Saturday, 16 April 2016

Ally K Runs Skye to Maggie's

Wednesday 6th April, I lay in bed until 8.00am although I was awake, I was savouring being there since I wouldn’t get to go to bed again until Friday night, it wasn’t a daunting thought, I was looking forward to the adventure.

Pauline and I had an easy drive from Dunfermline and arrived at Ally’s around 4.00pm, I was glad to see he was sitting with his feet up, although I did threaten to duct tape him to his chair when he was faffing about. We had a huge plate of pasta before heading to Ally’s parents at around 7.00pm  to have a wee lie down and leave our stuff with them, we would be staying with Flora and Farquhar, for a couple of days afterwards.

At 11.00pm we were back at Ally’s before heading down to the Square to meet the rest of the team in the Lucky2BHere office where Douglas had a few words before we headed off. He had three rules, safety, safety and safety, being the responsible adult in charge he wasn’t going to have any of us end up roadkill.  
Photo - Hugh Campbell

The team - Graham - physio and nutrition, Clam - radio comms and driver, Neil - primary driver, Douglas - safety and logistics, Hugh - project manager and IT guru, Ally - the main man, Pauline - pacer, Me - pacer, Donna and Fiona did a fantastic job in charge of the chuck wagon, an army marches on it's stomach and so does a support crew, what a bonus knowing that as soon as I finished a shift there was hot food and drink waiting for me.

Thanks to Steve Millar pointing the camera ensuring Hugh made it into the team photo with the bonus of having it taken with a real celebrity, if you follow the facebook group Scotland by the Roadside you’ll know Blaze 

Just before midnight we down into the Square, the Pipe Band were playing and there were a lot of folks there to wish Ally well and send him on his way.

photos - Hugh Campbell

He looked a wee bit nervous and uttered those normal pre-big-scary-event words. “I feel sick!” I reassured him he was fine and bang on midnight he was off.  Escorted out of Portree by the blue flashing lights of the Police and if anyone was really observant following the tracker, you would’ve noticed he shot out of Portree at around 50 miles an hour, get about five miles away then turn and come back. I hope it didn’t cause any concern, the tracker was in the wrong van, it was with the girls and not the one that would tail Ally all the way.

The plan for Pauline and I was for both of us to start with Ally then swap over roughly every three hours all the way with both of us finish with him in Inverness and it was lovely for Vicki and Rachel to forgo a nights sleep and run with Ally to Sligachan.. It’s critical to have the pace at the start right, you’re fresh and raring to go but if you head off too fast you’ll crash and die a thousand deaths later, the reasoning behind having both Pauline and I at the beginning was to enforce a steady start, an hour or so into the run Ally kept looking at his watch, someone asked if he was ok, he answered yes and that we were going at five miles an hour. “Oofft! Of course we were! I could’ve told you that and I haven’t looked at my watch since I started it at Portree!” Was my fierce retort. Well, it was my job and besides I’ve been running in tune with my body for thirty years and wearing a Garmin for just a couple of years, no surprises what one I rely on! I didn’t doubt he trusted his team but there was no harm reinforcing his belief that we’d see him right.

There was a fairly heavy shower but it didn’t last too long and was on our backs, I hoped there would be no repeat of the horrendous weather that accompanied Ally’s last epic fundraising event, Ally K Runs Skye (my report from that here) we reached Sligachan, just over nine miles in just under two hours, a fine steady start for the first section with no major hills to contend with. Rachel and Vicki headed home, I took my first break and Pauline carried on with Ally for another hour before we swapped over, we weren’t too worried about hitting three hour shifts to start with, we’d just go with the flow of what felt natural until we’d settled into routine.  I joined Ally again around 3.00am for the run into Broadford, he was still a bit jittery, but not surprising really, the longer the run the longer it takes to settle down. We were all carrying radios but some of us have not been training in radio protocol, so I wasn’t sure about passing on the details of one concern but, hey ho, the crew need to know what’s happening.  Ally’s van - “How’s things? Over.” Me - “He’s frightened to fart!. In, over, through and off.”  But after a pit stop in a dark layby I believe he felt a wee bit more comfortable.

