Jedburgh Ultra will be a wee bit special to me for a long time methinks. Mainly because it was my first outright Ultra win. No spoiler alert required here though as that happened in 2013.
I love the route as well though, nearly 38 miles and over 3000ft elevation on wooded trails, grassy riverbank with a wee jaunt up the Eildons as well.
Having been fortunate to win the race at my first attempt I didn’t think I could possibly be as lucky again this year. That year after being surprised to be in the lead in the first mile not only did I manage to lead everyone the wrong way out of town I also gave myself an extra mile or so on the wrong side of river on the way back. It was a pretty stressful race for me to say the least.
This years plan was simple, go faster and dont add extra miles. With a decent 32mile course recce completed 3 weeks before the race I was confident no cretin like navigation errors would be made this time. All being well I would gain the 14mins lost the year before and get one of the podium positions again.
I stayed with friends in Galashiels the night before as per the previous years routine. Gillian dropped me at registration and would watch the start before heading back to get the kids and then see me later on course at Bowden and maybe some other spots.
It was good to see a few familiar faces at registration, both Duncan Oakes and Hugh McInnes who took 2nd and 3rd in 2013 were there so I had a wee bit of chat with them
Once I am registered and ready the race cannot start quick enough for me. I just feel like the standing/sitting around is sucking the energy out of me and I need to get going before there’s none left.
Before long Angela and Noanie (Race Directors) cracked the briefing and we were gathered by the start line. A decent breeze was keeping us chilled and no one wanted to be right at the front so Angela called me forward a bit to encourage others to line up next to me. She also motioned someone called Matt to do the same.
I glanced over and wondered if that was that Matt Williamson fella then? Hmmm, he will be the man to beat today then I thought.
I didn’t know Matt then but I had seen his name on other race results and knew he was certainly faster than me over some of the other Scottish Ultra course’s I had completed.
We were off and someone went like a rocket, mainly to be leading in the start photo methinks as they slowed pretty soon after. I took the lead after about 1/4 a mile and then Hugh Mccinnes was alongside me, this was starting off pretty much exactly like 2013 so far. The pace was a bit cheeky, 6min 20sec for the first mile. Hugh and I were in front and we joked about last year's incorrect route out of town.
We safely took the correct trail away from the main road at the Rugby club at edge of town.
It wasn't long before we were off the road, crossing the river via the wobbly bridge and heading into the woods with quite a few close behind us.
Not long into the woods around the 5mile point Matt Williamson came past fairly briskly and it was decision time. Go with him or stay on my target for CP1.
I decided I needed to keep him in reach if possible as long as It wasn’t too daft a pace.
I kept him in sight not letting more than 50yards get between us as we headed along the long grassy and wooded straight of Dere St (Section of old Roman road) towards Maxton.
We hit CP1 at Maxton just over 1hr 10mins with Matt just in front of me. He wasn’t for stopping though and went straight on as I pulled in to glug some flat coke. This put me off my stride a bit as I knew he could get out of sight pretty quickly in the woods afterwards.
The coke went down swifter than usual and I left the checkpoint pronto. It wasn’t long before I caught sight of Matt again and settled in about 50yards behind. We stayed like this following the grassy path by the River Tweed and through St Boswells until CP2 (16.5 miles, 2hrs 5mins) just below the 1st of the Eildon hills. This was where Matt again went straight past the CP.
I had another quick fuel stop here and was again concerned that this would be where Matt left me for dust. I didn't hang about and had to put a serious effort to catch back up to Matt just before he went over the first of the Eildon hills.
I closed back up to about 50yards behind Matt just beneath the summit but it had taken a lot out of me and I tried to recover on the downhill between the next hill. That didnt happen very well and Matt maintained the lead and increased it slightly before the 3rd Eildon was completed.
I lost sight of Matt just after that but saw him again about 500metres ahead as we neared Bowden.
Bowden is where it happened. Not long after a cheery wave to Gillian and the kids in the playpark there at about 21miles I decided 2nd wouldn’t be so bad (if I could maintain position). I didn’t think I was able to maintain the pace required to keep Matt in sight without danger of a serious energy bonk nightmare before CP3 at 28miles.
Slowing slightly I took a gel or 2 on board and tried to maintain a good pace with the hopeful thoughts that Matt may be feeling the pace as well, may get lost or abducted by aliens perhaps!
I reminded myself of the positives, that I was still in a podium position; I was not going to lose nearly 15mins on the way back like last year.
The miles rolled by uneventfully and I got back to Maxton CP3 (27.5miles, 3hrs 47min) for a quick refuel and grab a couple more gels for the remaining 10miles. I was told Matt was about 6mins ahead but realistically I knew I needed the aliens to show up if the finish order was to change.
The last 10 miles contained some suffering payback for the earlier pace, the gradual climb on Dere St being a particularly painful section. I also had the constant dread that Duncan, Hugh or someone else were closing in to snatch 2nd away from me. The only highpoint was getting to the river at 33miles and taking a right instead of the dumb left I took last year. A PB was pretty much guaranteed for me this year.
I made it to the road into town to experience the same simply lovely headwind as the previous year. The finish line had moved slightly from the previous year and after what seemed ages I finally saw it. I flicked the "attempt to finish with good form as people are watching and there may be camera's" switch and was more than happy to finish still in 2nd place with 5hrs 12mins 25secs. A good 12mins ahead of last year.
Approaching the finish catching support crew juniors unawares
I had lost another 5mins since CP3 to Matt who won in 5hrs 1min 48secs smashing my CR from last year.
Duncan Oakes came in for 3rd with 5hrs 23min 29sec. 14mins ahead of his previous time!
1st Male: Matt Williamson in 5:01:48 - a new course record
2nd Male: Neil MacNicol in 5:12:25
3rd Male: Duncan Oakes in 5:23:29
1st Female: Joanne Thom in 6:17:24
2nd Female: Elaine Omand in 6:23:57
3rd Female: Victoria Reid in 6:34:17
Male Vet 50: Brian Nicol in 5:56:26
Female Vet 50: Henrietta Bolton Carter in 7:12:15
Male Vet 60: Rob Reid in 8:03:37
Noanie doing a fine impersonation of Duncan Oakes
Thanks to Angela & Noanie for putting on a great race and I will be sorry to miss the race in 2015 due to clash with family holiday.
Transport & Nutrition
Salomon Speedcross 3
Zero electrolyte tabs, Flat coke/water mixture at CP’s. High 5 Gels