RAW 2011 full report

This is going to be long. Not Thomas long but long nonetheless. So put the cat out, do your toilets and sit down.

Before I start on this report I should clear up some small details, otherwise you’ll get lost after the first line or two of the race report itself.

For anybody (i.e. most of the readers) who has never had the desire to run through wild parts of Scotland I will describe the race in sections of distance, type of terrain and the actual names of the places along the way. This should make it easier to follow. Here is a set of maps of the route if you’re really lost!

I know that by ultra running off-road standards this might be pretty straightforward as a run (actually, I don’t know that, but lets just suppose it anyway) but if you can’t get a motocross bike or even a horse along the route then it is ‘off-road’ by my standards.

Background and training

So, earlier this year I turned 40 and having PB-ed in the Dublin City Marathon last October (3:18) I started to work out that I was either going to have to take my training much more seriously (i.e. join a club, got to a track, run lots of races) or set my sights on a bigger goal. Perverse, but there you go.

I formulated a plan that involved me running an ultra. It would be cool for me to say that I chose the RAW (river Ayr Way) Challenge because it was about 40 miles and I’m 40 but like George Washington and his apple tree, I cannot tell a lie. Stretch the truth? Yes. Lie? No.

No, the real reason I chose to run an ultra was because I figured not too many people have done it and it does give you the aura of being mental/really fit/tough/a bit special (in the playing with plastic blocks sense of the word special). And I thought it would be all down hill. I am laughing as I type this.

Now if you’re one of the ‘I ran 45 miles on my 45th birthday’ sort of people then the above comment does not apply to you (the ‘not too many people’ piece)

The plan was to start training in March with a marathon length run in June (the Cork City Marathon) and then to build up to the RAW in September with a generous taper to allow for recovery.

There’s a saying – probably from some book of inspirational quotes – Men plan and God laughs.

Well, God laughed on this one.  My plan remained intact until the day after the Marathon in Cork when I decided that a well deserved 2 month break was in order. I decided that the beer-to-running ratio in my life needed to be a bit more balanced so I both upped the beer and cut down on the running.  Like a kid on a Sunday evening with no homework done I faffed about doing 4 mile runs for 2 months.  Then I decided, in early August, that it was time to shit or get off the pot.

So I shit (a brick).

My training was what might, by marathon standards, be called a little compressed. I did a single post-it training plan that went something like this:

Monday – off

Tuesday – 4 miles

Wednesday – 6 miles

Thursday – 8 miles

Friday – 6 miles

Saturday – off

Sunday – 14, 16, 20, 24, 27, 32, 20, 14, race.

If something happened, like an injury for example, the plan was to get in one 30+ mile run and cut back on the other stuff.

The plan went reasonably well with only a handful of the shorter runs being skipped and the 28 miler was cut to a 27 miler  – I knew it was compressed so I was just concentrating on slow endurance and nutrition and guessed that if I lacked something in the way of aerobic fitness then I’d be doing a bit of walking at the end of the race.  I had no one to blame but myself for the shortened training so I just shut up about it (excluding moaning on about it in this blog, of course).

Travel and pre-race

The trip to Scotland was planned with all the military precision of the London Fire Brigade. As I got on the plane on the Thursday morning for the flight to Glasgow my wife asked me where I was staying. I dunno came my reply. With who? Oh, a lady called Lee and the fireman from London came my reply.

My wife thinks internet friends are a bit dodgy.

I have to say that the hospitality of Mrs.Mac and the Pirate was second to none and a big shout must go up for the two MacLeans (Jamie and wee Hannah) who did everything from giving up their bed to making me tea. Not once did I think I was going to be chopped up and buried under the patio (although I think Mason may have hoped). Mrs. Mac and the master-chef from Battersea also looked after my nutrition as I was treated to breaded pork and a healthy dose of pasta.

