GLEN OGLE 33 ULTRA MARATHON 2013
Official time: 5 hours 41 minutes 58 seconds
Overall: 105 out of 180
Medal : Yes
Yesterday I became an ultra runner.
At 4:50am my alarm went off and I got up after a very broken nights sleep. Once again my mind had been racing right up until I fell into a running filled dream – mostly dreaming I had forgotten something very important for the race! I forced down breakfast, had a shower, double and triple checked my drop bags and then paced around the house waiting for Kirsty to pick me up at 6am. My drop bags had been a big source of worry for me as this was the first race I had taken part in where I needed them. I had read plenty of blogs where runners have taken various means of fuel from bananas and crisps to full on meals of wraps and cups of tea! I decided to stick with things I thought would go down easily enough on the run and this is what I came up with….
6am came and Kirsty arrived with Andy and we began our 50 minute or so journey up to Strathyre. As the sun came up, we had various thoughts about the weather. The sky was bright but it was very cold and there was a low lying mist over the hills and fields. I thought it looked too nice to be true and then I started to worry about my choice of kit. I’m not a big fan of running in trousers so chose to wear shorts and calf sleeves. I knew that even though we’d be running for hours, it probably wouldn’t be at too fast a pace, so I thought layers were better to begin with and that I could lose them at check points if need be. So I decided to wear a t shirt under a long sleeved top with my club vest on top and then have my jacket attached to my bag, just in case it might rain (hah!) and then also my buff and gloves. Surely that lot would keep me warm enough?!
We arrived in Strathyre not long after 7am, met up with the rest of our friends from the club who were also running, registered, sorted out drop bags and went back and forth to the toilets for the next wee while. We were all summoned at about 7.50am for a pre-race briefing by Bill and Mike and then we walked en-masse across the main road to the starting point and the bottom of the trail. This was it. Definitely no turning back or pulling out now. I was about to venture past racing distances of 26.2 miles for the first time. I was about to become an ultra runner.
Before I knew it we were on our way. I had been too busy talking I hadn’t heard the race start! The first few miles go straight up a hill. I knew I’d have to pull back as I have a bad habit of setting off far too fast and burning out early, so we decided to stick to 10 minute miles for the first while and see how we got on. Before I knew it we had clocked up 2 miles and the first set of hills were over. I’d been concentrating so hard on what was going on around me and spotting various faces of bloggers/awesome ultra runners that I hadn’t been paying attention to my mileage. There was an awesome downhill section through the forest that went on for about 3 miles and we were again concious of pulling back and keeping our mile splits fairly even. We flew by the first drop point, not needing to pick anything up and I made sure I had a gel and a good amount of fluids as we plodded along the cycle track that runs alongside the main road down to Lochearnhead. Since the last time we had run this route, a lot of pine needles had fallen and the track was lovely and springy under foot. Just what we needed with so many miles still to cover and all the tarmac at the end! As we left Lochearnhead, the path took a very steep incline and Kirsty and I decided to power shuffle up it instead of running and Andy, looking strong powered on up it ahead. These zig-zags were steep and again I thought I didn’t want to burn out, so I held back until we reached the top of the hill and then it was a nice steady plod along the old railway which runs alongside the A85 and over the Glen Ogle viaduct. I had seen this countless time from the road when travelling north to tackle Munros, but running over it was a whole new experience!
Mile splits to check point 2:
We stopped in the check point just to empty rubbish out our pockets and take another gel while standing still and after a minute or so we were on our way again, heading up to the forest loop. My club mates and I ran this loop last week just to see what it was like… but we ran it the wrong way around and so what we thought we the awesome downhill sections were actually the most horrific inclines. See elevation below – the big hill in the middle section was in the forest and yes, it was as tough as it looks!
Once at the top we got our speed back up and enjoyed an undulating run through the top of the forest and through the eerie mist that was lingering around the trees. With the light dimming it looked pretty spectacular, but of course the light dimming could only mean one thing. The rain was on its way. Just as we came to the end of the forest trail we took the educated decision to get our jackets on, really just in time for the heavy, heavy rain to begin. This picture was taken just at the end of the forest and I think just before the photographer had to give up to protect his camera from drowning!
