Monday, 21 September 2015

Glenmore 24 2015 - A perfect day.

I dropped a car load of stuff with Ken on Thursday evening so he could do the jigsaw thing with all the camping gear, club tent and my race stuff before picking me up Friday morning, I hoped there was enough room left for Pauline’s gear! In the morning we managed to squeeze in Pauline’s adventure supplies and set off fairly sharp. With the forecast for rain in the afternoon we hoped to get the tents up before it started, we were fairly successful, the big club tent, a posh sports gazebo type thing that snaps up in a minute but far more wind and weather resilient than a gazebo and the two wee tents we were sleeping in on Friday night.  We had a tea-break while the rain was at its heaviest before setting up the rest of the paraphernalia then headed back to the Italian restaurant in Aviemore for some pasta.

Back at Hayfield Ally and Donna had arrived, we were joining forces, having two supporters sharing the work of three runners made it easier than have Ken do Pauline and I on his own and there was plenty room in the tent.

Next was the Glenmore 24 party, this year’s theme was Cowboys and Indians, with a Bucking Bronco, I only watched, it looked great fun but no way was I risking injury falling off.

It was bitterly cold on Friday night but I was a well prepared cowboy, under my long sleeved top and checked shirt I was wearing a long sleeved thermal and I found an ancient blanket in the cupboard with the old tins of paint, I slashed a head hole, cut it to fit and blanket-stitched the edges, Clint Eastwood style, an arrow through my head topped with a cowboy hat and a set of pistols I was ready to party.  My jaw aches in the cold but I think it was the laughter that got it this time. There is no other 24 hour race in the world with a pre-race evening like this! (Think I’m fairly qualified to make that statement having supported Pauline in 24 hour races in Holland, France, Italy, England, Wales and Canada!)  After a lot of giggling and two cans of sports drink (Belhaven Black) it was time for good little athletes to go to bed. I was well prepared for a night in a tent at this location and time of year, air mattress, cosy sleeping bag, warm jammies under fleecy jammies, double layer fleecy blanket and I threw my cowboy blanket over the top just for good measure, if I woke up roasting I could knock it off… I didn’t! 

In the morning there was no rush to get ready, I had two pots of the Oats so Simple porridge and a banana for breakfast before we took down the wee tents, there will be no sleeping for us, it’s only 24 hours! Then got race clothes on but left doing my feet to the last moment, I’d borrowed my daughter’s festival wellies and I was keeping my feet dry for as long as possible, the grass was wet and a wee bit waterlogged at the bottom of the field and I was concerned about having a repeat of the carnage that happened in my shoes last year.

At high noon we were off, (some still in costume) I was surprised how fast the leaders went round the field on the first lap; I presumed it was the relay leading the charge, new for this year and not an easy option, run like the clappers for one lap then hand over to three other team mates keeping the same order doing a lap each, then run like the clappers again for one lap and maintain that for 24 hours, I think my constant steady plod will be easier! 
Photo from the first lap by Chen Chee Kong
Photo from James Day
Although the first few laps were a wee bit quick which is quite normal as long as you don’t go too daft, I clicked into the routine of the points I picked in previous years for where to run and where to walk on the beautiful four mile loop and hopefully I’d be able to maintain the discipline every lap no matter how tired I got. It took me to the fifth lap (20 miles) until I felt settled and relaxed into my groove and was keeping a fine steady consistent pace.

