This one is a bit late but maybe that had to do with the fact that it didn’t go well.

My experience at the D33 Ultra was bad. I got home and said to Fiona: “Just like the West Highland Way Race”. Her face dropped … I had to correct by adding that I had finished. Her first thought was that I had DNFed. (DNF = Did Not Finish).

To be honest if I course would have been only a few miles longer than the 33 then a DNF would have been very likely.

What had gone wrong: The race is mid March and as we all know having reached mid May in the meantime that winter is still not over. The forecast for the day was poor but the heavy rain was due during the 2nd half of the race, so around lunchtime and I was expecting to be well on my way to the finish by then.

The day had started very calm (calm before the storm); overcast, no wind and temperatures just above freezing. I was in two minds about what to wear – shorts with compression calf guards or longs. When I turned into the car park and saw a guy in shorts I was happy to do the same.  Should have made my own decision.

Nonetheless standing around at the start didn’t seem too bad. I guess you know you are an ultra runner when you think a 33 miler which should take you just over 4 hours is short and you don’t need to pack much spare clothing or anything like that. I had packed on extra layer. Got off to a good start and tried to hold a position just inside the top 20. For Scottish Ultra marathons this one is quite big with over 300 runners taking part.

still looking good

The D33 runs from Aberdeen’s Duthie Park to Banchory and back using mostly a disused railway line. This makes the route straightforward with little ascent/descent to deal with but also not the most exciting route. To be honest not my type of ultra route. I did the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra Marathon a few years ago which is along a canal path all the way and only has one very brief elevation change. It felt like hell. I am more at home on trail ultras. So the D33 is more like a road marathon with a bit added on.

I seemed to hold a reasonable pace for the first half and slowed down a bit in the 3rd quarter. There is not much noteworthy in terms of actually performance. I seemed to be running pretty well and was using my trusted feeding/walk break strategy.

The weather started changing after the first quarter with rain and then sleet. I got to the turnaround point in good spirits. Plan was to have one drop bag here and then head back. Only my drop bag wasn’t there. I stayed calm about it although I did waste a couple of minutes trying to find it. Instead of wasting more time I grabbed some flap jacks and a couple of gels from the table and headed off back to Aberdeen still in good spirits. The newly acquired food was nice J

What I hadn’t realised on my way to the turnaround point was that the wind had also picked up and was blowing in from the East so as I started my return leg it was straight into a headwind. Now my choice of clothing and lack of extra clothing were starting to show.

Anyone who is used to training on the bike in the Scottish winter for a summer Ironman will be well aware of how cold it can get with the combination of a headwind and heavy rain. What I hadn’t realised up until this day was the effect it would have on my muscles.

I had passed the three quarter way checkpoint and still felt I was in for a reasonable finish, off the 4:00-4:10 hour target but possibly 4:20. Soon after though may pace had slowed down considerably my muscles had got  colder and it was getting increasingly difficult to move my legs forward. It wasn’t a run/walk anymore. It was shuffle, maybe it was an Ironman shuffle. Antonia Johnson came flying past me with less than 10k to go at an incredible speed. I was amazed. As I was grinding to a halt she was increasing her speed. Her reasoning after the race was that it was a matter of boom or bust. If she had slowed down she would have ended up similar to me – virtually unable to move. She knew though that running at that high pace may end up with her bonking and a similar fate nonetheless. Her strategy paid off as was able to finish strong and crossed the finish line 20 min ahead of me.

With less than 2 miles to go I was eventually reduced to a walk as in particular my adductor muscles had seized up. This wasn’t actually a walk – crawling would have been faster, it wasn’t even a shuffle. It felt as if every step took me a minute. After several 100 metres of this I had to force myself to try and run as the rest of my body was getting far too cold and the only good thing was the knowledge that the finish line was less than 2km away or so I hoped. So I ran although it may not have looked like it but I hoped it would warm me up – just a little bit – not sure that it did though. More runners came past me. Finally I saw the entry gate to Duthie park. I was seldom more relieved to see a sign that meant only a few 100 metres to shuffle.

I crossed the finish line rather dejected but at least I did finish. As I said at the start any further and it would have been less likely.

I made one crucial error that day. I chose to wear the wrong stuff at the start but more importantly I didn’t have enough with me to get changed into in case the weather did turn. One other thought occurred to me later that my trusted regular walk breaks may be a hindrance in weather like this as walking means generating less heat and if you are already at risk of getting cold or too cold then the walk breaks will just speed up this process. So I should have most likely just run back from the halfway point.


I finished in 4:42 hours well behind my target but still roughly inside the top 50 on the day. My car was around 100 metres from the finish line and it took me nearly 5 min to get there. It was a rental car and when I picked it up the person at the rental company mentioned that the car has heated seats and a heated steering wheel but thought I wouldn’t really need them. They turned out to be the best seats I ever sat in J Little did he know.


I was a bit concerned about being able to get out of the car again but once my muscles had warmed up the legs were working fine. Had a nice recovery run the next day round the back of Lumphanan.

The D33 is really well organised and a good event if you want to find a way of going beyond marathon distances. For me though it is on too much hard surface and I am not a big fan of out and back routes. I prefer circular, point to point is even better.

Next up will be my race report of the Cateran 55. Sorry this one was out so late.

All the photos are by CraftRocks. Thank you!