Friday, 16 September 2016

Marton to Wanganui Relay (or ultra)

There is a place in New Zealand's North Island called Marton. There is another place, 30-something kilometres away by a main road, called Wanganui. If you decide to take the country road between the two buzzing metropoles, the journey will take you a pleasureable 66km. And that is the prefered route of the Wanganui Harrier Club who organise a relay between the two towns.  Note; despite the joyous experience I had between these two villages, there really is no need to visit either town if you are a tourist in New Zealand. 

I emailed the race organiser, Bill, on the Tuesday before the race asking if I could enter but would need to give him my entry form and payment on the day. I received a very friendly reply and was in the race. I wish all ultras would be this straightforward to enter.

Pre race selfie

Race Details

Marton to Wanganui at a distance 66km.

Flat road with some inclines and gravel.

Ten relay legs with either ten person teams (we will call them big teams), three person teams, pairs or solo runners. There are also composite teams which involves some people running legs and some people walking legs. Do not ask me which legs were for running or walking. And finally there were solo walkers and teams. Starting times were as follows;

7am - solo walkers and walking teams
8am - three person teams, pairs, solos an composite teams
9:30am - big teams

Marton to Wanganui

We made it to Marton from Wellington after departing at 5:10am. One of my crew, Sarah, was still on the dancefloor at 11pm on the Friday night so I was relieved when she bounced into the bathroom in the wee hours full of energy for the two hour drive. We picked up my second crew member, Neisha, from Bulls. Neisha was roped into supporting at 10pm the night before when Sarah was still out dancing.  Note; Bulls is definitely a must-stop for tourists. Not only is the whole name-thing hilarious (the town like no udder is unforgetabull) but their public toilets are also top quality.

A bunch of us wearing various coloured numbers started off from Marton Park. I was number 2080-something; a number which did not reflect the number of participants in the solo event. A few runners went off fast but we mostly all plodded. I guessed I was somewhere in the middle; having no idea who was running what. I was quickly lured by an interesting yellow vest and started running with my new bestie; Peter from Palmerston North. And so began our journey of friendship.

Peter and I tearing up the tarmac

Being part of a relay is exciting; even when you are not part of the relay. Cars and vans came past offering support and liquids. As the roads were quiet, they could stop and chat to their team members. Sarah and Neisha (hereby refered to as my A-team crew ladies) took longer than other team vehicles to come past. This is because they stood at the approximate 2km mark for a considerable length of time, with pom poms in hand, before realising that all the runners had already been past. I also did not initially recognise them as Sarah turned a corner rather quickly at one point on our morning drive while I was attempting to put my contact lenses in. The lenses flew out and were lost to the car floor.

Peter was in a three person team and a repeat offender at this event. I declined his team member's offer of a snake sweetie. Risk of choking on those bad boys for me. That is why I ate all of them out of the pick and mix the night before. Peter and I jogged through the first leg together without a worry. We solved numerous world problems while I ate my whole bag of apple and mandarin segments. The A-team crew ladies executed a flawless first checkpoint, with Neisha (at six months pregnant) handing me my water and then jogging alongside me with my food while I handed back my water to Sarah who was waiting further down the road. The A-team crew ladies' first crewing experience and they were nailing it.

The second leg went as straightforward as the first. Everyone around us seemed pretty consistent and we all jogged on down the country road. At one point there was a lamb on the loose who refused to let me ride it. Fortunately, the cars supporting the race all seemed sensible and I am sure that the lamb did not become edible via it's roadkill status.

At the start of leg three, I lost Peter as his female team mate took over and I ran a distance behind her and some others for some time. Sometimes I was a little chilly in my t-shirt with the wind and other times I was a little warm. The A-team crew ladies would drive past screaming out the window; mostly words of support. They stopped at numerous places and would jump out at me waving pom poms while we attempted to take selfies. It was serious business.

Team selfie

I caught a guy wearing a Nathan backpack assuming that he was also doing the solo. He was running in the pairs but training for Tarawera. He was taking on electrolytes. I was going to down some orange juice at the next checkpoint. So far I had been eating my prepared bags at each checkpoint; either apples and mandarins, trail mix with sweeties, bananas or crisps.

