In an uncharacteristic departure from my previous litany of racing cock ups, I actually managed to pretty much get it right before last Saturday's D33 ultra race.My only run of the week was an easy 6 miler on Monday
I managed to arrange my work week to work near Aberdeen on Friday
I only had a 29 mile drive to my hotel on Friday
I only had 1 pint of Guinness on Friday night
I was heading to bed just after 10pm
I got a decent nights sleep
As I sat like Billy no mates in The Inn on the Park, adjacent to Duthie Park, Ian Beattie and Sandra MacDougall invited me to join them for dinner. As Ian is RD for the WHW race and Ian and Sandra are both experienced ultra runners, it was a great opportunity for me to get loads of tips and hints about the whole WHW racing and training experience, with the added benefit that it took my mind completely off Saturday's race.The two main "gems" for me were don't over train and don't race The Fling.
The weather forecast for Saturday had got progressively less optimistic, getting seemingly colder and wetter the closer it got to start time but I still managed to get a good 8 hours sleep in before my alarm chimed into life at 7am. I knew from last years race that hanging around in a cold Duthie Park with no loos was to be avoided, so didn't leave the hotel till well after 8. Whilst the rain held off it was pretty damn cold waiting for the off. I think there were around 250 starters and George gave his usual no nonsense race briefing. I had left the hotel wearing a long sleeve compression top and wind proof gilet, but as a few spits of rain fell during the briefing I quickly decided to put on my gore waterproof too, a prudent and timely decision that turned out to be.
My plan was to run at a consistent 8:30 mile pace, 5 seconds per mile faster than last year. Although this would be my 4th ultra, the D 33 is more of a long marathon that a trail ultra and all my long runs have been slower and on trails so if I could manage a similar time to last year (4:41:53) when most of my training was pre-marathon road miles I'd be pretty chuffed.
The route is on the old Deeside railway line and arrow straight for the first 6 miles and just like last year my internal spirit level was telling me that the first 5 miles was a gentle uphill and something to look forward to on the return leg. Assuming my usual role of Worlds worst pacer my first 6 miles were all in the 8:04 to 8:20 range, but I was feeling comfortable and even managed to be sensible and drop back from Terry Addison and another runner I was chatting to when my watch registered 7:50 pace. Sadly about 2 miles in, the weather forecasts proved prophetically correct and a horrid sleety rain started and although the sleet never developed into proper snow the rain pretty much never let up for the duration.
Crossing our first road at 6 miles and by now splashing through small puddles my bladder started calling for relief, as there was a bit of gap before the next two runners I stopped for a quick pee. Unfortunately my bladder had other ideas and my quick pee rapidly fell into the "couldn't be stopped with a jubilee clip" Category. At least I had the gentlemanly good grace to apologise to the lady runner who rapidly closed the gap and passed me as I fire hosed the birch trees.
Mile 7 took 9 minutes to cover, actually I reckon it took 8:10 plus 50 seconds of bladder relief, but lets not split hairs.
Having made the deliberate decision not to bring earphones, I pretty much had my own company for the entire race. I'm not being a purist, i was lucky enough to win a free pair of Bose sports earphones (£130 worth!) at the Berlin marathon expo and I'm just to cheap too risk ruining them. I'd used a trick on the Balmaha training weekend of reciting Tam O'Shanter in my head to keep my mind off both pain and weather and I resorted to this again.
Note to self : learn another bl**dy poem
As we crossed the Slug Road, I remembered that this was where the race leader had passed me going in the opposite direction last year, this year it was a good mile further on at the railway museum before the eventual winner (Craig Cunningham) flew past.
The route is mainly Tarmac, with a couple of mildly muddy bits until you get to about mile 15 past the railway museum, where the puddles and mud became unavoidable and wet feet and shoes ensued. Heather MacDonald had kindly taken my drop bag to the car park at the trains and I stopped here very briefly for a gel, which with my soaked and cold hands I was unable to open even with some frenzied teeth gnashing, Heather obliged and I was quickly on my way again.
I'd decided not to stop at the turn point, this Is a race after all, a quick shout out of my race number, round the cone at 16.5 miles and it was off on the homeward leg. I hadn't been counting the faster runners properly but I reckoned I was in the top 25% and probably not far off the 4th lady.
The 2 miles or so back to the trains passed quickly with lots of shout outs to the runners still on the outbound leg. I passed Fellow Dumfries Harrier Caroline who was about 9 minutes behind me, running strongly, looking cheery (OK wet, cold and cheery) and on plan with her 9 minute mile strategy.
