Glen Lyon my second BAM race!! The banter as ever was epic.
Our journey to Glen Lyon started around 5/6 months ago when I convinced my running chum Zandra to enter this race, obviously never dreaming I would get a ballot for London. Training had gone well, although a lot had been on tar due to wanting to nail London for a PB.
It was slightly arrogant of me to assume that this race would be similar to GO33, same organisers and just a glen over. Well I just couldn’t have been more wrong. Here is my epic race report/story.
We headed to Killin on Friday evening, with the race being early Saturday morning, and not having a chauffeur we decided to stay over. The journey down was great fun. Zandra and I had lots of chat, and we were in Aviemore before we knew it. We stopped for some carb-loading as it was going to be around 9pm before we got to Killin. Where else to go but the best burger joint in town, Roos Leap. We both had burgers – I had a massive BBQ thing with bacon, cheese, and BBQ sauce. It actually was amazing, homemade juicy. I felt like I needed to have a token side salad, to justify in my head why I was eating what looked like it could possible feed a family of 4 for two days. I also ordered onion rings, because let’s face it, what is a massive ginormous heart attack burger without added deep fried onions with a full fat batter. As the Insch Trail Runners web sites states, go hard or go home!! Challenge accepted!! Now Choc, before you go mental, I can hear you from here reading this. I did not manage to eat all the above mentioned food, which I was rather disappointed with. I would have been able to put the lot away at one point. I managed most of the meat, ¾ of my bun, and maybe 1/3 of my chips, a few onion rings, and a token mouth full of salad. Totally forgot to mention the nachos that we shared for a starter!!
We had no room left for pudding, so we payed the bill and left. We did a quick Facebook live video for our fans! (We are in a Facebook group with all Choc’s fellow PT victims so we all keep each other up to date with our training, admittedly possibly me more than anyone, but hey does this face look bothered). We were on the road again. Note for anyone who knows me, knows I am, let’s say, energetic the majority of the time. Add copious amounts of E numbers to that mixture, and the energetic, becomes let’s say hyper! I think this might be a good use of words here Zandra, what do you think? We were both on the same level to be honest; we were both excited for the run the next day, full of e numbers, and starting to get tired. Once we turned off the A9 to head to Killin it was like the country side you see in the movie the Hills Have Eyes, I mean don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful, but I am pretty sure that some random murderer could easily set some signs up that we would follow to a dead end, run down, deserted village, with some stuffed bodies to make the place look inhabited, to our in inevitable doom!! It was so remote. The roads were all single track, and the sun was starting to set. There were so many deer going around. In the trees, on the road, and at one point running (do deer run??) alongside my car as we drove. I was waiting for them to change direction and jump over my roof. Lucky enough this didn’t happen. We saw David and Pamela, and a few other campers heading to Glen Lyon as we made our way across country, although these two were so engrossed in the hills have eyes type driving experience that they didn’t see my waving like I was running from a murderer and needed help before he stole my skin for his next art peace, or peeping my horn like a crazy lady. We were kind of gutted as their banter is always amazing. Never mind – we had a hotel to get to. We entertained ourselves by speaking to Siri, (my name is now sexy) and looking at the breath taking scenery. We arrived, checked in, grabbed a cider and headed to bed.
We woke at 5.30am, which was earlier than we needed but both Zandra and I were excited/nervous (Zandra may use different adjectives here). We sorted our stuff out, packed our back packs; I taped my knee, and just generally got my shit together. Was slightly upset that our hotel didn’t service breakfast till 8am, and we had to leave at 7.30am to drive the 24odd miles to Glen Lyon. It would take an hour, and we needed to be there for race brief at 9.30am. Pamela will try and tell you I like to be everywhere early, but in fact I just like to be on time. Anyway – no breakfast before running an ultra – well planned there Jan. I snuck into the dining area and helped myself to some car toast whilst we waited for someone to appear so we could pay our bill. We also bumped into another Glen Lyoner as we waited. She was told us about all her other ultras and how she loved the lone running of ultras. It was nice to know another crazy person was also away to head over, as we would have someone to follow. Then we were off. Glen Lyon here we come. We headed back the way we had come the night before, then took a left up another hills have eyes road. I was a bit worried we had gone the wrong way, but though to hell with it – lets just follow the people in front of us. It was one of these roads that you see in postman pat with his little red van. God knows where Jess was, but there were little baby lambs to keep me entertained. The road was twisty and well…feral! Some small pot holes, some big pot holes, it was really good fun to drive on and the scenery was beautiful, I would go as far as saying breath taking!!
