Yesterday I ran the Lairig Ghru Hill race. For those of you who don't know its a 28 mile race from Braemar to Aviemore over the drovers tracks. It was such a great race and route it has inspired me to write a little (a bit epic actually..feel free to skip to the end n the pictures) report about it. It will be a sort of Cameo in blogland as it has been a while- but if you've nothing fit for saying on a public forum I figure it's best not to say anything!! Now don't get me wrong..I have done plenty of stuff over the last wee while..not as much skiing as I would have liked over the winter but a few Munros and a couple of ultras..the D33 and the Fling. A number of good and testing training runs in between..but I didn't figure they would interest you much..but here's a quick catch up.. The D33 is scenic and flat...cycle track out n back, ran well to 27miles then paid the price for drinking lucozade sport (breaking the golden rule of doing NOTHING different for race day) I staggered the last ten k running and walking and darting behind trees every hundred yards! It was a great weekend...having gatecrashed the girls outing, Jude, carol and Maggie D....do they know how to partay..before and after a race!
The Fling was so much better for me this year. I trained with Bk (work colleague, friend, drinking buddy-only cause he can drink less than me and training partner) It was much easier to hit the long training runs around the shift patterns this year which also helped. It was BK's first ultra..having only done 1 10k and 1 marathon before- he did it no bother finishing in 11:55 a great result.
I ran the race with Carol and we blethered the whole way.I had a brilliant support crew of one- some of you may recall supafit Dave..he was there with every thing I felt I needed and answered every whim I came up with! I got the nutrition better due to the support, and despite the heat finished much more comfortably than last year...feeling great. I'm even entertaining the thought that the whole whw race might not be totally out of the question for me?....2012.
And so to the Lairig Ghru. I didn't know much about this race until my friend Carol mentioned it after the D33, I looked it up and got a good vibe about it...decided it was well worth a blast and entered. I loved the name (dunno why that matters but it appealed to me) and I loved the fact it was in an area of Scotland I haven't really explored. I mentioned it to bk and he decided to enter too. I was feeling pretty relaxed about the race...treating it as a training run (the Clydestride is only three weeks away)I started out at 3pm on Saturday and collected Carol then BK and we headed North East. We stopped in Blairgowrie for toilet (wonder who for) and a carry out for the room...u can probably see where this is heading, I did buy a bargain box of the most delicious cherries too, it wasn't all alcohol and chocolate. I think we finally arrived at the Fife Arms hotel about 7...where we checked out our rooms and had a Budvar..or Cider if your name's Carol, and did that...we're here we can now relax thing...a further Budvar and we decided to head down stairs for food.. As I walked into the bar i thought I recognised a face...however when i went over to investigate, having ordered food and the obligatory Guinness- it turned out we didn't know each other. It was however an ice breaker to introductions and the sharing of stories (not that excuses are needed-these events are so friendly) Their names were Kenny and Mark..a couple of guys who were also racing the next day...and had vital experience on the course...more on that later as I left them to eat in peace...having imparted my ultra CV and full name..(they did ask I didn't just tell them!) Kenny and Mark
Our meals arrived and we ate.. a big bowl of pasta for me and errrmm more Guinness..race food. Looking around it was very easy to spot the runners...a marked difference..coach party or runner..it wasn't hard to tell. A few polite hellos and nods of heads..I think this means I was looking like a runner..not a member of a coach party which I take to be a good thing! In fact every time we walked past a CP member they stared at us as though they were looking at a two headed alien.
Through the course of the evening Kenny and Mark came over to join us and pass on their knowledge of the Ghru. I am wondering about the vibe I give off...as they had looked up the Fling results to check I was for real, modern technology eh!!! Kenny told us that the start is quite flat..but its all uphill to the 18th mile...hmmmm.
We proceeded to have a great evening with them. Mark has just run the Marathon de Sables and is getting ready to hit the Gobi race in three weeks!! Kenny had recently completed the 70 wild miles so you can imagine there weren't many gaps in the conversation.
Eventually we retired to bed..@ around 3 and I didn't open an eye until 8 am on Sunday...10am is a great race start time! And Carol DIDN'T snore despite her reputation!
Breakfast was included so I shoveled down a full cooked breakfast. Then we packed our things up, settled the bill and wandered about Braemar to find the start point and collect our numbers. There were a fair few runners milling about the street and it was easy to spot the blue parasol that represented the reg point! We attached our numbers and milled about it started to rain..quite heavily...finally the organiser got up onto the roof of his car and introduced the race...as the race is not signed he ran through a few instructions and with no pomp or circumstance or frills finished off by saying.."the race begins in 5 seconds four, three, two, one..go" and off we went!
