Saturday, 1 October 2016

Glenmore 24 - 2016

After last year’s race I realised it might be possible to make this year’s a wee bit more extra special than normal, I’d be completing my 100th race of marathon and ultra, and it would be the icing on the cake to do it at Glenmore targeting 100 miles, celebrating with a mile for every race would round it off nicely, an excellent goal to aim for!  Of all the races I’ve done there are two that hold my heart, West Highland Way Race and Glenmore 24, you can’t do 100 miles at the WHW unless you get lost but we’ll just gloss over that! I only had to find one more race in my plan and a wee low key ultra in Newcastle in January filled the bill, followed by the Deeside 33, Perth 100km, Highland Fling, West Highland Way, and Fort William Marathon with no problems other than a whinging right Achilles, I don’t do fast anyway and just maintaining a nice steady pace kept it manageable.

Pauline and I are lucky to have Ken and Sue doing our support, both very experienced, (Sue has her own WHW goblet), they have both looked after Pauline, myself and several others during our WHW’s and 24 hour races. Luckily Ken has a fairly big car that we managed to squeeze all the gear into and we were in the Hayfield by Friday afternoon. Club tent and flag and small sleeping tents erected with time for a tea-break before heading into Aviemore for something to eat. Patricia spotted the club flag and came over to say hello, as she would be unsupported we adopted her, three runners supported by two works perfectly and reassuring for Patricia's to have such experienced support for her first 24 hour race.

We headed to Aviemore and had a mooch in the all the outdoor shops, a couple of last minute purchases in Tesco and eating to the point of bursting at the Italian then back to Hayfield for the party with a Princess and Superhero theme, it’s the first time I’ve ever been to a party where the blokes in frocks outnumber the ladies!

I had a warm comfortable night, I don’t think I slept as much as I would’ve liked but it was probably more than it felt, it didn’t worry me, I was still well rested, the bonus of staying in the Hayfield is you can have a leisurely morning, plenty time to get ready, have two breakfasts and go over race plans with Ken and Sue, we packed away the wee tents, we don’t do sleeping, it’s only 24 hours!

I was looking forward to having a fantastic day out wearing number 100, I had a lovely surprise from Sarah Self, she wasn’t going to be at this year’s race as she was on holiday but a few days beforehand she’d sent me a card wishing me all the best, I had it with me it was hanging up in the tent with my two boys, Rabbit the Bruce and Rampers.

Bill did the race briefing at 11.30am and at 12.00noon we were off, a burl round the wee loop at base camp and onto the beautiful four mile lap, over the previous G24’s and my special 6 hour run in 2013 I’ve  covered 108 laps, it was easy to slip into the routine of where to walk and where to run, happy memories flooding back from previous years, I’ve had a few tough laps too, but they’re lost in the mists of my memory.
photo from Zander Beggs

I’d just completed two laps and not long out on my third lap thinking that’s me settled into routine when I caught my right big toe and did the fastest four yards of the whole race, I was lucky, my feet caught up with my face and I didn’t go down.  “Pay attention!” I gave myself a talking to, this was far too early in the race to hinder myself with sore and bleeding bits, it brought back memories of 2011, I fell on my second lap, Pauline was great support that year, she just handed me a stingy antiseptic wipe for my scuffed bits and gave me a row for lying down and having a rest.

Another lap, it was a lovely warm afternoon, you could tell because most others were in shorts and vest, I’d removed my Buff scarf, pushed my long sleeves up and I wasn’t wearing gloves! Actually, I felt a bit wabbit and was a wee bit sweaty, not a normal occurrence for me, I requested a wee sprinkle of salt in my mashed tatties at tea time, not something I’d normally do but I just felt intuitively I’d need a wee extra, I don’t run with science, heart rate monitors or Garmins, just with what feels right for me, I haven’t always got it right but I’ve had plenty practice and I trust my own instinct.

The midges haven’t been too bad at all but as it cooled and was calm they came out in force, I put my peaked Buff on to help keep them out my eyes wishing I’d remembered my clear glasses, we’ve still got some old Skin So Soft that works, so that went on too, my only problem was my new full length Skins have small mesh panels running down the back, the little feckers were feasting on my calves through my tights!

Another lap and the sun was setting, the colours reflecting in Loch Morlich, another memory, one of intense emotion came flooding back, my six hour run BaM allowed me in 2013, I was twelve weeks post cancer treatment, back where I belonged in the bosom of my ultra family for the first time, the sunset was stunning that year and prompted Runrig’s Hearts of Olden Glory to play in my head, again I was singing to myself, the lyrics will always grab my heart, I’m lucky to have the luxury of being outside with the rich colours in front of me feeding my soul.

