Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Fabulous Fling

With Gillian volunteering to marshal it was going to be very simple for Pauline and I, Gillian would pick us up, take us to Milngavie, head off to Rowardennen for her race day duties then afterwards she would have a wee scamper down the WHW from Crianlarich, then head into the finish to see us in then drive us home, a great plan that worked well for all of us to have a great day out.

On Friday, I got my drop bags ready and took a bit of time deliberating what to wear considering the wintery weather we’d had the week before, bottom half was always going to be long tights and kilt but the forecast was promising so I decided on two long sleeved tops instead of a Duffle coat under my vest!  2.30am the alarm went off, I’d gone to bed early but like a kid at Christmas I didn’t sleep much, had my usual breakfast even though it was the middle of the night, once I’m in race day mode the normal time of day doesn’t mean anything to me, it’s just been a wee while since I’d got up in the dark!

Gillian and Pauline were outside my door at 3.40am and we were in Milngavie within an hour, the road was lovely and quiet at that time of day. It was great to start the hug fest, register and hand over drop bags before rush hour,  we spent the rest of the time hugging and blethering until it was time to head into the party pen. 
photo from Graeme Hewitson Monument Photos 
Yeah, I suppose it is a race and the pointy end was going to be exciting and no doubt a lot of folk have set themselves target times but for me that’s just a technicality, as much as I don’t want to waste time and prolong it, the goal was to have a good strong enjoyable day out regardless of the time on my watch at the end, doubt it’s a spoiler to say that I finished just five minutes slower than last year. 

6.00am, after a countdown we were set off in waves, it wasn’t much of a delay before the party pen were off up the steps and along the High Street, there was a bit of a giggle as soon as we were on the path in Mugdock, some poor sod fell, but was back up and running quicker than he went down, probably more embarrassed than hurt, oh well, if you’re going to fall might as well get it over with at the start!  It wasn’t long before folks were stopping to remove layers, I was just pleased that my hands were starting to warm up, it was a bit nippy to start with, there were wee patches of light frost on the grass still in the shade but the sun was rising and the weather looked promising.

Great to see these guys were back this year

Along the path of a thousand gates even I started to feel the warmth of the sun but I was just enjoying it, I have a wee rule, nothing comes off until after Conic, well, it’s an early Spring morning in Scotland, if you’re too warm you’re going too fast! As we looked over to the hills, Conic was the only one without snow but I bet it was still going to be chilly, the sky was clear and the views were going to be stunning. On the climb up I was with Amy, she said last year Graeme took a brilliant photo of her jumping and would I jump with her this year?  Err, I’m just a shuffler and I doubted my feet would leave the ground but ok, let’s do it, I’m here for fun after all!
photo from Graeme Hewitson  Monument Photos
After a bit more practice we took these photos of each other, the views down the loch was stunning, no better place to pause for a bit of fun, 

then nice and steady down into Balmaha, I picked up my drop bag, ditched my rubbish and walked on drinking my milkshake, and managed to guzzle it in time to drop the empty bottle in the Fling bin before crossing the road and heading up road to the turn up to Craigie Fort, Robin looked very comfy sitting in his chair, polishing off a runner’s left-over crisps while directing folk up the hill. On the stomp up I finally took off my gloves and woolly hat, still keep the peaked Buff on though, it did come off later in the afternoon and I even pushed up the sleeves on both my long-sleeved tops, definitely a lovely warm and sunny day, we had just a wee shower after Rowardennan that I had to pull my sleeves back down for with no need for a jacket.

I love the path to Rowardennan, through the trees with bird song, some gentle climbs and descents and a couple of not so gentle climbs but a good excuse to take photos. A little further on we could hear a bell and drums and a cheering squad. Alan and Chuck doing fantastic support, Alan held out his whisky glass, a surprise to have a wee dram this early, I don’t usually break out the Malt until I’m with Dario but what a lovely wee boost and brought back memories of sharing my hip-flask with Alan at Dario’s post a couple of years ago. Slainte!  

A lot of the relay runners went past on the path to Rowardennan, I was wondering where I might see Jo, running with the Carnegie Ramblers, I heard a shout from behind, I hauled out the camera and she was happy to pause for a photo.

At the checkpoint, another wee hug fest with marshals, then my usual routine of ditch rubbish, pick up my drop-bag and get out of there without slowing down much, I never saw Gillian until she shouted, a quick wave and I was off at a good walking pace downing another milkshake. On the long climb out of Rowardennan Amy and I were together again, we ran a lot of miles together, sometimes she would go ahead then I’d breeze through a checkpoint where she took a little longer, then she’d catch up with me again, as we chatted she said, “I’ve been watching you and you run like a fairy.”  I laughed out loud, she quickly followed with, “I don’t mean any offence but you’re so light on your feet, I can’t hear you breathe and you move with ease!” I wasn’t offended, in fact I loved it, I’m all in favour of a good mental image, I’ll hang on to that one when I feel like a shuffling sack o’ tatties, I shall evoke a light, flitting fairy and try to move like one. Amy is such a wee bundle of enthusiasm and I’m sure put a smile on the face of anyone she was running with.

