DOTH 2011 race report.
Royal Wedding day saw me in front of the telly but working on my drop bags for my support crew at the DOTH checkpoints. I seemed to ‘faff’ about for ages, I’m sure I made a better job of it last year, and never got to bed as early as I wanted. However I wasn’t as nervous as my previous ultra’s and slept well, but not for very long as I had the alarm set for 2 am.
I wasn’t as nervous because my goals were to finish in under 12 hours, in one piece and to have got my fluid and refuelling correct. It was also my third ultra this year and a conservative finish time of 11 hours was what I thought my body would be able to achieve.
I got up at 2 am, had some breakfast and left at getting on 3 am. I stopped in Scone at the cashpoint and realised I’d not made any sandwiches for my checkpoints ! Halfway to Tyndrum I also remembered I’d left my mobile with my son, Richard, as he would be buddy running me at points and I reckoned him using my £15 Tesco special was better than his own expensive one.
I got to Tyndrum just after 4 am, registered and then started on my race plan. Item 1, a plate of beans on toast and a cup of coffee. I really, really didn’t want the beans on toast ( and I knew I wouldn’t ) but I forced myself. After a couple of mouthfuls they went down easily and I polished them off. Then I took a mouthful of coffee, wow ! It was like rocket fuel. Silly thing was it never crossed my mind to have a second cup.
To save the whole family getting up at 2 am Ken Walker was going to support me at Bridge of Orchy. So before the start I gave him my drop bag and borrowed his phone to call Anne and request my sandwiches. In the event I got a bonus and was supported by Ken AND the twins.
Sue Walker and I started together as she also thought a conservative time would be the result of the event. We ran comfortably and I was surprised to get the bridge at Bridge of Orchy 2 minutes faster than we got to the railway station last year. Then we went over Rannoch Moor and it somehow seemed easier than last year. We ran/walked as necessary and I was pleased to see I was able to walk at 15 minute mile pace. Being taught by the masters (or is it mistresses?) in the shape of Fiona and Pauline, Sue is a demon at getting through checkpoints quickly so, if possible, I always try to pull ahead before a checkpoint to ensure we stay together. There was another surprise when we arrived at Glencoe. I was 7 minutes earlier than last year. I’d told my crew I’d be slower than last year so they were all sitting in the ski centre car park ! I’m not so fast in checkpoints, partly because I eat whilst stopped. I just find it easier. I set off from Glencoe with Anne and Richard buddying me and immediately passed Ray McCurdy and Victoria O’Reilly – Sue was no longer to be seen. This was where something we’d learnt last year came into play. I have trouble eating and last year struggled with daunting sandwiches until I refused to eat any more (bad idea in an ultra). This year Anne carried the food and occasionally a hand would appear with something bite-sized in it and the command ‘eat this’. It was a selection of things and I never knew what it would be, maybe a bit of jam sandwich or marmite sandwich, a couple of jelly babies or half a cheese twist. It worked well, I ate what was given, and did so for the rest of the race. I was carrying 1.5 litres of half strength Nunn in my camelback and at each checkpoint it was topped up and I drunk plain water.
I lost more time to Sue as I had to empty stones out of my shoes at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase ( must get some gaiters). I did think at Glencoe that maybe, if I was sensible, I would be able to get nearer to 10 hours than 11, if I’d have told Anne this it may have eased tensions later in the race, but I didn’t want to tempt fate so I kept quiet. The sun had come out and it was hot going up the staircase, which seemed tougher than ever before. Near the top Sue came into view and I was sensible, I didn’t dash after her but stayed steady and took care over the rocky route. I did catch and pass Sue before Kinlochleven but as before she was through and out before me. I was 5 minutes slower to Kinlochleven than last year but felt a lot better and wasn’t worried as I didn’t intend falling and losing 10 to 15 minutes in the last section ! At Glencoe I swapped Anne for Fiona Morrison who has run off road but nothing like the last section of the WHW. The girl done brilliant. She ran everything the track threw at her with a smile, encouraging words for me and of course the hand shooting out with the food and the words ‘eat this’. I was really pleased because I want Fiona and Anne buddying me at the full WHW race next year and now we all know we can do it. All through the last section I stayed conservative because I wanted to get to the final run down Glen Nevis and be able to run properly, this was my plan to gain more time and bury the bogey of hitting the wall there last year. I passed Sue again and then gradually passed other runners as well. It was good to see our old friends the Wilderness Rescue crews but my favourite bit of the whole race was when we passed a large group of German teenagers (possibly scouts as they all wore matching red scarves). They did a Mexican Wave and staring shouting ‘number 1’, ‘number 1’, I had no idea what to do so starting raising my arms as if I’d just won the race and started running faster. I’m not sure if I suddenly realised I was on the section I fell last year and also in training in March ( the section I promised Anne and myself I’d walk ) or whether Fiona shouted at me ( I think it was the latter) but I rapidly stopped running and walked. Once we’d got through the dodgy section I got running again and came to Lundrava. Anne came to meet us with water and more food and the three of us carried on. Anne ran in front, me in the middle and Fiona brought up the rear. Now the stresses started. Anne realised that if I pushed on I could break 10 hours. I knew this and this was now my plan but I didn’t want to voice it out loud. Also I was tired and we were still climbing. My final plan was to take it steady and push it down the logging track at the finish. It got a bit fractious with Anne encouraging ( nagging ) me, and me getting snippy. We finally got to the start of the logging track at exactly the same time as last year but this time I wasn’t covered in bandages and blood and I wasn’t completely knackered. Then I started to run properly, I was wary at first in case I ran out of steam after a mile but I didn’t. Not only that but I started passing more people. It was great. I knew then that I would get sub 10 but by how much ? I overtook my last runner about 400 metres from the finish and just squeezed under 9:55. To say I was pleased was an understatement. To cap it all Sue also got under 10. What a race, what a day.
I felt with this race I really had to finish in a decent state, physically and mentally to feel more confident about the WHW race next year. I achieved this and also got a good time. Also crossing Rannoch Moor I chatted to Vicky O’Reilly. Vicky is about my pace for ultras and this year she did the WHW race in 34 hours so that also helped. Another difference was that after being so sick at the Fling I actually ran this race with no synthetic fuel like gels. I think it was Gail Murdoch who had gastric problems at Gloucester and I think that for her next ultra she tried to use ‘proper’ food rather than things like gels. I tried to follow her idea and used Slimfast, sandwiches, Ambrosia creamed rice, jelly with fruit in it, flat coke, flat ginger beer, coffee, jelly babies and cheese twists. I’d tried everything in training except the cheese twists and they were a bit of a gamble but I really like them and they worked.
Finally a big thank you to my own support crew and all the Carnegie’s who not only helped me on the day but for their huge ultra knowledge that they’re always happy to impart to me.