Sunday, 8 May 2011

The Montane Highland Fling 2011

Pauline picked me up at 4.00am and we were in Milngavie just after 5.00am. The sun was just up too and the sky looked clear, it was going to be a cracking day, it also seemed a bit weird seeing Milngavie in daylight.

I wasn’t nervous, I just don’t do nerves before a race, even though today I wasn’t “racing” my goal was purely a no pressure day out just to get to Bein Glas before the cut off. Although I put no pressure on myself for a time, I was still bit concerned though, my tendon which has been recovering has felt a bit tight and tender for the past week, whatever happens DNF will never be an option and I could be in for a very long painful day. I know I will never ever give up no matter what, there have been races where I aimed high but didn’t get the goal I was going for and the bonus is I’ve learnt a lot more from the tough races. I did have a cunning solution, I put two sets of Sorbothane in my shoes, I am a girly I can do high heels! My lack of training didn’t worry me too much either, it does no harm at all practicing how to run tired and sore. I had entered the Fling a fortnight ago just to have a day out in my favourite place and I wasn’t going to let that be spoiled by trivialities!

Murdo’s race briefing was perfectly brief. “There are no rules just tell someone if you pull out and ENJOY!” Damn right Murdo, that’s my plan!

6.00am the old gits and girlies were off. I was running WHW pace and rules, I was aware of my tendon, it wasn’t getting any worse and in a few more miles I knew that my quads will probably be whinging louder so it wasn’t going to stop me. I was running with Robin, he was a bit wary of falling after his bad one at last years Devil O’ the Highlands, at around two miles in it was a mere formality, he was down and up barely breaking stride. I said “Well, there you go, that’s got that out of the way then, you can relax now!”

Heading up towards Conic Hill the sun was shining, but the wind was quite chilly, I still hadn’t taken off my gloves. It was a beautiful, perfect day, I kept whipping out my camera, I told Robin to stop as I took a photo of him with the loch in the background, two fast guys, I presume, from the 7.00am start stopped and said “Shall I take a photo of you both?” I protested saying I didn’t want to hold him back. He waved his arms wide at the scenery and replied “Nah! This is what today’s about!”

At the top of Conic the view of the Loch Lomond was stunning, another wee pause for photies and we headed down. Pauline appeared, she’d ran out from Rowardennan, besides being my chauffer, she was sticking in a few miles having a fun day too, Pauline's photos she enjoyed running towards everyone but wished she had a pound for every time she heard “You’re going the wrong way!”

Out of the wind on approaching the woods I finally took off my gloves, arm warmers and buff scarf. At Balmaha, Davie pointed me towards my drop bag, Robin and I parted company here, he stopped to eat, I walked on with my rice pudding, Pauline had a wee blether with Helen before catching me up.

I love the section heading towards Rowardennan, the ups, the downs, the woods, the view of the loch, the wee beach and… (I’ll shut up ‘cause if you’ve been here you know what I’m on about.) Jim Rogers from a later start caught us up, he and Pauline chatted off to Rowardennan.

At Rowardennan I swapped my backpack for my older one that I had ready, with its bladder filled just to pick up with no faffing, except I decided to ditch the rain jacket and put in my arm-warmers, gloves and extra buff scarf instead then trotted off. I had just tucked my empty milkshake bottle into my bag then had a wee backpack malfunction, my shoulder strap came loose, the stitching had come undone where it joined the bottom of the bag, a wee walk as I tied the adjustment strap though a loop where the waist strap is attached. It was as good as new, no need to replace old faithful yet.

It was a lovely warm afternoon with wall to wall sunshine, I don’t think I’ve seen the loch so blue, I didn’t bother with a drop bag at Inversnaid but stopped for a few mouthfuls of cold water which was refreshing as my juice was warm. A few folk were complaining that it was too hot, but sympathy has no place in ultras, “If you’re too hot you’re going too fast!” was my reply. I looked at my watch, (I wasnae doing race splits just time of day,) it was just after 2.00pm. Brilliant, around two hours running until Bein Glas I’ll get there at the back of 4.00pm, loads of time before the cut off at 6.00pm.

On the rough path my quads were feeling sore, I put it down to a lack of training but I suppose nearly 40 miles probably contributed too. At one big steppy bit a cheery walker heading south waved me forward, I looked up at the gigantic step and joked I might need a pulley. He held out his hand for me, I think I must be lighter than I look or he’s stronger than he looked, both feet left the ground as he hauled my stekky legged body up the boulders. I thanked him and hoped the hand up wasn’t considered cheating. Along the narrow path I was always looking back over my shoulder so I could get out of the way of faster folk, there were loads of encouragement from everyone that went by except for a few runners, when they approached I spoke to them, I was totally blanked, they had their earphones in, and not even a grunt of acknowledgement as they went by. Each to their own I suppose but it did sadden me a bit to think of what they were missing out on, I’m not adverse to listening to music when running but the WHW is a route with its own inspirational sound track, the wind in the trees, the waves of the loch, the babbling burns, the birds, I heard a few cuckoos, I don’t get them in my garden! My consoling thought was that real ultra runners are never so insular or anti-social or at least real WHW runners aren’t! Mind you, one guy made up for the few ignorant gits, as he was passing me he looked and said “Fiona?” I answered “Yeah!” he took my by surprise by sticking out his hand to shake mine. “Legend!” he said “Love the blog!” I have never been called a legend before. I kept repeating “Legend” in my head and having a wee giggle to myself for quite a few miles. Thanks Peter that made my day.

