Friday, 1 June 2012

Cateran Ultra 2012

This was the second time I was to run this event, having done it last year. Just like this years D33 and Fling, the Cateran was being targeted as an extended 'training' run in preparation for the WHWR in June. However, as with the previous two Ultras this year, I wanted to achieve a PB, but not at the expense of overcooking it and endangering my WHW participation. I went into the Cateran on a high, having attained PB's in the previous two events and my confidence was soaring from everything, so far this year, going according to plan. Last year the Cateran hauled me back from a running abyss. Last year I had got things horribily wrong during the G2E and Fling and had contemplated chucking ultras. But seeing as the Cateran had been paid for, as had the accomodation, I thought I'd have one more roll of the dice. Thank goodness for that decision. Thankfully this 'intimate' event gave me the kick up the backside I needed and gave me back my confidence and belief that I could run events over these mental distances. It's a tough route and one that has runners comparing it to others in the SUMS. Me? I think it's tougher than both the Fling and the Devil. There are far more up's and down's involved, with a good number of nasty short sharp climbs. Mind you it also has a couple of long energy sapping climbs followed by thigh busting desents. And for good measure there are some very boggy sections thrown in that slow you down and get you frustrated. But despite that it's a fantastic event!
This race is set apart from the other SUMS by the numbers participating. Karen (RD) keeps the entry numbers low which creates a very family orientated feel as it's normally the same folk turning up year after year. So keep quiet about it. And I suppose it keeps the environmental impact low and on the more remote sections it keeps the landowners onside and happy.

Once again the Glenshee Hotel had done us a deal with the accomodation, well done. It's wee things like that that make it all the more enjoyable. I might add, the food is fantastic and served with HUGE servings! (sales pitch over).
Being able to stay on the Friday night made the whole pre-race stuff more relaxing and gave everyone a chance to meet folk the night before. My room was up some stairs, down some stairs and down some more stairs. I wasn't looking forward to this route the day after the race! When I arrived at Glenshee Karen and George were already in the bar, to get runners registered and save a lot of phaffing about on race morning. After saying hello to a few people I humpfed my bags to my room in the bowels of the hotel. My parents were here too on 'support team' duties. This would be a good rehersal for the WHWR. Although the Cateran uses a drop bag system it was great to have that extra support on hand at checkpoints and a cup of hot sugary tea when required. I also heard that my folks ended up plying tea and buscuits to a certain marshal at Blairgowrie! So after dumping my gear I headed back to the bar and met some more familiar faces, I had had some soup in my room, and then went for a wee walk along the first couple of miles of the race route. A few other people were out also stretching their legs. The photos below were taken on the walk I took on the Friday night.
I got back to the hotel around 8pm and decided to head to bed as I would be getting up at around 4.30am for breakfast at 5.30am. Ridiculous!!
After organising my kit for the next day I was asleep for around 9.30pm and amazingly slept right through to 4am (the hotel walls are paper thin and you can hear someone fart from the other side of the Hotel). At 4am it was bright, sunny, warm and clear skies. Fantastic! Those who ran last year will remember the apocolyptic weather we had, so bad that Karen had issued a compulsory order to wear wet weather gear towards the end. I had a cup of tea in my room, got dressed into my running kit, checked my waist pack one more time and headed down to breakfast. I managed a bowl of porridge and scrambled egg on toast with two glasses of apple juice. I chatted with Rob Reid during breakfast. Afterwards I headed back up to my room and had an energy drink and made sure my bowels were empty!!
(This Photo taken by Muriel Downie)

I headed out to my car to get my pre-packed drop bags and put them into the cars going to each checkpoint along the route. Just as I put the last bag in, George called on all the runners for Karen to give her pre-race briefing. I rushed back to my room to grab my waist pack and I was good to go. On the walk over to the start I met Mark Caldwell who was 2nd here last year. I then met Jenni for the first time and had a quick chat about my sexy socks. After taking a few photos at the start area we were off on our way.
There were 65 starters today (5 DNS). The 'elite' runners were out of sight within a few minutes, being led out by Mike Raffan, Andy John and Paul Giblin (last years Winner).
(Two photos above were taken by Muriel Downie)

