Monday, 10 November 2014

Zeiler Waldmarathon

The year was 1987 and i was running the "Scottish City Link" Glasgow Marathon at the age of 21, i had just finished in sub 4 hours, in those days i did not train properly, i was not in a club so it was basically an attitude of you will be fine, i remember  saying to myself as i waited at the bus stop (did not drive either) that i did not enjoy that and would never go back until i was a vet, at that time age 40 Cat, 40 came and went and before i knew it i would be 6 months from turning 50, how time flys, anyway i had been lured by the prospect of running a forest Marathon in Bavaria by my friend Sam Green, this was appealing as i have enjoyed the last 4 years running up and down some of the many trail runs in Scotland

It was thursday 6th November and i was sitting at my desk when i got the text message from Sam to say that the airline where advising to seek alternative routes on to your final destination on arrival at Munich due to the Deutsche Bhan (railway) who had just organised a 4 day strike, i can tell you it didn't half deflate me, i was so up for spending time running a forrest marathon, upon getting home it seemed as the day went on there was still signs of limited rail travel within the country so we made the decision still to be there, but we were unsure what to expect upon arrival.

The flight took off of time and we arrived just over a few hours later in Munich, the airport train arrived within minutes all was looking good and before we knew it we were in the main station, still needing a further 3 trains though, next we boarded the Nuremberg train, a longer journey but we were getting closer and could get some sleep, before we knew it we were on train three for Bamberg, we were in the station for 10 minutes before the announcement came that the train was cancelled due to industrial action, we made our way out and eventually got a taxi to Ziel Am Main, 50 euros lighter but at least we had arrived at our hotel.

After 12 hours on the go we went straight over to register,  the organisers were amazing we even had a beer with them, we tried to get an early kip but it is hard when your on the go all day and you mind does not want to shut down, thinking about the race,  i think it was about 02:30am before i nodded off then suddenly it was 7:30 time to prepare for the race, with breakfast out the way we headed to the start, the organisers lay on shuttle busses to take you back and forth from all the events taking place.

Course Profile
I immediately went for a jog up the first climb for around 800 mtrs and it was still climbing, so i about turned and headed back to the start line, we were all called forward just then Sam tells me the guy behind me won the event last year and one to my right is also a regular on the podium just then the countdown began and we were off, as we started to climb towards the first km, Adam Zahoran who is unknown to us running in the Red vest from local club Bamberg went to the front, i sat in behind as we continued to climb up for just over 2 kms, still no idea how close the other two runners are behind me, the forest path then opens out on to a dust path before descending slightly to 3 kms, where there is a section of grassy field section, this lasts for about 200 mtrs before turning left back on to the forest trail again which continues to climb up and down until 13.5 kms where you run on the road for 1 km, at this point i could not see Adam as i believed he had opened up a considerable gap on me and as i looked back up the hill, i could not see the third person either, i continued along knowing that i was 4 kms from the half way point, the course continued to twist and turn, i could now see half marathon runners, and nordic walkers from the 7.5 and 21 km events.

As i approached the 21 kms point i saw my time, it was 1:22:20, i knew that it was unlikely i could sustain this for a second time around the course, as i hit the 2nd km again i was starting to struggle and i still has 19 kms of course to go, i just kept working away on my own until i started to pull in the back markers for the half marathon, this in some way gave me a short boost but my legs were worse for wear on the hills so this meant a short walk up the climbs at around 32 kms, just then i was passed on the hill and had moved in to 3rd place, i just starting to wonder where and when i may get caught
with the next runner, i kept working away, trying to use the half marathoners as my focus to get me to the last feed station which is at 38kms from here there is a slight undulation but also the great downhill stretch back the the finish, as i came around the bend i could see the split in the path, i knew i had done enough to secure the third spot in 2:57:17, i waited for my Sam to cross the line but as it had passed the 3:30 mark i knew something had happened eventually i saw him come down to cross the finish line in 3:48:03 to tell me that he ran injured, the whole of the second half.

We headed back for the bus so we could get changed for the prize giving that takes place in the local school, i got talking to Adam Zahoran, the winner who had told us that he took a wrong turning somewhere in the forest but managed to get back on tack, not sure where he re emerged as apparently a local photographer who took the photograph above said that at 25 kms, i was in the lead. The organiser had advised Sam in advance that something was planned for the day  (hence the reason he had to finish) this left Sam wondering, the mystery was soon revealed during the Marathon awards when Hubert changed in to a kilt and had a piper booked who played on stage for around 10 minutes a very fitting end to what can only be described as my best marathon experience ever, maybe i wont wait another 27 years.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Clyde Stride

Clyde Stride Ultra Marathon:

The Clyde Stride has always been my first love of the Ultra Marathon scene, this was where in 2010, i first moved up to the distance and have enjoyed the course ever since, this year the event would take place on the 27th September instead of mid July due to the path closures in place for the Commonwealth Games, this also meant that the Race would not form part of the Sums Series.

I had arranged a lift from my friend Gerry Craig that morning for around 7:45, Gerry had previously offered me the first leg in his relay team but i wanted to have a go at the full event as i had pulled out the previous year at 32 miles with bad leg cramps and i had spent the month of September putting in the training for this, we headed over to Bishopbriggs to pick up Mark Ashby who would run the 2nd leg and Gerry's brother Michael who would go out on leg 3, leaving Gerry the glory leg and Alison Kerr who we met at Partick was going to do the 1st leg.

Once at Partick railway station i got my number said hello to a few People, James Stewart and Lorna McMillan who were giving out the numbers along with John McLaughlin and Gavin Harvie, Craig MacKay and Ally Robb to mention a few, we nipped in for a quick coffee before heading over to the start line. 

