EAGLE ISLE ULTRA.
The Eagle Isle Ultra is a 3 day race across Isle of Mull in the West of Scotland involving forest tracks, open hillside and mountain running covering a distance of 130k. This race is arranged by Sandbaggers the team that arranged the Gobi Challenge which I completed in 2009. On entering this race I know it would be a real tough race and that the route that Dave and Phil would have in place would be a real challenge.
Day 1 :- 43K.
Eleven hardy soles took to the start line at 8am on the Saturday morning. The forecast was for a few showers and strong winds. The standard of runner in this one varied from the very good in the likes of Andy Murray and Jo Kilkenny to five lads who had never taking part in a staged race before and of which some will take part in next years Marathon De Sables.
The race starts in the stunning grounds of Duarts Castle and heads out along country roads for around 10k before meeting the first marshal who shows the way forward out onto the open hillside and over rough ground for the next 6k. The group stretches out and Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell set the early pace with Jo Kilkenny and Rab Lee giving a good chase.
The next 15k seen runners head downhill off the open hill, along country roads and forestry tracks before heading off over some of the boggiest and wild ground that Mull has to offer. After around 8k myself, Michael and John (2 Irish lads) catch Jo and Rab. Jo has injured her lower back going over the rough ground and is down to a walk/run. On rejoining the forestry track John and Michael push on and as Jo, Rab and I are in a team we all stick together to give support to Jo. On meeting the next marshal we are informed there is 5k to the finish and the end of day 1. Jo finishes strong but will decide at the start of day 2 if she is fit to carry on. Stuart Hamilton withdraws.
Day 2 :- 42K.
Rab & Me
Day 2 starts with the news that Jo Kilkenny has withdrawn from the race due to the previous day’s injury. With only nine now in the race there was some bragging rights to be had. Due to the remoteness of some of the checkpoints the race would start at 9am to give marshals time to get in position. Once again the same format is set Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell setting the early pace with Rab Lee now looking good for 3rd spot with the rest fighting for pride. I once again I do my normal and start slow known there is a big day ahead. After 8k of road, track and rough ground we begin the long 1300ft climb up the corrie at the back of Ben More to meet Dave Scott marshalling the check point. We then head out over rough hillside and down to the next checkpoint its noticed that the Irish lads have taking the wrong route which will make a long day even longer and on heading downhill I come across Ian and Jonathan who are also finding it hard to find the next check point and the 3 of us work together to follow the correct route down. On coming off the hill we head along country roads and tracks to the next checkpoint and notice we have to climb the 1300ft back up to Dave Scott at the mountain checkpoint. Ian and Jonathan now about 15mins in front of me and the Irish lads off on the wrong route, I could feel that with a bit of effort I could push for 4th place on the day. On leaving Dave Scott I worked hard downhill and arrived at the next checkpoint at the same time as Ian and Jonathan who stop to take on water sensing a chance I pushed on and headed for the next checkpoint at the head of the loch which was an out and back section of the route. At the turn I was about half mile ahead of Ian and Jonathan with about 8k to go I meet the Irish lads heading out on the out and back route giving them about 12k to finish with a strong wind and the sun shinning I pushed on and finished the day in 4th place.
Andy Murray, Rab Lee, Donnie Campbell
Day 3 :- 43k
Having taken a tumble down the mountain side the day previously my ankle remained swollen and bruised. We start the last day at 8am with the forecast showing a very hot day in store and it didn’t disappoint. The first 10k was along rolling country roads to the first checkpoint and the normal format resumed with Andy Murray and Donnie Campbell setting the pace and Rab Lee now looking good for 3rd place overall was going well. After 10k the marshals pointed the way onto the first forestry track of the day with myself the 2 Irish lads and the hero of the race Martin Myers all together. I begin to push on and begin to move away from the other 3 and now see Jonathan just up ahead who was now down to a walk with a knee problem picked up from the previous day, Ian Hall who had been running with Jonathan had pushed on sensing a 4th place finish for the day and 4th overall . On arriving at the 22k checkpoint Jonathan and I stop to take on water and food and with the 2 Irish lads and Martin arriving not long after. One of the Irish lads John was now down to a walk also due to a foot injury, it was agreed that we would all work together to get to finish. Once again we head off down the country roads then off into the forest tracks with twist, turns uphill and downs we all found ourselves at Big Als checkpoint on the coastal path and been told 8k to go. On leaving Als checkpoint we climb back up onto the forestry track which we had left 5k previously and on out of the forest onto the country road above Tobermory with one final push we all arrive in the main street of Tobermory and the last 100m along the pier front to the finish.
View from campsite.
This is a very tough 3days race over some very rough ground which will sort the men out from the boys. It’s set in a stunning part of the West Coast of Scotland which at times can throw up some very harsh weather. A special mention must go to Martin Myers taking part in his first multi-stage race in preparation for the Marathon De Sable in 2011. Great effort by all who took part.