Thursday, 4 September 2014

My Quest for the Giblet

To say I was nervous is an understatement! How Thomas got through the last week before the race with me coming up with new symptoms every day I don’t know. From a sore throat to never known low back pain and right knee swelling that needed icing on a daily basis to plain nausea and headaches, he kept his cool and put it all down to taperitis! Well diagnosed Dr Loehndorf! He had every faith in me to get my goblet, eh, gilet and by the end of the week it was a giblet I was after!

On race day though he too succumbed and I could feel his stress and anxiety rising as we made plans how to meet me in the middle of the night after 44M by using the buses provided and bringing the allowed 30L backpack filled with new shoes and a total change of clothes, new gels etc. The anxiety proved to be justified as our meeting nearly didn’t happen. 

We got onto the bus that would bring me to the start in Courmayeur in Italy by driving the 30min through the Mt Blanc tunnel. I was so glad he was there and we found a cafe and free seats to bridge the 90min until the start. We met Terry Addison though I was no good company and eventually it was time to get into the start pens. Brief hug from George and Karen and I settled into the 2nd pen. Met John, Malcolm and Carol who then decided to get into the first pen, but I stayed put. Maybe not the best decision given the queues later but I had already jumped one pen and thought Id better stay where I was.

Finally we were off! The adventure was on its way! I had wanted to run up to a road turn that I knew from our stay in May but pretty soon the road out of Courmayeur was rather steep and the backpack heavy … I walked a bit earlier than planned and then the first big climb started, 1500m up to Tete de la Tronche! I power walked at a good pace but when the path narrowed a long queue of runners/walkers had already formed. I settled into the queue and everyone was working hard to get up this climb. We came to the gully at 2000m that had been covered in snow in May and I knew you had to scramble down a bit to cross it. Coming closer I could see a huge crowd gathered at the edge of the gully staring down. Oh-had someone fallen?! No, there were only 2 official paths down and people had to wait their turns, others were looking out for alternative routes (that we weren't supposed to take due to the risk of erosion) but I decided it wasn’t worth risking a fall and activating my helicopter rescue insurance at this early stage. So I waited my turn which probably took 10min at least. Once over the gully it got really steep as the narrow path wound itself up to the top. I realised I was already working very hard and was probably close to my max heart rate. I remembered that T had said to use up the gels and not carry them around. I had planned to save them for difficult times but I realised eating 3 jelly babies every 30min for an effort like this wouldn’t cut it. So I did use the gels and kept up a steady pace. Some people stepped aside to take a break but I kept going slowly but surely. No point stopping as it wouldn’t get easier afterwards. Everybody was head down and upwards. Sometimes the whole queue came to a halt as somewhere someone was going even slower. Due to the steepness it was then rather difficult to find a comfortable position for my feet and I spent a lot of time on my toes or at an awkward angle during those enforced pauses. I tried to make small talk on a few occasions, offered French, German or English but to my surprise I got nothing back. It was a first indication that this race was all about putting your head down and getting on with it. When we got to the top of the climb over 2500m the views were stunning. I marvelled briefly and again tried to get a reaction from fellow runners but - nothing. O well then. Then came a nice run along a ridge that was runnable even for me and I knew Thomas would be around Bertone Hut 15km into the race taking photos. He wasn’t allowed to help me but he was a welcome sight when I reached the hut after 4 hours. The downhill had been fairly fast for me as people were hurtling themselves down and I just thought how would these quads survive this? I took it easier and wanted to smile when I saw Thomas but I guess he realised I was working hard already. He shouted at me to drink Coke, which was a bit early on but I could certainly do with some so I drank 2 small cups. He thought I was doing well in around 1400 position though later on his tune changed! :-)

Now I was on a path that I had ran in May and I was looking forward to it. The time barrier for Arnuva at 16:30 and km 27 in my head I pressed on and arrived there around 15:00. This was the first major checkpoint before the next big climb up to over 2500m so I decided to refuel and take my first of many bowls of noodle soup! I refilled my water bottles, Nuun tab into one to make up my electrolyte drink and plain water in the other bottle. Off to tackle the 2nd big climb. Again I was working hard keeping up a rhythm, not stopping and dealing with the altitude as we reached Grand Col Ferret. There I put on a long sleeved top and started the long descent into Switzerland to La Fouly. This is where it started to rain and would not stop throughout the night for the next 8 hours or so. 

