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RACE REPORT – Glen Lyon Ultramarathon

Glen Lyon Ultramarathon

Glen Lyon Ultra

7th May 2016
6 hours 26 minutes 14 seconds

60th of 77 (81 starters)
19 of 30 Females

The Glen Lyon Ultramarathon is the newest race in the BaM Racing portfolio. Billed as a 30 mile run in one of the remotest parts of Central Scotland, it was being ran for the first time in 2016 with a limited field size. Anyone who has done a BaM event before knows that they are in for a treat, so I signed up without hesitation when the race opened in February.

Glen Lyon is as remote as it is beautiful, so we booked into a hotel in Aberfeldy for the night before the race. In direct contrast to everything which went wrong with our trip to London for the marathon, this overnight stay could not have gone better. We stayed at the Aberfeldy Townhouse, an immaculate and comfortable boutique hotel with the most amazing customer service I’ve ever experienced outside of the USA. Pre-dinner beverages were taken at the Fountain Bar in the town square, with its outside seating area providing a comfortable place to soak up the warmth of the golden hour. Dinner was at the Three Lemons, a bar and brasserie that would not have been out of place in a fashionable neighbourhood in any city, and we enjoyed some huge and delicious stone-baked pizzas before retiring back to our hotel for an early night.

Glen Lyon Ultra 1

The next morning we were awake just after 6 and headed down to the restaurant for a pre-arranged early breakfast at 7am. Since they do not serve breakfast until 8am on the weekends, the hotel manager had very kindly offered to prepare us a breakfast roll and some coffee to prepare us for the day ahead. In actual fact, the staff had come in early, the whole breakfast buffet had been set up, including warm pastries fresh from the oven, and we were given two overflowing rolls each, served with fresh coffee and several rounds of toast. As ever my eyes were bigger than my stomach and I was well and truly stuffed with we left the hotel at 7.30am.

Glen Lyon Ultra 3

The 23 mile drive from Aberfeldy to Glen Lyon took over an hour, much of which is on treacherous and windy crumbling single track road. With no phone signal or means of communications other than the Race Director’s emergency satellite phone, this race was well and truly off the grid.

Glen Lyon Ultra

We arrived at the Dam at 8:45 which was just enough time to get registered, choose which layers to wear, and say hello to an assortment of friends. The weather was more or less perfect but there was a chilly wind which kept things cool as the sun was hidden behind haze.  I went for my new long sleeve Tracksmith top over the top of a tshirt, with various peripherals packed in my race vest.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Fiona Rennie

Glen Lyon Ultra

At 9:15am there was the briefest of briefings before the whistle went at 9:30am to set us on our way. There was half a mile of road to run on before a swift turn uphill for a long march up towards the Dam.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Susan Addison

The race is, to borrow the words of Dougie, a race of two Glens. The first half takes in the entire circumference of the dammed Loch Lyon before bringing the runners back to race HQ for a check point. The road was an undulating rocky landrover track which you could never quite relax on – the uneven terrain made it easy to lose your footing and stumble. With stunning views the whole way around it was easy to get distracted.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

The heat slowly rose in the Glen and I quickly found myself losing my outer layers. This meant that the several river crossings were welcome relief, especially the handfuls of fresh spring water I splashed on my face to cool down with. Unsurprisingly, I hadn’t been hungry at all after my big breakfast, but was drinking a lot of water.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra SA 2

There was a water point at 9.5 miles right at the far end of the Loch before we headed back towards HQ. I said hello to Iona and Donna before refilling my bottles and getting on the move quickly. I was aware I was pretty far back in the field but I didn’t care as long as I was feeling ok and running smoothly. I knew that today was not going to be a day for fast times or impressive running from my legs!

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon UltraPhoto – Donna Leslie

Returning towards the Dam the headwind was very strong and I had to work that bit harder to keep a steady pace. I reached the Dam and the (theoretical half way point) in roughly 3 hours which was bang on target . Not knowing the course, I had guessed I might take between 6 and 6.5 hours to cover the 30 miles, but I knew that the second Glen, and in particular getting in and out of it, would be harder running.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Fiona Rennie

After leaving Race HQ we were back onto tarmac road for a long 2 mile slog up a steep hill,Looking towards the other side of the Loch, you can see where the path we had ran on  previously is hewn from the sides of the Glen high above the water.

