Friday, 15 September 2017

Glenmore 24 - 2017

Pauline and I were well organised, the car was packed Thursday night so we could have a leisurely drive up on Friday arriving early afternoon with plenty time to get the club tent up, the wee tent for sleeping and chill out before the pre-race party. This year’s theme being the eighties, I didn’t need much effort for finding a costume, just a rummage in the wardrobe, a t-shirt I wore to a Thin Lizzy gig in 1980 and a jacket I bought from Graftons in 1982, but I’m afraid my hair-do was delivered by Amazon.

Photo from Old Dunfermline (The corner of the New Row and the High Street where the Kingsgate and M&S are now)

I first encountered 24 hour racing doing Pauline’s support at her first in 2003, and I’ve supported and run a few myself since, and I can safely say that no other race has such a fun filled, relaxing pre-race evening. My face hurt from laughing, mainly at a West Highland Way Race support crew confession, luckily not from my crew! A few folk thought I was drinking hot chocolate, excuse me, I’m a proper afleet, that was Belhaven Black in my tin mug!

With staying in Hayfield Pauline and I could have a lazy morning, we took down the wee tent, no sleeping for us during the race, except Pauline (the slacker) put the seat back in the car and had a nap during the wee hours, her race plan wasn’t a do or die mission especially with a whinging Achilles so as long as she clocked an ultra her master plan to make Glen Ogle 33 her 100th Ultra will be on track. Ken and Val, our expert support had arrived, Jonathan too, he was doing the 12 hour also we had adopted Patricia again, she ran a marvelous first 24 race last year and was aiming for the 100 miles this time.  

There was barely a cloud in the sky and the forecast wasn’t for changing, Bill gave a warning during the briefing that if it remains clear the temperature would drop significantly during the night, I selfishly smiled to myself, sounds like perfect conditions to me. On the forest trails you’re shaded from the sun and the trees hold their warmth through the night, it’s the support in base camp that will bake through the day and freeze through the night. Another thought that made me smile, if it stays clear  and if the stars shine as brightly as in 2011 it’s going to be a wonderful race.

12.00 noon we’re off with the 12 hour runners and the relay leading the charge. I took about five laps (20 miles) to settle into my groove which is about right for me in a big race, but I slipping straight into the routine of where I walk and where I run from the start, in 2011 I split the four mile loop up into four sections of roughly a mile each.
The lumpy bumpy mile - out of base camp down through a narrow stony path with high foliage brushing your shoulders, right turn onto a winding heather edged bouldery path, left into enclosed trees, round the muddy puddle and mind that wee stump just off centre of the path.

The long run - a wide flat runnable track where I’d check my posture, relax and run the whole way (well, I did in 2011 and 2012, since 2013 I’ve sneaked in the odd wee walk)

The uphill - yeah, that’s what it mostly did for around a mile, I just picked small not so steep sections to stick in a wee shuffle.

The downhill - taking it gently preserving my quads, with a wee bonus that the surface of it has improved over the last couple of years, it used to be very rutted, then up a short steep hill, down a few steps and back into Hayfield.

I’d placed a wee blue cool box at the top of the loop in the Hayfield to drop whatever half eaten custard pot or half drunk milkshake into after walking round from our tent near the start of the loop, I had a little something every lap and tried to say what I’d I’d like next time round, I don’t waste time standing and eating and with dropping it into the box it meant Ken or Val didn’t need to hoof it up to the end of the  field every lap to take it from me especially with looking after other runners, they could just bring it back to our tent ready for me to pick up again whenever it suited them. I think between myself, Pauline, Patricia and Jonathan we were spaced out nicely most of the time except once I came round Val shouted ,”Err, you weren’t meant to come round so soon after Pauline!” Ha ha, not sure if I had a quicker lap or if Pauline had slowed a bit on that one, we were together a few times but always ran our own pace.  Ken had my camera and took photos of the start and then a few laps in he took it up to the top of base camp to get a photo as I came up the wee hill, “Ah, that’s handy, I’ll take it round a lap!”  

During the afternoon I spent around half a lap with Ray, we were reminiscing about races and old runners no longer with us, Kenny Shaw was a legend from the Two Bridges to name just one. It was still fairly warm, (my long sleeves were still pushed up) so I was happy to go a wee bit easier than my own pace, during a race of this length I don’t like to break sweat in the first quarter, I was saving myself for when it cooled down, if you’re too hot you’re going too fast!  

At around tea time I requested my pasta next lap and I was looking forward to it all the way round.  Ken handed me my thermal mug… “Oh, what’s this?”
“Your pasta!” Ken replied, hmmm, yes, well, I suppose it was, but I was disappointed, it wasn’t the pasta I envisioned, the gently warmed tin of nice, soft, creamy macaroni cheese but the packet of Mugshot I had in the food bag for emergency rations which must have just had the hot water added.  Al dente! Snap ma wallies mair like! I spat out the offending brittle shards and drank the “soup”. But no Diva strop, it was my fault for not being specific, “Could I have the other pasta next lap please!” My bottom lip maybe stuck a little.

I was on “The Long Run” when the sun was sinking into the loch, shimmering down the water, a beam of golden light sparkling the length of the Loch Morlich, I was on my own so it was ok to sing out loud Runrig’s Hearts of Olden Glory, my memories of the sunset during my special 6 hour run in 2013 reminding me there was nowhere else I’d rather be, the privilege of health to be where I was and to revel in being around forty odd miles in and still feeling strong.

The sun had gone, I had the pool of light from my headtorch to follow, my iPod in one ear so I could still chat and the stars and the moon above,

photo from Andrew Paterson

I was singing away to my eight hour playlist then “Aw Naw!” my iPod died after only a couple of hours, I wouldn’t use it for any other race but some lively tunes through the night do help keep me sprightly but not to worry, I smiled remembering the only other time my iPod gave up the ghost, it was during the first night of a 48hr race on a 400 metre track! I’m sure I’ll cope!  Ken managed to give it a wee charge and I squeezed another couple of hours out of it.

