In contrast to the cold rainy conditions of my marathon in Toronto 2 weeks previously, the Cateran trail 55 mile ultra on Saturday 14th May 2016 had a beautiful warm sunny day. Just perfect for the warmest, friendliest ultra I have ever done! I didn’t know a soul when I arrived at race headquarters in Glenshee the day prior to the race, but 2 days later when I left I had lots of new friends. Everybody spoke to everybody. The race organisers Sharon and George were so very friendly and they put on a great event.
The starting line was at The Spittal of Glenshee, a lovely, quiet corner of Scotland. The event had 2 distances, 55 miles and 110 miles. The 110 mile event started at 4pm on the 13th May. I cheered these seriously crazy ultrarunners as they started out on their long journey. We would see them still running the next day. Very inspiring!
After watching the 110 start I went for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine.
Gulabin Lodge was the race headquarters and I had a bed there for 2 nights. (There was also camping in the field in front of the lodge). My roommates were Patricia and Lorna and it was great chatting with them about all things running!
The lodge was very comfortable and the organisers laid on food for dinners and breakfasts.
So to the race! The Cateran Trail is a circular waymarked trail through the hills and glens of Perthshire and Angus in Scotland. (The Caterans were cattle thieves who marauded across the area for generations before the 17th Century. The area is now very peaceful!) The trail follows old drove roads and ancient tracks across farmland, forests and moors. It goes over one mountain pass which is the sting in the tail at the end of the 55 miles.
The race started at 7am when it was very cool and windy but it warmed up to a hot 15C or so in the afternoon.
There had actually been quite a dry spell and instead of the expected mud most of the course was bone dry and hard underfoot. There were quite long sections of road scattered throughout the course, great for the fast runners.
I did get “lost” with 3 other people at one point and lost about 15 minutes. We were chatting and not paying attention. I am glad I had the “Footprint” trail map as we quickly saw where we had gone wrong and got back on course. It’s worth noting that quite a few people went off course at various points throughout the day.
https://www.strava.com/activities/575994457/embed/0b61cf4d265f4cf01a9589cb63bcc78011dacab8“>Here is a link to my Strava of the race.
Here are some pics from throughout the day.
The best section was the last section! There were 6 checkpoints in the race. After the last one (6 miles to go!) the main hill appeared . It was long and hard! I got myself up it by talking to myself out loud, banishing the negative thoughts by saying positive words to myself. After the uphill there was a 1 to 2 mile downhill section. After checkpoint 6 I didn’t think I could run another step and planned on walking that final 6 miles. However, when I got to the top of that final hill and looked down to the finish area (a beautiful view) I felt elated and found some extra energy. As well, there was another runner who had been behind me all the way up the hill and who caught up to me at the top. My competitive spirit kicked in. After taking a couple of photos we both ran hard down the hill. I wanted to race that last section. It was wonderful to be able to run fast at the end of 55 miles. It was wonderful to feel reasonably good at the end of 55 miles. A breakthrough for me!
The race went really well for me and I loved it. This was my third race longer than 50 miles. In the previous two I suffered the “brutal bonk” of ultra-running, shuffling along very slowly for the last 15 miles or more, finishing at the back of the pack after much pain and suffering. I started really slowly at the Cateran and was at the back of the pack for the early stages but I managed to keep my slow steady pace going and found myself overtaking rather than being overtaken in the last 20 miles. I wasn’t going fast but I was passing people who were experiencing the destruction that is the “bonk”. I know what that feels like!!
My time was 12 hours and 2 minutes. I finished 38th out of 89 starters, 8th female and 2nd female SuperVet! A podium place! I was very proud.
Everybody was presented with a beautiful Highland Quaich- a drinking cup of friendship.
It was wonderful being able to do a big race back home in Scotland. I love the Scottish hills and mountains but during my recent trips home I haven’t been able to get out into the hills too much due to other priorities. Now, I have that freedom. I was choked up with so much emotion during this race. I smiled, laughed and cried. I choked up with tears going up that final hill. I thought so much about my mum, dad and brother who I have lost in recent years. Also, the rest of my family who are still with me. I had a great big smile on my face when I crossed the finish line. Ultrarunning takes you through all the emotions but leaves you feeling fantastic at the end.
I highly recommend this wonderful event.