Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Glenmore 24

On Friday morning Pauline and I had the car loaded and were on the road by around 10.30am, for a relaxed drive up to Aviemore arriving at Hayfield around 1.00pm.  We’d borrowed the club tent/gazebo which is dead easy to put up, a bit like popping up a giant brolly with no need to feed poles into sleeves. It took a wee bit longer getting the tables, chairs, race stuff organised and putting up the wee two man tent and blow up the air beds, the club tent is really a shelter and not suitable for sleeping in.  
Pauline's race food on the left, mine on the right

After lunch, we had a wee stroll round the first part of the loop, I wanted to go round the whole beautiful loop but I’d thought I’d save it for tomorrow, there’s no need for a recce I’d already covered the loop sixty times! In 2011 and 2012 I’d managed twenty-seven laps and in last year’s six hour special I was chuffed to do six laps.

We wandered up to Ada’s registration tent and she’d just started filling the goody bags, so I asked if she’d like a hand, we had a great production line going and after a couple of hours all one hundred and thirty odd were filled, individually labelled with correct size t-shirt or vest and laid out ready to be picked up. 

After some pasta for tea it was time to party in pirate style, there were some cracking costumes, mine was of minimal effort, an old Goonies t-shirt with a wee parrot pinned to my shoulder and my WHW pirate Buff.  Pauline and I were good little athletes and only had a couple of beers before heading to bed but not before a swig of Terry’s rum and a wee Slainte with John’s Octomore. 
photo from Go Al Gannet
I slept not too badly, it was a chilly night but I was well prepared, a good thick sleeping bag, two fleece blankets, thick socks and fleecy jammies over normal jammies, I still wasn’t overly warm but not freezing.  We were up by 8.00am had our porridge, then we took down the tent we slept in; there will be no kipping for us during the event!

Morna was doing the twelve hour race with her sister, Innes doing support, they arrived and organised her race supplies in the tent.  Val arrived and went over our race plans, she had her hands full looking after both of us but to help make her job a wee bit easier, I placed a cool-box at the top of base-camp for us to drop our bottles, mugs etc. into since neither Pauline and I ever stop to eat and Val wouldn’t be able to accompany either of us round the camp in case the other one was on the way in.

The race briefing at 11.30am was in the rain and there was no promise of it going off any time soon, so I decided to start in my serious weather jacket.  12.00noon, we’re off, Pauline and I stayed together for the first lap then I let her go on, I didn’t see her again until she lapped me hours later.  In the first year  of the race I labelled the course by the terrain splitting the four mile loop into four sections,  the lumpy bumpy mile, a narrow path through trees and this year some big puddles along with slippy mud heading out of base-camp, then the second section, the long run, a wee bit over a mile along a wide forest track and easy under foot and in previous years, I’d always ran the whole section, the up-hill, yep, self-explanatory, the mile with the hill but I’d still pick points that were runnable, the last section, the down-hill, where I’d take it easy on the steeper downhill bits protecting my quads before a wee kick of a hill, then a left turn down some steps onto the grass and back to base-camp.  

After a few laps, I felt settled into my groove and there were some blue bits growing in the sky, yaaay, I left the rain jacket with Val. Oh-oh! Next lap round I’d just turned onto the down-hill and the sky was black as night, seconds later the rain started then it wasn’t just rain, huge hailstones battered off my head and shoulders, thankfully the Buff round my head was peaked and stopped me losing an eye!  I pulled up the Buff round my neck bandit style to protect my lower jaw, my long-sleeved top and club vest didn’t stop the hailstones stinging my shoulders and I tried not to push too hard down the hill back to the base-camp.  I was just going to pick up my jacket but once I arrived at our tent Val said “Change your top; you’re soaking wet and cold.”  Yeah, probably a better idea, I was freezing and wouldn’t warm up much with just adding a jacket over my sopping wet clothes, so Val and Innes stripped my top half, dried me and got me changed into my thick thermal top, my jacket and my “Ray McCurdy’s” (an ancient pair of weatherproof breeks, that I’d chopped down to just below the knee and treated with Nikwax, they resemble the attire worn by the legend and are easy pulled on and kicked off with no faffing).  
photo from Glenmore Trail Race - Glad to see the hailstones had their uses at base-camp

I eventually warmed a smidgen and was back in my groove, I was targeting 100 miles but it was never going to be a ‘do or die’ mission, just a ‘go for it and see what happens’ and adjust accordingly.  After the great confidence boost of the West Highland Way Race, I knew that it wasn’t beyond me but the pace I was meant to maintain to be able to do it within the time would be the big ask.  There is no hiding in a twenty-four race, if your health or fitness is lacking it will show, but with never being more than two miles away from a checkpoint and the safety and camaraderie of the laps it was worth having a crack at it.

I’d enjoyed the laps and the chat with everyone that was around , I’d asked a few folk if they’d see the big red toadstools near the end of the “lumpy bumpy mile”,  they did, only after I’d pointed them out, was I the only one taking in my surroundings? 

Around 10.00pm I picked up my iPod but only had it in the one ear, nobody went by without a word or two.  Just before midnight, my quads were starting to feel empty,  I’d covered 13 laps, 52 miles, I knew the chance of reaching 100 miles was slim but I wasn’t prepared to let go yet, when I’m on form I maintain pace like a metronome, I was on the “long run” section and near the end of it I caught my toe and went down, it wasn’t much of a fall, more of a well-executed SAS style drop and roll, the only discomfort was coming to a halt lying on my back wearing a bottle belt, I picked myself up and carried on no damage done.  Next lap I’d picked up my thermal mug with chicken soup from Val, I walked a good pace on the lumpy bumpy mile enjoying the warmth of the soup, I’d only drank about half of it by the time I turned on to the “long run”, so I closed the lid and ran, I was at the point where I fell the previous lap, BANG!  Down I went again! For goodness sake, you numpty, pay attention! I shouted in my head.  This time it hurt a bit, I landed in Superman mode, with my right hand holding my mug out in front of me, it stayed relatively full, the clatter had knocked the lid off and a wee drop soup splashed my glove but I’d managed to keep it upright, my left hip and elbow taking the impact. This time when I got up I walked all the way until the very top of the hill, the fall had shaken me a little, the “long run” section was the easiest under foot, how did I manage to fall… again?  Maybe I was more tired than I thought, time to ease back a bit and take more care. 

