The Cateran Trail is a fully waymarked walk of 64 miles (103 km) that lies at the heart of Scotland, approximately 1½ hours north of Edinburgh. The Trail takes its name from the feared cattle thieves who raided the rich lands of Strathardle, Glenshee and Glen Isla.
The route follows some of their old drove roads and ancient tracks across a varied terrain of farmland, forests and moors. It boasts breath-taking scenery in a corner of Perthshire relatively unknown to walkers.
A circular route, the trail has no real beginning or end allowing walkers to join at any of the many settlements along its length. Blairgowrie, as the biggest town, is where most walkers choose to begin. The nearest village is never more than 7 miles (11 km) away and gradients vary from easy to moderate. The Trail’s highest point is only 650m (2100 ft) above sea level. Signposts, stiles and bridges marked with the Trail’s distinctive red heart logo, make it easy to find your way.” (http://www.caterantrail.org/)
“This is a walking route full of breath-taking landscapes with a wide range of changing terrain that should suit long distance walkers of any age. Situated on the southern end of the Highlands in the Heart of Perthshire and the Angus Glens this route provides the walker with a true feel of Scottish landscape and offers a glimpse of the lifestyle of the Caterans in the 15th to 17th centuries.” (http://www.walkthecaterantrail.com/)
The trail is named after the Caterans, marauding cattle thieves who roamed the more lawless areas of the Highlands from the Middle Ages until the 17th century.
The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon
The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon covers 55 gloriously scenic miles of the Cateran Trail. The race, capped at 85 participants, is a lot smaller than many of the other Scottish Ultra Marathon Series events but benefits from a fantastic ’family like atmosphere’. The race ‘HQ’, the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel, is largely taken over by runners and support crew and runners benefit from a generous accommodation offer for the weekend of the race.
Registration for the race takes place at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel, with a race briefing outside the hotel in the early morning before runners are then led the short distance to the race start.
Runners have 15 hours to complete the 55 mile route which includes some 7450ft of ascent. The somewhat brutal finish to the race involves a climb, starting at the 49 mile mark at Enochdhu (approx. 243 metres), rising to the race highpoint at An Lairig at around 53.5 miles (approx. 650 metres). The climb is rewarded with a glorious descent of more than 300 metres down to the finish line 1.5 miles later at the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel.
Anyone considering participation in the race should ensure that they have sufficient clothing to cope with all weathers. I completed the race for the first time in 2011 and spent the final 5-6 miles battling the elements in torrential rain. The ascent to the highest point of the race was less about following the path than wading up and through a shallow stream and the descent focussed on remaining upright in gloopy mud that was set on uprooting you. Losing your footing on the descent is made all the more embarrassing as any falls are witnessed by those runners and support crew awaiting your return in the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel!
The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon is a 2 point qualifier for the UTMB races.
“With its rolling landscapes, rugged mountains, and endless scenic trails and paths, there is no better country for runners than Scotland. As well as being an ideal destination for leisurely runs, Scotland also offers a wide variety of organised 10ks, marathons, relays and races.”
There are many reasons to run in Scotland, and www.scotland.org lists 10 of them in their recent article.
Number 5, For amazing challenges, reads as follows:
“Some runners like to take their sport to its limits, and Scotland’s more extreme races will not disappoint. The West Highland Way Race sees participants taking on a challenge to run 96 miles from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, to the Highland town of Fort William. The route is off-road but on waymarked trails and heads through the fabulous ever-changing landscapes of central Scotland and the Highlands. Expect off-road tracks and plenty of hills. Taking place in 2013 on June 22, WHW Race runners will be racing to beat the record breaking times of 15hrs 39 mins for the men and 17hrs 16mins for the women’s. Yes, you read that correctly. That is well under 18 hours for a 96-mile run!
Other Scottish running challenges include:
100km The Anglo Celtic Plate in March
55-mile Cateran Trail Ultra Marathon in May
Cape Wrath Half Marathon 2013 in May
Rat Race City to Summit in June
43-mile Devil o’ the Highlands foot race in August
Proprietary Passage Pocket™ with left and right-handed access, which is fully accessible while wearing the pack. No worry dual magnetic closures. External shock cord for jacket or reservoir compression. Weight: 207 grams.