On the morning of the race I was up by 06:15 and had my porridge/coffee/toilet ritual over before anybody else was up. Dave was making spiced beef rolls – a gift from Ireland. The previous afternoon had been spent making up drop bags for the race. These were combinations of all the food I had been using in my training run – flat coke, banana milk, kinder bars, gels, rice crispie squares. It was during this ritual that the first hint of how complex the course was going to be was dropped. Lee got out a laminator and cut up a course map into little strips and laminated them together for the drop bags. A bit extreme I thought. How wrong was I.

I went for 3 drop bags between the start and mile 25 – one at mile 11, one at mile 17 and one at mile 25. Lee would have the first two and I’d give the third one to the organisers.

Dave Ross called ’round for a lift to the start of the race and we all piled into the tardis car (try getting 3 runners, 2 crew, a Staffordshire bull terrier and all their gear into a honda civic). As we drove to the start Big Dave (Ross) chatted about shinty and we both agreed that it was, like hurling, a weak excuse for stick fighting but I had to explain that we were among the best at it in Ireland. Dave W did his best fighter before a fight impression and tried to sleep. Lee was delighted to be crewing for an Irish man, an English man and a Scots man. I’m still trying to work it into a joke.

At the start – a car-park at Glenbuck Dam (it’s a lake really) – we unfolded ourselves from the car and collected our race numbers from the organisers. I dropped my food bag for mile 25 and went off to see if moss was as good as loo roll.

Of all the races I have run I was looking forward to this one more than any other one I’ve done. I was excited and nervous with anticipation as opposed to nervous with fear. Although there were a few stick insects milling around the start in skins and compression stockings that did worry me a bit but by and large the crowd was mainly completely normal looking people.

the weather at that stage of the morning was perfect. Cool enough to have to wear gay arm warmers but warm enough to just have to wear a vest.

the next indication that the race wasn’t going to be a gentle jog in the woods was when every runner was issued with a lanyard with section of the course considered to be the hardest printed and laminated with written instructions behind the map section.

After a short delay because the bus was a bit late coming from Ayr with most of the runners we lined up and it was just a bit of a ‘1-2-3 and off you go’.  I think we were getting our photo taken at this stage:

Try as I might the girly arm warmers suit me

See no. 21 – between the two of us we’ve run 98 ultras.

'Locating statellites' - The race is on.

Section 1 – The Ballerina Miles

Glenbuck Dam to Limmerhaugh

About mile 0 to mile 10.5 to 11

The race started and that feeling of joy/panic/why don’t I take up stamp collecting surged through me. The distracted feeling I’d had for the last few days was gone and the running had started.  My pace was just around where I wanted it at somewhere between 8:50 – 9:40 per mile.

I normally take a few miles to ‘get into’ the running but with this I was at it straight away. I really enjoyed this. I passed some people and settled into a nice easy pace behind a lady called Alison Grant (In case you think I’m some sort of stalker Alison I just got your name from the finishing results).  Every once and a while I thought she was going a bit too fast but I let her drift on. As far as I was concerned everyone else was an expert and I was a bit of a chancer. they all had camelbacks and minimalist shoes. There I was trotting away in my road shoes and sun glasses.

This section, until the first check point at Kames Carpark, was pretty much all on a disused railway line and, although there were some puddles and mud it was all pretty level and as we were all still in sight of each other it was pretty impossible to get lost.

We passed through the first check point in about 45 minutes and pushed on for the next check point. I had a rice crispie bar at this point and realised that Alison was going faster than me -although I would be within sight of her for the next 16 miles.

Ultra running in style (girly style)

As you come out of Kames Carpark there is a bit of a climb – just a gentle up-hill but then as you round a corner you see a local bridge known as ‘Tibbie’s Brig‘ and you get a better idea of what the landscape is really like.

Imagine this, but wet

None of these sorts of hills seemed to be a problem for anybody (or me for that matter) and the only time anybody came to a stop was to queue to get through the kissing gates.