The rain was never far away and there were constant showers but never as bad as the hailstones earlier, the puddles on the loop had shrunk a bit and you could more or less get round them but the bottom of the field at base camp was a swamp with no escaping an icy paddle every lap, tents were flooded and had to be moved. As the night wore on I added more clothes, I’d taken off the “Ray McCurdy’s” earlier, but I had added a fleece over the long sleeved thick thermal under my rain-jacket, another pair of long tights and a woolly hat over my peaked Buff, around dawn, I added another layer, a light weight down jacket under the waterproof. The sky lightened, I never noticed any pink in it this year, the black just turned to grey but the water of Loch Morlich was as still as a mill pond and the hills were a mirror image on one lap.  The hundred miles were no longer possible.  I would just do what I could do.

I’d just left base camp, “OW!”  Had Ada followed me out with her fully charged cattle prod? My left hip felt as if she’d given me a belt.  It happened a few times round the lap, I felt a zap like an electric shock in my hip, making me buckle over briefly, I rubbed my hip, the skin felt tingly numb, was it from the fall or my just my lower back?  This was new; I’d never experienced this in a race before although my back has given my grief for years, with dodgy discs and wee bouts of sciatica from time to time.  I eased back again and walked bits where if I’d had the strength of previous years I would’ve ran, but my head did not go down, I didn’t dwell on past achievements and just went with the body I have for now.  Although this was intensely painful and my strength had gone it was not hard, moving forward with the minimum effort required for a mere 24 hours is a pleasure.  Hard was lying flat on my back in a hospital bed, not even being able to roll onto my side, unable to get up because of all the tubes and drains for the first five days after surgery or not being able to eat because of the severe burns in my mouth from the radiotherapy.   

My feet were giving me problems now, having permanently wet socks and shoes had taken its toll, I felt a couple of wee nippy bits and a small blister of my left foot but it was the right one that was making me screw my face up, I’d had the lace a bit looser than usual, from the lap with the hailstones the bones on the top of my foot jarred every step, funnily enough, they weren’t shouting so loud now, it was watching the blood seep through the mesh that was giving me cause for concern, the skin on top of my toes and the top of my foot were rubbed raw, it felt like having a cheese grater in my sock on the down hills, and it frustrated me that I was wussing down them, letting something  so shallow and superficial dictate my pace, I didn’t bother stopping to change my socks or shoes since two steps out of the tent and they’d be just as sodden again and it’s only 24 hours!  My race plan was adapted again, my goal now was just to finish on my feet, the distance was not important. In all the years I’ve been running I’ve never DNF’d, being tired, cold, sore and off target is not a valid reason, as long as I can remain upright and moving forward I will never give up.  I didn’t know until afterwards but both Pauline and Val (and a few others too, thank you for your messages on Sunday evening) were a bit concerned that I was very pale, 
photo from John Kynaston - Last lap
Val came round with me on my last full lap saying Pauline was happy to look after herself, it was just a stroll, at least Val had time to take in the beauty and variety of the loop and admire the giant toadstools wishing she had her camera, we paced it nicely that I was going slow enough that I wouldn’t have to do another big loop but fast enough to keep my circulation moving and stave off the post-race faint and I’d get back to base-camp just before 11.00am then I could just stay on the wee loop for the last hour.  I had to stand for around ten minutes waiting for the wee loop to open, Val brought me my blanket and a mug of tea, and made Sean look down at my shoes, no way was she touching them and neither was I at the end of the race!  The wee loop opened and I strolled round, feeling a bit of a fraud as everyone cheered and shouted for me, my pace did not warrant their enthusiasm.  I had to have a wee laugh at the absurdity of the extremes between two runners in the same race, me, wearing every item of race clothing plus a blanket, hugging a mug of tea, then Johnny Fling dressed like an extra from Baywatch bouncing along as though on a sun kissed Californian beach in his teensy shorts and vest, Noanie handed him a bottle of iced water and he poured it over his head, that made me shudder!
photo from Go Al Gannet
Finally the countdown and the hooter, I could plant my peg with my race number into the ground. Val met me and walked me down to Sean, I was treated to a wee sip of Jura from his WHW hipflask, a gift from Dario before he and Laura removed my socks and shoes, I was impressed that I didn’t swear and only uttered a lot of ooyahs  as I sooked in my breath, although I did have to tense every muscle in my legs so I didn’t flinch and kick them in the chops as they used the “allegedly” not so nippy stuff  to clean and dress my feet, they did a fantastic job without  boaking or flinching at the sight and smell.   After a lie down wrapped in foil blankets and some chicken soup Terry had given Val for me I started to warm up.  Sean said they’re about to start the prize giving and did I want to go. I wasn’t missing it, so I tied the foil blankets round me and headed out of the first aid tent looking like an oven ready bird. 
photo from Glenmore 24
The BaM team put on some brilliant races but for me The Glenmore 24 is the jewel in the crown and a very special event in my calendar, thank you guys and everyone there for a cracker of a weekend, let’s do it all again next year.

I completed twenty-two full laps, six, and a bit, small laps covering a total of 89.56 miles.  I am not in the least bit disappointed, although it’s the least distance I’ve achieved in a 24 hour race, on the grand scale of where I’m at sixteen months post cancer treatment I am doing bloody brilliantly.  I’m looking forward to getting some quality winter training, come next spring I’ll be back to full strength and raring to go.  

Saturday, 30 August 2014

This time next week…

I’ve just read my previous blog posts for the last three years of Glenmore 24 and I’m really really looking forward to running it again.  I feel I’m still heading into unknown territory regards my running and recovery, but all that I’ve done since the end of the surgery, chemo and radiotherapy has boosted my confidence of what I’m capable of, the West Highland Way Race was so special and I felt it was… naw, I can’t say the word ‘cause it doesn’t feel right to say it loud so I’ll spell it, e.a.s.y!  Completing the WHW was my goal, time irrelevant, so maybe because I kept the pace within the early cut-offs meant I wasn’t so wasted at the end, and the euphoria knowing I was going to do it kept my head clear and my legs fuelled.  I’m not into over analysis but this boost this has given me confidence to aim high, my pace is still slow compared to what it was pre-treatment but my goal is 100 miles minimum! 

A wee update on the medical side, my mouth is still very sensitive to a lot of foods, it is fifteen months since my treatment finished and I had hoped that I’d be managing to eat more by now, there is improvement though, I can manage a bag of Wotsits with a pint, they kinda dissolve.  The one big plus is I have recently had three visits to St. Johns Hospital, Livingston, some x-rays, and impressions have been taken, and they are working on dentures for the meantime but since the bones in my top jaw have not been affected by the treatment, there is a possibility of implants in the future, my bottom jaw is a different story, the bone is damaged from the radiotherapy and when I saw the x-ray I thought there are enough pins in it to resemble the Forth Bridge!  But loads of folk manage with dentures so I’m sure I will too. I’m coming to terms with the minor details of having two thirds of my tongue removed, like I’ll never ever be able to lick my lips, or eat an ice cream cone, there is not enough tongue left to stick out, not something you think about until it’s something you can’t do, but if I don’t have a napkin, I’ll have a sleeve! Go on, next time you’re having a meal try eating without tidying up the wee bits of food that touch your lips with your tongue and you’ll get my drift.  Anyway, it still beat the alternative, cancer is a bastard, and so is the treatment but hopefully I’ll be able to live a healthy life for a good few years yet.

