Alyson was looking to do a night section so I got in touch and suggested Blairgowrie to Spittal.
This was the same 32 mile section I completed with Mike and Keith this time last year.

We agreed on Friday night where I would leave my car at Spittal and get a lift from Alyson to Blairgowrie.  I parked at the cemetery and walked to where the Spittal of Glenshee hotel once stood.
It was an eerie and sad sight, standing at the perimeter fence I shone my torch on the shell of what was once the backbone of the Cateran race.

We left Blargowrie on what was a perfect and still night for running, not unlike the race conditions last year.  The night time view over Perthshire was spectacular with city and town lights sparkling in the cool air.  Good company and chat meant the miles flew by where we both took note of difficult sections of the trail.  We stopped at what would be the race checkpoints where I had boiled eggs and crisps, my Chia Charge bar would stay in the back pack tonight.

A loud crack sounded out above my head on the way to Glenisla, loud enough to startle us both. There was something wrong with my head torch, even though new batteries were put in, Alysons LED Lenser torch was leading the way.  A subsequent check of the head torch revealed a burst and leaking battery.

After Glenisla is was time to head for the hills, the snow started not long after Loch Shandra.
This was no light dusting, the landscape quickly turned white requiring a careful descent to Forter Castle.  We thought the run would be completed soon with only the road section to Dalnagar and the last five miles to Spittal to go but this training run had a sting in the tail.

Anyone familiar with the Cateran will know the first 5 miles can be a bit of a mud bath with some marsh thrown in for good measure.  A layer of snow on top of this made a rather interesting end to our run.  Zero grip meant slow progress with very few opportunities to run.  Now wasn't the time for heroics, we decided to take our time and complete the run safe without incident.

I didn't think the Cateran landscape could get any more scenic but the addition of snow made it picturesque.  The wind increased towards the end, freezing hands that had to open gates.  The run ended with a comedy moment, we didn't recognise the final quarter mile track back to the Spittal. Believing we took a wrong turn, we doubled back and climbed a small hill before realising the mistake and finally ending the run.

Cold and wet we said goodbye at Blairgowrie and went our separate ways.  Thank you Alyson for the company and opportunity to run the Cateran at night, it was good getting back to the special trail.

Week ending 22nd March.  Tues 4, Wed 7, Thurs 6, Sat 23.  Weekly total 40 miles.
Tues 4, Wed 6, Thurs 4, Fri/Sat 32, Sun 4.  Weekly total 50 miles.


Sunday, 15 March 2015


It's a turbulent time at Deershire which has effected my training program.  I had no intention tapering for the D33 but last weeks mileage was low.  My long run was Friday afternoon, 26 miles from New Deer to Dyce where I had a night out with colleagues.  A hangover meant no running on Saturday and a second night out wrote off Sunday.

A two mile run was completed during the week leading to the D33 and couple of yoga sessions loosened me up nicely.  I just couldn't get into race mode though, it was a busy week where I didn't start to get organised till ten o'clock Friday night.

For my first race of the year I felt okay, just okay.  Saturday morning was an early departure with Skye who said "you're not racing looking like that are you?".  Indignantly I thought the comment was about my running attire but Skye then said I didn't look well.  I had been coughing and sneezing all morning and it was a pale face that stared back from the rear view mirror but there was no backing out now, I didn't feel bad enough to pull out from the race.

I dropped Skye off and made my way to the Duthie Park where I registered, met a training friend and chatted to ultra folks.  My midway drop bag contained 2 boiled eggs and half a packet of jaffa cakes,
my three quarter way drop bag contained a leaking bottle of coke which were dropped off at their respective vehicles.

The day was overcast and cool, it was good to hear George the race director give a briefing before letting hundreds of runners go at 9 o'clock.  I was using the Suunto to track my pace but it was throwing a wobbly and refusing to start.  The watch eventually complied with seconds to go.  My plan for the race was 10 minute miles for a 5 1/2 hour finish.  My training pointed to this pace,  I knew I wasn't fit enough for a faster time or anywhere near my PB of 5 hours 2 minutes.