The dawn was approaching as we arrived in Broadford where the crew were given coffee and a bacon or an egg roll from the Waterfront Fish and Chip shop free of charge, their support was really appreciated, they had opened a wee bit earlier than normal just for us. Pauline and I swapped over and she was a little concerned about running after eating a bacon roll but she was fine.  Paul joined us, he didn’t know Ally but had seen his event on twitter or facebook and wanted to support him, he kept Ally company into the Kyle of Lochalsh.  

Although it was Pauline’s shift from Broadford I’ve never run over the Skye Bridge and I thought it would be lovely to do it,

so Donna and Fiona let me out the van at the roundabout and I ended up keeping Ally company for the next ten miles up the hefty hill on the A890 after turning up from Auchtertyre but well worth the stunning view, I’ve never been up this road before and I hoped Ally could take the same inspiration from the view I as I did.
photo - Hugh Campbell
He, at last, had settled down, around thirty miles in, one hell of a warm up, but now in his groove.  The team had settled into the routine too, Douglas and Clam in the safety car,  a warning for the traffic coming up behind us, then Graham and Neil in the tail van directly behind the runners, looking after Ally, then Donna and Fiona would go on ahead to boil the kettle and heat food for when we arrived with either me or Pauline cooried in a blanket wearing lots of clothes, resting.  Hugh, floated about in the vehicles,  camera in hand covering around thirty miles over all, running with Ally and throwing in a few speed sessions filming the runners going by then sprinting ahead to film again, (no wonder his calves were sore afterwards!)

Fraser had joined us at the Kyle, and stayed all day, covering over forty odd miles, until trying to find his car parked at a remote train station in the dark was a bit of a problem, a lovely guy with great blether who knows well the fantastic job that Maggie’s do.

There was a section on twisty single track, it was my turn in the van but I couldn’t rest, the manic  drivers around us wouldn’t let me!  The girls stayed just ahead to protect the runners, both vans were plastered in event logo, caution runner signs and flashing hazard lights but some drivers took no notice, the radios were vital here, warning of approaching traffic with the tail van and car controlling overtaking, we pulled over at every opportunity to allow traffic by but there were a few cringey moments with some drivers having no patience, but there were many that tooted support and slowed to hand over tenners and twenty pound notes.  
A woo-hoo in the tunnel and a toot-tool from the train

The road widened to single carriageway and Donna, Fiona and myself went on to the Strathcarron Hotel, chips were on order for the support crew and what a pleasure to use a proper toilet, bliss! I felt a wee bit guilty sinking into a sofa with a half pint beer shandy but any support crew worth their salt knows you have to look after yourself too,  the medicinal properties of a sparkling lemonade with the benefit of a splash of beer will do me the world of good, again it was lovely to see the support Ally was receiving, the hotel refused payment for the food.  Ally was using something called Huel, a complete food powder that was working well for him  along with other stuff but it was good to see Ally have a handful of chips,
maybe not what you’d call top nutrition but along with some homemade soup he managed stay on top of getting just enough calories in to keep him moving.

The sun shone, there were a couple of short showers, and even a rainbow, Ally’s brother Iain, arrived bringing their Dad, Eilidh and Lewis to give him a cheer, further on there were another couple of surprises for him, his younger brother Andrew was sat at the roadside with his friend to gave him a tune, next moment there was a deep rumble in the sky and we were treated to a low flypast by what looked like a Lancaster or a Wellington bomber or something like it!  Wow! Never did I think we’d see either of these things during the run.  

The road ribboned on or was a cruel straight with no end in sight, the sun sank below the hills. Ryan joined us at Achnasheen and great for Ally to have fresh conversation,  it was mostly one sided now, Ally was fairly quiet heading into his second night running with no sleep, his knees were now taped and being iced regularly, but he just relentlessly moved forward.

