The Great Glen Ultra is the newest addition to the Scottish Ultra running scene and gives a new triple crown challenge as an addition to the Glenmore 24 and Glen Ogle 33 organised by BAM Ultrarunning 72 miles from Fort William to Inverness along the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness.
I had the Friday off work so had a long lie and relaxed a bit in the morning before heading off to Fort William with Mrs Wife and the little dude and checked in to the Premier Inn which was the closest hotel I could find near the finish line, working on the principal I would be slightly tired after the race and as short a distance as possible to crawl would be best. The logistics for the evening were easy enough as we would be collected from Bught Park (Inverness Stadium) at 9.30pm and bused to Fort William for the 1.00am start at Neptune's Staircase. This all went to plan and on the bus journey it finally sank in the enormity of the task as I watched the race route unfold in reverse. In all of the 72 miles I had only ever set foot on the last 100mtrs on the track in the stadium, and the closest I had been to the start was coming down the mountainside into Fort William to the finish of the West Highland Way as recently as 2 weeks ago as a support runner in that race. As the bus progressed down the route Bill pointed out a few markers and waypoints which did actually help out as I would find out.
We arrived in plenty of time to register and squeeze in a pot of tea and a catch up with several friends before the off. A short race brief and we were off into the darkness of the night.
Mike Raffan and Craig Mackay shot off into the darkness and decided I would try and keep them in sight as long as possible hoping they knew the correct route. I was running a fairly comfortable pace along the canal averaging 7:45 per mile. After crossing the canal a wooded section near Gairlochy gave me my first of two uncertain moment of navigation during the race, a point mentioned in Mikes blog as well where there were 3 paths and no marker so unsure I waited for the chasing group who arrived and one person knew which way to go and I just tagged in behind and trusted their judgement. The next few miles seemed to fly by as the terrain gently undulated with nothing too serious to tire the legs. Checkpoints 1 and 2 came and went and we came back down onto the canal for the approach to Fort Augustus and checkpoint 3 at 30 miles.
Garmin to Fort Augustus
At this checkpoint I was greeted by Ada, Alice, Susan, Monica and Fiona and was asked how I was feeling. My reply was honest and to the point mentioning I was starting to feel a little tired and no sooner had those words left my mouth and a mention of MTFU and 'cattle prod' and I was out of there. Now the serious stuff was beginning. The leading lady runner (Morgan) caught me here and we seemed to play cat and mouse for the next 30 miles. One mile out of Fort Augustus the second navigation problem occurred when we ended up on the main road having missed a sign 20 yards previous, short retrace of steps and back on course.
The next 30 miles were just like a rollercoaster up and down hills with lovely views over Loch Ness with a few brutal climbs thrown in. In total 10800ft of climbing with the associated descending along with it. Around about 60 miles Ryan passed me moving in to 3rd place and he was moving at just too fast a pace for me to even latch on to and follow.
|Approaching checkpoint 6, photo by Fiona Rennie|
I was delighted to reach the final checkpoint at 64 miles and open my drop bag and guzzle the contents of a bottle of Red Bull, a small bottle of coke and 1 energy gel. Onwards to the finish through a nature reserve where strangely there were signs for a coffee shop in the middle of nowhere leading through some bushes. Tempted though I was I could smell the beer in the goody bag some 7 miles off and just kept heading for the finish. With about 4 miles to go Lorna and Carol had set up a small checkpoint where they were offering water and wine and possibly some other alcohol but a quick glug of water and and off I went.
The last section through the woods is a gentle downhill grind to the finish, through a field between some houses then an almighty staircase ( about 7 steps but felt like a mountain) up onto the canal path with about 800 mtrs to the finish. Over the road and in the back gate of the stadium and round the track to the finish.
Finishing time of 11:40:24 in 4th place.
Mike had a storming race finishing in 10:48 followed by Gareth 11:23 and Ryan 11:24 .
Garmin details Ft Augustus-Inverness : A bit wonky at Ft Augustus where it goes all over the place and logs 23 minutes and a few squiggles for 3 miles.
On the nutrition side I have almost cracked it with the extra runny and salty cold home made soup in a coke bottle, although Carol Martin may not agree to it being runners food.
On the footwear issue my clown shoes (Hoka Rapa Nui Trail) suited me perfectly and brought me home with no foot issues whatsoever and my calves were pain free the following day.
The race organisation was superb and the marshalls were a delight to see at the checkpoints with a cheery welcome and slick bag finding.
I was surprised at the awards ceremony the following morning when Antonia was given 1st lady as Morgan had finished about 5 minutes after me in 5th place about 35 minutes ahead of her but it seems she fell foul of the CLEAR race rules of no support whatsoever. We had ran together quite a bit of the way and she had finished in a great time but it just goes to show that the rules must be obeyed.