Monday, 23 September 2013

Glenmore 24 - not just any 24 hour race.

At the beginning of my radiotherapy Bill offered me a place in the Glenmore24 as a goal to help me get through my treatment either in the 24 hour, the 12 or just for me a 6 hour. At the time I didn't want to commit to anything, not knowing how I'd cope but in June I accepted the offer of a wee fun run.  Pauline was happy for me to do it even though I'd leave her to look after Vicky and Fiona on her own for a bit and just a few days before the race I saw on facebook Colin would be unsupported so we offered to look after him as well.

Pauline and I went up on Friday afternoon, it took ages to get set up, mattress inflated, bed made, kitchen set up, tarpaulin over the front of the tent giving us a veranda, extra tarpaulin on the floor in the kitchen/livingroom, ever since my tent was ruined at the Perth 24 hour race in 2008 by clerty Carnegie Harriers, I blame the relay team, in and oot, in and oot, we'd rather spend a few quid on a "carpet" than replace a whole tent.  It was a real home from home once Pauline decorated it with Tibetan prayer flags, wind chimes and fairy lights.

Friday night was quite a giggle, wind and rain didn't put a halt to the showing of the latest Anton Krupicka  film. We were tucked into open fronted race HQ marquee out of the weather, but with smoke in the eyes from the fire pit, Granny blanket round our knees, a bottle of beer and great company. Luckily, the film was more scenery and close ups of the scantily clad Anton skipping over mental terrain with his peaked Buff at a jaunty angle, there was too much hilarity to follow a film with plot points! 
Photo from Glenmore 24 Trail Race
We didn't sleep much, the wind and rain battered the tent a bit through the night but we were pleased to see our camp still intact in the morning apart from the windbreak needing a bit of adjusting there was no damage.  More folk arrived and got their tents up, a lot of the tents were empty over night since quite a few pitched them on Friday then buggered off to B&Bs, you wussy lot missed all the fun!

As the morning progressed the wind blew the rain away and the sun came out, it was going to be a great day for the race. We went over Fiona, Vicky and Colin's race plans then wandered over to race HQ for the briefing and the start at noon. 

It was great to watch people settle into their race, a shame for Kevin going over on his ankle early on, even running a lap with an ice pack gaffer taped to his ankle wasn't going to work a miracle, he stopped after three laps, but a wee bonus for Mel and Morna, they now had extra pair of hands in support. Our runners had settled down nicely and were easy to look after, knocking out consistent laps and eating well,  Fiona had brought plenty food,  I think she'd bought half a supermarket going by the all the carrier bags taking over the tent, and she was ready for a tuna sandwich, okay doky, I found the rolls, the butter and the tins of tuna... hmm, I bet there isn't a tin opener in all this lot. Not a problem, I'm sure someone will have one, sure enough, just a wee wander round other supports and I got one from Julie. I didn't bring one since the tins of soup I'd brought had ring pulls, I'll remember one for next time whether I need it or not, someone else might!

I kept an eye on the time and got myself ready for my run, I was starting at 6.00pm and finishing at midnight with the 12 hour race.  I felt a bit tired with not much sleep, being on my feet all day and I still had a bit of the British Ultra Fest in me, I didn't run for a fortnight afterwards it and just had a couple of three mile runs just to check the legs are ok, yep, they go left, right, left, right. That'll do, I wasn't worried, I was running  just for the joy.

A few minutes to six Pauline and I walked over to the start, hang on, here's Fiona coming, Pauline scooted off to see to her and was back in time to see me be set off with precision timing from Ada.  While I was waiting to start I turned my peaked Buff up like that Anton bloke, but Pauline thought I was more like Norman Wisdom!

It's a beautiful four mile loop,  in 2011 I labelled the miles according to the terrain, first one was called lumpy bumpy, a narrow twisty path with boulders and tree roots, second mile I named the long run, a wide forest track of gentle undulations which in both previous years I ran all of it, third mile, the up hill, fourth mile, the down hill, a rather simplistic description of the stunning route but that's how I broke up the loop, I clicked straight into the routine of where I walked and where I ran.  "It's great to see you back."   were the words I heard more than once on the loop. You know the saying  If I had a penny for every time...  well, I don't need to be a millionaire, the support you guys have given me this year has been priceless.  

I reached the clearing and looked down over Loch Morlich in the early evening light.  The sky, pale blue, the clouds tinged with peach were reflected in the loch.  A line from a song popped in my head. The colours of Scotland leave you young inside. Now Runrig's Hearts of Olden Glory make me emotional at any time, but being here, being back where I belong ... I let the tears stream down my face and kept the song in my head for the rest of the loop. Next lap I picked up my iPod, but only stuck it in one lug'ole, as much as wanted my music I wasn't anti-social. It was sheer pleasure running and it felt easy, must have been that  urban myth  - the runners high, I knew it wouldn't last but I got three laps before I crashed.  

I made it back to base camp just as the last of the light faded and I picked up my head-torch on the start of my fourth lap.  After the "lumpy bumpy" mile and a slow "long run" those hills jumped up and bit my bum, I expected them to get me at some time, and it wasn't just my glutes, my hamstrings and quads too, what little running I've done has been on easy flat routes, the last time I ran hills was February!  The muscles in my legs had the strength of watery jelly,  one good thing from walking loads of miles at the British Ultra Fest is that my walking technique has been perfected, it felt smooth and productive, my running slowed but I still moved well.   