Other than my hands I wasn't feeling cold although with a body now unaccustomed to holding this pace for anything over 12 miles I could feel I was running out of oomph, time for a second gel from Heather and a good swig of isotonic, passing through mile 19 my bladder felt the need to join in again and I registered my first mile over 9 minutes, whilst I felt I was still "on plan", I was now becoming acutely aware that 5. Seconds per mile faster that last year didn't leave much margin for error especially if I'd already had two long pee stops. There is a distinct hill through miles 23 & 24 and I resisted the temptation to walk any part, but my margin was now getting wafer thin having clocked a 9:00 dead and an 8:44.
Going through marathon distance in 3:41, not too shabby thinks I, unfortunately that burst of hubris must have been the point the effect of the gel wore off and I was running on empty again, I took a walk break forced down a gel, just about threw up following this with a bar of fudge and drained my isotonic and mile 28 logged my slowest mile 9:44. The rain was getting more persistent and the uphill I distinctly remembered from the first five miles, didn't seem to exist, but I was starting to pass other runners, in fact I reckoned I passed around 10 people in the last 5 miles.
Mentally I felt I was over the hump at 30 miles, but I suspect it was the fudge induced sugar boost kicking in. I wasn't out of breath at all, although my calfs and right ITB were starting to protest but with only 3 miles to go I decided to push on a bit. Mile 31 8:36, mile 32 8:01 and I'm passing the skinny types who actually look like proper runners. On the way out I'd registered a footbridge at 0.6 miles and decided that was the point I was going to give it the beans, at bl**dy last the elusive downhill slope was apparent and I felt really good on the last stretch, before turning into Duthie park, through the gates, only 400 metres (ish) to the finish, I know I'm very close to last years time so I go for what passes for a sprint finish in a 33 mile race.
I have a succession of finish line photos where I look variously
as if I'm dead
I'm a broken man
Or I'm breathing out of my arseI know it's vanity but I was determined to actually look like a runner crossing the line.
I look like a complete cock crossing the line, no idea what my right arm is doing I'm wearing the worlds stupidest running hat and I appear to have a rictus grin on my face. BUT I did manage an 8:00 minute last mile to cross the line in................4:41:14........39 seconds faster than last year, but a PB is a PB.
Under the finish gantry and George hangs the unique D33 medal rounds my neck, shakes my hand and tells me to grab a beer. I stumble into the gazebo, the last thing in the world I want is a beer, with a major dose of the DTs I sink 3 full cups of water, I simply cannot face any of the array of solid food on offer and I very quickly realise how cold I am and how little i've drunk, only 500ml of isotonic and a mouthful of water, not good. Grabbing my kit bag I start the painful hobble back to my hotel, although I've checked out I reckon they won't mind if I change in the loos and it's bound to be warmer and more legal than getting naked in the middle of Duthie Park. With kit bag in one hand and goody bag in the other I shamble off.
There was a short flight of 6 steps up to the hotel and whilst I was tired I was unprepared for the brutal attack of cramp that seared through both my calfs half way up, if I thought my massage was sore, this was on a different level altogether, I hit the steps like the proverbial sack of spuds, both feet locked straight like a Ballet dancer on point. I screamed and swore quite a lot, but with not a soul in view, I had no option but to disentangle myself from my bags and with even more swearing managed to regain some margin of control over my lower legs.I've only had proper cramp on a couple of occasions, it's extremely painful, I'd honestly liken it to being stabbed in the calf. Eventually making it up the stairs backwards, I ensconced my self in the loo and started the painful and soggy process of peeling off my soaking kit, whilst shaking uncontrollably with cold and fighting to avoid further cramps, certainly one of the most unpleasant 15 minutes of my life so far.
With a near 5 hour drive in prospect, I decided to duck out and start to head home, it was fully an hour before I was able to stop and felt warm enough to peel of my outer layer. Stopping at a garage for a pint of milk, I'm sure the attendant thought i was drunk as I staggered around the shop almost incoherent.
I stopped at the Bervie chipper and enjoyed the fish and chips on offer, along with another pint of milk and a pot of tea.
I do a lot of driving and it normally doesn't bother me at all, but that drive home was one of the longest of my life.
My 4th ultra marathonTook gels/food as soon as I felt my energy dropping
Bang on my training schedule for WHW
Simply the best race medal ever
Bad pointsFailed to drink anything like enough
It was very, very cold
The drive home
Did I mention the cramp?
If six steps do this to me after 33 miles, the devils staircase could be interesting
As I write this two days later my calfs are still very tight and tender, everything else is fine and I'll probably try a run tomorrow night, I honestly think the pain is lingering from the cramp rather than from the actual running.
Congratulations to everyone who took part in the race, well done to George for another successful event, a huge thanks to the marshals who endured the lousy weather all day and encouraged us all along.