From Richard Darroch
This is a great race on the Ultra calendar, given the timing it is a great training run for some of the longer ultras later in the season.
The day starts out at race registration in Callander, everyone then gets bussed to the start at Inversnaid. The bus had a great atmosphere with friends and strangers chatting about previous races and upcoming adventures.
We then arrived at the Inversnaid hotel, where we had about 30 mins or so to relax, Maz does the race briefing giving a bit of an overview of the route and any key points along the route to call out for both the runners and cyclists. As we made our way out through the hotel to the pier for the start of the race you could see excitement and nerves in equal measure on the faces of everyone taking part.
Just time for a quick picture of everyone taking part and then it was down to business. The duathlon competitors head off first with a couple of minutes start over the Ultra runners.
It’s a pretty slow start to the race as you follow a path up and over the waterfall at Inversnaid, this climbs for about 1km before you get a chance to stretch your legs and actually start running. Once you get past this section you join a path that runs parallel to the main road between Inversnaid and stronachlacar, this could be best described as a rolling section with lots of little ups and downs.
You then come into the first checkpoint, where the duathlon competitors pick up their bikes. Biggest challenge here was the wind when you ran out of stronnie. You turned a corner and it just hit you and initially almost pushed you back, but the good news was once you go to the turn at the top of the loch in a miles time the wind was at our back. The next few miles are pretty straight forward with some more tough little hills and some good descents to make up time.
Having ran the race before my mind started to drift forwards to primrose hill which is a tough hill around the 16 mile mark, I got to this point still feeling fresh knowing that it is a really tough challenge. It has a long initial climb through some light trees and then it opens up to a whole range of short and long switchbacks whilst all the time climbing.
It is worth noting that primrose hill has spectacular views across Loch Katrine, I was however not having much luck with that today as the rain had started just as I commenced my ascent so it was a bit grey when I got the fire road and finally lifted my head.
You always get a lift when you hit this point as it is only a couple of miles to the pier at loch Katrine and to checkpoint two, it starts off with a flat section and gradually going into a steep descent into the checkpoint.
By this point the weather had picked up, the sun was out and the wind had dropped making for pretty perfect running conditions. Leaving CP2 is a good feeling as you are less than a half marathon from home. I had gone off pretty quick at the start of the race as part of a training plan and thought I would see one of the boys I came to the race with about mile 21 or 22. Bang on schedule Paul ‘burno’ burns appears behind me just after mile 21. This was a great lift I think for both of us and we would keep each other honest for the next 10 miles or so.
The run along Loch Achray and into Brig o Turk is really nice with the loch on your left and the route being mainly downhill or flat. One of the real highlights and must do’s of this race is to lift your head and enjoy the landscape, it really is spectacular. As you come into Brig o Turk the path runs alongside the road and starts to gently climb into the final checkpoint. This is where the duathlon competitors get off the bikes and start the final running section.
I took the opportunity here to get some fresh water and to soak my buff to keep myself cool as it was pretty warm in the sun now, burno did the same filling his water bottles and getting ready for what we knew would be a tough next few miles.
When you leave CP3 you pretty much climb for a couple of miles, going from about 350 metres to close on 800 metres, it is a bit of a slog but with views over Loch Venacher you try to use this to remain in good spirits. After what felt like an age and a lot of rolling hill sections you get your first sight of Callander with about 4.5 miles to go. This was a real boost for burno and I, we used this lift to pick up the pace a little and to motor over the final stretch. Another welcome sight was seeing small groups of walkers and dogs owners another sure fire sign we were close to the village of Callander.
For the last part of my training plan I was due to pick up the pace for the last couple of kilometres, this was looking pretty unlikely but I managed to dig in and gradually felt myself knocking off the last few miles. Maz had warned us that the cycle path had been recently tarmaced and this last final run in was tough on the legs, but knowing it was only 5/6 minutes it was worth the pain.
Coming into the finish line was exhilarating and getting a cheer from race officials, other runners and some locals was a great feeling.
It was good to be done and we were able to cheer in a few more of the finishers whilst waiting for friends, Allan & John, to finish the Ultra run.
A huge thanks has to go to the race director and the rest of the race team, marshalls and any other volunteers involved in supporting the race. This is my second year taking part and the signage and organisation is first class; would I recommend this race – 100% yes. It is a great race, in a fabulous part of the country. Well done all at Skidaddle for another great event.