This year there was going to be a few changes in support, Ken and Sue were on holiday so wouldn’t be available to support, Gillian was off galavanting on Ben Nevis doing path repair, Val would be our sole support but after Pauline saw Jonathan all rugged up and sat cosy dozing in the tent through the night last year, she said that she’s never done a twelve hour race before and would give it a go. So with Pauline going to be a part-timer doing the “sprint event” finishing at midnight, she would also do a bit of my support through the night and let Val get a break before having a wee kip herself.
Pauline and I arrived in the Hayfield Friday lunch time and set about getting all the race paraphernalia organised, our neighbours gave us a hand with the club tent, the ground was dry and pretty hard, one of the mallets came to an untimely end losing it’s head.
We took it in turns hammering in the stake for the club feather with bits of rubber flying off the mallet! Finally we got our wee blue sleeping tent up without any hassle, time to chill and have some pasta before the party, a Hawaiian theme for this year and the question on everyone’s mind was What was Donald going to be wearing? He didn’t disappoint. After a few beers and a lot of laughs it was time for bed.
With the race starting at noon on Saturday, it was a nice relaxed morning, plenty time to get ready and have two pots of porridge. “Sunshine and no midges, are we really in Glenmore?” I got a row for saying it out loud on Friday afternoon but I didn’t jinx it, the weather was still looking great.
Val arrived and we went over our race plans, I was using last year’s sheet as my template with a few tweaks like having coffee a lap earlier through the night to pre-empt the falling asleep on my feet that happened last year. My times for this year’s Fling and West Highland Way Race were slower than last year, did that mean I was getting old and slow? (correction - slower, I’ve never had speed) Each year for the past few I have covered less distance at Glenmore, as Strava would say trending slower! But I wasn’t going to let it dull my ambition, I was still going to target the 100 miles, magic happens at Glenmore 24.
Bill gave the race briefing at 11.30am and at noon we were off, yay, finally, back on that beautiful four mile loop, in 2011 I split it up into four sections,the first one ‘the lumpy bumpy mile’ round base camp, up the grassy hill and onto a narrow rough path with stones and tree roots, this year the bushes had been trimmed back a bit, the second section, ‘the long run’ a flattish wide forest track where in 2011 and 2012 I didn’t walk any of it, (plot spoiler- I didn’t walk any of it this year either) the third one was ‘uphill’ yeah, that’s what it did for around a mile where I picked points where to walk and stuck in some wee shuffles on the flatish part of the ups, which was followed by the ‘downhill’ where I took it easy on the steepest part of the descent preserving my quads, relaxing on the flatter part before the wee kick of a hill then turning left, down a few stone steps back to base camp on the Hayfield. I took my camera for the first lap, it was overcast for a short while, I thought that the heather wasn’t as stunning as usual, with the weather being so dry over the summer it looked parched and brown with not a lot of vibrant blooming flowers. No rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme to go round my head while the sun shone then!
Pacing 100 miles at Glenmore is quite simple on paper, run five laps in the first four hours when you’re fresh, spritely and raring to go then once you’ve settled into your groove a nice steady lap an hour does the job. I was wearing my old faithful Timex Ironman that holds 100 laps, I was shocked that a new battery cost nearly £15, mind you, it will last at least another five years before I’ll need another battery, although I could’ve bought a new watch for less! For sentimental reasons, it was worth it, all my PB’s were done wearing it with some cherished race memories. I’ve never bothered with the faff of charging a Garmin on the hoof before, it’s not necessary on a lapped course as long as you know what lap you’re on you know how far you’ve gone. I got into the routine of shouting my number at Ada, clock the lap on my watch then dib my dobber. Val was also timing my laps and informed me that I was bang on to the minute the same as last year for the first seven laps, consistency is one of my strong points during 24 hours as long as I’m able to manage whatever challenges I have.
Pauline and I stayed together for the first lap but I let her go after that, with her ‘only’ going half way I wasn’t going to let her pull me along. As the afternoon progressed the sun was beating down and quite hot in places, I was feeling a bit wabbit and there was salt on my face, that usually doesn’t happen to me, the last time I was this sweaty in a 24 hour race was Perth 2010 and I ended up having a very tough race, spewing my guts and struggling big time. I wasn’t going to let it happen again if I could help it, I ran easy in the heat and when I have the savoury stuff that was on my food plan I’ll ask Val to add a sprinkle of salt.
From the second lap onwards I’d swap my water bottle and pick up from Val either an Ensure, Yazoo or a Weetabix milkshake, have a few mouthfuls as I walked round the wee lap then put the bottle in my blue coolbox I placed at the top of the Hayfield for Val to pick up and take back to the tent ready for the next time round. Since being treated for mouth cancer in 2013 my mouth has remained very sensitive restricting all my food to bland soft stuff, eating is a challenge and slow going at the best of times, even more so during a race, and with my saliva glands being fried from the chemo and radiotherapy I have a permanently dry mouth and have to carry a water bottle all the time, so a liquid diet is the only way I can manage a race these days with an addition of some custard, rice pudding, soup and an attempt at tinned macaroni cheese but on the plus side I had my final check-up in July, I’m five years cancer free.
