Thursday 5 April 2012
Glasgow Edinburgh Ultramarathon Race report: 56 miles on canal path from my fair city in the west to our capital city in the east. Full race results here.
The weather watching began in earnest on Monday. I never thought, in March, I'd be willing the temperatures to drop, but the whole week Britain was enjoying unseasonably hot temperatures. Record breaking in Scotland. It's hard to believe it's been sub zero and snowing this week. Only in Scotland, eh?
Thankfully race day was a little cooler. Sunny and breezy, but fresh. The forecast was pretty close to perfect when I lined up for a race that I swore blind I'd never do. Mind you, I've said that about a lot of races.
I was really calm at the start. I don't even think I had my usual startled-rabbit look. I had been looking forward to the race, and I think that's always a good sign of things to come.
There was the usual buzz around the start. Nerves, kits checks and panic peeing. Sonic and the Crazy German were unsubtly sussing out their competition. Firstly, Grant built-for-this-race Jeans had submitted an eleventh hour entry. Along with Gareth Mayze, the winner of the D33 a few weeks' prior. A winner who had kicked Mr Jeans into second place that day. It wasn't a case of "who beat Grant Jeans?" but more "who beat Grant Jeans?" As well-established marathon runner, Gareth had been plucked from obscurity and has certainly mixed up the sharp end of ultra-racing. I'm sure his Power of 10 profile hits has increased 10-fold in the last few weeks. With two 30 mile races under his belt, the 56-miler was to be his biggest adventure to date.
We mulled at the start prior to the 9am kick-off and were mid pre-race hugging and hand shaking when the hooter went off. Game face on and we were all done onto the canal path, that would have the pleasure of our footing for the majority of the day.
Grant Jeans went off like sh*t off a shovel and after a course twists and turns of , the leaders were out of view. I ran with the Gibbering Midget for a couple of miles, before her little butt swaggered out of sight too.
I was then joined by the lovely Tori, who I shared the next (possibly) eight miles with. She's a writer who lives in Dubai and likes ultra-running and travelling, so the miles zipped by as chatted about my old haunts and life. It wasn't a conscious effort, but I started to pull away shortly after Kirkintilloch (CP1).
I was then playing leap frog with a young chap who obviously had a wicked competitive side and wasn't going to lie down to being chicked. I stayed at the same pace, hence my realisation about his competitive streak. I had tried to strike up a conversation with him earlier in the race, but he had earphones in. I find it quite uncomfortable running side-by-side in silence, so I pretty much forced him into taking them out and I chatted with Struan (after introductions) for a few miles. I think, by his own omission, he was working a little too hard so early in the race. Again, I pulled away and that was the last he had to endure my sparkling chat.
My plan was to stick to the same pace from start to finish. Although, giving that it's not rocket science, I'm sure that's a lot of runners' plan. Unfortunately the starting pace tends to be a little ambitious to maintain for some. Now looking at the race pictures it's quite comical to see the runners (boys, obviously) who were up at the front for the first sections, that I passed them in the latter sections looking a bit worse for wear.
I then ran with Chris Fenton for a bit and he was to be my last compardre for the day. His plan was to run at 8:30m/m for the first half and then hang on with walking breaks thereafter. Personally, I don't get that. I wouldn't enjoy that strategy one bit. But hey, each to their own.
With my Garmin set to show average pace, I stayed around 8:30m/m and checked this at regular intervals. At 5 miles, I was bang on target and the same at 10, 15 and getting to CP2 at the Falkirk Wheel at 22 (ish) miles.
Although I planned on running the race with only one drop bag pick-up point, Mr and Mrs Pacepusher were on hand to help me replenish supplies, which was a great help. Although it won't come as any surprise that I hadn't made a dent in what I was carrying. The Pacepushers lived to regret that, as they got roped/coaxed into being our impromptu back-up for the Gibbering Midget and I for the day. Result!
Heading up the hill crossing over from the Fort and Clyde canal onto the Union I had to call back three runners who had gone the wrong way. One being second lady, who I passed coming out of the first tunnel. Which meant I had moved up to second and the Gibbering Midget was first.
I don't know what position I was in, but I knew was picking my way through field. At Linlithgow (34 miles) I was still feeling great, but my ethusiam was dipping. I decided to use my ipod, as it was a lonely run in from there and I needed the pick up.
I know a lot of the runners were complaining about the strong (and unexpected!) head wind, but I was quite thankful for it. Without it, I think there would have been a lot of overheating issues. Heading towards Broxburn (44 miles) I was wilting, hot and my quads were trashed. I dropped all the food that I'd carried as I knew it was a waste of baggage weight. At the checkpoints I was kept up to speed on Sonic's race and it was great to hear he was going strong and battling it out for first place. Grant had pulled out at Linlithgow with an injury.
My lowest ebb lasted for about 4/5 miles, but I managed to stick with the same average pace of 8:30m/m I'd set myself at the start. I think that's the best reason for consistent pacing, as your legs go on cruise control.
Then I had another three runners to target (and pass!) before hitting the outskirts of Edinburgh into a glorious housing estate. Going under the first bridge the ground and walls were splattered with blood and a cyclist nearly took me under the next bridge. I know he saw me, but he was still going hell-for-leather and I was all out of spacial awareness. Let's just say the resident junkies even blushed at the words that I spat.
In 2009, I did back-up for the GM when the finishing gantry was at Harrison Park. If I'd actually read the race instructions properly I would have known the course was about a mile short in 2009, due to renovation work at the real finishing line at Lochrin Basin.
So as I ran under - what I thought was - the final bridge, I sorted my hair, wiped away the mouth foam and the snotters and pulled myself up into my best I'm-not-completely-f*cked running style, ready to be greeted. But nothing. I thought it was an April fools joke. I passed where the finishing line was in 2009 - frantically searching - and seemed to keep going and going. I was then in a slight panic about not making the sub:8 hour.
Eventually I saw what looked like the basin, but I wasn't sure. And I wasn't sure how long it would take me to get there. Some families out enjoying the lovely day were cheering me on and I must have looked completely deranged.
Then I crossed the cobblestones - which were a delight on my trashed quads and feet - and saw the gantry. Of course my tidied hair and composed running style were wasted by then. I was delighted to finish second lady - behind my trusty sidekick - in 7:54and 8th position overall. Average pace still on 8:30 m/m.
Top three results below. A little bit more competitive this year, as the top four ladies finished before last year's first. And the top 10 overall finished within last year's second overall. If that makes sense...
1(1st M) Gareth Mayze 06:48:36
2 (2nd M) Marco Consani 06:52:46
3 (3rd M) Thomas Loehndorf 06:53:58
1st W (5th) Sharon Law 07:41:35
2nd W (8th) Debbie Martin-Consani 07:54:25
3rd W (15th) Lorna Dewar 08:31:50
Thanks to the organises and stewards for putting on a slick event. Special - huge! - thanks to the Pacepushers for giving up their day out to wait on two divas. And thanks for Silke for escorting four of the above six back to Scotland's finest city. Safe to say, it was a fairly hyperactive car load.
When I was back in the car I checked my email on my iphone only to find I'd received the official race documents from director the the Grand Union Canal Race. Oh yeah how could I forget I've got to run nearly three times that in two months? Needless to say the emails are marked as unread for the time being.