D99 Ultra (100 miles)

What a great race organised by the Epic racing team for their 10th anniversary. For the last 10 years they have been putting on the D33 ultra which is an out and back run to Banchory along the Deeside way. For their anniversary they put on a one off D99 (100 miles) race, the only 100 mile race in Scotland. I had originally signed up for the D33 but decided to upgarde to the D99. This would be my 1st ever 100 mile race. 55 of us had paid the privilege to run 100 miles.

Ultra running really is a crazy hobby, which takes crazy people to do it. We part with our hard earned cash to go through pain, trial and tribulations. Yet there’s no better feeling, when you cross the line and despite the body being battered, we our like ‘when’s the next race’.

Race day

With a 0900 start I opted to travel to Aberdeen from my home in Lossiemouth first thing.

I got up at 0500, had my overnight oates before setting off at 0530 for Aberdeen. On my way to registration I made a quick pitstop at Starbucks for a Chai Latte. I parked my car up at the BnB that I was going to stop at Saturday evening. Then walked to Duthie Park the start/finish of the race.

I got to registration about 0745. I was one of the 1st people there. It was great to see some familiar faces and meet some people for the 1st time, that I’d only knew from social media.

The weather was fairly pleasant considering what the met office had predicted. It was cold, quite windy but the sun was shining and at least it was dry.

The Race

My aim was to try and run sub 20hrs.

I got myself to the front of the start line. A 5 second count down and we were off, running out of the park onto the Deeside way.

The 1st checkpoint (CP) was going to be Banchory roughly 17 miles away. For 1st 10k I ran with the front runners averaging about 8:30 min/miles. This was faster than I’d planned to run. I decided to drop my pace, not letting myself get carried away. There was still along way to go. From 10k up to Banchory I’d dropped my pace to 9 min/miles. I went through half marathon distance in about 1hr 55 mins.

On getting to the 1st CP, I was sitting in about 10th place. I quickly took on a bit of food and some Irn Bru before heading out. The next CP would be Kincardine roughly 29 mile point.

On leaving Banchory, the next two miles were a climb as we diverted off the Deeside Way and took on the 1st hill climb Scolty Hill. Hill climbs are not always my favourite but this was much needed. It was a chance to break things up a bit and use more of the more powerfull glute muscles, reducing impact on the knees. Up till then it had been fairly flat.

On getting to the top Scolty hill, there was a old folly with a marshall there to ensure we checked in. It was a great photo opportunity, it seemed to be one of the highest points in that area. Great views all round, looking over towards Cairngorms I could see a snow flurry heading in my direction.

I quickly descended off Scolty hill, where the marked route eventually put me back on the Deeside way. From there route was fairly undulating up to the 2nd CP . This is where I started to implement ‘jeffing’ a run, walk, run method. Any incline I would walk then on long flat parts I’d would walk 30 secs before running the rest of a mile. I averaged about 9 min/mile upto the 2nd CP getting to Kincardine just before 1300.

The Kincardine CP, was in the village hall. A chance to sit down and take on some hot food. However, I didn’t do this. Several of the front runners were at the CP when I got there. I quickly took on some food and some more Irn Bru before heading out for Ballater. Ballater was 17 miles, in my rush to get out and I made the grave error of not replenishing my water 🤦‍♂️.

I left CP 2 in somewhere in top the 5. Within about mile, I caught up with another runner. He told me that there was only one runner in front of him, which meant I’d move into 2nd place at 30 miles. The person out in 1st was my fellow club and friend Willie Stuart. I pushed on hoping that I could close the gap on Willie and try create some distsnce between me and the runners behind me.

At 35 miles I reached Aboyne, here my legs were starting to feel it. I was also running low on water so had to ration it. I slowed my pace down, resulting to more jeffing. I started walking for 1 min, then running up to half mile, then walk another minute before running the rest of the mile. This increased my average mile pace to 11 min/mile. Two runners (Martin and Stuart) caught up with at Aboyne, Willie was nowhere to be seen and the other two pushed on dropping me into 4th. The last couple of miles to Ballater were challenging against a strong head wind and sleet. I eventually reached Ballater at just before 1700.

The CP at Ballater was again in the village hall. The atomsphere was great, music playing, warmth, hot food and drink. There was even whisky there but I resisted the temptation for a wee dram. I took the opportunity to have a coffee, soup and my Reese’s peanut butter white chocolate. I spent a good 20 mins at the CP, which wasn’t my original plan but God did I need it.

Ballater was the turn round point but before heading back we had to do a 11 mile route to make up the 100 miles. The route would take us up two peaks south and north of Ballater. More hill climbs yay.

I wanted to get the loop completed as much possible in day light hours. I set off from the CP in about 7th place. I heading out of the hall over the bridge towards the 1st hill, Craig Collich. I caught up with another runner straight away, David from Deveron harriers I stayed and chatted with him whilst we gradually made our way up the hill. The path was your usual standard foresty tracks to start then all of a sudden, the route went off the track taking us up more of an animal track through the pine trees. The climb was steep and seemed to last forever, however it was soft under foot and gave my stomach time to digest the food I’d just eaten. It must of taken us a good 15 mins to ascend up the path. Eventually the climb join back on a prominent path again. At this point I left David as the path climbed a little further before it descended down. It was quite easy under foot so I was able to descend at a fast pace. As I got to the bottom of the descent I passed Adam a fellow running enthusiast I fellow and know from Instagram. I was now up into 5th. Upon finishing the descent, I joined a tarmac path that eventually lead me to a road out of the forest off the hill.

