Sunday, 3 November 2013

“Just a Wee Ultra”

There’s an old truism often spouted by wise old Clodhopper, aka UltraBob – red sky in the morning, ultra-runners warning, or some such things and such was the ominous view I had of a glowing red pre-dawn early light in my wing mirror as I drove toward Strathyre. Putting those kind of gloomy thoughts aside though, I felt really excited as I got parked up, registered and collected my race number. The gathering clans of ultra-runners heightened my excitement and pleasure. So did seeing so many friends and familiar faces and there was a thoroughly enjoyable babble of chatter as we all prepared ourselves for what was to lie ahead.

After a short race briefing we were all shepherded across the busy main road, an incredible feat of achievement in itself for the marshals who managed not to lose a single one of us this early on to roadkill as we all assembled at the start line. Such was the buzz going on and me chattering with Amanda we didn’t even here the start signal it just suddenly became clear that everyone in front of us were running so we thought best if we get going too.
So off we went and in true ultra-runners style we were walking rather than running within 20 meters as the first bit was a climb. With so much distance to run it’s a poor policy for most of us to run up any steep hills as we conserve energy for the long way ahead. Amanda and me settled into side by side running, much as we do in our training and it was great to do that as we kept each other company for at least the first 20 miles.

There was a good amount of easy descent on the first 7 miles so we breezed through Kingshouse in 1hr 14 before tackling the 4.5 mile climb up to the summit of the Glen Ogle Pass and our first drop bag stop. We had our first encounter here with our fantastic friends and supporters, John and Helen Munro who were whooping and cheering

us in in fine style. I’d been feeling pretty hot all the way to here so took the opportunity to ditch some kit, hat and gloves and fuelled up for the next section.
The next bit is a loop of the forest south of Killin that eventually brings us back to the same check point so it was here that we saw the leader on his return. He was flying along and was already 8 miles ahead of us at this point and he eventually went on to set a new course record. The descent down to Killin was really good running on not too steep paths that allowed us to make headway pretty quickly and we were soon at the start of the fairly strenuous climb back round to the checkpoint again.
It was here at around the 17 mile mark that the rain started. It wasn’t too bad at first but got harder and harder. There was snow in it too and it was pretty cold. By the time we got back to the checkpoint it was hammering down. I recollected the hat and gloves I’d earlier dumped and after refuelling we headed off back the way we’d first come earlier on.
Now, it was about this point, probably about 20 miles in that things started to go a bit pear shaped. I’m still not really sure what happened but I was getting wet and pretty cold. There are classic symptoms of hypothermia and the mild stage presents in the following way.
·        constant shivering
·        tiredness
·        low energy
·        cold or pale skin
I was ticking every box. It first became apparent when I couldn’t keep up with Amanda anymore and gradually dropped back from her. I then entered a vicious cycle where I was very cold but my work rate was lowering. Because my work output was lowering I was losing even more core temperature. Because I was losing core temperature my work rate was falling further and further and I found myself going into a real tailspin.
When I started on the Balquider loop I was soaked through to the skin despite a waterproof jacket with another 5.5 mile still to run. The rain was bouncing off the road so hard it was bouncing back up six inches from the road. Floods were developing that required splashing through and the wind was strengthening. I began to get seriously worried now about my wellbeing. I was so cold. Colder than I ever remember being and I felt I was in danger. I couldn’t even drink for fear that the cold water would further lower my core temperature. I knew I had to keep moving but projecting forward how much time I was going to be out for made me worry even more how much I was deteriorating.
The last couple of miles I was reduced to a walk and it seemed interminable. I found myself mentally ticking off every 10th of a mile, glancing at my Garmin every minute and worrying in case I’d gone wrong on the route somehow.
Just then though I caught site of the river and knew I must now be very close to the Shuggly Bridge and suddenly, yes there it was. I was crossing the bridge and the bright yellow apparitions standing before me were the smiling faces of the Munros and it was Marguerite photographing me as I shuffled along though I couldn’t hear what anyone was saying, my teeth were chattering so much.

There is no greater relief in life than crossing the finish of an ultra but this one was special. I was gubbed that’s for sure. So cold as I stood by a fire. A cup of tea was thrust at me but I could barely hold it my hands were shaking so much. Drinking it was tricky as it was anyone’s guess where the cup might end up, my mouth, my ear, over the back of my head, who knows
The End :-) Two Yellow Munros

So grateful to everyone involved in today, the organisers, the supporters, my fellow friends and runners you were all magic with your congratulations, concern for me, your friendly words every one of you. The “Wee Ultra” gave me a big kick up the butt today that’s for sure but it appears that having run two ultra races my name has now acquired an exponent, I am now officially UltraBob²