In 2011 I started and completed 6 of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races. Starting again with the D33, my ‘local’ race, I learned the harsh lesson of maintaining race fitness in the off-season. Having completed my last race of 2010, the Loch Ness Marathon, I then proceeded to ‘drift’ as far as my running was concerned and, with no goal to aim for, the race fitness I had built up over 2010 soon deserted me. As such, I started the 2011 race series having to build up my race fitness all over again! A number of factors limited the length of my runs in the buildup to the D33 and, by the time I toed the line, my longest run of the year was only 18 miles.
On the day of the D33 I reached the 18 mile point looking like I could beat my 2010 time by an hour. However, at this point my race fell apart and I ended up taking only 5 minutes off of my time!
I did, however, put the demons to rest as far as the Montane Highland Fling was concerned. Despite even hotter weather, I completed the event. I suffered bad cramps in the final 3 miles but finally limped over the line having run the 53 miles in a time of 13:03:43.
The 55 mile Cateran Trail Ultramarathon followed soon after. Despite torrential rain, I completed this in a time of 13:05:59. The race includes 7450 ft of climbs, including a final 5 miles approx. of climbing up and over Glenshee before a 1.5 mile descent to possibly the best race finish ever. Entering the Spital of Glenshee hotel at the end of the race it was all I could do to maintain my composure as the bar area erupted into cheers and applause from those who had finished before me and their support and friends. The evening finished with a prizegiving for all the finishers and I accepted my quaich along with Ian Minty whom I had run most of the race with.
I had not intended to run the 40 mile Clyde Stride race initially and some friends had expressed reservations about the course. I am really glad that I did run it however and I intend to run the race again in 2012. Other than the start which sees you running alongside the motorway from Partick, the route is excellent and far more scenic than I expected. We soon switched sides to run along the Clyde, passing the new Museum of Transport (returned there the day after – it was mobbed!!!) and left Glasgow itself sooner than expected. Parts of the route made me think of the Cateran and the finish was in the amazing surroundings of the model industrial town of New Lanark. My race fitness was not as it should have been, having not long returned from 2 weeks in Menorca where I found that the heat was not conducive to running!
The toughest race of the year was the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands. Starting from Tyndrum at 6 a.m., it included two very steep climbs. I was well aware of the first of these, the Devil’s Staircase, having trained on the route earlier in the year. However, the second of these, the climb out of Kinlochleven, took me by surprise and I suffered somewhat in the heat. The torrential rain that had been predicted did not materialise until the final few miles and, despite a minor wrong turn towards the end of the race, I finished in 10:03:09.
The final race of 2011 for me was the 36.5 mile Speyside Way Race. Despite ITB pains from mile 18 onwards, I crossed the line in a time of 07:23:45 having taken 22 minutes out of my 2010 time. I apparently looked ‘broken’ as I crossed the line and, whilst I was gutted not to have taken at least an hour out of my 2010 time, I was happy to have completed at all given the pain I was in.
Writing all of the above, it brings it back to me what an excellent year I have had in 2011. I have made a number of friends this year through my participation in S.U.M.S. and I am looking forward to 2012 and the challenges that lie ahead. My aim for 2012 is to complete the same 6 ultramarathons, taking some time out of each of my new PBs, and also to complete the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, something that I am glad to be doing surrounded by my new S.U.M.S. friends. Hopefully we can all get through it together! 🙂