Great to be back at Whitelee Windfarm, Eaglesham for Breaking Strain Run the Blades 2022 50km event. It’s been 2 years since I did this race, and I was no way near as fit I was then.
I was wearing my HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 8 Real Teal / Aquarelle shoes today & my Chris Bowman Fitness blue t-shirt (I like the feel of this material when running) and the Ultimate Direction Mountain vest 5.0 which is handy as it has flasks up front for easy access. I used the trustworthy Drymax Lite Trail Running Socks (Speedgoat) – 1/4 Crew and had no blisters.
The race was a 9am start but we were up at 6 and out the house by 6:45 in order to arrive by 8am for registration. My nerves were attacking me and I had no appetite for breakfast but forced down a slice of toast and took coffee with me in the car.
Arriving at the windfarm was straight forward with the satnav taking us to the postcode G76 0QQ but we knew where we were going with attending a few of these races before.
Race marshals directed us to the parking area and headed towards the event village. It is worth noting that while there is a good gravel roadway to the start point it isn’t wise to wear sandals as my wife found out with small stones getting stuck under her heels and toes every few yards!
Arriving at the event village was great. The atmosphere was a mix of excitement and nervousness but everything was well organised. Registration was easy, the folk were very coordinated and cheery which helped me relax and they directed to the place for drop bags which would be taken to the various checkpoints around the trail.
A substantial row of portaloos was at the start/finish area so there was no need to walk back to the main visitor centre to use the facilities which was a relief. I also eyed up a funky horse trailer converted to a coffee/snack van and looked forward to a cup of sweet tea on completion of the race.
It was an overcast start to the day so in typical Scottish style the midgies were rife! Cans of smidge were available at the registration point and at the start line but even so those suckers really got us bad! About 0840 Lee the event organiser gave the safety briefing and with everyone crowded close together the midges had a feast on us.
As it neared 9am the village started to buzz with excitement and the upbeat music helped get us in the mood for the energy we would need for the next few hours ahead!
The start of the race was in the opposite direction from other years which was cool and a nice change, we all set off steadily after a 3,2,1 GO! I thought I was going steady when my watch pinged of the first 1km lap at 5.39, I thought to myself “oops I better slow down” but I went with my feel.
I arrived at checkpoint 1 at 1:03:15, I had a drop bag which had 2 tailwind sticks and a Belvita soft bake. I just had to fill one flask with a stick and topped the other with water, as I walked away from the checkpoint, I had the soft bake.
I was feeling ok at this point and steadily carried on, I was thinking to myself that I just needed to fill that flask with water having one tailwind and one water but felt still full of energy.
This section starts to get rolling with hilly undulating terrain, it was great to see the turbines, they are majestic compared to an electric pylon.
On this section the flies were out, absolutely doing my head in, while they buzzed round my ears. I looked like a horror character being attacked it was so freaky.
As I was making my way, I was thinking next checkpoint will be at 20.4km, I got to that distance and there was nothing, I looked at my phone and it was at 22.4k at the next checkpoint, I just wanted to see people instead of flies, I was getting fed up.
Checkpoint 2 I arrived 02:28:30. I glugged the leftovers of my flasks and refilled them with my 2 sticks of tailwind, I took a left-over banana that was on the table and put my soft bake into my pack for later.
As I left, I knew this was a long section and it was hilly with 13 km to the next check point. It was starting to heat up and the views of the turbines were amazing but the flies were still attacking me which was a bit frustrating. I was chatting to a couple of female runners for a while which was fun and helped break up the time.
At 28km I hit the wall. This is where lack of fitness came to bite me and I knew I was down to one flask and I felt very hot and slightly dehydrated. My winter training came into practice where I would hike 50 paces and then run 50 paces and I did this on and off to the next check point. I was thinking to myself I have a fruit pot with syrup and a bag of crinkle crisps in the next drop bag and I knew the fruit pot would be a game changer as it has helped me on the WHW Challenge Race many times.
Before the checkpoint, I got despondent thinking that I forgot to pack the fruit pot, And I was right I had left them at home in the cupboard thinking I would pack them later. I need to remember next time to pack stuff in advance and be very clear about what I need to have with me.
I got into Checkpoint 3 at 04:12:25 at distance 35.6km, got my drop bag that had the crinkle crisps and thought they might do the trick. I also had a mini bottle of Irn-Bru but it had gotten warm with the heat of the day, but I managed a couple of glugs. I’m not sure if it helped!
This section was mainly downhill but still hilly so I managed to get some running in, but went back to the 50/50, and managed to keep a decent steady pace.
As I was running to the next checkpoint Lee was driving past and gave me a shout which gave me a boost. Lee is always an encourager, and I can imagine he has to be with long expeditions taking people around the world doing the Arctic, Alps, Mount Olympus, and Kilimanjaro Treks.
I got in to Checkpoint 4 at 05:30:15 I did one flask with the cola caffeine tailwind stick the other I just topped up with water. I took more crisps from my drop bag and put them in my pocket as I wasn’t sure I’d need them and I left the soft bakes behind.
This was a fun checkpoint when an Italian lady came in to fuel up the marshals had good banter with her speaking in Italian, this is something you never experience at a checkpoint, the fun took away the sapping sun heat at that time of day.
I used the portaloo and it was good to see my pee was an ok colour with no signs of blood due to dehydration and I headed off to the little hill and to the finish.
The heat of the sun was beaming down now but I knew I only had 5km to go so I kept my head down and plodded on breaking into a hike, I was just sapped with no energy.
Heading up the little hill was fun, seeing the funny and encouraging signage but I went into 50/50 mode and felt more sapped heading to the brow of the hill and round the corner but I could see the events village through the trees so I knew the end was in sight.
Descending was tough, I couldn’t relax and just flow down, I had no energy and I realised I hadn’t taken any drink, I glugged down some of the cola to see if it could give me some energy for the final kilometre and it perked me up, a few hikers shouted well done which encouraged me.
Coming into the final straight I was feeling hot, dizzy and had no strength, but I saw the finish flags and I went for it. As I was running, I thought to myself, I think I’m not going to make it, but I drove my arms to keep my legs going as I felt I was going to cramp.
Crossed the line at 06:09:18, I was glad to see my wife but thought I was going to puke up, and I was aiming to run to the bushes, but my stomach settled down.
I was glad of the medal, my son Roddy loves to spin the blades, and was happy to get the goody bag with a mars bar, crisps, fancy can of water and some gels to try from BACX performance fuel and a sachet of Fisiocrem muscle massage rub.
I managed to get a sweet cup of tea before the drink trailer closed for the day after losing power.
Things to learn is that 50km isn’t a 100 mile ultra, 50km is in some ways more challenging and the undulating terrain at Whitelee Windfarm at Eaglesham can break you down.
For fuelling I might use one flask water and one tailwind but double the sticks at checkpoint 2 next year. I need to train harder over winter and improve my overall diet and nutrition which has taken a hammering since March 2020. I want to run this race without going into hikes and run a steady rhythmic pace that befits the undulating course and the regular whoosh of the turbines overhead.