Glen Lyon Ultra

After the long climb up there was a flat half mile as the road followed the contour lines before descending down into Glen Lochart. There was a water stop at around 20 miles before we turned off the road and onto a rocky trail high above the Glen. Looking down I could see little running figures on the bottom of the other side of the Glen on their way back; I did some quick sums in my head and calculated that the loop around the Glen must be about 7 miles in length, before the long and arduous haul back over the hill to the finish. Looking ahead down the Glen was daunting and my mental resolved wobbled a little; I was tiring and beginning to feel a bit sick, and it was obvious that  my lack of training was beginning to show.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

The small field of 80 had long since spread out and I ran much of the race completely by myself. There were very few race markers required, so if it hadn’t been for the odd glimpse of a person far in the distance, I may as well have been out there completely alone. Miles 20 – 27 were really quite tough as I pushed myself on when I was fatiguing hard. My legs and hips were feeling ok; not stiff or hurting, and my feet were fine too, but I was just lacking the solid cardio fitness which usually makes these events a lot easier. Feeling nauseated really wasn’t helping either, but I just trucked on steadily, breaking up the miles in a 0.1 walk/0.4 run sequence. I was amused to pass through marathon distance at 5hr 12m 38s, which is only a few seconds off the time in which I completed my very first marathon.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Finally, the big pipeline which we had crossed 7 miles ago came back into site and I knew I had nearly completed my lap of the Glen. I began to steel myself for the 3 mile climb from the bottom of the Glen right to the top of the hill. I had caught up with Sue, a Wee County Harrier, who I’d spoken to one or two times before, and chatting with her made the first of the three miles pass a lot more comfortably. We reached the 20 and 27 mile water point where I had hoped to tickle Diesel the Dog for some puppy power, but he was fast asleep having had a big day cheering all of the runners.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Picture – Lois Simpson

After quenching my thirst I locked in for the last few miles and started an ultra stomp up the hill, huffing and swearing as I went. It was obvious the race was going to be well over 30 miles in distance, but at least I knew the last two were downhill.

30 miles came and went, and so did 31, but the finish line didn’t arrive until 31.6 miles – a slightly generous 50k. Running up towards the finishing arch was a lovely feeling, as was having Kynon’s arms to fall into once again. Thanks to Fiona Rennie for these excellent pictures.

Glen Lyon Ultra

Glen Lyon Ultra

I had a sit down and some more water, before putting on some dry warm clothes immediately.  I wanted to eat but the appetite just wasn’t there, so I had a cup of sugary tea to keep my blood sugar up. It would have been nice to hang around but we had to more or less zoom off straight away in order to drive back home to get to a birthday party that evening. I was nervous about the twisty road making me car-sick but in the end we were stuck behind the slowest van in the world so it wasn’t really a concern!

I would thoroughly recommend this race to anyone looking to step up to ultra distance running, but is maybe a little unsure of the flat and fast nature of the D33. This race gives all the scenery and trail running of some of the longer SUMS events but without the extra mileage. The event is sure to grow to be another huge success for BaM, so keep your eyes peeled for the 2017 opening date!

Glen Lyon Ultra – Race Preview

Did you know I’m off to Glen Lyon tomorrow to run a 30 mile race? I did, kind of… I don’t know about you but April this year has evaporated at such a speed I feel like this race has crept up on me a lot quicker that I ever expected it to!

glen lyon ultra

So what’s the Glen Lyon Ultra?

The Glen Lyon Ultra is a brand new race from BaM Racing, stalwarts of the Scottish Ultra scene and organisers of Glen Ogle 33, Great Glen Ultra, and Glenmore 24. They like a race in a Glen, you see.  The race route was first used a few years ago when a company ran an event called the Tigh Nam Bodach 50k in December. For some reason the race never took off and it just faded away after the first year, but it is back with the BaM treatment and looking like a great Spring adventure taking place at a far more hospitable time of year.

glen lyon ultra david downey

Picture – David Downey

Where is Glen Lyon?

Glen Lyon is…in the middle of nowhere. This is a really remote race, high up in the hills in Central Scotland, properly off grid whilst technically still in Perthshire. It’s a three hour drive from Stonehaven, the last hour of which covers only 23 miles on single track roads towards a hamlet called Pubil. To this end, we are staying in Aberfeldy tonight to maximise the amount of sleep tonight in order to arrive in time for the 9.30am start.

glen lyon ultra route

What is the weather situation?

Well, it doesn’t actually look too bad – perfect weather for running if the forecast is correct. That part of Scotland can get extremely cold at any time of year though so I’ll be taking an array of kit. I’m a little sad that we’ll be missing the relative heatwave on Sunday, but perhaps it’s for the best given my usual failure to perform in heat. Unfortunately Stonehaven is on the wrong side of the weather front on Sunday, so I won’t be able to recover in any warm sunshine like you might find in Perthshire!

glen lyon ultra weather

So what’s the plan?

