This year's Cateran Ultramarathon saw plenty take to the track for the 55mile race. As well as the usual, it was also the first year for the DOUBLE Cateran, that's right a 110 mile race. We met Ultrarunner Mike Raffan of the blog Sum Running Stuff who was chomping down some of our Chia Charge Flapjacks (among other things) to get him through the race. Mike was kind enough to write a blog post for us about his experience doing the Cateran 110 and the importance of finding the right nutrition. Over to Mike.
I have been concentrating a lot on my nutrition recently, consulting with a nutritionist on how to get the best performance from my diet. I was focusing on nutrient rich “real” food, avoiding as much refined sugars and additives as possible. I was intrigued when I found out Chia Charge were a sponsor for the 55mile Cateran Trail Ultramarathon and new for 2014 the 110mile Double Cateran Trail Ultramarathon which I had signed up for. I put in an order for a sample pack and found the banana flapjack a winner in my opinion. After using them in a few training runs and during the Hoka Highland Fling, I know they worked well for me. The taste is key which is helped by the moisture but more during an ultra they are easy to eat.
The Cateran Trail Ultra was originally a 55mile loop starting at the Spital of Glenshee in the heart of Scotland going in a clockwise south to Blairgowrie starting at 7am on a Saturday in May. This year for the first time there was an additional race that would follow the same route starting at 6pm the night before doing two laps with the first lap being anticlockwise. There was only one cut off in the first lap and that was 7am back at the Spital when the single race started. 11hours for 55miles was deliberately tight to make the race more difficult, as if 110miles wasn’t hard enough.
Being a new race, there was nothing that I could base my times on other than the single race which I had done 4 times before. An advantage I knew the course, at least in one direction. Looking at the start list there were a few runners that I could not find enough information about to make a judgment if they were going to be a contender. One that I did notice was an American female Morgan Windram-Geddes. She had a few high placed finishes in the past but not many results lately.
Right from the start through the single file gate and up the 1000ft climb I went for the lead and planned to keep it. Run as fast as I need to for as long as I need to and keep the lead. Through the first check point at 10k in 51 minutes it doesn’t sound that fast for me, but there was still 104miles to go. At each checkpoint I would be met by my experienced one woman support crew - my wife Annette.
Most of the way round the first lap I was being chased down by Morgan, with others not that far behind. I was feeling good having run through the night, arriving at The Spital of Glenshee hotel at just under 10 hours, just as it was light enough to leave my head torch. As it turns out 10 hours would have got me 11th place in the single lap race.
The 70 mile mark was when I hit my only low of the race. This is often known as “hitting the wall” and is normally associated with the depletion of glycogen stores and transition into fat burning. In this distance of race it can happen many times and can be for various reasons. I only know one way out of it and it normally fixes any problem during an ultra. Eat more! Throughout the race I had been on a combination of rice pudding, gels and Chia Charge Banana flapjacks. In total I consumed six banana flapjacks and one sea salt flapjack. After about 5 miles I was back on form again.
Around the hundred mile mark was when I started to get caught by the front runners of the 55mile race. Every time someone came near I just had to quickly check to make sure they weren’t in my race, even though the marshals said the nearest person was an hour behind. Sadly for Morgan, and 50% of the field, she had to drop out before 86miles. News of this got to me with only 8 miles to go Kirkmichael (102miles) and it was such a relief. I felt I had done enough and could coast it home. Obviously I didn’t and ran the last section faster than most of the one lappers.
Five of the one lappers caught me in the end as I returned to over the Larig gate, down the 1000ft decent to the Spital of Glenshee hotel, twenty two hours and thirty five minutes after leaving the previous night, for my first ever race victory!
Overall, I need good fuel, slow release complex carbs to complement fast release carb that you get from gels. I found Chia Charge Flapjacks were a great balance for macronutrients with 45g Carbs Per 80g flapjack.
A huge thanks to Mike for sharing his experience, be sure to check out his blog Sum Running Stuff