RACE REPORT – The D33 Ultra Marathon

D33 ULTRA MARATHON 2015

TIME:5 Hours 4 Minutes and 54 Seconds

OVERALL :132nd/338 finishers

GENDER: 21st/110 females

CATEGORY: 10th/39 senior females

The awesomely funky jam jar lid medal. Definitely the most random medal on the rack so far!
The awesomely funky jam jar lid medal. Definitely the most random medal on the rack so far!

It was finally here! The weekend of the first ultra of the season and I was more than ready for it. I’d recovered well, all the miles of training were banked and I was chomping at the bit and ready to race and see what my legs were capable of. The D33 is a fast ultra along the old Deeside railway line to Banchory and back and apart from a few undulations going through villages on the way, it’s pretty much entirely flat. My plan was to give it everything I had and see how my legs coped with being asked to run 33 miles with hopefully very few walking breaks. I hoped that if I treated it like a marathon in terms of pace and fuelling and then pushed to keep my legs ticking over past marathon distance,my next marathon race would be a doddle. Well, we can always hope!!

I had travelled up to Stonehaven on the Friday night to stay at Rhona’s with Jemma and my little brother Duncan who had come down to support/marashal/be tea bitch for the day. Soon after arriving we were sitting down to eat a huge meal of tortellini and garlic bread. After getting my pre-race fuelling so wrong before the Loch Ness Marathon and suffering badly about 20 miles in, I am now careful to not only get the race fuelling right, but also looking at what I eat the few days leading up to the race as well. After eating as much as was comfortable I lay out my kit, checked my drop bags were all good to go and then after a good gossip with everyone, took my nervous mind to bed to try and get a good sleep.

Race morning arrived and I was awake before my alarm. Pre race routine of getting dressed, drinking strong coffee and trying to force in breakfast when I wasn’t that hungry was run through without much thought and then just as we were leaving to get the bus up to Aberdeen, the nerves started to kick in. This wasn’t a race where I could take plenty of walking breaks on the hills. There were no hills! This was going to be an entirely new experience and I had no idea how my body was going to react to what I was about to ask it to do. The only way to find out is to go for it and see what the outcome was. Fingers crossed for a positive one!

Jemma and I ready to run!
Jemma and I ready to run!

We hopped off the bus right beside Duthie Park and as we walked around to the start area the air of nervous excitement among us began to grow. We were quite early so got registered quickly, nipped to the loo before the queues began and then trotted about saying hello to people. As this is the first Ultra of the season there is a huge buzz surrounding everyone. I caught up with my club mates who had driven up that morning, said hello to Angela and her super cute dog Brin and then trotted back to the toilet queue, which was now pretty huge, to pass some time! Just as I came out the loo we were all summoned to the start line for the race briefing, so I quickly put my bag in the van and jogged up the start line to find my friends and then remember how to breath! We had a quick briefing from race director George and then with a count down from 10, we were off!! Trainers slapped on the tarmac as the stream of runners made their way out of the park and up onto the old railway line. I kept an eye on my watch and made sure I wasn’t setting off too quickly as I jogged out of the park between Jemma and Rhona, but soon the pack spread out and after a couple of miles and some chatting with 3 or 4 other runners, I was on my own and jogging along to the sound of my breathing and the birdsong around me.

The Wee County Harriers taking a welfie!
The Wee County Harriers taking a welfie!

The route follows the old railway line on tarmac out to Peterculter when it then moved to a few miles on trail and country roads through the village of Drumoak before rejoining the former railway line out to Crathes. The miles were slipping by easily and just before 7 miles I was joined by Ruth Howie from the Strathearn Harriers and we ran together until the first check point. I had already taken a gel but still had plenty of food and gels on me, so I didn’t stop and passed quite a few people at this stage. Most of them caught back up again over the next few miles, but it felt good to be moving up the field at such an early stage in the race. The route took us down a slight hill and then wiggled through some fields before spitting us on at the side of a road and onto an incline up to Drumoak. I pushed up the hill feeling strong and still happily running on my own and then as the route wiggled back onto the Deeside Way, I was caught up by a few of my club mates and continued to run with them for the next few miles. I passed by half marathon distance in 1 hour 54 minutes, and while thinking that was possibly just slightly too fast, I was still feeling so strong that I didn’t want to pull back just now in case I couldn’t pick up the pace again! Just after 14 miles the lead runner, Ross Houston of Commonwealth games fame, flew by us – ahead of the lead bike! Saying this guy was flying doesn’t even describe how fast he was moving, he was travelling at an astounding speed! This meant that at this stage in the race, the lead runner was nearly 5 miles ahead of me already. Just amazing!! I continued say well done and high five my friends as they passed me on their way back feeling good as soon it would be me going that way.

