Sunday, 3 November 2013

the Long and the Short

Showers at Glenogle
Glenogle Ultra 02/11/13

I found the before and after were the hard parts; actually running this race was pretty straight forward. Getting up at 4.30am was harsh. I had meant to get to bed nice and early and give myself half a chance at a decent night's sleep but due to dicking around all day making a movie, by the time I got my labels printed for the drop bags, and the contents sorted, and the 17 different outfits to accommodate any weather condition, and choice of bumbags, it was half past 4 hours sleep. Or less.

at Roly'clock in the morning

I have taken to listening to audiobooks in order to cleanse my mind of intelligent thought, freeing the brain up to sleep. Audiobooks are expensive but you can download them free from the Library if you are prepared to limit yourself to books they think you should read rather than books you would enjoy. As a result I consume a little bit of science fiction most nights as a bedtime story. This is further distorted because as I nod, I listen to more than I hear (or vice versa) so I begin the following night's chapter from a place further through the story than I remember. As it is a fairly plodding novel (Fast Forward by Robert J Sawyer, and yes it was a tv series but with significant differences,) the cut and shut sleep-reading improves the urgency of the writing adding a contemporary nuance missing from the prosaic original. I feel I will have absorbed the text in a similar and appropriate fashion to the characters of the novel who experience a snippet of their future consciousness as they sleep.

30 miles away George was also having a disturbed night. He texted at 5.23 to say he had arrived and we drove through the deserted streets and out onto the delightfully quiet motorways, hardly having to slow, getting to Strathyre for just before 7. Perfect timing. The morning was foggy and cold but (looking on the bright side) could have been MUCH worse. And it would be later.

the Fuds were out in force

I had opted for NO bumbag. I carried one in 2011 to hold gels and juice bottles. However I wasn't going to bother with a rain jacket (no point* unless to block wind chill) and I felt the running-unencumbered advantage would outweigh the ability to carry half empty juice bottles. It meant I would be restricted to liquids at the drop bag stations but I would only be out for 4 hrs and I often run for 2 or 3hrs in cold weather without a drink. Sure it would be fine.
*Has anyone come across a jacket that you can race in at full throttle and it stays dry on the inside? Does such a thing exist? Or does it just become, in due course, another wet layer? Wet on both sides either from rain or sweat or both.

I have rather good pockets on the sides of my Nike shorts running vertically down the sides that carry about 3 or 4 gels. I carried 2 and had a couple more in either drop bag. I had eaten breakfast before 5 so had some other stuff handy but couldn't face it before the race. So I ate a Clif Protein Bar and hoped that would suffice. I really enjoyed not having a waist band or bum bag while running. George is newer to this game and I noticed his drop bags would make a nice picnic for a family of 3.

We milled about a bit and I visited the toilet block (successfully). Around 8am there was some chat and then we walked along and across the road to the start, on the forestry trails. The whole event was very well organised by Bill and Mike who do an excellent job of hitting just the right tone neither too casual nor too up tight. And a huge thanks to the marshals and folk out from dawn till dusk in crappy weather and not even running to keep warm. 

It would have been just after 8 when we set off. I watched David L going off quickly on the rising trails with the leading pack and I wondered if I would be seeing him again later. I would pace myself and see how things went. I was just outside the top ten – a place I think I held all race although there was a small amount of to-and-fro. Gerry C was one place ahead. He had established an 80 yard lead on the steep hills of the start. (We finished consecutively in 2011.) After 4 miles of hilly trails we popped out at the Kingshouse Hotel, Balquhidder and ran under the flyover before turning right and following the cycle path. Up the tree lined trail to a bridge and some cattle grids that rewarded complete focus. Occasionally the trail would be covered with pine needles and felt like it had a give, as George said, almost like running on a track. Around the 7 mile mark a series of switchbacks takes you up to the bridle path that ascends the titular Glen and on towards checkpoint 2. More big gates with an option to cattle grid or swing the slatted gate on the left. Why risk a wet slippy pipe-walk when you can push open a gate and run through with ankles unbroken. I could see I was reeling in Gerry (slowly) and (maybe) John Duffy.

hold that camera steady fool

piney paths

Fiona cheerleading - is that a can of bacardi breezer at her feet? And not even 9am.

Gerry at a cattle grid / deer fence

Having run across the viaduct in 2011 it was perhaps less of a special moment this time. I took photos but could see the gloom was making for mostly dull and shaky images.

 I also had a notion that I maybe had a bathroom event horizon approaching. Surely not, having twice already seen to that today. Although the Builders Bar had gone down like a house brick. I suspected there was some caffeine involved in the ingredients but still haven't tracked it down. I was kind of surprised nobody was diving into their drop bags at checkpoint charlie. I suppose most were carrying fluids. I was offered my drop bag but wasn't really very thirsty or hungry (only 10miles) and was more concerned about the unrest-room situation. 


