Ythan Challenge 2013

Time: 1:26:25 [RESULTS]

Medal: Yes (and technical t-shirt)

IMG_20130616_145157I remember entering this race back in January on my lunch break, desperate to get in before the spaces inevitably filled up as they did in 2012.  In record time (I think about 2 and a half hours), entries were closed, and I felt smug that I had managed to secure a space.  And then I thought – why have I entered this race again?  Last year I was still in ‘Tough Mudder training mode’, and excited to be doing my first obstacle course style run.  I thought it would be a good training opportunity, and something different.  This year, the realities of scrubbing dried mud off your skin in the lukewarm, post-race shower and trying to salvage the running kit you wore were at the forefront of my mind.  In the week leading up to today, I still questioned why I had been so enthusiastic about entering.

Ronnie (now a regular feature in my posts) picked me up at 9:30, along with one of his work colleagues, and after a trip to the supermarket for breakfast (and an amazing 3 disc cd full of classic rock songs), we picked up Susan and her fiancée Levi, who was amusingly still under the influence after the night before, and thankfully only coming along as support.  Despite the ominous weather forecast for the weekend, the skies were blue, the sun was out, and it was warm.  As always, this makes me happy.

We arrived in Ellon with about half an hour before registration closed, picked up our bibs, had our numbers drawn onto us, and had a final comfort break.  There were quite a few familiar faces about, and we filled the time in before the start by chatting to everyone in the sun.  One of the familiar faces was Teri, who had fractured her foot when she won the Whole Hog Challenge a few weeks back, but refused to accept that she had to rest.  Interesting fact: She is also planning on running a 10k on Tuesday, and a half marathon the following Sunday.

L-R: Susan, me, Teri, and Ronnie before the race

L-R: Susan, me, Teri, and Ronnie before the race

Before we realized it, the first wave had lined up behind the start line.  There were four waves in all, and we were in the third one.  About ten minutes after the first wave had sped off, we were listening to our starting horn go off, and making our way down the grassy field, towards the deep steps, and finally along the river path.  The majority of the Ythan is along trail paths, with sections through mud and through the river Ythan (which is freezing – without fail).

I started off running with Teri and Susan (Ronnie shot ahead), and a couple of miles in, Susan was struggling, so I stayed with her while Teri shot off, only to be seen again at the finish.  Eventually, the two of us caught up with Ronnie, and then I went ahead after the river, which, and I cannot stress this enough, was dreadful.  This is mainly due to the queue of people stuck in the river waiting their turn for the one exit space.

With heavy, boulder filled shoes, I was finally out of the Ythan, but only to zig-zag up and down a muddy hill before the second (and final) plunge.  With the river behind me, I was all smiles, and enjoyed the more technical trail sections of the race (though I got stuck behind some bottlenecking in areas which was a bit of a let down).  The obstacles barely registered (rope net to crawl under, tubes to crawl through, fence to scale, logs to hurdle, and hay bales to get over) as I happily bounded through the flickers of sunlight slicing through the canopy of leaves above.  My pace wasn’t great, but after a hard 6 days of working out, I was having a grand day out.

I heard my Garmin beep at me, and looked down to realize there were only a couple of miles left of the race.  I was amazed that something that I had been dreading all week had passed by so quickly and that I had enjoyed it (apart from a rather spectacular fall on my ass during a steep downhill section)!  I think a lot of credit goes to the weather, in fairness.

Turning back onto the lower field before the finish, I prepared myself for the shittery that the organizers set up after everyone is over the start line as a ‘treat’ at the end.  Sure enough, we had a staircase to run up that took us by the finishing chute, past it, and then back down the hill.  The final slog was pushing back up the steep hill, over a hay bale, through tires (which I fell face-first into), over a final hay bale, and then over the finish line, high-fiving some kids along the way.

Photo: Victoria Shanks

Photo: Victoria Shanks

I caught up with Teri, and we both went to cheer in Ronnie, and then Susan as they navigated the final section.  After a quick bite to eat, it was back to the car for a post race photo before dragging ourselves to the showers to clean up.


Cleaning up involved a lot of violent body scrub action, and a lot of stinging where chaffing had occurred (I’ll spare you the details).  In our fresh clothes, we headed to the food tent: there was a BBQ on the go and a fantastic spread of all sorts of cakes for only 50p each.  I indulged in a slice of cake.  Teri inhaled everything in sight.

Just after prize giving, we went back to the final stretch of the run to wait for the final finishers, Shona, Carol, and Jeananne, to come into sight.  When they did, they were full of cheer, helping each other over the penultimate hay bale, but less cheerful when they realized they had one more in store:


Although I did enjoy today, I am firmly over mud runs and obstacle courses.  Will I try and get a place next year?  Who knows.  There’s something that makes me want to enter a race if there’s such a limit on availability, and I have a feeling that, like in January, my panic at missing out will override my sanity.