It should come as no surprise to anyone who read my previous post, ‘D33 Or Bust‘, that Saturday 16th March, the day of the D33 ultramarathon, proved to be a tough day for me. Due to a number of factors explained in that previous post, training just hadn’t gone to plan and, as I approached the day of the D33, the first Scottish Ultra Marathon Series race of the year, I was filled with all kinds of concern regarding how the day was going to pan out. I even considered giving the race a miss but both Race Director George Reid and fellow runner Ian Minty offered some sound advice, telling me to turn up and do the best that I could. Looking back, I am glad that I listened to their advice. Not only did I finish the race, I wasn’t last and, as I found out at George’s pre-race briefing, I was one of only 14 ‘ever presents’, who have run each of the 4 D33 ultramarathons held.
This time last year I had run in excess of 400 miles with a number of long slow runs including back to back sessions, basically the ideal preparation for the 33 mile event. This year I had completed just over 1/4 of that, with no run longer than 11 miles, basically the worst possible preparation for pretty much any event other than, say, a half marathon!
I knew this was going to hurt, and it did!
The legs coped well up to the 11 mile mark, the distance I had become ‘comfortable’ with in training. However, by the time I reached the half way mark at 16.5 miles, just on the outskirts of Banchory, I could feel tightening throughout my legs and, by the 18 mile mark, I was running in pain. ‘Only’ 15 miles to go. I must have been visibly pained by the time I reached the 27 mile mark as a kind walker, out for a stroll on the Deeside Way, took pity on me and offered me some paracetamol which I gladly accepted. This eased the pain somewhat and left me to deal with the cramping that occurred whenever I changed pace (think 1st and 2nd gear only by this point!). I had forgotten just how long that last section felt but was glad to meet in with a number of other runners who were similarly toiling. I was not alone out there at least!
The first time I ran this race, back in 2010, I completed it in a time of 06:03:01. Each year I have chipped away at that time, completing in 05:58:56 and, in 2012, my event PB time of 05:36:10. This year I finally crossed the line in a time of 06:18:33, 214th out of 252 finishers. I’m not sure how many DNFs there were on the day but over 300 had actually signed up to the event.
The weather throughout the day was cold and wet, quite unlike the usual D33 warmer weather that accompanies the event. To be honest, that probably worked in my favour. There have been times in the past where I have toiled in the heat and, this year, that might just have been the straw that broke the camel’s back. As it was, I was layered up with my Helly Hansen Dry Revolution LS and my Montane Minimus waterproof, which kept me at just the right temperature throughout the day.
I did have one particularly ‘doh’ moment. Around the 20 mile mark the rain once again started to pour down with some force and I decided to put up the hood on my Montane Minimus. Without thinking, I unrolled the hood and threw it over my head, at which point, some 20 miles worth of accumulated rain water went straight down my back, soaking and chilling me in an instant. That’s certainly something that I hope never to repeat – beware of hoods! :o)
So it was tough, but I got there in the end – Now on to the positives.
As with every D33, it’s great to finally get the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series underway, even if I was ‘slightly’ unprepared this year. To be honest, the training hasn’t exactly had the opportunity to kick up a notch or two since that day so I think, this year, the challenge is definitely going to focus on completion of events rather than on racking up PBs.
It was also great to see so many familiar faces, and lots of new ones. This year the pre race chat for most people that I met up with was about my newly born son Harris. It was nice to have so many people asking after him. He did make an appearance at the end of the race with Leanne but, given the conditions and my slightly later than usual finish, we didn’t get the chance to introduce him to many of you. I am sure everyone will get a chance to meet him soon enough :o)
It was great to finish. That usually goes without saying but, this year, finishing was particularly important to me and I can quite honestly say that I am content with my time. I expected to take longer if truth be told. I was met by Race Director George Reid on the finish line and had to laugh as he pointed out “see what you can achieve without training”. Thanks George :o) As always, the D33 medal, produced by www.craftrocks.co.uk, was unique and completed a goodie bag that included, among other things, custom labelled Brewdog Beer.
Huge thanks to RD George, his assistant Karen and all of the marshals who gave up their time and stood about on a terribly cold and wet day.
While things didn’t exactly go to plan, I did complete the 33 miles of the route and, in doing so, logged a long slow run session towards my Highland Fling training. There’s not long now until the next of my SUMS events, the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling on 27th April, and I am already looking forward to getting back on to the West Highland Way for the first time in ages.
I also made the most of the opportunity to test some new kit.
I wore the excellent new Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 12 Set 2013 Backpack for the first time and was delighted with the fit, performance and functionality of the vest pack. Is this the pack I have been searching for all this time? Review to follow shortly.
Given the varied terrain, including everything from concrete and forest trail to gloopy mud, combined with the lack of miles in my legs, I opted to wear The North Face Ultra Guide trainers on the day. I have mostly been wearing minimalist footwear of late but the additional cushioning of the Ultra Guide made for a comfortable race and helped me onwards to the finish on the day. As above, review to follow shortly.
So, lots of positives on an otherwise tough day but now it’s confession time.
I had many lows and highs on the 16th, fairly typical when running an ultramarathon. However, on this occasion, the lows far outweighed the highs. Certainly part of this was down to the lack of race fitness. However, the large part was guilt at leaving my new-born son for so long. By the time I reached the finish line, I had made up my mind to retire from running ultras, at least for the foreseeable future. And then I read a comment on my blog over at The Running Bug – “when he’s old enough you will be Harris’s hero when he sees you cross the finish line”. The comment made quite an impact. I would love to think that at some point the wee fella looked up to me, seeing me complete an ultramarathon, albeit far down the field and despite the huge effort required to get to that finish line.
A conversation with a relative in the days following the race concluded that “it’s who I am” and “it’s just what I do“. Right enough, without running a large part of my life would be missing. However, we did also discuss moderation. What’s to stop me dropping down to more manageable distances, at least for the foreseeable future? It’s certainly not something that I will discount. It has been ages since I did a 10k or a 1/2 marathon.
However, when I found myself booking a VW Campervan the other night for my support crew for this year’s 95 mile West Highland Way Race, I knew that my mind was made up, at least for now. So, the news of my ultra retiral is indeed premature!
That was ultramarathon number 16 completed – see you all at my next one, the Hoka Highland Fling.
Happy Running :o)