Any regular readers will know that 2016 has really been any but regular for me in terms of training. I AM training – an assortment of gym work, club running sessions, half marathon length runs, but LONG long runs have been largely non existent, and as for long off road stuff…the less said about that the better. The reason for this massive change in training has been because of having no big events to train for – no D33, no Fling, no Cateran, no WHW/Great Glen – all of the events which have shaped my training over the last few years have been absent from my schedule, and there’s little to no point in dragging your body through high mileage training for no reason. I’ve had a tough few years and perhaps this little break has been good physically. Mentally it doesn’t feel very ok though. Why no races? Well, to put it bluntly; when they all opened last year/early this year, I really didn’t think we’d be living in Scotland. But we still are. So make of that what you will.

Anyway; I’m not too worried about tomorrow. I know it will be harder than it ought to be, but endurance doesn’t go away and I expect it will just take a little while for me to settle into my groove. I’m really looking forward to a long run out in the hills; I’m going to take it easy and soak up the surroundings, enjoy the company of my fellow ultra runners who I simply haven’t seen enough of this year, and use the race as an opportunity to mentally reset and try and get to a place where I can at least regconise myself as an athlete again.

glen lyon ultra route profile

Are you running a race this weekend?

Have you ever been to Glen Lyon?

Am I going to survive that dirty vertical after 26 miles?!

8 Things To Consider for a Happy London Marathon Weekend

london marathon

image source: London Standard

Last weekend we traveled from Aberdeen to London so Kynon could run the London Marathon. After a catalogue of minor fails which resulted in the weekend falling seriously short of potential; I’ve put together some humorous thoughts which could be applicable to any major city marathon, especially one you’ve traveled a distance to attend…

1.Choose your hotel very carefully
This is really a no-brainer, but we made a poor choice in booking three nights at the Ibis Styles ExCel Centre. The hotel itself was largely acceptable (apart from paper thin walls and a bathroom that stunk of marijuana…but I’ll leave the rest of that moan for TripAdvisor), but the ExCel Centre is a lot further away from Central London than we expected. Whilst Kynon could walk to the Expo at the ExCel in five minutes, that was really the only benefit of this location which is 30 – 40 minute tube ride from Central London, and on the edge of a sketchy housing estate. Whilst it was good value, I would have happily paid double the rate to be closer to the London action. We booked in December, so if you are planning on doing London next year, then you need to get your hotel booked yesterday…

london marathon

2. Don’t get smashed in the 48 hours before the race
Another no-brainer really, but it’s amazing how easily these things happen. Being offered the opportunity to rendezvous with a selection of friends he hadn’t seen for a while, Kynon hit the pubs of London Bridge pretty hard on Friday night which made Saturday a bit of a nightmare for him. Spending the day before a marathon feeling pretty poorly will do nothing for your mental or physical preparation, and the dehydration will negatively impact your running. If anyone finds out how to make turning down the opportunity to drink good beers and catch up with friends on race weekend a fun and appealing option, let me know.

3. Don’t go to Camden Market on a Saturday
I don’t know what came over me, but I really wanted to do a bit of market shopping. I used to love going to Camden many years ago, but I somehow missed the change in the district from ‘intriguing alternative hive’ to ‘mainstream tourist hell-hole’. I’m somewhat misanthropic at the best of times, but I had to jump on a bus and GTF overland before I committed mass-murder with a Spanish tourists’ selfie stick. Critical London error: 2/10 could do better.

london marathon

4. Don’t go to NikeTown when you know you can’t afford it.
I love browsing the shiny new-season kit in Nike on Oxford St. I tend to purchase my kit when it’s months out of season and discounted massively on SportsShoes.com, so it’s nice to see what I’ll be wearing in about 18 months time. I spotted a pair of deliciously awesome £120 compression tights and was eyeing them up for the second time; I was almost about to reach for my wallet when an announcement came over the tannoy: “Attention! An incident has occurred! Please stand by for further instructions!”. The announcement was repeated several times before changing to an instruction to evacuate the building. Jeez. Ok. I know I’m broke but back off, man.  I put the gorgeous tights back on the hanger and followed staff instruction to evacuate to street level alongside four floors of active-wear lovers, and the entirety of Topshop Oxford St. It turns out they were evacuating the entire block. I was mildly alarmed, but I retreated to a safe distance and attempted to call Kynon to find out where he was. It turned out he had been in the customer toilet at the time; whether that had anything to do with the evacuation is TBD, but either way my attempts at purchasing kit I can’t afford were well and truly foiled.

