The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Clyde Stride Ultra – Race Report

It’s now been some time since the Clyde Stride Ultra:  A 40 mile off and on road ultra from Partick in Glasgow to New Lanark along the River Clyde walkway.  It has taken me a wee while to write a report on this race due to a number of reasons.  Firstly, post race, was hectic with weekends away at weddings or celebrating my anniversary but mostly because I needed to process the race and put a future plan in place to rectify the issues that I have been struggling with this year.  So a mixture of a busy social life and a bit of introspection had to come first before I could sort my head enough to write about it.  It is much easier to write about a race report a long time afterwards, as I think you give yourself more time to think through those things that you want to put into published words.  Personally, I have blogged too quickly in the past, and I think this time around has allowed me to be more honest with myself.  Long gone are the immediate emotions post race, be that elation to a great race, or disappointment to a poor race.  Leaving the blog this long has allowed me to be almost an external viewer of my race and provide, hopefully, a more balanced opinion of what actually happened and what needs to be done going forward.  Ok, enough of that and onto the report.

The pre-race build up had been ok, I hadn’t gotten in the really long runs that I had wanted, but managed a few around 28-30 miles.  I felt, at the time, that would be enough along with a 24 mile recce run with some old school mates.  We ran that last 24 miles of the route, probably the toughest part of it and I felt fine with this.  There were a few nasty little climbs in the final 8 miles that I thought would be tough on the day, but these climbs are nowhere near the Devil’s Stair Case or the climb out of Kinlochleven on the West Highland Way route.  They would hurt, but I had been there before and my body would cope. That is, if I actually made it to that last section!!

On race morning, there was a bit of a delay on trains and I made it to Partick with about 15 minutes to spare.  A quick change, drop bags dropped and onto the race briefing.  We then walked to the start and after another little brief we were off.  Now, we started with the relay, which was composed of 4 runners per team, each covering about 10 miles.  Apart from the lad from the Sweatshop team, who flew off at 5:30 pace, I had no idea how to identify the relay runners and while there were a few people in front of me, I thought some of them must be relay runners.  After about a mile I had passed everyone except the Sweatshop lad and I settled into a nice easy pace.  This first section is pretty boring.  A dull Saturday morning in Glasgow city centre and then the East End would not normally hold many stories to tell.  However, I did see many people coming home from the previous night out, high-heeled stumbles and disheveled “Bro’s” wishing they were tucked up in their own beds as I passed at a decent clip full of the joys!!  There were a couple of moments that I had to actually physically stop for traffic, which was a bit annoying, but the race was in the early stages and time could be made up if needed.  I go through the first checkpoint in 1st place and feeling pretty good.  Sandra hands me my water bottle from the drop bag and I plod on into the second stage.  This was an unknown for me.  I thought it would be well-groomed paths, there was even talk of some of it being cut down by the council, but this was a really tough section for me.  Not least helped by two wrong turns in the long grass at the top of the hill.  Both times, when I corrected a wrong turn I would take a look back to see how much time I had lost, but couldn’t see anyone, so I thought my lead wouldn’t have been cut too much, but I must have lost a minute while working out which way to go.  The wrong turns were not the fault of the organisers, more my own stupidity at, firstly, not knowing the route, and secondly not seeing the signs in place.   A little lack of concentration.  Anyway, I break out of this tough section, which to be honest, took a wee bit out of me and I slowed the pace a bit to get some recovery in.  I then noticed a runner ahead and as I passed noticed the Sweatshop top and realised he was the second runner for the lead relay.  On the decent to the river, I felt a familiar twinge in the right hip, nothing painful, just a wee ‘hey remember me’!!  As I approached the Cambuslang bridge, I was aware of someone closing me fast and as I turned around the lad was right on my tail.  We had a brief hello and I asked if he was a relay runner, such was his speed!  He wasn’t and I thought, shit, he has made up a lot of time in the last section.  To be fair I didn’t enjoy stage 2, it is not my preferred terrain and I wasted too much energy jumping around and over long grass and avoiding nettles and thistles, when I should have just powered through it.  With hindsight this might just have been enough antagonising of the hip to set it off on its grumbles.  James and I ran for a while together, but when we got back onto tarmac, my running style is suited to it, and without effort, pulled away a bit as we approached Strathclyde park and check point 2.