BK, Carol and I hung back as the field shot off along the road a quite a pace..we were a little concerned about the cut off at Derry lodge..which was 90mins...but knowing this point was 8 miles away we were confident that a 10 min pace would be plenty fast enough..knowing from experience that reining yourself in at the start of an ultra leads to a massive boost at the end when you most need it...provided all goes to plan!
We struggled to keep the slow pace and were in fact last for the first 4 or 5 miles until we crossed the Dee at Marr lodge..the path headed up onto the trails.. We made Derry lodge in 85 mins, the Mountain rescue team were there..cheering us on..always appreciated..and hopefully not needed! After Derry lodge we relaxed a little as did many of the other runners...we hit a very marshy boggy patch of land which required a fair few leaps and bounds just to avoid being sucked in by the bog monster. This is where the trail really started to get beautiful..weaving up Glen Lui to the stream crossing at Luibeg. (I imagine I was a bit of a sight at this point as the water was flowing strong and fast..I had my phone out taking pictures and ended up crossing somewhat haphazardly, using both hands to steady myself feet in the water on slippery rocks..phone in a ziplock bag clenched between my teeth..we know htc s and water dont mix well!)
The path then climbed more steeply by Carn a’Mhaim with the Devil’s Point on the left..quite a sight, as the Lairig Ghru appeared before us. Devils Point
We chatted along..I felt great and was really working hard to hold back, it was great to be on a new trail, the landscape was so perfect it reminded me of those model villages that my parents used to take me to as a kid..(more to do with my brothers obsession with Hornby train sets) lush and green. I love running in such rich countryside you can almost smell the oxygen all that clean freshly produced O2 coursing into your lungs and around your body. who needs drugs!?
The infamous boulder fields, large wobbly rocks..'Bowser was here' rocks. LESS SAID ABOUT THEM THE BETTER..I quite enjoyed hopping from rock to rock... but BK and Carol didn't so I don't want to evoke the memory too vividly...Brian asked a walker going the other way how far they went on for...'forever' he said 'they just become less wobbly' this was not the right answer and we moved on quickly...Kenny had said they went of for about 2 miles...not FOREVER...! At 18 miles you just don't want to hear some things.....walkers take note! WHW'ers..imagine doing the whw for the first time and being told the loch side goes on forever!
Clearly the boulder field didn't last for ever..and as the chunks of rock got smaller and less boulder like. BK and I pushed on as we were both feeling pretty energetic still. We passed the check point..around this time Aviemore came into view. As we started the descent I would love to have been able to 'disengage the brain' and 'fall doon the hill' but I need more practice at that..we did release the breaks a bit and had a ball flying down into Rothiemurchus Forest. We were also starting to catch people..I have no idea how many but to be running strong at 20+ miles is just about the best feeling. We were like two kids going to a party or something bounding down this mountain with big grins on our faces...exclaiming..'this is brilliant'..we were flying. The forest is a proper Scotch pine forest, and a beautiful trail to run down through.
As the path evened out we cut our pace..we were cruising along at 8-9 min miles,both feeling a bit unnerved that with 23/4 miles in the bag we were feeling so strong.I put my phone away at this point hence no pictures from here onwards) We kept picking off runners which just spurred us on more... we hit the road at Coylumbridge and had a couple of cups of water. I had Nuun in my camel back which had clearly done me well but I was glad to get some fresh water at the one and only water butt.
The road seemed long...we were still catching people all the way, we headed up the cycle path into Aviemore..really delighted to be finishing so strong..as we turned onto the main street we saw the Blue Parasol and ran into a lovely friendly understated finish. No official times yet but we finished around 5h35 i really didnt eat much along the route..but the big cooked breakfast at 8.30 and the guinness must have been enough..I drank lots of very weak Nunn and had half a go-ahead bar and a packet of salt and vinegars crisps.
There was soup and cake for every finisher .. and it was good seeing all the runners at the end..as we all had to wait until 5pm to get the coach back to Braemar. Kenny and Mark were already there..so we chatted to them and heard how their race had gone..Kenny had done a minuite faster than last year...in 4:26 a very respectable time..and Mark said he was about 20 mins ahead of us.
Carol came in about 10 Minutes later.
The prize giving took place...needless to say there were some awesome times. With a race cut off of 6hrs..this really is a runners race...
The coach journey back took forever...having sat in the same position for the 2 hr journey there would have been some worthy entries to the ministry of funny walks as we dismounted the coach. We hot footed it down the road to Bridge of Cally where we met up with Kenny and Mark again and shared some more laughs. (I would recommend the home made steak burger if you're passing) A perfect end to a brilliant couple of days.