After the big slog of a climb the path narrows and descends, I smiled, I love this section,
it’s a gentle start to the technical terrain of the lochside, I go with the flow, running and walking  whatever the path dictates, not stressing the pace, you have to pay attention to where you’re placing your feet and your running legs get a rest. I was aware of folk behind me and a few times asked if anyone wanted by and was happy to pull over when they did, a few were happy to stay behind me and later said thanks for pulling them along to Inversnaid, the past couple of years I’ve had a wee train with me but nobody was shouting “Choo choo!” like Robin, a couple of years ago!

At Inversnaid it was a dinky can of coke I downed as I walked out the checkpoint, I’ll be buzzin’ for the hangy on bits and big leg stretches for short arses, again not stressing the time it takes to cover the few miles to the more runnable bits near the top of the loch. I got my legs back into a shuffle on the flat grassy bit then moved between running and walking on the pull up to where you can see  Dario’s post, there was quite a centipede of runners on their way up and it gladdened my heart to see them pause and look behind them down the loch. On the steep climb up to Dario’s post I was with Silke and Amy, I asked if they’d join me with my hip-flask, it was filled with Highland Park, Dario enjoyed a wee Malt and I never go by his post without sharing a wee dram.  I laughed at a small notice taped to the rock, Keith was making sure nobody missed the stunning view down the loch.  (On days out I’ve taken time here and sat awhile just enjoying my surroundings and the company of an Angel, I once spoke to a walker that was slogging up the hill, she totally blanked me, neither pausing to catch her breath or look behind, it saddened me that she never knew what she was missing.)  We took a couple of photos then my camera died, not surprising really the amount of photos I’d taken. (my photos)

 At Beinglas I had something new in my drop bag, yeah, I know that’s something you’re not meant to do but I don’t think I was running fast enough to get gut problems, a small can of Starbucks Double Espresso coffee, it was ok, more milky than I thought it would be and not the rocket fuel I was hoping but it went down alright.

My plan was the same as last year, get to Beinglas comfortably then give it a bit of welly to the finish, in the past I’ve carried a wee piece of paper with previous WHW race splits to check my progress for reassurance I’d make the checkpoint cut-offs but I knew that wouldn’t be a concern so never paid attention to it all day, I eventually gave it a glance, I was on a par with previous years.  (Apart from wee training runs I was wearing a Garmin for first time ever during a WHW race only because I’ve now got one that the battery will last the distance and I like looking at the wiggly lines on the laptop afterwards.)  I was working the hills towards Derrydarroch then decided my quads weren’t for pushing on.  Ok, fair enough, just a steady slog in then, I wasn’t going to flog myself to the finish and thinking back over what I’ve done the past few months it wasn’t surprising my quads were grumpy, this was my fourth ultra this year but the other three have been on flat tarmac, and just nearly three weeks ago I’d covered seventy miles doing Ally K’s support, that wasn’t flat but still on tarmac.  I’ve never been one to over race but these days I don’t take for granted my health and fitness, I’ll cram in what I can while I can without being too daft.

So just kept an equal effort, I was looking at my watch now, playing the “It’s only xyz miles to the finish” game but I know better than to equate WHW miles with normal miles, I smiled to myself thinking “Aye, you’re not fooling me, I know how far it is and miles don’t come into it!”  and plod on. On the rollercoaster a relay runner went by shouting “Well done!” I replied with “Well done you too!”  She next came back with “Wow, I can’t believe you’re still smiling!”  She was off before I could say it was just my face, my quads were not smiling at all! If they had a face they’d be wearing the bawl like a hungry baby expression for the descent down to the road. At the crossing I hoped there would be no traffic to hold me up, oh no, a car approached, I’ll have to wait, but it slowed and stopped, the window was wound down and I was cheered over by the driver, WOW! Thank you!  Right, now to keep it steady, no heroics, it’s a long long four miles, I kept working, although I wasn’t pushing I wasn’t letting go either, my mantra was “There’s beer at the finish, there’s beer at the finish!”  Where’s the piper? At last, I heard him, then saw him, a big thumbs up as I went by, round the corner, I could hear the Fling bells and the cheering, I tried to wave to everyone shouting for me, I was on the red carpet, a high five with Johnny Fling, my arms were above my head, a smile from ear to ear, then I let out a “Wooooohoooo!” before landing in the longest hug of all day, thank you Julie, you know how to hug a runner until their emotions are under control. Another beautiful run on the WHW.
photo from Graeme Hewitson Monument Photos 

Caught my breath and loads more hugs, found the beer, yaay! Sat in the marquee with soup in one hand, beer in the other, fantastic!  

Pauline and Gillian rounded me up, I had a quick change before walking to the car which was parked miles away! Or so it felt, I’m sure my legs would benefit from the walk.  Another Fling was flung and well done to Johnny and all his helpers, this is such a great event, it has grown over the years but hasn’t lost any of it’s charm with being so big, you just get to make more friends.  

Thank you all for a fabulous day. Let’s do it again. Same time next year?