We came back out the forest and decided to stop properly at the check point to refill our bottles, get fluids in and try to eat something substantial. The rain had really come on hard and we were already starting to feel the cold, which really wasn’t great with so many miles still to cover. After a few minutes we were kindly prompted to get moving, so with crisps in hand and jackets zipped right up, we were off on the return section of our adventure.
Mile splits to check point 3:
The return leg down the Glen was when the rain really came on heavy. Luckily once we were over the viaduct we were protected slightly from the wind by trees, but nothing could stop the driving rain. My gloves were soaked through and my jacket was sticking to my skin. My buff was stuck to my head and my thighs and bum were numb with the cold. My trainers squelched and my eyes stung with the rain, but still we battled on along the track, agreeing we would walk the hills and save something for the last loop around Balquhidder, remembering how tough and hilly it had been a few weeks ago when it had been dry. If I hadn’t been so cold and wet, I would have loved this part of the race as here I was, 22 miles in and still running strong after all those hills. Something I couldn’t have even imagined doing not even a year ago! We knew the next and final check point wasn’t far ahead and the thought of a couple of jaffa cakes and some powerade pushed me on down the soggy, waterlogged path.
Mile splits to check point 4:
Once again the check points were manned by lovely, upbeat people who were standing in the pouring rain getting soaked, just to help us out and cheer us on. I found my bag and hoovered up a couple of jaffa cakes and the remains of a bag of hula hoops, washed down with half a bottle of undiluted powerade (which is what I had been running with in my camelbak – I still to this day have to find an electrolyte drink that doesn’t make me feel sick after 10 or so miles!) and then with the words “it’s only 5 and a half miles to go!” ringing in my ears, we were off on the final leg. This is where I really struggled and I was very, very glad I had my team mate Kirsty with me. I got so cold my top lip was that numb I felt like I’d been at the dentist! My legs wanted me to stop, my hands were stinging with cold as my Raynaud’s kicked in and I could have cried had my face not been so numb, but Kirsty kept me upbeat, reminding me we could see the finish in the distance and that we’d run it before so knew what to expect. We powered through puddles as there was no other way round and also we physically couldn’t get any wetter, and got our speed back up a little as the road evened out for a short while. The last mile or so is again nearly all up hill, so we walked while trying to keep warm and our spirits up, saving our legs for the last half a mile or so and of course the shoogly bridge. When we came back into the village and saw the sign pointing to the bridge we suddenly gained speed from an unknown place and galloped across the bridge to the finish line together. Totally soaked, physically shaking so hard from the cold and partially numb, it took me a good while to realise we’d finished! I had just run an Ultra marathon!
Goody bag in hand I was carefully pushed in the direction of a gazebo where they were making cups of tea and coffee. I have never drank black tea in my life, but it was the tastiest most delicious drink I have ever had and was that appreciated I just couldn’t stop grinning at the poor confused lady who had made it for me, as I just held it and sheltered from the rain.
Mile splits to finish:
It had taken me slightly longer than I had originally planned but taking the weather into consideration, I physically could not have done any more or gone any faster. I think a lot of people struggled due to the weather and the last few miles on tarmac, and it’s not an easy wee course! After I had inhaled up my tea I made my way back to Kirsty’s car to find my dry clothes and sit down and try and stop shivering. Craig called and said he was just coming over the road and I just couldn’t wait to see him for a big hug. He arrived with a flask of coffee in hand – my saviour, and we staggered over to the cafe to try and get some warm soup inside me. My stomach didn’t quite know what it wanted, but anything warm was being appreciated as I sat holding my bowl of soup for a good while before starting to eat it!
In the goody bag was a spectacular medal and a bottle of beer which has some of last years Glen Ogle finishers on the label. What a great idea! I don’t drink beer, but I’ll just have it as a keep sake.
A huge thanks goes to all to all involved in the running and organising of the Glen Ogle 33m Ultra Marathon. I’ll definitely be back next year. With a new jacket.
And now what’s next for me? Marathon – tick, 33m Ultra Marathon – tick. I know I have more to give and can go further and be stronger. Next year is a whole new challenge.