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Ross had already completed 5 Ultras this year including the Scottish Triple Crown events, before he took on the Glenmore 24 hour trail race this month. This one didn't go quite to plan...find out why Ross ended up in the bushes and how for much of the race he was only fuelled by Active Root!
Everyone who I have spoken to about Glenmore who has done it in the past has raved about how much they enjoyed it and what a good event it is. Having done Great Glen in 2017, I know the BAM team and their style of event so I was really looking forward to this one despite its intimidating premise. 24 hours, 4 mile loops, run as far as you can in the time. Given my level of running up to this point this year I thought that I should be able to break the 100 mile mark as long as I paced well and didn’t injure myself along the way. The best laid plans of mice and men though…
Alice and I headed up to the Hayfield on Friday afternoon and got our tent pitched nice and early so we could relax into the weekend and enjoy the pre-race party (only at a BAM event!) before the race began at midday on Saturday. We had our campfire dinner and headed over to the Hawaiian themed tent for the fancy dress party and mingled about having a couple of drinks and a laugh with the other runners and marshals. It was good to see all the usual suspects there and we had a good chat before heading to bed at a reasonable time. There was an actual running event tomorrow you know!
Alice fell asleep almost instantly but I couldn’t settle. Around 2am I suddenly felt really nauseous and hurriedly sprinted for the portaloos in the nick of time before throwing my guts up inside. I put it down to something I had eaten earlier in the day and went back to my tent in search of a good nights sleep. Unfortunately this wasn’t to be as I was up another twice in the night making the mad dash across the field before morning came. This was not the kind of race prep I had in mind!
I must have managed about 45 minutes sleep throughout the night so when the rest of the campsite started getting up and about on Saturday morning, I was feeling exhausted, dehydrated and generally unwell. The idea of running for 100 miles over the next 24 hours was the last thing I wanted to do! I wasn’t sure if I would even manage a loop but I wanted to give it a go so I got myself dressed and registered and went back to the tent to rest as much as I could before the start. The only thing I trusted my stomach with was my Active Root drink as the ginger should settle it down. I did attempt a bit of toast but it was just too dry to even go down. At 11:30am I gave myself a pep talk and headed to the start line for the race briefing.
After a bit of milling around chatting to other runners, we all assembled on the start line ready for the off. My original plan was to take the first lap super easy to get a feel for the course and to gradually increase my pace to a comfortable level of running after a while. This was still the plan but more for the sake of my stomach than for any kind of race tactics. I upped the pace a little on the second lap to test out the gut and felt ok but I was really wary of how dehydrated and tired I was. I was functioning exclusively on Active Root for the moment but I knew I would need more than that to get through the next 22 hours.
After my second lap I stopped briefly to have a few sips of coffee and a couple of spoonfuls of vegetable soup before heading out again. About half a mile later, both were being violently deposited into the bushes. The next time I came around, I tried to reboot my system with a 15 minute power nap supplemented with some dioralyte, a banana purée pouch and some Gaviscone. This lasted until just after the 2 mile water station of my loop before I saw everything again. Afterwards I felt slightly revived and decided to push through the next few laps without stopping at the Hayfield and to just try and focus on moving rather than eating for a while. If I could claw back a bit time I felt like I could catch a longer nap later in the day and that might sort me out more than food would at this point.
After six laps I decided to stop and have a half hour nap and try to take on some more food. Alice had made me a dinner of salted cucumber slices, potato scone, watermelon wedges and a chicken & mushroom Pot Noodle. The rational was that normal food was making me sick so if we went a bit avant guard then we might confuse my stomach into accepting it. It worked for a time and I did feel a bit better but inevitably I ended up hunched in the bushes again about an hour later.
Afterwards though, I felt a lot better. It seemed that whatever was in my stomach that was making me sick had at last been turfed out and I kicked on up the hill without feeling nauseous for the first time since the race had started. I ran through the campsite on the next lap then stopped briefly for some paracetamol and some more watermelon on the one after. I had managed to hook up with Gilly, who was a good few laps ahead of me but I wanted to stick with her as much as possible during the night to keep me motivated and pass the hours.
As we donned our headtorches and plodded through the darkness it was nice to just chat and not have to think about the practicalities of what we were doing. Laps rolled round a lot more easily than they had during the day and I have always enjoyed running at night when pace isn’t as important than sure footing. We managed to knock out a few laps in the next couple of hours at a good pace with only a stop for a quick coffee and a couple of spoonfuls of baked beans to keep me ticking over. That Active Root was still seeing me through at this point and I had almost forgotten about feeling sick but tiredness was definately starting to creep in. The lack of sleep the night before was taking its toll and I knew that I needed another nap before the sun came up. I told Gilly that I was going to get my head down for half an hour and I would catch her up.
I had a 45 minute sleep which felt like nothing at all but as I started running again around 2am I totally felt the benefit. With a renewed battery I was able to catch Gilly as she was leaving the Hayfield and we ran through the next 3 laps steadily before I started to fade again around 5:30am. I thought that if I could get one more nap in now before the sun came up then I would be able to get to the end which was now the main priority. After 30 minutes, Alice woke me and I had some food and headed out again for the final time.
I mis-timed my start so Gilly was already halfway around the course as I left the Hayfield but I didn’t want to hang around and wait for her and risk cramping up so I plodded off into the woods on my own around 6:30am. I was still able to do some basic maths as I ran and I worked out that if I could get round another 5 laps in the remaining five and a half hours then I would be able to break 80 miles. Given the way that the day had started, I would be more than happy with that but the main objective was still just to finish the 24 hours.
I ran consistently for the next couple of laps and passed the time chatting with a couple of other runners, Greg and Bobby, who were both chasing their own targets but just needed a bit of conversation to pass the miles. Each time I left the Hayfield, I saw Gilly coming along the road and managed to give her a shout of encouragement as I headed out again. I knew she was on course for the 100 miles and she was having to dig deep.
As I ticked off each lap, I wanted to stop more each time but I was managing to overtake other runners as I went so that was encouraging. Every time I saw someone ahead, I was able to focus on reeling them in and passing them and this got me through the last couple of laps. The sun was starting to get quite hot as I set out on my final lap and I knew I could pretty much walk this one out and make it to the 80 mile target but I wanted to just get it done so I ran as much as I could.
As I rounded the corner towards the Hayfield, Alan (Gilly’s husband) met me on the way in and “encouraged” me into my Hawaiian kit from the night before. By this point I was ready to just stop but Alice and her henchmen (Alan & Yan) dragged me to my feet and forced me to do a few laps of the short loop right up until the final hooter. She likes to see me suffer for as long as possible! Midday had arrived and despite minimal sleep, lots of vomiting and precious little fuel I had made it to the end of the 24 hours in one piece. Gilly had come in with around 15 minutes to spare to claim her 100 too. What a legend!
Race number 6 of the year is done and it was certainly one of the toughest. I’m obviously a little disappointed to miss out on the chance of claiming the 100 miles but that goal disappeared pretty early on so I have to be happy with what I did achieve. That goal will just have to wait for another time. The loop format didn’t get to me as much as I thought it would but it definitely adds to the mental toughness of the race. I would totally do it again at some point but I’m not ready for it straight away. The BAM crew always put on a great event and this one was no exception, with just the right amount of callous disregard for niceties. The attitude of “stop being a sissy and get on with it” is absolutely necessary here!