River Ayr Way Ultra race report

The River Ayr Way Challenge

TIME: 7 Hours 03 Minutes and 21 Seconds

OVERALL : 20th/70 finishers (2 DNF)

GENDER: 3rd/16 females

I entered the River Ayr Way race in a total moment of madness. I’d heard really good things about the race from a couple of club mates who ran it last year, and then when I discovered they were going back this year to run the relay I thought I might as well stick in a last minute entry and join them for a lovely day out and run an ultra I’d never done before. Silly, silly decision. I manged to write the dates down wrong in my diary and only discovered the week before Glenmore that the RAW race was actually only 2 weeks after Glenmore, not 3 as I had initially thought. But never mind, the season is coming to an end and it was a pretty quiet race, so I thought I might as well give it a bash and at least enjoy a nice day out with my Wee County Harrier ladies.

A 9am race start meant we didn’t have to set off too early, and after meeting and splitting between 2 cars we were on our way down the road to Glenbuck where the race began. As mentioned, I’ve never ran this race before and started to have a panic the night before about getting lost. I printed out the map, stuck it all together and it pretty much covered the length of my living room! Apart from the Cateran, I’ve never ran an ultra somewhere I don’t know like the back of my hand, or that has so many people running you’re guaranteed never to be on your own. This had neither!

The Wee County ladies.
The Wee County ladies.

The runners all met near Glenbuck Dam, which was in the middle of nowhere. With no toilets! Never mind, nothing else to do but get running! This race is a little different from any other Ultra I have competed in, in that it is supported by the council. The entry fee was next to nothing and yet we still got fully stocked check points that had water, juice, sweets, fresh fruit, cereal bars etc etc. Your own drop bags were almost not necessary! As well as 4 fully stocked check points there were countless water stations along the way. Amazing!


Just before 9am there was a quick race briefing and then we were off! I’d been warned not to set off too fast as although it is pretty flat for the first 10 miles or so, running on the grass would take it’s toll on the legs so to take it easy. Well, that didn’t happen! My biggest downfall when it comes to ultras is getting ridiculously carried away at the start and paying for it early on, having a low for a couple of miles in the first 20 miles, but then picking up again and managing a strong finish. I always wonder what would happen if I started just that little bit slower. My main worry is that I won’t be able to pull it back towards the end, but I’ll leave that wonder for another day. Today was not the day of starting slowly…

The route runs along beside the road for the first few miles, on an embankment where there once was a railway. I was happily running along on my own for a while and about 4 miles in I caught up with Sean McMinn. We ran pretty much the first half of the race together and it was good to chat and take my mind of some of the tougher parts of the races (massive steps over high bridges and running through fields of knee length grass). There were one or two sections where I would probably have gone the wrong way had I been on my own (coming out of Catrine after the bridge crossing there was no race route sign post, and then the road leading up to the water treatment plant where the RAW goes off on a small path to the right, I carried on up the road for a few hundred meters!). However, the route was absolutely stunning. The weather was perfect and I was really enjoying myself.

Coming in to the first water station. Going too fast!!!
Coming in to the first water station. Going too fast!!!

Having blasted through the first half of the race, I slowed down quite a bit coming into check point 2. I spent a good few minutes here, refilling my bottles and eating properly (no more Glenmore moments thank you!) and then headed off up the hill on my own with my ipod and a sandwich.

The next few miles wound around fields, through a forest section and then on to the only part of the route I disliked. We had to run across a main road and then follow it for nearly a mile down to Failford. Despite plenty fluorescent “Caution Runner” signs and us running as far in to the side of the road as possible, people we still flying along this road and at one point I had to jump into a ditch off the road as a car travelling way too fast beeped at me and refused to swerve slightly out for me. Hence the grumpy face as I came into the next water station:

Not a happy runner after jumping to a ditch! Photo - Zander Beggs
Not a happy runner after jumping to a ditch! Photo – Zander Beggs

The route then got back on to forest trails and we were running right beside the river for a few miles. I caught up with another runner (Gordon Halliday) here who wasn’t sure which way the route was meant to go and ended up running with him all the way to the finish. There were a few points we probably could have pushed on slightly faster, but neither of really wanted to in the heat, so took our time enjoying the trails and chatting about all the other races we had completed that year so far. Turns out Gordon was one of the few nutters who had completed the double Cateran both this year and last year. I contemplated trying it next year, but very quickly reminded myself that was in fact a very silly plan and I would regret it if I did!

