Friday, 23 December 2011

I think I’m winning!

Around eighteen months ago Mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer; she just got on with it, doing what she could for as long as she could, going passed her “use by” date of April with strength, beauty and dignity.  The past couple of months she developed a few problems and the pain from the tumours in the bones of her spine were restricting her movement but she was determined to stay independent and at home. I bought her some zebra striped purple fluffy dice for her zimmer, she cut a dash through to the kitchen with flare.   

After a fall on Tuesday 6th her pain was immense, by Friday afternoon I think the medication was nearing the correct dose to take the edge off. I smiled at her comment after I helped her get comfy. “I think I’m winning!” 

She passed away peaceful at home two days later.  She never gave up; it was just time to rest.

Yes Mum you did win and when I feel I’m having a tough time you’ll be with me I’ll smile and say “I think I’m winning”  

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

There’s no such thing as bad weather...

... just a bad attitude!

Last week Mel suggested going for run on the WHW, but come Thursday she still had a bit of lurgy so was sensible and called off, a shame since it was her idea in the first place. The plan was Rannoch Moor, Pauline, Morna and I would still go although the forecast predicted lots of weather and after a late pitch inspection via the Kingshouse webcam on Saturday, it looked wet and the only snow was a wee sprinkling on the top of the hills. So by 10.30am Sunday we were sitting in the car, parked beside Blackrock Cottage doing contortions, we weren’t getting out to put our rain jackets and rucksacks on while the hailstones bounced off the car.

I was wearing a couple of layers plus the rain jacket on my top half, fingerless gloves with fleece gloves over the top, a peaked Buff topped with a woolly hat but just one pair of tights, so I thought I’d wear the waterproof breeks I’d recently modified, they were an old pair of Pete’s I’d chopped off just below the knee so they take up very little room in the bottom of my backpack and they are easy slipped on with no faffing with my shoes. A brilliant idea but not mine, Pauline’s been whacking bits of her breeks for ages,
Devil's Staircase, WHW Race 2009
 her Michael Jacksons are legendary and so is the ribbing she gets when wearing them. After the abuse I’ve given her about her breeks over the years I wasn’t going to be let off lightly. I denied having Michael Jacksons, mine are Stanley Matthews.

A quick photie then we headed up the hill with the wind blowing us up, over the top and past Peter Flemings monument, the Moor was like a patchwork quilt with all the different colours of autumn and winter as dark clouds came and went, distant hills, and the ones nearby disappeared in the rain and hail then minutes later their snow dusted tops sparkled brightly in the sunshine. Morna and Pauline pulled away, even more so when I stopped to take photos, but I’m quite happy tootling along at my own pace, I don’t feel I have to keep up. They were occasionally in sight and gave a wave from time to time, the plan was to turn back after 1½ hours I wouldn’t go as far as they did but that was ok, I’m quite happy to sacrifice distance to squelch about looking for a good camera angle, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve ran along Rannoch Moor, whatever the season, no two days are ever the same and if I can catch a glimpse on camera it’s worth the half mile or so less running than the rest of the group.

I got to Forest Lodge at around 1½ hours, there was no sign of Pauline and Morna, I think they got round to the bridge near the Inveroran Hotel. I wasn’t fussed for traipsing up the tarmac until I met them on the way back so I went up the back of the car park to get a bit of height for a photo of Loch Tulla. Pauline and Morna appeared, I pointed where I was heading and stomped up the hill, Pauline followed me, Morna stayed near the car park reading the bumf on the info board. What a reward for the bit wee effort! One of the best rainbows I’ve ever seen.

I gave Pauline the car key as they would get back before me and we headed back, I stuck in wee walks on the steepest bits on the way back, (it was the WHW after all no harm practicing WHW pace) I don’t think I took as many photos in the way back (more photos) but I still kept looking around and behind me so as I didn’t miss a view. At the big boulder just before the final climb back to the top I always stop for a last look and a cheerio ‘til next time. Then I headed round and down, straight into the wind and rain/hail, here was where the wind was strongest, throughout the day it occasionally took me slightly off my chosen line, but I was brought to a standstill running DOWN hill! Pauline and Morna had just gotten themselves changed and comfy in the car, opening their flasks as I got back. I flung the car door open disturbing their cosy ensconce. “Well, that puts colour in your cheeks!”

I think the saying is more commonly known as - There is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing. Whether I was wearing bad clothing or not is merely a matter of opinion, I’ve never been much of a fashionista and I wasn’t cold and besides there definitly nothing bad about today... Pauline wasn’t wearing her Michael Jacksons; she tends to save them for races. *Sings Michael Jackson* Oooww! They’re Bad!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Glen Ogle 33 – Spiders and Diamonds

I wasn’t surprised that there was a big entry for this race after the brilliant job that Mike and Bill, with all their helpers, did at Glenmore 24. But because there was a bigger field of runners than originally expected the start was altered and the route was a wee bit shorter, whether it was 33 or 31-ish miles I was looking forward to running on new ground, I didn’t pay much attention to the route map, it was going to be well marked and I wanted a surprise, I knew there were a few hills as well as the route 7 cycle path. For ages when I’ve been driving along the A85 and looking over to the viaduct, I’d often thought it would be a lovely place for a run.
On Friday I gathered my gear together and loaded my backpack, there were checkpoints to leave drop bags but I decided not to bother with them and just carry all my juice and munchies, I wasn’t planning to race it, I didn’t feel fit enough or prepared for a race, I was just going for a nice steady run. Sue had said the same so the plan was for us to run together with Pauline and Robin. On Friday evening Sue sent a text “Kilts or is that not taking it seriously enough?” Brilliant idea and I replied “Yeah lets do kilts”

Ken and Sue had picked up Pauline and then me just before 6.00am and in just over an hour we were in Strathyre. Brrrrrr! I wondered if I was wearing enough layers, I was hoping it would warm as the sun rose. I smiled when Lucy, wearing just a single long sleeved top and skimpy knickers, asked wouldn’t we be too warm? Nah, some of us aren’t built with the ability to run fast enough to generate heat! Wearing a kilt wasn’t such a frivolous idea either, with it being so cold it kept the glutes warm and when I stopped for a pee there was no big expanse of bare bahooky hanging out in the freezing air!

It wasn’t long until we were across the road and up the wee hill to the start; there were loads of weel-kent faces and a fair few new ones doing their first ultra. There was a first in it for me too, I had gone all geeky-fied and was wearing a Garmin for the first time ever in a race. With it being a route I didn’t know I thought it would be nice to have a rough judge of distance, I remember running The Speyside Way 50k in 1997 (my 2nd ultra) and asking how much further to go and was devastated when I was told 10 miles when I was hoping it was a lot less. This was now my 41st ultra, still a mere handful compared to Ray McCurdy’s 97th.

After a few words from Bill we were off, a nice wooded track that soon opened out onto a stunning view, I stopped to take some photies then I look up the track, Pauline, Sue and Robin had pulled away a fair bit and I had to put in a bit of effort to try and catch them up… then I changed my mind, I’ll let them go, I didn’t want a thirty odd mile fartlek! I wanted to stop to take a photo when I liked without the pressure of trying to keep up and what a stunning day it was, low lying mist, rich autumn colours, the bracken was a deep burnished gold, the rising sun made spiders webs sparkle with diamonds, I wasn’t wasting this being pressured by time or pace.

It was still chilly in the shade but in the sun it was lovely I never took off my gloves, buffs or pushed my sleeves up I just enjoyed the warmth. On the viaduct I looked over to the road, and sent a wave and a smile, next time I’m driving along there I’ll catch it.

After crossing the road and heading towards the loop in the forest, the lead guys were belting down the road towards me!!!! What a speed, I doubt I could do that on a bike!! They’ll be finished by the time I’m halfway!

I loved the path in the forest, I was very much on my own, Ray McCurdy was well ahead, I was with him for a bit earlier, I knew there was a couple of girls running together behind me but I couldn’t see a soul. I was walking up a hill and decided to tell my camera how lovely it was.