Looking at the time, it is now approaching 11.00pm, next week I will have been running for nearly eleven hours, hopefully the weather will be kind to us, I’ll be picking up my iPod soon with my playlist of cheesy tunes and foot stompers, I only use music in the wee hours of a 24 hour races, never any other races, ear-phones are anti-social but I’ll only have them in one ear, the camaraderie at Glenmore is second to none, between the music and the blether I’ll have a good night, come the morning I may crash and burn and have to walk for more than I intend but I’m going for it, I have no doubt in my ability to push on when in discomfort and when Ada blows the horn at 12 noon on Sunday, I’ll be lying on the grass and my guts will be on the outside, no matter the distance it will have been the best I can do.

Last year I filled my decanter with another gift, the stopper hasn’t moved since, but I hope I’ll do it justice,  I will fill a hip flask with this fine malt and I’m hoping the endorphins coursing round my body on Sunday night will enable me to share a wee malt in celebration.

If you want to read my previous reports, here you go.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

A Perfect Ten

Friday morning saw me gently pottering about, I was calm and relaxed, all my gear was sorted by Thursday. I went to bed for a few hours in the afternoon, knowing I wouldn’t sleep but just to rest, relax and listen to some music, I let my emotion trickle down my cheeks, at last, the dream that has helped keep my head up for the last eighteen months was going to be a reality although there are no guarantees in completing the WHW, nothing was going to get in my way, I was as fit and as strong as I was going to get, maybe not as strong as I would’ve liked but on the plus side I have not managed to put back on the half stone I’ve lost, less carcass to haul!

Val, Gillian and Pauline picked me up at 9.30pm and we were in Milngavie in around an hour.  HUG FEST!  Thank you all, for the best vibes to take with me!  I also managed a wee goal, I was over 50kg at the weigh in, well, I had managed to eat a fair amount through the day and I was fully clothed with shoes on!
Monument Photos
 1.00am, we were off, I screamed “Wooohooo!” emotion crumpled my face but within seconds the big daft grin was back.  Milngavie High Street is a wall of sound. 

Mugdock seemed very quiet, with not as much chatter going on as I’ve had in the past, everyone is concentrating on the lumpy path, no one wants to fall in the first few miles, I did see a girl on the ground, she had other runners with her, so I didn’t stop, I hope she only needed a moment to gather herself and she was fine to continue. 

It wasn’t too long before folks relaxed a bit, I had settled into my stride, my lower back gave a wee twinge but settled down, my watch was on time of day, no pressure other than making the cut-offs, enjoying the blether when I had company and the peace and beauty of the WHW when I was on my own. I was with Alan and Tommy for a good hour along the path of a thousand gates and the road up to Drymen, the bats were flitting above, the sky lightened and promised to be a fine day, all was well.

At Drymen I just swapped my empty milkshake bottle for custard and tootled off up to Conic hill. Working my way up I kept looking over my right shoulder to watch the sun come up.  Ahead on the horizon a Saltire was flying and a kilted silhouette stood watching the sun rise too, a wee bonus for George while he checked runners coming through, the view was crystal clear for miles. Pauline had told not to take my camera, I was in a race! But I did take my phone out for this.

I took it very gently down Conic, I knew I needed my legs for later, I phoned my team when I was on the steps, my mug of tea and pot of porridge were ready and at the right temperature, and I went straight through Balmaha.
Gillian multi-tasking as chief banana bearer and media officer 
I’ve always loved the section to Rowardennan, the gentle ups and downs through the woods, my hearing has been slightly affected from the chemo but the bird song seemed so loud and all around. 

At Rowardennan I stopped to change socks and shoes, I’d worn road shoes for the first twenty seven miles and on my approach I considered revising the plan because my feet felt good and the path was in excellent condition with it being so dry, but I thought at this early stage the change would be pre-emptive of foot problems and trail shoes are a bit sturdier for rock hopping along the loch side and boulder kicking on Lairig Mor. I sat down, skoosked myself with Skin-so-soft, the midges were fierce, and I shovelled in a rice pudding as Pauline did one foot and Val did the other, it took eight minutes, but they did have a wee fankle with the hooks holding my gaiters to my shoe laces!
I was glad to get moving out of the midge infested Rowardennan, on the steady climb out I spent most of it with James, he lives in London so doesn’t get on the route very often, he was doing his second race, we had a fine blether and both agreed on how uplifting the majestic landscape of the West Highland Way is. 

After the long haul up the forest track I love it once the path narrows and swoops down to the loch, a gentle introduction to the technical section that comes after Inversnaid but here it flows nicely between the ups and downs, I always feel I move well and easily between running and walking, in sync with the terrain along to the checkpoint. At Inversnaid I picked up the milkshake in my drop bag, I noticed there were only a handful of drop bags left, being at the back was not problem I was moving nicely and I knew I would continue to do so. Along the scrambly Loch side I took it gently, getting to the top of the Loch in one piece was more important than trying to maintain pace, and it’s all part of the fun!  After the loch I eased my legs back into running and made fine progress up to Dario’s post, I spent a minute or two sharing my hip flask with him.

I got to Beinglas at just before quarter past twelve; the cut-off was one o’clock, plenty time,  it was lovely to see Helen and John manning the checkpoint but I didn’t hang about to chat, I walked on with another mug of tea and a rice pudding. 
Val - Bein Glas mug bearer
The sun was out and it was getting quite warm, but that’s fine I like warm, I enjoyed Helen Smith’s company heading towards Derrydarroch.  Once I was up onto Coo poo alley I thought there might’ve been more of a breeze but the sun was beating down on the hard dry path and I was getting a bit roasted, normally I’d run a fair bit of this section but I decided to walk until I got to the shade of the trees on the rollercoaster and save myself for when it cooled down.

Once I crossed the road I had a fine running pace going along the tarmac towards Auchtertyre, my legs are in great shape. Got weighed, I’m around a kilo down but no major problem, a hug from Lee and I’m off, tucking into my mashed tatties, and for instant mash they were rather tasty with broccoli and stilton, but I managed to inhale a spoonful, I coughed, spluttered, boaked a bit, my eyes were streaming, my nose running, I turned and blew a snot rocket. “Oh sorry David!”  Mr Hetherington was close enough to see my very unladylike behaviour, but luckily, far enough away that I didn’t hit him with it! I did enjoy my tatties once I got my breath back!