Around about mile 6 at a place called Martyr’s Grave  I fell into running with a guy called Stephen Forde from Aberdeen. He seemed to be going at my pace and was commenting that everyone else seemed to be going a bit too fast. That made me think that I was on the right pace.

When he told me he’d run the West Highland Way race this year and had run the Rotterdam Marathon in 2009 (He had to listen to my ‘medical tent’ story) I decided I’d hitch onto him for the ride. We stayed within sight of each other (him normally in front of me) until somewhere after Catrine at around mile 20.

This is from the internet - I was dodging cow shit

After Martyr’s Grave you actually do get to do some running alongside the river. The scenery was fantastic in that kind of ‘wooly-jumper-and-a-good-single-malt’ kind of way. We kept going and although it wasn’t warm yet I decided to keep up the hydration with regular sips from my water bottle. I had put a NUUN table (electrolytes for the non-runners) into it at the start and had two more with me. Stephen told me later – at around mile 17 – that he had switched to S-Caps at the WHW and that they were the business. Judging by how he ran from there until the end I think I’ll give them a try.

The race crosses the A70 at this stage and there was a check point here recording the runners and offering bottled water. We crossed over the river and then headed off down the river again.

The Bridge at Airds Moss, just after the A70 Road

The reason these miles were the Ballerina miles was because any time you came to any sort of a water hazard you leapt and jumped over them like a ballerina, trying at all costs to keep your toes dry. If you were watching us out of context you’d have thought there were extra points to be scored for leaping about during the race.

Stephen as a ballerina at Airds Moss

This all came to an abrupt end somewhere around mile 10 and the second check point. We had just crossed the river near Limmerhaugh when there was a fenced in section of path with about 20m of splish-splosh to get through in order to get to the check point.

Last dry feet for 30 miles

That special feeling as the cold water washes through your toes and soaks your socks and feet. The only consolation I could take from it was that everyone else had to do the same thing. I was a bit worried about the possibility of blisters but was not going to worry too much about it.

We crossed onto the road at this point for the second check point. I was frantically looking for Lee but she was nowhere to be found. I got checked through, grabbed an energy drink from the general stash of stuff and ran on. I had a sneaking suspicion that this checkpoint was a bit early and sure enough, about another mile and a half down the road there was Lee at Limmerhaugh at the right place.  She had my food and drink all ready for me and had even been to the shops to buy me the brand of banana milk I preferred.  She told me I was about 2 miutes ahead of schedule which suprised me as after seeing what the real conditions and terrain were like. After check point 1 I had abandoned all hope of holding onto a time.

Section 2 – The sun comes out – and it heats up

Mile 11 – mile 25

Limmerhaugh to Failford

The path from Limmerhaugh snaked back off down towards the river. So far it had been 100% running. There was a 500m long snake of about 6 or 7 runners that meant that you always had a good idea of where to go. I was having a bit of trouble trying to run and drink the banana milk and was more than happy when we came to a set of wood and grit steps that took us up onto a ridge above the river. This was the first part of the race where the path deviated steeply (for steeply read up)  away from the river bank but not the last. There were many more sections where you would look to your left and notice that the river was a couple of hundred feet below you and then you’d realise that this was part of the reason it ‘seemed’ a bit harder for the previous half mile.  Other times the path was more or less a hands and feet scramble.

After finishing the milk on the steps up the bluff we ran along and had our first moment of almost getting lost. For some reason it seemed logical that if someone was in front of you then they must know where they were going. On this basis we took a wrong turn but after just 20m someone shouted that this was wrong. It turned out he had run the race last year and he thought it went a different way (he was right).

We dropped down again and off the ridge and into some wood land. This cleared away and we ended up running along the edge of some fields. This was the first sign that we’d come off the moorland and were now getting into more pasture land. The only real difference was that instead of sheep shit  it was cow shit we had to run past.

This was the first section where the path was really over grown as well. It was all single file and arms up around your shoulders. There were few enough nettles on this stage so it was mainly just a problem with seeing the ground under foot.