As we stood waiting for the gun to go we had a brief talk by our race starter, Rose Harvie, who spoke about how she runs and anyone can do it, she was living proof, it was then time to head off in the direction of the River Clyde to the New Lanark World Heritage Village, the race always starts quite quick due to the small downhill section next to the Clyde Expressway, off we went with Grant Jeans, a past winner leading the field followed closely my myself, within a few moments the relay runners came tearing past us, i recognised Alan Tait along with Stuart MacDougall and another runner who i did not know opened up a considerable gap on us, Grant continued to set the pace and i sat in just behind him, as we approached checkpoint 1 (Cambuslang Bridge) i had managed to open up a few seconds at this point, this would allow me to get my drinks which Gerry Craig would pass to me, i gave myself some time to drink walking over the bridge as Grant ran past, i then got started again and sat in until we reached where the path splits and becomes trail, just passed the fire station at which point i moved in to the lead only to be passed by another relay runner gliding like a gazelle through the trail,  eventually we were back on the path following the River Clyde as it circled around Bothwell Castle, on arriving at Bothwell Bridge we had to take a detour due to ongoing works at the BothwellHaugh Nature Reserve, we were guided by the excellent marking again put in place by David Mooney circling around what must be one of the busiest road junctions.

I arrived at Checkpoint 2 (Strathclyde Park) and was still siting in first position unaware of how close the next runner was to me , again i got a few cheers again as i got my drink from Gerry, this time i ran through without stopping, the weather conditions were perfect as i passed the loch side heading towards the Water Centre, my watch bleeped on the 20 mile mark, there was not a runner in sight as i travelled down through Barons Haugh, it was a case of just getting to the next checkpoint at Mauldslie Bridge and evaluating it from there. as i came up the small incline at checkpoint 3 i looked back and could see a runner close behind me, as Gerry and Mark passed me my drink, Gerry said that his brother Michael was the runner, Just then Lee said that i was on for a course record, no pressure then i said, i took my juice and got a few words of praise from Alan and Gayle Tait, Gayle was waiting to go out on the last leg for her relay team.

I was now on the last leg and Gerry came past me telling me just to hang in there, a mile or so later another relay runner came past who i had to shout at on two occasions to about turn as he went off the course, i just kept counting down the miles, i had now ran out of juice and whilst i walked up a set of steep steps another relay runner passed me, i was now around the 35 mile mark after walking for a couple of minutes, then got a second wind and continued through kirkfieldbank, as i came down on to the bridge i passed John McLaughlin my empty drinks bottle as i knew i could now get to the end, it was a short run down and over the gate before the small climb back up on to the road, once on to the road i knew it was a case of down the zig zag path and a final walk up the last set of stairs where i could see the Heritage Village, what a welcome sight, once on to the road i had a quick look back from the bottom and could not see anyone, it was just a matter of hanging in there to the end, i could not believe how delighted i was to see what i call the "hole in the wall", which is where you can see the finish line.

After crossing the finish line Lee immediately asked what time i had, my watch was showing, 4:42:14, as my watch was on auto pause this of course had a couple of pit stops, which would add on some time overall,  Lee gave me a hug saying well done but that it looked like i just missed out on a course record, at the end of the day i was still delighted as i had now beaten my previous times with a huge margin.

I would just like to express my thanks to the Race Director (Lee), Gerry Craig who had his own race to run, all the people who helped to make the race what it has become, the sponsors and of course all the entrants, see you all next year.

River Ayr Way Challenge

River Ayr Way Challenge:

The 13th saw me head down for the River Ayr Way Challenge , this year the field was back down to around 50 entrants, i don't know why this is but its a great race, the route has in previous years moved the finish line from the Citadel to Dam Park Running track, this year the finish would be the latter.

We headed off on the coach to Glenbuck Loch which is where the race starts, on the way i got chatting to Craig MacKay, Carol Martin and Mark Caldwell, i think i was the only one not chasing points in the SUMS series, due to my lack of running throughout the year, before we got underway i said a few hellos James McPhate and Alan Tait and his wife Gayle, who would be first Female home, after a short spell of hanging around the race got underway. Myself, Craig and Mark set of at a steady pace, around mile 7 the gap opened slightly and before i knew it i had missed a turning, as i tried to get back on course i could see in the distance the Orange top of Craig as i shouted he gave me a wave and now i had to make up ground, chasing the guys back in,  i eventually caught Roger Greenaway and then Craig and eventually Mark. Mark and i decided to run together for a while before the gap opened up again just before Sorn.

After passing through Sorn i would remain on my own for the remainder of the race, passing through the villages of Catrine, Barskimming, Failford, Stair, Annbank and Auchencruive before arriving back in Ayr, the route was not without a few mishaps where i took a further 3 wrong turns, the worst one was at Tarholm Bridge one where i was guided by the marshall straight across road and ended up in the River Ayr on a dry sea bed, don't ask me why, i should know better, i have run the course a few times before, perhaps i could blame what can only be described the hottest day for racing, something i have not experienced since the Highland Fling a few years ago, it was only by chance that as i climbed out of the River and ran back to the road a cyclist following the race, George McLaughlin showed me how to get back on course which i was grateful for, George advised me that the nearest runner was around 17 minutes behind me,  from that point in there was about 8 miles of running still to do, so as i was on my own i just kept the head down and knew that all i had to do was not lose control of the race and try to remain focussed, once over the second last bridge i saw Tim Downie on his bike which gave me another boost, finally it was back on the the path and over the last bridge before arriving into Dam Park Stadium to finish with a win which would only be my second ever over the ultra distance.