The weather was still beautiful and I was drinking a lot. Tailwind was definitely working for my today and I was feeling the benefits of it (whereas at Glenmore I just hadn’t been enjoying it). I had a quick catch up with the WCH ladies at checkpoint 3 where they were waiting for the next relay changeover, stocked up on fresh fruit and white chocolate mice and then it was on to the last section of the race. After a mile or so on tarmac, a few miles through fields and a bit of a detour right down on the river bank when we weren’t quite sure which way the route went (turns out we went the wrong way, but our technical detour was way more fun than a million stairs anyway!), we were then on to the last few miles of the race. The route followed a rather muddy path high above the river and at one point we found ourselves squelching up a very muddy hill and nearly losing some shoes! The forest then spat us out to check point 4 and the final few miles followed the road back towards Ayr. Tarmac was not my friend at this point and my legs were starting to really tire after 2 ultras a fortnight apart, so I just took my time and slowed to a walk every so often. Not knowing how far we had to go probably slowed us down more than had we known there was just over 2 miles to go, but soon we were following a main road for a couple of hundred meters before dropping back down to follow the river and into the last mile. That last mile went on for quite some time! Gordon suddenly sped up when he spotted someone catching up from behind which spurred me on to push right to the finish line as well! The route zigzagged back over the river, along the river bank on the opposite side, past the University and finally onto the running track at the Dam park stadium for a lap of the track and round towards the finish line. The clock had just ticked over 7 hours but time hadn’t been a issue today, finishing without illness or injury had been my main concern.

Pretty sure the shoes were dark purple when I started!
Pretty sure the shoes were dark purple when I started!

The goody bag was amazing! A lovely purple technical t shirt, a medal, a wee whisky and a hip flask along with a folder full of maps and information about walking routes and wildlife in East Ayrshire.

Awesome goodies!
Awesome goodies!

The next few hours were spent chilling, catching up with friends and cheering in the ladies when they finished their relays. The weather was perfect and the drive home was full of high spirited chatter about how much we had all enjoyed our day. It may not have been a race that was part of the initial plan for the year, but I’m glad I did it and I’ll definitely be back!

Now that the ultra year is coming to an end I need to start thinking about what races I’d like to enter next year. I know for a fact I’m going to try a few more that I haven’t ran before (the Great Glen being the big one for the year) and I’d love to go back and do the Cateran 55 again. I’ve just bought a road bike, so I’m hoping a triathlon will be part of the pipe dream, but after a bit of a tumble a few weeks ago I need to get the confidence back and get back out there!

5 weeks until the last race of the season which will be Glen Ogle round 4. The race that holds a special place in my heart as it was my first ultra, but also because I am SO determined to run it in under 5 hours. Let’s just see what the legs have left after such a huge year I guess!

Happy running 🙂

Glenmore 12/24 Race Report

Glenmore 12 2016

TIME: 12 hours

OVERALL : 9th/37 finishers

GENDER: 3rd/17 females


The short version – You turn up at a field just outside Aviemore, decide whether you want to run for 12 hours or 24 hours, pin on your number and run in 4 mile loops for your chosen time. And then party with an awesome bunch of people! There is only one word I can think of to sum up this weekend; Epic.

The slightly longer version began with a panic on Friday night when I realised I had a nail in my tyre and a slow puncture. It was too late to get it sorted and if I waited until garages opened in Alloa on Saturday morning it was highly likely I’d miss the start of the race. Luckily it was still inflated on the Saturday morning and after an early start and Craig telling me to keep my fingers crossed, I arrived in Perth just as the garages were opening and got a super quick tyre change at 8am. By 8:30am I was back on the road and on my way to Glenmore.

I arrived in plenty of time, registered and went to find the Wee County marquee. Gordon had come up for the weekend to support Scott who was running the 24 hour race along with Derek and Graeme and he was kind enough to help us all out for the duration of the race. After catching up with loads of friends it was time to head to the race briefing and get ready to run!

Wee County Harriers tent
Wee County Harriers tent

The race set up is pretty simple; you run a 4 mile loop of trail situated in beautiful surroundings of Glenmore Forest, just outside Aviemore for either 12 hours or 24 hours and the person who has run the furthest distance in their chosen race time wins! The 12 hour race runs from 12 noon until midnight, with the “wee loop” section opening at 11pm, and the 24 hour race from 12 noon on Saturday until 12 noon on Sunday, with their wee loop section opening at 11am. The forest trail loop is 4 miles of undulating forestry track and once the wee loop is open you have the choice to do one more big loop (as long as you make it back before midnight or midday!) or as many wee loops around a 400m track until the race finishes and where you plant a tent peg in the ground that measures your final overall distance.