The descent was steep in places and started to become muddy and slippery.  I would step aside to let runners past or ask if they wanted to pass. Some did some didn’t. But then there were those who just shouted “Bouge”, not “bouge s’il te plait” just bouge! No “Merci” once they were past either. Imagine someone would just shout “move” on the Loch Lomond site path and push by you without saying thanks! Initially I was annoyed but then realised I shouldn’t waste any energy on this. 
When I reached La Fouly at 42km (Marathon distance) I had to sit down for the first time, I needed hot soup, food and a cup of coffee. I also needed to gear up properly, Goretex jacket, rain trousers and it was time to put the head torch on. I discovered some marzipan on the table and took a few pieces. By then my  own usually delicious energy bar tasted so dry, the bread and cheese were hard to swallow but I knew my energy reserves were getting depleted as I’d never worked at such an effort for such a long time. This was the only place I got a nice Good Luck from a fellow runner when I left the tent again. The descent continued before a steep climb up to Champex at km 56, the “half way” point. I continued to feel hounded by all the runners that were still around me on these  narrow slippery paths and by the time-barriers that were getting closer instead of further away. At one point I had my phone in the hand to ring Thomas but put it away again as all I would have done would have been crying. I told myself to get to half-way and then speak to him. When I arrived in Champex there was chaos in the tent, it was busy, people sleeping with their head down on the tables, mud, rain, I phoned Thomas and said I would make it to Trient, the next checkpoint where he would be and then I would see. I felt totally rushed, couldn’t relax and nobody would speak! He didn’t say much and I set about at sorting myself out. This was one of the more difficult parts of the race as you had no support crew helping you, telling you what to do/eat/drink, sorting your shoes/feet, you were it and had to deal with it yourself. I put on my mid-layer as the rest was now wet from sweating so much on the uphills, had more soup, overheard someone saying he would take a hot drink for the next high climb, decided that sounded like a good idea, chucked out my electrolyte, put black tea in it with sugar and set off. Then I was worried that my bottle would melt or I couldn’t drink tea as I’m not really a black tea person! But it was delicious and reminded me of our Kilimanjaro expedition where we were given hot tea with sugar too. The only thing that kept me going uphill and over the next high climb was knowing I would meet Thomas in Trient, 72km into the race, around 44M. I could then get onto the bus with him and back to the hotel. Who needs a gilet?! Stopping in Champex would have been a nightmare for getting back so I thought I would definitely get to Trient. 

What I didn’t know was that he nearly didn’t make it as he was waiting on a bus for 2.5 hours. He knew how much I relied on him being there but couldn’t do anything about it. Then our friend Dirk came to the rescue. He drove from Zuerich to Trient (3hrs drive) so that at least he’d be there to help me even if there were no dry clothes.  While this went on I set about climbing the next mountain, it was raining heavily by now, all I could see was the path in front, the calves and in most cases compression socks of the runner in front and rain. At the top I took a wee rest and started the descent. This was to be one of 2 most treacherous and slippery descents I ever had to negotiate. All I saw was the next mud patch in my headlight or the next tree root covered in mud while hearing water deep below me to my right or seeing pure darkness at the edge of the patch. That might  have been as well as seeing the drop on my right wouldn’t have helped my confidence in finding the next least muddy root to place my foot and hoping I wouldn’t slip. All the time balancing myself with my walking poles. My arms have never worked so hard as I held on to the poles for dear life! It took ages to get down to Trient. 

Arriving at Trient checkpoint I saw Thomas and Dirk waiting and burst into tears! Only Thomas was allowed into the tent and he set about at changing my torch batteries, drying my Goretex jacket, handing me a towel, dry clothes, new  gels, a protein shake. Somehow there was no talk of stopping! I went into the portaloo and acrobatically changed everything! More soup, more tea with sugar. And off I went. I  had new gels now and a few pieces of life-saving ginger tablet left. I had accidentally bought the wrong tablet but the ginger in it proved to be great as it settled my stomach nicely in between checkpoints and gave me a quick sugar boost.

Another long ascent followed, all I knew was by the time I got down again I would be in Vallorcine at km 82 and from then on I knew the way (and it would be less than a HM)! It was still pitch dark and as muddy as before. At the top of that climb we came to grassy surfaces that had turned into a sea of mud. It was like walking through soap. There were still a lot of fellow runners around and a couple doing the race together. Once at the top the guy just said I will lay down now for a bit and before she could stop him he was in the mud! She was not pleased! There were short bits where I was sort of alone or in front and it was my turn to find the next fluorescent marker hanging from the tree. That was actually fun and I thought my nephews would love it. At one point I could hear the cow bells and I thought I must be close to the next checkpoint and supporters will be ringing the bells but when I turned my head my torch shone right into the face of a cow right next to me chewing away. It made me laugh. At other times I would try to match the rhythm of the guy in front placing my feet and poles exactly at the same points. I took note of the compression gear, shoes and poles and later tried to decide if I had seen the calves/socks/shoes in front of me before. It kept me occupied for a while. Most of the time though I was on alert, totally concentrated not to slip and to move forward. When I was alone or out of ear-shots I did swear a few times when the path was just too steep and all I could do was sliding down.