We crossed the road and I thought “take action” rather than be taken by surprise. A short way along the trail was a memorial and an area set aside off the trail for appreciating it. I signalled right and pulled in while a mental dialogue enquired was I really going to shit on someone's grave? Not grave, and no, I would go beyond the cultivated area and see what the outcome might be. I was uncertain which of the elements was making a nuisance of themselves, earth, wind or fire. It turns out it was the best call of the day and two minutes later I was washing my hands in the grass putting my gloves back on and rejoining the trail, lighter in heart.

Craig M came alongside and we ran together for the next mile or 2, until just before the turn and climb, he too signalled right and went off to release an otter into the wild. Craig and Kate had just got last minute entries when others had dropped out and while neither had had much time to train and taper (3 days?) both managed to make a decent job of it. (And run 15 miles the next day.)

finally see Gerry again

at the top of the hill

Fiona and pals again

Craig catching back up

Coming into checkpoint3 looking chipper while Craig fends off the paparazzi.
Thanks to Fiona Rennie for the photo.

It took Craig most of the hilly section at the far end to catch up again. We both went past Gerry and came into CP3 (same as CP2) together. John Duffy seemed to have made good his escape. I decided I was going to spend time having a drink and a gel. It was the first drink of the race (19 miles) although I had made a point of starting the race well hydrated. In a hurry to drink as much of the 500mls as quickly as possible without breathing I nearly blacked out. I had caffeine drink diluted with fizzy water. I had a “peach” gel at some point that was incredibly salty.
Big Brown and the salty peach

Maybe from being in my pocket, but I was under the impression that maybe the top fell off the salt cellar when they made that batch. I mean how salty should a peach be? Total consumption for entire race was about 4 gels and 500~750mls of juice. The trick is to anticipate when you are 10 minutes from feeling shit then take a gel to avoid that. If it's really bad have a caffeine gel. The trouble can be that most of the second half of the race is 10 minutes away from feeling shit. The SIS gels are watery and large (buy the peach if you dare!) and the GU gels are compact but yield a tarry mouthful you swallow like a punishment exercise and hope it distributes fuel quickly to aching legs and damp stiffening elbow joints.

It got a bit abstract at points

descending the hairpin bends

Craig gets away.

A lot of the ultra scene is about discomfort and how much pain you can embrace. As soon as you raise the pace, life gets worse and the miles seem to take longer – or, if you will, they are more exquisitely experienced. I was pleased to catch Gerry before CP3 – he had been taking walking breaks on the steeper climbs to consume stuff and was chipper when I went past. I knew if I hung around on the descent from CP3 we would be running together over the last 5 miles as we did in 2011. It's not that I didn't want that, it's just I thought if I could get finished sooner the pain might stop. At CP3 Craig left before I did and got 100 yards ahead. To my complete surprise half a mile later I began to catch him up again. Unheard of. (To be fair he wasn't really focussed on racing today, more just a 30mile training/fun run.) We ran together for a bit until the hairpin turns. He breezed past while I descended cautiously, aware of the potential for a slide on the wet leaves. My legs had a dull ache about them and I was a bit hacked off I hadn't reeled in any crash-and-burners yet. I was impressed David was holding on. I reached CP4 and rummaged through the bag for my high caffeine rescue remedy, just as the rain started in earnest. It was around 3hrs into the race and a cyclist who was dodging about the course reckoned there was 6 or 7 miles left. In fact from the last checkpoint there is just over 5.5 (from 26 to 31.6.) (Indeed why is the race called GO33? However I'm pretty sure NOBODY would complain the course is short by a mile and a half.)

ghost dog

On a long straight I could see Craig one last time about a minute ahead down the road. The rest of the event was a long lonely road run, in heavy cold rain, trying not to get distracted and go the wrong way. It went on for an age. I passed a postie, van parked at someone's house, postie delivering a letter walking up the drive. I wondered about jumping into the van and burrowing under the letters. Next stop Strathyre! Jumping out partially covered in damp brown envelopes and second class stamps.

This was the last photo of the race as I was worried about the camera being soaked.
About 3 or 4 miles to go. Craig has just disappeared from vision.

I spent several miles trying to distract myself by thinking up blog titles linking Glenogle the race with Glenogle the swimming baths of my childhood near Stockbridge. A l-o-n-g time later I come to a sign saying Strathyre 1.5 miles. I remember this sign from 2011 and couldn't quite recall the other emotion that goes with it. It becomes apparent over the next few miles the emotion is frustration and gnashing teeth as we cover hilly mile after hilly mile round the next corner and up another climb without a finish line in sight. You can see the climbs on the garmin output around the 30 mile mark although I have no memory of the downhills connecting them. There were rivers of rain washing down the road. The orange leafed trees would be spectacular in the sun, but were dismal in the downpour. There were some fire-beating-out-brooms at one point near the woods but I just couldn't imagine the trees ever being dry enough again to catch light. I had a lot of random aches but none big enough to excuse running. So I jogged in towards the finish in a rather unhappy and soggy state.

at last - the shoogly bridge
Many thanks to Glen Ogle 33 for taking the photo.