The trails. Photo - Fiona Rennie
The trails. Photo – Fiona Rennie

At midday on Saturday, the horn sounded and we were off. The weather was glorious, if anything a tad too hot, and I chose to run the first lap not carrying anything. I got off to a pretty quick start running with Victoria Hunter, getting carried away by the cheering supporters as we did a lap of the campsite and out onto the trails for lap 1. I was travelling at a fair clip and I knew I was going too fast, but I was enjoying the chat and ran along beside Victoria until I realised I had just run about a mile up a hill and then decided to let her plod on and I pulled my pace back a fair bit. I completed my first lap, picked up my handheld bottle from Gordon and trotted round to the start/finish line shouting my number to Ada as I did. Lap one complete, only 11 hours and 20 odd more minutes of this!

Gleenmore 24/12 hour race start!
Gleenmore 24/12 hour race start!

Lap 2 began with a walk up the hill and I suddenly really began to feel the heat. Karen Wallace and Ruth Howie were supporting and every time I came round the campsite I would see them and get hugs and cheers. I still felt up beat and carried on my run, singing to myself and enjoying my own company for laps 2 and 3 now that the field had spread out a bit. From lap 3 and bit onwards I started to feel pretty rotten and then the mind games started. I was feeling tired and queasy and my enthusiasm had disappeared. I started to walk every incline as my stomach now felt like a washing machine and my head was spinning, and as Graeme, Scott and then Derek all passed me (they were doing the 24 and looked concerned I seemed to have shut down so early on), I started to wonder if I should bother carrying on. What was the point if I was just going to feel awful for another 9 hours, I wasn’t going to run a good race so why not quit? And with that my mind was made up, as soon as I got back to the campsite I was pulling out. My race was over.

Game face!
Game face!

…or not! No one tells Ada they’re calling it a day 3 hours into a 12 hour race! As I marched towards the timing tent and said I was done, I got given a look and got told to get moving, it was far too early to decide. I think my face crumpled and everyone started asking me what they could get for me, but I just felt so queasy and weak that I just wanted to lie down so I marched around the campsite with my tail between my legs where the lovely Ruth and Karen rushed over and basically saved my race. I owe you one ladies! I lay down on the grass outside their tent and Ruth knew once again I hadn’t eaten enough as I had started to go an off shade of white. Karen, the amazing woman that she is, gave me a cold towel for my head, a banana and some water and then encouraged me (with added sound affects) to throw up and I’d probably feel better afterwards. It worked! The banana pretty much bounced off my stomach, and once it was back up (sorry to be so graphic!) I felt like a new woman, and with the encouraging words of “I’m not even your crew, get moving!” I was off on lap 6. Pull out? Yeah, I’ll live to regret that one!

The beautiful trails of Glenmore forest. Photo - Fiona Rennie
The beautiful trails of Glenmore forest. Photo – Fiona Rennie

By now the field of runners had totally spread out. After walking for another half a mile or so and eating something substantial, I picked my pace back up again. Every so often I’d pass someone or be passed by someone, we’d have a quick chat and then I was back to being on my own again. I felt 100 times better and every time I got back to camp and shouted my number and get a cheeky comment back from the timing tent about having wanted to pull out. By now I was starting to feel so strong and after every lap Gordon did an awesome job of checking I was OK, sorting food for me and filling my bottle if need be, which seemed to be an awful lot; it was still so warm!

Somewhere between laps 6 and 9! Photo - Catriona Adams
Somewhere between laps 6 and 9! Photo – Catriona Adams

It was around 8pm when I noticed it was rapidly getting dark. The midges were out in force and no amount of deet seemed to be working today; I was being munched alive and there was nowhere to hide! Armed with my head torch and a long sleeved top I headed out of the camp site onto my 10th lap. It was still quite warm and the sleeves on my top were soon pushed up, but as soon as I slowed to a walk the buff was over my face and the sleeves were back down as the midges descended. If that’s not motivation to get moving, I don’t know what is!

