Sunday, 11 May 2014

Not The Wrong Trousers, but possibly The Wrong Shoes (again)

Race 5 of the Runfurther series was the Kintyre Way, with a choice of 351/2 miles or 67 miles. We had already had much debate about the cut-offs and I was last man standing. Dick was anxious he would no make the cut-offs on a good day, Emma wanted to do a grand slam and so understandably did not want to risk it and Andy is not meant to run due to his stress fracture until June. I was worried about my knee which hurt at Evesham and then the weather forecast and the horrid cold I had suffered all week.
Home for two nights
What a load of excuses! Driving up on Friday night I was gradually coming round to the idea of sticking at it. One of us ought to and it was a long way to drive to run 30 odd miles. (well Andy was driving, but you know what I mean). The long race had a start time of 5.30am and I guess that was another reason I was uncertain. We had agreed to meet in Tarbert on the Friday evening, at registration if Andy and I could manage it.

We failed to spot the chippy in time as we passed through Cairndow and could not find one in Inverary or Lochgilphead but we did find a great little pub in Ardrishaig for our tea. We drove into Tarbert to spot the Runfurther banner flying by the harbour and quickly parked up to register. We also donned our new committee T shirts (thanks Fastrax) and went out for a photo call.
Proud owners of Committee T shirts -Thanks Fastrax
Then having checked the maps and had a natter it was off to find our accommodation for the two nights; the wooden wigwams at Stonefield farm. They say they sleep 5 and I guess they would and in more comfort than a tent so for the three of us it was luxury. I was feeling wiped out after a week of my cold and so was first to bed, just to be resting and horizontal. I didn't sleep badly but 4.30am came round all to fast. I sat eating my breakfast by head torch and trying to make as little noise as possible until 5 when I woke Andy.

He drove me down to the start and put up our RF start banner before taking a few photos. There were only 17 entered on the long route so it did not take long to get us organised and off. The weather was sticking to the forecast of dull and heavy showers so most of us had cags on and less than half had opted for shorts.

We started uphill almost immediately on a big forest track but with some narrower boggy bits at first. The cloud was down and it hard to see far or take in many views even as it got lighter. After a bit the forest track ended and we were out on the hillside. The path deteriorated and I smiled. My studs gripped well and I was happy again. I reeled in a few that had overtaken me and enjoyed the path as it snaked back into the forest. The track down to Skipness was soft and not too long. Only 3 ladies were competing and I had a chat with Charlotte here.

 She had done the Fellsman when I did Evesham and was worried it was too soon. The weather seemed to be picking up and we ran along the coastline for a few km to the CP at Claonaig Bay. At least it was a quiet and picturesque road. There were several caravans perched on grass above the shoreline and plenty of spots to park a small campervan ;)
Arran I think
The village was really only a cluster of houses but a ferry goes from here so there was a bus stop, toilets and car park, plus lots of support waiting for the relay runners who were setting off just after us. After a couple more km of road we turned off on another forest track and climbed. The relay runners were starting to come past now and we shouted encouragement at each other. We soon left the forest track and got to some very muddy boggy bits. It had rained a lot. The path they had created westwards towards Clachan was great, although once we entered the forest we were soon back on stony tracks again. We had a diversion on the last bit of route into Clachan and it gave me a few moments of doubt as it didn't really match what I expected but I soon found myself on the A83 and heading into the CP.

22 miles done so 1/3 of the way now and I was enjoying myself and pleased I had given the long route a go. Sadly there was then another section of road before we headed down past a posh house to the shore for a very short while.

The next 5 km stayed parallel to the main road but mostly on very very muddy paths through bushes  and with the odd section of pebble beach thrown in. Debbie caught me up here and we sort of ran together for a while. When the bushes ended we hit the beach for real. A 4km section of pebble beach that was tough going. Dry seaweed was the best line but wet seaweed was lethal as I found to my cost.

Debbie on the pebble beach
We also got wet feet- salty water which was not good with about 40 miles to go. We had one very heavy downpour but the views out to Gigha and the other islands were stunning. We rounded the headland with a trig point at 2m asl and entered the caravan park for a short section. Then it was back onto the beach, but this time sand. At the ferry jetty we turned inland for Tayinloan and the nearly half way mark. Debbie and I settled down for tea, soup, oranges and more then grabbed our drop bags and were off again.
Carra and the ferry to Gigha
I should not have sat just the 10-15 minutes we did as I was stiff and struggled to get going.  There was a short loop on the beach and then across the main road and onto a big track that took us up and up and up some more to the wind turbines on Deucheran Hill. I had time to look back out to sea and Gigha looked interesting but the smaller island just south, which I think is Cara, had an amazing lump of rock and cliffs at its end.The weather up on the hill was cooler and although it didn't rain the cloud was low and it was a bit gloomy. This section was not a favourite as it has about 15 miles on forest track or minor road. Not only could you see just how far you had to go stretching ahead but it was starting to make my feet sore. The last few miles took us over a hill south of Grogport and I got views across to Arran.