5. Plan your pre-race dinner
Seriously though, this is so bread-and-butter, but we somehow dropped the ball here as well and ended up wandering the streets looking for an Italian which had availability for 4 on the night before the London Marathon. LOL. We found a vaguely acceptable looking pizza cafe which was half empty and ate a very average meal. It was crap. Do your research and make a booking before you even arrive in your race city – it’s not worth the hassle or disappointment to try and wing it.

london marathon

6. Plan your spectating route in advance
I did a pretty good job on this one, and managed to see Kynon twice and at the finish. I made the most of it by putting on my running kit and a CamelBak, and scooted between 9 miles, 11 miles, 24 miles, 22 miles, and back to the finish via the South Bank. I racked up a healthy 8 miles, saw many of my friends on their way, and particularly enjoyed watching the Championship and fast club runners gallop past at mile 24. There was some serious effort being deployed here which I found quite inspirational.

london marathon

7. If you must lose your Oyster Card, don’t do it on Marathon day
Nobody really wants to do this anyway, but I managed to lose mine with a healthy balance on it at some point on my marathon supporting jog. Tube stations near the route are utterly mobbed on marathon day so an attempt at purchasing day or single tickets will add considerable time to your journey, as well as added expense. Thankfully someone reminded me that I can use my contactless bank card to pay, but personally I am not really comfortable with sacrificing personal privacy and security for convenience, so it is not a long term solution for me. Farewell my trusty 10 year old Oyster Card – given to me by an old friend long disappeared in the sands of time, I have no idea who it is registered to and no way of retrieving the balance.

london marathon

8. Plan your post-Marathon celebrations with military precision
We all know how easy it is to fall into a bed or couch after a marathon, order delivery food, and not leave the house until you have to. That’s fine when you’re at home, but if you’re in a new city you’ll want to use your apres-race evening to soak up the last of the race atmosphere, exchange knowing nods across a bar with your fellow runners, wear your medal proudly, and generally cling on to as much of your race-cation time as possible. Hopefully you won’t have been as daft as us and booked a hotel in the middle of nowhere, but if you have, then you need to get a plan in place in advance in order to make the most of your evening. If not, risk of the following occurrences will occur: sitting in your hotel room saying ‘what do you want to do?’, ‘I don’t know, you?’, until you finally break free of the clutches of the Ibis Styles to head to the Canary Wharf area, because it’s easy to get to and there’s a Wetherspoons there that will do the job. Except, you will show up and the Wetherspoons will be inexplicably closed and you’ll find yourself wandering the empty streets of the Isle of Dogs looking for a restaurant or bar that isn’t a £200-a-head steakhouse. You will finally locate a curry house online which looks vaguely acceptable, only to find it is a tiny, deserted cave in a strip-mall next to a dual carriageway across from Westferry Station, with only two other customers in it. The curry will be crap, you will leave after one beer, and be back in the Ibis Styles taking a long hard look at yourself wondering how you managed to mess this up so badly.


 

So what is the overall lesson here, ladies and gentlemen? PLANNING. PLAN EVERYTHING. PLAN MORE. Piss poor planning promotes piss poor performance. We seriously messed up this one, and other than Kynon having a great race and pacing his lifelong friend around his first marathon to a 4:44 finish, the whole weekend was generally the extended disco remix of mediocrity. It really shouldn’t have been; we thought we could just wing it…how hard could it be to have a great weekend in one of the greatest cities in the world? Not hard at all, but it turns out that having a shit weekend is a lot easier than  we thought.

Have you ever had a race weekend disaster?

What are your tips for a stress-free race-cation?

 

 

The Running Awards 2016

The Running Awards

Back in March, an email arrived inviting me to attend The Running Awards and an event in London which was hosted by Strava. As a partner of The Running Awards, Strava invited a selection of their top bloggers and influencers to a pre-awards ceremony group run, drinks reception, Q+A session with Martin Yelling and the Strava team, and then attendance at the Running Awards themselves. Occasionally I get invited to events in London by PRs who haven’t noticed that I live 500 miles away, so I nearly deleted the email just like I do with all the others until I noticed that it was taking place on the 22nd of April and I was already going to be in London due to Kynon running the marathon. A rather fortuitous coincidence!

I was still initially a little unsure about attending as the timeline of the events seemed a little challenging – a 6k run, then 30 minutes to get ready for an awards ceremony? Not even with a full hair and makeup team on hand could I manage a turn-around that fast! However there was discussion about the event amongst members of a blogger group I am a part of and I realised that the real opportunity was to actually meet and spend an evening with many online blogger friends who I have connected with online for years, as well as to enjoy the evening as a whole.