Each leg had been allocated a rating of easy, medium or hard with a short description and the distance. The only one that I could remember was that leg seven was a short 2.5km leg because it was all uphill. To my brain, this meant that the other legs would incur some slight undulations but no long hills. Upon jogging leg four I realised that this was an inaccurate assumption. There was a sharpish hill, later followed by a long gradual climb. As I passed striped vest runner (possible also in a three person relay as I had seen one of his team mates earlier and would see another later) and he commented that he had been told that this was a flat leg! We got to the top of a long climb only to realise that the road was a hairpin and still climbing. I was in great spirits but feared it would be a challenging 66km if there were a bunch more of these climbs. I had estimated that the race might take about seven hours but it may take me longer if it keeps going like this.

Upon finishing leg four, Peter and his third team mate were asking me if I had passed a girl; which I had not. Unfortunately, their female team mate who had been in front of me had not yet finished her leg. She was lost. There had been a t-junction earlier on that leg and a crew car had pointed me in the right direction. She had likely gone right there instead of left. With that established, and with a mouthful of crisps, I carried on. The A-team crew ladies sent my husband Scott the following message; A runner is lost. It is not Antonia. A proud moment for the family.

It looks like Sarah is shouting at me and I am about to cry

Holding up traffic by dancing on a bridge
Trying to outrun a pregnant lady

Leg five was to be a shorter, easier leg. I appreciated striped team's runner jogging along to a speaker playing Rod Stewart. Sweet beats. The A-team crew ladies were driving next to me as I completed leg five, taking us all by surprise and evoking panic with the ladies. I told them just to meet me further down the road with my snacks, playing it relaxed while they pondered their futures as crew members.

By this time, I had started passing walkers. Whether they were solo walkers, walking teams or composite team walkers, I have no idea. I gave them all encouragement on the way past and they all gave some back. A very friendly bunch. There were repeated requests for me to catch the old fella running further ahead; Peter's third team mate. It was a little soon in the race for me to go crazy on the legs.

Leg seven; hill time. So after running a marathon, you then run up a hill. I told the A-team crew ladies that I would probably walk up the hill. They were not having it and preceded to tell me that I would be running the whole way up. But they didn't understand, all the runners around me were in teams and I was by myself so I could not go as fast as them up the hills. No excuses they screamed, waving their pom poms at me in the most threatening manner that pom poms can be waved. So other than a bathroom stop in God's acre on the way up, I ran the whole way up. And by run, I plodded slowly up. As I reached what I thought was the summit, a supporter called out that the hill would start around the corner. There was no way I would be able to continue plodding if it got any steeper. Fortunately, he was telling a porky pie and I had conquered leg seven. There was a roar of support at the top from both the A-team crew ladies and other support crews.

The A-team crew ladies shake their pom poms at the top of the hill

I had to dig deeper for leg eight. There were some long straights and some undulations that seemed harder now that my legs were a bit tired from the hill. The A-team crew ladies did manage to take an epic selfie of the three of us while they were driving and I was running. Some talent there. There was also some talent in the walker's race, with some of them absolutely storming it. I think that race walking is so much harder on the cardiovascular than jogging. Approaching the end of leg eight I went to continue down the country road but was fortunately told to make a right turn onto a gravel road by some crew cars. Everyone was great at helping each other out in this event.

While Sarah put a daffidol in my braid I stopped and drank some coke. I was eating a little less but fortunately with 66km it would not matter if I did not stay on top of nutrition; I knew that I would get through and I was not going to walk any of it as I had run all the way up that hill. I limped out to start leg nine with a relay runner of some description passing me. I enjoyed the first dirt gravel section with curled downhill. The next undulating gravel section was also enjoyable when I could run in the car grooves. Not many cars were allowed to enter this section because it is only a single-track road. When a car did come up behind me I had to run on the lump of loose gravel and it was tricky for my now-tired legs to work extra hard in the gravel like this. The A-team ladies came past blaring a shared favourite from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack; I've had the time of my life...

