Ardgartan Trail Race 2023 on the 04 February 2023

Ardgartan Trail Race is a 21mile foot race held at Ardgartan Forest Park, on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll and Bute.

The start is set on the grounds of Ardgartan Hotel which gives you views of Loch Long and the Arrochar Alps.

The race is around 21 miles, and it was funny reading the ATR group page on Facebook with comments being the milage is between 21 and 25 miles, but with my distance recording it was nearly 34.60 km or 22 miles.

The event was on the 4th of February still wintertime for Scotland but the temperature in the car was 9 degrees and it was dry, we were expecting the rain from about 12pm.

The course terrain was mostly forest track, with minor tarmac sections just at the start going past the hotel and a small section after Lochgoilhead which is just before the scary climb up to the Rest and be Thankful.

My favourite section from Corran Lochan to the views over Lochgoilhead this was proper narrow forest trail, and it has powerful thundering waterfalls as you cross over wooden bridges.

There were 2 water stations at 11.4km at Corran Lochan the small loch and at 22.40km before the climb. The lady giving water at the first water station was very friendly and was happy I had a wide open bottle for filling with water. The man was encouraging knowing that the next section was going to be fun, and I caught a glimpse of the of lochan.

Training for the event.

Training for this event has been steady building up from a plantar fascia injury on my left foot and it was great to be able to run injury free. I have been running/hiking good distances of 15 miles plus on my long runs but I knew I wasn’t hiking fit but I know it might be a problem later in the race.

I have been trying to lose some weight, I was just under 14 stone at this race, but wasn’t good enough. I’m working hard to get down to 12 stone for the WHW challenge race in May.

My gear and nutrition for the race.

I wore my DARE2B long sleaved top with my Glasgow Tri T-shirt from Big Bobble Hats on top to keep warm. I wore Underarmour underwear and my Decathlon long running tights.

For my feet I wore Drymax Socks : Lite Trail Running – 1/4 Crew with my HOKA Speedgoat 4’s.

My experience of the race.

Despite an early morning start, we got to the race venue just after 7.30am, it was dark and saw folk with headtorches walking down to the registration/start point.

As my wife was dropping me of, we were directed to park at the hotel guest parking at the registration/start. If you are attending this event next year it is best to bring a headtorch.

The registration/start was well organised with two marquee tents and two portaloo toilets. One marquee for registration and I saw a guy selling merchandise, which I forgot to go back later to get a neck warmer.

I also picked up my goody bag and vest in that tent.

The other marquee was a drop off for your bags and for keeping out the rain later.

While sitting in the car waiting I saw a lady dressed as a giraffe, it was part of a running joke on the Facebook group.

The race briefing was at 8.15am the race director was funny and gave good inductions on distances at different parts of the course.

It was great to see so many runners but I didn’t recognise any but just one, Howard (Tigh Boidheach). It is weird I follow so many runners on Strava that were attending the race but didn’t recognise faces.

The race started promptly as we set of across the grass and ran in front of the hotel up to the start of the hilly trail.

I was near the back of the runners but just took it steady and went my own pace not worried about overtaking runners. I plodded my way up the hills for the first 8 km at the 5km I got the pin and needles in my foot, It always happens but took a gel and my foot eased off.

Coming into the first water checkpoint (grid NS218953) I was 1hr 33min 07 secs into the race at 22.40km point.

I filled my flask with water, I was feeling very sweaty and headed of on my favourite section, 50 meters down from the trail I filled my flask with cola Tailwind for the caffeine hit.

Running along these sections was fun and it brought back memories when I sort of collapsed with Labyrinthitis and was dizzy and vomiting everywhere. I was glad I had my running friend Carol to guide me downhill.

So going through this section it was good to have some banter with other runners and taking pictures of the waterfalls and bad old memories faded away.

Coming down and bypassing Lochgoilhead, it was good to get some flat running to save the quads and headed towards the next water checkpoint, but I knew I had to climb another section to get back on trail at 19.6km section (grid NN202024).

My legs calves were feeling crampy, I was getting the twitchy feeling, so decided to have a bag of salt and vinegar Hula Hoops, to stop fully cramping.

Coming into the last checkpoint at (grid NN194043) Bill Heirs the race director was at this checkpoint with another guy, I think from checkpoint 1, it might be Anthony.

I asked how long this hill was going to be, Bill said about 3½ miles, I gave him a look as I wished he could make the hill shorter, but I filled my flask, I didn’t feel like putting any Tailwind but just used clean water.

I was with a lady at this checkpoint which was company as I pushed up the hill, she wore a funky colour running tights and thought to myself, why can’t guys get funky coloured bottom garment shorts or tights.

I stomped up the track with the lady behind me, but at the top at the 27km mark, I saw the sign for climbing up Ben Donich, it deflated me and I knew I had a while to get to the finish. I ran out of gas with no energy. I knew it was downhill from here but there was nasty wee hills to struggle up.

I was getting passed by runners that I overtook earlier in the race but all I wanted to was get to the finish.

The rain started but carried on without my jacket but it got to heavy and had to put it on to get rid of the chill on my body.

Further down I saw the sign for The Brack and I knew I didn’t have far to go but I was cramping again. A chirpy happy lady gave me an almond energy sweet and it helped, it gave me a boost to get some running done.

At the bottom of the hill I got through the banner and headed towards the hotel, I was hoping not to get lost. Cars that were heading out were tooting me and people walking were saying well done and it lifted my as I plodded along the section of tarmac road.

I passed Bill again and Howard (Tigh Boidheach) was there and grabbed his arm to say hello.

As I headed towards the hotel I saw Hilary, the trail angel. She said I was nearly there. I saw the finish, and my wife and son waiting for me. I gave a high five to the lady that gave me the energy sweet, she was cheering!

As I finished I was so glad to see my wife, I got my cool medal and gave my distance to the lady in the timing tent.

I got some tasty hot tomato soup which tasted amazing, I think it was tomato and basil.

I quicky got to the car and got changed as we were driving home my wife said I stink, the joys of a runner’s wife.

So, I can’t wait to come back next year, and be fitter and get a lower time.

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