The sky was clear and the stars were out, yay, no rain, but that meant the temperature would drop, I layered up, three pairs of tights, two base layers, a fleece, a down jacket and my bright yellow jacket, I waited wearing a second down jacket over the top ready to take off before my next shift except I didn’t remove it when I started my turn, after a warning that I wasn’t very visible from the safety car, I faffed about swapping the bright jacket to the top, I didn’t attempt to zip it up, it probably wouldn’t, not over all my clothes but wearing a bottle belt help keep the edges together, I felt justified when you could see the grass sparkling with frost and the gritter went by!  One wee pitstop had a proper toilet, I was so glad to have the privacy of the ladies loo to get all my layers tucked in cosy, when I went back outside I didn’t realise I’d taking so long getting comfy but glad to see Ally and Ryan didn’t waste time waiting and had headed off without me, I couldn’t see how far up the road they’d gone and was ready to face a bit of speed work hoofing it back to them but Douglas was waiting, Hugh had had a pitstop too so we hopped in the car and Douglas drove us back to them, not sure whether to call it an oops or a bonus but I’ve now clocked a couple of PRs on Strava, an estimated 55secs for 400 meters and an estimated 2.56 for half a mile. Aye, the only way I’ll ever do a sub six minute mile is in a car! Go me!

In the wee hours  Ally’s answers to my questions were mumbled and vague, I radioed to get the coffee on, but not to worry, he just had the facial expression of the lights were on but nobody’s home!  After cutting out caffeine for a month it was bound to give him a kick and wake him up a bit, he still managed some nice wee hallucinations though, the rocks at the side of the road were full of babies faces and there were baskets sitting in the grass. This was my sixth run with Ally and my head wasn’t so clear and focused either, at around 4.00am, I could feel myself getting dozy, but there’s no way I could admit it to Ally, I’d only gone half the distance he had, although I don’t sleep well with my cheek pressed against a van’s side window I was rested!  Time to use every trick I know to stay awake, stretch my arms above my head, shake them out, take long walking strides swinging my arms, also my left hip was giving me a bit of grief, I think it was coming from my back, it’s been a bit grumpy for about a month, I had a sore, numb bit at the top of my left leg and when I prodded it, it gave me a fizzy in my hip, Sciatica? Trapped nerve?  Whatever!  Every time I poked it, it helped keep my eyes open. Bonus!

I was happy to crash across the length of the front seat of the van after that stint, Pauline and Ryan keeping Ally company until the sun rose, and with the sun rising so did my energy levels.  A pot of porridge, coffee and sunshine, I was a new woman and ready to do the last eleven miles with Ally. Quite a few folks had come to the lay-by to say hi, even local radio came for an interview, just after they left, a car pulled in, the guy got out saying he’d just be listening to the radio, he shook Ally’s hand, wished him well and handed over some money.  

The end is in sight but it’s still a very long way to go with a hundred and ten miles in the legs, this was where Ryan was absolutely brilliant, a fellow Fifer but he now lives in  Muir of Ord, and knew every step of the way into Inverness, he’d point ahead saying “Right, we’ll walk this little incline to the tree on the left, after that we’ll shuffle to the bend.” Picking the points for where to walk and when we’d run, the miles weren’t fast but they were getting done, the sun was getting higher and warmer, I no longer resembled the Michelin Man, I think everyone perked up as Inverness came closer.

Another wee pitstop in a lay-by, this one had a few well wishers in it too, great for Ally, not so for the crew who needed to pee, but the big white van was parked at an angle that gave a bit of coverage, I crouched close to the wheel by the open side door, no fuss, no big deal then popped in the van to organise my drink for the last bit, I stayed in the van facing away from the door as  Ally used the appropriate spot, Pauline was readying herself to run all the way in with Ally too, Ryan was standing by the van leaning in organising his stuff for the last haul, then Pauline announced she was going to pee, I raised my eyebrows as she hunkered down, ok, if she was cool to pee right beside Ryan, that’s fine, next, I stifled a giggle at her running commentary, “Oow, well, this is really worthwhile, didn’t realise I needed so much!”  Ryan was quite nonchalant as a tsunami of wee washed round his shoes, uttering  something along the lines of “I’m happy for you Pauline.”  Pauline’s jaw dropped, her eyes popped and she coughed and spluttered an apology, not so cool to pee beside a bloke after all, she thought Ryan was Donna!  

