Wednesday, 22 May 2013

I'd have done anything for a pint of orange juice

Stage 1 - Spittal of Glenshee to Dalnagair Castle

And they're off. Photo: Muriel Downie

My race plan was simple - run and see how it goes. Unusually, I just didn't have the legs or the confidence to keep up with Donnie Campbell and Mike Raffan and they accelerated away and were soon out of sight. As the field began to spread out, I happily found myself in a group of Stonehaven women (mrs s, Claire, and Nicola S) along with Alex P and Carol Martin. It was a good sociable group and we were soon at the checkpoint. I'd decided to have a small drop bag at each checkpoint but wanted to spend as little time as possible so just grabbed the bag and continued on down the road.

Stage 2 - Dalnagair Castle to Kirkton of Glenisla

Up the hill above Forter

Auchintaple Loch
The girls pulled ahead a bit on the road section but I was confident of catching them again on the climb after Forter and I was able to overtake them for a bit before the next flattish bit when we all regrouped and there was plenty more good blether on this bit and again, the miles passed fairly easily.
It was good to see the junction where Minty, Alan and I had gone wrong last year and to go the right way - helped by the huge new gate blocking the wrong route. Coming in to Glenisla, I was drifting off the pace a wee bit so even more determined to make it as short a stop as possible and let the rest of the group catch up after a longer break if they wanted to.

Stage 3 - Kirkton of Glenisla to Den of Alyth

Untitledmrs s and Alex very quickly rejoined me and we were soon away up the steep hill and over the wee stile where I managed to jar my ankle - an action I managed to repeat twice on the way down the hill. I realised that pain was going to be a constant companion for the day, but it didn't feel as bad as I first feared and I was able to keep going. Wet weather had been forecast so it was no surprise when the rain came on as we hit the road section near Ardormie - in fact the surprise was how little rain there was compared to the forecast which was probably just as well. As I pulled on my waterproof, I also realised that the foot pain which had threatened to stop me running had disappeared, or was at least being masked by the slight pain in the ankle and the familiar pain in my toe joint which suggested that I was in store for a gout episode at some point. Sorry, don't mean to moan - simply jotting things down that I remember.
A couple of miles from Alyth, we met up with Ali and Kate (Alex's sis) who ran with us into the town. It was a nice boost to see them and have a wee chat, although I think it boosted my running companions too much because they kicked on a little bit quicker leaving me trying to catch up as we jogged down into the Den of Alyth. I don't remember being particularly uncomfortable at this point, but this picture taken by Muriel Downie seems to suggest otherwise.

Stage 4 - Den of Alyth to Blairgowrie

Another super quick pass through the checkpoint and food on the move as I walked through the wooded den before being caught and passed by Dave K and then reunited with mrs s and Alex and it was on up the road towards Drimmie Woods. I felt like I was definitely struggling to keep up by this point so started to suggest that they should go on ahead as I was going through a bit of a slump. Anna caught us up in the woods, saying that she couldn't run downhill but had been forced to carry on and was stopping at Blairgowrie. Stopping at Blairgowrie. Now, there was an idea. I could do that. I'd just have to get there first, so try and keep going for now and let's see. After a bit more plodding and getting passed by a couple of people, I noticed a small stone in my shoe and decided to sit down for a minute and clear it out. When I got back up, my legs felt much better than they had and I was able to get a decent jog going on the long descent although I was easily passed by Claire who was running well but slightly concerned that Nic S might have gone the wrong way somewhere but was probably back on the right track.
It was great to see santababy and get a huge hug at the road crossing in Blairgowrie and I could also see Ali, Kate and Laura at the checkpoint. Again, the idea of stopping here and cadging a lift up to the Spittal flashed through my mind. After all, I was pretty sure I could get a lift up the road, I would probably have Anna's company so I wouldn't be mooching about on my own, and I might even get to see some of the fast guys finish for a change. Very tempting.

Stage 5 - Blairgowrie to Bridge of Cally

But not tempting enough. I was going to finish the bloody race. So, I got my drop bag, got my water bottled filled (thanks Bill), another hug from santa, and I was away.
The River Ericht at Blairgowrie
My drop bag contained a buttery and some flapjack, neither of which appealed at the time so I downed some liquid and thought about what I really wanted. And the answer was some orange juice, specifically a pint of fresh orange juice with ice. Oh, that would have been so good. Ada passed me on the way up the hill but not only did she not have a pint of orange juice on her, she gave me a very strange look when I asked. I decided not to ask Vicky or Claire who both passed me again (because they'd stopped longer at the checkpoint) but I couldn't help thinking about that orange juice. I had a wee trip down memory lane at the farm where mrs s and I got on the wrong side of a fence in 2011 and I scratched my calf climbing over a barbed wire fence (I still have a faint scar 2 years later) and then the rain came on again and I hit a bit of a low. I was passed by Jo Rae and Karen but otherwise didn't see anyone for ages. Just before the descent to Bridge of Cally I was thinking about the 2011 race again and remembered bashing my toe and falling but feeling much better afterwards. Just then, I stubbed my toe again and although I laughed at the coincidence, I didn't fall and headed on down to the checkpoint to see if they had any orange juice. They didn't, but Sean did have some vaseline which I was pleased about for a different reason. They also had Jane, Carolyn, and Johnny Fling with much needed words of encouragement.

