Thank you for all your kind comments and emails regarding my last post, my 2012 West Highland Way Race report! I love to hear from readers and positive feedback is always nice to get. I love to write about running and the way it make me feel, and I’m so pleased that my reports seem to strike a chord with so many of you. Incidentally, today I have a guest blog on Sarah Rooftops on why it is I actually love running, so why not head on over and take a look?

This weekend sees the anniversary of my 1st Half Marathon, Stonehaven, and I’m celebrating that by, well; doing it again! Lets hope the weather is a bit more reasonable this year; it’s forcast for light rain and 14C which sounds like PB weather to me. I’ve been training a lot around Stonehaven recently and I feel confident I’m ready to destroy the course’s notorious hills.

I’m still catching up after my time away, so today for you I have my race report from the 2012 Xodus Ythan Challenge, which actually took place on the 17th of June.Enjoy!

Xodus Ythan Challenge
17th June 2012

1hr 20 minutes 11 seconds
Place: 228/432
Gender: 42/163
Category: 26/105

This was my second attempt at the popular multi-terrain event, the Ythan Challenge. I enjoyed the race so much last year, that I had an alert set in my calendar when entries opened so that I could have the best possible chance to secure a place. It was just as well as after the race opened at 12pm it only took four hours to sell out of all 500 places!

Kynon had managed to secure a place at the last minute through a withdrawal, and I also knew I’d be seeing Niall, Rachel, Ian and Donna, and various other Fetchies at the starting line. When I collected my bib I was somewhat surprised to see I had been placed in the slowest wave! At first I was a bit disappointed, but then I realised I could place myself right on the starting line and have some fun running an agressive race from the front for a change.

Kynon and Rachel were allocated spots in faster waves so headed out before Niall and I who were both in the fourth and final wave. It was frustrating having to wait for our turn! The weather was perfect but it was still a little chilly – a change from last year when we ran in monsoon conditions.

When the starting horn went I flew away with the front starters. I knew that we’d have at least a 2.5 mile run before any major obstacles so I wanted to make up any future time losses by being speedy here. The route took us out of the Meadows playing fields and down towards the Ythan River, where it followed a path for about a mile before crossing over to the other side via a bridge and two steep embankments.

I was having fun running up at the front tightly in a little pack of speedy people. By the 2k mark we were already overtaking the slower runners from the previous wave, although the narrow path made this difficult. At 2.5 miles we entered the Esslemont Estate and plunged into the forest – there was a water stop here which I didn’t need to use so I overtook a large amount of slower runners here too. I was on the heels of a skinny fast guy in a University of Aberdeen Athletics Club kit and I decided that he would be my pacer – he looked like he really didn’t belong in the bottom wave either!

The first obstacles were straight forward – haybales, cargo nets, fallen trees. There were then some steep scrambling climbs up and down the banks of the Ythan, with punishing haybales to clamber over at the top just as your legs were giving out! I was able to swiftly power through the Bog of Doom without much trouble – last year taught me that fast high knees and not stopping were the answer. As last year, we went straight in to the river at this point, and plunged right up to chest level which took my breath away. Out of the river and then up and down another hill, before going back in again this time for a long slog up the river in knee high water. I really wanted to pass some people here but also didn’t want to be an asshole…but they were in my way! My attempts at slying overtaking were in vain however, as a couple of hundred meters after leaving the river I found myself in a huge queue to ascend a cargo net – which took TEN MINUTES to get to! By the time I climbed over I was shivering and my heart rate had dropped considerably.

None the less I was able to push on in good time and continued to overtake for the rest of the race. I found the haybales easy to hurdle by using a jump and roll technique, and none of the other obstacles caused any great problems. I had hit my shinbone hard coming out of the river though and a giant egg was forming under my calf sleeve, and I had two nicely scuffed knees from scraping the ground under the cargo net.

Before I knew it the fun was over and I was heading back to town for another 2.5 mile run. I really flew along the flat path here and felt very strong throughout – I found it hard to believe I’d run 16 miles the day before and was coming to the end of a 43 mile week. Upon reaching the Meadows again I was prepared for the traditional sting in the tail – this time it was running up a steep hill to the football pitches before being made to scramble down it and then re-ascend it again, only to be greeted by more haybales to hurdle!

I ran into the finish to complete the 12k course in 1hr 20 and about 9 minutes quicker than last year. I would have been so much quicker if not for the queue at the cargo net, but that doesn’t matter as it really isn’t a race for time. Kynon and Rachel had already finished, but by chip time we all came in around the same time; muddied, exhausted, and happy!