Sunday, 28 August 2011

Speyside Way Race; 36.5 miles

We camped at my mum's the night before the race which meant driving some distance in the morning. I got up at 4am and Peter got up at a more relaxed 4.30 to get breakfast and get on the road to register at 7am and get the bus at 7.30 to the start of the race. We got to the start about 8.40am and stood around shivering and flapping our arms til kick off which was at 9.02am. The weather forecast had softened a bit since earlier in the week and in the event there was a little rain and some wind but nothing like what had been predicted.

The first 12 miles were along a narrow path and were flat and it was tempting to race. I promised myself to go no faster than 9 min/miles or 8.30 pace at the fastest and then immediately broke this rule. I was cold and needed a warm up anyway. I'm not a fan of the flat and I was relieved after 12 miles and the 1st drop bag stop (I didn't bother leaving one) when the course took us up a good hill. The field really spread out at this point, I'm not exactly sure why, and I only saw and exchanged places with a few men over all the next miles until the next bag drop at mile 24. At mile 15 I was feeling tired and thinking what a long, long way it was to go and was trying to lift my own spirits. It was about 15 minutes to noon and I think it was the sheer tiredness of having been up for so long already. I somehow got out of this complete doldrum but ever after that was aware of managing my mind in order to not get too down about the distance to go. Somewhere about mile 18 I saw a competitor coming back up the road towards me and as I wondered if he was dropping out or what the story was I saw a white peaked cap in the road and thought that was likely what he was coming back for, so I picked it up and took it to him. We ran along together for the next few miles and chatted a bit. It turned out he was from Haddington and knew a lot of the same runners I do and it was a relief just to chat about other people's running and races and running routes we both knew and it took my mind off the road. At about mile 21 he dropped back and I didn't see him again. There were a lot of ups and downs on roads and forestry tracks along this stretch.

At the 24 mile bag drop there were a few people who seemed to be quite settled in there. They were there as I arrived and they were adjusting kit and stretching and eating sandwiches. I couldn't have eaten a sandwich and wasn't that interested in my chocolate raisins and Powerade but had some none the less. As I beetled along the road before this stop I tried to imagine what I actually wished was in my drop bag rather than what I knew was in it and all I could come up with was a lemon-scented face wipe like you get on airplanes and some painkillers would have been good as well. I also would have quite liked an espresso coffee. It felt like synchronicity then when the lady eating the sandwich asked if anyone would like a wet-wipe. Not quite what I'd asked for but similar. It was really nice to clean my face and hands.

I wanted to get moving again before everything seized up so I took off, albeit at a shuffle, along the road. While I had been stopped a lady called Elaine who I'd been chatting to before the event went by, barely pausing to pick up the contents of her drop bag. She gave me someone to  "chase" so I kept her in my sights.
She kept looking behind and I wondered why. The only reason I was looking behind me was to see if anyone was there to be affronted if I released some of the copious quantities of "air" I was making out of chocolate raisins and Powerade. Thankfully a lot of the time there was no-one. If there was someone, and it was you, I do apologise.

The path flattened out a bit and the sequence in my mind becomes hazy. We were back in more populated areas and so some people you met were friendly and encouraging and others were not so welcoming and friendly. I saw some kids on bikes weaving around the woman ahead in what looked like an annoying way, they were clearly asking her questions. I was glad it wasn't me and tried to look as forbidding as possible. Possibly it worked as they never came near me. At one point, as I ran into some woods, I suddenly got a sharp sting right at the top of the back of my right leg. I reached back and picked something furry off - but threw it away instinctively without looking. It must have been a bee or a wasp. So it was I was standing rather surprised holding the top of my leg when a couple rounded the bend behind me. "Are you alright?" the guy asked. "Yes but I've just been stung by something, a bee or a wasp." "I'll see if I can get the stinger out for you" he said and gave the sting a good squeeze which made me yelp. Its not on every occasion you would offer a perfect stranger your white bits, but it wasn't any old day. He said he couldn't see a stinger in there - so it was probably a wasp I guess. I think he got in trouble from the lady he was with, who turned out to be his wife, as I met her in the showers later on. She told me gravely that he was a pervert and he wasn't a bit interested if there was a stinger or not. I still think he was trying to help though.

The pain wasn't too bad and after I realised I wasn't going to go into anaphylactic shock and die (I've been stung just once before, years ago, by a bee that got trapped in my t-shirt when I was cycling in Ireland) I relaxed. The stingy pain was a change from the dull aches in my shuffling legs.