I had some custard on lap six and seven and on my ninth lap I picked up my tinned macaroni cheese with a wee sprinkle of salt, it was only a 215g size and it took my two goes walking round the Hayfield to eat only half of it, Val was concerned I wasn’t eating enough, me too, to be honest, walking round base camp didn’t give me enough time to eat it, I’ll go to rice pudding next time, it doesn’t need any chewing. I have a rule for 24 hour races. I will not stop, it’s only 24 hours! So pausing to eat was never going to happen!
I’m not normally a counter when I’m running but I do it at Glenmore, counting my laps, checking the time, doing sums in my head working out how much of a cushion I had for making the 25 laps, doing fractions in my head requires a lot of concentration and I needed to use my fingers too but always a boost when I worked out stuff like at around 6.00pm that I’d covered nearly a third of my target distance in just over a quarter of the time. What gave me a giggle was adding up my all-time Glenmore laps, so on lap eight it also coincided with the race number I was wearing.162. How mad is that? It doesn’t matter how many times I’d been round, no two laps have been the same, the light is different every time, I was lucky enough to see a beautiful sunset reflected in Loch Morlich in 2013. As the sun was going down this year, it was a softer peach tone and when I was along the side of the loch the sun had just dropped beIow the horizon and the reflection of the sky turned the loch the colour of champagne, another beautiful image to keep safe in the photo album in my mind. It doesn’t matter how weary or sore running becomes, the surroundings lift you.
The colours of Scotland leave you young inside, there must be a place under the sun, where hearts of olden glory grow young.- Calum MacDonald / Rory MacDonald
|photo stolen from Lorna Maclean|
I picked up my head-torch and iPod which just went in one ear, it’s not just the route that makes this race special it’s everyone involved. Every runner is so supportive as we go by each other and great to have a conversation when we happen to have the same pace. Jo and Iona were so bubbly every time I saw them, it was easy to see they were having a great race, pacing it to perfection. The marshals and support crews were brilliant and enthusiastically shouting encouragement every time a runner went by, that’s a tough shift to keep up for 24 hours but they did! I felt a bit rude not always saying thank you, hopefully a thumbs up or nod or a smile was enough, especially when going round the bottom of base camp with a face full of custard or a milkshake moustache trying not to slaver too much down my chin.
Now dark, and cooler, I was well prepared for whatever the weather could throw at us, a choice of two rain-jackets, two pairs of waterproof trousers, several long sleeved thermals, a fleece and a down jacket plus a selection of hats and gloves, I remember the hailstones in 2014 but I’m glad I didn’t need any of it, all I added was a long-sleeved top and a peaked Buff under the head-torch. The Hayfield cooled considerably as expected but the trees on the loop held onto the warmth of day and in some spots even had the sensation of a sauna going on, I’ve never felt such a change in temperature in small areas near the loch before, the sky was clear and the stars twinkled, the moon rose, it was into its last quarter but still shone brightly, through the night I regularly kept looking up to the sky and would stagger slightly as I did, dodgy I know, but you just don’t get stars like that in Fife!
Now this is sounding all hunky-dory and I was having a brilliant hoppity skippity race, well, I was, although my legs hurt and I could feel a couple of wee blisters but that’s what you expect. At around 1.00am I yawned and that triggered some dry heaving, I never threw up and eased back a bit when it happened, mostly when I went from running to walking, a great incentive to keep running then! I managed to maintain my run/walk ratio still keeping to the markers I’d picked from the start for where to run and where to walk, keeping my breathing easy and controlled, relentlessly moving forward.
Pauline had finished her race at midnight and was doing my support giving Val a chance for forty winks. I asked Pauline for soup next lap, it might help settle my stomach, it was the same potato and leek I thoroughly enjoyed at Beinglas during the West Highland Way Race, I had a wee request that the lumps are mashed down to make it smooth and easy for me swallow. Harrumph! It was still fairly lumpy and I let Pauline know next time round, I was making no concession that she’d just covered 58 miles in 12 hours followed by a rub down with a wet wipe to freshen up and a quick change into warm clothes before pandering to my diva demands. Lucky for me Val was back on duty before Pauline made me wear the rest of my soup.
I continued to have the dry heaves, I had some flat coke, Val suggest I try some of Pauline’s diluted ginger beer she had left, that used to be my drink of choice until my mouth got so sensitive, I should’ve kept my water and just carried the ginger beer round the lap in my hand but I made the mistake of just swapping the bottles in my bottle belt, I tried to drink as much as my mouth could handle, every in-breathe felt cooling but every out-breathe I felt like a fire-breathing dragon, as least the intensity of the burning dulled my aching legs! Boy, was I glad to get round that lap and have some lovely cool water, another incentive to keep moving!
