Clydestride Ultra (40 miles): 21st July


It is said that you learn more about yourself in adversity than in any other state. Mistakes are rich with lessons and whilst winning and doing well is great, to truly develop you need to take some knocks too. Whilst 2012 has been a great running year for me with new PBs knocked out the park at all distances, the one dark spot was the the Clydestride Ultra in July.

There was a litany of bad ideas, bad timing and bad prep from me. Then my race plan was awful. But aside from that, it went well.

And as much as I ran poorly and suffered, the race itself is fantastic. This was my first bash at an ultra. The organiser (Lee McLean) is the epitome of encouragement and enthusiasm. It was her ‘go on’ reply to a Facebook post that goaded me into the race.

I had just ran a new PB in Edinburgh’s marathon and decided that, after reading Born to Run it was time I tried an ultra. The next practical one was Clydestride. So, I entered. And I trained. I ran a sub-5 hour 31 mile training run. I was in good shape.

The course itself runs from Partick to New Lanark, hugging the Clyde most of the way as you head southwards via Cambuslang, Motherwell, Strathclyde Park & Maudslie. It is mainly hard path with some trail and fields thrown in for good measure. It is a picturesque course and I can’t wait to see it again.

However, the training run I did was too close to the race and too soon after the marathon and whilst I didn’t pick up an injuries per se, I was lethargic. Then, on the day of the race I did stupid things like run too fast. Not stick to my run/walk strategy because I was feeling good and worst of all, in the boggy, hilly and long grass section after Cambuslang, I didn’t slow down. I should have known when I was overtaking people for fun there something was  wrong. The experienced campaigners were slowing down, I was throwing out 8 min miles. I felt great. Then I got to twenty miles and it started to fall apart.

I stopped for drinks and a refuel at the checkpoint at Strathclyde Park and struggled to get going again, but I moseyed on. Then came the worst bit. There is a stretch where you run through a cow field alongside the River Clyde. It is beautiful section and quite inspiring. However, it was also rutted from the poor weather and cows, damn them! I went over on my ankle but instead of walking it off I decided to run it. By the time I got to 27 miles I was done. My ankle was sore, I had compensated and hurt my knee and I was knackered.

Now, it is important to understand that I was going to Toronto two days later and had promised Louise (who wasn’t keen I did the race but supportive all the same) that any inkling of an injury and I was out. So, I regretfully withdrew at 30 miles, CP3.

I hated myself for it and still regret it now. I could walked in hours inside the cut-off. But I didn’t want my first ultra to end this way. I imagined running over the line a glorious last effort. Not hobbling like Kaizer Souzee. I felt like I had let people down, my folks who were there, me and the organisers.

But I learned so much:

  1. Respect the ultra for more than the distance: the terrain, elevation and everything such like is part of the challenge
  2. Pay attention to those around you: if whippets are walking or slowing there must be a good reason why
  3. Be prepared to change your plan and focus on one goal. Finishing.
  4. Get advice, listen and act
  5. Enjoy the day

My next ultra is on 3rd November at the Glen Ogle 33. This was meant to be my first and it will be the first I finish as I will take the learning above and apply it. I better finish!

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