Oh hasn’t it been a while. Over a month in fact. Well. Since I am sitting recovering from my last run I thought I would update this.
I joined the waiting list for the Glen Ogle 33 not really expecting to get a space. It’s a popular event that I’m pretty sure sells out every year. For someone like me I wouldn’t call it a race. More of a ’33 miles of trail running just trying to survive and not die’. And the reason I signed up? You get to run over a viaduct! These structures were probably made ‘famous’ by Harry Potter (not that I have watched any of the movies) but I really fancied running over one! So that was it. I signed up when the email came through.
Night before I drove up with my friend Lorner to go and register. It’s just over an hour away and it would give our youngest and Joe a little extra time in bed the day of the race. Leaving straight from work at 6pm I picked her up and she produced what can only be described as a bag full of heavenly goodness. She had only gone and bought me a packed lunch box and filled it with loads of food – including red bull! A-mazing! Joe had also been to the shop to pick me up a new running jacket following the weather warning that had been issued for the race. This would later prove to be essential!
Finding out your friend is travel sick whilst driving through the winding, twisting country roads of the Scottish Highlands isn’t great. I’m pretty sure she was eyeing up my new lunch bag wondering if she could get away with throwing up in it. Unicorns poop rainbows Lorner – not puke.
Registration took all of 20 seconds. My many questions probably took about 20 minutes. No, I’m joking. I only had a couple. I had a quick look at the clothes on sale but since Joe had bought me a new jacket I knew I was good. I had forgotten my drop bag though and I did consider trying to muster something up from the local supermarket but the plan was to be at the start line in time to drop it off so we headed back (after she had a bottle of water and fresh air. And yes, I took it easy on the way back).
It was drizzly and cold in the morning and we arrived just 10 minutes before race start so Joe dropped me off and stayed in the car with our youngest until I started then drove home. It’s an unsupported race and a lot of waiting around for a 5 year old so a dvd in the car is much more appealing. I managed to locate Scott from the road runners about 20 seconds before we started so my nerves were put to rest after seeing a friendly face. He had sore hips and was taking it easy but I knew he would still finish well before me. I had a very unrealistic hope of finishing in 5 and a half hours so had said to Joe I might be back just after 1.30pm. (Alright, alright, no need to laugh quite so hard!).
I tried to keep my feet dry for as long as possible and I think I may have even made it 500 meters before they were soaking! That’s impressive given the small river that was flowing down the up wards trail we were instantly on. It was gorgeous though! Autumn colours in all their glory as we trenched up and up and up. All I could hear around me was ‘squelch, squelch, squelch’. The real sound of a trail run ha ha. One of the differences I have noticed between ultra and marathon running is that in a marathon runners are most likely to dodge puddles. In ultras they are more likely to dive straight in to the bottomless pit of a loch! I’m still haunted by that experience at the Ochil Ultra
Up and up and up we went, and then we had quite a steep down. At the bottom of the hill I was met with a very friendly face. Robin from the road runners was marshalling. Stood out in the cold, wet and windy weather that is Scotland this lovely man was all smiles and encouragement as we all went past. I love it when I know a volunteer or marshall but when it’s someone like Robin it’s even better.
Just a couple of miles on and I came across the viaduct. The bit I was waiting on! Naturally I took a video. ‘I’m running across a viaduct! Whoo hoo!’. The excitement was short lived when 1. I realised what a horrendous double chin I have and 2. My hamstrings and glutes decided to play up. I don’t remember them gradually working up the pain scale, I just remember them refusing to play ball. They hurt that much I didn’t even realise how windy it was at points or how hard the rain was coming down.
I got to 8 miles and text Joe. ‘My legs hurt, I’m struggling’.
I was in the Scottish Highlands though. You don’t get signal. I kept checking and trying to re-send. The pain got more and more. This is going to be it. This is going to be my first ever DNF. Well that’s rather fitting for the year I’ve had. When have I ever not finished a race? I can’t do another 25 miles on this though. That’s practically a marathon. I will keep trying to text him and hopefully he will come pick me up.
I trundled on, sometimes distracted by the gorgeous views, sometimes chatting to those around me. The zig zag path downward was a potential ankle breaker. Under different circumstances I would have loved that part. Thank god I wasn’t going up it though. Still no signal. I saw a girl at the side of the road and checked she was ok. Her water bladder had started leaking and I had a spare food bag so checked to see if she needed it. Handy tip for next time! She asked how I was doing and without thinking I replied I was struggling already. Not the best thing to say to someone who was doing her first ultra. But she was going strong and looked like she was going to finish well which I don’t doubt she did.
I started to focus on getting to the checkpoint as it was quite clear I wasn’t going to get a signal anytime soon. I became obsessed with my watch and looking at the miles that were ticking by slower than the Brexit deal. Eventually I heard noise and knew it was close. I could hear a cow bell and shouting. Yes! I’ve finally made it! I should get a signal now and can speak to Joe. But…… no…….. NO……. It was supporters at the side of the road, outside their house. I couldn’t do anything but laugh a little inside and smile on the outside. These people were standing in the cold and rain and encouraging us on. They could have been inside with a warm cup of tea, sitting at a blaring hot stove, singing songs to each other all rosy cheeked.
Ok, I might be getting a bit carried away here.
