Tracey and I left Keswick on Friday evening, straight after I had had my pre-race haircut (it's the law!) and drove up to Milngavie, stopping of for a calorie filled meal on the way. Once at the hotel, we briefly met with Simon, a work colleague of mine doing his first ultra-marathon whilst his wife, Viv, and two children would spend the next day with Tracey and meet us at the finish in Tyndrum.
I found it difficult to sleep on Friday night, not because of nerves but more like simple excitement. Knowing how bad I can be in the early morning, we set three different alarms at least one of which was across the room so I would have to get out of bed to turn it off. I need not have worried as I was up like a shot on the first alarm and met Simon in the hotel reception at 6am ready to walk up to the start.
Registration was as smooth as always and we were soon ready for the off. I had a brief chat with Ian and Murdo, mainly about the psychology of injuries and they both wished me well for the race. We then found Adam (the guy I did my Bob Graham round with back in 2007) who was also doing his first ultra race. I remember thinking he looked really laid back and relaxed; no nervous energy being wasted there!
|Pre-race in the station car park|
The route has a lovely, easy introduction which can ease you into the race or lull you into too fast a pace. I've been on the route enough to know how to do the first option. It was great to get into the rhythm of a proper race again and get chatting to other like minded people. I ran with Dale for a while, chatting in part about the Bob Graham Round which is something he has on the radar. Dale went on to finish in 9:20 hours, so congratulations to him.
I reached Drymen in about 1:50 hours which was a few minutes quicker than I've done before, though it still felt comfortable. The marshals did a great job and soon had me on my way with a fresh bottle and I could finally see the devastation in the forest from the gales in the winter.
|This used to be forest!|
Within 5 minutes of leaving Balmaha, I was totally on my own which felt strange having spent 3 hours in the company of others. I found a lovely smooth rhythm on this section and made good time, singing Sade, "Smooth Operator" to myself. Hey, it works for me! I caught up Martin, who was aiming for around 10 hours and we ran together for a while (I think he finished in 9:59:55 - how is that for good pacing!?) I always enjoy this section and, for the first time, started to let myself run a bit harder when I felt like it. I caught another colleague, John (how many schools can boast three ultra runners on their staff list?) just before Rowardennan. He was working hard and running with a big smile on his face (or was that just for the camera?)
|Katrina and I|
My lowest point came as I tried to ride the roller coaster through the woods above Crianlarich. You will have seen from a previous post that I devised a fool-proof method to break down the hills in this section. If you did read the post - forget it!! What I encountered on my walk at Easter was in no way the same woodland trail that was laid before me on Saturday. I obviously ran some of the hills I identified as "walkers" and walked other "run hills".
On the positive side, as I hit the A82 again, I was at last able to cope with the maths and add together 1 mile and 2.5 miles, realising that I should get well under 9:30 hours. This thought kept me going and I was particularly pleased with the way I held it together over this section as I was dipping into the red at this point.
Oh, yea of little faith.
After the trials and tribulations of the past year, to run a new PB by over 40 minutes was such a thrill, but more than that, it was just great to be back and part of the racing scene again. I made sure I had a lie down straight away and raised my legs to avoid the blood pressure drop I had after the WHW race back in 2010 - not particularly stylish.
Once I had recovered enough to stand up and convinced myself that my kneecaps were not going to explode out of the front of my legs, We had a walk back to the car for a change of clothes and copious amounts of salt and vinegar crisps. Then it was back to the finish to cheer on the runners and have a chat with a few friends. It was nice to meet Andy Cole, who writes a particularly thought provoking blog on all aspects of ultra running.
The rest of the Keswick School Ultra Squad bounded up to the finish. Simon had an excellent run in his first ultra, finishing in 11:58:16, way better than his pessimistic daughters predicted.
|Simon looking pleased with his days work|
|Adopt the pose!|
Possibly the biggest cheer of the day met Katrina and John who came in, all smiles and whoops, with a time of 12:25:19. Pleasingly, Katrina beat John by 2 seconds, so I imagine John will fit in a few extra speed sessions before the next time.
Race video footage is still with Mr Spielberg, though he assures me it should be ready later this week.