Another runner passed me near the start of leg nine also, giving me lots of support as he passed just as he had throughout the day as a spectator. Unfortunately, his crew member kept stopping her car and I had to keep running in the loose gravel and was having trouble. I passed a lady who may have been in the pairs event who seemed to be having a good time but also experiencing the same difficulties with the car. I picked up the pace a little as we came off the gravel as I could see some cars parked in the distance and thought that must be the end of the leg. It wasn't and the plod until the end of the leg felt very long. The A-team crew ladies were stopped at a t-junction to ensure I went the right way.

Three of the big relay teams had passed me so far. You could tell them apart from the smaller relay teams as they flew past in their club vests having started 90 minutes behind me. These were the only runners too exhausted on their 7km legs to acknowledge the support I gave them as they passed. Fortunately for them, I did not lose my manners on the 60+km I had so far ran.

You will all be delighted to know that the daffidol has not yet fallen out of my braid although my husband is now drunk in Scotland and sending incoherent texts. Unknown to myself the A-team crew ladies had been keeping the world updated on my progress through Snapchat. Not easy given the lack of reception in this rural area of the world.

As I entered the start of the final leg I squealed with delight! The previous leg had been almost 9km and felt it whereas Neisha informed me that I only had five-something kms to go on the final leg! They could not get a park at the checkpoint as all the big teams were now there in their vans, not cheering for me. I wanted to tell them that I had run the whole bloody thing but fortunately, I still had those manners. I did get a cheer from a passing car who understood my running distance which elevated me back to premium spirits. Later they would give me a box of Maltesers :)

Probably Coke's next pin up girl

Not knowing the course, I decided to wait before bruning the last of the legs. I figured I had about ten minutes of fast running in me so did not want to waste it too early. The last leg was flat but the roads were long and straight. I did not see a single runner but almost got hit by numerous cars coming towards me. These were not event-affiliated vehicles (they were very considerate) but probably locals who did not want dafties such as myself jogging along their streets.

The A-team crew ladies were parked at another junction and pointed me across a bridge rather the continue straight along the road. There were good instructions for each leg but I could not remember all ten. The road turned right and then, bam, there is the finish line. I hear the girls screaming in the car next to me and glance left to see them abandon it next to the road and then run across in front of cars so that they can finish with me. There is much excitement. I take an age having a Dundee shower and putting on warm clothes before confusing the coffee cart by ordering an espresso on the rocks.

At the prizegiving I find that I have come first overall, having beaten all the men and finishing in six hours and eight minutes. According to past results, I believe this means that I have the fastest female time to date. I do not think that any solo runners would have had a clue where they came as I did not meet any in the race. I may have passed one somewhere after the hill as he was struggling but it is hard to tell. Thank you to the long table of intoxicated runners and walkers in front of us who gave me a big cheer when my name was announced. I think that they won one of the team events after 14 years of trying. Love the persistence.

I did manage to win a spot prize but unfortunately the wine was all gone. Luckily I had packed a cheeky can for the road. A Garage Project Lola; cheery cola beer. I feel like it was made for ultras.

A huge that you to Bill and the other race organisers who put the event on. It was a great day with great people; relaxed, friendly fun. Also, a huge thank you to Sarah and Neisha who were phenomenal at their debut crewing duties and definitely the most enthusiatic out there on the day!
Team finish

Friday, 2 September 2016

St Cuthbert's Way

St Cuthbert's Way Ultra

Trail Outlaws

Saturday 16th July 2016

Holy Island to Melrose - 100km

Fittingly for a cross border run, I have failed to write my blog due to being in several countries. There was a wedding in Seattle, a beer festival in Portland, some rock hiking in Vancouver, a sister's wedding in Wellington, some cockel collecting in rural New Zealand, a beach holiday in Fiji, some burger tasting back in Wellington and finally some volcano climbing in Vanuatu. I did write this originally sitting in a Fijian airport waiting for my friend Mareta to arrive. Unfortunately, my first effort got lost in the cyber ocean. 

Initially there was some confusion over St Cuthbert's Way and St Oswald's Way. I was not actually sure which event I had entered, nor the difference between the two routes. I was after the July event. Fortunately, the event organisers can tell their religious dudes apart. We started at Holy Island and ran to Melrose. From my limited knowledge, I believe we were running it in the opposite direction from St Cuthbert himself. Earlier in the year, I had the privilege of visiting Holy Island on a school trip to learn about Vikings. The upside of this meant that I knew where the toilets were. A key advantage.

