Glen Ogle round 4. My last ultra/race of 2016 and a bee in my bonnet to finally push under 5 hours was the motivation I needed to get me round this race. I’d been ready for weeks, had felt good and confident when training and was ready for it until an almost race ending act of carelessness the weekend before race day. A round of Footgolf at Palacerigg with my friends had been a great experience, but as I’m the worst footballer in the world, 18 holes of toe punting the ball around lead to a ridiculously sore vastus medialis and lots of hobbling around in the lead up to race day. Not ideal, but I’m stubborn if not determined and nothing would see me pulling out of this race (within reason of course!). Continue reading →
Glen Ogle 2015 – my last race of the year. The lead up to this race hadn’t been a great one as I’d hurt my back at work and had limped through the 2 weeks leading up to the race with minimal effort and mileage. I’d had a fantastic year up until now, starting every race injury free and feeling good (except the Haddington half in August, but the less said about that, the better!) so come race day my only real goals were to beat last years time and finish pain free.
Race morning began at about 4am. I woke up before my alarm and instead of going back to sleep for another half hour or so, I got up and started the race morning preparation. That done, I still had over 40 minutes until Alastair was to pick me up so I took the dog out for a walk seeing as she was awake as well (and expecting breakfast on our return, so was heartbroken when I set her back to bed!). Just before 6am, Alastair arrived with Andy and we began the hour a bit journey up to Killin, joining the steady stream of tail lights of all the cars also heading in the same direction. The Ultra runners are back in town!!!
After a quick registration, I dropped off my drop bags and went about saying hello to all my friends. I felt ridiculously calm and even as we listening to the briefing and shuffled up to the start line, I didn’t have a single ounce of the pre-race nerves I usually get. Before I knew it the race had begun and we were on our way through Killin and on to the first forest climb. I’d started a bit further back than usual so spent the mile or so chatting to everyone around me and then falling into line as we began to stomp our way up through the forest. We were surrounded by stunning autumnal colours and an eerie low lying mist as we made our way up and up through the forest for the first 3 mile or so climb. I tired my best to keep my pace at something above a shuffle up the hills, slowing to a walk only when absolutely necessary.
The forest section was enjoyable, if a bit slippy. Road shoes were the obvious choice for this route, but as the first few miles were on soggy forest tracks there were a few stumbles as I fought to find my footing! Once out of the forest and on to the long downhill stretch and over the via duct, I picked up my pace a bit and tried to stretch out my back. I ran along for a few miles with a couple of guys (sorry I didn’t catch your names, but your chat was awesome!) and the pace seemed to get faster and faster as we trundled down the cycle path, catching up with Derek and adding him to our wee pack about half way down. By now the weather was starting to turn. Up until now the drizzle of rain hadn’t bothered me, but I began to think I should probably put another layer on soon before I got cold. In the end I couldn’t be bothered taking my bag off and having to slow down to faff around, so I didn’t bother! Onwards, along the cycle path towards Kinghouse and I felt my pace increase a bit. Still only 12 or so miles in, this was probably a bad thing but again I just wanted to see how long I could keep this up…
The road section towards Balquhidder and round to Strathyre has been the worst part of the race for me for the past 2 years as it is constant ups and downs on tarmac, but this year I wasn’t going to let it beat me! The rain was picking up but still I didn’t want to break my stride and walk to put my jacket on. Stomping all the way around to the road that leads back to Starthyre, I finally admitted defeat and walked up a hill while taking the time to finally put another layer on even though I was already soaked to the core. The field of runners had really spread out by now and I was passing and being passed by the same people time and time again as we made our way back to Strathyre, down across the shoogly bridge and into check point 3.
The hill out of Strathyre. Ouch. I used this to slow down and refuel with cheese seeing as my other option of a cereal bar had pretty much frozen and almost broke my teeth! Nearing the top, Billy from my club whizzed by having jogged all the way up! Up and over the top of the hill and finally it was down, down, down for a few miles and then back on to the cycle path and on the return journey to the finish line. We caught up with Graeme and Billy and the 4 of us struggled up the zig-zags together. They are ridiculously steep – I can’t imagine going up them on a bike!! The stretch back up to the viaduct is on a gradual incline and last year had been a nightmare. I’d walked sections, hobbled sections and felt like I was about to keel over, but this year I was determined to run all the way up to the check point. Marathon distance came and went in just over 4 hours and before I knew it the final check point was on the horizon…. could I actually finish this race in around 5 hours?!
