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.