As with 2012 I had decided this year to race Glen Ogle 33 and Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra on consecutive weekends with only 5 days recovery in between. Last year this resulted in a 5th place at Jedburgh and a 13th place at Glen Ogle. This year I placed 7th and 46th respectively. At Jedburgh though I did improve my time by 4 min whereas, at Glen Ogle I was 28 min slower.

The simple answer to why the drop off in performance: there was nothing in the legs from the start. I hadn’t recovered well enough during the week. Over the previous weeks my legs had taken quite a battering with some long runs: 32k on the Jedburgh Ultra course at the end of September, a run on the Pentland Skyline Route (28k) a few days later; a 32k run over 2 munros in the Mamores by Kinlochleven on the first weekend in October; 2 weeks later a 46k and a 27k run in the mountains around Glen Affric including 9 munros; and then the Jedburgh UItra which is 60k. So that is 225k of long runs with a number of shorter ones in between in the 5 weeks before Glen Ogle. Not ideal preparation but it has to be said that Jedburgh and Glen Ogle were not target races and hence I wasn’t particularly tapering for them.

I am pleased that the season ended with Glen Ogle this year. It was the right time. I would have liked to have been more in contention but it wasn’t to be and overall I had a good race the weekend before.

My right calf bothered me in the build up and I only got round to having a massage on the Friday (approx. 24 hours before GO33 race start). The calf itself then proved not to be a problem during the race but a tight hamstring on the same side did and I did spend a fair bit of time managing my pace to protect it, overall successfully.

Aside from that I spent the week trying to fend off a cold that wanted to establish itself post Jedburgh and with the winter weather definitely drawing in this wasn’t easy. Part of me did want it to take hold though so I had an excuse not to start. It didn’t and I did start.

Friday turned out to be a busy work day for me and I only really got round to sorting my stuff out for the race late in the evening. The alarm would go off at 4:30am on Sat morning as Nigel was picking me up to drive over to the race.

We got there in good time and although it had been raining during the night it was a dry overcast morning with a wet campsite to park in – cue wet shoes to start with. Our own fault though as we were advised to park on tarmac but then walked across the wet grass.

Race briefing was short and sweet as they go for ultras, caught up with a whole host of people before the start, but really need to start remembering people’s names more as everyone seems to know mine.

Start (photo by Muriel Downie)

We set off just after 8am and I was roughly in 10th off the start. That would be my best position for the race as from here on I would be overtaken on a regular basis. Some runners would stay with me for a while and we would have a chat. I don’t think I have ever chatted this much in an ultra before (except at Ring O Fire, but that was veeery long). I initially thought I was doing OK and just hadn’t found my place in the field for the day yet as usually it just takes a bit of time to sort out.

The initial forest section was fine and I got onto the single track which leads from Kingshouse to Lochearnhead feeling good. From there to the top of the pass I ran for a while with Roly and then with Phil and a couple of guys from Ireland.

CP2 (photo by Fiona Rennie)

I let them go though as I could tell that my quads were working too hard. Went through checkpoint 2 and had a good descent down towards Killin from there. I also managed to hold my position on the descent losing maybe one place. This soon changed once I started climbing from Killin up to CP3 as gradually one by one runners came past me including John Duncan who didn’t hang around long for a chat (he was flying), Craig Mackay stayed a bit longer and a had a good chat with another guy about nutrition but don’t know his name (he clearly knew who I was which is a bit embarrassing). Just after the highest point Pete Hunter caught up with me and we ran together for a bit too. Soon after CP3 I let him go too only to find myself another chatting partner (someone else who’s name I should know but don’t).

coming off the highest point – with Peter Hunter (photo by Clark Hamilton)

Running back down towards Lochearnhead my legs felt tired and a bit achy, the hamstring was bothering me too. Noanie came flying past me wondering if my nutrition strategy had failed. Just after Lochearnhead I was caught by Donald Sandeman who finished around 30 min behind me a week earlier. When he caught me I was walking and he wondered if something was wrong: I had only slowed down to have a 9bar. Donald coming past me really signalled for me that I was slow. Not that Donald is slow by any means. He has had an incredible year with some big PBs but to date I have always finished ahead of him.