I was pleased to enter the event a few weeks before, a rarity in the overpopulated ultra field these days. An event that still allows last minute entries ensures it is a low key one; just the kind I like. The cut-off time was also generous. It was going to be a slow slog for me and I do not like a time pressure. We hang out on road, get told to take it easy at the start and then we trundle off.

Holy Island, St Cuthbert's Way ultra start

Holy Island is the starting point so that the tide will not be an issue for finishers. Although that would be a laugh and the double is tempting. A few runners sprint off at the start but most of us take it easy and enjoy the view as we run across causeway in some classic British sunshine. I snap some photographs and appear on some runner's video. That video is likely to be a global hit now. Scott drives past and passes out my sunhat; Tour de France style. Halfway out is an emergency hut, in case we have misjudged the tide. It would have been funny to cram all the runners in there. We pass a few signs telling us to turn back if our tyres are submerged in water. I look down. I've forgotten my tyres.

Once on the mainland we take a left and duck behind some giant concrete cubes for a game of pretend paintball; pow, pow! Across a railway track, plod up an incline. Stop and look at signs with people. Turn in some circles. Stop and look at some other signs. Have a laugh. Look at maps with people. Not my own. The compulsary kit list includes a compass and map although I cannot competently use either so it is a waste of time for me. The kit list is slightly excessive which means I cannot carry enough liquids or food in my pack. There are waterproof trousers (and let's face it, no one can run in these), a waterproof jacket (I usually pack this anyway), hat and gloves (even with my Pacific blood I'm not going to touch these during a summer 100km), a whistle (fortunately attched to my bag) and a bottle opener (no wait, I just added that myself).

A road crossing. Bramble bushes without brambles. That is my main food source for today wiped out. At some point, a checkpoint. Maybe this is Wooler. The organisers very kindly let me register at the race start rather than drive the extra miles on the Saturday morning to register in Melrose or Wooler. This means that I do not have drop bags but fortunately Scott is here with some sushi and a Lucozade. He knows how to please a lady. My tracker that I was given at the start is not tracking me. It is not turned on. So we heave it out of my over packed bag and turn it on. Now all my fans at home can track me as I run across the border.


The villages are cute and initially I think that one may be holding a tea party for the Queen as there is so much union jack bunting. Ahh, still in England. Later, two guys come flying past who were already ahead of me. They got lost in the British jungle somewhere. You have to look carefully for the signposts, analyse them for a while and then wait for another runner to analyse also. A group of us run up a hill towards a signpost so that we can then run across the hill, following the route correctly. Unfortunately, one thing I found in this event is that not everyone follows the route, so a bunch of runners just cut across instead.

There is a nice variety of terrain and we bounce over tufts of grass. While the lads about me are friendly enough, one of the guys overdid the cola at the last checkpoint and is burping some belters in quick succession. I decide to move on; not a musical concert I particularly need to stay for.

I catch Alan, running in those tiny shorts of his. He's not doing the double today but will be running another ultra tomorrow. Half a night of sleep; plenty. We take a wrong turn and bush whacked our way for a bit until a tourist told us to enjoy our view of the waterfall. Err, maybe an additional scenic hotspot is not currently required. So we backtrack and another group of runners call us to the right path.

Numerous cars come towards us on a small road. A wedding. It seems my invitation was lost in the post. Those delivery drivers are never paid enough. I'd be pinching all the mail and attending strangers' weddings if I was a postwoman too. And then there is a checkpoint but no Scott as it is not that easy to access. I am well thirsty due to my limited water supplies and throw back cola.

Alan and I head out of the checkpoint and climb up some gravel hills with another friendly lady. A fork confuses us but after some thought we head through some woods. I get ahead a bit, enjoying the rolling undulations until I come to a T-junction. I am running on the St Cuthbert's Way but neither arrow has that particular path listed. Hmmm. I turn around, hoping to see Alan and the lady coming. No one. I jog down to some walkers. Have you seen runners? Yes. Lots of them. So, are you walking the St Cuthbert's Way? Yes. Excellent, I am nailing this navigating.

