Report from Craig.
Saturday 3rd November saw 200 runners line up at the new start line for the Glen Ogle ultra marathon. Starting and finishing just outside Strathyre it follows a hilly but amazingly scenic out and back 33 mile route.
I did this race in 2011 and know the course well so I went up with a race plan this year, hoping if I stuck to this that I could improve on my 3rd place last year. The start line for the course had moved this year as the route was a bit short in 2011. The newly added mile at the start of the course was straight uphill so when the race started I set off at a very slow pace and eased my way up the hill. As we reached mile 1 I moved into the lead and just continued to run at my own pace over the next 2 miles which were very steep uphills. Miles 4-6 have some good descents, my plan before the race was to take advantage of these and as the course zig-zagged down the hill I looked back up and couldnt even see the runner in second at the top of the hill!
Miles 7-12 take you up over the Glen Ogle viaduct. There are a few very steep climbs early on but its mostly just gradually uphill. Despite a fast start my legs felt strong so I kept going at what felt like an easy pace but in reality I was hitting sub 6:30 miles so I knew I would be opening a good lead over the rest of the field. I was caught in a small blizzard during this part of the race, there was already some snow on the hills and path which made the course even more scenic but thanfully it didnt last too long. I passed checkpoint 2 and ran into the 8/9 mile forest loop. The start of this loop is very much downhill so again, I put the foot down and put in some quick miles. Unfortunately the last sections in the forest feature some long, steep uphill sections. I stuck to my plan and decided to run very slowly up these, even walking at a couple of sections. Unlike most races, walking is quite common in ultras to save energy in your legs. It also gives you a chance to refuel so at mile 18 I took my first energy get. I cruised through the rest of the forest section and stopped for a cup of water at the checkpoint before heading back down the Glen.
I had made the decision not to carry anything other than 2 energy gels on me and only left a drop bag with a bottle of Red Bull, another gel and 5 jaffa cakes at the last checkpoint at mile 26. As I approached an undulating section at mile 24 I began to feel hungry and my energy levels were dropping. I made steady progressed and reached the last checkpoint in 2h 54mins. I grabbed what little supplies I had and slowly walked along the road eating and drinking these. I must have walked for a bit longer than I meant to as my legs had already started to stiffen up as I started to run again. I knew I had a good lead over anyone behind me so took the last section of the run very easily. The last 6 miles are all on road which can be quite sore on the legs after doing so many miles on trails previously. I plodded away though, walking on uphill sections to conserve what energy I had left incase I needed it for the end and jogging the rest, until I saw a sign that said ‘Strathyre 1.5miles.’
Suddenly it hit me…..this was it, even though I had been in the lead for the whole race I hadnt really thought about winning. Now though, I was little over a mile from winning my first ever race!! I wanted to do the Mo-bot as my celebration but as I ran over ‘the shoogly bridge’ and into the finish line I opted just to simply raise my arms. First place in 3:43 – I was absolutely delighted. Then the runner in me came back to the surface and I was thinking that maybe I should have really kept pushing over the last section and I could have ran an even quicker time – I quickly put those thoughts out of my mind though and enjoyed the moment after all I had waited long enough for it!
All in all, it was a fantastic day. For anyone thinking of doing an ultra I cant recommend this one highly enough. Its a great course, really well organised and a great way to end the season. I would advise that you have a look at the course profile though as these hills should not be underestimated. To get my first win was such a confidence boost, now time to train hard over the winter and hopefully it will be the first of many rather than my first and last!!