Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Glenmore 24 Trail Race 2012

Last year’s race was so perfect, everything just clicked, although my training was a bit minimal with a duff Achilles, the weather was great, nice and warm during the day, chilly at night but nothing a lightweight fleece couldn’t handle.  I had no problems with my stomach, my legs cruised round until 7.00am then it dawned on me that I was running well, I was told that I was knocking out the fastest laps, that really gave me a boost, I was buzzing and my last six laps averaged around 50 minutes to finish with 108 miles and 2nd Female.  What a bonus since after seeing the hills on the first lap I doubted I would’ve reached 100 miles.

This year, my training has been better but what were the chances of replicating last year’s fortunes?  I wasn’t going to bet on it, but I knew that whatever happens I am forever an optimist and aimed high.  It was going to be the same friendly, well organised affair as last year with one wee change, instead of finishing with whole laps and stopping either just before or after the 12 or 24 hours, this year for the last hour of each race runners moved onto a small loop of just over 300 metres round base camp to finish exactly on 12 or 24 hours.   Last year I stopped at 23.46.49 so that will give me an extra 13 minutes to fit in one more mile and hopefully I could squeeze in one more for luck, the reasoning behind my goal of 110 miles. 

Here’s what I wrote on my race plan. 

Make sure there is something ready every lap as I won’t stop or wait for it, catch me up if necessary. 

 If all goes well I aim to get further than last year’s 108 miles. A PB would be 117 miles, I’m not ruling it out but 110 miles is my goal. 

If I have gut problems I’ll just go slower for a bit and hopefully be able to pick it up again with 100 miles being the minimum I hope to achieve. 

We might get weather and it may turn into a battle for survival rather than big miles. 

I will be flexible except for one thing.  I will not stop, it’s only 24 hours! 

Also this year Pauline was running and not supporting so time for a little twinny competition, when I said my goal was 110 miles Pauline instantly replied her goal was 111 miles!  Pauline has had a rather relaxed year training wise and has only averaged a weekly mileage of around 26 mile with a handful of big runs thrown in, she does have a bit of speed and experience in her corner, she completed ten West Highland Way races this year and sticking with the same theme this will be her tenth 24 hour race.

We had enlisted Mel and Kevin for support, they did a brilliant job supporting me for this year’s WHW and Morna was coming along for a few hours to help for the evening until after midnight and Robin would be on hand if needed after Anne had finished the 12 hour race. 

Mel and Kevin had gone up to Aviemore on Friday afternoon for a relaxed evening and to pitch the club tent, there were quite a few tents up already, folk this year are very well organised.  Pauline and I decided to stay at home and come up in the morning since it’s only around a two hour drive. 

After registering, loads of hellos, a short briefing from Bill, along the lines of “You guys have set your goals, it’s our job to help you reach them, look after each other and enjoy!”  After a bit of a pose on the start line it was 12 noon and we were off on the undulating four mile lap for as many as we could manage in the space of 24 hours.
Mel's photos
Pauline and I ran the first lap together then I let her go on, it was far too quick for what I wanted my average lap to be but with fresh legs it didn’t feel  fast and I knew I’d settle down and only expected to see her again when she lapped me later. 

I was relieved to complete the second lap without falling over, yaaay, time to relax, find my groove, enjoy the beauty of the forest, the ancient trees and vibrant purple heather, the views of the loch and hills and settle into consistent laps, watching my footing on the lumpy bumpy first mile, checking my posture on the “long run”, that’s what I called the second mile on the wide forest track with a few gentle inclines, because I ran it all every lap last year and that was the plan for this year too.  After turning left up the steep hill, I picked trees or boulders as markers for where to walk and eat, and where to stick in some runs.  Then I took it gently on the steep downhill, before the wee kick of a hill, left turn down five steps and back to base camp. 
photo from Glenmore24 Trail Race
The weather wasn’t as bad as had been forecast, it stayed dry but there was quite a fierce blustery wind, it took me sideways on the open path of the “long run” and I think it killed a couple of the tents at base camp!  I didn’t want to waste energy fighting it so just eased along when the wind was in my face, I never noticed it on my back though, we must have had the shelter of the trees for when it was behind us!  I did moan about it a bit to Minty and Rab the Kilt, they never really noticed its strength, fair enough, I’m a fairy light-weight compared to the two stappin’ lads!

After the third lap (12 miles) I had to stop and slap some more Body Glide on my right pinkie toe, that was a surprise and far too early for any foot problems, these are the shoes I changed into at Rowardennan and kept them on until Fort William, about 70 miles, during the WHW without any pinkie toe problems, not to worry I can do blisters, and it did settle down to just a wee nip for the rest of the race.