Weeeee down some hills. I see some children playing in a river so I call out an excuse me as I splash through. I glance to my left; bridge.  What a dickman I am. Some not-so-locals are having a party. I walk up a road anxiously looking for arrows and signs. And then down. I have been by myself without seeing anyone for a while. Relief when I find a village and ask some locals which direction to go in. After trotting where I think they are pointing, they call out, as I clearly cannot even run across a road without getting lost. A few hundred metres on, I again attempt to go the wrong way. Alongside a river, over the bridge and then I am in some trouble as I wander next to a pretend loch. Where are the runners? I wander around a bit, deciding to just stand still until I see some runners coming in the same direction. Phew.

The trail only has one major hill and it is the one I am starting to go up. The committed photographer has placed herself on a steep slope and informs me that no one has run up so not to worry. I wasn't considering running myself but am happy to smile. I pass the first 45 milers during the climb. They started at Wooler a few hours after the 100km runners and are in great spirits climbing the hill. The view is great in each direction. It is a hot day. We'd be pushing for 20 here. Half the runners will be sunburnt.

I only see one runner on the descent into Morebattle and he is feeling bust. Morebattle is another cute village and the checkpoint is in a hall. It is buzzing with all the runners I haven't seen for hours. Scott and I scoff crisps and custard. Well, I do. Scott fills my bottles for me. The organisers said that we should start slow, go slower and then once we get to M-something, we can see what we have left. I figure that this is M-something and I feel good so I jog on out of the town. Scott has successfully erected the tent in Melrose. What a team.

Trail Outlaws photo at Morebattle

I pass some cheery 45 milers, a runner who asks me if I am in the relay (no but I am flattered) and a few slightly more bedraggled 100km runners. A castle to the left, encouraging 45 mile runner to my right. It was a good day to get the day off from work.

Paddock full of cows. Such big cows. They are all around an arrow that I need to run to. Killed by cows would make such an embarrassing read on my gravestone. I tiptoe to the edge of the paddock. I am now the furthest from the bridge I need to be crossing and have to walk the entire way around the paddock. As I cross the bridge I see other runners cutting through a bush rather than wrestle with the cows. Wish I'd seen that path before.
Another checkpoint. I'm all by myself. A sign post pointing UP. Hmmm. One side of the fence has a stile; the other a ramp and bridge. Do I cross a bridge? Stile. No. Back over the stile then. I start up the ramp. It doesn't feel right. Climb over the stile. Run along the river. The track runs out. Back up the ramp and over the bridge. Arrow on the other side. Again, nailing this navigation.

Ahead of me is someone with headphones and hiking poles. Only this could be Dave. I creep up behind him quietly so that he lets out a girly scream in fright. He tries to keep up while we run through some endless desert grass. Although it is not the desert. And Dave is now flagging. Then I'm the other woman while a guy speaks on the phone with his wife and I cheer at him from behind.

Second to last checkpoint. Maybe. The marshals are in disagreement and I am not sure how many checkpoints there were anyway. I do remember that I did not get my Keith Stout from Scott at the last checkpoint. Some lovely villages again; no union jack bunting anymore so we must be in Scotland now. On a main road in a village I cannot find a sign telling me where to go. I approach two young lads clad in grey Adidas tracksuits with strange ear piercings to ask directions. Always a good idea right? They were uber polite but did not know what St Cuthbert's was. If I took a left and then a right and went over a hill I could get to Melrose however. It was tempting but I wanted to make sure I stuck to the official path so as not to be disqualified. After jogging on a bit I looked back and saw an arrow and sign. Right outside their house. To be fair, the sign was quite high.

After a nice jog along a river, there was another wee village. All speedy tarmac. Suddenly I see a lady walking ahead with a car driving slowly next to her. Initially I was a bit worried that someone was stalking her but it turned out to be her partner. Phew, we do not want a crazy stalker, we will be losing light soon. I encourage the lady to run with me but she is feeling a bit bust so I go on ahead. As I took it easy until M-something, I feel very fresh now and enjoy the trail to the last small hill. Throughout the race I heard some rumours about different coloured medals based on your finishing time. Although I do not run with a watch, I knew it was not dark yet so it must be before 10pm, therefore I could finish in under 14 hours achieving a silver medal. Silver sounds good to me so I push on hoping that my eyesight and mathematics has not failed me. It would be nice to finish without needing my headtorch too! I chat with some Scottish runners completing the 45 mile event; the first ultra for one. Everyone has been very friendly. At the top I take a moment to enjoy the view before the final decent. 