The colours of Scotland
Leave you young inside
There must be a place
Under the sun
Where hearts of olden glory
Grow young

photo from Patricia Carvalho
My singing is not for others to hear but I sang out loud when I thought I was alone, I picked up my head torch and after another lap my iPod, in the darkness I had a party in my right ear, leaving my left one out so I could still talk to folk and hear what’s going on around me. Now this was the part I was really looking forward to, cruising round lap after lap, steadily clocking up the miles, I was on a high, Ken and Sue doing a fantastic job, feeding me every lap, I had no diva strops and load of fun, in the evening as Bill was doing one of the shift swap with the team half way round the lap with the wee buggy thing,

(dunno what it’s called, but it looked like a golf cart but more macho) I stuck my thumb out for a lift, I didn’t quite catch what he said as he zoomed by but the last word was “off!” I giggled, I didn’t expected anything less. I didn’t know how long I would feel this good so I just revelled in the moment and held on until I crashed…

My stomach was starting to go a bit queasy but we managed to keep it under control, Ken handing me a mug of Hot Chocolate I hadn’t asked for it and it helped. I had a huge struggle on my 18th lap, it was around 4.00am, I could “see” someone just on the edge of my peripheral vision to my right, they were very quiet, wearing black clothes and walking beside me, should I be freaked or reassured? I smiled thinking of my Mum, but she never wore black, I knew it was just weary eyeballs, a tired head and the edge of light from my headtorch, I was falling asleep on my feet, I shook my arms out, gave my cheeks a gentle slap, the heather looked so comfy, I could just have a wee five minute nap but I knew lying down would be game over, Bill came round with another shift change in the buggy thing, I moved left to give him plenty room but staggered into the heather, he was shouting at me again but I think this time it was “Steady on!” I made it back round to base camp without too much sideways extra mileage, I needed caffeine and fast, I have difficulty swallowing tablets but two teeny Pro-plus with the aid of a mug of chicken soup did the trick, next lap my eyes stayed open and I could move in a straight-ish line. The 18th,19th and 20th laps were my slowest throughout the race between (64 and 65 minutes) but I didn’t stress it, early morning is the time of day when your body’s at a natural low and I was still safely within schedule of hitting the 100 miles, I knew when the sky lightened and the birds started singing I would pick up.

Sure enough by morning light I was back clocking under an hour for my laps, for a brief moment I considered slowing down a bit because I was looking at doing about half an hour on the wee laps, (the final hour of G24, you can either go out for another 4 mile lap if you feel you have time to complete it, if you’re not back within the finish time it won’t count, or stay on the Hayfield for the hilly small laps, (358 metres) the thought of doing mega hill reps in the last hour with 100 miles in the legs didn’t instill me with joy but I couldn’t deliberately slow down to make it easier.

With my experience I never doubted my ability to hit the 100 miles but that holds no sway if a major problem arises, the weather had been perfect, so far my stomach was behaving fairly well if a bit queasy and my legs were moving fine, quite sore but you can’t expect anything else. I was nearly half way round lap 24, about 94 miles in, on the easy going wide forest track. Splat! Why was my nose an inch from the ground? Ian Dorey was beside me and helped me up, the heels of both hands were bleeding, I was covered in grit and stoor, I stood still a second or two, a bit dazed, dusted myself down just with my fingers not wanting to smear blood down my vest and tights, no holes in the knees, bonus, trying to suss if any real damage was done, only way to find out was to run… I’d lost my rhythm a bit but everything moved, a sigh of relief, “What a muppet!” I shouted at myself, so near my goal but could easily have been the end, to come this far and ruin it with a stupid fall, I gave myself another talking to! I’ll take nothing for granted until Ada gave me the horn.  

The camaraderie at Glenmore is second to none, no one goes by without a word, my last full lap I was walking up the hill with a young guy who was in the relay, Him- “Well done!”, Me - “Well done you too!” Him - “No, no, I’m only doing the relay!” Me - “That’s not an easy option, run like the clappers for 4 miles, have a wee breather while your three other team mates do the same, and keep it up for 24 hours, all this stop/start stuff gives you no rhythm or decent sleep!” He didn’t argue, and admitted he was really pleased how well it’s gone, he’d never done more than a 10km before and he has now completed over 30 miles in the event.  Fantastic achievement, he started running before we reached the top of the hill, I wished him well and to enjoy his last lap.