I followed the road for a half mile before turning off to go along a path next to the river into Dalhefour Wood. It was at this point I passed Willie coming the other way on the road, he was still flying and must of been a good 5k a head of me by now.

The path along the river was soft under foot and fairly flat. I was able to pick up my pace. As I got to the end of the path, I caught up with another runner. We joined the road again, this was roughly the half way stage. I suddenly got a 2nd wind here and picked up my pace to 8:30 min/miles. I moved on up to 4th. The road brought me back to where I had turn off previously. The road followed the river taking me back and through Ballater to go conquer the next hill, Craigndarroch.

The climb up Craigndarroch, was steep and as I nearer the summit, I was almost doing a bit of scrambling. Upon arriving at the summit, the last of daylight was fading. I took the opportunity to have a quick selfie with views of Ballater down below.

Time for the descent and to turn on the head torch. The descent was tricky under foot and with daylight fading, I couldn’t make up lost time from the climb. As I got towards the last part of the descent, a lapse in concentration saw me hit the deck. Luckily no real damage done. Got back up, dusted myself off and carried on back down to Ballater village hall to complete the loop.

I had now completed 56 miles. Back at the village hall I took a 20 min break. Had a cup of coffee and a can of Irn Bru. I also took the opportunity to vaseline my feet, change my underwear, socks and trainers. In terms of positions. Willie was already out his way back on the home straight. Martin and Stuart who were in joint 2nd were still at the CP. Stuart soon left whilst Martin decided wait for Adam and run with him for the rest of the way. I finished my coffee and Irn Bru, feeling refreshed it was time to run the 45 mile home straight back to Duthie park.

I left the CP thinking I was in 3rd, however the runner I past on the loop by the road, had been in and gone straight back out. I left Ballater about 19:15 on good course for my sub 20 hr target.

The next 10 miles, I felt strong running 8:45 average min/mile. I caught up with the runner and moved into 3rd. I past a few runners coming the other way who were still yet to get to CP 3. It was great to see them as we all gave each others words of encouragement plus I knew I was not going to see anyone for miles.

The last 7 miles back to CP 2 Kincardine, I started to fade. I failed to eat back at Ballater and the food I had on me was insufficient. I was back to my ‘jeffing’ walking for a minute then running the rest of the mile. Eventually I made it to Kincardine 71 mile point, around 2200. Stuart who was in 2nd was just leaving the CP. I wouldn’t see him again till the finish.

Having neglecting to take on food at Ballater, I did the opposite at Kincardine. It was food overload, eating mac & cheese, vegetable soup, pizza, crisps, cake and chocolate as well as more coffee and Irn Bru. I did this all with in 15 minutes.

29 miles to go, with Scolty hill to conquer again and 1 more checkpoint. The last 29 miles were to be the most challenging, not because of tired legs but having stuffed all that food down me, my stomach had turned into a washing machine. Not good situation when there was no toilets on route, not even the luxury Hilton portable loos 😂. I’ll spare details about having to go Bear Grylls but I suppose that’s all part and parcel of ultra running.

Despite the stomach issues, my plan was to get to Banchory CP 1 for around 0100. This would give me 4 hrs to complete the last 17 miles and achieve my sub 20hrs.

Anyway, as I approached the climb back up Scolty hill, Martin and Adam caught up with me. I ran and chatted with them for a bit before leaving them at the final ascent up to Scolty hill summit. Fair play to marshall still at the folly on the top, he had been there all day. I checked in with him before making my descent down the hill to Banchory to the last CP.

At Banchory, I drank some flat coke hoping it might settle the stomach. The lovely ladies on the CP gave me some Rennie too. It was now 0105 as I left the CP for the final 17 miles.

The Rennie worked briefly, running sub 9 min miles for the 1st 3 miles but then the stomach issues came back. I slowed down to around 11:15 per mile for last 14 miles. It was just a case of run, walk, run.

As I got onto last 10k along the old railway path, the legs were really feeling it. It was just a case of head down, grind it out, one foot in front the other. I remembering getting down to what I thought was the last two miles then saw a sign ‘Duthie park 3.5 miles’ 😩. For a moment my spirit was dented but what’s a extra 1.5 miles 😂 when you’re doing a 100.

Eventually, I came to the end of the Deeside way and could see the arched gate to Duthie park. This was it, the final couple hundred meters. After passing under the gate, I could see the finish. I walked briefly until I was visible to the race organisers, at which point I tried to muster up my best for a sprint finish.

I did it, I crossed the line in just over 19hrs 20 mins and the icing on the cake a podium place, finishing 3rd. I was quickly escorted to a warm tent where I was greeted by Willie and Stuart. Stuart had a strong last 30 miles and ended up finishing 1st in 18hrs 19mins. Whilst Wille, came in 2nd in 19hrs 7 mins, a great time for him as it was his 1st ever 100 mile race too.

It was also a 2nd and 3rd place finish for the Moray road runners 😁.

It was great privilege to be part of this one off race. Thank you to organisers and all the volunteers who gave up their own time to make it a great and memorable race. Well done to everyone who did the D99, you are epic.

Report by:  Jon Ward

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