As we climbed around the woodland ridges before Sorn it was all walking up, running across and running down. I knew that this amount of walking (both the frequency and the duration) was not something I had factored into my target time but I was just happy to be in the moment and wasn’t worried about anything more than the next mile.

The size of a training run is always a head wrecker but with this run I would have been happy (legs and lungs allowing) for it to have gone on for much longer.

By the time we were on this section the sun was out and it was starting to heat up. As Myself and Stephen refilled our water bottles at a check point just before the road at Sorn we joked with the girl at the checkpoint about the heat. She was wrapped up in a coat and scarf but it was the clear sky as opposed to the temperature that was heating us up.

As we ran into Sorn together Stephen told me about how he had used S Caps during the WHW. He reckoned they made all the difference –

At the end of Sorn village  – you’re about 17.5 miles into the race at this stage – you pass over an old bridge know as Sorn Old Bridge (I’d say a committee came up with that name ;-)). This was the location of the third drop bags and check point. Lee was there again with Hannah and they had all my stuff ready for me. I think I took a flat coke, a kinder bar, a rice crispie bar and a gel – but I can’t be sure.

As Lee was offering me oxtail soup I declined and set off after Stephen. I remember shouting to Lee that he seemed to know where to go so I’d follow him.

This is from the Internet - it was sunnier, I swear!

The road out of Sorn climbed a fair bit and as Stephen was walking here I was able to catch up with him. I had a decent drink of the Coke and we set off again. He pulled away in front of me as we headed for Catrine but no more than a 100m gap. Just before the Autisic Centre Stephen had come to a full stop. He was looking down at his ankle and seemed a bit concerned. I asked him what was wrong (fearing some injury) and he said that he had stepped in  some dog shit.

Dog shit? After what we had run through I’d have thought that dog shit was the least of his worries.

Anyway, as we crossed over the foot bridge at Catrine (about 20 miles in at this point) we came across Alison and a group of 3 other runners who were pouring over their navigation cards. They didn’t know how to get to the other side of Catrine – the biggest town so far.

Lucky for me, and them, I had wasted a lunch break pouring over google street view so I had a fair idea of where to go. I set off with them in tow and we made it to the check point at Mill Square. We crossed over the river again on another footbridge and Stephen took over the lead as I hadn’t a clue from here on.

We watered the plants here and it was a good sign that we were able to piss so much as it meant we were keeping on top of the hydration.

The next section to Failford marked a transition in running partner and a change in the scenery as well.

I was on my own by the A76 Howford Road Bridge at Mauchline at about mile 21 and had to start concentrating on navigation. The main problem was that the signage and  your instincts often differed. I decided to stick with the signage as that had been put up by someone who wasn’t oxygen starved.  There was a sign at the bridge for the walkers’ camp-site (you can walk this thing in 2 days if you want to) and I had to avoid the urge to follow the sign.

Between the Howford Road Bridge and the Ballochmyle Railway Viaduct there was a closed piece of road that had a long drag on it. I could see Stephen ahead of me walking and passing out someone who was also walking. From my vantage point she looked like Brittany Spears sister – hot pants, a blue tee-shirt, two blond pig-tails and knee high white socks.

She was gone before I could catch up.

Very tall and big and very Victorian

By the time we got to check point 4 at Haugh Farm (around mile 22) I had caught up with Brittany Spears.

We walked up the long drag on our first road section past Haugh Farm. It turns out that Brittany was actually a lady called Elspeth Jenkins from Elgin (that’s up at the top of Scotland) who was completing her 4th Ultra of the year. She had run 3:15 in the Edinburgh marathon this year between ultras. I reckoned I was going great guns to be keeping such esteemed company.

I was giving her my life story and about how come I couldn’t get out to train much because of me being happily married and having 3 young kids. She just gave me one look and said – G’wan you’re just soft – I have 4 kids.