At Tyndrum Ken and Sue had joined the support and I had Ken’s company to Bridge of Orchy, I still felt a wee bit wabbit from the sun but we kept a good walk/run pace going.  I was looking forward to Bridge of Orchy, my first mug of coffee in over a month and a couple of paracetamol.  
Coming into Bridge of Orchy - photo from Val
There was enough Isle of Jura in my racing hipflask for Sean to have a wee snifter, I sat down for a sock change, again my feet were ok, just a couple of wee hot spots and with around two thirds of the distance done it was good to pre-empt any problems, my shoulders were a bit sore, Ken gave them a wee massage and I put on another long sleeved top as it was now just after six o’clock and Rannoch Moor would be cool. What a team! I just sat there and they did all the work within eleven minutes.  
photo from Val
Pauline handed me my coffee… “It’s not strong enough, put more in!”  Pauline added more although muttering that she thought it was fairly strong, but I had deprived myself since the 17th of May, I wanted it to hit me like a prize-fighter. Sue was coming with me now and Pauline walked up the hill with us to take back my mug once I finished my coffee. 
photo from Val
Sue and I spent a few minutes with Murdo, it was lovely to see him but tinged with sadness, he was meant to be running this year, Sue took a few photos and we re-created my favourite photo from 2010.

I love the wide openness of Rannoch Moor, on fresh legs it’s a lovely run but the constant gradual climb on legs with sixty odd miles in them made for a walk/run strategy but we still made steady progress, once over the top near Peter Flemings cairn I was looking forward to my mug of Mrs Baxter’s Cream of Chicken soup.  Getting close to the checkpoint on the lumpy bumpy descent I saw folk coming towards us, it was Ken and Pauline and she had my soup with her. Brilliant! Good thinking Pauline! I would have it finished by the time we got into Glencoe Ski Centre, so there was no wasting an easy running section on the tarmac down to the Kingshouse Hotel with having to walk and eat, I could run it all.

We arrived in the checkpoint at five to ten, it was still light but time to gear up for the Devil’s Staircase, Val helped me get more tights on over my shoes, I wasn’t messing with my feet, there were a couple of hot spots but not worth bothering with at this stage. I put on my blue fleece, I’ve worn it over the Devil since 2007 so now a tradition, also my bright yellow baseball cap, it was full of good vibes since Ally K wore it during his run round Skye.  
Val about to fight my breeks on over my shoes
Val was with me for the next section, a wee tradition for Val, I think this is the section she’s done with either me, Pauline or Lynne since 2002! After sitting down for a few minutes to get the breeks on it took a few paces before I eased my legs back into running, we were soon passing a few others along to Kingshouse, and maintained a good pace along to Altnafeadh, we had a good yomp up the Devil and caught up with Paul, he was supported by Val’s husband, Allan, who had also ran the first leg in the relay with the Carnegie Wrinklies, (just an apprentice since he’s in his fifties). I thought it was very considerate of Paul and I to manage our timings so that husband and wife could spend a little time together over the weekend.  Once over the rough path and onto the long descent into Kinlochleven Val and I left Paul and Allan, my legs were still in good condition and we had a great pace coming down, my mind was a sharp as a pin, heading into my second night with no sleep I have never felt so clear headed at this point before.  I’ve never had any exciting hallucinations in the past and there would be none again this year!

We arrived in the Kinlochleven checkpoint just after 2.00am, I was hugged and weighed by Julie, went for a pee in a proper lavvy and I was back out within minutes with another tub of mash with broccoli and stilton and I managed not to choke on it this time, I’d finished it before heading up the hill. I now had Pauline and Gillian for company for Lairig Mor. The climb out of Kinlochleven is usually a battle for tired and done in quads but this time my legs were fine, it was my stomach I felt, it was as if I’d eaten a Christmas dinner, my tummy was full, not a sensation I get very often these days since eating is so slow, I tend to stop before I’m full. It was time for a wee diva strop, more for the fun of it rather than being a proper petulant brat. I felt that my mashed tatties were slightly thicker than I would’ve liked and it was my team’s fault that I was in discomfort so I let them know.  Pauline’s reply, “It has nothing to do with the fact that you’ve just covered over eighty miles and you scooped them back in one shovelful then!”  I laughed but still milked my diva-ness for all it’s worth! We stopped briefly at the top of the hill to look back over Kinlochleven in the dark; there were twinkling torches on the hill opposite, heading down to the town. I wished them well. The feeling of fullness eased but I now felt queasy, my legs were still in fine fettle and I focused on Jeff’s burning torches and pulled them in. Just before we reached Jeff there was a body reclining on the heather, “Hiya, are you ok?”  He stirred and replied he was fine, just taking a wee nap, he stood and joined us, he was using poles, ok, he was a walker then, and not in the race, it took a few minutes to recognise him since it wasn’t polite to point my head-torch straight into his face, it was Jon Vernon, owner of ten WHW Goblets, he was doing the challenge, we asked him where his event finished, his reply was “I don’t know, I’ll find out when I get there.”
photo from Jeff - Wilderness Support
I didn’t take any of Jeff’s goodies, I was still feeling queasy, but we stopped for a wee blether and a photo then we marched on, I had small sips of my milkshake, the sky lightened and we reached the sheep pens, then we saw the smoke, Lundavra wasn’t far, lovely to see John and Katrina, Ken handed me a mug of hot chocolate and coffee, it settled my stomach and I was onto the finishing straight with a full complement of outriders, Val and Sue now joined Pauline and Gillian to escort me in, the pace was mostly walking but it was a good ultra-walk pace, I warmed up and took off my fleece, the chatter was constant and I was joining in, my head never went fuzzy.  When Pauline said we should run the wide track down to Braveheart, I replied if I didn’t want to run I wouldn’t, I wasn’t in a weary state that would be easily cajoled. Up the last climb, I liked it better when there were trees and you couldn’t see how steep it was!  Onto the wide track, it was a long haul down to Fort William and would be prolonged if I walked, so I started running, I could feel a couple of wee blisters on my left foot but that was all. Ken was dozing in the car as we went through Braveheart, I giggled as Sue knocked on the window, I wasn’t stopping, onto the road for the final mile, my body was tired but I had paced it to perfection, the whole way was a pleasure I did not have to fight for a single inch although I was prepared to battle tooth and nail to finish if I had to. My emotion was channelled into staying strong; my head was up, my arms pumping, past the 30 mile sign, past the roundabout at the woolly mill. I pushed into the car park, round the cones and under the finish arch, up the steps and slapped my hands on the Leisure Centre door.

photos from Sandra McDougall
I dropped my head and let my emotion flow, I took a few moments to gather myself before I took my hands away from the glass and turn round.  I have realised a dream, slapping my hands on the Leisure Centre was a vision I used if I felt myself struggle over this past year. An emotional hug with Pauline then the guy with the timing chip doofer found me and I fished out my chip on the lanyard from under my vest and registered my finish.