I was quite warm during the hottest part of the day but never uncomfortably hot and didn’t feel the need to take off one of my two tops I was wearing, a vest and a short sleeved top. I liked the thought that the heat kept my quads warm and supple, if they got cold it would’ve been so much harder to move fluidly. (A wee tip if you struggle in the heat – Run warm in winter. Wear lots of layers and keep them on even when you’re feeling toasty. If you’re down to skin in the spring what can you peel off when it really warms up!)

I thought about taking some painkillers but I’d have to stop hanging onto the boulders to do it so, I decided I’d wait until the after the flat grassy bit and see how the legs felt once they got back to proper running… no need, to quote Mark Cooper, motion is lotion! It wasn’t long until I was looking up to Dario’s post, at the top of the hill I got out my wee hip flask, I’ve been by his post a few times now and I’ve always had my hip flask, I wasn’t breaking with tradition because it was a “race”, I spent a minute or two sharing a wee Isle of Jura with Dario before carrying on to Beinn Glas.

With it being so warm I’d drank most of my juice, but I wasn’t concerned, it wasn’t in the original plan but I’ll top up with water at Beinn Glas. Neil MacR helped me filled my bladder and then I trotted off. Oh bugger! With concentrating on topping up with water I forgot to pick up my milkshake, I only put out two drop bags, my rice pud at Balmaha and a milkshake at Bein Glas, a fail by 50%, not to worry, I wasn’t going back for it, I was carrying plenty grub by the way of Rice Krispie squares and cereal bars, I wouldn’t starve and anyone who was behind me were welcome to it.

Tim and I were plodding away together, although he was moving faster on the run-able bits than I was, I did say to him not to prolong his day and to bash on, he answered he was happy to have the company, cheers Tim I enjoy our blether and at Derrydarroch weren’t we both “I Spy” champions! Pauline appeared near Carmyle Cottage, she wasn’t doing support as such but I spied she had a SlimFast in her backpack (See, I am a champion at the game.) I mentioned that I was a numpty and forgot to pick up the milkshake I placed at the checkpoint. She offered me her milkshake, I didn’t refuse. It’s the first time I’ve had a SlimFast, it went down well, I usually just pinch the kid’s Yazoo!

Pauline and Tim were blethering away from me most of the time and as they pulled away from me again on the first big climb of the rollercoaster, Tim laughed at the sisterly concern. Pauline had shouted “Come on, keep up!”
“Aye, I’m comin’!”

On the last big swoop of the rollercoaster Tim descended never to be seen again. My thoughts compared this to the descent into Kinlochleven, ok, my quads were squealing a bit, but I thought again, I haven’t lost two nights sleep or have eighty miles in my legs. Stop wussin’ and get on with it!

Pauline was wearing a Garmin and told me that if I didn’t dither about I would finish under 14 hours, I said I wasn’t planning on prolonging the end but neither would I push so hard that I’d throw up at the finish, I wouldn’t be disappointed if my time was 14.02 because that was the couple of minutes I gave to Dario and I didn’t grudge them.

After crossing the road I found my running rhythm and kept it all the way, finishing in 13.53.49.

Photo by Allan Harley 
I picked up my t-shirt and bottle of bubbly then polished off what was left in my hip flask. What a brilliant day, I loved every minute. Physically I wasn’t at my best but that is irrelevant when you run with a happy heart. My body might be a wee bit drained, that is just temporary. My heart and soul are fully charged.

The West Highland Way is very special to me and has shaped my character and given me strength over the years. Long may it do so.


John Kynaston said...

Great run Fiona and loved the report.

All the best for 18th June ... hope your injury clears up completely.

Anonymous said...

You ARE a legend! I'm completely in awe of how you do what you do and I love reading about it. Glad you had a good Fling (loving the kilt).

Silke said...

Great report of a great day out! The kilt looked fab! Silke

Julie said...

I saw you on Conic Hill and again at the end; both times you were unbelievably full of joy. Think "legend" is probably a very apt description!

Debs M-C said...

That's my favourite race report so far. Brilliant reading. Can't believe you stopped for a bevvie. That's hardcore. Maybe that's why you looked so fresh at the finish :-)

Could you please thank Pauline for taking my empties for me.

See you soon.

Debs xx

Debs M-C said...

Ps: On the WHW is the only time I don't listen to music. Only when I'm pounding the dull pavements.

KarenR said...

Loving it :-)

Lee Maclean said...

You made me cry AGAIN!! xxx