Photo fail! Whoops... Photo - brianbatphotography.co.uk
Photo fail! Whoops…
Photo – brianbatphotography.co.uk

Half way sneaked up on me and before I knew it I could see the roof of the marquee at the check point! People were cheering my name and I cruised in to pick up my drop bag grinning from ear to ear. I wasn’t planning to hang around for long so I kept moving while refilling my waist pack with gels and haribo and guzzled as much powerade as I could while still moving. A quick watch check showed I was there in 2 hours and 23 minutes which meant if I could do the same on the way back I could finish somewhere around the 5 hour mark. Things were looking good!! I was in and out the check point within 2 minutes and now it was time to retrace my footsteps back to Aberdeen. I loved how up beat everyone was as they ran passed you and said well done to most people who looked in my direction. I high fived Rhona who wasn’t far behind me at all and then ran towards Jemma, who was looking delighted with her race so far, for a double (and rather painful!) high five. Heading back the way we came wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be and as the miles continued to slip by I started to worry that things had gone too smoothly so far and I was bound to crash soon. Back through Drumoak, down the hill and along through the fields, I continued to pass people who had slowed down quite a bit and then I started to feel ridiculously thirsty. I decided I’d walk the bottom section of the hill and have a good drink and then try and pass some more people who had slowed to walk. By the time I’d reached the top of the hill I had passed another 8 or 9 runners and I was still feeling pretty strong. My watch beeped and I realised I only had another mile until the final check point and then it was 8 miles of flat running towards the finish line.

Pushing up a hill about 10 miles in and feeling strong! Photo - Ray Woods
Pushing up a hill about 10 miles in and feeling strong!
Photo – Ray Woods

I was still running comfortably and passed by marathon distance in 4 hours and 1 minute. Only 7 minutes slower than my PB and I still had another 7 miles to go. I started to feel tired at this point and slowed my pace right down to take another gel and have a drink. I could see a line of people ahead of me and most of them were walking so getting a sudden rush of energy and competitiveness, I made it my mission to pass as many of them as possible. I must have gained another 10 or so places up the field and suddenly I was back at the bridge where I had previously made a mental note to remember that from there I only had 3 miles to go. Less than half an hour… and the race was once again on!

The last few miles ticked by pretty painlessly, except when I hit any type of incline – my legs definitely knew about that when it happened! My feet were still pretty happy and my only real niggle was a sharp pain between my shoulder blades; a pain I’ve had a few times before during long distance races but still can’t quite figure out what’s causing it. I tired not to look at my watch as the very last few miles were starting to hurt. Suddenly, the Winter Garden at Duthie Park came into view and I realised I was there! I had a less that half a mile to go and my watch had just ticked by the 5 hour mark!! Just as I entered the park, 2 guys who had been passing me and dropping back, over and over for the last few miles sprinted past and barrelled along to the finish line. I wasn’t fancying that, I wanted to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the finish that I had worked so hard for. People cheered my name and my team mates who had already finished yelled and congratulated me loudly, and I couldn’t help but grin like a Cheshire cat. I stumbled across the line, got my medal and proceeded to hug everyone in sight before shuffling into the marquee to find some water and somewhere to sit down.

Finish line after 5 hours of  strong running. Photo - Gordon McNeil
Finish line after 5 hours of strong running.
Photo – Gordon McNeil

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After a few sandwiches and cakes, I piled on as many layers as I could and made my poor little brother run off to find me tea as my Raynauds had kicked in badly and I couldn’t feel the tips of my fingers. I stood hugging my cup and cheered in as many people as possible, yelling loudly when Rhona finished with a massive 10 minute PB and when Jemma came running into the park, grinning widely and coming in well under her estimated time. We then hopped back on the bus and headed back to Stonehaven for an afternoon of beer, gin, pizza and rugby watching followed by an evening of partying.

Awesome weekend and job done! I can’t wait until next year!

A job well done and we're ready to party!
A job well done and we’re ready to party!

3 Comments

  1. fantastic running Iona and a great report! I saw you a couple of times … only because I was admiring your socks 🙂 your race sounded alot like mine .. except I slowed down alot more than you in the last 5 miles or so … just ran out of legs 🙁 but what an amazing experience .. can’t wait for next year!!

    1. Thank you! I had a really good race, I think I was just lucky! My legs were just about to give up at the end so I’m a bit worried how I’ll get on when I’ve got another 22 miles to go at the Cateran!! Really looking forward to next year!

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