Monday, 9 September 2013

One more off the Bucket List!

Most of us have one, we don't all own up to it, or share it, but most of us have things we want to do in/with our lives...
Since I started this running malarkey, I have always wanted to see if I could
a) run for 12 hours
b) run 50miles or more

This weekend I was lucky enough to achieve both!  I was fortunate to get a place in this year's Glenmore24 hour trail race, a fantastic event organised by Bill Heirs and Mike Adams, widely known as BaM, ably supported by a fantastic race crew.

There are 2 events, the 24 hour race and a 12 hour race, both of which start at noon on the Saturday of race weekend.  As you might be able to workout for yourself, the 12 hour finishes at Midnight and the 24 hour at 12 noon on the Sunday.  Format is that you run a 4mile loop around Glenmore forest, varied and undulating terrain I think is a fair description, as often as you can in 11/23 hours, then with 1 hour the small loop is opened.  When runners finish the loop they're on after this point, they don't go back out into the forest but stay on the small loop until the time is up.
I entered this race after the disappointment of being ill in April and unable to run the Fling, and wasn't sure how I'd cope with the lap running, as opposed to point to point, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a beautiful route, there was stony 'rooty' trail, then smooth forest road, there were steep uphills and a phenomenal downhill, there were stunning views of the forest and Loch Morlich, huge fat slugs and toads in the road when it rained at night, the biggest ants I have ever seen, the cheeriest marshalls manning the water station just past half way, the ever-smiling Ada with her helpers and the clock, registering every lap (not a job I fancy! Way too much responsibility and hard sums!!) and awesome support from all the supporters camped in the field as well as the other runners out on the course.  Maybe you've kinda got the gist by now, but I had an absolutely brilliant time :-)
We drove up to Glenmore on Friday after work and pitched our tent in the Hayfield, then we pitched another 2 tents which we were loaning to friends for the event.  Once we had organised our accomodation we took our chairs and John took his sweeties and his carry out and we joined fellow runners and friends in the 'cinema' to watch the latest Anton Kupricka film, the film itself wasn't outstanding but the giggles and tears of laughter (or induced by the smoke from the bonfire) made for an enjoyable evening, we headed off to bed at a reasonable hour.  The rain was of monsoon proprotions during the night but it didn't prevent me sleeping although I dreamt that I'd forgotten to pick up my shoes before leaving the house, half-woke and convinced myself it was ok, I could run in my new ones which I'd worn to travel up the road in, then just after 6 woke again and told my long suffering and still half sleeping hubby that I'd forgotten my shoes but it didn't matter... (and no I'd not been drinking the previous evening...) 
The field was like a marsh as we sploshed our way to the well appointed portaloos - ladies and gents(!)  and it looked like it was going to be another wet ultra for me - both my previous ones this year have been in pretty hellish weather...
A wee hour snoozing then it was time to get up and make coffee/breakfast.  No porridge for me this time, I'd decided to try something different and had sirloin steak and fried eggs.
As we enjoyed our breakfast, the rain eased a little and as others started to rouse and go about their business, the conversation turned to the forecast being that the rain was to stop by about 10am.  True enough, the sky started to brighten and by 10ish, the sun was out and the rain had stopped.  I picked up my number and vest from Ada at the registration tent, then we had a wee mooch around the x-bionic 'shop' and I treated myself :-)  I had pre-ordered some 'bionic pants' for both John and myself but I also splurged on a new running bag/vest...
Soon it was time to get kit sorted, number pinned on and then it was the race briefing.  By this time we were enjoying glorious warm sunshine and the first point Bill made was "there's some flooding on the course so you're going to get wet feet"  He wasn't joking either!
12 noon and the horn went, the race was underway!  It was a bit surreal to be heading off on a long run with no bag on my back, no gel in my pocket, nothing, however as we passed our support tables every 4 miles it was the potentially running equivalent of the all-you-can-eat-buffet (however I hardly ate anything but that's another conversation for another day... steak and eggs is definitely the way forward for me now!)