Then I came across a bridge. A bridge that moved. A lot! Hold on a minute! I’ve been on this bridge before! I don’t like it! Code red, code red! I almost dropped to my knees to get across it. Clearly this was the infamous shoogly bridge. I didn’t like it. Nope. I even stopped dead in the middle of it. Never again.
The checkpoint was just at the other side and I desperately looked for shelter and somewhere to sit down. There was neither options. So I took out my spare food bag (the other lass hadn’t used it as it was the pipe that had come loose) and promptly sat on it. Still no signal though. What to do. I very quickly began getting cold. My legs were soaking and although the jacket was very good I was still cold up top. Gloves were sodden and feet drenched. I decided to change in to dry socks and put blister plasters on. Oh yes, I had blisters. I didn’t have anything to dry my feet though so the plasters didn’t stick. My fingers were freezing so tying my laces was interesting. I got my spare gloves out. Definitely going to need them. Then I remembered there was an Active Root station with their ginger juice. My flasks were almost empty of my berry hydration. If I was going to make it to somewhere with a signal I would need more. I went over to them and cheekily asked if I could fill one of my flasks. ‘Of course you can – do you want me to wash it out first?’. ‘No, that’s ok thank you, I need it that much I don’t think I will notice.’ ‘Well you look really well prepared’ he said gesturing to my pack that had everything in bags to protect from the rain. ‘and you’ve done the hardest part, it’s not bad from here’.
This made me think. I was just over half way. Who gets to half way and doesn’t finish? I’ve got dry socks on now and dry gloves. I’ve got hand warmers I can technically stick anywhere if needed. My hydration is re-filled and the short seat has helped my legs. Can you really quit when Joe has given up his whole day for this – bit selfish to do that isn’t it?
So I got moving. After the kind marshall put my flask back in my bag as my hands just weren’t letting me do it.
And naturally, it was straight up. Up, up, up, up. My legs hurt again within seconds. It was probably this point I began wondering why I enjoyed running. Eventually it evened out a little and I started the usual slog of cat and mouse with a group of 3 women. They would slow down a little, I would go past, I would slow down, they would go past – your standard game on a long run, keeps it slightly interesting. I was still absolutely loving the scenery despite the wind and rain so the phone was coming out for several photos. And now that the field had really spread out it was quite easy to get ones without anyone seeing you and thinking ‘if she did a little more running she might be finished before christmas!’. (I don’t think anyone is quite that negative on an ultra run, I’m just joking).
I hit another hill (seriously HOW is there sooooo many??!! I will be on the moon soon!! Going to need Wonder Woman’s invincible jet to get back). My phone pinged. SIGNAL!!!!
‘Push through!!! How far you?’ – text from Joe. ’24 – I sent that at 8.’ ‘Well keep it up, we are on our way’. ‘Don’t rush’ was my reply.
I phoned my friend Lorner. ‘This hurts so much’ I wailed down the phone. To which she replied with some nonsense about being tired after a few miles she had run earlier and was now cosied up at home slurping on a cup of tea. Dry. And not being battered by the wind. No. I wasn’t jealous. Much.
Munching on some of Joes homemade flapjack I made my way up the vertical ascent. Joe’s flapjack is the best. It’s so tasty and yummy. In fact, it’s probably the only reason I run. It’s so full of unhealthiness you kind of have to run to work it off. I could eat it all day every day. But then if I did I wouldn’t be able to run. And collect miles and medals. Which I love. Yup. I’m getting this medal. Third Ultra medal. It’s mine. I want it – I’m getting it. Time to move.
And so the slow shuffle along the very long straight started. Through several gates (where a cheeky wee ‘rest’ was taken for a few seconds. I did not rush through them) and onward’s I went. When I hit the viaduct again I did not give one flying monkey about running across it. No photos this time, no filming. Just some very rude words.
A short while later and it was the last check point. This was one you just run through and they check numbers then you cross the road. Just after crossing I heard a car beeping. Didn’t think much of it but then I saw someone waving. It was Joe and the kids. He pulled up just in front and got out – kids stayed in the dry ha ha. I was very tempted to ask if he had more flapjack but thought better of it. He was heading on to the finish but I warned him I wouldn’t be there anytime soon.
With just a few miles to go I went past Robin again. He was still out in this weather. Absolutely incredible! He told me it was only about 3.5 miles and there was only a few bumps to go, nothing like what I had already done. A quick photo and I was on to the last section.
Just as Robin had said the last few miles were ‘easy’ compared to the previous 30. Coming down in to the village of Killin we were back on the road and it’s an old village so the pavement wasn’t designed for more than one person at times but everyone gave way and let you past with no hassle. Dodging the wheelie bins was interesting, you don’t react very fast after being on your feet so long. On to the park where the finish was and I heard my youngest shouting and saw my daughter at the side. A very slow bimble round the park and the finish line was there. Scott who had finished well over an hour before me had waited about to see me finish with his wife Kathleen. I thought that was really lovely.
So job done. Glen Ogle 33 completed and the year has NOT ended in my first ever DNF – thank the running gods! I’ve been wearing my finisher t-shirt which fits me perfectly every day since then and I have a lovely new running jacket that is most definitely waterproof. Tried and tested.
On to the next one.