Friday 28 August 2015

Whisky River - The Speyside Way Ultra

A couple of years ago, Nic needed a long run while we were up north, and decided to run a section of the Speyside Way.  Her opinion was that, aside from a couple of long drags, it was a pretty flat and enjoyable route.  Fast forward to a few months ago, and we decided to return and join in the annual race from Ballindalloch to Buckie (36.5ish miles).  I duly visited the Speyside Way Ultra website, put a load of details onto the entry system, and started to plan my race.

Now is a good time to acknowledge that every now and then, race directors have some numpty show up at registration convinced that they are registered when they clearly haven't, and we have to be nice, and depending on the situation maybe even let them run.  I should have twigged when I didn't get the any emails in the run up to the race that there was an issue.  In my defence, I'd had a big computer crash and the address I use for entering races had been severely depleted of e-mails.  Still, on August 22nd, I was that numpty.  I'd failed to pull the trigger on the entry.  So, when Nic walked up to let them know she wouldn't be running (training wasn't really in place), and they couldn't find her name, I started to worry.  My confusion at having driven 500 miles for a race that I'd not entered was clear on my face, but Sarah, the RD, looked on me with pity and sorted out a number for me (I have since paid up!).  That little oopsie aside, it looked to be a good day for running.

On the coach to the start at Cragganmore Distillery, I enjoyed a nice chat with another runner (named Colin, I later discovered) about various localish races.  The trip was fairly uneventful, and I was pleasantly surprised at the lack of nausea - I'm not a big fan of bus rides.

Our piper to take us to the start line.
Exiting the coach brought on the only mass-sprint of the day.  100 runners and 4 portaloos meant that those in a rush were really in a rush!  Still, there was plenty of time for everyone to meet their needs before we were piped to that start line and sent on our merry way.

How cruel to start at the home of a lovely malt, and then have to run away from it!

The race route is naturally split into three sections:  the first 12 miles are generally flat with the occasional downward gentle gradient, the next 14 are a bit hilly without anything especially difficult, and the final 10 are essentially flat, with a final stinging uphill at the end (it's smaller than it feels!).  So, my race plan was naturally simple:  nice and steady at around 9min/mi until the hills, get through the hills, and then try to stay at around 10min/mi until the end.  The relatively high effort level meant I would be running on gels, rather than my beloved BLT.  The taste is nowhere near as pleasant, but at least I wouldn't be wearing bacon at the end!

I would love to say that the race took me to new lows and I triumphed, having learned something deep and meaningful about myself.  Actually, come to think of it, I wouldn't - that would mean I'd had a bit of a shocker.  The first 19 miles were quite pleasant, and I was enjoying running at a consistently steady effort level (let's say 6-7 out of 10).  Then I kicked a rock and dislodged a toenail that's only just gotten long enough to get a good smack.  I had a few miles in a lot of pain after that - feet are ever so sensitive to getting a good whack.  Ben Aigan passed quickly and easily, with a couple of short speed-walking breaks and very brief stops to appreciate the scenery.

Plenty of heather on Ben Aigan
After meeting my stupendous crew (Nic, Jeff, and Maggie) at Fochabers, where I clocked my marathon at 4:10 and gladly took on some caffeine and paracetemol to take the edge off my toe, I got into the flat miles.  I just kept pushing to keep my average mile pace starting with a 9, and focussed on eating/drinking enough to have the energy to hold it.  After 35 miles, I was definitely ready to stop, so the final turn up away from the Moray Firth to the finish line at Cluny Square in Buckie was a welcome sight.  To finish in 5:51 was well beyond my early expectations, so I came away hungry and happy, if somewhat stiff in the legs.

I really enjoyed the race.  There were plenty of happy faces along the way, and the course has a gentle beauty to it.  The organizing team are friendly, organized, and work their socks off for the runners If I decide to go back and do it again, which I might just, I guess I'd better make sure I actually finish the entry process!

Kit List:
Brooks Pure Connect 3 shoes (yes, road shoes - there's a lot of road and hard track, and not a lot of mud).
Injinji Performance 2.0 socks
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Brooks shorts so old and with so many miles in them I couldn't possibly guess the type
Cotswold Running Vest (expect to see these at our races soon!)
Suunto Ambit 2
Ultimate Direction Scott Jurek Endure Belt
Gu Brew (berry flavoured) x 4
TORQ Energy Gels:  8 non-caffeinated (various flavours), 2 forest fruits with caffeine
2Toms Butt Shield

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