With five miles to go we pulled into a petrol station, Ally was to have his last wee break and headed to the van for Graham to give his legs a final going over and icing. He opened the door, the look of surprise on his face was priceless. “Goodness me! Mr. Wombill!”  (Polite translation)  

Robin had driven up from Perth in the wee hours parked his car at Raigmore and walked out the route until Donna and Fiona found him.  We now had quite a posse of outriders to escort Ally into and through the town, Ryan would continue with his guidance, both Pauline and I were now wear Maggie’s vests, Mark had joined us a bit earlier, Iain hadn’t run for years was now proudly going the last stretch with his brother, and Robin wasn’t coming all that way up not to run in with Ally!

As we approached the town centre, Pauline and I brought out our secret weapons, our Highland Fling cowbells to warn shoppers and folk about town that we were coming through, Ryan was carrying the collection bucket but I’m not sure if he managed to collect much, Ally had upped the pace and was flying through the town,
he paused for a hug with a group of Maggie’s supporters waiting for him. He flew up the steep hill on Castle Street, the rest of us struggling to keep up, or was it just me?  Robin handed him a large Rampant Lion flag with the words, “Today you are a rampant lion!” My emotion was stuck in my throat and was ready to bubble over with pride to see him run so well.  A young lad wearing shorts and a Skye Camanachd tracksuit top ran towards us, shook Ally’s hand and continued with us.  At road crossings we’d been sensible and waited for the green man but at the final roundabout the young lad stepped out and halted a big bus and the rest of the traffic so we could run through without breaking stride. (Afterwards he said that even though he wasn’t in uniform if you act with confidence folk tend to obey direction, yes the “boy” was a police officer. Hmmm, no comment on my age!)

Maggie’s Centre was in sight, Ally flew the Rampant Lion high above his head, his family were waiting for him, Eilidh and Lewis holding a finish line for him to run though. I couldn’t hear the support of the crowd, I was shrieking like a banshee. Throught the tape, he held Donna in his arms, I was bursting with pride watching him receive hugs and congratulations, he had done it, and I never doubted he would.

photos - Fiona Cruickshank

I was very impressed with the way he managed to speak coherently in interviews for the papers and telly, he looked a bit pale but didn’t succumb to the very common post big run faint, a major achievement in itself!  The run has been a huge success for Maggie’s, the funds raised have gone over his target and still coming in. Ally's just giving page Also the awareness he's raised that Maggie’s is there for anyone affected by cancer whether they, or a family member, or colleague has been diagnosed, just knowing that you can walk through Maggie’s doors and help is there for them, job done.

Now I know Ally won’t mind me saying this but he is not a natural athlete, he’s an ordinary guy with shed-load of determination and a heart to match, no matter how hard the challenge became he never lost sight of his goal,  but he would exasperate me at times, I had to physically bar him from walking back to the van to get a drink or whatever, telling him that if he wanted something that’s what we were there for. 120 miles was far enough without adding on because he didn’t want to be any trouble!  I’ll need to give him more lessons on being a diva! But I know where he get’s it from, Flora and  Farquhar couldn’t do enough for us once we were back in Portree, feeding us like we were at our Auntie’s, and wouldn’t even let us tidy the plates after we were finished. 

Ally, I'm so proud of you and what you've achieved,this was the toughest support both Pauline and I have done, with us overlapping at times we covered around seventy miles each over seven runs of various distances and it was a pleasure. I know it will be a while before Donna lets you loose with another big daft challenge but Ally, whatever it is, whenever it is, you're not doing it without me!
Ally K Runs Skye to Maggie's documentary


Amanda Hamilton said...

Bloody marvellous. What an adventure for you all and a brilliant achievement for the main man! Respect to you all! X

Helen said...

Great write up as always Fiona! Well done to you all xx

Anonymous said...

Great read Fiona and fantastic effort from all involved. Well done Ally superb charity and great run.

John O'Connor said...

Brilliant write up Fiona. Really well done to all of you. I must be getting tough cos I only shed tears a couple of times. :)