The steep never ending decent reminds me of coming into Inverness at the end of the Great Glen Way. At the top of a gravel path I see another runner at the bottom so at least I know that I am on the right path. As I arrive into Melrose I wander around a square looking for an arrow or markings. When I cannot find any, I ask a father and his son if they have seen any runners. He replies that yes, he has seen many runners at the campsite he is staying at. As the race does not finish at the campsite, this is not greatly helpful to me. When I ask a taxi driver he points to a road which I follow for a block or two. 

Melrose is a small village and the local youths need to make their own fun. On my arrival, their fun was to switch the running arrows so that they faced one another. I run around a church; stopping to walk in case I am being disrespectful. Finally, I give up asking people if they have seen runners and ask if anyone knows where D-something Hall is (I'm great with names). Aha, success! Darnick Hall is thataway. So thataway I run. Past some lovely houses and a few past middle-aged ladies cheering with their Chardonnay spilling from their wine glasses. The youths should get themselves to that party. 

As I step into the finishing hall there are a few shocked faces as they were not expecting me. I ensure them that the lady I passed will make it to the finish (and she does, less than 10 minutes later, feeling much better). Once I am changed, I sit down with a beer and coffee combination while Scott buys the fish and chip shop out of food before it closes. During this time I am told by numerous spectators that I may have been the first lady. I find this surprising as I have already shaken hands with the lady that did come first (I never saw her in the event so never knew what was going on). There is talk of a five minute penalty because of an accidental shortcut on tarmac that a few of the leading runners took (everyone I spoke to went wrong on the course at some point but we just went back the way we had come before righting ourselves). As I was second by two minutes, a five minute penalty for her would put me in first place. Apparently some of the runners who took the shortcut were informed of this and some weren't. I wait and see what the organisers decided rather than getting involved... Nothing happens and I happily accept a very heavy second place trophy. I am not really sure what went on and am mostly focused on consuming the interested combination of deep fried foods I have been given. I have since won the competition of travelling the furthest post race. I'm not sure on the number of entrants for that category. 

Finishing at Darnick Hall

Personally, I was just pleased to feel good throughout the run. I finished in about 13 and a half hours, earning me a silver medal. The times are very slow for the distance because it is a small race still. It is not particularly hilly, nor technical, although I am a bit slow in mud and long grass. I loved the varied terrain. I try not to think about how I could run 20km further, an hour quicker, on hillier terrain 18 months ago! I feel very fortunate that my legs are able to plod around for a day without training. 

And, very importantly, I know you have all been wondering why I have not been doing much running in the last few years (the nonexistent queries have been endless). I have secretly been working towards my retirement and I can now officially announce that I have reached thirty ultramarathons before my 30th birthday. From now on I will eat dinner crazy early, watch the TV too loudly and holiday only as part of a large tour group. It feels great.  

Thank you very much to all the runners, marshals, organisers and Scott! 

And here's a photo of Donald finishing accompanied by an ambulance!

Friday, 27 May 2016

Cateran Trail Ultra

The blame for my Cateran entry this year lies with Sandra and Ian Beattie. After mustering up the courage to take off my coat at their wedding (who knew I would gain so much weight and not be able to fit a dress I had worn six weeks prior?), I began consuming a few beverages and busting some moves on the d-floor. A conversation took place with Karen and George whereby we all confessed love for one another and the Cateran trail in general. By the end of the night Scott had agreed to do the 55-miler and I was set up to enter the 110. What was I thinking? Two serious concerns; 1 - I am a huge unfit piece of lard unable to run 110 miles, and 2 - there is no way I could get the Friday off work to start the double. Fortunately in the morning we came to our senses. Scott would marshal and I would do the 55. 