The good news was I was sub4 by a couple of minutes; the bad – 4 minutes slower than last time, (although that, over 31.6 miles running is no disgrace – especially as every item I was wearing could not have got wetter if I got in a bath.) Additional: (I have just heard the course was a full mile longer than in 2011 and sure enough Mary's Garmin output from then says 30.5 miles - so in fact I ran a better pace this time.)  I went quickly to George's car and with chattering teeth and shaking fumbling yellow fingers dried myself, stripped off and dressed in warm clothes. Getting compression tights over damp corpse feet in a confined space was the worst moment of the day. Spasms of cramp gripped my legs as I untied laces and it was about 20 minutes before I stopped resembling a dead body pulled from the water. During this time the rain battering off the car roof suddenly stopped for 2 seconds then continued again as before without a fade out / fade in. A long time later I thought it might have been the dry shadow of an aeroplane flying overhead.

Really great medal design which incorporates the viaduct arches over the letters of GO33.
Beer and Tunnocks Caramel Wafer also in goody bag - quality!

George arrived looking drowned-rat-like but remarkably well and pleased with his run. After he changed we drove to the Inn and collected our free soup and drink. Very delicious! We didn't hang around for long, opting for a swift return home. (Both by now walking in an avant garde style.) The race was won by Robert (Boab) Turner running a new course record of 3.26 - and his first ultra. Joanne Thom was first lady. Results show I was tenth. And I was pleased to run the first 26.2 miles around 3hrs10. I don't know if that includes the memorial visit as the garmin is set on auto pause and might have been whistling while looking the other way.

Our thoughts are with those still out there, running through the rain.
Results here

Border Series XC
Lauder 03/11/13

I had a notion to do the Lauder Cross Country. Since it was the day after Glenogle I had to use the spare legs I keep in the shoe cupboard. Mary kindly buffed them on Saturday night and they were nearly ship shape on Sunday morning. More importantly the sun was shining. If it had been more of the same downpour I might have crept back to bed. So I phoned up Steve and hitched a lift to the Borders.

The new facilities including hot showers!

There were a few PRCers had managed to get a ticket for this highly regarded six race series. After the debacle last year when thousands queued for weeks at the Dunbar cement works, the series went EntryCentral this year with a capped limit of entries, resulting in hurt feelings, recriminations and much sadness from those not quick enough off the mark. Organiser Stuart H was not looking forward to turning away anyone looking for entries-on-the-day and was a relieved man to tell me later that nobody had come along looking for a fight. Whew!

The day was brilliant as was the course. I ran this a couple of years back in torrential rain so hadn't realised how picturesque the route can be. Using only the spare legs today gave me licence to run at below capacity, so I carried the camera and enjoyed the company of a slightly different section of the field. Which is not to say I didn't try. I also didn't caffeine dope today. So instead of being fired out a cannon at the start, I just flopped out a sewer pipe.

Bob taking photos on the first hill...

And his work.
Now I don't know whether Dave (218) started 10 minutes after everyone else or just took his time getting up to speed today, but I suspect the recent addition to his family is somehow in the equation.

We ran round the field which helped spread things out into a thin enough line to get down the narrow lane to the duckboards and along and back there. Before heading up a climb and out of Lauder. There was a hill a bit over, that looked familiar and sure enough we went round the side of that and continued along some contouring singletrack before dropping down to the valley and zig-zagging over the river a few times.

note runners coming down from above

If you sped up and got a good firm take-off spot this side of the burn you could land it with dry feet. Given the margin for error I was tempted to stop and take photos of the pack going past and see if anyone went for an early bath. Mel allegedly became familiar with the temperature of the water but I didn't get the full story. Off-road is her second-best terrain (out of 2) so top marks Mel for braving the cross country.

Then up a slippery climb. If you planted your feet either side of the muddy groove you got pretty good traction, so I couldn't understand why there were long clawed tread marks right in the worst of the gloop. Were blind people running here at night? At the top I looked across the course and aimed to get past the 2 runners ahead before exiting the gate. I set a few challenges like this to encourage the spare legs which had momentary oomph but not much endurance.

Up bobs Bob again.

Using a proper camera is just cheating.

And on the next fast downhill Bob had materialised and was taking more photos. I tried to take a photo of him without launching my camera at him. Then we were on to a path that seemed cobbled with stones just a tad too large or pointy to run properly along. This rang bells and I realised we would come out into the start-finish field. So, almost disappointed it was all going to finish so quickly, I gave it what little remained in the tank for the last length of the field.

This wasn't retribution for beating me.

GH in full flight

Mel found it hair-raising

Andrew singing his way to the finish.

Great to see Michael G leading the Porties home today. A richly deserved success after far too many months of injury. Another highlight of today was the Tomato Soup. And I don't think it was just me replacing some of the many calories spent yesterday. Although that helped. Many thanks to the organisers – very well marshalled, marked and crewed and a brilliant route with lots of variety and different terrain in a loop that seemed to last 15 minutes not twice that, and yet had plenty of challenges. Ask Mel.

Callum - a second second in 2 weeks

Vicki's second ever race

more Gilmores

Border Patrol

Results here
Bob's photos, full set here

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