In light of this revelation (true as it was) I switched the conversation to the weather. It was now beating it down and there was no cover of trees to shade us. We both agreed that running in the snow last winter was one of the best running experiences we’d had.

As mile 22 clicked up Elspeth said that made it sound like we had an awful long way to go.  It was true that the initial ‘joy’ of running was starting to taper off and the fact that a fair bit of ‘hard work’ was going to be required from now on was becoming apparent.

After the road section I pulled ahead of Elspeth and moved on through some forests and was passed by one of the women. At a guess I would say it was Elaine Calder but I could be wrong – I was eating a tub of custard on an up-hill stroll as she trotted past me. I kept her in my sights all the way to the checkpoint just before the road at Failford and even managed to pass her again going into Failford.

That's a hill and it's going up!

The road into Failford was proper rural road running – one foot in the ditch, cars barrelling towards you and the uncomfortable hard  feeling you get in your feet after almost 25 miles of running.

Failford was where my bed for the night, school friend and first time crew was set up. Tom O’Leary is a guy from Douglas who is now growing some children in the suburbs of Edinburgh with is wife, Meike who is from Hamburg.

Knowing he was going to be there was a very strong motivation to reach this point. As I arrived in he was ready with warm sugary coffee, flat coke and plenty of supplies. I took as much as I could and chatted for a few minutes. I knew at this point that I would need his support – a mental as much as a physical  from here on it.

Section – 3:  Nettles, navigation and no end in sight

Mile 25 to mile 40-ish

Failford to Dam Park Stadium.

Meeting Tom at Failford had give me a great boost and I was looking forward to seeing him in a few miles. It was also at Failford where I realised that UK ordinance survey maps use 10 metre contours and not 10 feet (as I had assumed). The terrain after Failford was all forests and gently flowing river.

And massive climbs.

I ran most of this section on my own.   I had a bit of a ‘the world is a great place’ moment at the official full marathon point of 26.2 miles and stopped to photograph the place and myself.

The path looks better than I do.

Full marathon - no crowds this time

It is hard to not look mental when photographing yourself in the woods

At about mile 27 I was running through some of the most beautiful wood land I have ever experienced. The river was flowing, the ground was undulating, there were wooden walkways hanging over the river and the sun was shining through the trees. It was a real tourist brochure moment and was worth every penny of the weeks of training.

As I was running through this Scottish Tourism advert I came across another runner called Alec Ogilvie who was pouring over a bunch of maps. I stopped and asked him what he was looking for and he said – check-point 4.

Oh, I said.

Bit of a problem there, I said. That was about 6 miles ago……….

I have never seen a grown man cry but Alec was coming close. I could fully understand why as well. He had a flask of hot tea and all his food at the check point and now it was gone. The 6 less miles he thought he had to run was of no consequence. His mind was broken. He was desperate.

I did my best and said – follow me, at the next check point I have a guy with a flask of hot coffee and loads of food. If I reach there before you I’ll give him your number and if you get there before me just shout for Tom.

As I reached the bridge at Stair I loaded up on more Coke but my appetite for food was starting to leave me.

We ran on up the road, leaving Alec to enjoy the coffee and snacks but before we left Tom told us that the marshal had said that the next section might be a bit muddy. I remember pointing at my feet and laughing -I think I said –It can’t get any worse.

It could.

And it did.

Elspeth was anxious to keep up with Bobby Millar who had come barrelling past us at an almighty speed as she said he knew the way.

At his speed I was never going to keep up so I let her go in front of me and she moved ahead but normally by no more than 30 or 40 metres.

The section from mile 28 to mile 29 was the only section from mile 25 on that I can safely say I could feel my legs. This was mainly because of the armpit high nettles.

My vest and shorts strategy was not working at this point.

The path hadn’t been strimmed so the nettles were totally overgrown.

