|Simon (L) with his old school mate Duncan|
"Travelled to Arran with my old school mate from Peebles, Duncan Cairns, to tackle the inaugural 2 day Rat Race Ultra Tour of Arran at the weekend. As Rat Race say, they do things differently. The options on offer were to run day 1 (50km with 3500 feet of climb) or both days (another 50km plus 6000 feet of climb). However as usual with Rat Race the descriptions were deliberately vague. It was more like 45km/5000ft and 48km/7000ft over some very tough terrain: bogs, rivers, scrambles, seaweed and little or no Tarmac. Route here: http://ratrace.com/uta/the-route/.
The aim was to go and enjoy the scenery and not push ourselves. Day 1 started at 8.30am and headed over the southern end of the island from Brodick to the south tip and back. Highlights included running through my cousin's farm at Lamlash, a fantastic stretch of wooden boardwalk next to the beach overlooking the Holy Isle in the sun and 2km of deep bog in thick mist where the curses and cries of anguish of those stuck in the mud could be heard echoing eerily long before they were seen. The going was slow as Duncan was carrying a calf injury that started to give him bother about 15km-20km in. We stuck together which meant a rather slow return journey with plenty of walking on the uphills and flats, arriving at the finish line at basecamp in just under 6.5 hours. Not bad considering the terrain and with Duncan on 1 leg.
Day two was a different kettle of fish. It involved separate ascents of Arran's two highest peaks, Caisteal Abhail (859m) and Goat Fell (874m) with a cool half marathon along a very rugged and remote coastline in between. The energy sapping bog from day 1 meant many of those who had signed up for both days did not even attempt day 2, including Duncan whose calf had not recovered. About 175 - 200 runners set off at 7.30am where we headed up the beautiful Glen Rosa, ascending underneath the Rosa Pinnacle before tackling the exposed ridge up to the top of Caisteal Abhail. A long descent into Lochranza followed: it looked easy on the map but was far from so with the trail being more a loose line of odd shaped boulders and bogs than a path. The sun did appear which made up for the underfoot conditions. At this point I reckon I was in about 10th or 11th position on the day. A long run around the isolated north east coastline followed where, despite more difficult terrain including bogs, beaches and rockfalls, I made up 2 places. The final pitstop was at about the 32km mark, just before a cold wade across the river Sannox where it meets the sea and the final ascent up Glen Sannox and Goat Fell. The organisers had wisely arranged a "short-cut" at the Saddle, around half way up Goat Fell, allowing those who did not want to tackle the final 400+ metre climb to drop back down into Glen Rosa. The climb to the Saddle was nothing short of brutal with much scrambling and a wee bit of rock climbing in the Whin Gully. My resolve was tested when the cheery chap from mountain rescue dangled the short-cut in front of me but I resisted and pressed on to the top of Goat Fell. This involved more scrambling but this time in gale force winds, heavy rain and thick mist with patches of snow. A special mention has to go to the medic hiding in a survival shelter at the summit! About 5 minutes was lost just over the top when the markers were out of sight in the mist and the path was covered in snow but a bit of back-tracking soon solved the issue. Thankfully the entire course was otherwise very well marked! A great run out down the main traffic route on the mountain brought you back to Brodick with a final "sprint" along the beach and into basecamp for the finish in just under 8 hours. Rat Race events are never too serious so a great (if short) night was had in the beer tent sharing stories with others.
Results here: http://ratrace.com/uta/2018-results/. As usual with Rat Race the results and timings are a bit wonky, not helped by the fact there ended up being effectively 3 separate races: day 1, day 1 + 2 (over Goat Fell), day 1 + 2 (short cut) with plenty who unfortunately did not make the cut-offs on day 2 getting a DNF next to their name. I had myself 8th on day 2 although the results suggest I was perhaps 10th; either way far better than expected. Overall for the 2 days a final position of 20th out of those who tackled the full course: quite chuffed considering we went without any aims of racing although I undoubtedly benefited overall from a slightly easier day 1 than originally planned. I don't think the organisers appreciated quite how tough day 2 would be considering the number of non-starters and DNFs. One-legged Duncan was 24th out of those who did only day 1 and 91st if you include the 2 day runners. All in all a cracking weekend!