RACE REPORT – Glen Ogle 33m Ultra

Glen Ogle 2014

Official time: 5 hours 41 minutes 18 seconds

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 only thing worth drinking after an ultra marathon!
The only thing worth drinking after an ultra marathon!

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 perfect pre race dinner!
My perfect pre race dinner!
Taking way less than I did last year! Did't even eat all this, but the coke was definitely a saviour!
Taking way less than I did last year! Once again didn’t eat even half of it, but the coke was definitely a saviour!

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!

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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!

Spotting the camera from afar.
Spotting the camera from afar.

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.

Trying hard not to step on the poor photographers head as he lay in the middle of the track :) Photo - Ross Lawrie
Trying hard not to step on the poor photographers head as he lay in the middle of the track 🙂 Photo – Ross Lawrie

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.

Dressed slightly differently from last years picture in this exact spot! Are we sure this is November? Photo - Richard O'Grady
Dressed slightly differently from last years picture in this exact spot! Are we sure this is November? Photo – Richard O’Grady

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…

Photo - Amanda Hamilton
Photo – Amanda Hamilton

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.

Job done.
Job done.

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!

Elated we got cider instead of beer this year! And I've sill got high hopes of my mug shot making the bottle next year...
Elated we got cider instead of beer this year! And I’ve sill got high hopes of my mug shot making the bottle next year…

The Hoka Highland Fling 2014: A Sweepers Perspective

It’s Friday evening and Jemma and I are enjoying a lovely dinner and a few relaxed drinks at my parents house in Clachan of Campsie. Normally the night before a race I’m quite highly strung and can’t unwind but this was different. We had the privilege of being part of this years Hoka Highland Fling, but we didn’t have the stresses of having to race it – we would just be tagging along at the back and making sure everyone got to the next check point in one piece. Awesome.

Although we were only sweeping half the course, we still had a good 27 miles to cover and could potentially have been out there for 7-8 hours (going by last years splits) so we weren’t taking any chances and we packed enough food to last us a good month or so.

We didn't take all of it, but going to the supermarket on an empty stomach is clearly a bad idea Jemma.... :)
We didn’t take all of it, but going to the supermarket on an empty stomach is clearly a bad idea Jemma…. 🙂

Cars in Rowardennan, bags packed, kit all ready and my wonderful mother willing to get up at the crack of dawn to drive us over to Milngavie, I sleepily headed off to bed and quickly fell asleep with the wonderful peace and quiet of the countryside around me….

…only to be woken at about 3am by something that sounded like a freight train trundling by! I looked out the window and saw the trees across the lane swaying feet in either direction and rain bouncing off everything around. This was not a good sign. Could I manage the distance in this type of weather again?!.

I eventually crawled out from under the duvet around 4.15am and willed the rain to have gone off before we left the house at around 5.30am. The fact I was about to run 27 miles still hadn’t hit me. It was just another early start for another wee run. Or something like that!

Wrapped up and ready to go.
Wrapped up and ready to go.

I ended up wearing a vest, 2 long-sleeved tops, my waterproof jacket, 2 buffs, shorts, long socks and gloves. I was NOT going to be cold on this run, that was for sure!

The rain had let up a bit and by the time we arrived at Milngavie train station at 5.40am it had gone of completely. The forecast was for a dry start and then drizzle throughout the day. Not perfect but it could be so much worse I guess! We found a marshal who agreed to take our luggage up to Rowardennan (thank you so much!), dropped off our over sized drop bag (as I discovered during Glen Ogle, you never know what you’ll want to eat until the time comes, so pack one of everything!) and then heard someone shouting my name. It was Rhona and Rachel who were both raring to go. We wished them good luck and then took a step to the side to watch the runners assemble for their 6am start. What a sight it was. A car park full of runners – close to a thousand of them, all ready to tackle this beast of a 53 mile monster. The horn went and they were off, leaving the car park feeling eerily quiet for the next wee while…

All ready to run to Tyndrum?
All ready to run to Tyndrum?

Come 7am and it was our turn to start with the relays. The plan was to take it easy and keep a bit of a gap between us and the last runner but as always I got a bit carried away and Jemma had to reel me in once or twice. We had a bit of a stop-start first few miles, picking up litter and route signs and trying not to run too close to the runner ahead of us. I was enjoying myself immensely. I’ve never run parts of the WHW before so to put it all together all the way up to Rowardennan was amazing and just so beautiful. Of course there was time for posing….

Leaving Milngavie. The silly pictures pretty much started straight away!
Leaving Milngavie. The silly pictures pretty much started straight away!