The banking crisis which lead to the austerity which lead to the Council cut backs which lead to the lack of strimming of the path which lead to me getting stung to fuckery was a very strange set of dominoes.  If you ever find yourself in this sort of situation my only advice is that after the first 20 metres or so it didn’t get any worse.

After the nettles the next target was a Gadgirth Bridge which had seemed like a useful target during the planning of the race but was now just another chance to stop and have a drink. I was feeling the heat now and was using the water for cooling as much as nutrition.

We continued on until Annbank and onto another short bit of roadway through the village. I think I had my last food at this point – another pot of custard. My stomach was shutting down at this point but as we were now 31 miles into the race I wasn’t too worried as I knew that if I could go this far I’d make it home.

After Annbank  there came the section where I seriously thought the race was being run by a bunch of sadists. I was running along by the river when I came to a section of woods. The path appeared to run on beside the river but there was an arrow pointing up a 45 degree embankment. It was a bit of a Wile E. Coyote moment.

Up the embankment I scrambled and after no more than a few hundred metres back down the same embankment I hobbled. As I reached the bottom of it I noticed that the path was still there beside the river.

After this obstacle course I came out at Tarholm bridge and got more water, refills and encouragement from Tom. I think I may have asked him to stop me taking up such stupid hobbies in future.

I ran across the bridge to meet Lee who told me my luggage was in someone else’s car and was at the finish line and offered me a wee sandwich, which I declined.

Elspeth came out of the woods behind at this stage me and I asked her how she had managed that – given that she was ahead of me 3 miles previously. She told me that her navigation might have been a bit off.

We were now at about mile 36 and my Garmin had decided that around about now was a good point to die.

We ran on through the next stage more or less together. She had better leg speed than me and during any runnable sections she would drift ahead of me. I seemed to have more endurance and was able to close the gap by keeping my slow pace up for a bit longer.  We passed another runner in these woods and he wished us well. I remember going through a cutting in the woods and the path had been washed out pretty badly and you were running across loose cobbles. All you could do was make the most of it because everyone else had the same path to run. This section was Auchincruive or Tarholm bridge to Oswald’s bridge.

Not having a watch to run by was actually quite liberating as my heart rate was going to be what it was and my time was now no longer a worry to me.

This was the last section of un-runnable walks and climbs. From Oswald’s bridge to the finish it was all pretty runnable.

When we came out of the forest at Oswald’s bridge to start the next section I drenched myself in water as the heat was bothering me a fair bit.  I thought we only had a mile or two to go but it was like being at mile 22 of a marathon. You had nearly the whole thing run but the last section was going to seem like a lifetime.

For some reason Elspeth and a whole bunch of others stopped dead at this checkpoint. I wasn’t tearing out of there myself but as I set off up the road with Alec who had his head together and was encouraging me to keep pushing on they were nowhere to be seen on our tail.

I ran the rest of the race with him. His head might have been in good shape at this stage but his legs looked trashed. He was getting bad cramps in his left hamstring and was doing a good impression of running while doing knee lifts.

This last 3 miles or so was all on roads and we were able to run the whole lot of it. It felt unusual to have a smooth, firm surface under your feet after 37 miles of everything else.  As he got one particularly bad cramp I remember him saying (broad Scottish accent required): Would this thing not just hurry up and be over!

Looking back now, the boringness of the roads and the impending suburban running meant that, like kids after a long day at the beach, we were beginning to realise that our sand castles were being washed away and soon our adventure would be over.

We reached the last check point at Holmston and I stopped for another head-drenching moment. Alec had run on ahead and I ran on after him to along the A77. It was surreal in a way. There we were running along the side of a suburban road, covered in mud, 38  or so miles in our legs and people driving by oblivious to our madness.

After the A77 Alec’s amazing ability to get lost manifested itself again as he stood scratching his head and looking at maps. I set him straight and off we went. He ran on ahead of me again only to get lost again just before the pedestrian bridge over the river just before the stadium where we were finishing.

