Tuesday, 27 September 2011

River Ayr Way Ultramarathon 2011

I decided to run the River Ayr Way (RAW) ultra to complete 4 races in the SUMS series and also to have another >65KM race under my belt which could help in applying for the West Highland Way race in 2012. Vikki also seemed keen to run it so we set off on Friday after tea to Ayr.

We stayed in a lovely b+B (http://www.millerhouseayr.co.uk/) and went out for a quite pre race beer in the local pub. Stupidly this turned into 4 pints of San Miguel which gave me a poor nights sleep and a lethargic hangover when I woke at 5:30am. It didnt help that I was feeling the lurgy earlier on that week and was weak already. This probably explains why the rest of this report is a bit moany!

We turned up to the Citadel Sports Centre at 7:20 with 10 minutes to spare before the bus turned up to take us to the start. There was nobody there! We checked the place out and bumped into another runner who was in the car park. Vikki checked her email and found out the website and email said different things! We were supposed to be at Dam Park Stadium (I knew from facebook the finish had been changed to here). Luckily the other runner had a car and we sped round to the proper pick up point. Moral of the story is always read the race directors emails in the run up to a race (although it would be nice if information was consistent for idiots like me!).

At the pick up point we met Andy and Donald and was introduced to Colin Knox. After the panic I enjoyed the usual pre race friendly banter. Then Andy told me that there were only 5(or 6?) drop bag checkpoints now (as per email) as opposed to the 8 listed on the website. This threw me as I had been banking on 8 stops for food. Grrrrrr- I doubled up some bags and reckoned I'd just wing it en route. This was my own stupid fault again (website says one thing, email another) but by the time we got to Glenbuck for the start I was feeling pretty negative. I think it was at this point it dawned on me that I would not be getting home until about 10pm and the though of running till teatime and then driving for 3-4 hours dragged me down.

When the race began I was a little saddened to see how many people were listening to ipods. I can understand some people need them later in the race when they need a lift or a boost - but from the very start? And it wasn't one or two people either. Normally I don't frown on this sort of thing but a lot of the course is narrow single track  and we did have a few issues during the race where we had to overtake on the verge (rabbit holes etc) just becasue folk couldn't hear us.

The first 5 miles or so felt terrible. I was having a tough time and thought the route was uninspiring. Then, after the first checkpoint it really changed. The course became quite beautiful and had a lot of fun forest/woodland
sections. As usual there was quite a lot of fun banter with other competitors and within an hour or two I had become much more positive.

At time the route was very very mucky and very overgrown. However it was a lot of fun and certainly something I would consider running again. I found it a lot tougher than expected possibly due to lurgy/hangover/mental attitude and was willing the finish line to come for the last 3 hours. Perhaps it was also the fatigue of having run the Devil and Speyside recently. However, even feeling like this, there was still a lot of enjoyment to be had. There were a few sections where we wondered if we were still on course but overall the marshalling and signposts were superb.

The race had a stadium finish and we made a real effort to overtake a few folk. I've got to say I enjoyed the finish. The object was to run with Vikki and finish strong. I am not sure I finished strong but did feel an
achievement at actually crossing the line.

Overall, I would reccommend the race and certainly think I learned a thing or two. It also helped me to decide not to run the WHW race in 2012. I'd rather have a lot more "middle distance" ultra experience (40-60 miles) under my belt and possibly at my own pace now.

Lastly, my mum had sent me some dried seaweed for the bath. This was supposed to be a relaxing substitute for bubble bath or something. It was certainly oily and interesting although it made me smell like a harbour.