Near the end of the forest I did see Mike R and his friend who were both running in monkey feet (you know what I mean, those minimal shoes with toes). There was a directional arrow that gave a few folk a bit of a dither, I heard later that Pauline, Sue and Robin got their map out, but for me it was merely a minor detail that the writing was up side down, the important thing was what way the arrow went and without a pause I followed it. I loved the arrow that pointed the way with the words “The Pub” I smiled and thought this must be around halfway then, I always get a wee boost when I realise I’ve got less to do than what I’ve just done.

I came down the hill gently and was back on the cycle path. Ken was on his bike and said that the rest of the gang weren’t that far in front, and on the long straight I could see them in the distance. He asked how I’d got on in the forest as a few had gone wrong; that puzzled me a bit, I’m not the brightest of bairns and I didn’t go wrong, but I think not having the brains to query a marker that wasn’t quite right worked in my favour .

I could feel my hamstrings tight, probably the lack of training and the cold, on the flat old railway line the soreness was reminiscent of that you have with the unchanging stride of 24 hour road race. I did have a wee giggle though, Ken had stopped at the viewpoint of Loch Earn and after taking my photo he was back on the bike, we were both looking down the loch then I heard him “Whoa!” I looked to see him have a wobble as he nearly fell into the ditch; I suppose that what happens when you don’t watch were you’re going!

After the last checkpoint near Kingshouse I started to look at the Garmin regularly, and roughly worked out the distance still to do, I never think about how far I’ve gone but on how far still to go which always gets smaller so in my mind easier, I envisaged nice easy runs round my local routine routes, at 9 miles to go it was my Valleyfield Lagoons route, at 5 miles, that’s just a dander down the Shore Road to Torryburn and home. But my miles weren’t coming down as quick as I’d like and didn’t feel as easy as I pretended but I just plodded them out. At times I could see the gang ahead, at others I tilted my head down and hid the hill with my peaked buff and shuffled up. Another distraction was a very muddy and very friendly Spaniel, despite the shouts from the owner it decided I wanted to play, I just tried to ignore him but it was a bit hard, eventually he left me alone after leaving me a present of mud and dog snot on ma kilt!

I was sure I was getting near the finish but I wasn’t depending on the information provided by the doofer on my wrist being correct and always over estimated the distance still to go, there was a few people about and I spotted a marshal ahead and thought it must be just around a mile or so left to go, the marshal said “About 400 yards and over the bridge.” I answered “Is that all?” Sure enough a wee bounce across the bridge and there I was. Wow, what a great run, a bit of a trudge for the last few miles but that’s what makes you enjoy it all the more when you stop.

After a quick change standing beside the car (another bonus wearing a kilt, you can change your knickers without breaking indecency laws) it was over to the pub for our well deserved soup and beer, and a catch up with other folk.

What a brilliant day, thanks to Mike and Bill and their helpers for putting on another cracking event. I’ll be back next year.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Wee Woohoo on the Rollercoaster

I’m on holiday from work this week and decided to have a WHW day, I felt a wee bit selfish not saying to anyone I was going but I wanted it all to myself beside most folk wouldn’t manage midweek or so I told myself trying to salve my conscience. I dithered on what bit to do, between Conic hill and Rowardennan are stunning in autumn colours but I that’s where I went around this time last year. I remembered I still had a voucher for a free cuppa and a big doad of cake to use at The Real Food Café that would go out of date at the end of the month so I decided I’d start and finish my run at Tyndrum.
I’ve not done much since the Glenmore 24, sliding easily from recovery to taper for the Loch Ness Marathon and my longest run since Loch Ness has just been 9 miles so I wasn’t looking for loads of miles and it is Glen Ogle 33 next week, I’ll save myself for that. Just a nice easy jaunt down the Way to the deer fence above Crianlarich and back would do nicely.

After a bit of faffing I got to Tyndrum and started running at around 11.30, one reason I love running on my own is being able to please myself and not feel as if I’m holding anyone back, going as slow as I like and to deviate from the path to take photos or just to stop and enjoy the peace and the scenery.

It was very quiet, no wind whistling through the trees and I only met a couple of walkers all day. I sat at the picnic table just above the deer fence for a bit, the sun was shining and I had the company of a Robin hopping about the grass. I didn’t want to go back yet so went a wee bit passed the deer fence just to see the view round the bend, but not as far as coo poo junction.

I only ate a few jelly beans, I was carrying a Rice Krispie Square and an Elevenses cake thing but I was saving myself for The Real Food Café, I’d already decided that I would have a nice bowl of soup before my big slice of cake.

On the way back I still took my time and even waded into the water for some photos my feet were wet anyway and I wanted to see a different angle.

After going under the road just passed Auchtertyre Farm it started to rain, it wasn’t too heavy so I didn’t bother getting my jacket out, I wasn’t far from Tyndrum… it then got heavy so I just got wet. Back at the car I changed my shoes and top, rubbed my hair dry with my t-shirt so I was presentable to enter civilisation. I went over to the Café, I noticed the car park was empty, it looked dark, I had to check the notice on the door although I already knew what it said. CLOSED. Aaaahhhh! I could’ve gone over to the Green Welly but I’d taken the huff, my bottom lip stuck so far out it was in danger of a stain injury! It was stotting rain now so I just went straight home and opened a tin of soup, it wasn’t quite the treat I’d envisaged to round off a smashing day but after all that fresh air and a handful of jelly beans it was still tasty!

I did have a bottle of Brains Dark I’d brought back from Wales last month so that was my treat while sorting though my photos Yes it was good day.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Running Wild

Last summer Pete asked me if I’d be willing to be the subject for a film he thought he’d submit to Diversity Films, a Starting Blocks project and his idea was eventually short listed and selected, so with professional mentoring and funding “Running Wild” was in production.  I wasn’t always a willing participant, “Get that camera out o’ ma face!”  It also cost us the PS3 Guitar Hero Drum kit! Erin still hates her wee clip… her choice of hair colour has something to do with it!  Most of the filming was around this time last year. Pete spent a long time on it, whittling around twenty hours of footage down to sixteen minutes.  This is his baby and I’m proud of what he’s done although I do cringe a bit when I see my  ugly mug on a large screen.  It has been screened at film festivals from Glasgow to Russia!  It was voted favourite at Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival last week.  So get comfy for the next 16 minutes,  grab a cuppa or a glass of wine and enjoy.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Loch Ness 10 out of 10

This year was going to be even more special; there were ten of us that would be completing all ten of Baxters Loch Ness Marathon.

Pauline and I arrived early Saturday afternoon at Amy and Ewan's our B&B for nearly all our marathons. Pauline wasn’t running this year; she’s still recovering from the 24 hour race at the Commonwealth Championships the previous week. To say I felt as if I was still recovering from just doing her support sounds a bit feeble but standing for 24 hours did take a wee toll, my calves and achilles tendons felt tight, and I was awfy tired. My batteries were flat from my own 24 hour race at the Glenmore 24 on the 3rd September and were on trickle charge. I’d only done a handful of 5 mile runs since Glenmore, rest and recovery far more important than trying knocking out some last minute marathon training. But not being marathon fit or marathon trained wasn’t going to stop me having a good time and by that I don’t mean the numbers on my watch!

We had to be at registration for 4.00pm Saturday for a photo and we were presented with a t-shirt, crystal memento and a cup cake. It was fun watching Pauline hold my jacket, my bag and my camera trying to get photos without the official photographers elbow in the shot.

Then Pauline and I went for pasta and pints (all good carbs) before an early-ish night. Breakfast was at 6.15am and Amy does a cracking bowl of porridge, I topped it with a banana and honey, which was followed by smoked salmon, scrambled egg and toast. I was stuffed but that was ok, plenty time for it to go down before the start.

