Sunday, 28 August 2011

Speyside Way Ultramarathon 2011

The goal for this years Speyside Way Ultramarathon was to finish the 36.5 miles with a smile on my face, feeling strong and knowing I could continue running rather than “feeling like a burst sofa” (to quote Al). To that end I was going to be running with Alan Stewart and Tommy who were attempting an ultra for the first time. As I’d rather be running for a longer time to get the experience of time on feet (not often you can say that about a race!) we had agreed on a pace of about 10 minute miles. Hopefully we’d get in about 7 hours.
We camped in Buckie on the Friday night and it was pretty uneventful apart from being woken up 12-2am by drunken teenagers. We’ve all been there and done that, plus I probably would have had a restless nights sleep anyway. At least the rain held off and the tents were dry to pack away at 6am.
The race start was well organised and we were bussed to Ballindalloch where there were additional portaloos this year - really appreciate that so great job by the organisers.
Me, Tommy, Mike and Al

Before we knew it we were all lined up at the start. Al, Tommy and myself were wanting to start with Jonathan Mackintosh. Before that I managed to say a quick “Best of luck” to a few of the elites (Lucy Colquhoun and Paul Giblin I think). Saw Al and Tommy about ¾ down the line so went to grab Jonathan who was behind the gate. At that point I was confused to see all the runners trotting past me. Then the penny dropped - the race had bloody started! Arhahhhhh - quick sprint back to Al and Tommy and we were off. Unfortunately we didn’t see Jonathan until the end.

Al and Tommy

The first 12 miles flew by and were pretty uneventful. We paced about 9:30-10min miles. We did a lot of walking on the uphill section through the forestry and the three of us were feeling good and still pretty strong.

I was keeping the lads right by having stops every 30 mins for food/electrolytes/water.

Just before the turn into Fochabers I felt a pain in my arm and looked down to see a wasp stuck in it and buzzing like a mad thing. I realised there were at least 2 more round me. I’d like to think I acted in a “manly fashion” but I know I let out a very feminine yelp and resembled Kate Bush dancing in that Wuthering Heights video. Tommy was out in front having a wee chuckle and 2 lady marshalls were giggling. When I reached them one said “Why not use a docking leaf?”. I replied it wasn’t a nettle but a wasp sting. She looked concerned, paused and then said “Well, at least it’ll take your mind off your sore legs for a bit” and burst out laughing again. Must admit this raised a big laugh from myself :)

Got through Fochabers and Tommy started to slow. He got a spasm in his right leg and was struggling. He told Al and myself to go on but we wanted to stay and spur him on as much as possible. Also met another chap who was doing a walk 1 min, walk 4 mins strategy. He seemed in chipper spirits. This was his first ultra and he’d picked up a spasm in his left leg! I told him he should be proud that he has managed his energy levels so well and it was just his legs letting him down - at least he’d “done everything right”. Seemed like a nice bloke and was happy to plod it out to the end. We played cat and mouse racing with him for the next few miles.

Tommy was struggling and I suspect it was a combo of sore legs and enegry depletion. Took the right turn after Fochabers and spied in the distance that the other spasm chap had taken a wrong turn. I sprinted after him and caught up after 3-4minutes. Nice to see there was still a bit of speed left in the legs!

Al and myself decided to run on at the 28(ish) mile mark. I don’t think we were helping by trying to spur him on and he’d be better to run his own race from that point instead of trying to keep up and feeling bad about it.

For the next few miles we were doing 8:30-9ish pace. Got to the sea and Al asked to pick the pace up! We ran 8 min miles for a bit and then realised there were only a few miles left. I think we both wanted to overtake folk if we could so ran 7:30 pace from mile 34(ish) to the end. I was really proud that Al managed this comfortably in his first Ultra! I think we overtook 5 or 6 folk at this point.

Al storming it

Came in at 6:39. I was happy to have spent a reasonably long time running and still felt strong. Good signs :)

Mike met us at the finish. He had stormed yet another ultra - 5:01 and 10th place. What a lad!

Next up the lad with spasm leg came in (6:55ish?) and we shook hands and had a giggle about the diversion. Tommy came in at 7:09 looking sore but pleased with himself. He was pretty positive about being back next year. Then Jonathan was in at 7:23. He looked a broken man but he had PBd. As Al said to him on facebook - “it's easy to run when you're feeling strong and hard when you're struggling so you should great character and strength getting round”. A fantastic effort.

So I managed to achieve my goals and enjoyed the route. Last year I finished swearing my head off. This year I was smiling and  joking. Huge respect to the organisers for getting everything spot on. The race just gets better and better. I’ll be back next year.

The River Ayr Way Ultra (44 miles) is next. Same goals - have fun and finish strong. Also, avoid wasps.

Lessons learned:

- I had Choc Soya milk and 25g almonds at the 2 + 4 + 6 hour marks. The idea was to give my stomach a rest from carbs and feed it some protein and fat. This worked remarkably well and was very refreshing.

- For the rest of the time I used shot bloks. A great carb to weight ratio but I think I want to experiment with “real food”.

- I used SCaps rather than Hammer caps this time. I think they worked better due to higher sodium.

- The addidas Kanadia shoes hurt my right heel. Not killer sore but it feels slightly bruised today. Maybe it is time to invest in new trail shoes?

- We took the downhills easy. My quads are thanking me today.


  1. That explains it - I think you two flew by me in the last mile or two. I couldn't understand how you could be running so well! Quite like the idea of the choc soya milk and almonds. I get very sick of things that are two sweet.

  2. Well done Dave ... a good race and enjoyed the report.

  3. great stuff Dave, glad you finished happy. Hopefully i'll be back next year to join you :)

  4. Don't worry about wasps in South Ayrshire, it's the cannibals that far south you need to worry about.

  5. Great write-up Dave - well done (especially considering the wasp attack!!)