53 Miles (85k)
The climb (total ascent):
The short version:
I was getting nervous on Friday. John texted at 11:20 "where are you tomorrow". I respond "between Rowardennan and Inversnaid". I was right with that prediction. That was easy. I had ran from Milngavie to Rowardennan half a dozen times so I know that's where I would be. I text Marco, tell him I am nervous. He is too. I knew we would have very different races tomorrow. He would go off fast. I would start slower.
I check my mail the night before the race. A note from Glenparks Steevie Mcloone. He tells me "Best of luck in the race - I had a quick look at your blog, my advice would be - dont go for the fast start - steady is best you can always pick it up later on in the race." I decide to take his advise seriously.
The schedule drafted for my support team (Silke and Nancy). Silke picked that finishing time. I said I can do sub 9 and she said, you can do even better and suggested 8:45. 8:30 no way. But 8:45 perhaps. There you go:
Drymen 1:35 - 1:35
Balmaha 2:40 - 2:40
Rowardennan 4:00 - 4:00
BeinGlas 6:30 - 6:24
Carmyle Cottage 7:25 - 7:08
A82 crossing 8:10 - 7:48
Auchtertyre 8:25 - 7:58
Finish 8:45 - 8:20
Silke is double booked today: marshalling, medical support and supporting me, the crazy german. Therefore we decide no support at Beechtree. I meet her at Drymen the first time. 1:35 (predicted 1:35). The leaders are already 6 minutes ahead. I try to relax and not to push the pace. The lid of my drinking bottle comes of and all the good lucozade is gone. What do I do, return to the checkpoint? No. I can go over Conic Hill without drinking. There are streams if needed. Thankfully I met Jan (Jon's wife) at the forest behind Dymen who refills my bottle (thanks Jan!).
I am now on my own and enjoy the race. The weather is marvelous. I can see small dots in different colors climbing up Conic Hill. 10 minutes ahead? Which one is Jez, wich one is Marco? Who and where is everyone else? The staggered start is confusing. My left hamstring hurts. Not cramping but will it seize up? How far can I run today with those stupid legs? I stop and massage the sore muscle. I decide to climb Conic Hill slowly. No rush. I sacrifice a few minutes. I pass Caroline. She is going well. It will be a long day for her but she will finish this. Well done Caroline!
I am again joined by Graham Harcus. The climb to the viewpoint is dangerous. Do not push! Take your time! It is hard to let them all pull further and further away. The Sauconys are great though. I will get away with no blisters and loose only half a toenail, but that's not their fault. I drop Graham somewhere. Instead I am passed by Mark Harris again who got lost somewhere and added a mile to his race. He's not happy and going fast (to make up the lost time?). Too fast for me. I have to let him go. I meet Peter (supporting the pacepushers) and ask him if he knows where Marco is. He said he was "miiiiles" away. I am a bit embarrassed to be so far behind.
I reach Rowardennan slightly ahead of schedule. 3:54 (according to the results table). And shut up. I cannot call that slow! It is in deed a PB. I never ran that fast to Rowardennan.
I leave Rowardennan just after 11:00. I do a bit of math in my head. I am 13 minutes faster than last year. That was not much but something. Still a bit dissapointing to be honest. But I feel good. And I quite like that section between Rowardennan and Inversnaid the most of the climbs are all runnable. Slow but steady. My legs felt relatively fresh, but is was not the time to "race" yet. To push. Why not continue for a while "just" steady? I overtook quite a few runners . Many familiar faces. Unfortunately I do not always remember the names of other runners. I am horrible with names. Ask Silke (my wife in case you don't know). Some say "hi Thomas". Many of those I overtake are from the 6am start. Weird this race because people looking at each other and asking themselves "is he over 50?". Are you a relay runner? When did you start? But it was great to meet a few runners, many of them I know from training runs and blogs, and have a small chat and head on. I had forgotten my scheduled split time for Inversnaid so I was not sure how fast I was going. But I felt more and more that my strategy of the slow start was paying off. But what would that pay off be? I found a good rythm and actually enjoyed the section between Inversnaid and Beinglas. There was one runner who overtook me going very fast. But he was not a relay runner. I believe it was Stuart Mills. Since I was in the second half of the race I thought it would now be ok to increase my effort but frankly I just could not follow him.