Revolutionary new twin bottle hydration vest that integrates with a MBS (Molecular Belt System™) Connector of your choice! Adjustable torso height. The result is a fully adjustable and interchangeable running system that you can customize. Weight: 298 grams.
Existing models have been further improved for 2013 with many technical enhancements and material changes including:
SWEAT PROOF WEBBING
UltrAspire discovered moisture, mostly sweat, and salt and other solubles, are absorbed into webbing, which can become completely saturated during a run. UltrAspire’s answer to the problem? Sweat proof webbing! Your pack shouldn’t weigh you down anymore at the moments you need to feel the lightest.
100% MORE BREATHABLE MESH
‘What could help keep you from overheating?’ UltrAspire’s answer – Larger holes in the mesh! UltrAspire created some custom mesh with holes a hundred percent larger than standard race vests for increased ventilation. An added result is that the products are even lighter weight.
Inspiring stores of Oleg Tabelev, Runners of Compassion
Also, if you haven’t already downloaded #7 of Trail Run Magazine (Australia/New Zealand), or any of the back issues for that matter, do it now before the magazine becomes a subscription only affair. Edition #8, available mid March, will unfortunately be the last free issue.
“Yes, we’re getting with the future and it’s coming to portable screen near you. Unfortunately that kinda whiz bang technology costs money, so yes trailites, we’re finally after two years and eight editions of dishing the free dirt, going to ask you to cough up a few pence so you can continue to enjoy all the grit and gruel you’ve come to know and love within the pages of our filthy magazine. Don’t stress, it won’t be a budget breaker – we’re taking $14.95 at this stage and a few bucks per issue if you want to get the back editions. “
Clyde Stride, July, 40m, 08:54:08,
Still suffering from the WHW Race (only non PB)
Devil O’ The Highlands, August, 43m, 09.50.55,
Unexpected return of running mojo (PB 12 mins)
Speyside Way Race, August, 36.5m, 07:16:33,
A very wet end to the season (PB 7 mins)
August seems like such a long time ago, and the running mojo has come and gone numerous times in the months leading up to Christmas. Time to get training back on track with a view to achieving some new PBs come 2013, especially in my second West Highland Way Race.
Having just checked the entry list I see that there are only 4 places left on The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon, one of the absolute gems of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series. For many, at 55 miles, it is the final long run of their pre West Highland Way Race training and this is the approach that I took last year. Unfortunately I managed to pick up an Achilles injury in the first 6 miles of the route but a combination of stubbornness and stupidity saw me grind out a finish! As a result, I didn’t actually get much running done before the West Highland Way Race, an enforced ‘taper’ of sorts.
Due to some great news and the logistics involved, I will unfortunately not be on the start line of the 2013 Cateran Trail Ultramarathon but will hopefully be back soon.
Name: Jonathan J Mackintosh Age: 40 Occupation: Web Applications Developer Event: Devil O’ The Highlands Ultramarathon Distance: 43 miles
What was your race time?
9 hours 50 minutes
How long have you been running? Ultras for 3 years, marathons 1 year before that, 1/2 and 10ks occasionally but only started running seriously 4 years ago.
What made you decide to sign up for this race? By completing this race I completed the ‘Triple Crown’, finishing the 53 mile Highland Fling, the 95 mile West Highland Way Race, and the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands, all in one year.
What were your expectations for the race?
I always want a PB but at my last race, 2 weeks previously, I had a terrible race and realised that I had not yet recovered from the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. As such, I hoped for a PB but would have been happy just to finish.
What were your high and low points during the race, if any?
The low points were the evil midges and the unexpected heat (approx 22 degrees) which made the climbs in particular difficult. The high points were many: meeting friends both old and new en route; meeting my wife and her brother, my support crew, at each of the checkpoints, which always picks me up; enjoying the spectacular scenery, seen at its best in the glorious weather; running a strong last 7 miles to pull a PB (12 minutes) out of the bag despite thinking that the opportunity had passed; finishing – after the time spent running in that heat I was glad to chill!