Stage 6 - Bridge of Cally to Enochdhu

Nicola going up the steep hill towards the boggy slopey bit
As I was heading out of the checkpoint, munching on a buttery and drinking irn bru, I heard someone behind me and turned round to see Nicola S. I was really chuffed to see her, partly because I'd been worried she might have dropped out after thinking she was lost and being on her own for a bit, but mainly because I hoped that it meant I would have some company for a while. I walked on slowly for a wee bit to keep warm and she soon caught me up so that we could continue together. It was good to have somebody to talk to and we made decent progress, walking the ups and breaking into an occasional run on the downs. It certainly brightened my mood for a bit until the rain hit us again on the approach to Kirkmichael and it became a bit of a slog.
Some humorous route marking from Neil and Marc  
A pretty waterfall
We caught sight of Dave K in the distance a couple of times but were unable to close the distance. The little wood before Enochdhu provided some shelter from the weather but I decided to put on waterproof trousers just before we got back out into the open. Nicola said she would keep going and I could catch her up. I faffed about getting my trousers on and also threw an extra top on as I was concerned about getting cold, then exited the wood and jogged on after Nic. I couldn't see her at first, but it was reasonably clear which way to go (wasn't it) so I was sure she would be just a bit further along the way. Still no sign of her past the big white house and down towards the junction; I must have taken longer than I thought and she was already at the checkpoint. I heard some dogs up the hill and briefly wondered what they were barking about before I headed in to Enochdhu where I was happy to see Carolyn, Flip, and Leon but where there was definitely no Nicola. Shit. Where was she? Obviously, she must have missed the turning or something. I decided to drink some of my vodka while we decided what to do. It tasted good (would have been better with orange juice!) but didn't solve the problem of the missing woman so Leon agreed to head back along the track and see if he could find her while I would see if I had her phone number and give her a call. Before we managed to locate my phone, Leon reappeared, with Nicola and we let out a huge sigh of relief. She had a little of my vodka, I managed to get some orange lucozade from Carolyn (not quite orange juice but not bad!) and we were ready to set off on the final stage.

Stage 7 - Enochdhu to Spittal of Glenshee

Thanks to Carolyn for this picture at Enochdhu
As we set off, Flip gave us a good send off by forcing some Soreen (other malt loaves are available) into Nicola's mouth and then pointing out the damage he'd done by bumping Dod's van into a bollard. Well, it made me laugh.
What didn't make me laugh was the aching in my thighs and the feeling that I just couldn't get even a decent walking pace going. After we got past the farm and onto the hill track I felt pretty bad but was just determined to keep going to the finish. Three deer skipped across the path and I was going to comment to Nicola but realised she was out of earshot because of the ever-present wind and was getting further ahead of me all the time. It made me smile to see her looking strong but I knew I was in for a hard, lonely slog up the hill. I can remember looking over towards the sun and trying to figure out if it would drop below the skyline before I reached the finish. It did but there was still daylight and I could make out a few dots further up the path. Somewhere near the bothy, I realised that one of the dots had been coming down the hill and was Marc. He and Neil had been doing a fine job of escorting runners up that last bit of the hill and it was good to see them and hear some of the stories from the day, and to have some fresh ears to moan about the wind to. Since they thought that any other runners were in a group with the sweepers, they decided to accompany me to the finish. I had been hoping to run down the final hill with them, but found it was sore so the three of us walked down together.
So relieved to finish.
 It was annoying for me as I really liked the finish in 2011 and 2012, and it must have been very frustrating for them as I'm sure they could have barrelled down the hill in no time at all, but we eventually reached the bottom and I managed to jog over the line for a series of massive hugs from Karen, mrs s, Dod, and probably some other people but my brain wasn't on full power and I can't remember everything. I do remember a huge round of applause on entering the bar so thank you to everyone there.
Thanks also to Karen for putting on another great race, to all the marshals for making it possible and for their help and encouragement at all the checkpoints, and to the sweepers for helping keep us safe - you are all brilliant and I hope you all read this. I also want to say thank you to the winner, Donnie, who filled his winner's quaich with some very fine whisky and shared it with everyone there. But most of all, I'd like to thank everyone I ran with who kept me going on a difficult day - without mrs s and Alex, I doubt I'd have got as far as Alyth, and without Nicola, I still think I'd have finished but it would have been a much less enjoyable race.
Thanks for listening.

Post a Comment