On the long bus journey to the start, I had to have a wee smile, a bus in front stopped to let some poor burstin’ soul off for a pee and since the rest of the buses couldn’t pass on the narrow road, a few others took the opportunity to pee, this happened twice, the slow journey to the start took even longer than normal. Time was tight when the buses got to the start, so with no faffing, I took off my jacket, fleece and tracksuit bottoms and put them in my bag and handed it into baggage. It was drizzling but the forecast was for it to brighten so I decided to be brave and just run in a short sleeved top, vest, three-quarter length tights and my wee kilt, no Buff, hat, gloves or sleeves. Wrong choice, it was announced that the race would be delayed for ten minutes so everyone had the chance to get to the start on time, I had no problem with that just that I had to stand and chitter for even longer, I hadn’t bothered taking a bin bag or throw away clothes. (I’ll remember that for next year)

The Pipe Band came through the field of runners; it always brings a lump to my throat. Then we were off, I knew I was running a faster pace than I planned but I was trying to generate a bit of heat, the rain was no longer a drizzle but stotting down. Steven, another Carnegie Harrier, running his first marathon, came along side me and he told me all of the miles so far were sub 9 pace, I don’t look at my watch, I laughed and said “I don’t do sub 9, actually I don’t think I’ve done sub 10’s this year!” Not to worry I’ll hang with it for as long as I felt comfortable or at least until I warm up. We stayed together until around nine miles; Steven pushed on to finish in 4 hours 6 minutes, absolutely brilliant considering he had no specific marathon training.

I started to tire at around 11 miles and nipped into the bushes for a pee, another lady joined me and said this was her second stop, and asked if it was the weather that was causing it. I was sure it was, I know skin is waterproof but I felt I was absorbing the rain, throughout the race I never felt the need to have more than a mouthful at any of the drink stations. I wished I had at least worn a Buff scarf, even when the rain stopped I never felt warm, but the views of the loch, Urquhart Castle, the field with the static caravans, my childhood holidays, brought back warm memories.

At Dores the support was as great as ever, I high fived all the kids.  On the gentle start of the hill I started to feel a bit more comfortable, I kept looking round over my left shoulder until I was at the best viewpoint for looking down the loch. I turned round walking backwards for a few paces and shout to folk around me “Look behind, scenery break!” I think a few thought I was nuts but still looked back briefly, a Wee County runner went by me and she said. “Thanks, I’d forgot about that.”

On the steeper climb of the hill, I kept an easy short shuffle, I’ve never been fast at Loch Ness but I’ve never walked either and I wasn’t breaking tradition. I went past Wee County runner; she was walking, and said “Well done digging in.” I replied I was doing micro shuffle, she laughed and said that’s what she calls “The Mince”. Walk, mince or micro shuffle, whatever technique works use it!

Once over the climb, which in my mind is just a slog, there is no such thing as a killer hill, it’s just the pace you choose to go up it that kills! It was time to lengthen my stride, relax and let gravity work its magic on the long down but ouchy ouchy, my quads and glutes weren’t for relaxing, if they could make a face it would be of one that’s just sooked a lemon. I suppose that's what I get for trying to run marathon pace when I’m not marathon trained and especially on a course that is mainly down hill. I wasn’t prepared for this race but I knew that even running at an easy pace there is no such thing as an easy marathon, it’s a long way, it was gonna hurt but my next incredulous thoughts were “My legs weren’t as sore as this at the Glenmore 24! The last time I had around 4 miles to go I’d already ran 104 miles! So as a gnarly old ultra runner another 4 miles would be nae bother. Get on with it!” But even for a gnarly old ultra runner it did hurt but with my squiffy mentality it was still fun and a privilege.

I slogged it out, hauling my jarring legs in, at around the 25 miles a guy in front stepped off the road and leaned against the wall, I shouted  “Come on, hang in there!” as I went by, his reply was reminiscent of an alpha stag at the autumn rut! Why do men have to be so vocal when they puke?

Pauline was standing by the bouncy foot bridge just after 25 miles; it was her turn to shout at me “COME ON!” I answered just as loudly “ALRIGHT!” The last mile, the bitter sweet, so glad to get it done, so proud to achieve. My apologies to my friends that shouted to me as I approached the finish, I didn’t acknowledge you because I couldn’t hear you, the crowd en masse were deafening! Thank you all for your support.

Ten Loch Ness Marathons done. 262 miles on the same route, it is a beautiful route and for folk that are time orientated it is a PB course. Don’t let the hill after Dores psych you out there is more down hill than up. That is why my quads are still giving me grief a week later but sooooo worth it. Yeah, I’ll be there next year.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Glenmore 24 report

Pauline and I arrived around an hour and a half before the start and were instantly hit with how relaxed and easy going this event was. I asked where I could park and was told anywhere I liked; I saw George and Karen so we decided to be their neighbours. Most of the 24 hour races I’ve either ran or supported have been under the strict rules of the IAU, this event was going to be SO different. Pauline asked if it would be ok if she could run a lap of the course in reverse, just to see it and take some photos, Bill said “Do what you want, run with Fiona if you like; we just want everyone to enjoy themselves.” My kind of race! Rule No.1 Enjoy!

My training has been quite minimal but my duff Achilles that’s been giving me grief most of the year has settled down and I decided I wasn’t undertrained just well rested and ready to go. I’ve had three 20 mile runs, just enough to practice my ultra groove, I know how to run tired; I didn’t need to practice it in training!  I had a secret goal of 100 miles; I didn’t want to say out loud what I was aiming for because I thought folk would raise their eyebrows in an “Aye right!” kinda way. But I knew that however slow the pace I would not stop.  I never have and never will.

We were soon under way, the 4 mile lap started on the grass with a wee steep slope which turned onto a lumpy narrow path, after that it was a wide track with some gentle undulations but a fairly even flat surface, I called this part “the long run” because ever lap I ran it all. Then there was a left turn up a steep-ish hill, it levelled a bit then we got the long steep hill with the half way checkpoint on it. Before the race I’d decided to run all the first lap and then plan where to walk on the rest of the laps until I saw that hill, I walked up the really steep part, I picked points after the checkpoint and every lap I’d run short sections of the hill. Then there was a long descent, I took it very easy, it was of a gradient that would kill the quads if you weren’t careful. Then a nice meander on a flat track with a wee kick of a hill, a left turn down about five stone steps and back to base camp on the grass.

On the second lap I fell on the lumpy narrow path, I went down with quite a clump; my juice bottle flew out of my bottle belt and wheeched past my right ear to land on the ground in front of me beside my sunglasses! I think I gave Vicky quite a fright, she stopped her race to help me up but besides a few wee flesh wounds, a bleeding, burning heel on my left palm, a wee scuff on the heel of my right hand, a bleeding right elbow and a bruised left one, a wee dunt on my left knee (I was well pleased I hadn’t torn my Skins, too flaming expensive!)  Eight and a half stone from not very high up, assuming the shape of a starfish on landing so not one point of contact took the full force reduced the chance of serious damage.  A stingy anti-septic wipe next lap and I was fine. Pauline kept a detailed lap sheet, her entry in the comment box for lap 2. Skint elbow. Unofficial rest already! I didn’t lie down for very long, honest!

Pauline came with me on the fourth lap, she was no pace maker, if anything she messed with my smooth rhythm, scampering about in front then behind taking photos, I’m glad she did though the scenery was outstanding.  I felt I didn’t settle until the fifth lap, 20 miles, that kinda made sense to me, I don’t feel settled in the WHW until after Balmaha, 20 miles. I was comparing the Glenmore 24 to the WHW and 24 hour racing. I decided it was like the bread I’d made my ginger jam pieces with, Hovis Best of Both. Stunning scenery and all run-able (depending on the freshness of the legs), whether it’s a good run or a not so good run, you still get to stop at 24 hours, a short one in my book!