The first section to Dalnaglar is just 6 miles and by the time we got to Glenshee Lodge the pack was already strung out with everyone finding their own pace. Most were already running on their own with a few metres between the next runner in front. I ran behind the same runners over this first section, including Tim Downie, 'fresh' from having run a 2 day ultra the previous weekend.
On the hill up to the first checkpoint I caught and passed Rob and Louise, who had had a nasty fall while running through the boulder field earlier (Luckily she got patched up and continued on her way). Karen was here helping out with drop bags. I quickly refilled one of my bottles, although I hadn't really drunk that much. I had a 'Nakd bar' as I left from here. I wanted to eat little as often as I could so i kept up my appetite all day. Although, I won't be using these bars again as I found them very dry and too much effort chewing and swallowing without a drink every time I took a bite. So they are being ditched from my WHWR box of goodies. As we passed the 'Welcome to Angus' sign I passed Tim and didn't see him again until the Bridge of Cally CP where he left a few minutes before I did. On a desent I caught up with a few runners that I would spend most of the day either passing or being passed by. On the climb at Forter, overlooking Auchintaple Loch, I saw Ian Beattie catching me up. I spent the whole day either just behind or just in front of Ian, but eventually pulled away from him on the final climb. On the days final climb I had thought Ian was going to catch me in Calamanach Wood, but I put my heid down and stayed in front.
On the long climb over Knaps I spotted Donald wearing his trademark 'Mc' Sandeman Tartan shorts! Seeing him made me think that either I was going too fast this early on or he was struggling as Donald is a fantastic runner over these distances. I kept him in sight until the CP at Glenisla. Even he was surprised to see me here and this confirmed that I was going a bit too fast at this early stage. Again Karen was here mucking in with the other marshalls. I had a couple of pancakes in jam, a cliff bar and a drink here. Although, I ended up wearing most of my bottle of coke when it erupted all over me, just as Karen Robertson took my picture!!
Refilled my bottles and was off on my merry way again. Ian had arrived just as I was leaving and I knew he would soon be breathing down my neck. I left here just behind an SRC runner, I think it was Jo Imre. The climb out of Glenisla is a tough old slog and all you can really do is walk it. After this there is a gentle desent where I glanced back and sure enough, there was Mr. Beattie closing in on me. On the farm track here I caught 2 other runners and then Ian caught up  too. I ran just behind them until after Balduff hill where there is a long road down hill section that meets the road into Alyth. Then another climb, on the road up to a gate that takes us on a 2 mile off road section on a steady climb high above Alyth. On this climb I passed the others and had a fairly quick desent down into Alyth. Last year at the top of this climb I had really bad cramp in my leg, one of my not so good memories from 2011 race. As I entered the CP area two runners were in front who decided to have a quick shot on the playareas Slide!! As I ran towards the CP a yappy little dog began to weave back and forth in front of me. I nearly fell over the damn thing!!
Apparently it had been doing this to a number of runners here. My parents were here waiting. Got my drop bag from Victoria and as I emptied it the wee dog came over looking for a free lunch. Shoooo!! The others I had passed then arrived, with Ian having a quicker stop and was away just before me. I was in no rush, but left with him still in sight. The climb out of Alyth is Brutal and just seems to go on forever. At first Ian began to open a gap between us but I gradually began to pull back and then discovered the reason being that he had being suffering from a bit of cramp. I passed him just as the route leaves the road at the top of the climb onto tracks again. Shortly after passing Ian I kept hearing heavy breathing but when I looked behind nobody was there. After a while of doing this I was getting freaked out!! As I ran through the forest I kept thinking a wild animal was going appear out from the trees and rip me limb from limb!! Then I glanced down and discovered the source of this breathing was that damn wee yappy dog from Alyth!! It must have been following runners up that hill and latched on to me. It ran quite happily alongside me for a couple of miles. I tried to shoo it away a couple of times but it probably thought i was playing with it.
Coming out of the forest Karen had written on the road that it was all downhill for 2 miles. Nice. So me and my new friend ran on. After a few more minutes it got fed up and stopped and ran back towards some other runners. 3 girls passed me on the long desent just before the CP at Blairgowrie. Sandra was at the juction beside the CP shouting encouragement at all the runners coming down the hill. My parents had a cup of tea waiting. Karen Robertson was here as well acting as support crew for a couple of people. I saw her at a few CP's during the day. Hopefully her leg is healing well. Grabbed my dropbag and had something to eat and drink. Ian arrived just behind me. I was enjoying this game of cat and mouse!! There's yet another long tough uphill section out of Blairgowrie, but its a short section to Bridge of Cally.
