Having been smitten by last year’s glorious sunshine and blue skies, along Aberdeen’s breathtaking Deeside Way, I was sure to return for the first Ultra in the Scottish Series 2013. Little did I know how different the weather was going to be…
…Aberdeen’s D33 Ultra – “D33” = ‘Drenched33!’ O_O Rain, sleet, wind and snow
– I LOVED IT!!!! 🙂
Having spent the winter months as most of us do, in Scotland, getting accustomed to the wet and wild attitude of Mother Nature – who am I kidding, this includes our Summer as well! I was fairly conditioned to running in whatever Aberdeen’s forecast had to give. Through the race, I had actually noticed myself welcoming down the harsh weather, arms out and palms of my hands to the sky, smiling from ear to ear, pleased with myself in finding that the force that was supposed to be hampering my run, was actually helping me out.
I had planned on using the D33 as part of my training schedule for the mighty WHW later this year, so I was out to run a comfortable race with no major targets other than run comfortably and complete the route without causing any injury. I had also been looking at running ‘light’ this year. With the distances I had ran over the winter, commuting/running to and from work every day, I was looking at refining my gear for specific races. With the 20 miles that I have been running every day to work and back, I had noticed that I don’t actually need to carry as much water as I have in the past. So running the odd ten miles to a checkpoint / drop bag area was of no concern to me. This approach has been something that my trainer and buddy Donnie Campbell (GetActiveRunning) has been drilling into me for over a year now! So, here I was planning on running my first ever race without the trusty kitchen sink on my back, “just in case!” 😉 I had managed to source the smallest and thinnest of running belts I could find, and planned to run with it and nothing else. Ultra runner Kilian Jornet along with Donnie have both highlighted how it is possible, to hit the Mountains and Munros, running light, relying on what the environment around you can offer, especially within Scotland. You’re never going to be far from a water source in the Scottish Highlands. This natural approach to running really caught my attention, as I’m a keen bushcraft fan as well as the whole idea of adding another phase into how I relate to my environment, as I run with it, not just through it.
So here I am at the start of the race, with my ever supporting and suffering wife Eilidh, all snug in my sweat pants and hoodie. 3 minutes before kick off – so I strip… O_O CH!LLY!!! Chills, excitement and adrenaline pumping I’m ready to switch off and run… then from no where comes this pair of rather large feet bouncing my way… “Minty!” 🙂 Haven’t seen his friendly face in a long while, a very quick good luck and mandatory ‘man hug’ and we’re ready for the countdown…
…and we’re off! I’m away with the pack and loving the fact that I can stretch off what’s been quite a frustrating taper week. Fresh in my mind, were the words of wisdom from Minty, “Stay calm, don’t get carried away. Run easy, it’s a long one.” I intended to do just this as I was focusing on this being a training session but boy did it feel good to just open up a little, and run! 😉 It wasn’t long until I found a rhythm I was happy with, that also matched a fellow runner (Craig) and we got chatting. As it turned out Craig was part of a running group up in Muir of Ord and happened to know my sister in-law Helen. Helen also runs but from all accounts Craig new her more for her accordion playing and ‘partying’ – funny that! 😉 As it turned out, myself and Craig were a great match together, pace wise, and found ourselves running and chatting the whole way out to the 16.5 mile marker and my first drop bag.
I played with a few options for refueling myself for the return leg and ended up leaving my jam sandwich, opting for a quicker banana and bottle of Red Bull. It was a first for me, taking on the Red Bull but I was told that I\d get quite a boost from this and I was willing to give it a go. A few Percy Pigs were also bagged, which Craig seemed to enjoy and then we were off once more. What I have managed to miss out here was that I also bumped into a good pal, Norrie during the first half of this race. He was running well and happy to blether and have a catch up. I have always admired how Norrie is able to run so many races on minimal setup and this was ever more evident when he explained that his halfway plan was to simply turn around and run straight back, with no hunting and time wasting for a drop bag. Bottle in hand, Norrie was off!!!!
By the time I’d reached the halfway point, the weather had reached it’s most testing. We started the day with overcast, then moving on to light drizzle but the forecast had us all expecting the inevitable rain, sleet and wind. I chose not to carry my jacket, as I was enjoying the new ‘lighter’ approach and I knew that the current winds would not hamper my body in heat loss. My plan was to continue running at a pace that was comfortable and kept me warm. That and I knew I had a cracking lunch to get back to at the finish line! 😉
It wasn’t long after enjoying these drop stations, that my next one came up. The third and final marker before covering the last 8 miles. What I had arranged for this stop, was a rather quick swig of nourishment / nutrition, erm… in the form of baby food! 🙂 I had already spoken to the kind lady collecting for this station, earlier that morning, and she was more than happy to place my sachet of erm ‘food’ in her pocket and all I had to do was shout out as I approached her. Obviously, with me being no shrinking violet, I was happy to approach this support point and shout aloud “No.47 BABY FOOD!” :O@ With shock on the face of a runner beside me, as well as the support volunteers, only one laughed and knew exactly what this crazed runner was after – though one of the other crew members did kindly offer to ‘burp’ me! 😉
The next thing I know I’m hitting the 26.6 mile marker and clocking 3hrs 34mins – this made me happy and was now my marathon PB! 🙂 I felt strong and fresh, with only the wind biting at the back of my wet hands. Things were good and I bounced along some more – ACDC Black in Black, playing in my ears and chewing on some Percy Pics! 🙂
Funnily enough mile 27-28 seemed the longest but I was already focused on the route and chatting away to another keen marathon runner, who has ran every Edinburgh Marathon since they have begun. Thankfully I got to spend the last few miles of the race on my own and just get time to enjoy my own ‘self’ as well as enjoy the welcome that awaited…
…just 1 mile shy of the finish line, I thought I was experiencing my first ‘ultra hallucination’ – here was a guy standing on a bridge above me, wearing a jester hat and playing a didgeridoo!!! He was welcoming everyone in with a single wee trump, a smile and a wave!
And before I knew it, the entrance to Duthie Park was in sight and I was giving ‘Loon Dod’ the biggest ‘man hug’ of the day!
Just when I thought the weekend couldn’t get any better, Rachel provides me with THE BEST post race breakfast ever! Alaskan Benedict – an eggs benedict but replacing the bacon with hot smoked salmon.