I remembered there was enough Isle of Jura left in my wee hipflask for a wee celebratory sip, I hugged my team.  Guys, I couldn’t have done it without you.  

Then sat outside in the sun taking in what we have achieved with a bottle of beer and a wee tin of coke before going for a shower, a wee doze in the car then breakfast at Nevisport.

Every year there seems to be more and more people at the prize giving, this family just keep growing. I had a lovely surprise from James Hill, he gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  This year there were 157 finishers with Paul Giblin knocking over 47 minutes off his record finishing in an amazing 14:20:11. He received a standing ovation for his outstanding achievement. The prize giving does take a bit of time as every finisher is awarded their goblet individually and in order of finishing to well-deserved applause. I finished in 135th position in a time of 30:09:57 Ian announced my name, another realisation of a vision I had in my head, the sound of support from my WHW family as I received my Goblet and Decanter for completing ten WHW races.
photo from David Hall
Keith, Bob,Me and Neil,  joined the 10 club this year.
I felt that finishing the WHW and collecting my goblet was my way of thanking everyone for their support during my surgery, treatment and the long haul back to fitness.  I hugged Ian, Sean and John then turned to face everyone… Everyone was standing! 

How do I put into words what I’m feeling? I’m sorry, but I can’t. But I do know that without the support I’ve had I couldn’t have done it.  My race was a dream with no trauma, apart from feeling queasy for a few miles. How did I get away with that?  Some luck, a bit of experience and a lot of love.  Thank you.

I have taken a long time to put this in writing, I wasn’t sure how I’d be after focusing for so long on this goal. Would I spiral into depression? But I can safely say that hasn’t happened, I think aiming at the West Highland Way race has given me time to get used to permanent changes that will be with me for the rest of my life without having to think about them too much and I can accept them now without crashing into despair. I don’t know when or if I’ll ever hear the words “All clear” but I know that at my check-ups every six to eight weeks they are happy with my progress and even starting to talk about reconstructive dentistry. 

The strength I have gained from the race and family has shaped me and given me the ability to face what life has thrown my way and I’m sure I’ll handle what lies ahead because I know my family will be with me whatever happens. 

I’ve been asked that since I’ve done ten WHW races would I do something else now.  Well, I’ve entered this race every year since 2003 I’ve had to DNS twice, in 2005 a brain haemorrhage in the April put paid to that year, and in 2013 a wee bout of cancer held me back.  I’m a stickler for tradition of course I’m going to enter next year!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Tick, tock, tick, tock…come on clock, is it not WHW time yet?

It’s nearly here and I CAN believe it’s going to happen!

After the Fling I wondered if the fatigue would come back to haunt me, but I was fairly sensible and kept my training easy for a fortnight.  Then Pauline and I went up to the Great Glen Way and covered 50 miles over four days with the longest run being the 19 miles from Drumnadrochit to Inverness. A cracking bit of quality running. The following weekend we were back up to Skye for Ally K’s presentation evening and although we didn’t cover mega miles we had some quality hill work and a bit of a raised heat rate crossing this bridge!

A last long run of 23miles locally over the bridge to Crammond and back on the 31st May 

then it was time to taper, apart from a cracker of a run at the Isle of Skye Half Marathon on the 14th June.  We’ve been going up for it since 1993 and it’s very special for me and the only Half I do these days. In 2005 it was my 100th half marathon and also my first race back after another health problem, it was seven weeks after having a brain haemorrhage, it was important then to confirm I was recovering and getting back to normal. Last year’s Skye Half was another tough one confirming I was alive and fighting (last year's report) it was the hardest race I’ve ran. So I think remembering how I was twelve months ago really helped make this year easy.  I bounced along feeling comfortable and strong, just running to feel, never looking at my watch, holding myself back.  The mile markers came in too quickly, it was going to be over too soon, the sun was out, it was lovely and warm, perfect conditions.  The last long climb is gradual to start with but there’s a steep kick at the end where after around nine miles you look up and the ground meets the sky with little silhouettes of runners on the horizon. I smiled when I saw the hill in front; it was no fight, sheer pleasure. I had to control my descent, I really wanted to let go and give it some welly but I needed my quads in tip top condition for the following weekend, so I behaved and scampered down to Portree at a sensible pace.  Great to see wee Fee McDee standing at the corner at Howdens, she ran a few yards with me and told me I looked brilliant, I certainly felt it, I could’ve went round again. (In reality it was never going to happen but I loved the notion) It was an excellent weekend catching up with friends we only see in Skye.
photo from Sarah Attwood
Ally K gave me back the bright yellow baseball cap I lent him during his epic run. I want to wear it during the WHW taking inspiration from him and what he has achieved.  Ally, I hope you don’t mind me saying this but you are my hero.  Around three years ago Ally gave up the fags and ran the Skye Half for a bet, then last year completed three ultras, the Lochalsh Dirty 30, the Highland Fling and covered 84 miles at Glenmore 24 before taking on his challenge of running round Skye and raising over £32,000 for Cancer Research this April.  Afterwards he modestly said it wasn’t him, just the support he was lucky to have. It only takes a wee pebble to cause the ripples in a pond, Ally, you are a bonny wee pebble with the weight of a ruddy big breezeblock with a tsunami of support, be proud of yourself and what you've achieved.

I will be watching this tomorrow, maybe more than once. Ally K Runs Skye Documentry

I’ve had a bit of a wee panic, my lower back has decided to play up, it niggles away most of the time but on Tuesday, it was really tight and sore and I struggled to reach my feet, I was relieved when I went for a wee three miler in the evening, although sore to start with it did loosen off a bit, and yesterday and today it has improved, so I’m not worrying about it, I won’t have to reach my feet during the race, that’s what my support team are for! No doubt something else will hurt more over the weekend anyway.

I have signed up for the princely sum of £3 for Si Entries to update my facebook when I swipe my chip through the checkpoint doofer and you can also follow the race here

Rampers and Rabbit the Bruce
This pair of roving reporters will also update my facebook and pass on messages as long as they can get a signal. I’ve been told to be nice to my support or they will update my status with bare bottom selfies and my undying love for Harry Styles! No diva strops for me then!