After what felt like a long time I finally got down to Vallorcine, back in France and the last checkpoint. It was around 06:00. Dirk met me and asked if I wanted chips! I usually love chips but I wasn’t sure if I could eat them. Thomas greeted me with saying: “If you keep moving at this pace you will be timed out and not make it into Chamonix on time! Your predicted finish time is 12:23!” Hmm! I wasn’t allowed to take stones out of my shoes, took some soup, took one look at the portaloo (I hope that most of it was mud but it could have been something else so I aborted the toilet stop too) and set off to the Col des Montets. The chips were in fact delicious and I power walked by a lot of fellow competitors and got to the Col in 30min. I heard the guy at the control point saying to someone else that I was moving really fast as I had just come up in only 30min. This was in fact faster than when I had done it a few days earlier during my last training interval.

The last climb loomed but I was feeling ok. In fact I was held up by slower people but eventually we reached the top. The view was breathtaking as I found myself above the clouds. Thomas had told me before that there were definitely runnable bits up there but I took one look at them and decided no! The rocks were covered in mud from over one thousand other runners and the risk of sliding and falling continued. Even though the sun was out and the rain had stopped in the morning. I pressed on to La Flegere where the path ended on the terrasse of a cafe near the lift station. The owner stepped out and I asked him if I could use his toilet. He took one look at me and my muddy shoes but then allowed me to walk over his freshly cleaned tiles and use the very clean toilet. Bliss!  I thanked him profusely. Now I was ready for the last descent! Last chip timing in the tent, a medic was looming about, I just smiled and said Bonjour, she wouldn’t stop me!, drank a cup of coke and down I went the last 5M. I became a bit emotional as I realised this was it and it looked like I was going to complete this race. But it didn’t help my breathing so I gave myself a talking, kept saying to myself to concentrate, not to risk a fall and a possible broken bone at this stage. There were still 600m downhill to do. I reached the beautiful Chalet Floria half way down and waded through a few streams to clean my shoes a bit and cool my feet. Finally I arrived in Chamonix, 1km to go on the road. I put my poles away, tears were back and I tried to gather myself for the final run through the pedestrian area to the finish. 
It was done! I did it! We did it!

Thank you for all your thoughts, comments and texts. Going through all the checkpoint updates afterwards I kept finding your comments. Knowing that so many people would follow me and wish me on, did help a lot. Especially at night time. I kept thinking, what reason will I give for stopping, that I didn’t enjoy it? That it was too dangerous? That the atmosphere wasn’t friendly? And I thought about how much not only I but also Thomas had put in to get me ready, all those who helped me train, the birthdays and first-day at school that I missed because of this race. And I said to myself, no way, I will get this done, I will get this giblet! 

I know Thomas wanted me to do this in less than 24hrs, I knew I’d probably need more but certainly didn’t think I’d leave it that close. In the end I arrived after 25h 55min with 35min to spare until cut off, having covered 101km and 6000m ascent and 6000m descent. 

It was my toughest challenge to date. Despite being surrounded by nearly 2000 runners it was a very lonely race, I missed the camaraderie of the WHW family, the banter along the route, the support of fellow runners, the relaxed atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong the volunteers and supporters along the route were great as was the crowd in Chamonix, but during the race it was a very tense atmosphere. It took me 6 hrs to get into it and I thought others would also relax once the first time barrier was successfully passed, but it didn’t happen. Maybe it was a bit too big and too competitive for me? 

It was great to share this experience with the WHW-family who was out there, without them it wouldn’t have been the same! 

I’m still feeling rather proud that I did finish this race but I couldn’t have done it without you! Merci beaucoup!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

My journey to Chamonix

I’ve had an eye on one of those finisher’s gillets since 2010! Our first encounter with the UTMB. Both Thomas and I had a place in the CCC, holidays were booked but we then unexpectedly moved house 6 weeks before the race and training didn't go well. In fact I had hardly done anything but we went and decided to savour the atmosphere and see how far we’d get! We had no idea what to expect and after a short walk uphill to a hut a few days before the race and downhill, my legs were like jelly! We still joined the start line and were soaked to the skin before the race set off! The forecast was awful, we hadn't even brought our goretex jackets with hats and I got a text from Thomas after 4-5M into the race that we were stopping! I didn’t argue and we were the first “abandonnes”! Back in Chamonix we got a lot of stick for it from our lovely friends (you know who you are! :-)) but come nightfall it was clear that the conditions were horrendous. And the race was stopped in the middle of the night. I was quite proud of my weather-man!

So 4 years later I have a place at the start line again and my eyes are firmly set on the gillet (Finisher-jacket)!