If so where and when did they occur and why?
Low points: On the 2 monster climbs, up the Devil’s Staircase and the climb out of Kinlochleven. High points: Everywhere!
What was the best part of the course for you?
The whole course – might sound like a cliché but it is a glorious, challenging course, with a mix of terrain, a high point of 1798ft, the scenic Rannoch Moor, and views of Buachaille Etive Mor and Ben Nevis (to name but a few highlights!).
What was the most challenging part of the course for you?
The two main climbs, up the Devil’s Staircase and the climb out of Kinlochleven up to the Lairig Mor. The descent down into Kinlochleven and some of the latter stages of the route were also difficult as a result of the rocky terrain underfoot.
How would you describe the crowd support?
Brilliant. Because of the remote nature of a lot of the course, there are long spells with no support at all but, as with all of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series races, the spectators, marshals and support do their best to cheer on not just their own runners but every runner at the start, finish and every checkpoint.
What’s your overall verdict of the race?
A course that cannot be beaten in terms of scenery, excellent marshals and organisation, and a friendly family atmosphere running amongst a lot of known faces from other Scottish Ultra Marathon Series events and a good number of new faces. Organisation: Excellent Scenery: Unbeatable Atmosphere: Excellent
Warning: the following blog post is quite a graphic account of my quest for a WHW Race goblet.
I travelled down to Glasgow on Thursday evening, leaving straight from work, in the hope that this earlier than previously planned departure would provide a more relaxed day in the build up to the race start, in Milngavie, at 01:00 am on Saturday 23rd June.
Arriving at the house of Leanne’s aunt and uncle, Sandra and John Donnelly, I discovered that my support team had ‘branded’ themselves, team Jonathong, based on a nickname that I was christened with by my wife’s brother. A 6 berth motor home had been hired for the weekend which provided my support crew of Sandra, John, my wife Leanne, and my support runner Ian Minty, with a little bit of comfort and a place to rest up if and when time permitted.
The weather in Glasgow on the Friday afternoon was something else. Torrential rain accompanied by some pretty loud and dramatic thunder and lightning cast a cloud over proceedings (no pun intended). Anyone familiar with Glasgow will know that Glasgow is no stranger to rain. As such, a weather warning that accompanied the forecast was more than a bit concerning and I was worried, more than anything else, that the race would be cancelled.
Fortunately, the thunder and lightning stopped. Unfortunately, the rain did not and the challenge of running 95 miles was further compounded by the atrocious weather conditions.
I had hoped to get some additional sleep throughout the day on the Friday but the combination of a John Bannerman concert soundcheck and then the concert itself taking place next to us on Glasgow Green, interspersed with the aforementioned thunder and lightning, meant that sleep was not on the agenda. By the time I finished the race I had been awake for some 50 hours approx.
We departed for registration in Milngavie around 10:15 pm. I introduced Minty to Sandra and John for the first time and got myself weighed and registered for the race.
Around 12:30 am the race briefing took place in the car park at Milngavie railway station, just next to the underpass which is the start line for the event. From an initial high of 230, we were now down to a field of 172 runners. The race briefing included the following:
“Weather. There will be some. When the sun shines, it’ll be hot. When it’s raining, it’ll be cold and wet. If it’s windy, there’ll be less midges.”
At this point, it was obvious to all that the rain would be hugely significant this weekend and, just in time for the start, the heavens once more opened up with heavy rain.
Despite the weather, there was an excellent turnout with people lining the streets from the start line at the underpass to the turnoff that takes you off Milngavie high street and on to the West Highland Way route itself. The weather certainly didn’t dampen the spirits of the runners, support crews and spectators and this was a real standout high point for me.
Unfortunately, this high was short lived.
By the time I first met with my support crew, 12 miles into the race in Drymen, I had already had to make a few additional stops in the area surrounding the trail as explosive diarrhoea threatened to derail my quest for a WHW Race goblet. By mile 17, I was again suffering an unexpected stop and I was thoroughly demoralised as the torchlights of runners once again moved past my hidden position. I was already contemplating a DNF (Did Not Finish) and was in turmoil.