At every marathon or long race I’ve ever been at there’s a designated end of race liar; a guy near the end who says something like – ‘Great running, you’re looking good, only 500m to go’ or ‘No bother to ye, only 500m to go’

When you hear these you need to know that what he means is – you look like you’ve done permanent damage and it’s a bout a kilometre to the end.

He was standing at the end of the bridge and like a fool I only heard the 500m ’till the end bit.

After 500m I realised that he was the designated end of race liar.

But it didn’t matter because as we rounded the corner and came into the stadium (Alec was off out in front of me again by about 100m) we had the track to ourselves.

There was a small group of about 20 or 30 at the far corner of the stadium some 300m away who cheered us on. I was tempted to walk as I really wanted to soak up the moment. The reality of what I had done was finally sinking in. I kept running mainly because I could and as I got to within about 60m of the finish I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. Arms out I ran over the finish, was handed my medal by one of the kids who were helping with their mums and dads and got my goodie bag.

And that was it.



5 minutes after finishing - still standing!

Tom was there to record the event and we stayed around afterwards to watch Dave W come over the line. For a man who carb loads on wine, runs zero miles in training and eats spiced beef for energy I think 8:16 for 40 miles is a pretty amazing feat.

I’ve wondered why I enjoyed the race so much and it wasn’t because I like pain. No, the real reason I enjoyed it so much was because in my day-to-day life I am a dad, a husband, a friend, a brother, a son, an uncle, a colleague, a neighbour and a runner (and probably much, much more – not all of it good either!) and when you get to go out and run for 7 or 8 hours you get a chance to take off all those hats (even the running one) and just be yourself.

When you’re out in the middle of no where and you meet other runners in a race like this you realise that you are as a child. You don’t see the back story on anybody. You can’t judge them and they can’t judge you. You are, like the kids on a beach, just yourselves with no worries about tomorrow or yesterday.

(Here endth the ‘special insight’ moment)

I’ve rooted out the GPS watch and had a look at the figures.

It lasted for 38.14 miles which took 7hrs 1 min and 46 sec. I suspect that it kept working for a while after the screen had shut down. The average pace for this was about 11.04min/mile with a HR of 154. The last few miles were about 10:30/mile so I suspect that the course (allowing for a a 7:14 finish) was about 39.5 miles long. That said, lots of the course was run in the deep dark woods so I also suspect there may be a bit of error in that.

The average heart rate peaked around mile 20 (Catrine) at 162 with the last few miles seeing it drop back to the 140’s and the pace creep up to the 11 min+/mile – a sign of fatigue I expect.

The fastest mile was mile 10 at 8:50 per mile and the slowest was mile 33 – (to around Tarholm Bridge) –  at 14:45 per mile. It is worth noting that stops for water, check points, hills and other obstacles have as much to do with this as anything and some of the miles from 33 to the finish were sub-10 min (not many mind you!)

Would I do it again?

In a heartbeat.

Will I do it again?

I have 11 months worth of being a ‘good boy’ to get on with before I go looking for the permission slip.


All toe nails intact -

Elspeth Jenkings

Elspeth Jenkings - AKA Brittany's older sister

Dave W coming in to land

Grant Jeans - Winner in 5:24 - staying to watch the mortals crawl home.

Bloggers united...... or should it be bullshitters united?

If you’re still reading at this stage you are the blog-following equivalent of the guy watching the credits at the end of a movie.

Like the child on the beach (as alluded to earlier) there was an army of people who made this run possible – the equivalent of the sun-cream applying parents:

My wife, Finola & kids, Pia, Hannah & Tom (all long suffering).

My family – for generally only talking about me behind my back.

The Macleans & The Pirate & Mason for doing way more than was necessary.

My friend Tom and his support and his family – Meike, Méadbh, Ronan & Eoghan – hobbling around Edinburgh geocaching on Sunday was good fun.

The organisers of the River Ayr Way Challenge and all the support people.