I have never been but it looked nice and mountainous. I refilled my water bottle at the Carradale CP and set off just behind Debbie and a relay runner. Debbie disappeared ahead and the relay runner went with her. We hit the coast again for a short scramble over rocks- fine when your legs area good but in danger of unducing cramp at this stage.

I then caught the relay runner and we tried to make sense of the route description. In the end I gave up and just followed the blue markers.There was more forest track and then a nice rough path down into the Saddell Water valley and Ifferdale Farm. Debbie was just leaving the CP as I arrived. Water was from a very long hose pipe and I hoped it was OK. From Ifferdale there was.... yes you guessed, more forest track and it really did seem to go on. I finished my water and refilled from a peaty stream but running downhill was now a trail and my feet felt like they had been hammered.

Next time I will carry Hokas to change into after Tayinloan. (serious medical issue with ultra runners- short memory, already thinking about next time). The official photographer popped up all over the place and he was at the head of Lussa Loch along with the coastguard guys who were the rescue vehicles. I had thought the forest track was tough on my feet but part was along the loch it turned to tarmac and that was no better.

 I hobbled on and tried not to think about the time draining away. I did at least know that, barring real disaster, I would not be timed out now. I had anticipated a relatively easy end to the ultra with a road for 8km in to Campbelltown. In my dreams. The reality was a crippling hobble where I forced myself to run the flats and downs as much as I could and tried to power walk the ups.The road was described as undulating.......   and it was! Various support crews were out looking for runners and all offered encouragement. At last I spied the A83 again, surely I could run now. I did try, honest but even running this last 1.5km was not continuous and it was a joy to run on the grass for the last 100m.  At last. Job done. Debbie had only finished 12 minutes ahead of me and I felt sorry not to have stuck with her as mutual encouragement would have been good. We refuelled for a bit and then wandered off to find the showers. the walk to the other end of the football pitches was well worth it. Then it was a short walk in the other direction to find the pub and all the others. they had all completed. Emma was first lady on the shorter route and shared her time with Nigel A, Dick was slightly miffed that Marie and Harry just beat him and Andy was delighted that even walking he beat a fair few runners. We enjoyed the buffet and a drink before the prize-giving and than had a chat with the RO. We then suddenly realised we needed to go and collect in all our flags or we would be in danger of missing the bus home. We beetled off to the waterfront and stuffed them into bags the best we could. Ironically my legs felt fine, if only my feet had let me run. It was an interesting bus ride in the dark with sheep and deer on the road. Dick got out at Tayinloan to collect his car from their start and we met up again back at the wigwams. I fell into bed and was so glad I had showered earlier.  I slept well, no surprise there. By 8.30 we were all up and having a little RF meeting before heading home. Will I go back? Probably. I wasn't in the best shape when I set out and now know what to expect underfoot. I should be able to knock over an hour off this years time so I guess I will need to return. I am not a fan of the forest tracks but I would like to see the views again, and more of them if the weather allows.


  1. Great account Karen and really well done for attempting and completing the biggy with a super time too.
    The scenery was really good - I like the fact that we visited the beach on West and East coasts; you also did North too - I wonder if they might go for the full length of Kintyre since the 'Way' does that then the South coast could also be visited! Perhaps it will by the time you get round to doing it again.
    I was pretty tired after the short course so was pleased with my decision. It also meant I could stay awake when driving home!
    I thought the organisation was super, although found the water supply at Carradale and Ifferdale poor and lost a few minutes at both - almost like they weren't expecting anyone to need water.

    1. Cheers Nigel. You are still running well I see. Did you and Emma run the whole distance together? The coasts were nice for views but 3-4km on the pebble beach was torture and then more on sand so we had wet salty feet. Rob said the KW is being extended and so he has ideas for a 100 miler but it would mean some being in the dark and then we'd miss the views so he isn't at all sure yet. I know what you mean re the water- I was suspicious of the hose pipe with the nossle in the crap on the floor at ifferdale. I could not have driven home but did fall out the bus/car and into bed and sleep well on sat night! I am not doing S+S but see you at 3Rof S