I have had great support since I first posted about my devastating diagnosis last March and holding on to my goal of running the WHW race for tenth time has helped keep my head up. But you guys have really made a difference to me, and I know you will be with me over the weekend. I couldn’t have gone through what I have without you, the practical help for me and my family, the wee gifts, the prayers, vibes and words of love and support. So just to say the words Thank You doesn’t express my gratitude, but I’m hoping that picking up my Goblet in your honour will do it.  

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Perfect Fling

I enjoying reading the nerves and excitement building on the Fling’s facebook page especially in the last few days before the race, on Friday night after all my gear was sorted I was starting to feel emotional.  Was I fit enough? This was going to be a big test.  Apart from three runs, Drymen to Balmaha and back, Balmaha to Rowardennan and back and Derrydarroch to Inversnaid and back, I haven’t been on the Way since the 2012 WHW race. But no matter how hard it was going to be, it was still going to be a lot easier than what I was doing this time last year.  (Two weeks into a six week course of chemo and radio after major surgery to remove a tumour along with two thirds of my tongue.) 

I was in bed by 9.00pm and slept fairly well waking two minutes before my alarm set for 2.50am went off. I had my porridge and dressed in my race clothes that I’d laid out on Friday but after hearing the wind and rain lashing the window I added another thermal long sleeved top.  Ken and Sue had picked up Pauline and were at my door for 4.00am. On the drive over to Milngavie the sky slowly lightened and the rain eased, when we got out the car I was surprising to see the rain had stopped; the forecast was for rain all day.  We registered, handed in drop bags and kit bags, and had hugs a plenty except for Johnny Fling, he was in blue arsed fly mode, a very organised and focussed blue arsed fly, we’ll hug him later.

Waiting to start is always the hard part, I was chittering and shaking like an old washing machine despite two long sleeved tops under my vest but I knew once I got going I would warm up.  John gave the briefing and a few minutes later we were off.
Before the start
Briefing - photo from Yi Zhang
At last, I’m back where I belong and I just knew I was going to love every moment, my game plan was to run WHW race pace, keep the effort easy and have a run that would reassure me that I’d make the Auchtertyre cut off in the WHW race.

The last time I ran the Fling was in 2012 and the start was staggered, but this time with everyone going off together I was amazed by the amount of runners there were but I never felt crowded and I was glad that I didn’t have to keep an eye over my shoulder for the fast guys coming past.  We had only been going for about fifteen minutes and folk were stopping to remove jackets,  I was at last starting to warm up, glad I braved the cold before the off, I like to keep moving and don’t stop at all.

Just after the Carbeth Huts I heard music and loved that someone was willing to get up at a daft hour on a Saturday morning to play her fiddle as we went by.  Along the path of a thousand gates I was pleased to see that there were a few marshals by some, holding them open as we went through also one runner taking a sneaky wee breather holding the gate open for me, I was a good few paces behind him, ok, I better keep up if he was going to be a gentleman!  I was happy to see the path wasn’t as wet underfoot as I thought it might’ve been, I had stuck with my decision to wear road shoes although with all the rain that had fallen I did have a wee swither about wearing trail ones but they were new and untested, my road ones were new too but I’d covered over forty odd miles in them supporting Ally K a fortnight ago during his 125 mile Run round Skye  in the wettest conditions I’ve ever had, and they’re hardly formula one racing slicks so I knew they’d be fine.

At Drymen I was rocked back on my heels by how loud the cheering was, a wee hug for Ada (she’s not as scary as she sounds) and I was heading up the path towards Garadhban Forest or more correctly Garadhban Stumps, I was looking for a good spot to pee without having to traipse too far off the path and eventually found a spot not far from the big gate before heading onto the open ground and up to Conic hill.  I knew where Conic hill was but it was nowhere to be seen, the mist and cloud kept it hidden but as we climbed the sky slowly cleared and at the top we were gifted a view up the loch that the racing snakes at the front would’ve missed out on.

My token gesture for the drop bag competition was to sellotape laminated pictures of Lancasters and Spitfires to my ziplock food bag inspired by my race number 633, I arrived to see Davie holding my bag singing the theme tune for The Dambusters, think I did the aeroplane thing with my arms. A hug for Davie, swapped my 330ml water bottle, stashed a couple of sweeties and drank my Weetabix on the go milkshake as I carried on along the path, I had to stand for a few seconds at the big red Fling bin as I drained the last of my milkshake so I didn’t have to carry the empty bottle to the next checkpoint. 

I love the section between Balmaha and Rowardennan but I think I’ve got a bit of a Bruce Forsyth syndrome going on, it doesn’t matter what part of the WHW I’m on I think You’re my favourite!
Edinburgh Sports Photography
Although I’d warmed up not long after the start, I have a wee saying - Ne’er cast a cloot ‘til Conic’s oot.  As the morning wore on I felt it warm up, I was not long past Millarochy and had taken off my gloves, peaked Buff and pushed up my sleeves but I was starting to get too warm, I was going to have to take off one of my long sleeved tops and that meant I had to do the S-T-O-P thing!!!!  Ok, but only when it’s really necessary! I hung my backpack on a WHW post, took off my vest, my thick top and jammed it in my bag then got my vest and bag back on just in time to join a group coming along. A little further on I laughed when Robin said “Choof-choof , choof-choof, choof-choof, whoo-whooooo!  We’ve got a fine train going here”.  Sure enough, we had a nice wee group working together with some great blether.

At Rowardennan I was ready for the mega decibels of support, picked up my drop bag, swapped my water bottle, popped my sweeties and a 150ml can of coke into the other bottle pouch which meant I had to move my camera in the tighter pocket which is a bit of a faff to get it in and out so I didn’t take many more photos, again I had to stand by the big red Fling bin briefly as I shovelled in the last couple of spoonfuls of custard so I could ditch the pot. 

Once up and over the long climb out of Rowardennan the path narrows and swoops back down near the water, I thought This is over halfway and I’m still moving well! I had my dinky can of coke and revelled in the way this section flows, with wee climbs, descents, a promise of the technical stuff to come but with some lovely runnable paths too, Inversnaid arrived like a surprise, I never noticed it get closer until I was there, the waterfall was spectacular after the rain.  A great bunch of smiling marshals were on hand to help, Simon handed me my dropbag,
photo from Sandra
Sandra hugged me and took a photo, John asked how I was, I think the word brilliant was used in my answer. Again I swapped my water bottle, took my sweeties, ditched my empty coke can and opened my Yazoo banana milkshake as I set off towards the hands on section, I was  half way through eating a Flump before I had to tuck it away, hanging on to trees and boulders was more important than eating, a few times folk would catch me up, I’d ask if they wanted by, some did, but Viki and Yi were happy to stay at my pace, Running Gannet joined us  and a few more, we had a nice little train going again, occasionally folks wanted past and it was no problem pulling into a “siding” to let the express through. I must say the courtesy from all runners and walkers was excellent.  We all reached the flat grassy bit unscathed and I got to finish my Flump!