The other runners and especially Stephen, Elspeth and Alec who had to tolerate my mindless ramblings for 40 miles.

And you, the reader. Thanks for only posting nice comments (so far).


20 responses to “RAW 2011 full report

  1. Excellent race report. But the spiced beef was better 😉
    See you next year, mate. Maybe Mrs Cronin and the wee ones could come with you.

  2. Great report. I particularly liked the banker’s crisis leading to high nettles, the designated end of race liar and the insight moment…I don’t think you can wait a whole year before doing another one though…

  3. Epic journey Richard, well told (& sold). Off road ultras are way more fun – ditch the watch, run by feel and live in the moment.

  4. war & peace was a great read… you’re even tempting me… but I’d have to get past the first 26 miles 🙂 Sounds ike good honest FUN. Brendan

  5. Crackin race report there! I really enjoyed that. Glad to hear your race went so well and it sounds like it you’ll soon be itching to do another 😉
    For what it is worth I ran it in road shoes as well and I think it was by far the better choice for that sort of distance. Much more cushioning which was kinder to the feet over the distance (ie no black toes, no sore heels)

  6. 1) If you don’t want to write Thomas length race reports then you should not write Thomas length race reports and pretend to do otherwise. That’s an epic tome I would be proud of!

    2) Look at the first photo and be careful with the stick insect jibe. There’s a bee-coloured stick insect with girly arm warmers right in the middle.

    3) The caption saying ultra running girly style – the actual girl in the picture isn’t wearing girly style clothing. Just sayin.

    4) Nuun may taste nice but S-Caps are the business. I concur.

    5) Brilliant race and report, but I’m still not entirely convinced I want to do my running that way – except of course I have to keep my promise to John Kynaston at some stage ….

    • I’d agree with you on the last point. It is a different style of running and you either enjoy it or you don’t. As someone who always dreads the 19 minutes of pain that are a 5k race I quite enjoy the idea of a looooonnnnngggg run.
      But I now have zero leg speed.

  7. Superb blog there Richard, just brillaint. Thanks for that. Loved the sandacastles and visitscotland moments. I’ll have to come clean – I was the designated liar at the end of the bridge *500m* from the end. Someone has to do it. Mea culpa.
    But I did answer the passing bloke’s question along the lines of “that’s not the 6 mile race is it?” and gave a big, impressive answer about the distance that you’d covered, which he agreed felt fitted the pace for super-fit looking runners at that point. He did then ask me if it was a bit too tough for me and if that’s why I wasn’t doing it after that, and got a suitable reply…
    Well done on both an epic run, and an equally epic blog. Worth sitting through the credits rolling at the end.

  8. brilliant read Richard, you can’t beat the auld cork wit, well done on a great run ,super pace, the scottish tourist board could also give you a job, keep it going, best wishes keith

  9. It was my pleasure. I’m so glad you had a great run, the account here certainly matchs up with the ‘little boy at Christmas’ I was presented with at Glasgow Airport. It was great to meet Tom, and I’m sure he found his feet pretty damn quick as backup crew. I fear I may have lost my job 😉

    It would be great to have the whole clan over for a jolly next year, but in the mean time keep working on those ‘good boy’ brownie points.


  10. Excellent report – really enjoyed the detail and photos…..nice to see Mason bonded…a good judge of character so I believe. And nice to see Dave W actually……running!

    • I can’t believe it! THE Mike Mason has posted a comment on my blog. for the past two years I though you were Dave W’s special imaginary friend. Always talking about you but you didn’t seem to exist in the real world.

  11. Great race report; but you don’t say if the girly arm warmers were any defence against the pesky nettles. But they probably improved your score on the strictly-come-ballerina contest ….. 😉

  12. Richard, hi. Unfortunately I am imaginary and don’t exist in the real world…:-))

  13. great report man. just did Clyde Stride and will probably register for this too now. you’ve got a fine turn of phrase! glad you enjoyed it so much. back again in 2012? cheers

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