It didn't start well though. The race prep was a disaster. I couldnt sleep AT ALL the night before. James was out, I knew I had to be up at 5am and I must have turned over 65 times. Eventually the alarm went off and I struggled to get in gear and over to meet Karl and grab a lift with Carole Fortune, thinking all the while that I'd be too exhausted to out in a good effort.
But fortunately enough the adrenalin kicked in and the beautifully fresh air of the Trossachs helped me wake up. My muscles felt fine after last weekend and we concluded all the mud at Jedburgh had softened the impact. The start line had been changed from last year in a bid to lengthen the race to its promised 33 miles so we walked a wee while up the forest path to get to it, squeezing past cheery, surprised looking blokes in massive farm-type machinery. Then we were off, to face the first hill of a fair few in the first miles, which was a welcome way to control my early pace tendencies. To my surprise I felt great, enjoying the steady effort and the crisp freshness of the morning. It had been pouring with rain en route to Strathyre but had cleared to leave a gentle mist and scattering of hail and we were surrounded by the gorgeous snow capped hills.
|A dusting of snow/ice on the paths through the glen|
The route is roughly out and back, with the exception of extra miles added to the return to take you down sleepy Balqhuidder B roads after coming down from the hill instead of the path we'd headed out on from Strathyre. After checkpoint 3, we were back on the same beautiful railway path, and the sun was just beginning to emerge from behind the morning's snow clouds. I still felt strong but and incredibly free without my Garmin, with just the trusty OMM waist pack for company (it survived the mud of Jedburgh; unlike my white top). I knew I'd begin to tire soon so was just trying to keep the pace steady and run efficiently, concentrating on my stride and contact with the ground.
A few miles later Emma appeared again and passed me, she looked strong too and I did my best to stick behind her. We hit the downhill in what seemed like no time at all, which I think I hammered slightly too hard. After that I stuck my my iPod on for a diversion, the album reminding me of the elation of finishing Jedburgh. I recalled from last year that the last 6ish miles of road through Balquidder were really quite undulating and predictably this did drag on a bit again this year, but knowing they were coming, I tackled every hill with an 'I can take you on' attitude. Another reason why knowing the course helps so much - not just navigationally but as a mental motivator too.
And then all at once the shoogly bridge preceeding the finish line appeared, and the finish was right there with Ada's cheers and my go-much-faster friend Karl already getting changed.
|With Michael and Ian Beattie at the finish|
So, feeling great at the moment, I'm reluctant to admit defeat and not race again until the New Year, but the decision has been made for me (for Scottish ultras anyway) as I'm back on Mull the weekend of the Winter Ultra on 7th December.
My running energies instead will be focused on using the winter months to get in some speed work, get back into the gym to build core strength and plan an adventure to run half way down to Dad's in Cheshire for Christmas, leaving a day ahead of James. 2 out of the 3 wouldn't be too bad if I still can't face the gym claustrophobia....
Happy winter running