It took an hour to reach the start were we saw David, Pamela, Ewan, and Gavin – the fellow Insch trail runners. Everyone was rather quiet, not sure if it was the gin the night before, or nerves especially for the boys, who are good enough to be placed in this race. We popped up and got our numbers and our finishing t shirt. This part of the day was a bit of a blur. All of a sudden Pamela of all people is telling us to hurry up – they were waiting for us at the race briefing. We half listened to the very important information that we were being told. I remember hearing “always keep the water on your left going round the loch” , and that it was signposted well. I kinda stopped listening when he pointed at the large hill we had to climb to start with. We took some selfies, reassured each other (Pamela, Zandra and I) that we would survive, although I did think Pamela was mental having just run the Highland Fling race the week before ( anyone that hasn’t heard of this Google it as I cant even comprehend the epic run that one is). The horn went and we headed out. We ran all off 100 meters before we hit the first hill and we started to power walk with the rest of the pack.
This is the part you have all be waiting for, am I correct? As we climbed up to the highest point we would reach around the Loch we had amazing views. The sun was shining and there was very little cloud in the sky. There was a breeze but it was warm. I had broken this ultra down in my head to two halves – one 17 mile loop round the loch, and one 14 mile loop round another valley. This was neither a good idea or correct! The first 7 miles just flew past, my legs were a little tired, I did still had London in them, but the terrain, although some loose stones, was reasonably easy going. There were some streams to cross which was ace fun. Half my brain was thinking, oh my God, I am going to fall. The other half of my brain was thinking trust your core and move your arse. As we made our way round the loch, the ground undulated up and down, but not by much. I started to compare the route to a slightly more exciting railway line. There was two reasons for this, one I could see the path from where we were, to where we had to go, all the way back to the dam, and two I could see the tiny orange Gavin making his way back along…and I was still miles away. Never the less I ran on, and once we got to the end of the loch and turned back on ourselves I started to enjoy the run again, mainly because you couldn’t see so far ahead at this point, so I wasn’t chasing an never ending trail. I passed the time by chatting to Zandra – she was in the zone, so I often also looked at the animal poop that was around me, and this will come up again so pay attention…. I tried to decide if it was sheep poop, or lamb poop, or deer poop, or rabbit poop! Once I had done with this conversation in my head, I then went on to think about how shiny the stones were…I also spoke to the sheep, I speak very good bahhhh!! Are you feeling I wasn’t overly inspired by this first loop? Once we got close to the dam, my spirts started to lift. I knew that the first loop was nearly over, and thought only 14 more miles to go once we reached the check point. We crossed the dam (Zandra wasn’t sure there would be room to run along the top as it was rather narrow!! This made me chuckle). We ran fine knowing that our drop bags were at the other side. We passed one or two people, who due to injury or heat had decided to call it a day. One man told us we needed sun cream on our legs as we passed. It was warm but it wasn’t too hot at this point.
We ran down the grass path to the check point, were I could hear the wonderful Ruth encouraging me, telling me how proud she was of us, and asking how we were feeling. I felt fresh still, legs still going round, not tired, not too hungry. It was a swift bag drop, my number was called out as I came down the hill, and by the time I reached the bottom there was someone handing it to me. The only problem is it was hot now, and my coke, and chocolate snickers had been sitting in sun shine for 3hours. I ate my snickers like an ice pole, unsure if my face was now covered in chocolate. It was so soft it almost ran out of the packet! I took a few swigs of my flat coke, which was just below boiling. I knew I needed to take something on as we still had 16 miles to go. That’s right, the first loop wasn’t 17 it was 15miles! Never mind though, I was feeling good, and Zandra still looked fresh. We headed across the bridge and onto the next loop. This is where we first met Jo, she was also informing us of her warm pork pie, and hot ice coffee.