I left our train at Dario’s post, racing or training I always pause to share a wee Malt with him, Running Gannet joined me in raising my hipflask, it was filled with Talisker this time.  After my sip I waited for the whisky to take my head off, my mouth is still very sensitive from the treatment although it is improving, but I just got that warm glow, a soulless scientist would say it was just the endorphins coursing round my body, I believe it was more the magic of the West Highland Way and the company of an Angel.

At Beinglas I checked my watch against a wee card I had in a pocket, my split for the 2012 race was 9hrs 56mins, I was not too far off in 10hrs 07mins, I was very pleased.  Once more I swapped my water bottle, stashed another dinky can of coke and a couple of sweeties in my bag and shovelled some custard in before headed up the hill.

The last section has some sneaky wee hills and some not so wee, I needed my hands on my thighs to get up some of them. I felt tied now, it’s hard to distinguish whether I was tired from covering forty odd miles or if it is still the fatigue from my treatment, my quads are still regaining their strength but I’m getting there.  I picked my way along Coo poo alley, walking most of it, I didn’t want to waste energy or risk catching my toe and face planting in the shit. The wind was picking up a bit and I was starting to feel a bit cold, I pulled my sleeves back down, put on my gloves, I had my peaked Buff on already, (Viki had got it out my bag for me earlier without us having to break stride during a wee shower heading up towards Doune Bothy, great team work, thanks Viks). 

After going through the big fence and up onto the rollercoaster the climbs are tough but the incentive to keep a good effort was to try and warm up and the quicker I moved the sooner I would finish.  I drank my coke, and found a spot to pee, I thought I better make use of the forest facilities before crossing the road and onto the tarmac up to Auchtertyre. 

A couple of guys I’d caught up to before crossing the road had asked for confirmation that it was only two miles to go, I was sorry to disappoint them that it was a wee bit further.  I had planned to eat another Flump on the road by Auchtertyre but I was breathing a bit harder and decided I’d be fine; I’d rather have soup when I finished than faff about choking on a sweet!  I just wanted to finish now, I didn’t have to kill myself pushing hard, my mission was accomplished, I was well within the WHW race cut offs, I’d caught up with Maja, this was her first Fling, she said it had been a battle and was asking me how much further, I reassured her with the immortal words, “Not far now!” we stayed together to the finish, I waved a thank you to the Piper, round the corner and our moment of glory along the red carpet.
photo from Stuart Macfarlane
I crossed the line and Ellen gave me my medal and a hug, I held on until my emotion was under control, this was so much more than a fifty-three mile race. More hugs and congratulations,
with Ada-  photo from Charles
with Charles
Mel was concerned I looked a bit pale but I felt ok, I just needed some soup, which I enjoyed standing in front of the big fan heater.
Enjoying the warmth from the big fan heater, with RG doing a bit of a Marilyn Monroe
I couldn’t be bothered waiting in the queue for a shower so I just stood behind the bins and got changed, I needed Lorna’s assistance to drag my Skins off, it was quite an effort as they were hanging on to my ankles!  
I had a giggle as Pauline told me about her race, she had bashed her head on a branch along the Loch side, knocking herself off balance and ended up clinging on to tree to stop herself falling into the Loch, scraping and bruising the skin on her arm, then having another go at knocking some sense into her bonce at the Crack Yer Heid tunnel.  You’d think with her experience she’d know how far to duck down! 

Sue and Robin finished more or less together with Sue managing a killer sprint. 
photo from Fiona Morrison
After she had a quick change we headed back down the road, by 11.00pm I was showered, in my jammies drinking my race beer with a plate of Macaroni Cheese, replaying the day in my mind, I don’t think the smile left my face all day… a wee confession, there were a few tears on the rollercoaster, the thought of running the West Highland Way race has kept my head up this past year and Fling has proved it possible, a great boost to my confidence, I now have no doubt about being timed out on the West Highland Way race and if I get to Tyndrum I will get to Fort William, it won’t be easy, my physical strength is not 100% but I know how to work with what I’ve got.

I haven’t drunk my Prosecco yet, I think it needs a very special glass and I’ll wait a few more weeks to have it, my tenth Goblet will do it justice. 

Monday, 21 April 2014

Ally K Runs Skye

I can’t remember when I first heard that Ally was planning to run round Skye but Pauline and I had decided that it would be lovely to go up and do a bit of running with him, especially through the night, that’s a tough time, you’re at your lowest ebb and it’s good to have company and we thought he probably wouldn’t have many others daft enough to volunteer for the graveyard shift.  After speaking to Ally at the WHW training weekend at the beginning of February he was happy for us join his support crew, so we arranged to have Friday off work and we would head up in the morning.

9.00am, we left Dunfermline in bright blue skies, as we drove up the road the clouds were slowly building and there were a few showers, Ally was starting in Armadale at 10.00am, hopefully his weather would hold for a bit longer, rain was forecast for the evening but it looked like it was arriving earlier. 
from Ally K Runs Skye facebook page
Checking Ally’s schedule we would find him somewhere between Broadford and Sligachan, sure enough just before Luib, there was no missing him, with two support vans with hazard lights flashing and “caution runner” signs plastered over them, they had planned a quick stop at Luib so we drove on and pulled over until they arrived, as we sat waiting in the car there was a young lad loitering, he was wearing shorts and a rain jacket,  Pauline went over to ask if he was waiting for Ally and would he like to come and sit in our car?  Probably against all the words of warning from his mother about getting into a car with strangers he was persuaded to join us while he waited, he was going to run a long stint and better to keep out of the rain for as long as possible.  It wasn’t long until Ally arrived.   In the lead van, the support crew was Hugh, Thomas and Neil. Andy and Karen were in the tail van, we also met Donna (Mrs Ally) and we were hugged by Ally’s Mum; she gave us her address where we were staying on Saturday night. 

So after a quick pit stop Ally was on his way and we drove on up to his parent’s house in Portree where we left the car, got changed into running/supporting clothes and had a large pot of tea and a fair go at the spread Ally’s Mum had laid out for us then Ally’s dad took us to Sligachan to join the support. There was a fair crowd, and a piper playing, Pauline joined in the running here, I did the easy job of sitting in a warm dry van taking the odd photo through the windscreen.  I didn’t feel guilty; I was saving myself for the night shift!
Hugh (young lad we enticed into the car), Ally and Pauline 
The rain was constant and heavy with no promise of it stopping any time soon, but it didn’t dampen the amazing support Ally received, there were banners tied to fences, draped over cars, people waiting in the rain to cheer him on and to donate a few pounds, a car pulled up beside us, the lady wound down her window and said “I’ve donated online but here’s another tenner.” 