The next challenge was to manage my hand-luggage only packing to include extra running kit and some evening attire for the awards ceremony. Thanks to my Mary Poppins-esque cabin bag I was able to squeeze everything in, and we arrived at our hotel from the airport about 30 minutes before I needed to be at the hotel where the events were being hosted. That was far too tight a margin for my control freak tendencies, but unfortunately this was not the first or the last failure of our London Marathon weekend… More on that in another post, but most importantly I was able to change and scoot out of the hotel quickly, and make it to North Greenwich tube station in time to arrive at the InterContinental Hotel at the O2 for the evening.

The first person I set eyes on as I walked on was the legendary Susie Chan, endurance runner extraordinaire and the latest world record holder of the women’s 12 hour treadmill run. I’ve been tweeting with Susie for years yet our paths have never crossed in real life, so it was lovely to finally meet her and her husband Shaun. We were given our goodie bags which contained; a gorgeous long sleeve Tracksmith top (athleisure at its finest!), a Wahoo Tickr bluetooth heart rate monitor, and a Strava drybag phone case. If we hadn’t already been spoiled enough, we were then paired up with another runner and given a key to one of the hotel rooms to use to store our belongings and wash and change for the awards. I should probably mention that the InterContinental 02 is a five star hotel, brand spanking new, and absolutely dazzling on the inside. Compared to my room for the weekend at the Ibis Styles Docklands it was somewhat of an upgrade…they were going to have to prise that room key out of my cold, dead hands!

After my roomie Bethan  and I had figured out the room technology (turning on the bathroom lights took us a bit longer than it ought to!) and got over the view over London from the stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, we headed back downstairs to meet the rest of the attendees and set out on the run. Unfortunately the weather really wasn’t up to much, but a group of about a dozen of us headed out in the first wave around ‘gritty’ East London in the rain.

The Running Awards

The 6k run took us along the Docklands on the Thames Path and then through to Greenwich Park, to the top of a hill with what should have been a lovely view over London. Despite the rain it was still a pretty place to pause and Susie captured a group selfie to mark the occasion:

The Running Awards

Picture – Susie Chan

The Running Awards

We arrived back at the hotel about 45 minutes later, and self-consciously squeaked our way across the beautiful marble floors of reception in our soaking wet kit. As if by magic we all reappeared back in the lobby shortly after looking far more presentable, and headed off to the Indigo venue at the 02 Arena for the drinks reception.

The Running Awards

I had my picture taken with Bethan, Polly, and Helen, before we were whisked up to the balcony area above the main stage for some glasses of champagne before the Q+A session, which was with renowned GB athlete and coach, Martin Yelling, CEO of parkrun, Tom Williams, and the Strava team.

The Running Awards

The session was fairly brief but some interesting points were covered. I was interested and encouraged to hear that Strava are currently working with local councils in some areas to provide heat-map data to Infrastructure design teams, in order to assist with the creation of cycle and runner friendly roads and paths.

The Running Awards

Next up was some delicious food and some more complimentary beverages, where I had the opportunity to meet and chat with a number of other online friends and bloggers; Helen, Elle, Sarah, Loz, Laura – it was great to finally meet you all! At 10pm the award ceremony started and we were lead downstairs to the awards floor where there were a couple of spare tables; in theory we were going to be given balcony seats, but the offer of getting a little closer to the action was much appreciated.

The Running Awards

The Running Awards have categories for just about everything you can think of, including; Best Marathon, Best Shoe, Best Sports Drink – all which were unsurprisingly awarded to the big guns such as London Marathon, Adidas, Nike and Lucazade. I was pleased to see awards for smaller more niche categories though, and am delighted that Aberdeen-born Run4It retained their title as Best Independent retailer, and also won the Best Customer Service award.

For the most part I retain a healthy degree of skepticism about online awards these days as the sector is now somewhat saturated, reducing the credibility of most of them. It seems like every brand has their own ‘best blog awards’ which essentially boil down to a marketing exercise for the brand, and retain the feeling of a playground popularity contest for the bloggers. It also goes without saying that any award where you can nominate yourself and then solicit for votes isn’t worth the energy it takes to click ‘Like’ …

However, The Running Awards are respected as the original and best, and continue to put on one hell of a show to celebrate everything to do with running in the UK each year. Attending events such as these is bread and butter for many bloggers based in the London area so I was glad to take the opportunity to partake in the fun for once, and it was undoubtedly the highlight of my weekend in London.

Thank you so much to Strava for inviting me, and for the lovely goodies to take away.

the running awards

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