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Our relay runner got into Drymen just before the 3 hour mark and in the time it took Jemma to empty the route signs out of her bag the next runner had sprinted off. The pace stepped up a bit and we found ourselves galloping up a hill behind her. Pretty sore on already tired legs! As we came to a road crossing I noticed our runner heading up the hill, following the Rob Roy way. I tried shouting after her but I imagine she was too in the zone to hear me and I ended up full on sprinting up a hill after her! (I must point out that this is where I found out the whistle on my camelbak is totally useless. Will take a proper one next time!) This was the only part of the race where the route wasn’t clearly marked and I can only assume a marker or 2 had gone missing as every other crossing was so obvious. I’m not saying sabotage in any way… or am I…? I can only hope we didn’t lose any other runners at this point as by now there was quite a gap between our runner and the one in front. After we had pointed her back in the right direction we began our ascent over Conic Hill. Everything I’ve previously read about it popped into my head and I imagined the worst, but I actually really enjoyed it! Does this mean that hill reps in training are actually working??! On the way back down we came across and injured runner who was hobbling down, wincing with every step. Her support was on their way but by this point we were so far behind the previous runner we were being called by the next check point to find out where we were! We passed through Balmaha after about 4 and a half hours and gave ourselves a mental pat on the back for managing to still feel awesome. After packing all that amazing food into our drop bag, the only thing I fancied when we got there was chocolate milk. With that in one hand and a packet of Hula Hoops in the other, we bounced out of the check point determined to try and catch up with another runner. After another 15 minutes or so of running we decided to call ahead to the next check point and let them know we had had some issues and that we may be some time.

Jemma running up Conic hill!
Jemma running up Conic hill!
Sweeping from afar...
Sweeping from afar…
Bounding along the beach at Milarrochy. Having just too much fun!
Bounding along the beach at Milarrochy. Having just too much fun!

The route between Balmaha and Rowardennan is quite technical in places, but so much fun. I have ran this stretch many a time before with my dog and know it pretty well, so I knew what was ahead and enjoyed every step. I felt one small blister appearing under my toe from when my feet had got wet and my sock was rubbing, but apart from that I felt surprisingly good! I can’t even begin to think how I’d feel if I’d run the whole course though. I’m hoping I’ll get the chance to find out next year….

Hills after 24 miles....
Hills after 24 miles….

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I bounded in to Rowardennan and passed over my first aid kit to the next bunch of sweepers who said the last runner had left a good 20-30 minutes before. They had their work cut out catching up with them then!! After stretching off we made our way up to Tyndrum to get showered changed and ready to cheer in our friends who were brave enough to tackle to whole course. They all ran extremely well – 53 miles in under 15 hours? You’re all my heroes! We had a quick catch up and then decided we were too tired to go to the ceilidh and just needed some food and to head home.

I’m hoping I’m strong enough and fit enough to join these amazing people on the start line next year. I’ll tackle the CS40 in September first and see how my body responds to that and decide if I’m ready or not. If not I’ll definitely be back to help out again as this is just such an amazing event which is just going from strength to strength. Well done everyone, you’re awesome!!

I'll be rocking this hoodie for months to come.
I’ll be rocking this hoodie for months to come.
Cheers!
Cheers!

2013 – The year I did ALL the running…

And so another year draws to a close. For me it really has been the year of running so far. I hadn’t really thought about it until I started to think of ideas for this blog and then it dawned on me that this year I have:
– Smashed my half marathon time by 5 minutes
– Taken nearly 2 minutes off my 10k time
– Completed my first marathon
– Completed my first ultra marathon
– Finally got round to joining a running club
– Clocked up nearly 1150 miles in a year
– Met some of the most amazing and inspirational new friends

The list goes on and on. But if I listed everything there wouldn’t really be much point in the rest of this blog post!

I started the month with high hopes of completing my first Marcothon. All was going really well for the first 2 weeks with me managing to fit in lunchtime runs here and there, taking the dog out at the crack of dawn and even slipping in my daily 3 miles at 11pm after a trip to the cinema. But sods law had it that as soon as my last lesson had finished on the last day of term, I started burning up and was struck down with the dreaded winter lurgy. So that was me out of the game. I even attempted to get back into it after 2 days of bed rest, but my body quite firmly refused and I had to hang up my trainers for the next week. Once I felt better I got back out there, and I have clocked up my daily miles every day since, but I’ll need to wait until next year to give it another go. It’s a tough challenge and even though it’s only 3 miles (or 25 minutes of running, whichever comes first), it really takes its toll on your body. Some days I’ve really struggled and it has felt like such a chore to run the minimum of 3 miles, even though just a bit over a month ago I ran 33 miles! I think my body is trying to tell me it has clocked up enough miles for the year….