Following the path up and down towards Beinglas I started looking at my watch to see If I could make it there in 6:30 target. That would give me a chance for a 8:45 finish. If it all went well with no engine trouble etc. That was an optimistic target, more than half an hour faster than last year. Beinglas was getting closer and closer and I still felt great. Last year I arrived at BeinGlas and I was a wreck. I still managed to finish but it was a nightmare. Silke is extremely pleased seeing me early, ahead of schedule and in good shape. She tells me Marco is not far ahead and he did not look good. I suddenly know I will catch him sooner or later. I have to rewrite my blog (which I had written between Rowardennan and Beinglas. In my head of course.). This will be one of those low points of my race. Somewhere near the Falls of Falloch when climbing towards Derridarroch I can see Marco. He is struggling. I catch up with him. "you call that running" I want to say. But I am not sure if the time is right for joking. He is tired and his knee is sore. We chat a little. This is all part of the weird world of ultra running. He will have a long way to go and as it looks I only a short one. Why can I not pass him on the finishing straight? I leave him behind and continue my own race. I actually love that section. I love all sections. Today that is. I am having a good day. Why not? Last year I went through hell here. This year it's heaven. Strange world of ultra distance running.
I pass Stuart Mills again. I can see Kenny Valentine ahead. It looked like he was navigating through a little sheep herd and opens a gate. I pass him and he shouts "hey you are not supposed to pass me!" (since I passed him last year). I laugh. Kenny has a good day and will improve his PB by almost an hour. He beat me in the Glasgow to Edinburgh Double by 4 minutes. But today I am faster. Call it even?
I did not mind the warmer temperatures. A few runners will struggle today though. I pass Mike Thomson. He looks quite relaxed and was going well. Any idea where John is? Not far ahead he sais and points towards Derridarroch. That was unexpected. I knew I was going well, but catching John so early meant that he did not have a good race. I reach him eventually. He is not happy with his running but he still manages to make a short movie to document our meeting. Finish strong he tells me and I am off.
I meet Silke and Debs at the Carmyle Cottage and pour water over my head. It is warm but not uncomfortable. On my way to Bogle Glen I pass Sharon Law. Cheerful, quick and relaxed listening to her IPOD. First she does not recognise me since I wear dark sun glasses and NOT my Skins today... she was about to finish 3rd female.
I reach the undulating path in the Crianlarich forest. Last year I hallucinated here. I approach a runner who looks like Richie Cunningham (running together with Iain Ridgeway I believe). I cannot be running with a runner of that caliber I think but it's not a hallucination. Maybe he has a bad day? We chat for a while and when we came to one of those steeper downhills I increase the pace and a gap opens. I am still going well. But Richie must have thought I am not having this and switches the turbo on. He flies past, mumbles something about a chippy in Tyndrum and disappears in the distance. That looked like 6 minute mile pace.
When I reached the A82 crossing I started to calculate again and it was becoming clearer that I was about to finish much quicker than I had ever expected. Not just under 8:45 but much faster. I cannot catch Richie, he is too fast. I cannot see anyone behind me. At Auchtertyre I change into my Glenpark Harriers club vest (although I am running for Kilbarchan today).
I finish in 8:20. 7th place. More than one hour quicker than last year. I get a big cheer from the crowd. I feel great. What a day. What a race. I have a shower, a stovie, loads of handshakes. Even Marco can laugh again. Loads of little stories and celebrities. We stay until the prize giving and I end up with 2nd veteran and 2nd team (with Neal and John) prizes. Not everyone has a good race. Harvey pulls out. Many struggle with the heat. Some with a cold. Some suffered from a crazy fast start ;-). But most of the runners will want to be back next year for this tough, unique, personal and friendly ultra race!