Pauline was doing a great job offering me food every lap, it was hard to decide what I wanted, with the laps being 4 miles there couldn’t be any “Get it next lap!” I made it even harder for her; I will never wait for anything so Pauline had to be sharp.  I managed to eat well throughout the race although it was a struggle sometimes to decide what I wanted.  During the WHW I know what I’m going to pick up at all the checkpoints and I look forward to it.  In the early evening I thought about where I would I be if on the WHW and what would I be eating?  I’d have been heading towards Bridge of Orchy, where I pick up a wee bag of boiled new tatties, tossed in butter, freshly ground salt, pepper and mint.  That’s what I’ll have next lap (I’d prepared a couple of bags)

When it got dark and cooled down, I put on my white fleece, I thought that I’d be easy seen by Ada, counting the laps (and what a star she was, shouting she’d got me every lap, I don’t think she took a break throughout the race) and for Pauline, but that was a fail!  I’d come through the start of base camp looking towards our wee tent and table, no Pauline!  “Hello?” I called.  She’d been standing with Norry, who’s supporting Jeroen at his bonfire in a bucket. She said she’d shouted “Is that you Fiona?” I hadn’t heard her because everyone at base camp was shouting all the runners’ names as they came through, the support was brilliant.  Seconds later she appeared at my side, but not without causing a little mayhem in her wake, she’d tripped over not one but two guy ropes on the tent that Norry’s Dad was trying to have a wee kip.  Not any more after Hurricane Pauline had hit!

The sky was clear, a beautiful night, the stars were absolutely stunning without the pollution of street lights bleeding the life out of them. I staggered off the path as I looked up, that was a bit daft, no point risking another fall.  I stopped briefly, putting my hand over my head torch and savoured the moment when every star belonged to me.

I’d brought plenty warm clothes, and nearly every lap through the night Pauline would ask me if I was warm enough, I was moving well, eating well and generating enough body heat, I always answered yes. Out on the course the temperature was cool but the trees had held onto some of the warmth of the day but in the open of base camp it had dropped below zero, you could feel it as you hit the open ground. Pauline’s Skin So Soft had frozen solid; she was well prepared for the cold but found it challenging jogging beside me with her hands full of my mug and food with a hot water bottle stuffed up her jumper without it falling out! She also ran a lap with me around midnight and another one later on; I think it helped to keep her warm and awake.

I never paid much attention to what lap I was on, they were being expertly counted and log by Ada and Pauline, I just stuck to my routine of the lap, always drinking and eating at certain points and on “the long run” checking my posture and running it all, it would’ve been easy to give in to a walk on the undulations but if I did that I’d walk on that point every lap from then on. When training if I come to a point where I can choose a hard option or an easy option I have one rule. Never choose easy.

I had a great boost from one of the marshals at the halfway checkpoint at the back of 3am. She shouted “Fiona! You are one of the strongest runners here!”

On one lap I was running with Mimi, I was a bit in awe; I thought “She lapped me three times yesterday!” I was now running with her, she told me about her recent Double Badwater, and that she’d be running the Spartathlon at the end of the month! I hope I kept my jaw off the ground; I had enough grazed bits as it was!

My laps were averaging around 55 mins and not one went over the hour, I did have a few that were 59 minutes from around 4.00am. (In hospitals I think it’s known as death hour, when the body is at its lowest.) I plodded on through the dawn, Loch Morlich was stunning with a lazy mist lying on it, Pauline came round with me for a fourth and last time, taking more photos and was lucky enough to snap one of a deer, but you’ll need to look close.

At 7.00am my normal wake up time, I perked up, my next lap was 51 mins. I’d had my I-pod since about 10.00pm my playlist (aptly named Run Forever) was keeping the pace.

Skiltron’s Fast and Wild lyrics struck a cord.  I’m still a Rampant Lion and I can still effin roar!

Follow the wind without thinking about it,
Breaking it all, facing the storm!
Fearless and faster than everything else,
Avoiding death, even in hell!
Taking the baton, heading the race.
Becoming the wildest, go for them!
Freeway the road, get to the end.
No step back.
Roaring like a lion…

I battered down the hill, I didn’t need my quads any more, my heart and soul were now in charge and it was a Highland Charge they were planning!

Pauline told me I had time for three more laps as long as I don’t let it go. “Nae chance” I thought. “Ok. Three laps, I can do that.” Then I thought “That’s twelve miles!” instantly I disregarded that thought, the distance in miles sounded too far, concentrating on just three laps would be easier! The support going through base camp was phenomenal, all the cheering, I soaked up all the strong vibes; it brought a lump to my throat that everyone willed me on. Pauline never logged my time for lap 26 but in the comment box she wrote BLOODY FAST.

The last lap, Pauline came with me up the grassy slope then told me to “Bugger Off!” I laughed out loud; perfectly timed Runrig’s Clash of the Ash. COME ON! ALRIGHT! I shouted it long after the song finished, I didn’t care who heard me. “The long run” was hard, when I got to the steep-ish hill my breathing was ragged and my throat raw, I forced in a wee bit tablet.  I’d got myself back under control just in time to see Robin and Anne Wombill walking towards me, what a boost to see my friends, they said “See you at the finish.” I was only half kidding when I replied “You’d better hurry up then!” I was taking no prisoners.  It was a Highland Charge, no holding back, nae fear.  COME ON!  At the half way checkpoint I thanked Alan Silcock for his support during the race, I received a hug.  That’s ok, running warriors do hugs!  I battered down the hill one last time.  I wiped the slavers from my face and pushed to the finish.  I stopped at 23.46.49. 27 laps. 108 miles. 2nd burd and 4th overall. (Excuse my ineloquence) FUCK!  I have never ever finished a race in such a prestigious position. I doubt I will ever do it again.

I deliberately left writing my race report for a week, so I could come down from cloud nine and write with a clear head, sorry I failed, I’m still buzzin’ and emotional. (A wee pause while I clear the lump from my throat.)  Thank you, Bill and Mike for putting on such a brilliant event, to all your helpers, you were brilliant, thank you for your support especially those at the half way checkpoint, that was a tough post but all your encouragement made all the difference. Ada, I had every confidence in your lap counting. Lastly Pauline, you pandered to my diva demands and rose to everything I threw at you. You don’t have to worry; I’ll do the same for you, and more, in a coupe of weeks.

Put the Glenmore 24 in your diaries, it is going to grow to be an event equal to the WHW.  Folk that know me know I won’t say that lightly.

Glenmore 24 thank you for one of the best days of my life.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Thoughts and tunes for Glenmore 24

Training has gone ok for the Glenmore 24, I’ve had a total of three 20 milers! Well, I’ve never let inadequacy hold me back before so I’m not starting now. Besides I think I can count a 32hour WHW towards training and the memory of my hardest race. I’ve just read last years 24 hour race report, I think I glossed over the hard bits! My memory is of the dark and the stagger.

I entered Glenmore 24 after being buoyed up after a surprisingly good 20 mile run on the 1st of August, the other two 20 milers haven’t felt easy but that’s ok. I believe there is a trinity in running. Body, heart and soul and it isn’t equal thirds. Not many are lucky enough to stand at the start line with a fully fit, well trained and injury free body but with their heart and soul they reach the finish. The body is the smallest part of the equation, a heart and soul runner will carry their body to the ends of the earth if they so wished. I am prepared for a bit of carcass hauling. It won’t be fast and it won’t be pretty but with self belief I will still be standing at the finish. A 24 hour race isn’t a journey from A to B but a journey from within.

I don’t listen to music during races I think ipods are a bit anti-social and I like a blether but I make an exception for 24 hour races, (this is my fourth) I’ve loaded my ipod with a playlist of around 8 hours worth of lively and inspirational tunes for the wee small hours when most folk withdraw into their own wee world, music does make a difference. It goes without saying that Clash of the Ash by Runrig is on it, also loads more Runrig especially Live at Loch Ness, Queens Don’t Stop Me Now is another favourite and if I really sound like I’m in pain I’m just singing along to U2’s Elevation. Black Eyed Peas, I Gotta a Feeling works for me too. Footloose (theme from 80’s film) andFleetwood Mac’s Tusk are great for keeping a good cadence. A little Shakira keeps the hips loose! Being a Fifer I’ve got to have The Proclaimers I’m Gonna Be (500 miles) I’ve good memories of singing it in my head going up the Devil’s Staircase on my first WHW in 2003. I’ve a few good fighting songs, Glasvegas Go Square Go is a good “just get on with it!” song. Sticking with some local boys, Dunfermline has produced some crackers, I’ve got some Skids, Big Country and Nazareth.
My theme tune for Glenmore.