Marcothon aside, it has been a pretty quiet December. Term ended, Christmas came and went and now we’re a few days away from 2014. When I think back over the past 12 months, it amazes me to think how fast the year has passed. I’m looking at the race calender for next year and can’t believe entries are open for the 2014 version already. But what a year of running it was. One of the best things I could have done for my running happened this year – I finally joined a running club and what a difference it has made to both my running, my fitness and also my motivation. My new friends have both inspired and pushed me towards my goals and I don’t think you could find a nicer and more driven bunch of people, who not only want to improve their performances but want to push you along on the way as well. A few of my friends have now accompanied the WCH on our weekend adventures and they’ve all said the same thing – what a fantastic wee club!

I’ve already started entering some of my planned races for 2014 and so far my goals are as follows:

  •   A 45min 10k.  – Very achievable if I focus on my speed work and bring my distances back down. Hopefully by the summer I’ll achieve this one.
  • A 1 hour 45 minute half marathon. Also (possibly!) very achievable. This comes down to more mental rather than physical work. I know I can do it, I’m just scared of burning out so I pull back too early in the race. Hopefully achievable at the Alloa half in March which is where I knocked 5 minutes off my time this year.
  • To start going to Park runs on Saturdays. Now that I’m not working on Saturday mornings! I feel this will really benefit my speed work.
  • Run a sub 4 marathon. My ‘A’ goal for the year. If I can do this I will feel invincible. For a while.
  • Become a stronger Ultra runner. I’m hoping to run both the Clyde Stride and Glen Ogle this year as well and sweeping for the Highland Fling. Hopefully running all races very comfortably and not getting injured!
  • Get stronger. I get gym classes for free. I really have no excuse for not trying everything!!

My first race of 2014 will be the Devilla 15k  at the end of February. This is also the first event of my club Grand Prix which I have high hopes to make my mark in next year. Got to be positive!!

So that leaves me just to round-up this years races and events. It’s been an awesome year of training and racing and I go into 2014 with high hopes and big plans.

First high of the year - a good 5 minutes off my half marathon time in Alloa.
March – First high of the year – a good 5 minutes off my half marathon time in Alloa.
Next high - a minute and a bit off my 10k time. Woooo!
March – Next high – a minute and a bit off my 10k time. Woooo!
The beautiful bling of the Edinburgh rock 'n' roll half. Only good thing about this wet and windy race!
April – The beautiful bling of the Edinburgh rock ‘n’ roll half. Only good thing about this wet and windy race!
Meeting Rhona, Ali and Kate at the race the train event in Aviemore. Fabby people who I hope to run with again in the near future!
May – Meeting Rhona, Ali and Kate at the race the train event in Aviemore. Fabby people who I hope to run with again in the near future!
Running up and down mountains!
May – Running up and down mountains!
Black rock 5 - my first club event after meeting these awesome and inspiring people. Fantastic night!
June -Black rock 5 – my first club event after meeting these awesome and inspiring people. Fantastic night!
September - 2nd 10k pb of the year coming in at 48:17
September – 2nd 10k pb of the year coming in at 48:17
September - completing my first marathon with my friend Catriona and a couple of huge smiles!
September – completing my first marathon with my friend Catriona and a couple of huge smiles!
October - Neil McCover half marathon a week after Loch Ness, again with my awesome running club.
October – Neil McCover half marathon a week after Loch Ness, again with my awesome running club.
October - My first attempt at cross country in over 15 years. Fun but drenched!
October – My first attempt at cross country in over 15 years. Fun but drenched!
October - training in the rain with these dafties!
October – training in the rain with these dafties!
November - my first ultra marathon. Glen Ogle 33 in the POURING rain.
November – my first ultra marathon. Glen Ogle 33 in the POURING rain.
November - Glen Ogle 33 with a smile!
November – Glen Ogle 33 with a smile!
November - Last race of the year - the Hartley Cup relays.
November – Last race of the year – the Hartley Cup relays.
The reason I got faster this year!
The reason I got faster this year!

 

Here’s to getting faster and loving running in 2014.

1000 miles done – and then a slump.

At some point last week I smashed through the 1000 miles for the year barrier. I don’t quite know when, as our laptop broke a few weeks ago and I hadn’t been able to upload my Garmin stats. I actually thought I was still a good 30 miles off it, but yesterday after the new laptop was unpacked and my Garmin was linked up again, I got the grand total to date – 1013 miles with 37 days of the year still to go. Hoorah!

Doesn't get more beautiful that this - but where has my running mojo gone?
Doesn’t get more beautiful that this – but where has my running mojo gone?