I quite like the night time, I know some runners like to focus on counting, I’m not normally a counter during a race but at Glenmore I do, I don’t wear a Garmin, it’s not necessary, I know how far I’ve gone by how many laps I’ve done, clocking them on my trusty old Timex Ironman doing little sums in my head.  On completing my 17th lap this year adding it to all my G24 races and my 6 hour special it was also my 150th lap covering 600 miles! It seemed absurd to have covered so many miles on just a 4 mile loop but a testament of how gorgeous this course is and the people involved with the race and it certainly gave me a smile and a boost at around 3.30am.

During the wee hours there had been a bit of drama, Val was left doing support on her own, Ken had gone off to help, the wind had picked up and was swirling round the Hayfield like a tornado, nine gazebos were killed and a small tent broke free and birled down the field, it must’ve been terrifying for the 12 hour runner that was sleeping inside! Jonny managed to have a bit of a kip looking all cosied up wrapped in blankets sitting in a chair in the tent, well, maybe not sleeping as such with the howling wind and the way the tent was walloping about but at least he was resting!   

During a 24 hour race everyone usually has a bit of a dip at some point and after having such a happy, smiley 17th lap  I was due a wee crash and laps 18 and 19 were my two slowest laps.  It was between and dawn and I suppose only to be expected, I was struggling with dry heaves and nodding off on my feet but I knew when the sky lightened I’d pick up.

If you’re targeting the ton pacing the 100 miles at Glenmore is quite easy on paper, you don’t need heroics just a nice even plod, at the start you’re fresh so no need to push, do the first five laps within four hours roughly between 45/50 mins a lap then as long as you manage a lap an hour you’re guaranteed… but this is running for 24 hours there’s no such thing as guarantees no matter experience or if training has gone well, during the race there is perfect opportunity to fall over, puke or have a muscle go ping and that is more likely to be guaranteed. Until Ada gives you the horn you can’t take it for granted that it will happen!

Sure enough, I smiled when the sun tinged the loch the colour of a dusky rose, my pace picked up and I was back on track. During the night I had layered up but now as the sun was rising the layers were coming off, I was wary of placing my feet, last year I fell on my 24th lap, luckily no damage was done then but it was in the forefront of my mind that I was close to my goal but I could still ruin it by being a clumsy clops.  

The camaraderie at Glenmore is second to none, anyone going by me always say a few words of encouragement or acknowledgement, and if I’d had the energy I would’ve slapped every runner that past shouting “I’m ONLY doing the relay!”  Guys, that is no easy option, run hard for four miles then sit about waiting on your team mates doing the same then run like the clappers again for four miles and keep it up for 24 hours, I honestly think I would find that harder than keeping an even shuffle going for the duration.

With doing the wee sums in my head I was going to be ok for the 25 laps without having to knock my pan in and even have a wee cushion if I did do something dopey like catch my toe on fresh air and smash my face in!  I’ve never been fast but as long as I have no problems I’m consistant, my last three laps were all 56 minutes. Ada was ready with her horn! Wooohooo! A hug from Ally then I dibbed my dobber and recorded my 100 miles!

I timed it pretty perfectly, I had 23 minutes left for some fun on the wee lap, measured at 362 metres on grass with a wee bugger of a hill, actually it’s a massive bugger of hill in the last hour! So with hands on thighs I’d stomp up it, shout my number to Donald and Bill then let rip down the hill, at the club we’ve been working on  downhill technique as well as up, so I was well practiced on giving it mega welly, l pushed hard on down, kept the momentum going along the straight, pumping my arms round the bend, then hands on thighs for another stomp up the hill and repeat for as many times as I could in the final minutes, the beauty of a 24 hour race is you know exactly when you’re going to stop and can push to the very last second squeezing out every yard possible  no need for that mantra commonly used at races of a measured distance.  “Where the f*cks the finish?”

The support from everyone lining the perimeter of the lap is fantastic! Cowbells, cheering and your name being shouted out, you can’t do anything other than Gie it Laldy! (It’s the BaM rules!)  
photo from Glenmore 24

Everyone now running on the wee laps, some back in costume, and David Ross, you are a star! Maybe not eighties but I’d give you a prize for the most stylish finish in a 24 hour race!
photo from Matt Gemmell

Everyone was on the wee laps except Patricia, when I was heading out for my last lap she was just about to go up the wee hill to finish her 24th lap, time was tight but I didn’t doubt she would head out for another lap, she was determined and looked strong. The clock was ticking down, every time I was at the top of the hill I was watching for her coming in….  Yaaaaaaay! Ada had her horn ready, mission accomplished,100 miles done with five minute to spare!

What a boost to see her, I tried to catch her up to congratulate her but she was still motoring until the final second adding another half mile.  I managed to push 9 laps and finish with 102.04 miles, collapsing into the grass, my chest heaving and sweat stinging my eyes.  4th female 15th overall from 86 runners, 19 of us made it to the 100 miles.

Now the hard bit, how do I sum up how special this race is, I’m struggling so just going to cop out with a wee copy and paste from my 2015 report

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! 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 their 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.

Year after year my memories grow rich with the love and camaraderie that happens in such a beautiful setting, I have now completed 158 laps and I’m still greedy for more with a little luck I hope I can add a few more.  Magic happens at Glenmore.


Anonymous said...

Well done Fiona another inspiring race and report.

Amanda Hamilton said...

Another fabulous achievement by you Fiona. I hope one day to be back at Glenmore to get the horn, it's a tremendous event. X