My philosophy - Confucius. It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Robin Wombill's DOTH report

DOTH 2011 race report.

Royal Wedding day saw me in front of the telly but working on my drop bags for my support crew at the DOTH checkpoints. I seemed to ‘faff’ about for ages, I’m sure I made a better job of it last year, and never got to bed as early as I wanted. However I wasn’t as nervous as my previous ultra’s and slept well, but not for very long as I had the alarm set for 2 am.

I wasn’t as nervous because my goals were to finish in under 12 hours, in one piece and to have got my fluid and refuelling correct. It was also my third ultra this year and a conservative finish time of 11 hours was what I thought my body would be able to achieve.

I got up at 2 am, had some breakfast and left at getting on 3 am. I stopped in Scone at the cashpoint and realised I’d not made any sandwiches for my checkpoints ! Halfway to Tyndrum I also remembered I’d left my mobile with my son, Richard, as he would be buddy running me at points and I reckoned him using my £15 Tesco special was better than his own expensive one.

I got to Tyndrum just after 4 am, registered and then started on my race plan. Item 1, a plate of beans on toast and a cup of coffee. I really, really didn’t want the beans on toast ( and I knew I wouldn’t ) but I forced myself. After a couple of mouthfuls they went down easily and I polished them off. Then I took a mouthful of coffee, wow ! It was like rocket fuel. Silly thing was it never crossed my mind to have a second cup.

To save the whole family getting up at 2 am Ken Walker was going to support me at Bridge of Orchy. So before the start I gave him my drop bag and borrowed his phone to call Anne and request my sandwiches. In the event I got a bonus and was supported by Ken AND the twins.

Sue Walker and I started together as she also thought a conservative time would be the result of the event. We ran comfortably and I was surprised to get the bridge at Bridge of Orchy 2 minutes faster than we got to the railway station last year. Then we went over Rannoch Moor and it somehow seemed easier than last year. We ran/walked as necessary and I was pleased to see I was able to walk at 15 minute mile pace. Being taught by the masters (or is it mistresses?) in the shape of Fiona and Pauline, Sue is a demon at getting through checkpoints quickly so, if possible, I always try to pull ahead before a checkpoint to ensure we stay together. There was another surprise when we arrived at Glencoe. I was 7 minutes earlier than last year. I’d told my crew I’d be slower than last year so they were all sitting in the ski centre car park ! I’m not so fast in checkpoints, partly because I eat whilst stopped. I just find it easier. I set off from Glencoe with Anne and Richard buddying me and immediately passed Ray McCurdy and Victoria O’Reilly – Sue was no longer to be seen. This was where something we’d learnt last year came into play. I have trouble eating and last year struggled with daunting sandwiches until I refused to eat any more (bad idea in an ultra). This year Anne carried the food and occasionally a hand would appear with something bite-sized in it and the command ‘eat this’. It was a selection of things and I never knew what it would be, maybe a bit of jam sandwich or marmite sandwich, a couple of jelly babies or half a cheese twist. It worked well, I ate what was given, and did so for the rest of the race. I was carrying 1.5 litres of half strength Nunn in my camelback and at each checkpoint it was topped up and I drunk plain water.

I lost more time to Sue as I had to empty stones out of my shoes at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase ( must get some gaiters). I did think at Glencoe that maybe, if I was sensible, I would be able to get nearer to 10 hours than 11, if I’d have told Anne this it may have eased tensions later in the race, but I didn’t want to tempt fate so I kept quiet. The sun had come out and it was hot going up the staircase, which seemed tougher than ever before. Near the top Sue came into view and I was sensible, I didn’t dash after her but stayed steady and took care over the rocky route. I did catch and pass Sue before Kinlochleven but as before she was through and out before me. I was 5 minutes slower to Kinlochleven than last year but felt a lot better and wasn’t worried as I didn’t intend falling and losing 10 to 15 minutes in the last section ! At Glencoe I swapped Anne for Fiona Morrison who has run off road but nothing like the last section of the WHW. The girl done brilliant. She ran everything the track threw at her with a smile, encouraging words for me and of course the hand shooting out with the food and the words ‘eat this’. I was really pleased because I want Fiona and Anne buddying me at the full WHW race next year and now we all know we can do it. All through the last section I stayed conservative because I wanted to get to the final run down Glen Nevis and be able to run properly, this was my plan to gain more time and bury the bogey of hitting the wall there last year. I passed Sue again and then gradually passed other runners as well. It was good to see our old friends the Wilderness Rescue crews but my favourite bit of the whole race was when we passed a large group of German teenagers (possibly scouts as they all wore matching red scarves). They did a Mexican Wave and staring shouting ‘number 1’, ‘number 1’, I had no idea what to do so starting raising my arms as if I’d just won the race and started running faster. I’m not sure if I suddenly realised I was on the section I fell last year and also in training in March ( the section I promised Anne and myself I’d walk ) or whether Fiona shouted at me ( I think it was the latter) but I rapidly stopped running and walked. Once we’d got through the dodgy section I got running again and came to Lundrava. Anne came to meet us with water and more food and the three of us carried on. Anne ran in front, me in the middle and Fiona brought up the rear. Now the stresses started. Anne realised that if I pushed on I could break 10 hours. I knew this and this was now my plan but I didn’t want to voice it out loud. Also I was tired and we were still climbing. My final plan was to take it steady and push it down the logging track at the finish. It got a bit fractious with Anne encouraging ( nagging ) me, and me getting snippy. We finally got to the start of the logging track at exactly the same time as last year but this time I wasn’t covered in bandages and blood and I wasn’t completely knackered. Then I started to run properly, I was wary at first in case I ran out of steam after a mile but I didn’t. Not only that but I started passing more people. It was great. I knew then that I would get sub 10 but by how much ? I overtook my last runner about 400 metres from the finish and just squeezed under 9:55. To say I was pleased was an understatement. To cap it all Sue also got under 10. What a race, what a day.

I felt with this race I really had to finish in a decent state, physically and mentally to feel more confident about the WHW race next year. I achieved this and also got a good time. Also crossing Rannoch Moor I chatted to Vicky O’Reilly. Vicky is about my pace for ultras and this year she did the WHW race in 34 hours so that also helped. Another difference was that after being so sick at the Fling I actually ran this race with no synthetic fuel like gels. I think it was Gail Murdoch who had gastric problems at Gloucester and I think that for her next ultra she tried to use ‘proper’ food rather than things like gels. I tried to follow her idea and used Slimfast, sandwiches, Ambrosia creamed rice, jelly with fruit in it, flat coke, flat ginger beer, coffee, jelly babies and cheese twists. I’d tried everything in training except the cheese twists and they were a bit of a gamble but I really like them and they worked.

Finally a big thank you to my own support crew and all the Carnegie’s who not only helped me on the day but for their huge ultra knowledge that they’re always happy to impart to me.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Plan A then B then C. Whatever!

At the beginning of the year there was a slim chance I might’ve been selected to run the 24 hour race at the Commonwealth Championship in September but as the year progressed my slim chance became nae chance but not to worry there are a few other girls that are loads faster and deserve a shot of doing Scotland proud.

So I thought I’d wait until after the WHW then enter Tooting Bec 24 hour so after the WHW I had my usual week of no running then gradually just running to how I felt, which was a big slow sack o’ tatties that was taking ages to recover so I decided that since 24 hour running is all about the distance you get there is no point in putting myself through it, there is no way I would get anywhere near my goal at the pace the I’ve been running this year so I’ll give it a miss and just look forward to taking it easy until the Loch Ness Marathon.

Last week I began to feel a wee bit spritely and took myself out for about 13 miles, the longest I’ve done since the WHW, I thought I might do the Speyside Way Race, I still have a ghost to bury regarding that race and I’ve waited six years already.

