Ochil Ultra - Fifty for Fifty

Ochil Ultra - Fifty for Fifty

Up until now the longest race I had run was the 7 Hills of Edinburgh and my longest training run was 26 miles back in July.  Now 6 months after that mad moment when running 50 miles on my 50th birthday sounded a great idea (well it never sounded great actually) the time had come.

Standing in the grounds of Stirling Uni waiting on the 7am start it was a bit worrying about what lay ahead.  I had my backpack with water, food, waterproofs, foil blanket, whistle, race gps and some blister plasters but still no rocks and I was ready to roll.

A gentle jog round the grounds and up through the woods onto the road heading for Dumyat, the weather was fine but a few puddles from overnight rain as I tried to keep my feet dry.  At the summit the weather was fine and I stopped for some photos whilst those just behind me streaked off down the hill.  Being cautious on the steep parts I still managed to slip but not as much as Bambi ahead of me who fell 3 times in 3 steps.  The trail shoes had really helped here but now on to the road between Menstrie and Tillicoultry I could ease into my running.  First checkpoint, top up the water, eat a banana and change to the Mudclaws for the wetter section of the course and I was off up the hill in 14th place.

What a start to leg 2, the next 3 miles had an elevation increase of 544m which I walked most of and the path was narrow and muddy in points or thick grass covering pools of water, keeping the feet dry was impossible.  Still some nice views especially coming down the other side towards Glendevon reservoir where we joined the road for a few miles.  Not great in the wet mudclaws and my feet and legs were starting to feel the pain.  We then left the road and onto a farm road before going through the woods and across Glensherup reservoir and now another 200m uphill climb over 2 miles before the steep downhill to the 20 mile point.  The feet required some attention for blisters and dry socks.

A slow start to leg 3 over the next 2 miles all uphill again before having to stop for more blister care.  Cramp was a big factor as well and not quite half way.  I eventually completed my 2nd marathon distance in 5 hours 30 minutes.  The scenery was now not so great, rocky paths which were quite flooded, streams to get over and knowing that I didn’t have any support crew at the next stage due to the narrow roads and limited parking.  People were also starting to pass which is again demoralising.

I started leg 4 having forgotten to fill my camelback (oops) but had taken on some water and a squirt of freeze spray on the cramping legs.  Managed to set off at a slow pace along the road before turning onto a farm track, over a couple of gates and water hazards before heading back in the direction I had just come for a short uphill.  The hills were now getting less and more down, not that it made it any easier on the legs, plenty of gates to climb over and a couple of aggressive cows.  Okay not really aggressive but they were on my path and did not flinch as I ran towards them.  Only once I was in touching distance did they nonchalantly walk off.  Nice downward grassy run down to the bottom of the field where the cows normally gather.  Deep mud had to be negotiated and almost come a cropper when the mud came up past my ankle running chip and took a tight hold.  Once I wriggled free it was balancing on a rock to climb over a fence onto another rock.  Some rocky downhill paths now which were another challenge for the legs which they did not appreciate.  The gates were now becoming more of a challenge to get over.  A short road section, more rocky paths and onto to the road for the run in to the final checkpoint.  It was good to be met by son who came down the road to cheer me on.  Time for another change of socks and back to the hard trail shoes for the final section. 

Getting back into the running for this last 10 miles was difficult.  I tried to stretch and cramp took hold so decided to forget it.  Took a wrong turn due to kids turning an arrow the wrong way but luckily the watch soon alerted me and I was back on track.  Breaking into a jog as I crossed the road in Bridge of Earn knowing that I was almost there.  A long flat stretch of road allowed me to get the legs going before turning off road again and for the final time an uphill section.  So around 43 miles run and Moncrieffe Hill comes into view (the hill to the right of the motorway when heading north just as you reach the Perth turn off), it didn’t look too bad to start with but snaked upwards for almost 3.5 miles climbing 190m.  I passed the back marker in the short ultra at this point but was amazed when a Perth Harriers runner came past running uphill and looking quite fresh.  Not to worry she was a relay runner and had only started at the last checkpoint.  I don’t understand why the gravel downhill had speedbumps although apparently it was deliberate to slow down runners with cramp.  Back on to the road and I was passed by a runner that I had passed at the bottom of the hill and they were quickly out of sight.  I eventually managed to get running again just before being stopped by some marshalls offering coke and sweets.  The end was now almost in sight, just down this hill and the Inches would be on my left, then suddenly, like a ninja a marshall stands up and points me down to the right.  I tried to protest but they weren’t having it.  Tangled with a black Audi when trying to cross the road.  Who has the right of way, a runner who has done 48 miles or a car?  As I headed down the road alongside the Tay I could see the runner that had passed me earlier and I thought they were walking but looking again they appeared to be running.  I was closing but wouldn’t catch them.  As we came round the back of the prison and up towards the main road they were now less than 100m ahead.  The marshall pressed the crossing for the green man as we approached and I managed to get close enough to get straight across without stopping.  I was now in the park and on the home straight (apart from the sharp left and short finish) and I was running like a track runner.  Okay the stride was shorter and the knees not as high but I did manage to get to 10k pace.

My first ultra completed, medal and t-shirt earned.  Massage earned, ok maybe that would have to wait as they were now packing up, I had taken too long.

Soon the park was ablaze as the candles were lit on my birthday cake, luckily the beer could put them out as I didn’t have enough puff.

Due to the fact that I think I was the only person from CAAC running then my poor time of 11:03:50 is a club record :-).  I finished 27th out of 62 finishers.

So would I recommend this race, well I don’t think that is for me to answer, do you want to do this race?  Some points to help you decide.

Well organised

Yes

Course well marked and marshalled

Yes

Long

Yes

Flat

No

Scenic

Yes

Roads

Yes

Trails (rock, ash, mud, grass)

Yes

Hurdles (streams, gates, stiles)

Yes

Friendly

Yes

Chip timing

Yes

Good spread at the end

No (bananas, some cake and water so not a definite no)

Weather

Good this time.

Thanks for sticking in on my report to the end

Victor's picture

Well done, Ian. That's a

Well done, Ian. That's a significant achievement. A well written report too. I feel your pain with the cramping which reminds of my one and only ultra. Shame about the spread at the end... the Devil o' the Highlands has a great post-race spread & party if you're interested in another Ultra ;)

Graeme's picture

Great write up Ian. I think

Great write up Ian. I think that you've sold it to me ( perhaps a relay stage ;-) I felt my legs cramping just reading it !

steveb's picture

Great write up, what a way to

Great write up, what a way to celebrate your 50th and what an acheivement, well earned club record.
steveb's picture

Great write up, what a way to

Great write up, what a way to celebrate your 50th and what an acheivement, well earned club record.
Graeme Reid's picture

Well done Ian. Hard to

Well done Ian. Hard to imagine doing these kind of distances. Great write up too.