A while after this I got into a fruitless and interminable struggle with my Garmins. I knew the newer one (F405) would run out of battery power round about the 30 mile mark, its does it quite consistently now. In order to get a record (OCD - if its not on the training centre it never happened) of the entire route I'd charged up my old Garmin (the 305) and took it along so I could swap over when the time came. It had occurred to me a few times that I should power up the old Garmin before I needed it so that it could get a fix on the satellites, but I never got round to it, so when the newer Garmin started bleeping that it was dying I got out the old Garmin, strapped it on, put it on and stood still to try and get a signal as soon as possible - and then waited, and waited, and waited....finally (after 3 minutes and 2 people going by) I thought I can't stand this, I am off, maybe it will get a signal as I move. So I kept checking it sporadically for the next 2 or so  miles, but it never got there. At 32 and a bit miles newer Garmin went completely dead and I started the timer on older Garmin in the hope that even though it was saying it couldn't see the satellites it might record something of value but it was recording time only. I then had to just kind of guess how far I had to go. My brain, such as it was, had packed up ages ago so I figured out how far roughly I had to go and how long it might take and then forgot what I'd thought and tried to work it out again. I started to see Elaine ahead of me again - she must have had some adventure of her own to come back to me after I'd spent so long arsing around with Garmins.

We came to a caravan site where 2 ladies were taking numbers and handing out water. Elaine was standing there and I ran up and arrived while she was there. "You're looking strong." said one of the ladies and I said to her "I'm feeling okay, but I've run out of things to think about, have you got any suggestions?"
"Oh yes" she said, "You've won £166 Million in the lottery. What are you going to spend it on?"
I gave an involuntary squeal of delight. "I'm looking forwards to this!" I told her. And I genuinely was.

During this exchange Elaine had taken off again, so I gave chase. She kept looking behind her and she would walk from time to time. It can't have been comfortable. I was running along very slowly, but steadily now I had stopped fannying around with Garmins and I felt sure that sooner or later I was going to catch her, it was just a matter of when. In the meantime there was money to spend.

The path went into some woods and very nice it was too. Very narrow single track in woods with pleasant ups and downs, twists and turns and big red fly agaric toadstools. Well first of all I was going to get a house to live in while I was deciding what to do. Maybe in Gullane - just out of town - and nice and big, with wood surrounds. Not much more detail needed there. It was just an interim step. I considered not returning for my course  at uni in September but I discovered that I still wanted to do it. I would continue to do it. Work I would be giving up. Would I work the 4 weeks I was contracted to? Do you have to if you've won the lottery? Probably not. I could sort that out.

My neighbour has been annoying me so much I thought that, for mischief, I would either buy his flat out from under him and expel him back into the world or I would get someone even more annoying than him to live in our flat so he could have a little taste of his own medicine. Meanwhile I'd be living in my woody house in Gullane. What of cars? Well I found I didn't really care. Peter could choose because he's got stronger feelings about that than me. He'll point to cars and say "Oh look at that" or "That's a blah, blah, blah" whereas the only cars I recognise are other Berlingos and those little Fiat 500 cars because they're cute.

Then I thought of a good joke, and I wished I was at the end so that I could tell Peter. With my £166 million win I was going to buy him a new set of ladders for his painting and decorating business. Hahaha. "Hahaha" I laughed out loud in the woods. Like a loon. A woody loon.

And then it all got a bit tiresome. We spilled out onto the shore at some point and I realised I was running along beside the sea. I don't know when the river turned into the sea but there was a stiff breeze blowing in-shore. I was now reeling in Elaine and she must have just given in because I hadn't speeded up but all of a sudden I was upon her. "I knew you would catch me sooner or later" she said, "I'm aching all over".
"I know", I said, "Its horrible isn't it? Keep going though." and passed her. It was definitely more difficult once I was past her. Now nothing to focus on but the end the end where's the end. After an age, after a stone tunnel, a marshal told me there was 2 miles to go. Which seemed okay. And then after another age there was another marshal and she said "Keep going, just another couple of miles?" "???????" I thought, but smiled and said thank you. An eternity passed and I went past another marshal who said. "Just 2 miles to go". I don't think they were deliberately making fun, but it was cruel. That is what hell would be like. A series of marshals telling you you've only got 2 miles to go as you struggle on on your concrete legs with your aching back and your tired neck and your bored head on a grey day beside the North Sea.

At very long last I was set up a hill and I knew the finish would come soon and it did. I think the time-keeper said 6rs 41 mins, which is probably alright. It was a relief to walk now and not run. I got handed a sizeable goody bag, and had some of the water and saved the rest of the stuff for perusal on another occasion. I found my way through Saturday afternoon Buckie, up to the school to find Peter and Richard, relaxed and drinking tea. They gave me a nice, though embarrassing cheer as I came in the door, as everyone else turned round to look.

After a blistering shower my legs were working more normally and were fit for the drive back to mum's, where we got back  and ate, drank some wine and crawled back into the tent for 9pm and slept for 11 hours.


Dave Morrow said...

Excellent race report, I really enjoyed that. I agree that the last few miles were a bit tedious but overall the course is enjoyable. Not sure I could have camped the night after running though - that is hardcore :)

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your report. Well done in completing another ultra, and all the training that goes with it. A marathon is a notable achievement, anyone that goes beyond that - respect.

Anonymous said...


kate said...

well done, another eventful ultra!!

Yak Hunter said...

Thank you people, except Majid. I'm afraid your plan isn't going to raise you your tuition fees.

Camping wasn't all that hardcore, it was in a spacious tent on a cushy lawn and the howling wind and thrashing rain just made it cozier.

Seem to be recovering okay which I'm chuffed about.