Then on Monday I went out for about 16 miles, just kept a nice easy pace, by about 15 miles I hit comfortable, I was in my ultra groove so decided to do 18 miles then revised it again and thought I’d just round it up to 20 miles. So on the strength of that I considered the Glenmore24 I ran the idea by Pauline yesterday, she thought it was a good idea and she would do my support, I laughed when she said it would be good to watch me suffer as it would help her get her head in gear for her own 24 hour race a fortnight later! Cheers Pauline! But suffering is just a state of mind not a physical thing. I just plan to have fun, the Glenmore is like no other 24 hour race I’ve either ran or supported. It’s going to be on a huge lap of 4 miles of trail and scenery so I’m just going to do it, no pressure of how far I will get, whatever the distance it will be a whole lot further than not running a 24 hour race!

I’ve posted my entry today before I change my mind again and besides I’ve got a cracking new bit of kit, high tech it ain’t but it is still essential. Erin made a bead bracelet for me. A wee bit of inspiration goes a long way…

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A waterfall, a hill and an Angel

Last weekend Pauline and I had a lovely few days chillin’ with no running whatsoever but still getting oot n’ aboot. We were camping in Fort William but there was no “roughing it” involved, a big tent, airbeds, table, chairs and lots of cosy layers and a good measure of wine and a little malt.

By a warm and sunny Saturday afternoon our camp was set up with a cracking view of the Ben, the evening was spent watching caterpillars of walkers coming off the hill. Ben Nevis was on our plan, it’s been a few years since we were last there but we decided to wait until Monday when the weather forecast was better and the weekend walkers had gone home, I’m not anti-social but I like a bit of elbow room.

So Sunday was gonna be a bit wet with low cloud so decided to head up the Kyle of Lochalsh road to the Falls of Glomach, reputedly one of the biggest waterfall in Britain. It was a smashing walk, we kinda underestimate how long it would take, a runner’s view of ten miles is a bit different to a walker and with lots of steep ups and downs, open moor, stops for photies and sandwiches, our rough estimate of four hours was closer to six hours but there was no time constraint and the waterfall was well worth it. I’ve never really been affected by vertigo but the sheer drop, narrow scrambley path to the viewpoint with the rush of the water just sucked you down. I could only look over the edge lying on the wet rock. I laughed at Pauline’s wide eyed exclamation; she’s never been keen on high paths, “Scary biscuits!”

Monday was fair but the Ben was cloudy on the summit, no different to most days, it only averages one day in ten of being clear. We went up the “tourist” path, that was fine by me, I had my camera and I don’t live there, tourist and proud! We kept looking down to the camp site and a wee blue speck that was our tent, I waved down to it, I’ll catch that later when sitting with my wine looking up.

                                                     I cin see ma tent frae here!

Nearing the top, the cloud was thick, still no wind which was unusual, I was only wearing a thermal long sleeved top and a t-shirt, a gentle breeze made me consider putting on my fleece, I looked up, second thoughts, I’ll no bother we’re at the top. A few photies, a clunk of hipflasks, my first effort of a plank, dunno if I got the fine points of technique right but at least it was with altitude!

I loved the blether and nods with everyone else on the hill although there were a couple of miserable buggers that just ignored us. The diversity of the folk on the hill made me smile from the “serious” walkers kitted out in hundreds of pounds worth of gear and rucksacks the size of a small shed to the old bloke in a nylon poncho carrying a Morrison’s carrier bag, the young lads with just rain jackets tied round their waists. The ten year old boy that asked us on the high zig-zags how far was the top, his parents were on the way up too but he had scampered off. I was chuffed for the older bloke from Birmingham, we’d caught him up on the upper zig-zags, he’d was pleased he’d got this far and was going all the way, we spoke to him again when we were heading down he would definitely make it. A few folk looked like they were struggling and hating every step, I felt for them, I’m sure they’d be pleased with their achievement when they got back down but for me it seems strange not to enjoy being in stunning scenery and if it’s hard work it only adds to experience. I think the couple that asked how far it was to the top thought I was only kidding when I said “You’re not far when you get to the snowman!” Sod’s law though, when we were back down did the summit no clear! Oh well, that’s fine I’ll never get fed up going up and down the Ben, maybe next time I’ll get the view!

Tuesday was a fine day but we were both working Wednesday so we slowly packed up camp after a leisurely breakfast in the sun. We broke up the journey home with a stop at Bein Glas Farm, it was the 12th July, two years to the day since Dario left us, so the opportunity of a wee walk in the Angel’s playground couldn’t be missed. We set off at ice-lolly pace, it was still bright and buying a Solero at the shop didn’t make us feel guilty about using their car park.

We stopped at Dario’s post for a bit, I always have a wee wobble to myself, survivor’s guilt, why was I so lucky when other’s who deserve luck were not. We went on passed Doune bothy to Dario’s memorial book, this was no moment of reverence or quiet contemplation but an evil version of the children’s party game of pass the parcel, I had retrieved the black bag parcel from its hiding place, knocked off the big black slugs with a stick, Pauline wussed out, she paced up and down shouting “Hurry up!” as I unwrapped the ice-cream box of its many many layers and zip-lock bag with midges crawling in my ears, nose and in my eyes, I could hear no music just the chortling of an Angel. We wrote a few words then Pauline left me to play the evil pass the parcel game in reverse and I placed the bomb proof parcel back in its hiding place.

We headed back to Bein Glas for some chips and beer before heading home, four days of not conforming to a timepiece but to what seems natural. We promised each other not to leave it so long until our next chill out. all my photies

Monday, 4 July 2011

West Highland Way 2011

My training for this year had been pretty minimal, the only running on the WHW I’ve had was the Fling and a couple of 13 milers, everything else was on road, a 22 miler and a handful of 15/16 milers and that was it. I wasn’t too worried, I wasn’t chasing a PB, just being there to celebrate having my health and being alive was enough for me and at least it was more than the Pirate!

Just before the start Pauline and I were shouting at each other, don’t worry it was no twinny tiff, just a twinny tradition since Perth 24 hour 2008 COME ON! ALRIGHT! COME ON! ALRIGHT!

A countdown to the hooter at 1.00am and we’re off, and what a send off, I’ve never seen Milngavie High Street lined with applauding supporters all the way to the turn,

photo - Colin Knox
Pauline and I were amazed. We were together for a short time before she trotted off, I run no ones pace but my own. It was busy with lots of blethering and light hearted whinging about getting splashed from the muddy puddles. It wasn’t long before my nice white new shoes were spattered in mud, well, nearly new shoes, I’d worn them for the Skye half marathon the week before. I wasn’t sure if the mud was extra slimy and slippery or my lack of trail running made the going awfy slow, (I have it on good authority that the rain washes the oil out of the peat and that’s what makes the path slippy) I wasn’t risking battering along and becoming a cropper. I did have one “Eeek” moment at Beech Tree and there was no mud involved! I’d just passed their huge floodlight still dazzled and blind, I caught my toe on the pavement and nearly went all my length, that wasn’t the scary bit, (I’m a short arse with not far to go!) A campervan was haring down the road, I was seconds away from being roadkill, not what I wanted a few miles in! I was going slow as it was, that really would’ve held me back a bit!

Along the path of a thousand gates, I was mostly with Susan and Rob and another couple, I did have a cunning plan for this section, I don’t know why but in the past I always seemed to find myself in the front. That was fine when the gates were of the wee cute kissing variety but these big hefters! After a wee turn at the front, I paused a bit then tucked in at the back, my puny upper body wasnae getting the chance of a work out!

On the tarmac road heading to Drymen, I took off my head torch, it wasn’t quite dawn but light enough to see the nightlife, bats still flitting about and a huge hedgehog trundle across the road. At Drymen it was just a straight swap of backpacks, I was working with two, no faffing with refilling the bladder, Val and Allan had time to refuel the ditched one before I swapped again at Rowardennan. I was with Caroline heading toward Conic hill and enjoyed her company until I stopped for a pee before leaving the trees and heading into the open ground. On the descent, for the first time, I stuck to the stupid stone path, I’ve always came down the grass but this time it just seemed too slimy, I’ve done this descent in all seasons and weathers but this time my gut instinct was on the extremely cautious side and I wasn’t arguing with that.