I felt pretty good going through CP2 in the lead, although the race results had me in second here, but I think it was the relay runner who was first through CP2.  He had passed me on the decent into CP2.  Anyway, it’s a small and irrelevant point.  I pick up my drop back and take out the Honey Stinger gels and ditch the liquid.  I hadn’t drunk much up to this point and didn’t feel I needed to.  I see Mrs T, the girls and Granny T and I head out onto Stage 3.  I ran this stage with some old mates a few weeks before and was happy with navigating it as there are probably a few spots you could go wrong.  Rob Soutar passes me as we just approach the end of Strathclyde park, running fast on his leg of the relay race.  There were a couple of little inclines and declines along the footpath and I could feel the right hip nipping a little on the inclines.  I am starting to get a little worried about it at this point.  During the Glasgow to Edinburgh, I ran about 15 miles with the pain, to the point that I actually couldn’t raise my leg up.  I knew I wouldn’t put myself through that again and I think at this point my decision had been made for me, although I wouldn’t admit it at this point.  Around 21-22 miles the route comes off a path and into a field that the river cuts through.  The path is uneven, broken and tough to run on and it was here that the hip really started to nip hard.  I was about 6 miles from the next CP and I considered turning around and heading back to CP2, but my stubbornness prevailed and I carried on.  I am not sure what lead I had over James at this point but as the route starts to climb away from the river again, my hip was agony.  Clearly the inclines were going to a major problem.  Probably because of the little extra hip extension required.  I approached a gate and like before, out of nowhere, there was James (I am sure he has a Tardis ;)) and knowing my race is over, I stand aside and let him pass through the open gate.   James goes onto win the race in the new course record, a brilliant run.  And only this last weekend, he has also won the BAM Glenmore 24 in a new course record.  It looks like there is a new kid on the block in the Scottish ultra scene and I wish him all the best in his future races, I am sure there are a few more wins in the post.

I resign myself to yet another DNF and after way too much pain on the climb up to the Brown Lee, I start to walk.  The hip is just too painful to climb these easy ascents.  I walk the remaining 3 miles into CP3, and to my surprise, I am still in third place, but I pull out of the race and wait for Mrs T to come and pick me up.

The Aftermath: I take a few days off running to let the inflammation die down and start some easy jogging, but I can still feel the niggle there.  The next few weeks post race are very minimal running and I look at my race schedule for the coming months.  I reluctantly pull out of the races I have planned.  I am self-employed but my current client has an associated gym complex on site, so I approach a personal trainer there, to tackle the hip problems that I am having.  I could have gone to a physio and have him or her tell me of muscle imbalances and whatnot.  I decided to bypass that and go direct for the solution and the PT gives me a revolving 5 week period of strength work primarily targeting hips and glutes with some core work thrown in there.  He mentions that at my age (cheeky bugger) I need to work more at keeping balance in the body and keeping muscle mass.  I point out to him that I weigh less than 10 stones ( I don’t now, as I write, but was light at the time), I don’t have a great deal of muscle mass!!  That’s his point he reminds me!

It’s just as well as I wasn’t doing much running when I started the resistance work.  After that first session, I could hardly move for the rest of the week.  I am supposed to incorporate this session twice a week, but I have only been able to do it once each week since starting, such is the DOMS!!  I’ve always done a little bit of upper body and core work.  Not too much, but enough, I think.  This is completely new to me and while I can see the benefits of it, it hurts beyond belief.  Will it make me stronger? I have no doubt.  Will it make my hips stronger? I have no doubt.  Will it stop mid race issues appearing?  I have no idea!!  Time will tell.  The last 4 weeks of training have been good.  Finally over the weight training DOMS and getting my weekends back, I’ve been able to put in 4 solid weeks of training.  I’ve gone back to a base period of training for a while.  It is what I find more comfortable, raising the volume and avoiding the hard intensity to let the body be stressed by volume instead of the intensity.  There is still an adaptation in this type of training:  it builds strength and endurance. I personally think it reduces the incidences of injury, well that is true for me, but maybe not everyone.  I’ll get back to more specific work in a few months time, but right now, it is about the volume and looking after my body to allow it to respond to both the weight training and the running.

As for racing, well, I am not sure what I will do for the rest of the year.  I am going to try and get a cross country season this year having missed it the last couple.  I doubt I will manage all events, they are a full day away but I’d like to race again in the Masters and Nationals and hopefully the relays if we can field a strong masters team.  As for ultras, well, we’ll see where that leads next year.

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