I figure 55 miles is ploddable without training and the undulations in the route made it more forgiving on us unfit. A solid story which boosted my confidence. I like to run Donald-style and leave my training until event day. Challenge myself you know? I spent the night bonding with the toilet seat; I can only assume because I overindulged in Tunnocks Tea Cakes post-dinner. Being in a bunk room I was slightly uncomfortable with possibly waking up my fellow roomies. Unfortunately, one of fellow roomies did not have the same concern and proceeded to hold a team meeting in the room at 5:20am. This was after we'd been lectured about the possibility of our snoring (Dave Hetherington only purrs like a kitten, Scott on the other hand...) by a woman who wasn't even running. The race started at 7am. I'd planned on a lie-in. 

Trouble ahead: Ian, Bob, Keith and I

Doing the hair on the way to the start

Start of the Cateran trail at Spittal of Glenshee

After climbing the stile to the start line I misjudged my landing and realised my first error of the day; a lack of contact lenses. A bit of an issue as I recently failed the eye test for my New Zealand driver's licence with my CONTACTS IN. New Zealanders are maniac drivers though so the lady signed me off as fit to drive anyway. Anyways, the first handful of miles were a bit tough on the vision. A video of my tiptoeing and squeals would have provided much amusement. My solo braid is also constantly getting stuck in the zip of my bag and I am losing chunks of hair each time I rip the braid out. It must be at that awkward length. It is driving me nuts. Forget the legs running 55 miles, my blooming hair cannot handle it! 

The first checkpoint is past a castle after which many miles go by discussing how children nowadays have too much stuff and not enough time spent on them. Over the last week I have had a bit of pain in my shin and pounding on roads is not making them feel the best (UPDATE: turns out that I have shin splints. Who knew that eating cupcakes and running less than 15 miles a week would cause shin splints. Seriously raging).  I catch Alan who I think has a superb tan (although quite tiny shorts) and comment that he is looking good. The conversation goes on for a bit and then comes to this bit;

Alan: It's getting warm now
Me: Yes, I was worried that my shorts were overly ambitious initially
Alan: I was so cold during the night
Me: Oh really? Were you in a top room or a bottom room of the bunkhouse?
Alan: Neither. I was running.
Me: What?! You're doing the double?! You don't look like you've already run through the night! 
Seriously, a huge well done. He was moving so well I had no idea

Then I follow a line of runners down the wrong road, only to have a feeling of da je vu as I ran back up it. I took the same wrong road two years ago. It is my second incorrect passage today. Does not bode particularly well pre checkpoint two. A big thank you to the runner who called us back. We trundle in to the beautiful Glenisla. The checkpoint marshals had predicted I would come through casually in the second half of the pack and stop for some banter. I was delighted not to let them down. 

On exiting the checkpoint I found that I could not open my Nathan bottles as Helen Munro has bigger arm muscles than I do and had ensured they were tightly closed at the previous checkpoint. Later, as starvation began to set in, I would start eating my Nuun tablets. Up a bit, across a bit, up a bit, down a bit (Lorna flew away from me), fun run down a road for a bit, watch out for the wild boars bit. A nice chat with a lad from Edinburgh-ish. And then, Alyth. A wee bit of doubting from another runner and I as to where we should be going. I knew it was 'down in those trees' but my directions weren't super. We made it. 

Drama. I'd skipped my fruit at Glenisla due to the night time bowel party. Despite the barrel full of Imodium I had consumed I figured it was best not to put too much into the body and risk an after party. Now I was faced with custard that expired a year ago. Possibly too much of a risk today and I have to bin it. If I'd been doing any running in the last nine months I would have known about the custard! So I trundle out of the checkpoint next to the river gagging on half a Nuun tablet. 

Some road walking is followed by a nice wooded section before a zippy downhill section into Blairgowrie. I chat with Jeni and Andy and marvel at a section of navigational success. As I enter the checkpoint there is scurrying and panicking as there are a handful of lady runners in at the same time. I cannot be arsed getting involved in any competitive nonsense so hang about the checkpoint after it has cleared out and get full attention from the Minions.  A cup of water over my head creates a salt attack in my eyes and I need to be mopped up with a gentle deep cleansing exfoliating face wipe. This will prove to be a terrible decision as I got sunburnt on my forehead and around my eyes. My chin and lower cheeks however were adequately covered by my lathers of 'extra face' that I had put on in the morning. 