Meeting my crew in Balmaha, having ascended and descended Conic Hill, the first big hill of the day, I took some Immodium in the hope that this would help settle the stomach. This appeared to work, at least for a while.
The lochside section, from Balmaha to Rowardennan went OK but I was concerned that my unplanned pitstops had put me way back in the field and, it crossed my mind, might even have left me in last position. I didn’t see any runners for a while and, as such, was delighted to finally come across fellow runners.
I met up with Sue Walker in this section and enjoyed catching up with Sue in the run in to Rowardennan. This helped take my mind off the problems I had been having.
Arriving at Rowardennan, I was conscious that this would be my last meeting with my support crew for some time as both Inversnaid and Beinglas Farm were, for one reason or another, inaccessible to support crews. I decided to change my socks as they were soaked through and I was concerned that this would impact negatively on my feet. Large parts of the trail throughout the whole of the West Highland Way resembled streams and even rivers rather than the trail that we had expected to run on. Waterfalls along the trail side bore testimony to the extent of the rainfall as their waters and ferocity were swelled to impressive levels. One of the negatives from this was that the majority of water crossings, normally dealt with by some strategically placed stepping stones, now involved wading through the water. Two minutes after changing into fresh socks, they were once again soaked through.
Approximately 40 miles in, I experienced another low and it stayed with me for the next 10 miles, compounded by the ‘never ending’ forest between Crianlarich and the Auchtertyre Farm checkpoint.
I was looking forward to my support runner, Minty, joining me at Auchtertyre farm. I met Minty on various training runs and, having run almost the entire 55 miles of the 2011 Cateran Trail Ultramarathon with him, I could think of no one that I would rather run the remaing 45 miles of the West Highland Way Race with. Minty had travelled hundreds of miles to support me and I had made assurances earlier in the year that I would most definitely make it past this point and require the services of a support runner.
At this point, things went from bad to worse.
50 miles into the race, the weather finally brightened up but I found myself again ravaged by explosive diarrhoea. I hit a new low. Knowing that I had to get back out there and keep on running, I made a move to leave the motorhome. At this point I suffered projectile vomitting, literally painting the walls and toilet bowl of the small motorhome with the contents of my stomach. Looking back at this point on the drive home today, Leanne and I both agreed that the Family Guy ‘Who Wants Chowder’ scene came closest to describing the events:
There was no way I could run another 45 miles. However, there was also no way that I could let my support runner and crew down. (Just for the record, I made every attempt to clean up the mess I made before departing the motorhome. No support crew deserves to have to clean that up! As I was informed today, I wasn’t quite as thorough as I thought I was).
I don’t know where I summoned any reserves from as I don’t remember feeling quite so low in the entirety of my 40 years, but I made it back out the door, shivering furiously and running on empty.
Minty coaxed me into a brisk walk and arranged for my support crew to meet me in Tyndrum, some 3 miles ahead – just in case.
To everyone’s surprise, none more so than me, I picked up!
There is a saying “If you feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you will soon get over it.” I would like to add that this can also work in reverse. Checking Facebook this morning, I saw that someone had posted the following message: “To the kind marshall at Bein Glas who strongly suggested I give it until Auchtertyre to decide whether to pull out – thank you”. I know exactly what they mean. What a difference a few miles can make, especially in a race of this length.
The next 45 miles saw me expertly coaxed between running, hiking and, where necessary, shuffling, as Minty kept me moving forward. When we neared checkpoints, Minty would phone in my ‘order’ for food and drink and my excellent support crew made sure that it was ready for my arrival, regardless of the location and/or time of night. This even included sourcing things that I had never even considered (fizzy orange Lucozade) which helped to lift my mood in the aftermath of my projectile vomit session.
Towards the end of the race, and especially in the forest just before the final descent into Fort William, I started to suffer from hallucinations which I can only put down to sleep deprivation. I was certain that I saw a guinea pig on the trail, which turned out to be a rock, and was equally as certain about the presence of both white and brown rabbits along the trail (more rocks!) which refused to move as we ran through them. For a while, everything that I looked at appeared to have hidden depths and shapes.