After the eighth lap (32 miles) I wasn’t very comfortable, I had to have a faff with my shoe laces, they were now feeling a bit tight, my stomach was sore, I’d only been running for just over six hours, again far too early to encounter gut problems, I had flash backs of Perth 2010, I didn’t want a repeat of that, my toughest 24 hours race.  Lap nine, I had some soup and hoped that that would help settle my guts, and the following lap Morna came round with me, it lovely to have her company.  I couldn’t face any food but had a wee can of fizzy coke, after quite a few burps and farts my guts eased a bit. (Running ultra is definitely not lady like!)

Lap eleven was revenge time for Mel, (I made her eat some rice pudding at Lundavra during the Devil O’ the Highlands). After I’d had a couple of spoonfuls, she looked at what was left in the tub and wasn’t impressed and wouldn’t take it back until I’d shovelled in some more.  Now it was dark, although I had my head torch I decided to walk the short, narrow lumpy bumpy bit just out of base camp, not worth risking a fall. 

Lap twelve, just before 10.00pm I picked up my ipod, a seven hour playlist of lively foot stompers set on shuffle, I never normally run a race with it, I think they are just anti-social but I need all the help I can get during 24 hours but I always disengaged one lug ‘ole when someone went by me, no one went past without a word of encouragement.  Through the night it remained cloudy but the moon was full and was making guest appearances, for one moment I thought a car was behind me but headlights don’t surround your shadow with silver, I could’ve switched off my head torch but I just put my hand over it for a few moments to savour the magic of the moonlight.  

One lap through the night I saw a body on the bench on the “long run” I started to move towards it to check they were ok, but before I got there I recognised those baggy shorts over the blue tracksters, I’ll leave him in peace, Ray-the Legend-McCurdy was partial to a bench during 24hour races, I remember being jealous of him sitting on a bench enjoying the warming pink glow of the rising sun as I shuffled by during Perth 2010!

Occasionally I’d ask through the day how Pauline faring, I liked it when I heard she was doing fine, later on I’d heard she was battling with “tummy trouble”  one lap through base camp Mel pointed to someone on the grass  in front.  Aw naw!, it didn’t mean I was running well, it meant Pauline was having a struggle, I caught up and we ran the lap together, we were both fightin’ but Pauline was having more of a challenge, her guts were worse than mine and had to have a few stops, eventually for the first time I can remember in over twenty years of running I went ahead, I wouldn’t hold back or wait Pauline, wouldn’t want me too either.

Last year Pauline kept a detailed lap sheet of my splits and nutrition Mel had it to hand and kept me informed where I was compared to last year, I had a cushion of around 15 minutes from early on but with the blustery wind and my guts giving me grief I was working hard just to maintain that lead, Mel was concerned I wasn’t eating or drinking enough, I was swapping a 250ml bottle most laps and I rarely handed back an empty one and it took three laps to eat a wee bag of Mini Cheddars but with her encouragement I was managing half a finger of shortbread or some milkshake, just the bare minimum to keep me going.  Mel was doing an outstanding job; she has a broken bone in her foot and really shouldn’t be escorting me out of base camp most laps never mind being on her feet!

 I did get my knickers in a twist a couple of times, I was wearing my old faithful Timex Ironman watch that can hold 100 laps,(I still have last year’s splits on it), but I had messed it up and must have advertently pressed stop.  My only concession to age is that my eyesight is rubbish without reading glasses and in the dark I was really struggling to make it out but I could see my watch was wrong, I had to pull in to base camp to sort my shoe again, my right foot developed a bruise where the tongue of my shoe sat, while faffing with my lace again, I was frustrated that I couldn’t do something simple like read my watch, I asked Kevin what it said, I gave up trying to fathom it out  I just put it round to time of day, I started at noon, I’ll finish at noon. 

During the wee small hours, when the body is at its lowest ebb, I expected to have a few slower laps, this year I only had one lap of 59 minutes at 4.30am thanks to Lee and Geraldine, they were stars at lifting the spirits on the graveyard shift at the halfway checkpoint, a handful of glow sticks and they surpassed the spectacle that was the Edinburgh Festival’s Speed of Light, it was a phenomenal event but not a patch on the dynamic duo writing runners names on the ground and doing a fine rendition D.I.S.C.O in the dark!

Pink! At last a glimmer of colour in the sky, dawn was approaching, time to try and pick it up, but I was breathing hard just to keep a consistent lap pace, there was no way I could pick it up like last year, maintaining took all my effort, those 15 minutes I had in the bank were going to get spent.

The next fankle I let myself get wound up with was what lap I was on, I was just running not thinking about where I was, as I was being expertly counted by Ada and Mel but on the lap I thought I’d get the horn I didn’t, (Ada was giving a blast on the air horn when folk were going through 100 miles) fair enough, wishful thinking on my part, next lap I still didn’t get the horn… mild panic! Where the feck am I?  Apparently in the small hours when I’d gone through, Ada had asked was it me, someone said no, it was Pauline, actually it was both of us… seconds apart, sorry guys, next time I’ll pay more attention to where I am and Ada, we’ll get our names printed on our vests!
photo from Julie Clarke
It was at 10.00am two hours to go, it was confirmed I went through lap 25, 100 miles, a brilliant achievement, I know, but I was confused, my reaction and words were definitely not lady like, I let cracks appear in my armour.  I wasn’t letting go, but I said “I don’t think I can do two more laps!” Kevin then said the perfect thing, “You‘ve only got one lap to go, ‘cause you don’t count the one you’re on!”  Light-bulb moment!  Damn right, how could I forget, those are the very words I used on myself when running laps for the first time during Glenrothes 50k eleven years ago!  He also said I was in second place and Pauline was in third. 