I spotted a few more runners in front, but couldn't catch up. Not long before getting into Cally Tim Downie appeared and had a very quick pit stop and was away. Ian appeared just as I was leaving. I had a creamed rice, crisps and some ginger beer before I left. Again my folks were here to helpout. Yet again another long climb out of Cally taking us up through Blackcraig forest. I caught a brief glimpse of Tim from the bottom of the climb as he topped out and disappeared. This was a long section into Enochdhu, although there is a CP at Kirkmichael but no drop bag. Large sections of this part were very boggy and hard going making you feel like you were in the middle of nowhere. I had tried catching John Duncan and got close over one boggy bit and was about 100 metres behind at one point but I slowed to walk so I could eat something and he pulled away. My feet were cold and very wet and I felt I was flagging a bit. I had set my self rough time targets for each section but I felt I was begining to fall behind schedule at this point, but had to remember that it didn't matter as this was really only a 'training run' today and I shouldn't be pushing too hard. I had thought about changing shoes at the last CP but decided there would be no point as the last climb would be very muddy anyway.
Last year when I got to Enochdhu I ran right past the CP having taken the road past it rather than the track into it!! I blamed the fog and rain last year. Today it was bright and clear and I nearly did the same damn thing. You turn at some cottages to get to the CP, I nearly ran straight on again but by luck spotted my mum pointing her camera at me and realised this was the turning to the CP. 'Get me tea!' I shouted!! Tea and a pancake went down well. Refilled my bottles for the final section. My mum then told me I was half an hour faster to this point than I was last year. I was a bit surprised as I thought on the previous section I was going very slow. So I checked my time and for a moment I though that I would push for under 12 hours. But then a moment of clarity and decided the time wasn't the issue, finishing feeling reasonably fresh was the objective. In fact finishing was the objective. I wasn't running to prove anything.  So I planned on taking it easy on this last section which has a long steady climb. I was enjoying the day and wasn't going to ruin it by trying to be a smart arse on this last 6 mile section. I wanted to finish with a smile on my face. So last years finishing time was the target.
However......... I was running well and had buckets of energy left and thought, bugger it, up the pace a wee bit as your legs feel fresh and try for under 12 hours. If i didn't get it, it wouldn't be a big deal.
So somewhere just after the farm gates after Enochdhu I uped the pace slightly. As I passed the gate going into Calamanach Wood I glanced back and saw Ian clawing his way up towards me. Sorry Ian, but I was having none of that so close to Glenshee! By the time I got to the 'Lunch Hut' I had pulled away from him and didn't see him again until the end.
It's a long tough isolated hillside up to the Lairig Gate on exposed boggy ground. About halfway up I could make out two runners in front and gave chase, although didn't give myself much hope of catching them as they were far off. I slowly began to reel them in and just below the summit a runner passed me going in the opposite direction. He told me the top is only 200 metres away and if I push I could catch two folk in front of me.  I got to the Lairig Gate and the views were fantastic over to the hills in the distance. I stopped to take a couple of photos and then saw the two in front weren't that far away.
So I legged it downhill after them. I gradually reeled them in and caught them just as the proper track ends and the grassy desent begins. Said a quick hello as I passed!! I gathered speed as I ran down Coire Lairige towards the hotel. As soon as the Hotel comes into sight the crowd outside begins cheering every runner as they come careering downhill. It gives you a real buzz getting that encouragement. I saw my dad waving as I neared the end. This is the best finish to any race, not just because its around a mile and a half all downhill but also the welcome you get. Hugs and handshakes all around. Finished in 12 hours 7 minutes, with a PB of 19 minutes. Very Happy with that!!
I finished feeling reasonably fresh and headed back to my room for a shower. I had something to eat in the bar, I was starving but couldn't finish my 'Spittle' burger as it was so big. Runners began arriving every 10 minutes or so and then last man in came in around 10 minutes before the cut off. Our man Ray was welcomed in by almost every person in the Hotel.
Job Done. We then had the presentation, where every finisher gets their minute of glory. Well done to George for dealing with the group of football numpties in the corner!
A fantastic day to run. HUGE well done and thanks to Karen for another brilliant day. Again the marshalls are the stars for standing out there all day making sure we are looked after. Thanks for the encouragement all day. I'm glad the weather wasn't like last year for you! Thanks to my parents for being on hand all day with Tea and encouragement again. And well done to all those who started and hopefully anyone who had to withdraw are feeling better now and ready for the next one. The next morning I felt reasonably fresh and even managed a walk up the hill to the large stile and a bit beyond it. I ran down. I took the photos below on the Sunday morning.
After my walk I headed in and had breakfast. Said my goodbyes to a few folk although not many were around this early on!! So mission accomplished this weekend. This was the last long run before the WHWR and I think I've done all I can to prepare. Between now and then it's all about staying sensible, fit, healthy and injury free. Hopefully everyone else will do the same. Bring It!!

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