The eating plan was to pick up a little something every lap and to make things a bit easier for Ken and Donna I placed a box at the top of the field for us to drop our half-drunk bottles and empties into since neither Pauline or I stop to eat and Ken or Donna could collect them at an opportune moment. All my race food has to be fluid these days, so it was mostly milkshakes either Ensure Plus or Yazoo, supplemented with custard,  chicken soup, sloppy mashed tatties, very soft cheesy pasta, hot chocolate, coffee and coke. I was supposed to give my next lap order when I came in but I didn’t always think ahead but Ken was brilliant at guessing what I would like when I didn’t pre-order. On one lap I arrived without having left instruction and ask for a milkshake, Ken took longer than a nano-second to find one, so I just flounced off empty handed shouting I’ll get it next lap. I heard Donna laugh and she called after me asking if I wanted it at the top of the field.  Thank you Donna for pandering to my only diva strop, she was waiting for me with my milkshake I paused and had a couple of mouthfuls, giving myself a row for being such a brat.
Patricia Carvalho Photography
 I had planned to pick up my camera for a lap in the afternoon or early evening but I kept forgetting, I was concentrating on getting my food and I never took any photos of the gorgeous  route but I do have some cracking images locked in my memory, every year I’ve had a moment where the view has stopped me in my tracks and I enjoyed the privilege of owning it. In 2011, the clear sky with a millions twinkling stars had me pausing briefly, 2012 the sky wasn’t clear but the full moon made an occasional appearance and I followed my moon shadow rather than my head torch, in 2013 the setting sun had tears running down my cheeks, I was around 12 weeks post chemo and radiotherapy, fighting my way back to health. Being back where I belonged running a special 6 hour “race” just for me, my emotion was as intense of the colours of pink cotton wool clouds and blue sky reflected in the Loch. I struggle to find an image in my memory that made my heart sing in 2014 but the giant red toadstools made me smile. This year’s “pause and cherish the moment” happened in the evening, on the stretch after the hill and before the left turn, the setting sun gave the heather an intense warm and vibrancy through the long shadows will never be forgotten, I consoled myself that a camera probably wouldn’t do it justice. Another beautiful sight was seeing George and Karen running towards me doing a lap in reverse.  High fiving them both as they past gave me a boost, it’s great to see George looking and moving so well.

The laps steadily notched up, I picked up my head torch before it got dark and my iPod when it was, it was usually only in one ear, I enjoyed a wee blether whenever I had company and just a wee word when folks were going at a different a pace. Even the speedy pants relay runners flying by always gave a shout; the camaraderie of ultra is second to none.   

At around 11pm I asked Ken, for the first time, where I was in relation to my 2012 splits, he told me I was around five minutes slower.  I felt as if I was running slower than that and to find out that I was only five minutes adrift was a big bonus.  I don’t wear a Garmin for 24 hour race, just my old Timex Ironman to clock the laps so I know what one I’m on. I always run to my body and never to a watch or gizmo, I’m usually pretty consistent when things are going fairly smoothly and I’m settled into my groove.  How’s this for consistent! Studying my lap sheets, at just over thirteen and a half hours of running there was only one second of difference for the time I went through the 16th lap (64 miles) in 2012 and this year!

Around 3.00am and 4.00am is where the body is at its lowest ebb but I had a great boost in my arsenal to combat it, I would complete my 18th lap between those hours totalling 100 laps for my five years of running Glenmore24. Ken asked if I wanted my bottle of beer opened for when I came round but I declined, it was more the thought of celebrating with a beer than actually doing it was the goal, my stomach was doing ok but a beer at the back of 3.30am might have tipped it over the edge so I just had some custard.

It was still dark when I caught up with Pauline she had been ahead until her stomach started to give her jip, so she knocked her pace back a bit and we ran a couple of laps together, then she said she was going to ease back a bit more to try and let her stomach settle, I was quite relieved for selfish reasons, listening to her dry heaves wasn’t doing my guts any favours, they were threatening to come out in sympathy!

The sky lightened and with moving well all night I only had to add one long-sleeve top and gloves which came off as the day warmed up, the weather was so much kinder than last year. After 6.30am I’d gone through lap 21 (84miles) I started doing some sums in my head, working out that if I was going to complete 27 laps I’d have to up it.  It was do-able but I’d have to pick up the pace, so with around five hours still to go I started to push. I thought that if I could finish lap 26 with 55 minutes still to go I’d go for one more big one, I wasn’t keen on spending nearly an hour on the wee laps and that thought spurred me on, but after a couple more laps I felt I’d have to run myself into the ground to do it and even then I wasn’t sure I had the pace to finish lap 26 in time to do one more big one. I felt I was working too hard so decided I’ve had a fantastic run anyway, the 100 miles was in the bag, so was the 104 as long as I didn’t fall and smash my face in.  I didn’t let go but stopped working so hard, I’d get the 26 laps and whatever I got on the wee laps would be a bonus.

At 10.14am Ada sounded the horn, I yelled a “Woohoo!” with my arms in the air, the dream 100 miles done.  
100 miles
A few mouthfuls of coke and set off on my last big lap, as much as I was glad to get it done I savoured every moment of the beautiful lap, the narrow winding and lumpy first mile, the long wide forest track where I ran every step ever lap, the relief to have a wee walk on the left turn up the hill, only to the post sticking out the ground, then walk/run the rest of hill depending on the gradient,  I walked the last part of the hill with Jenni, we agreed on how fantastic this race is. I then ran down the last mile for the final time and came into Hayfield with about 45 minutes still to go. 

