Ages and ages ago when I was looking at my racing plan for the first part of this year, I planned my usual Lochaber marathon and the Glenrothes 50km, I dithered about the Highland Fling in the middle of them but thought that since my name’s not Richie I’d struggle to do all three. Then thought that the relay might be a way of having my cake and eating it, (I have a good relationship with food, maybe too good!) So I emailed Fabienne, the ladies captain saying if they needed some one to make up the numbers for a relay team, I’ll do it. Next thing I know is I’m team captain, yikes! Not sure about this, my leadership qualities are akin to a headless chicken but I was relieved to find out all I had to do was fill in the form and post it off. Val did a brilliant job of organising recce runs also working with Morna and a wee group discussion of who’ll do what leg and in what team since Carnegie had two ladies teams entered.
We were going to use Val and Morna’s cars so Val, just to be on the safe side added Gillian onto her car insurance for the day and phoned her insurance company and was quoted £40, “Thanks but no thanks.” the last time she added someone for a day it was only a tenner. So she went online for temporary insurance and found a quote for £17, that’s a bit better! Only thing was it’s the same company she’s insured with! £40 for a valued loyal customer and only £17 for a random punter, I think Aviva should change its name to DickTurpin.com!
Our team name was Carnegie ladies in 4 fun and I thought we should show a bit of frivolity and emailed Val, Louise and Gillian my thoughts, the replies varied from “Have you been drinking?” to along the lines of goan yersel! I was running the second leg of Drymen to Rowardennan, over Conic hill, not a munro but a hill that still deserves some respect so I thought it must be done in a pink tutu! You should’ve seen Erin’s face (my fourteen year old daughter) when I asked if I could borrow her skirt, she was fine with it when she knew she wouldn’t be with me when I was wearing it!
Pauline came along for the day, she was a possible late sub for Louise, her calf gave a wee ping on Tuesday at the club and wasn’t too sure about running. Louise was fine so Pauline took her role as Carnegie ladies in 4 fun cheer leader seriously and was dressed appropriately in a Viking style tartan bunnet wi’ horns and ginger pigtails attached, Saltire t-shirt and a wee tartan pelmet of a skirt, and wielding Fife’s version of cow bells (a pot and wooden spoon to rattle together, apparently it’s all the rage with supporters on the mountain stages of the Tour De France!)
The ultra race had started earlier with staggered starts so it was just the relay left to go.
Gillian was on the first leg, after seeing her and the rest of the relay runners off the rest of us went to Tesco’s to buy a big picnic then headed round to Drymen. It wasn’t long before Jo came in and handed over to Isobel (Carnegie Cougars, the fast team) and soon Gillian was in sight, she handed over the sash and wrist band with the chip and I was off in a flounce.
I was wondering how to pace this, just over 14 miles so I was thinking half marathon pace, hmm… when did I last race one of them? But the terrain tells you different, and it’s so ingrained in me to walk all the hills with a jam sandwich or two. Just last week I decided I needed speed work so I hope this will do for starters and ran as fast as my little fat legs could go at all times! It was a novelty (and a first) running all the way up the long forest track, skipped and bounced down to the bridge at the start of Conic hill. I had my first walk here, but did run some of the not so steep bits. I had a slight problem with my tutu, the Velcro wrist band on the chip kept catching and sticking to it, so I took off the band and jammed it into the phone pouch attached to the waist strap of my backpack. It didn’t take long to get to the top of Conic and start the descent, its ages since I’d last battered down hill as fast as gravity could drag me, I’m usually cautious here of keeping my legs intact for the seventy odd miles still to go. But as rusty as I was at descending I gave it a good go, it was dry underfoot and I was wearing new trail shoes. Confidence, it’s all about confidence. My mantra was “I’m not scared, I’m not scared!” My arms were doing semaphore sweary words and I remembered to smile at all the people on the hill.
It was now a warm sunny day and Balmaha and the surrounding area was busy with day trippers, I got quite a few comments, and lots of “You’re going well!” I thanked them and thought “Going well? Did they mean I was going well for a finely tuned and well seasoned athlete? Well, I’ve seen plenty seasons! Or did they mean I was going well for a fat burd that looks like she’s mislaid her hen party!
Halfway between Balmaha and Rowardennan Ken went past me (Carnegie Wrinklies, the old team, who’s combined ages must be approaching 250 years!) He asked wasn’t I roasting, he had to take off his thermal top on Conic. I had taken off my gloves and pushed up my sleeves earlier. He psyched me out; I took my Buff scarf off.
After the second sharp steep climb with the steps, I knew Rowardennan was less than half an hours running away. I thought half marathon pace and pushed on. I caught my right toe and assumed the Superman pose except I’m crap at flying. Phoowf! It was ok, no damage to the tutu, I was back up and running again as fast as I fell, a quick dust down and I was uninjured too! A last uneventful push into Rowardennan, zapped the chip over the pad and handed it over with the sash to Louise. Yaaay! She was wearing Pauline’s wee tartan skirt; I wasn’t the lone nutsy runner after all!
A quick change, but kept the tutu on, had a picnic sitting in the sun cheering on other relay runners then we drove round to Bhein Glas, laughed at the sign outside the Drovers. Said with feeling, it sounded like I was swearing. “NO FLING CARPARK!” That’s ok, I’ve always given that establishment a wide berth. We were allowed to park at Bhein Glas as long as we paid £5 but that was redeemable in the restaurant, that’s fine, a bit of mutual support I suppose, and I was sure I could force some beer and chips. Val got herself ready for the last leg, while Gillian and Pauline with her pot and I went up onto the path. We were there in time to cheer on some of the real runners as well as the relay runners, that’s why the relay carried a sash, in case it was hard to tell the difference. Some runners looked fresh and some looked puggled and surprisingly not all the fresh looking ones were carrying a sash and vice versa!
Louise came sprinting in and handed over to Val, now off on the glory leg. Right Louise, hurry up and get changed, it’s beer time except for Gillian since she's driving Val's car. Well, we have a fiver to spend, the chips were good and so was the Guinness, I think everyone was of the same mind that used the parking, I just felt a bit sorry for the poor stressed guy behind the bar working on his own. It took a good deal of effort to prise ourselves out of the bar, Val wouldn’t like it if she finished and we were still sitting supping pints!
Val’s cheering squad found a good position near the finish and we made a lot of noise for everyone finishing. Well, Pauline did anyway! Here’s Val coming, big cheers, I’m sure she knew where we were, so did the rest of Tyndrum!
(Something I thought I’d never hear myself say to Val.) “Right Missus, wipe the snotters from your face and we’ll get a team photo!” It was probably more sweat than snot but I’ve never been known for my tact. Splendid efforts from all in the slow team, we did not too bad at all.
What a cracking day, and great to see and congratulate loads of WHW family and those using the Highland Fling as a stepping stone for June. I’m sorry we had to leave straight after the prize giving, I would have like to blether longer but the rest of them had already gone back to the cars and I didn’t want to walk home! See you all in June though; hopefully get a chance to catch up then.
Next time I run down Conic hill it’ll be June and I won’t be dressed as a fairy but I’ll certainly descend like one. It’s now Wednesday and my quads are just starting to return to normal! Thinking ahead to next year’s relay, what am I going to wear?