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.