In front of us was a rather large hill, and we started to power walk up, moaning quietly, and then slightly louder as we made our way up the never ending hill. It was tar, but had lots of pot holes and loose gravel. As we climbed, the view was amazing. I was feeling positive that this was a loop and this hill was going to be a nice coast home. The hill was never ending it went on for nearly 2miles, as we almost reached the top at mile say 16.5 the first male runner started to run back down. We were slightly shocked that someone was already heading back to the finish. Some people might feel deflated by this, but I perked up at the thought of seeing my fellow Insch runners heading back. I was optimistic that they would be near the front. The scenery was absolutely breath taking. I just can’t put into words how much at peace I felt with the world as we ran. We started to count down the miles left – we figured out that we only had 10miles to do before we would be at the bottom of the hill again, there was only a 7 mile loop to do, and then we would be on the home stretch. Zandra, Jo and me played ping pong runners for a bit as we headed down the hill. The first one of our Insch boys we saw was Gavin. I shouted with excitement that he was 3rd… keep going, not far behind him was Ewan, we high fived as we past. The boy still looked strong in the heat, as the sun was now at its highest and relentless. I was so proud of them, and I knew that David wouldn’t be far behind. We started heading steep downhill, and this is where my tar training came in handy, as I found it easy to run down here. We went through a gate, and I saw David coming up the hill, goooo David, I ran down to him, gave him a quick hug and told him he was doing ace. I was so so proud of the boys, I took great pleasure in telling another runner who we had caught up with, that 3rd, 4th and 5th were all from my running club.
We reached the next water station to be welcomed by Sharon who cheers us on, as she helped someone who had obviously fallen and was bleeding. We are so lucky to have people like Sharon and Ruth to marshal at these races, they are so encouraging, and supportive. These guys really do keep me going. Sharon pointed us in the right direction, and we headed off to do our final loop. It was hard going under foot, rubbly farm tracks, and the heat was starting to become unbearable when there was no wind. We ran along, walking the hills, and I started to hit my wall around mile 20. I knew that Zandra was also starting to struggle, and things got really quiet. I suggested playing Claire and my favourite game, the animal game, but Zandra was not up for my game, she will tell you it’s because she’s not good at it, but I think she just prefers eye spy. So we just chatted random rubbish. I also started examining the animal poop lying around – there wasn’t as much up here, some sheep poop, a few mini sheep poop/rabbit poop. We headed through gates, and I moaned that someone had put a snib on one of them. Never mind the sheep getting out, am having to use my brain here and its tired! I felt like I was in Krypton Factor trying to get it open. It was around here, that for the first time in the run, I felt like only Zandra and I were running. It felt like we were just out for a long weekend run. There was very little life, a few sheep, who obviously I spoke to, but other than that it was so quiet, am sure you could have heard a pin drop. It was like we were on our own island. We could see other runners on the path below looping back to the water station. I am not sure if I enjoyed seeing them or not, they were like tiny ants working away. We headed along and I could see where the turning point was. As we reached it Zandra kindly informed me it looked like we had to go up before we go down. I didn’t want to tell her that this downhill was going to be tricky part, on tired legs, uneven path, and loose stones. We headed down, where the road spiralled round on itself, and as it did, the wind spiralled with us. The air was warm, and it offered no relief to the heat. We reached the bottom both still upright and I was glad that bit was over. I knew there was a risk that one of us could have lost concentration and fallen. We plodded on along the side of the river, and we could now see someone in front of us. With no desire to catch anyone up, we just enjoyed the pace and absorbed the fact that this was Scotland, and it was beautiful. We hit 26.3 miles, and I announced to Zandra she was now a marathon runner. I was so proud of how well she was coping, especially with the heat. She was also starting to get emotional, and she had every right to. This was an amazing achievement, and I knew now that she would be finish no problem. Around mile 27 we met two runners who were doing a backwards sweep, it was really hot and am sure they wanted to make sure we were all okay. I was out of water, which was a very rookie mistake. I had under estimated how much I had left at the last water station and hadn’t refilled my bag. The two runners offered me some water, and said we would be at the next water station in around a mile. Zandra kindly offered me some of her hydration too, so I knew I wasn’t going to dehydrate. However I did feel slightly out of control that I had no water left, and I didn’t want to eat anything in case it made me want more water, and I didn’t want Zandra having none either. This was probably my lowest and toughest point, however it didn’t last long, as there were cows, and highland cows, and massive cow pats to take up my attention. I stopped and got a selfie, right before we turned to start the 2 mile climb back to the top of the hill. This proper made me smile, but I was actually starting to feel sick – not sure why, but it wasn’t fine. Moaning about this didn’t last long (Zandra may disagree) as Jo had caught us up and we had some fresh chat. We started our moan about the hill again, but we slogged on up, chatting and laughing, making jokes and just randomly speaking rubbish.