A few weeks ago, I took a trip North with Jemma, who is running her first Ultra (The Tigh Nam Bodach 50k) this Saturday. The race starts at the Loch Lyon Dam, follows a loop around the Loch before heading down through the hills, through some rivers (??!), back up the hill and back to the Dam. With the thought of beautiful scenery and free Merino wool socks from the sock station at the half way point – Jemma was persuaded. We went up one weekend to recce the second part of the course as she wasn’t quite sure what to expect underfoot. We got there after a good few hours of windy single track roads and Skye, my border collie, and I staggered out the back of the car to try and shake off our motion sickness. Once our legs were ready to go and we had eventually figured out which way to go (note: there is no phone reception up here and GPS struggled a bit!) and set off on the single track road for a few miles of ups and downs. Before long we were turning off the road and following a muddy path along the side of a mountain. The path was quite firm under foot for the first mile or so but it got wetter and muddier the further along we went. So after a few miles we decided to turn back as we’d got a fairly good idea of what the course consisted of. Plus it had taken us that long to get over, I was worried that it was going to get dark before we were off those horrible single track roads!

Jemma and Skye in the snowy hills. Beautiful yet cold!
Jemma and Skye in the snowy hills. Beautiful yet cold!
The worst cup of tea I have ever had. Who knows what had been lurking in my flask! :-/
The worst cup of tea I have ever had. Who knows what had been lurking in my flask! :-/

Good luck to everyone running the race this weekend. I’m sure it’ll be beautiful and an awesome experience. I, however, am still struggling to get out of my post Ultra slump and most of my November miles since the race have felt like a chore. I’ve still managed to get out quite a bit, and club training is always awesome but I just don’t seem to be enjoying my longer runs as much just now. I’m hoping it’s just the lack of sunlight and that I always seem to be running in the dark, or chasing the sunlight, but I feel like my running mojo has definitely gone into hiding for a while. However, I most certainly have the club to thank for helping me get all those miles in, making me want to run in the rain and enjoy it and being able to run for more miles without stopping that I ever thought possible! I guess it can only get better and next year is another year full of challenges.

My first cross county event in about 15 years in a torrential downpour. Why not!
My first cross county event in about 15 years in a torrential downpour. Why not!

So yeah… this bunch have a lot to answer for!!

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Glen Ogle 33 Ultra Marathon – RACE REPORT

GLEN OGLE 33 ULTRA MARATHON 2013

Official time: 5 hours 41 minutes 58 seconds

Overall: 105 out of 180

Medal : Yes

Wasn't expecting a medal, so am very chuffed with this beauty!
Wasn’t expecting a medal, so am very chuffed with this beauty!

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….

Various means of getting the calories back in. None of which really to appealed to me on the day!
Various means of getting the calories back in. None of which really to appealed to me on the day!

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.

WCH (minus Andy) ready to enter the world of Ultra running! (Except George, he's been there already!)
WCH (minus Andy) ready to enter the world of Ultra running! (Except George, he’s been there already!)
Kirsty and Catriona. Clearly ready to battle whatever this course throws at them.
Kirsty and Catriona. Clearly ready to battle whatever this course throws at them.

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!

The Glen Ogle Viaduct as seen from the road. Image courtesy of scotlandincolour.com
The Glen Ogle Viaduct as seen from the road. Image courtesy of scotlandincolour.com

Mile splits to check point 2:
1 10:29.6
2 10:56.4
3 9:39.2
4 9:12.1
5 9:21.6
6 9:27.2
7 9:50.2
8 11:23.9
9 9:53.3
10 9:38.0
11 10:50.1

Coming in to check point 2. Photo - Fiona Rennie
Coming in to check point 2. Photo – Fiona Rennie
On the way back to check point 3. Soaked through already. Photo - Fiona Rennie
On the way back to check point 3. Soaked through already. Photo – Fiona Rennie

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!

Tough on weary legs that have already run 15 miles!
Tough on weary legs that have already run 15 miles!

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!

Favourite picture of me running to date. Cold, wet, tired and sore... but ready to take on the next section!
Favourite picture of me running to date. Cold, wet, tired and sore… but ready to take on the next section!

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:

12 8:59.0
13 9:16.2
14 9:34.9
15 14:03.0
16 10:43.2
17 13:44.1
18 10:46.9
19 9:28.6

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:

20 14:56.9
21 10:12.0
22 9:55.6
23 10:57.0
24 11:21.3
25 11:36.8
26 13:08.7

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:
27 11:20.2
28 10:36.0
29 11:02.3
30 13:54.5
31 13:13.2
32 2:19.8
Summary 5:41:51.7

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.

The very end. Soaked through to the bone, but still found a smile....
The very end. Soaked through to the bone, but still found a smile….
Brew dog beer in an awesome bottle.
Brew dog beer in an awesome bottle.