Coming back into the forest for the final section, my back started to seize up. Every time I hit section of down hill I’d get shooting pains up my spine. I tried to relax and lean backwards and drop my shoulders, but the downhill stomping was agonizing. 30 miles ticked by and I knew it was less than 3 to go… so close to 5 hours, I couldn’t break now! I pushed up the inclines, passing people who were walking, and shuffled down the declines with pain written all over my face. The last stretch coming out of the forest felt like it went on forever but finally we were spat back out on to the road and across the bridge back into Killin.
Just as we crossed the bridge, David Scott flew by me at an incredible speed! He was also pushing for under 5 hours, but as we came back into Breadalbane park, we noticed a line of tape going round the perimeter of the park, adding on a good few hundred meters. So close…. yet so far!! But 1 minute over 5 hours, 40 minutes off last years time and feeling good after 33 odd miles? I’m over the moon!!
So the racing year has come to an end. What a year it was, but I think I’ll save these ramblings for another post. So much has happened and I owe it to so many people, so big thanks to you all. I can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store! And I’ll definitely be back for Glen Ogle round 4, sub 5 has hopefully got my name written all over it! Well done to everyone from my wee running club who completed this race. I think there were 25 Wee County Harriers there on Saturday and every single one of us finished the race!!
Overall: 113th/237 finishers (4th out of 12 senior ladies)
Medal : Yes, (same design as last year) and an awesome Tshirt as well
Before I get started, I’d like to apologise for the fact that my blog seems to just be a steady stream of race reports recently. The plan was always to update it more often with training/life/etc as well… but the whole life/work/training/sleeping balance has been way off recently. However, I plan to rectify that asap!
The Glen Ogle ultra was my first attempt at racing distances over 26.2m around this time last year. I had done all the training for Loch Ness and keeping the miles ticking over until race day 6 weeks later had been pretty easy and enjoyable. I had no major injuries and my legs were feeling good come race day. Fast forward a year and it’s take 2 of the same events, but stick the Jedburgh half, a cold and a sore hip into the mix and you can just about imagine how I felt as I rocked up to the start line this year.
I had been looking forward to the race for months. I put my name down as soon as entries opened and then with so much other stuff to focus on in my racing calendar (including my 45 min 10k and sub 4 hour marathon!), completely forget to get excited about it until about a week before race day! On the Friday evening before the race, Jemma made the 300 odd mile journey down from Ness in the Isle of Lewis to meet me in the central belt and not 10 minutes after she had got off the coach, we were stuffing out faces with pizza and catching up on wedding planning gossip. Priorities first of course! After filling our faces with a substantial number of carbs, we headed back to mine where we sorted our drop bags and kit and after some cheesy tv we headed off to catch z’s and prepare for the super early start the next day.
My alarm went off just before 5am and after having an amazing breakfast of porridge with nutella and blueberries and a vast amount of coffee, we were in the car and on the road over to Killin. This year there had been a slight adjustment to the route at the last minute meaning we were no longer starting in Strathyre and were going to do the route in reverse with a little bit extra added on at the end. This meant all my lovely down hills near the end were going to be up hills near the end and vice versa… nothing like a last minute shake up to keep the mind alert 30 odd miles later! After registering and meeting up with the other Wee County Harriers, we had a quick briefing from Bill and Mike and before we knew it, we were walking round to the very narrow trail where the race would begin. The weather was very, very mild and any worries of a repeat of last years weather eased off and I decided to run in a long sleeved top with just a t shirt underneath. Jemma was so confident about good weather she didn’t even take her jacket with her!
The first few miles were very stop/start as we tried to find our pace while avoiding puddles and having to run along a very narrow track. Soon enough we were spat out onto a road for a few hundred metres before taking a sharp left and beginning a short climb into the bottom of the forest loop which we had met at about 17 miles when the route was the other way around last year. The positive thing about this would be that one of the worst climbs was out the way within the first 4 miles! I ran with Kirsty, trying to slow our pace down and not set off too quickly on fresh legs or get carried away too early on. We were having so much fun, walking the steep climbs and flying down the descents and having a good chat the whole way round. We passed through the first check point and began our descent down the cycle path towards Lochearnhead, forcing down a gel at 6 miles and keeping the pace steady and consistent. The weather looked like it really was going to stay in our favour and I had to take my long sleeved top and buff off as I was already getting too hot!