I needn’t have dreaded doing “millions” of wee laps, the support was phenomenal, the party tents on the back stretch, Sarah’s with the fairy-lights through the night next to Noanie, Carol and Kaziah, with music and cheering that wasn’t just in the last hour but every time I went by for the whole duration of the race, same too for the kids at the top of the hill, throughout the whole event they put a smile on my face. Now in the last hour on the wee lap I shouted my number to George and Julie logging everyone’s laps at the top corner, before heading down the hill and round again, I caught up with Ally and shared a hug, he’s had a tough day but was still smiling. I kept an eye on the entrance of the lap looking for Pauline coming into the final effort, then going past our tent I saw she was sitting in a chair cheering!!! What???  She wimped out (I’m the only one allowed to say that) after lap 25, the 100 miles, stopping with an hour and a quarter still to go, her stomach never settled, there was no point flogging a dead horse. It confused the hell out of Julie, she didn’t know there was two of us and wondered how I managed to run the wee laps with her AND sit on the side in a comfy chair!
Pauline clocking the 100 miles
 My quads weren’t as knackered as I thought; I flew down the hill, the noise of support at the bottom was the fuel they needed, I heard my name being shouted, the encouragement pushed me on like a strong hand on my back and with the momentum from the hill and the cheering I lengthened my stride and pumped my arms, no longer tippy-toeing the soggy bottom, it didn’t matter anymore if my feet were wet, then hands on thighs, stomp up the hill trying to catch my breath, shout my number, fly down the hill, push as hard as I can round the bottom, hands on thighs, stomp up the hill, shout my number, fly down the hill… I lost count how many times I went round but I never stopped pushing. I was amazed at how strong I felt but I wasn’t just having that rare occurrence of a great race with everything going to plan, I was kicking the shit out of cancer.
On the wee laps in the final hour - photo from James Day
12 noon the final horn, I plant my peg with my race number into the grass, luckily it’s right beside our tent and Ken gave me my chair so I didn’t have to collapse in a heap. I let my bum sink into a chair for the first time in 24 hours, I take a lot of deep breathes, my legs are still jumping, I’m still sitting there when Bill is measuring everyone’s final distance with a wheel, it took a great effort to move out of his way.

 I am back, as fit and as strong as I was before. No! I think I’m fitter and stronger, this race more than any other has proved that to me (Finishing with 107.35 miles, 4th from 28 ladies and 12th overall from 88 runners.) I will never eat normally again but I do bloody well on what I can, my mouth will always be sensitive and painful from the treatment and nerve damaged from the surgery, this year a lot of friends have said that my speech has really improved. I’m probably a bit hard on myself but in my head I still think I sound like a pished Sean Connery without his teeth!  I’m lucky that I have running and the support from my ultra-family; I doubt I could have faced the trauma as well as I have without either.

In 2011 I finished my Glenmore 24 blog post with this.

Put the Glenmore 24 in your diaries, it is going to grow to be an event equal to the WHW.  Folk that know me know I won’t say that lightly. 

Well, I didn’t have to be Brahan Seer to predict that! It has grown and although I think, this year, base camp may have reached its limit, from a runners point of view, it was perfect, at no point did I feel I was hindered or in the way of faster runners. The work that goes into putting on the race is akin the big dod of iceberg under the water, race day is the tip and as long as BaM and all the helpers are willing to give up their time to pander to divas living their dreams I am grateful, I thank you all for letting me realise my goals. Hopefully for years to come I will still manage to run, I may have completed over 100 laps, I still have not had enough, magic happens at Glenmore.

I’d like to finish by congratulating Lorna on her second Glenmore 24 win and doing it in style wearing number 100 celebrating her 100th race of marathon distance and over. For me, lumping my marathons and ultras together this was my 90th race, I’m not a great fan of churning out races just to clock up the numbers but looking forward I just have to find one extra marathon to add to my race plan between now and next September for me to hit the hundred, there’s a new cheeky wee ultra in May at Glen Lyon, the date is still to be confirmed and I wonder if that might do it for me? All being well, next year I will run my 100th race of marathon distance and over and it will be wonderful if it could be Glenmore24, I can’t think of a better race to reach that milestone. When do entries open?