I didn’t know what position I was in and wasn’t really bothered anymore. The forecasted rain had started about an hour earlier than expected and it was absolutely lashing it down. The next 2 hours were going to be wet, West Highland Way 2012 wet, but I was better kitted out than at the D33 earlier this year which was the coldest I had ever gotten.

CP3 (photo by Fiona Rennie)

When the race had started that morning the temperatures were only around 2-3 degrees so the conditions weren’t too different to the D33 in March. What we didn’t get though were the icy winds howling straight off the North Sea. Over the last few kms before coming into CP4 I had a few moments where I thought: I caught just call it a day, I have nothing to prove today, it’s getting a bit rubbish. But I am not very good at quitting a race so soldiered on. My chat partners got a bit sparse and I came through CP4 picking up another 9bar and sipping a bit of coke. Just 10k left, all on tarmac road, along the Northern side of the valley from Kingshouse to Balquidder and then back along the South side before turning south for the final 2k. Heading out towards Balquidder my stride length was short, I got caught by a couple more guys but it didn’t feel as endless as it did in 2012 – the benefits of having been there before. The same can be said for the return leg – or the final 6k. But something switched as I turned. I glanced back and could see another 2 runners bearing down on me.  I was expecting them to catch me soon as many others did on the day. They didn’t – had the rain got to them as it was starting to get to me?

I rounded another corner, I had about 5k to the finish. I noticed that the gap to the last person who had overtaken me hadn’t opened any further. Was I actually closing in on him? Then 2 more runners appeared in front of me. I was rather surprised that I was actually going to overtake somebody, and not only one person but 2, no 3! One of them was clearly struggling as I was walking quite frequently, the other was Roly who narrowly beat me last year, teaching me a lesson in Hokas at the time. This time we both didn’t have a good race but after he went strongly up to CP2 I didn’t expect to see Roly again. And yes I also repassed the 3rd guy. With about 2k to go though Kenny Tindall came motoring past me, trying to find out who was ahead and being surprised that he was behind some of them as he thought he had a good race. He was looking strong to me anyway. Approaching the finish I had another 2 runners in my sights and I guess if the Glen Ogle 33 were closer to 33 miles long then I may have caught them. I finished the 50k in 4:48 hours, not my grandest performance but another wet performance. To my disappointment my Montane Minimus didn’t live up to its waterproofing as I was getting soaked in the chest area over the final few kms. Considering I only got it 6 months ago it isn’t great news.

Finish (photo by GO33 photographer

Once over the line I immediately got changed to stay warm as the rain was relentless. I loaned one of my jackets to another runner. The keys to the car with his warm stuff in it were with his other half who was still out on the course. I would have stayed at the finish to cheer others in but it was no weather to do so as having just spent 5 hours exerting myself it was too easy to get cold. So off to the pub we headed as Nigel had retired at CP2 with an injury and Fraser who was in the same car had finished in the meantime too. The soup and coffee – provided by the race organisers – in the pub were very welcome along with the beers by the side of an open fire.

Thanks to Michael Novicki for coming along to support. He was going due to race but illness forced him out. He is about to embark on a massive adventure as he plans to run the Camino de Santiago in May 2014 and hopefully break the current world record. All of this for charity (check out his charity page and Like his Camino Page on Facebook).

Thanks to Bill and Mike for the race on Saturday and to all the marshals who had to endure some horrendous weather conditions. On days like these I don’t envy being the helper one bit. Being able to keep moving is still the better options, so a huge thanks guys!

I am sure some of you are wondering: So what about nutrition. I did continue with my trial but I feel that with this event more than with Jedburgh it is inconclusive and it would have helped if I would have started either of those rested. But for the record: I had the same breakfast for both races, bacon and eggs with coffee. During the race at Glen Ogle I had some cheese and salami after around 2.5 hrs and then a 9bar at around 3.5 hours. I sipped a coke/water/energy drink mix from 2 hours onwards. Did the food help with the final 6k, it might have done. Did it slow me down earlier? Unlikely, as I was slow from the start.

One of my next posts will be a review of what has been a great season for me (maybe that was the review 😉 ).

Related Links: ResultsStrava file

Keith Ainslie’s Race Report