Thursday, 19 March 2015

D33 Ultra - 2015

For the uninitiated the 6th running of the Deeside way 33 mile race took place last weekend, widely known as the D33 this event sees participants run from Duthie Park in Aberdeen to Banchory and back, a distance of 33 miles.
It’s both an ideal event for noobies looking to make the step up to Ultra distance races and as a training run for the longer Highland Fling and West Highland Way races.
I had a bad day here last year, in fact as I lay on the tarmac at the finish I distinctly recall saying “I will never do this bloody race again”. However the simplicity and friendliness of the event drew me inexorably like a moth to a flame and I found myself on the start line for the 4th year.
Following a good result at the Malta Marathon 3 weeks ago, I decided I needed to focus a bit on race day itself and have a real good crack at getting a PB. I love the friendship, support and banter of the Ultra scene, but having trained and talked to a few people up at the sharper end of the field I've reached the conclusion that you need to sacrifice some of this if your primary goal is achieving a better time.
So my race plan evolved as

  • Limit myself to one pint on Friday and have an early night
  • Fuel up with a good breakfast before the event
  • Delay arriving at the start as late as possible, to avoid getting cold and or distracted
  • Don’t overdress
  • Position myself closer to the front to avoid congestion in the first couple of miles
  • Have something to eat every 2 miles and make sure I've drunk at least one 500 ml bottle of water or electrolyte every 8 miles (the checkpoints)
  • Keep checkpoint stops to an absolute minimum, no faffing
  • Don’t fanny around for the cameras
  • Don’t get carried away and run with someone just because I’m enjoying their company and conversation
  • Try to keep my pace between 7:30 minute and 8 minute miles for marathon distance
  • Minimise the amount of slowing down that would inevitably creep in in the last 7 miles
I’m happy to report that my plan succeeded which made for a great time, but leaves the blog somewhat devoid of jokes; japes and tales!
As usual I stayed at the Inn on the Park, right next to Duthie Park on the Friday. Spent about an hour organising my backpack and drop bags, avoiding the temptation to put in too much stuff before heading down for one pint and a meal, I was duly tucked up in bed by 9:30 pm with my alarm set for 7:30 am.

Race Day

By the time I dressed and went down for breakfast I was the only runner left in the hotel, toast; yoghurt; porridge and two cups of coffee for breakfast and a leisurely walk over to collect my number and hand over my drop bags. I availed myself of the standy uppie gents’ urinal and was introduced to the legendary Ray McCurdy, before heading over for George’s straight to the point race briefing.
D33 Strava route

The weather was hovering around 5 C with a southerly wind and with no rain in prospect, Goldilocks running weather, not too hot, not too cold. I decided to pack my waterproof jacket away and run with only a short sleeved compression top and long sleeved Helly Hansen t-shirt , buff, running gloves  and beanie hat.
Ten second countdown and we were off. To describe the first mile as congested is unfair, but in past years I have found that people running 2 or 3 wide on the path meant I was slowing down; dodging round or running faster than ultimately was sensible. Not so this year I think I judged my position pretty well and settled into my planned pace before the first footbridge at 0.6 miles and with no dodging or jumping involved.

I ran with Malcolm from Buckie and had my only conversation of the day, but he was running just a shade too quick for comfort so I consciously dropped back and left him heading into the distance.
By checkpoint one I’d drunk my bottle of electrolyte, eaten several shotbloks and a gel, so refilled the bottle, replaced the gel and was away. Including stationary time I maintained sub 8 minute pace, hey! perhaps there is something in this more focused approach?
I remember someone shouting out a warning about geese on the track, but some kind person was busy herding them of the path as I passed, and I remember eventual race winner Ross Houston flying past on his return leg, he eventually went on to knock 19 minutes of the course record.
I was neither passing nor being passed much on this outward leg and although I wasn't counting the returning runners, I reckoned I was probably in the top 50 or so as CP 2 hove into view.
D33 Profile
Grabbing my drop bag from the ever helpful checkpoint staff I thrust my now empty water bottle and its refill at a random spectator, “do me a favour and fill this up for me”. As she duly complied with a slightly bewildered look on her face at being accosted by a complete stranger I shoveled in my customary rice pudding with strawberry jam and downed a small bottle of flat Irn-Bru, my longest stop of the day probably just over a minute and I was off on the return leg, with no faffing.

Half Way Split 2 hours 6 minutes

Although my half-way time was pretty similar to last years, I felt significantly more comfortable I had hydrated and eaten steadily so far, so was feeling reassured that I could sustain a decent run.
Passing a steady stream of runners on the return leg I restricted myself to “well done”, thumbs up and an occasional muted high five and kept the focus on the running.
Into CP 3 refill the bottle, two gels, more flat Irn-Bru and off again three guys passing me as I was stationary. Between Drumoak and Peterculter is pretty much the only hill on the route, I decided I’d pass the three guys on the uphill. Three years of trail running has both strengthened my legs and built my confidence. Inwardly repeating “I’m good on hills” I steadily reeled in and then passed them, with Ivor Normand of HBT saying “you’re flying” as I eased past him. In reality I wasn’t flying, I was just slowing down less than others.

Marathon split 3 hours 25 minutes
From previous years I knew that miles 27 to 30 were a gentle uphill, with my “I’m good on hills” mantra repeating in my head I continued to pass people, including a few who’d dropped to a walk, been there done that, NOT today though.
Now it was all about managing and containing my reduction in speed. Through mile 30 and it’s a gentle downhill all the way now, slight twinge of cramp in my right calf so I shoveled in my bag of rock salt to keep it at bay. Over the footbridge, only 0.6 miles to go, not exactly giving it the beans but picking it up as best I could, no-one is going to overtake me now.
Through the park gates, and start sprinting, or what passes for a sprint after nearly 33 miles. Under the arch, stop the watch, big hug from Karen, medal round my neck………..4:20:02. Done it! A 21 minute PB a smile wider than my face and I actually still feel pretty good overall.
My legs do feel tight from top to bottom so I avail myself of the sports massage, the best £5 I've spent in a long time.
Strip off my sweat soaked tops, don a dry top, warm jacket and hat and chat briefly to Carol Martin and Helen Munro, there still aren't many people about as I’m pretty far up the field (for me). I’m starting to cool down rapidly so I decide to head for home, back to the car, heaters on full blast and I’m heading south by 2 pm with a near 4 hour drive to look forward to.
This years fabulous medal
I break up the journey with a couple of pit stops and leg stretches and I’m back in Dumfries before 6 pm to pick up a message that I should have stuck around for the prize giving. I was 37th overall and 3rd Male Super Veteran, not my first age category place, but the first one with an actual trophy…and I missed it, Oh well never mind.
Thanks must go to Karen who stepped in as RD, whilst George has been unwell. To all the people who gave up there time to marshal; support and man checkpoints and who delivered another superb race, well done and thanks. A big well done too, to all the runners, whether it was your 1st or your 6th D33, running an Ultra is still a pretty big deal.


I’m still ecstatic about bagging a PB and especially by such a margin. Any concerns I had about running an Ultra 3 weeks after a marathon PB proved unfounded and the more focused approach delivered the result I’d hoped for, in spades.
My focus shifts now to the Highland Fling Ultra in just over 5 weeks, and next weekend I’m going to have a crack at the local Criffel Hill race, another chance for me to get roundly humped by skinny hill runners and bring me back to earth.

Happy Keith, with medal and PB


  1. Fantastic race, and great write-up as usual. Well done! See you at Milngavie... x

  2. Brilliant happy and fast running! And a trophy to boot! Smashing! X

  3. Awesome Keith, well done again x