I'd just left base camp on my fifth lap when it started raining, it got really heavy and freezing, I moved as fast as I could, expending energy I didn't have to waste, since my treatment I really feel the cold, it makes me feel fragile, brittle and my muscles don't work.  I got back before hypothermia set in, I pulled on a fleece, my rain jacket, gloves and my cut off waterproof breeks, Pauline calls them my Ray McCurdys, (that's fine, I keep them in a wee zip lock bag and I'm going to change the label on it in homage to the legend.)

On my sixth and final lap, I walked parts of the "long run" for the first time, counting the previous two years, this was the first time I walked parts of this section in sixty laps! I wasn't disappointed, I was moving forward to the best of my ability with the body that I had on the day, I wasn't in a race looking for a PB or a race position I was there purely for the pleasure but this is a philosophy I use even when racing and in all the years I've been running I have not always reached my target but I've never been disappointed with my performance, you can't ever ask for more than your best effort whatever the circumstances.

Once back to base camp and on the wee loops, I went into proper race mode and pushed as hard as I could, every step counting towards my distance.  I needed to lean my hands on my thighs to get up the wee hill, I don't know how many times round I went but each one I hoped was the last, eventually the count down, it was midnight, and I stopped near the top of the hill. I bent forward with my hands on my knees and let out sobs of achievement.  Mike R asked if I was ok, I was, just a bit emotional, I'd ran 25 miles, confirmation I'm alive and kicking. I walked round to our tent, Pauline took a celebratory photo and gave me a mug of hot chocolate and a cup of cider, I couldn't decide what one I wanted so I had both!  

I took them over to race HQ and stood melting my breeks at the fire pit waiting for Vicky Shanks to come into base camp, now that it was after midnight she could celebrate turning forty, she stopped  long enough to be serenaded with Happy Birthday and have a piece of cake then carried on to cover 100 miles, a brilliant way to mark a special birthday.  I was loathed to leave the fire, but eventually I forced myself, I had to get changed into warm, dry clothes, have a wee sleep and get back on duty.

Running for 24 hours isn't just about how fast you can run, it's also about how you adapt when problems arise, our three runners coped very well with theirs.  Vicky's feet and shins were in excruciating pain from early on and she stoically stuck it out to 88 miles, an achievement  in self determination.  Fiona was eating well to start with but struggled later on and was low on energy, Pauline let her have a 20 minute nap, afterwards she was shaking like an old washing  machine but once we piled loads of clothes on her and I gave her one of my Ensure milkshakes, as used by the old, infirm, elite athletes, me and now wee Fee MacDee, she was soon warmed up and knocked out a 50 minute lap and cracked on to 95 miles, an outstanding distance for her first 24 hour race.  Colin never stopped at all, bar a wee visit to the physio, no sleeping at all this year, he wouldn't dare with Ada armed with a cattle prod and Pauline with a baseball bat! With a few hours to go he said he'd be happy just to do another lap but we had other ideas, he did have time for two laps if he pulled his finger out,  Pauline went with him for a lap saying "I'll work on his head." When they came in to base camp with just over an hour to go he said he was going for an other lap. Brilliant, but we also neglected to tell him that if he didn't get back to base camp before noon this lap wouldn't count.  No worries, he was back with just over ten minutes left. Pauline's final instruction, "Run like a demented hamster!"  and he churned out enough wee laps to reach a PB of 89.73 miles.

At the end of final hour with all the runners on the wee lap, the crowd in base camp shouted and screamed encouragement, it was emotional watching everyone pushing their bodies long passed their capabilities with hearts and souls leading the charge, forcing every step forward to break records, personal bests and have dreams realised, the countdown then it was finally over, sighs of relief, smiles and hugs of congratulations.  The finish is exceptional and not just for the runners, everyone involved is caught in the emotion.

I enjoyed watching the prize giving, everyone in both races individually awarded their medal and bottle of beer and often with personal comments from Bill or Ada.  Rab and Mark's amazing achievement, setting a new Guinness record  for the three legged race, 68.2 miles, I loved the way Ada in her inimitable style summed up their efforts, introducing them as the two tits. I thought Bill seemed a bit lost for words in winding up the prize giving, then I realised he wasn't finished, (I'm struggling here to find my words so I'll leave out my emotions) Bill and Mike presented me with a beautiful crystal decanter.

It is at home amongst my other wee bits of crystal and holds some fine malt, also a gift from a friend that has given me outstanding support this year.

If I'd known I was going to have my photo taken standing in front of everyone I would've done something with my hair!  Sorry, I'm just trying to use a bit of humour  to stop my crying.  I'm finding it hard to put into words my gratitude for all your support, and saying thank you doesn't cover it,  it has taken me a while to write this, every time I think of the weekend I get a lump in my throat. The Glenmore 24 is a very special weekend if you were there you'll understand the magic, if you weren't, sorry, I can't explain...  


Helen said...

and a few more tears reading this Fiona :-)
I think it's summed up beautifully on your decanter - you are a True Inspiration! Was an amazing experience and wonderful to be part of it! xxx

run and be mum said...

I hadn't realised you had done 25 miles. You must be some sort of machine...............what a star. Hope you are feeling well - looking forward to seeing you at Glen Ogle. Do you know if I can expect any sort of Marshall briefing or is it just turn up and find out??

John Kynaston said...

Congratulations Fiona. A superb achievement and lovely write up.

What a great present and truly deserved.

Keep running and more importantly enjoying being part of the ultra family.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fiona,
What a great report. I have been waiting fior this and it was certainly worth the wait!More tears. Hope you are recovering well. You turly are AMAZING.