As we turned the last corner before the water station, Sharon and Andy started to walk towards us holding cups of water – it was like a mirage. It was so nice to see, and I was so glad of the water. They told us we were doing fab, and asked us questions so they could be satisfied we were okay and safe to carry on. They told us we looked good and that many people had passed through, not coping at all with the heat. I asked Sharon how Pamela was doing, wondering if she had just done the first loop, or if the crazy sexy Pamela had carried on. Sharon reassured me she was about 10 mins behind us at the check point and she was still going strong. Go PAMELA! We filled out hydration packs and set off again with encouragement from Sharon and Andy, one mile up two miles down he told us. As we carried on up the hill, I started to give Zandra some advice on running down the hill at the other side. I told her to pick her feet up, and to keep her stance wide, and let gravity take her down. I am not an expert and I think I was just chatting for the sake of chatting, sure Zandra had run down plenty hills. We got to 30 miles, and Jo, Zandra and I gave a wee cheer, not far now! I knew that the run was more like 32 miles rather than 31, but I didn’t feel we needed to discuss this, as it wouldn’t change anything. As we started to head back downhill I started to sing, if you’re happy and you know it clap your hands. Zandra sang along with me and I am pretty sure Jo just thought that the sun had gone to my head. Zandra was off down the hill, I though shit, I am never going to keep up with her. We were strong still. Jo caught us up and we all ran down the last mile together, when Jo started singing if you’re happy and you know it, which made me laugh, and I now knew I wasn’t too crazy. We hit the bottom of the hill, crossed the bridge and reached the last wee climb. We gave it one last power walk, as Jo took off into the sun. We got to the top and I said to Zandra “are you ready to threshold the shit out of this last part”, she very determinedly said yes back to me. We had this. She started to sprint and I couldn’t keep up with her, but anyone that knows me, knows there was no way I was being left behind, and from nowhere I was sprinting too. I could hear and see both David and Ruth cheering us on, as well as the rest of the gang at the end, as we crossed the finish. We stopped, and I turned to Zandra, gave her a massive hug, and that was it!! We did it – nearly 32 miles of tough, hot trail. Zandra who had never even run more than 22 miles, had just finished strong a 32 mile race!! Well bloody done Zandra, and I was so proud to be there with her. David as per usual was right there, big hugs to us both, along with Ruth as she gave us our medal. I have only met Ruth a handful of times, but she is one of the friendliest, kindest people I have ever met. She’s defo my adopted ultra-mum and she had nothing but praise for us both. David of course was his usual amazing self, helping us get what we needed, helping us get back to the car, and making sure we were okay. We grabbed our stuff from the car, and headed back to the finish, Sexy Pamela wasn’t far behind us and I wanted to see her finish. We cheered and roared at her as she approached!! She is one crazy lady but I was glad to see her finish. Big hugs, and some alcohol free fizz and our adventure of Glen Lyon was complete!
So what did I learn?? Never under estimate how much water you need, always have sun cream in your drop back ( I am a nice shade of tomato now) marshals make the race, and running in remote hills have eyes country side is something that I will never ever get sick of doing! Glen Lyon made Glen Ogle look like a walk in the park, but Tiree is still the toughest yet!
Big thanks to the BAM gang, to Ruth, David and Sharon, and to everyone else who took part in and helped at the Glen Lyon Ultramarathon. 32 miles of sheep poop and shiny stones!!
See you all at Glenmore x