The start was busy, it took a while for the field to spread out.  I chatted to a few runners before settling into pace with a runner I know through work.  Good chat made the miles fly by, it's just as well, holding my pace under 10 minute miles felt a bit of a struggle.  The first checkpoint arrived in no time due to running with company, we were joined by another runner from Lerwick, down especially for the race.  A white cup was scooped up from the road a good bit past the checkpoint, can't have the race blighted by litter.  A bit further along was food wrapped in foil which obviously fell out of a bag, this was also collected and binned at checkpoint 2. I hope the runner managed without it.

Plenty of chat made the miles fly by before seeing the elite runners return, meeting the leader Ross Houston way sooner than expected.  My strategy was going to plan, 9.45 minute miles giving me time for a quick bite to eat at half way.  Once at the checkpoint I quickly pocketed the jaffa cakes, scoffed one egg fast (the shells were taken off earlier) grabbed a bottle of water and departed, all in around 2 minutes.  I ate the second egg while running and trying to maintain 10 minute miles.

Alone, no-one running at my pace meant no company.  It's this section that usually plays with my head and this year was no exception.  With long stretches of trail ahead I needed to keep an eye on the watch.  I didn't think there was a drop in pace but sometimes the Suunto would read 10.15 or 10.20 forcing me to gee things up.  Targeting runners ahead gave me a boost, a steady pace meant I would slowly catch up and pass quite a few runners.  At one stage I felt my energy drop off, a runner was pacing me for quite a while.  It was time to break out the Chia bar, one bite and a swig of Nuun seemed to give a boost where my pace dropped below 9 minute miles to lose my pacer.  Is that all in the mind or can you get instant energy like that?

Drumoak came and went then it was time for the road section to the checkpoint and my leaking bottle of coke.  Last year I felt awful at this checkpoint but not this year, I was running a far more controlled race and felt half human before setting off for the last 7 miles.

My legs were tired and I was aware of the ever present right calf, I needed to take care but wanted to hit my target.  The last six miles are tarmac which pounds the muscles and joints.  I was still slowly passing runners, the downhill seemed to take forever to reach before turning the long bend and reaching the straight back to the park.  My muscles were sore, particularly the calf but I ran as quick as possible and knew under 5 1/2 hours was on the cards.

Through the gate where I ran as fast as I could past locals out for a Saturday afternoon stroll, being cheered on down under the finish arch where another brilliant medal and hug from Karen waited.

5 hours 24 minutes 23 seconds, job done.

It's no secret help was required to hold the D33 this year, it's obvious people assisted to make this the great event it is.  Marshals, volunteers, medics, helpers, George and Karen, a brilliant race. Thank you.

Week ending 08th March - Tues 4, Wed 4, Fri 26.  Weekly total 34 miles.
Tues 2, Sat 33.  Weekly total 35 miles.


Sunday, 1 March 2015


The D33 is less than two weeks away, my first race of the year.  This ultra has gone from strength the strength over the years with 500 spaces available.  A low cost, no nonsense approach and friendly atmosphere makes this a great event for North East Scotland.

It's a popular ultra if stepping up from Marathon distance, the flat course makes it suitable for faster participants.  As I've said before, the D33 can have a nasty bite if not given the respect it deserves.  It's way to easy to set a quick pace early on, the fact it is possible to run all the way without hills to walk and break up the run means the chosen pace has to be spot on according to ability and fitness.  I'll post next week on how I intend to approach the D33 this year.

Choosing a training program that fits in with life and ability is hard, then I have to train according to the conditions of my main event.  Although the DC110 is a big challenge for me, this is not the main target this year.  I still want to run East to West Scotland which is earmarked for August.

Most of my training this year has been on tarmac and disused railway track.  Friday was another run home from work, although a half day meant this was done during daylight.  It was another slow slog home which was 15 minutes faster than the week before.  I have the same planned for the week ahead, another 26 miles on disused railway track.   This is good for both the D33 and my E2W challenge but not the Fling or DC110.  I've missed a few training events which usually gets me onto the West Highland Way, preferring to run closer to home instead.

I'd like to to make it to the Cateran Trail or West Highland Way before the Fling but just can't seem to find the time.  Even Bennachie, my local hill range seems out of reach so far.

It's been a while since I've  posted an MP3 download, here's my latest - All Good Things by Nelly Furtardo.

Tues 4, Wed 4 & 7, Thurs 6, Fri 26, Sun 8.  Weekly total 55 miles.