After another quick bite to eat and chat with Gordon, I headed off on what could have been my final big lap, depending on how long it took me and also how long a wait I’d have when I got back for the wee loops to open. By now everything was hurting, but I still felt strong and I was still running the majority of the loop. I descended the stairs into the camp site after a super speedy lap and was told I was way ahead of schedule and was promptly kicked back out to do one final big lap comfortably and then have 30-35 minutes of doing loops. Now running in the pitch black, pretty much all alone I was having the time of my life and didn’t want it to end. Don’t get me wrong, I was more than happy with my choice of running for 12 hours not 24, but by now I was really enjoying my race. A bit late in the day to be feeling like this! By The time I got back to the campsite the wee loops had been open for a good half hour and the campsite party was in full swing. Everyone was out cheering again, the tunes were being blasted from the party tent and people were screaming your name from all directions. Most of the time I had no idea who was shouting as all I could see was head torches, so I just grinned and slogged on round the wee laps as quickly as I could with a big smile on my face. Finally the horn sounded and I planted my peg in the ground with delight. I’d had a terrible start to my race but I felt I had really pulled it back and was quite excited to find out how I had done.

I had a quick wash and change of clothes and then headed back to the campsite to watch the 24 hour race for a while and have some warm food. I did some enthusiastic cheering, had a few drinks and then decided some sleep was probably a good decision, so hunkered down in my makeshift tent of an airbed and super comfy sleeping bag in the back of my car. Surprisingly comfortable and really quiet!

I think I got about 3 hours sleep before I was woken to the sound of the 100 mile horn. It was pitch black, I had no idea what time it was and these guys were still going! I must have got about another 2 or 3 hours sleep before I got up and went back over to the field to have some breakfast and carry on my cheering.

The last 20 or so minutes of the 24 hour race was utterly hilarious. People started to gain speed, race each other round the track, dance as they ran and the atmosphere was amazing. When the race finally came to an end, the tired, sore and broken runners hobbled back to the tents and vans to get changed and then we all gathered for the prize giving at 1pm. I was absolutely delighted to have placed 3rd lady in the 12 hour race, completing just over 62 miles overall.

Sun burnt and delighted.
Sun burnt and delighted.

And with that our weekend was over! Scott from the Wee County Harriers had a brilliant race, getting the horn and running just over 102 miles overall and Derek and Graeme both running 90+, both having had a super tough season (and a nap in the middle of the night!).

WCH do Glenmore.
WCH do Glenmore.

BaM swag. Totally worth the pain for the wee haul!
BaM swag. Totally worth the pain for the wee haul!

Glenmore 12/24 is a brillaint race. Another little beauty from BaM racing and I’ll definitely be back in the future. Thanks to everyone involved for giving up your weekend to marshal and support. As always, you make it what it is!

RACE REPORT – The Devil O’ The Highlands Ultra Marathon 2016

The Devil O’The Highlands Footrace 2016

TIME: 7 Hours 47 Minutes and 10 Seconds

OVERALL : 55th/256 finishers (5 DNF)

GENDER: 9th/72 females

CATEGORY: 6th/29 senior females

It’s 2:45am on Saturday morning and my alarm is screeching at me. Already the dog is awake and has her nose up on the bed: clearly she thinks it’s time to get up and that of course means breakfast! I shoo her away and go back to sleep for a further 15 minutes.

The start. Photo - Kirsten Cowling
The start. Photo – Kirsten Cowling

3am – My second alarm bursts into life and I dragged myself out of bed to get ready. I can’t even open my eyes but I somehow manage to get all my kit on in the right order, tie my hair back tightly and finish packing my bags before force feeding myself porridge and coffee. The coffee does the trick and before I know it I’m ready to hit the road North and back to my favourite running spot of the year; the wonderful West Highland Way.
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It’s when, not if


Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt.

Training for the Devil O’ The Highlands race, or rather the lack of it, has been getting me down. I won’t go on and on about it as I know I’m still recovering from the West Highland Way Race, which I have to keep reminding myself was only 6 weeks ago and where I gave my body an absolute battering. And it could still be another few months until I’m back on track. But, ahhhh! It’s frustrating!! From being at pretty much the peak of my physical ability, having training consistently and rigorously right up until race day to now feeling like I have nothing. I have no enthusiasm, I’m still tired and things keep hurting.

But, I know things will get better.
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The West Highland Way Race – My kit list.

A few people have asked if there was in thing in particular that I relied on during my race or if there was anything that I would change. The answer to that is I think I got everything pretty much spot on; beginners luck I guess! Everything worked for me on the day and apart from some beautiful blisters on my little toes and some glowing midge bites on my arms, I’m actually totally fine! No chaffing except a few marks on my upper back from where my bag had been rubbing the top clip of my sports bra and that’s really only 2 small marks!

So, what works so well for me?
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