Friday, 27 May 2016

Cateran Trail Ultra

The blame for my Cateran entry this year lies with Sandra and Ian Beattie. After mustering up the courage to take off my coat at their wedding (who knew I would gain so much weight and not be able to fit a dress I had worn six weeks prior?), I began consuming a few beverages and busting some moves on the d-floor. A conversation took place with Karen and George whereby we all confessed love for one another and the Cateran trail in general. By the end of the night Scott had agreed to do the 55-miler and I was set up to enter the 110. What was I thinking? Two serious concerns; 1 - I am a huge unfit piece of lard unable to run 110 miles, and 2 - there is no way I could get the Friday off work to start the double. Fortunately in the morning we came to our senses. Scott would marshal and I would do the 55. 

I figure 55 miles is ploddable without training and the undulations in the route made it more forgiving on us unfit. A solid story which boosted my confidence. I like to run Donald-style and leave my training until event day. Challenge myself you know? I spent the night bonding with the toilet seat; I can only assume because I overindulged in Tunnocks Tea Cakes post-dinner. Being in a bunk room I was slightly uncomfortable with possibly waking up my fellow roomies. Unfortunately, one of fellow roomies did not have the same concern and proceeded to hold a team meeting in the room at 5:20am. This was after we'd been lectured about the possibility of our snoring (Dave Hetherington only purrs like a kitten, Scott on the other hand...) by a woman who wasn't even running. The race started at 7am. I'd planned on a lie-in. 

Trouble ahead: Ian, Bob, Keith and I

Doing the hair on the way to the start

Start of the Cateran trail at Spittal of Glenshee

After climbing the stile to the start line I misjudged my landing and realised my first error of the day; a lack of contact lenses. A bit of an issue as I recently failed the eye test for my New Zealand driver's licence with my CONTACTS IN. New Zealanders are maniac drivers though so the lady signed me off as fit to drive anyway. Anyways, the first handful of miles were a bit tough on the vision. A video of my tiptoeing and squeals would have provided much amusement. My solo braid is also constantly getting stuck in the zip of my bag and I am losing chunks of hair each time I rip the braid out. It must be at that awkward length. It is driving me nuts. Forget the legs running 55 miles, my blooming hair cannot handle it! 

The first checkpoint is past a castle after which many miles go by discussing how children nowadays have too much stuff and not enough time spent on them. Over the last week I have had a bit of pain in my shin and pounding on roads is not making them feel the best (UPDATE: turns out that I have shin splints. Who knew that eating cupcakes and running less than 15 miles a week would cause shin splints. Seriously raging).  I catch Alan who I think has a superb tan (although quite tiny shorts) and comment that he is looking good. The conversation goes on for a bit and then comes to this bit;

Alan: It's getting warm now
Me: Yes, I was worried that my shorts were overly ambitious initially
Alan: I was so cold during the night
Me: Oh really? Were you in a top room or a bottom room of the bunkhouse?
Alan: Neither. I was running.
Me: What?! You're doing the double?! You don't look like you've already run through the night! 
Seriously, a huge well done. He was moving so well I had no idea

Then I follow a line of runners down the wrong road, only to have a feeling of da je vu as I ran back up it. I took the same wrong road two years ago. It is my second incorrect passage today. Does not bode particularly well pre checkpoint two. A big thank you to the runner who called us back. We trundle in to the beautiful Glenisla. The checkpoint marshals had predicted I would come through casually in the second half of the pack and stop for some banter. I was delighted not to let them down. 

On exiting the checkpoint I found that I could not open my Nathan bottles as Helen Munro has bigger arm muscles than I do and had ensured they were tightly closed at the previous checkpoint. Later, as starvation began to set in, I would start eating my Nuun tablets. Up a bit, across a bit, up a bit, down a bit (Lorna flew away from me), fun run down a road for a bit, watch out for the wild boars bit. A nice chat with a lad from Edinburgh-ish. And then, Alyth. A wee bit of doubting from another runner and I as to where we should be going. I knew it was 'down in those trees' but my directions weren't super. We made it. 

Drama. I'd skipped my fruit at Glenisla due to the night time bowel party. Despite the barrel full of Imodium I had consumed I figured it was best not to put too much into the body and risk an after party. Now I was faced with custard that expired a year ago. Possibly too much of a risk today and I have to bin it. If I'd been doing any running in the last nine months I would have known about the custard! So I trundle out of the checkpoint next to the river gagging on half a Nuun tablet. 