Getting up and over the Devil’s Staircase and then the long climb out of Kinlochleven, I started to turn my thoughts to the finish.
By this point, my feet felt like they had blisters forming on top of existing blisters. I didn’t want to remove my socks and trainers for fear of the condition of my feet and kept shuffling on. The skin on the soles of my feet felt separated from the feet themselves and I found the rocky terrain underfoot particularly difficult. Each stray stone that jarred my foot ripped at the skin leaving me in pain.
I was also increasingly bothered by pain in my right hip and feared that I had somehow done some real damage to the area. As I found out on finishing, the pain was related to an ITB issue and I also found out that the left ITB was almost equally as tight so I have no doubt that the left hip would also have started to give me grief had I been required to run any further.
Minty and I finally arrived in Fort William at around 08:00 am Sunday morning and I crossed the finish line in a time of 31 hours 1 minute and 51 seconds.
We were 4 hours before the cut off and the start of the presentation of the well earned goblets where each finisher received their goblet in time order.
In that time I had a massage provided by Athletes Angels. This was both heavenly and painful in equal measure but I was glad of the opportunity to give the legs some much needed TLC. Further, the ITB issue was diagnosed at this point so at least I knew then that I had not created a greater problem with the hip.
I slept solidly for 2 hours in the motorhome, possibly the best 2 hours of sleep I have ever had, awakening just in time to grab a bacon butty before heading to the presentation.
Of the 172 starters, 119 finished, an amazing number given the adverse weather conditions.
I am sure that I have left heaps out of the above blog post. However, given that I am still suffering from sleep deprivation and still haven’t really got my head in the game yet, I wanted to get at least some of the weekends events down as a constant reminder of an excellent weekend.
Leanne tweeted my progress over the weekend and I will catch up with everyone over the next couple of days. Thanks to everyone who sent tweets and messages. Hopefully the above will serve as an insight into the toughest weekend I have experienced to date!
So, finally, down to the thanks.
A huge thanks to my support crew of Leanne, Sandra and John, who so willingly gave up their weekend to follow me about as I pursued my goal of joining the WHW Race Family. Little did I realise when I warned you that it is not uncommon for support crews to see their runners at their worst, that it would happen to me. Thanks for getting me through it.
Minty, thanks for agreeing to travel so far to act as my support runner. Thanks also for suggesting that you join me at Auchtertyre Farm, the earliest point at which a support runner is permitted. Given the events that took place there, I doubt I would have made it out of the motorhome had you not been due to join me. Your experience kept me moving forward and ultimately saw me achieve my goal of WHW Race Family membership. I owe you big style!
Huge thanks also to Race Director Ian Beattie, to the doctors, crew, Marshals and members of The Wilderness Response Team who gave up their time so that we could chase our goals in safety.
To all my fellow runners, well done on an outstanding achievement, especially given the weather conditions. I hope that you are not as blistered and immobile as I feel today. Any advice on cankles would be much appreciated!
Only 7 sleeps to the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. It’s quite a thought that this time next week I will be about to embark on my longest run ever, by some 40 miles. I have been in discussion with my support team and with Ian Minty, my support runner, and I am feeling good about everything.
After a physio appointment yesterday my Achilles niggle got the all clear which is a great psychological boost. There is some scar tissue, most likely from the injury that I picked up at The Cateran Trail Ultramarathon, but the Achilles itself seems ok.
Given that the pain had subsided, I did feel a bit of a fraud taking up an appointment slot but it was reassuring to hear that my Achilles is unlikely to cause me any issues on the day. I was really impressed at the physio service. So, 7 sleeps and counting!
Logged on to Facebook this morning to see this excellent West Highland Way Race trailer from Grant Cairns, a fellow West Highland Way runner. After watching this, I can now update my official pre race status to ‘bricking it’ lol! A great video. I look forward to seeing an apres race one and, after discussions with my support crew and support runner, there might even be one of my own!