At Balmaha (20 miles) I had a change from tradition, I’ve abstained from caffeine for a month as usual, and I’ve always had a mug of coffee here but I’d decided to have tea instead and save my big caffeine hit for Bridge of Orchy. Val walked with me as I ate my rice pudding carrying my mug, we reached the top of Fort hill before I’d finished my tea and took a few photos. I still loved it along the ups and downs towards Rowardennan, I always wondered if I loved this bit so much because of the coffee hit but I was glad to see it was still special without the caffeine enhancement.

At Rowardennan I changed my socks, my feet didn’t feel too bad at all but loads of Body Glide and dry socks were pre-emptive. I also learnt that I was half an hour down on last year. Yikes! That is slow. I don’t run to my watch, just my body. My support had a sheet of my previous splits for the past three years and last year I was quite slow because I ran with a wee chest infection. I also found out that Pauline was half an hour down too but she’d gone over on her ankle twice, besides still having the Comrades Marathon in her legs she was hoping for around 22 to 24 hours (she’s a tough ol’ burd I wasn’t worried, I knew she’d finish whatever the time. She finished 28hrs 20mins)

Heading towards Inversnaid I had a helluva faffin’ with my rain jacket, first it was on, then it was off, then it was tied round my waist, then it was rolled and tied, (I hate stuff flapping round my bahooky) then it was back on. This time I just put my jacket on over my backpack, I might look like a ninja turtle but a lot easier than putting in on and off under my backpack. Karin caught up with me here, she must’ve been watching, I bet she was laughing at my anorak antics. We were together for a fair bit along the loch, Karin, thank you for that smashing compliment, it buoyed me up no end.

At Inversnaid I picked up my drop/party bag, I was ready to go before Karin and HBT Jamie. I felt a bit of a wrench leaving before them, same as when I stopped for a pee when I was with Caroline, but you’ve got to run your own race, I didn’t doubt I’d see them both again throughout the race.

My right knee was complaining a bit along the rough path along the loch shore but once I hit the flat grassy bit I found a surge, my best and strongest section until Bein Glas, I don’t call this bit the Angel’s Playground for nothing I wasn’t just having a “good” section I was carried by an Angel, I stopped for a few moments at Dario’s post sharing the Talisker I got in last weeks goody bag.

At Bein Glas (40 miles) I picked up my second party bag, it was lovely to see Mags here, last year we were running together for a bit around Bein Glas. I ditched the half full 500ml bottle of juice (flat diluted Ginger Beer with a few grains of salt. I don’t do high tech, high price, blind ya wi’ science drinks) I had carried from Inversnaid and took the 250 ml bottle and walked up the hill eating my tub of custard.

After my high along the Angel’s playground the only way was down, my legs were sore, my knees were no liking the bendy thing, and I was a tad tired. I thought about taking some paracetamol but didn’t, I was saving it for later. Also I was with a couple of guys that were really struggling, one of them was for stopping at Auchtertyre, they’d ran out of drinks, so I gave them some of mine, I tried to persuaded him to carry on until Bridge of Orchy then make his decision, but he came back with “I became a Granddad five weeks ago, I’m not built for this, I don’t want to have a heart attack!” Whoa! This was serious negativity, what could I say. I’m not medically trained, so I hoped I wasn’t lying. I replied “We’re not moving fast, breathing hard or have a high heart rate, we’re only tired. Tiredness doesn’t put you in the “at risk” category.” if he felt this bad I wouldn’t try to persuade him to keep going any more. I rarely feel anti-social but I felt I needed to be on my own, selfish, maybe, but I was struggling too!

The rollercoaster was no fun at the fair, I was glad to cross the road and hit the tarmac where I could run without my knees screaming, I got to Auchtertrye at 3.48pm. Robin has now arrived for his stint of support. I had another change of socks, wolfed my baked tattie and watched race checkpoint pack up camp. 4.00pm was the cut off, I was relieved to see Karin come in just behind me, where was Jon? I felt quite rattled leaving Auchtertyre, I was close to being timed out. I’ll never disrespect a race marshal or volunteer, but no way was I stopping for something as trivial as time, at no point during the race did I ever think I would fail. I mean no criticism of the race rules, I do suppose that generally anyone who doesn’t get to Auchtertyre by 4.00pm Saturday isn’t going to get to Fort William by 12noon Sunday but whoever invented them didn’t bank on me being in the equation. The lack of speed will never equal the lack of ability, not in my book! I had some ugly “what if” scenarios playing round my head but by the time I got to Tyndrum I’d stopped rattling the bars of my cage, it didn’t happen, I wasn’t timed out, dragged off the route for disobedience and banned from future races so I can cancel the panic.

I eventually calmed down after Tyndrum,53 miles done, 42 to go, although my pace was slow I could maintain it forever. I had a mug of tea and some shortbread, and the easier going section got me back into my groove, it was raining really heavy and my quads and knees were feeling cold. I was having a rethink of what was planned for Bridge of Orchy and was about to get the phone out when I saw a bright yellow jacket with bare legs hanging out the bottom coming towards me. I thought “Nutter!” Then I recognised Lesley, she had just arrived with Gillian, it must’ve been better weather at home then. I had pinched Lesley from Pauline’s support. The original support plan was for Pauline to have Sue and Mel with Lesley arriving to lighten the load on the latter half, I was to have Val and Allan supporting until Auchtertyre then Robin and Gillian taking over for the second half but Gillian had been ill at the beginning of the week and wasn’t sure if she was even going to make it at all never mind any running but thankfully by Friday night she had recovered enough to come.

After a bit of discussion I asked Lesley to get the poly bag marked Glencoe from my big holdall, it contained tights, my favourite blue fleece (I’ve worn it for the Devil’s staircase every year since 2007) and the waterproof breeks, then she scampered off to get the team ready also if I was going to have to take my wet shoes off I might as well change my socks and shoes, my nice not so new and shiny white shoes had done 60 miles, time for a fresh pair. Now here is where support prove they’re worth their weight in gold, silver, platinum and all things priceless. Val and Allan were meant to go home after Auchtertyre, they couldn’t stay as they had family stuff on Sunday but with Gillian being doubtful Val said she would stay to go over Rannoch Moor with me then go home. We were both geared up for the slog to Glencoe. I headed for the hill then I saw the Pirate sitting in a campervan looking all cosy and comfy. (He’d probably disagree about the comfy part but from where I was standing he was at least dry and sitting down), his legs were giving him major grief, not surprising, after 60 hard miles with bugger all training, he was stopping here. He got no sympathy from me just an earful of abuse… then a hug.

It was lovely to see Murdo on the hill, I didn’t expect him to still be here in these conditions he must’ve had a long day, hanging around is so much harder than moving forward. Thanks Murdo for the jelly babies they were very much appreciated.

Rannoch Moor was long but my legs were moving in the right direction and my bag of wee boiled tatties tossed in butter, salt, pepper and mint from my garden, went down well. As we were heading up the hill we saw a couple of walkers come over the top, Val and I both thought it was a bit late in the day for traipse over moor then realised it was Sean, not just Lord of the Bridge but multi-tasking as shepherd.

I went straight through the Glencoe checkpoint just picking up my mug filled with hot pasta and Lesley now wearing waterproof breeks too, and headed down the road. Aagghh! I stopped dead! Oh no! I’d forgotten that Val and Allan were heading home and I wouldn’t see them again. I uttered not one word of thanks or even cheerio! I hoped I would be forgiven for my lapse in manners.

At Altnafeadh I had my fifth and last sock change. Although I was told there was nothing to see, I knew the ball of my left foot was developing a blister, and the right one had a hot spot too. I wasn’t too worried though getting this far without any real damage to my feet, besides a touch of trench foot, was good going. I wouldn’t go so far as saying I like blisters but heading into the second night with no sleep a bit of hot, sharp, jaggy, superficial pain certainly helps to stop you falling asleep in the vertical position!