Ally reached Dunvegan around 10.30pm, having covered over fifty miles maintaining a good steady pace despite the atrocious weather.  After being checked over by the doctor, had something to eat and his feet sorted he was good to go. Pauline and I swapped over, I was keeping him company now until morning but he also had a great bunch of runners for company too, Andy had ran a few miles with him at the beginning  and was doing some more now as well, it wasn’t going to be a lonely night. 

In all my years of running and supporting ultra I’m struggling to remember conditions as tough as this night. In 1998, going over the Devil’s Staircase during the night, supporting Pauline in the West Highland Way race was as wet but the thunder and forked lighting was a bit scary, in 2010, going through the night over bog and heather with Sue during her Heart of Scotland 100 was torrential too, running the West Highland Way race in 2012 was another soggy one but none of these events had the fierce gale-force wind that knocked you off your feet and blasted the rain sideways, stinging any exposed skin like bullets! 
Pauline sticking the camera out of the window
photo from Anne Morrison Beaton
At one point in the wee small hours when there was no other traffic on the road and the weather was blasting us from the right Karen drove the van on the wrong side of the road while we ran alongside, it was a brief respite from the wind for a short time, Ally was concerned for our welfare in this weather, I wanted to shout “For God sake, be a Diva! Don’t waste your energy on us! We can have a break whenever we want!”  I’ve seen quite a few and thrown the odd diva strop myself but I don’t think it’s in Ally’s nature to do the selfish thing, so I just told him firmly "Don't worry, we're fine!"

It must have been psychologically tough for Ally coming into Portree for the first time at around 5.00am, practically running by his front door and still having a long way to go. We had a wee stop in the Square.  I enjoyed the warmth from hugging a paper cup of coffee in the luxury of the bus shelter.  

We were soon back out and heading up to Staffin, at least the wind was on our backs now and was blowing us up the hill, the road was just a river, I scrunched my toes to wring some water from my squidgy socks and shoes. I felt freezing cold after the wee stop and my right jaw aches in the cold, I tried to keep it loose and not to clench it.  I think I was a proper surrogate Mum asking Ally, “Are you warm enough? Do you want another top on? Don’t let yourself get cold!”  

The dawn was slow in coming but the sky slowly lightened, Alistair arrived with hot bacon rolls, I did manage to eat nearly half of one before I broke it up and fed it to the birds. I was a bit concerned that I hadn’t eaten enough but I’d be stopping soon and I could refuel then, I had covered 34 miles through the night and it was time for a wee rest.  Pauline had been back in the group for a while so I was happy to have a break. 

The clouds were breaking up and there were wee patches of blue in the sky, the rain had finally stopped after falling constantly for around seventeen hours, the wind never dropped but at times wasn’t so fierce.  

Pauline stuck her head into the van and said to get the bells out Ally was just about to go through 100 miles, a major mile stone, he had never ran further than 84 miles before. I’d had a rest and my porridge so re-joined the group of support runners, it was brilliant that folk had managed to come along and do a bit of running, some went away only to come back and do some more, one lady I spoke to was doing her own challenge of running 5x50 which is 5km a day for 50 days in a row and she felt it a privilege to be able to do her 5km supporting Ally.

I had a bit of a giggle to myself at Staffin when Eilidh was filming a close up of Thomas giving Ally’s legs a going over, actually I think I pointed, laughed out loud and took a photo  myself, the cruel soul that I am, I’m sure the torture would’ve refreshed his legs for a bit!  

Ally is doing this Cancer Research and there isn’t anyone who hasn’t been affected by cancer, it was this time last year I was a couple of weeks post-surgery and just starting chemo and radiotherapy, some side effects are permanent but I can LIVE with them, my speech is far from perfect but I’m generally understood, and I'm still re-building my strength.  If it wasn’t for the funds raised for research, and progress in cancer treatment I don’t like to think where I might be.

The wind was even stronger as we headed north and round the top of the island, it was hard work trying to stop myself being blowing into the ditch when it gusted, I wasn’t much of a wind break but at least I could set the pace and I knew Ally was following my feet.   Every time I turned and looked over my shoulder the emotion rose into my throat, he was in a lot of pain but he was still smiling, I felt his effort personally, Ally was doing this for me and I would work my socks off doing anything I could to help, it took all my strength and every ounce of my seven stone ten to stomp up the hill keeping the steady pace into the gale, I fought back the tears and managed to put a wicked grin on when I turned and shouted “Come on, keep up!”  After working so hard on my second shift of only just over 12 miles, going from a mile or so out of Staffin to a mile or so before Uig, but I was done in and couldn’t keep the pace any longer, it was time to swap with Pauline again, where she keep him company all the way to the end, it was a nice thought that between us we’d manage to cover the whole way from Sligachan,our support was only a small cog in Team Ally  

The overwhelming support of the Skye community fuelled him throughout, from the pipers, banners on fences and cheers from folk coming out of their houses, parked in lay-bys, even a jar of coins left of a fence post, and the donations dropped into buckets on the day/s reached over £4500, Hugh was checking updates on his Just Giving page, and kept Ally informed it was over double the target!

Watching the final miles from the van I could see the effort show in Ally’s shoulders, his comfort zone was left many miles and hours ago, but he was still moving well. The support group grew, Donna was at his side, the Boot Camp girls joined him, they sang and cheered, I laughed later when Pauline said that the smell of freshly washed hair and cleanliness was strong, although I doubt the troops that had been there from the start and overnight would've be too whiffy after all that rain!

As we approached Portree the tail van was no longer needed for his safety, Ally’s Guard of Honour had swelled to around forty, so Andy, Karen and I drove on to the Square.  My mouth hung open, the Pipe Band was playing and I think there were nearly a thousand people lining the streets waiting for Ally.  I left my cowbell in the van; it wouldn’t have been heard and I can scream louder. 

Gordon Willoughby Photography
Despite his pain and fatigue Ally sprinted into the Square to the finishing tape held by his children, and into the arms of his proud parents. 
Gordon Willoughby Photography

Gordon Willoughby Photography

Gordon Willoughby Photography

The funds raised for Cancer Research will help carry on the work that has made a difference to my life and many others.  Ally’s Just Giving page is sitting at £29,780 as I write, well over three times his initial target, it also proves how well thought of he is.  http://www.justgiving.com/allykrunsskye

It was pleasure and a privilege to be there, there were a lot of laughs and a fair bit of ribbing, but what happens on Skye stays on Skye!  I shall always cherish my memories of an amazing weekend.