I particularly like crossing the bridge out of Blairgowrie (although had to ask some walkers which direction they had seen runners going in). I then get busted trying to use the ladies and have to stop mid-flow. Talent that. Didn't even know that I had that in me. A few runners are having bad patches here so I do not initially realise that I am passing another double runner who is also moving better than many of the 55 milers. Andy is feeling nauseous and a club runner, Jo, is having to stop multiple times en route for the ladies. That is three of us ill... I hope that there is not something tearing through the bunkhouse....

A bunch of us come into the next checkpoint at Bridge of Cally together. I have to skip another tub of custard. HoneyStinger chews and some trail mix for the road. I have to hurry along quickly as I need some privacy for the bathroom. Hurrying along quickly up hills when you have not trained is a tricky endeavor. I have never specifically trained on hills but it is amazing how much strength I have lost even just walking up hills. And then I am alone with just my cellulite for company for a very long time. 

At the shoe cleaning section (well manned Scott and Norm), I try to stop for a bit of banter but am pushed on. Don't they know I was lonely? So many other runners have pacers for company and I've been all by myseeeeeelf... And then even more horrid than my singing voice; flat running. I am starting to feel not particularly well. Imodium is still working a treat but I could do a vomit. 

MAN DOWN. Or Kiwi. Or lassie. Contactless, I have run smack into a tree branch and am on the deck. I've been stabbed in the neck. I stumble up, grabbing at the side of my neck. It seems I am going to survive. Disappointing really. 

By the time the final checkpoint at Enochdhu comes I am ready to eat anything they offer at the table. They have a tub of Haribo. I might be sick. Or die of starvation. Better not be sick, the starvation will set in quicker if I do. The checkpoint is insanely quiet and I am not sure that my chat is appreciated so I move on. I cannot remember if the bog section (although not really boggy this year) was before or after the final checkpoint but it drove me a bit crazy. There is not much of a defined path which is fine as there are post markers in the distance that you can head towards. Unfortunately, their distance exceeds my vision capabilities and I am left twirling around hoping that another runner will stumble upon me before a lion does. I then go on a different path to a walking tourist confusing myself more despite my correct following of the signs. 

Finally, we reach the final stretch of grasslands (not quite Africa) before we get to climb up and roll down. I regret my decision to wear a white t-shirt as I feel the nausea coming over me. They say it is better out than in and the sooner it comes out the better. In the meantime, I slow it down and focus on getting enough head jolting movement to prevent any self-vomiting. I hear Jo and her pacer behind me and am pleased that she is feeling better. We've all been in that position during an event and none of us would wish it upon anyone else. I'm expecting them to come past at any moment and when they don't I consider turning around and cheering them on. 

The last climb comes and is not that hard. Running blind down a hill is much harder but I get no sympathy from the Minions on the way down. My strategy for getting through this years race was to take it easy until I hit the road a few hundred metres from the finish and then go for it. So I forget the nausea for a bit and scurry along the final stretch of road to the finish. I spend two and a half hours drinking one bottle of beer and having a small bowl of (scrumptious) pesto pasta whilst still feeling terrible. Fortunately, after a shower and a spew I felt much better. 

Nipping under ten hours, I achieved a personal worst by 30 minutes which was faster than I expected. My recovery was possibly the worst it has been; a combination of little fitness, not eating or drinking much in the race and recurrent late nights. Even Krispy Kreme donuts, a curry and crisps failed to help.

Well done to all the runners; particularly the first time ultrarunners and the double runners. The 55 mile record was smashed by Rob, and the 110 records were smashed by Sharon and Pat. Thank you to the marshals. Many ultraraces and ultrarunners seem to be changing for the worst so it is nice to still have a race where you rock up to every member of the registration and marshaling team drinking alcohol whilst on duty. That is what the spirit of these races used to be all about! Thanks to Karen and George, who despite a tough time recently, pulled together a seamless event with a load of sunshine. And to Mike for taking on the strain of the 110.