I enjoyed the stomp up the Devil’s Staircase, with the zigzags the head torches ahead and behind looked closer than they were. Over the top my legs were still quite supple as I hopped across the boulders in the dark, I was complimented on my balance from a bloke behind me, I put it down to my arm waving technique. Lesley was great company and often made me laugh, more than once she said, “Don’t follow me, I’m ankle deep!” The quad killing descent to Kinlochleven didn’t seem to take as long as I remembered and it wasn’t long until we were in the bright lights of the Community Centre, it was a novelty using a proper lavvy, Julie weighed me and my crew got my stuff ready, then someone else’s support asked me if I would like some chicken noodle soup. “Thanks, yes, that would be lovely.” He handed me a big pot and a spoon. I was fine with that, ultra runners don’t have table manners, a table, or a bowl either. The only problem I did have was I thought it would be awfully rude to run away with his pot and spoon, my support know I don’t do stand still but he didn’t.
A quote from my instruction sheet - At all checkpoints I will always either walk or run through, I won’t stand and wait for anything, hopefully I won’t change my mind from my what I have on my requirement sheet but if I have you can catch me up. (Stop time is dead time and I don’t do dead!)
So I stood and shovelled in the braw soup while swivelling my hips bending my knees and prancing about as if I was burstin’ fur a pee. Also I was in the Race Doc’s house, standing still causes the blood to pool in your legs, I waznae risking the fainty thing!

It wasn’t long before I headed back out with Robin and Gillian for company, we ditched the head torches, bloody hell, don’t think I’ve headed up towards the Lairig Mor with the promise of daylight before. Not to worry, a finish is a finish.

Up the hill I had several flashbacks, from more traumatic years and also from supporting Pauline too, I knew there was no doubt I’d get to Fort William, even at Mingavie. I have a Magnus Magnusson philosophy,” I’ve started so I’ll finish.” Am I tough/stupid/pig-headed/lucky? Yes, definitely!

Lairig Mor was another slog, but with Robin and Gillian’s company I was pulling it in, I had a roll with ham and cheese, it was going stale in my hand, I took wee bites, it was rolling around in my mouth, I needed to eat, I was trying to force it in, it wasn’t what I wanted. Robin gave me his cereal bar, I managed half of it but it was like eating cardboard. I needed fuel but what? (With hindsight, I’m taking a Slimfast shake for next year)

The Wilderness Response Teams were brilliant, they offered loads of practical support but more importantly, peace of mind, I thought I’d be ok but it was very reassuring they were there.

At Lundvara I got a Mocha-coffee and some shortbread. That gave me the boost I needed, and I storming up the hill from Lundavara waiting for my support to catch me up, a wee touch of déjà vu. Without checking my old stories, I haven’t a Scooby if it was Pauline or Val that was chasing me with my mug of coffee a few years ago but it gave me a giggle that it was happening again. Lundavara although around 6 miles of fiendish up and downs was the finish straight. I could smell the malt in the Quaich!

The sun was up and shining brightly, I lost the rain jacket and my sleeves were pushed up, I couldn’t be bothered taking off the waterproof breeks although my legs were roasting. We were heading up through the woods, I looked up and saw a wood nymph flitting through the trees at an absurd pace, she came closer, I wasn’t hallucinating, wood nymphs don’t wear Scotland shorts and crop tops or give me the biggest, cheeriest, enthusiastic congratulatory hug I’ve ever had. Robin was jealous, it was Lucy, fresh from a night sleep after supporting Richie. (Patience Robin, next year!!!)

Gillian had the get out clause at Lundavara but what a trooper, she stayed with me all the way to the end. On the wide forest track, we saw someone coming towards us wearing a Carnegie top, was it Sue or Julie? Julie, thank you, a very welcome friendly face, your words brought my emotions to the fore, I tried to stifle the lump in my throat and my tears, I’m not afraid to show emotion but it gets in the way of breathing. The Glory Mile was approaching, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done this or the time it takes, PB or PW it’s still an achievement. I will never ever forget how lucky I am. I am proud of what I have achieved. 32 hours 17 minutes. I finished.

I have a fine crystal goblet that is no less special than any of the others. I will never do the “what went wrong analysis”. I was there, upright, outside and running, I never believe things go wrong anyway, they may not have gone according to the original plan but I am in a privileged position, I have my health and can put one foot in front of the other. A bonus only a few can savour.

Gillian supervised my shower then it was straight to breakfast, sitting still, tucking into bacon and eggs I finally had the decency to look tired,

I felt as if my body was still going at ninety miles an hour, I looked at my hands expecting them to be shaking but they weren’t, I felt I might’ve fainted but I didn’t . After loads of big sighs I began to feel a bit more like myself.

The prizegiving is a wonderful event in itself, every ones race is captured and condensed in that slow shuffling moment of glory collecting their Goblet.

My eighth and slowest WHW race, I’m not disappointed, it was tough but not traumatic, I didn’t feel the need to push hard for the sake of finishing slightly faster. If there is a pattern to my finishing times I’ve been progressively faster for my first four WHW’s then progressively slower for the next four, all I can say is for the next four years I’ll be getting faster again, so in 2015 Kate, Sharon and Debs should watch their backs! Yeah, I’m laughing too. I might just make the cut-offs by the skin of my teeth but as long as I’m upright and moving forward I’ll be there. I have a lot to celebrate.

None of this is possible without a brilliant support crew, I apologise for my inadequacy to put into words my gratitude. You are all very special, I get the glory and the goblet, you get a Buff scarf and bags under your eyes!
Mel's photos
My support's photos
This was Mel’s first year supporting and she’s now hooked, her diary is marked for the weekend 23rd June next year. We did warn her that doing support is the slippery slope to running the race, she made huge protests. Aye, right we believe you, I said the same myself about ten years and eight goblets ago! As the way of great support next year Sue and Robin are planning to run so Pauline and I have lost support again and Sue and Robin will be looking for support too so we are recruiting now. Form an orderly queue, all applicants should have a sense of humour, a strong stomach and believe that sleep is superfluous!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Isle of Skye half marathon

Ok, it is technically a race but since it’s always the week before the WHW I haven’t given the Skye half loads of welly for years. It’s just a good excuse to go up and have great weekend and a leg stretch. This was my 14th Skye half and it is my favourite, we’ve been going up for it since 1993. I only do two halfs a year now, Skye and Glen Clova. The most I’ve done in one year is 17 in 1993 starting with Inverness in March and finishing with Glen Clova in November. This years Skye was my 107th half marathon.

It’s a lovely route, not an easy one though, a bit of steady climbing in the first few miles, some downs, flats and undulations until the long climb at 10 but it’s all open stunning scenery and the finish is all down hill. Since last year it’s now a standard 13.1 miles but it used to be 13.8 miles, I liked that unique quirkiness and was a little disappointed that it conformed.

Pauline and I ran together, a nice controlled pace finishing in 2.03.07 hrs, about 40 seconds faster than last year, we’re nothing if not consistent! The weather was beautiful, clear blue skies, hardly any wind and not a midgie! It couldn’t have been better… but it was! This year’s race memento was a wee engraved glass and a miniature of Talisker, my favourite. (It’s going in my hip flask to share with an Angel at the top of the loch next week.)

In the afternoon Pauline and I bought a picnic at the Co-op and headed off to Kilt Rock and The Quiraing and had a wee stroll, we weren’t planning anything big, Pauline was wearing pavement shoes!

In the evening it was lovely to catch up with the Sheffield crew, we meet up regularly… in the Tongadale, Skye half weekend.

Sunday was a slow drive home, the weekend was over already, but we stayed in holiday mode for a bit longer, a wee leg stretch at Sligachan, then a detour for an ice-cream in Plockton and another short walk to a viewpoint above the village.

“Kemosabe! It’s a short arse female with size 7 Saucony and very little intelligence!”

Well, if I had a bit more sense I would’ve been watching where I was walking!

Here's more photos, I did get a few good ones, even if I say so myself.