Some road walking is followed by a nice wooded section before a zippy downhill section into Blairgowrie. I chat with Jeni and Andy and marvel at a section of navigational success. As I enter the checkpoint there is scurrying and panicking as there are a handful of lady runners in at the same time. I cannot be arsed getting involved in any competitive nonsense so hang about the checkpoint after it has cleared out and get full attention from the Minions.  A cup of water over my head creates a salt attack in my eyes and I need to be mopped up with a gentle deep cleansing exfoliating face wipe. This will prove to be a terrible decision as I got sunburnt on my forehead and around my eyes. My chin and lower cheeks however were adequately covered by my lathers of 'extra face' that I had put on in the morning. 

I particularly like crossing the bridge out of Blairgowrie (although had to ask some walkers which direction they had seen runners going in). I then get busted trying to use the ladies and have to stop mid-flow. Talent that. Didn't even know that I had that in me. A few runners are having bad patches here so I do not initially realise that I am passing another double runner who is also moving better than many of the 55 milers. Andy is feeling nauseous and a club runner, Jo, is having to stop multiple times en route for the ladies. That is three of us ill... I hope that there is not something tearing through the bunkhouse....

A bunch of us come into the next checkpoint at Bridge of Cally together. I have to skip another tub of custard. HoneyStinger chews and some trail mix for the road. I have to hurry along quickly as I need some privacy for the bathroom. Hurrying along quickly up hills when you have not trained is a tricky endeavor. I have never specifically trained on hills but it is amazing how much strength I have lost even just walking up hills. And then I am alone with just my cellulite for company for a very long time. 

At the shoe cleaning section (well manned Scott and Norm), I try to stop for a bit of banter but am pushed on. Don't they know I was lonely? So many other runners have pacers for company and I've been all by myseeeeeelf... And then even more horrid than my singing voice; flat running. I am starting to feel not particularly well. Imodium is still working a treat but I could do a vomit. 

MAN DOWN. Or Kiwi. Or lassie. Contactless, I have run smack into a tree branch and am on the deck. I've been stabbed in the neck. I stumble up, grabbing at the side of my neck. It seems I am going to survive. Disappointing really. 

By the time the final checkpoint at Enochdhu comes I am ready to eat anything they offer at the table. They have a tub of Haribo. I might be sick. Or die of starvation. Better not be sick, the starvation will set in quicker if I do. The checkpoint is insanely quiet and I am not sure that my chat is appreciated so I move on. I cannot remember if the bog section (although not really boggy this year) was before or after the final checkpoint but it drove me a bit crazy. There is not much of a defined path which is fine as there are post markers in the distance that you can head towards. Unfortunately, their distance exceeds my vision capabilities and I am left twirling around hoping that another runner will stumble upon me before a lion does. I then go on a different path to a walking tourist confusing myself more despite my correct following of the signs. 

Finally, we reach the final stretch of grasslands (not quite Africa) before we get to climb up and roll down. I regret my decision to wear a white t-shirt as I feel the nausea coming over me. They say it is better out than in and the sooner it comes out the better. In the meantime, I slow it down and focus on getting enough head jolting movement to prevent any self-vomiting. I hear Jo and her pacer behind me and am pleased that she is feeling better. We've all been in that position during an event and none of us would wish it upon anyone else. I'm expecting them to come past at any moment and when they don't I consider turning around and cheering them on. 

The last climb comes and is not that hard. Running blind down a hill is much harder but I get no sympathy from the Minions on the way down. My strategy for getting through this years race was to take it easy until I hit the road a few hundred metres from the finish and then go for it. So I forget the nausea for a bit and scurry along the final stretch of road to the finish. I spend two and a half hours drinking one bottle of beer and having a small bowl of (scrumptious) pesto pasta whilst still feeling terrible. Fortunately, after a shower and a spew I felt much better. 

Nipping under ten hours, I achieved a personal worst by 30 minutes which was faster than I expected. My recovery was possibly the worst it has been; a combination of little fitness, not eating or drinking much in the race and recurrent late nights. Even Krispy Kreme donuts, a curry and crisps failed to help.

Well done to all the runners; particularly the first time ultrarunners and the double runners. The 55 mile record was smashed by Rob, and the 110 records were smashed by Sharon and Pat. Thank you to the marshals. Many ultraraces and ultrarunners seem to be changing for the worst so it is nice to still have a race where you rock up to every member of the registration and marshaling team drinking alcohol whilst on duty. That is what the spirit of these races used to be all about! Thanks to Karen and George, who despite a tough time recently, pulled together a seamless event with a load of sunshine. And to Mike for taking on the strain of the 110.


  1. Another great, entertaining read. May have to rethink hiring a car in NZ though after reading the third paragraph!

  2. Awesome tuesday night read Antonia!! Loads of funny parts, the 'kiwi down' tree part was superb! Excellent running and on such minimal training, it must be in your genes. Hopefully catch uo with you on many future races! Rob


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