As we approached the very steep descent on the zig zags just as we came into Lochearnhead, I felt a horrible twinge in my back and began to panic. This was too early for things like this to be happening!! I hoped it was just because I had quite a lot of water in my pack and it was slightly heavier than usual, so I decided to empty some of the weight out as we continued to fly along the cycle track and immediately noticed a difference. Fingers crossed I wouldn’t come to regret that decision later on in the race!! Kirsty was looking a lot stronger than I felt, so I made the decision at that point to push her on if the time came where I needed to pull back. She kept saying she was going to stay with me, so we pushed on and continued to enjoy the run.
We passed through check point 2 and once again didn’t stop. I forced a few shot bloks in my mouth and we decided to walk the next few hills and shake out our legs a bit. The next few miles were the ups and down round to Balquhidder which was the point where I had wanted to quit last year as my whole body had gone numb from the cold. This year we were just over 13 miles in and feeling warm (and dry!) and still pretty fresh, so it felt good to be able to push through and conquer our demons. We ran on, all the way round to just before we got to Strathyre where we clocked a hill and both gave a little yell of delight as we were both in need a walk! The constant pavement pounding was beginning to make my back hurt again and we were starting to tire a bit. However we knew that Richard from out club was waiting, camera in hand, to cheer us on in Strathyre, so we flew over the shoogly bridge with our arms in the air and cheered at him as we ran by.
This was where the finish line had been last year, so it took a bit of effort to push past where we had stopped last time, knowing we were just over half way and had a huge climb ahead as we entered the second forest. We were ushered across the road by John Munro who was a vision in head to toe high vis and were all laughs and jokes until we hit the climb. The route had been slightly altered at this section as well and as we gritted our teeth and shuffled up the hill. I felt like there was someone behind me pulling me backwards again – It was just so steep!! We walked all the way up to the top, hands on thighs and leaning forward trying to catch our breath remembering that once this was out the way there was a lovely 2-3 mile downhill run all the way back to check point 3. Cue photo opportunity with a genuine smile…
We stopped briefly at checkpoint 3 to pick up some coke and a few jaffa cakes and within 2 minutes we were back on the path back to Killin. This is the point where my mind started to play mental games with me and I gave in to it. I needed to go to the loo and Kirsty said she’d walk on so I could catch her up, but I felt like I was holding her back so I told her just to push on and I’d try and catch her eventually. I was glad I did tell her to go on and she ended up smashing her last years time by 9 minutes, but once on my own, I really started to struggle. The climb back out of Lochearnhead killed my already trashed quads and the zig zags felt steeper than ever before. Once at the top I tried to keep my head up and look ahead and ran to a set of gates before letting myself walk again. I pulled out my ipod and an upbeat playlist helped me push to the top of the cycle path and road crossing back to the forest. On entering the final check point I was handed my drop bag by the ever super cheery marshals and quizzed about my socks once again. Noanie and Bill ushered me across the road and after being told I only had 4 and a bit miles to go, I decided to really dig deep and go for it. The wonderful Ruth Howie got the crowd cheering as I passed by the snack van and they made such a racket I felt like I’d finished – what a fabulous sound! Just before I started my descent back into the forest the amazing Robin Wombill told me I had a fabulous smile and grinning from ear to ear, I flew round the next 2 miles of the forest track feeling like I had a second wind and it was time to finish this race with power. I looked at my watch for the first time in hours and realised I’d passed the distance of last year course and was still under the time it’d had taken me to do that, so even though I was feeling a lot sorer I was actually performing (albeit just slightly!) better. I got to the bottom of the forest track, turned left back onto the main road and followed the road over the Falls of Dochart and back down the high street towards the finish line in the sports field. Through both utter fatigue and it not being that well signposted, I couldn’t for the life of me tell where I was meant to go to get to the finishers arch, until I saw a High Vis clad figure that was Angela, waving her arms in the air and jumping up and down to get my attention. I squelched over the grass, grinned and punched the air as I fell over the line and collected my second Glen Ogle medal.
Once we had cheered everyone in, we headed to the Inn at Strathyre for our soup and a drink where we caught up with various people before heading home for plenty of good food and some well deserved drinks. I know I wasn’t feeling 100% on race day and it showed in my results, but it just shows that you can’t work for so many different goals in one year and expect a good outcome in all of them. My speed will take a back seat next year as I want to focus on distance and power and with my eyes on the D33, Cateran 55 and DOTH next year as well as Glen Ogle round 3…something will have to give for a while. It’ll probably be my knees, but we’ll see!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.