Ok I'm conscious I'm starting to ramble a bit here so I will try really hard not to give you a lap by lap account, suffice to say that I ran the first four laps too fast - but fortunately didn't suffer in the long term - even though I saw a facebook post from John which said at 2 hours in I was going too fast and it wouldn't be pretty 10 hours later - glad on this occasion to have proved him wrong - my theory such as it was being that if I could gain some time in first few hours it would hopefully be in the bank if the wheels started to fall off later.  My ultimate goal was to see if I could get to 50miles, but I was happy to accept anything over 44miles as that was a PB.  The weather was stunning, really hot for first few hours, course was beautiful and the banter and support out on the course was fab ( I think I've maybe said this already...)
I managed to settle myself after about 4 laps and was happy by then that if I could do a lap an hour I should manage 12 laps (48miles) so might just make the magic number.  It's weird and I don't know if others felt the same, but 2 things really struck me, I didn't really feel like I was going round and round, and I also wasn't really aware of the passage of time.  Starting at noon meant that race time/real time were pretty much the same but I had no real concept of  the rest of the world, the time didn't mean anything, for me it was just about ticking off the laps.  I think I was pretty consistent with my lap times and it certainly felt good, at no point at all did I have a slump of any sort, neither mental nor physical, I just enjoyed myself, I exchanged pleasantries with fellow runners when I saw them, I was happy with my own company when there were no others around - bear in mind that the 24 hour runners were doing the same course, and I expected to see more people than I did but there were some long gaps when there was nobody else in sight.
After 9 laps it was time for headtorches as it was almost dark by then, at the same time David Ross asked if he could keep me company for a lap, it was great to have him to blether with and the extra light just to build my confidence running in the dark, having been round the course a few times already, it wasn't too different trying to navigate in the dark, it almost seemed easier at times, as you didn't see the up hills, you just felt them!  Next lap I ran on my own and that was the only rain, I was up at the top of the hill when the heaven's opened, it got quite cold as I got wet and the toads came out to enjoy a soaking but it made for an interesting run downhill trying not to stand on them and not knowing if it was a toad or a stone on the path, I'm sure one of them jumped against my leg as I definitely got something cold, wet, and solid splat against my left leg as I ran down the last hill (fortunately had my calf guards on so didn't get a slimey leg!)
I was absolutely elated when I ran through the arch at the end of lap 11 as this was me into PB territory and still had time to go around again :-)  I stopped to change back into my vest and put my jacket on and David asked if he could join me again, so off we went on lap 12 - it's hard to explain but lap 12 had such a magic ring to it :-)  Stopping at the water station to say thanks again to Alice and Julie, I finished Alice's G&T in preference to water or energy drink then off I went again on the last big climb of the night, last run down and past the tiny wee bit of the route where you could meet runners heading out on the loop, there were still the 24hour folk passing and there were still calls of 'well done' and 'good job' going in  both directions :-)
Last pass under the arch, last wave from Ada and it was onto the short loop, manned by George and his crew.  This loop was round the outside of the campsite and apparently 0.22 of a mile in length, it had the horrid wee uphill and then a steep wee downhill then round we went again, and again, and...
I couldn't believe how competitive I felt at this point, I remember John saying to me when I'd done 12 laps that that was me at 48miles and still had 35minutes so I could do it if I pushed hard, and boy did I push hard!  After one lap of this course it was off with my jacket and back into vest and shorts - almost midnight and I'm racing round a field in the dark as hard as I can in vest and shorts???? (at my age??)
What a buzz!  Everytime you reached the bottom of the wee hill you had to shout out your number so that it could be recorded, then with 10mins to go George handed each runner as they passed, a tent peg with a label with your number on it.  The instruction was that when the horn sounded the end of the race you had to put the peg into the ground beside the marking tape, and I remember thinking 'what are you giving that to me now for I am going round at least twice more' :-)
Then the countdown started, less than 5 minutes, less than 2 minutes, 1 minute to go, 5,4,3,2,1!  I pushed the peg into the grass near the top of the wee hill and Jenni who was just behind me called to me, a quick congratulatory hug and we headed down to meet our folks.  John had come over to the finish to meet me, so after a few hugs and well dones from/to other finishers, we went back to the tent so I could get a jacket and trousers, we sat by our table for about 5mins or so watching the 24 hour hardies continuing on their way, and admiring the incredible display of stars in the inky black sky then made our way over to the big tent to join others and get a warming cup of tea and a seat.  I was in a funny place at this point as I was delighted I'd run for the 12 hours, delighted I'd definitely got a new PB, but at the same time just a little bit disappointed as I thought I had managed 49miles and odds, my watch hadn't started bang on the start so I knew it wasn't going to be accurate but didn't know how close or far off I was...
The gazebo was adorned with banners and balloons and at about 20 past midnight the assembled company burst into a rendition of Happy Birthday for Victoria Shanks from Stonehaven (who celebrated her 40th birthday by running 100 miles!) She declined the offer to carry her birthday balloon on her next lap but did wear her badge and stopped long enough to blow out her candles and take a piece of cake!
A wee while sitting/standing/stretching and blethering then off to bed for a few hours.  Shivering and chittering I eventually fell asleep and slept until just after 5am.  I got up, dressed and headed out to see how the all-nighters were doing, had a cup of tea and a chat with some friends then went back to the tent as John was getting up.  After breakfast and catch up we supported our friends who were still out and John took over support for Noanie to allow David an hour or so's well deserved sleep.  Noanie is an absolute phenomenon, who went on to smash the Ladies course record by running 126.2 miles but it is her story to tell and all I will say is WOW!
Sitting in the sun supporting the finish of the 24 hour race was great fun, these runners too, many of whom were on their last legs, were going through the same as I 12 hours earlier, you could see them pushing harder and harder to get as many short loops in as they could - our brain does weird things to us...

I think this is probably more than enough, there are lots and lots more memories and tales and reminiscences, but to sum it up, it was absolutely definitely the best race of my life.  I watched some wonderful friends achieve incredible distances in the 24hour race, I shared a great 12 hour race with other friends, some of whom have run further in other races, some like me who had reached new heights, but all of whom gave their all on the day/night.  The icing on the cake for me was when we got our official results at the prizegiving and I had run 50.36 miles :-)  I'd done it!  I'd ticked off 2 bucket list goals in one go!!
We spent a great weekend in a lovely place with friends and made new ones, witnessed all sorts of feats of human endeavour, shared smiles, tears, elation and disappointment and had an absolute ball!

vest and medal



  1. Great read helen, I had the same dream as you forgetting shoes lol

  2. Better than me at my first Fling when I actually did forget my shoes...

  3. Great read Helen, and congratulations on a hitting two PBs, brilliant running. I knew you enjoyed it 'cause I never saw you without a big smile. x