Every lap round it was protocol to shout your race number to Ada, this time it wasn’t just my number but my mileage too! I yelled “Onnnehuuuundered! Woooohoooo!”, Ada gave me the horn, I soaked up the applause.

Mission accomplished with 45 minutes to spare, “Oooffft!” I only intended spending half an hour on the short laps, I must’ve speeded up! My very first lap over 23 hours ago was 45 minutes but I wasn’t chancing doing another big one with just that time left, but it was no hardship staying in base camp, just hands on thighs, stomp up the hill shout “100” to Helen and Julie counting the wee laps, fly down the hill, keep the momentum for as long as possible then repeat, the support in the Hayfield in the last hour is phenomenal, everyone shouting your name, ringing cowbells, a few runners were back in fancy dress, a random passer-by may have thought it was a carnival on amphetamines but no artificial stimulants could replicate this atmosphere like the love and support from the Glenmore family.

Somebody said  Pauline was brave heading out for another full lap, nah, I didn’t doubt she’d make it back in time, she’d had a wee bit of tummy trouble but battled through it, she’d been ahead of me the whole time but never lapped me, she would achieve her goal too, she was targeting 26 laps with 104 miles to give her a lifetime mileage of 50,000, she came charging into Hayfield with time to spare,

we were laughing, pushing on for quite a few wee laps before the countdown, 10, 9, 8...I was at the bottom of the hill, right, I’ll try and get to the top before the horn and ran it as hard as I could, 7,6,5,4...

3,2,1. Finally, I could stop, and push my peg in the ground so my total distance could be measured. The bonus of finishing on the hill, I could lie down with my feet pointing upwards and my head down the way, it’s not running for 24 hours that puts your body into shock but the sudden halt at the end!  Anything that helps stave off the post race faint or puke is worth doing. (I have experience of both) Sue threw a blanket over me, at least she left my head out, I didn’t look a total corpse! After a few minutes to catch my breath and kind of gather myself, we managed a slow walk back to our tent. Again I lay down with my feet up for a bit, not too sure what to do with myself, Ken and Sue did a great job of packing up all our stuff, I managed a token gesture before we went over to the prize giving. A fantastic finish to a great weekend, everyone awarded their medal individually and often with a few “congratulatory” words from Ada and Bill. Pauline was 3rd lady with 106.21 miles, 10th overall,

I was 4th lady with 103.26 miles 14th overall from 89 runners. Also Patricia, our honorary Carnegie Harrier covered 98.58 miles, a fantastic distance for her first 24 hour race.

Where do I start, I’m not naming names, if you are part of the Glenmore 24 weekend, you are the reason magic happens, saying thank you is too teeny weeny to cover how I feel for the efforts given at Glenmore, my cherished memories grow every year and being able to run 100 miles in my 100th race of marathon and beyond is only one facet to what is a very special race for me, I’m a bit sad we have to wait a whole year to do it again but counting the days until we can. Thank you all for making it what it is.   

It’s taken me 24 years to reach this milestone and I’m not usually a stats geek, it’s just nice to look back on my running journey, a wee bit of trivia, the safety pins I use have fastened on every race number I’ve had since my very first marathon at the Black Isle in 1992.

Here’s how I made it to the 100,
41 marathons,
32 “wee” ultras with fond memories of races gone by, The Two Bridges, Glenrothes 50km, Draycote Water 35, loving the new ones like Deeside 33 and Glenogle 33
5 Highland Flings
1 100 km
21 big ultras with one 48 hour race, eight 24 hour races, two representing Scotland and achieving a Commonwealth Team Bronze Medal and my one and only race win at Glenmore 24 in 2012 and the race that stole my heart many years ago, it’s a pure pleasure celebrating life and health running twelve West Highland Way Races.

I don’t think I’d be the person I am today without running, the strength I’ve drawn from what I’ve achieved and from my running family has kept me focused through some very tough and scary times, I couldn’t have done it without you… and a set of very good safety pins!  


Tricia Littlechild said...

Fantastic, Fiona- well done on the amazing achievement, and thanks for writing a great blog.................makes it sound almost tempting!

Amanda Hamilton said...

Superb and inspirational achievement as always! Don't ever stop! X

Ian Garnett said...

Inspiring as always Fiona, a great read!
Makes me want to do Glenmore again now, you did fantastic and had a good run.
I first heard the word 'wabbit' used in work last week and just saw it again then - Still learning lol