I gave myself a talking to, I’d been listening to my head, a bad move and never to be done during a race, because your head always give you duff information, like stop it hurts or you don’t have to work so hard.   Time to tell it to shut the fuck up!  The only limits are the ones we oppose on ourselves and time to give full rein to my heart and soul, I have two hours left to equal last year, it was going to be hard but I’m going for it.  My breathing was loud, a proper drama queen donkey bray, the back of my throat was swollen and raw, and if my body was a car the petrol light was flashing red, motoring on fumes.  But my determination was the only fuel I needed now,  I felt a little light headed going up the hill and tried to control my breathing without making such a racket, I caught up with Stan, he was going to make the 100 miles this lap, I told him what I was attempting, he didn’t bullshit me, it was going to be close and his parting words as I pulled away “You’ve done really well anyway.” brought my emotion into my throat, my reply “Yeah, I know but I want to try.”

It must have been just before 11.00am, I charged into base camp and shouted to Ada “Do I have time for one more lap?”

Ok, last lap, COME ON! Kevin gave me a couple of bits of tablet, which was all I could face.  I pushed as hard as I could. Again I felt a wee bit light headed on the hill, the emotion of the effort was rising from my chest and threatened to hamper my breathing even more, I wasn’t distressed, this was my choice to work so hard, I could faint at the finish, just the thought of lying on the grass… but I couldn’t let go, not yet.  I shouted out loud “I DO NOT GIVE UP!”

I caught up with Rab just before reaching base camp; we must have been the last two to come in from the four mile lap and on to the small loop.  
photo from Glenmore24 Trail Race
I was relieved I’d made it back before the end of the race and get the 108 miles.  I hit the grass like a boxer going for a last minute knock-out, seconds out, final round, ding ding! I had worked so hard for the last few hours I wasn’t letting go for the last ten minute, 

I flew round the grass and ran up the hill, down the other side and looked at the clock, I flew round another lap, this clock's stopped! Pauline was with me and we ran together, she shouted “Get your head up!” Yeah, good point, I’d let go of my form, running like a mad, slavering hound breathing like a barking rabid dog.
photo from Julie Clarke
I was so glad that everyone was cheering so loudly they wouldn’t hear me breathe.  Eventually I could hear folk count down 10, 9, 8… 3, 2, 1! Air horn!  Aaahhh, a final sigh of relief, we’ve finished; Pauline and I gave each other a quick pat on the back. Gimme that grass! We had stopped on the hill so I took advantage of the gradient and placed my head at the bottom and my feet at the top, I even held them up for a few moments to stave off the post-race faint.  The race Doc walked round checking everyone, “Yep, you're alive, you're alive, you're alive” Ok, I’ll believe you! We’d been given a tent peg with our race number on it to stick in the ground when we finished, it wasn’t necessary in my case my carcass was still on the ground when Bill and Mike measured our final distances.  103 miles for Pauline and 109 for me, it was hard fought for and I’m thrilled I managed to surpass last year and run the second furthest distance I’ve ever gone.
photo from Mel
I eventually managed to get up and shuffle back to our tent; it took a bit of time. I put on enough layers that if I stood next to the Michelin man he would've looked svelte, at the end of previous 24 hour races I’ve had uncontrollable chitters and felt so cold.

Next task was to shuffle over for the prize giving, I took my chair. 
photo from Julie Clarke
"Ok Pauline, you pretend you're sorting your shoe, I'll hang onto the back of this chair and no one will know we're unconscious!" 
Glenmore24 Trail Race
Everyone was awarded their medal and bottle of beer individually then 1st, 2nd and 3rd Male and Female for the 12 hour race, then the 24 hour runners got their bottle of beer and medals followed with the first three finishers.  Bill gave Pauline her prize for third, I was readying myself to stand then Bill said “In second place, Wendy MacKinnon”  Eh… there’s been a mistake….  “In first place, Fiona Rennie” REALLY???  I think I kept the emotion from crumpling my face and I looked happy!  I have achieved my first race win!

Last year the Glenmore 24 showed promise of being a top event in Scottish Ultra and now in its second year it has established itself as a top event in Scottish Ultra, thanks to the hard work of Mike Bill, Ada and all their helpers.  An outstandingly well organised, friendly event, in stunning scenery with a special bunch of people, I can see the internet crashing when entries open for next year.
One more first, I never thought I’d ever emulate the Tennent’s Lager Burds!