Looking for the dawn but still shrouded in darkness you are at your lowest ebb and working towards 100 miles is hard, I decided that next year my goal would be to reach an all-time of 200 Glenmore laps, all I would need to do would be 17, that would be nice, 68 miles over 24 hours would be a lovely day out… BUT to do that I would still have to get 25 laps today! There was no way I was letting go, during a big ultra you have to listen to your body and at the same time tell it to shut the fuck up, I’m not particularly numerate so concentrating on working out daft sums in my head helped drown out what my body was shouting at me.
Eventually the birds started singing, the sky lightened, and with it my body woke up and pretend that it hasn’t missed a night’s sleep, half a pot of porridge and it’s a fresh new day. Yay, around 7.00am, my lap split picked up to equal that of twelve hours ago, “Good Morning Glenmore!” I ditched the long-sleeved top as the sun rose and brought it’s warmth. I’d perked up although I was still making faces at whatever milkshake Val and Pauline were giving me, but I behaved and had a few mouthfuls each lap, my stomach still wasn’t happy but no doubt neither was anyone else's and perfectly normal for having been running for nearly a day.
I always hugged the bends on ‘the long run’ keeping to the shortest line but on my second last lap there were loud shouts ahead and a peloton of mountain bikes came haring round at speed, glad I’d kept wide, it would’ve been a bit of a bugger getting run over and resembling road-kill at this stage, I’d eased back a wee bit after my wake-up lap, no heroics were needed, I was going to make 100 miles with about half an hour to spare. Last lap, glad to get it done but a sad wee cheerio wave to all the pretty views and points I’d picked to run or walk from, “See ya next year.”
I shouted my number for the last time to Ada, pressed lap on my watch, dibbed my dobber, under the arch to celebrate the horn… no sound… Eh?... What?.... Panic! Have I miscounted?
Nah, you’re fine, the air-horn used to signal someone reaching the ton was knackered!
Relief! If I’d been mistaken there was no time for another big lap, Pauline handed me my wee cup, it had beer in it, perfect! Now for fun and frolics on the Benny Hill lap, (Bill’s name for it) round the grass, up the hill, shout my number to Matt, run down the hill, round the grass, check my watch, up the hill, shout my number to Matt, run down the hill, round the grass, check my watch, this new battery is broken! Roughly five wee laps was a mile, every time up the hill it got steeper, but the support got louder, Cat handed me some pineapple shaped sunglasses, I’d never get them on under my peaked Buff, I propped them on my bonce, Pauline gave me some Carnegie Harrier coloured garlands, they floated over my shoulder, Lois handed me my tent peg with my race number to poke into the ground at noon, it was getting close… push up the hill, belt down, sprint round the grass, push up the hill, belt down, sprint… Yaaaay! We can stop!
There is no race finish anywhere that can match this! I even managed to stay on my feet, just had to rest my elbows on my knees for a few moments to catch my breath, no need to collapse on the grass this year.
Celebratory hugs and a stroll back to the tent, it was lovely to sit down for the first time in 24 hours (going to the toilet doesn’t count) I was in that post race phase of not sure what to do with myself, I was roasting, I put on a fresh t-shirt, I was chilly, where’s a thermal, can I have a cup of tea please, which took me ages to drink. Allan had brought his bike up on the bus to Aviemore this morning and cycled out, it was great to have him here to help dismantle our home for the weekend because I just sat there, still having an occasional boak.
We took our chairs over for the prize-giving, I was so pleased for Jo and Iona, pacing it perfectly in their first 24 hour race for their podium places, the conditions this year were one of the best we’ve had, which I’m sure help 38 out of 120 runners made it to the 100 miles. I even squeezed in about half a mile further than last year, finishing with 102.61 miles and this I’m only doing 17 laps next year is just rubbish 4.00am talk, as long as I’m alive, hale and hearty I’ll be going for the 25!
|Team Carnegie - photo from Allan Macaulay|
|The 100 Club - photo Allan Macaulay|
|My dobber splits|
Glenmore 24 means so much to me, the cherished memories and support I’ve had over the years, not just in 2013, have grown richer every year, this is no ordinary four mile loop, as beautiful as it is, the effort put in from team BaM, their volunteers and runners make it what it is.
A magical event whether you’re an elite athlete or new to ultra, if you are willing to test yourself over 12 or 24 hours you will find the best support for whatever goal you want to set yourself, you’ll never know what you can do until you try, magic definitely happens at Glenmore.
My Glenmore stats.
2011 - 108 miles, stopping at 23.46.49 hours, (no wee laps in the first year)
2012 - 109.01 miles (also 1st Lady),
2013 - 25.45 miles in a 6 hours special just for me after my cancer treatment,
2014 - 89.56 miles
2015 - 107.35 miles
2016 - 103.26 miles
2017 - 102.04 miles
2018 - 102.61 miles
183 big laps, quite a few wee laps and a total of 746.28 miles