Timing again wasn’t optimal as I didn’t train much until April due to work. Once I had cut down my hours to 75% I was going to kick-start my serious training only to sprain my ankle! I had another blip in July when I lost quite a few days due to a chest infection. My 6-week pre-race plan was hampered by colleagues wanting to take 3 weeks of leave at short notice meaning I had to cover them. The Commonwealth Games were my own in-built difficulty but I didn’t want to miss this opportunity.

So time was precious and I left it all for Thomas to work out! When I should do which run, what distance, how much descent and ascent, back-to-backs or really long runs, efforts, hills, recovery runs. 

I have had great solo runs during my training, beautiful sunshine on Arran with an overnight stay, double Ben Lomond and I was fortunate to have friends join me for other training runs. Thank you all! I have discovered a whole new world of trails over in Dunoon, expertly guided by one of my new colleagues (recently completed her 1st ultra and aiming for the Devil next year). My favourite run, the Loch Eck loop, 21M, was done on a few occasions, Ben More and the Volcano trail and Chinese Lakes. 

Thomas and I had a fantastic week in Courmayeur reccing the route where possible. I know exactly what I am going to do for the first ascent (Ben Nevis height gain) and I have done the last stages from Vallorcine. I know what’s coming and I know I can do it!
I even succumbed to the Hoka craze! And yes I will be running the race in my Hoka Stinsons!

My preparation has been as good as it could have been. I WILL be prepared for bad weather and invested in a pair of Sealkins soft gloves. I couldn’t believe how cold I was the other week getting caught in heavy rain on Ben Lomond, I could hardly open my food. So the gloves might be a race saviour! I will take my proper Goretex jacket unless the forecast is very good. And I will be standing on the start with a rain poncho if required to keep me dry until countdown!

All credit once again must go to my coach! Thomas has been fantastic. With him not being able to run I have felt bad at times coming home from great runs. I tried not to talk about them too much. But the guy he is, he was happy for me and didn’t tire laying out my training plan and adjusting it day by day. He had food ready when I got home and cleaned my shoes. He knew when to put pressure on me when I didn’t feel like going out for a run. “I would if I only could!” and I immediately felt bad and put my shoes on.
He also thought 3 days without running (Mo-Wed my longest days at work) would be too much and if I didn't feel like running after work I should go out BEFORE. At 5am precisely. For a recovery run. Well I did it while he turned round in bed to sleep for a further 3 hours!

He has kept me calm when I thought I might have bitten off something too big. And he’s got a lot more of that to do until next week! We have invested in a 30Euro bus ticket for him to accompany me to Courmayeur to keep me company until the start. And it will allow him to maybe see me en route. Though this will be in the last 3rd of the race as it is very impractible to reach the half way point. Otherwise I will rely on myself and the aid stations. I will miss my WHW Race support crew who did such a great job in getting me to the finish in 2012. I know I can be on my feet for 29 and a half hours so surely 26 and a half should be a doddle?! 

The CCC is going to be a great adventure and challenge to see if I am able to cope in the mountains over that terrain and distance on my own. I hope the weather will be good enough to enjoy the beautiful scenery. 

I am already visualising my arrival in Chamonix but I also know that anything can happen on the way. My 2 concerns are the first time barrier in Arnuva. Which Thomas thinks is no problem! And my right knee. Its been giving me some discomfort on steep downhills and we know there will be many of those! I hope it will hold up and allow me to keep going. I will be using poles and in fact have got the Audi of poles, Diamond Z-poles recommended by Bob Allison. They are superb!

My plan is to set off a bit faster at the beginning to avoid the queues on the narrow paths, I am looking forward to getting up onto the Tete de la Tronche, what a beautiful ridge, then I will pass Bertone hut and Bonatti hut, a trail I have been on. 
Thomas best pieces of advice in the last few days: 1) rest is good training.
2) Don’t you befriend anyone during the race so you're not feeling obliged to stick with them! Run your own race! :-) He means well! 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

My Olympic Year 2012

What a year of sports it has been! Not just for all those Olympic and Paralympic athletes, the Games Makers, London, the UK, but also for little old me (and not to forget Tam).

I have completed my biggest sporting challenge to date, the WHW Race, proudly received my Goblet and raised over £1000 for Ardgowan Hospice along the Way. All this only made possible by the tireless efforts of my support crew.

I also completed the Triple Crown, finishing both the Highland Fling Race and The Devil O The Highlands in 2012.

I was awarded a Meritorious Award, the Harkness Challenge Trophy, by my club, Greenock Glenpark.

And to round off my sporting year, I managed to skate to a new PB of 1:38:33 at the Berlin Inline Marathon. I got under 1:40 for the 1st time despite a spectacular fall in the last 5 miles. And I had only been back on skates for the previous 4 weeks. What could I do if I skated regularly?!

I am sure Tam will blog himself, but I just have to briefly mention his great achievements this year. It was his most successful one to date, Scottish 100K Champion and Winner of the Devil O The Highlands Race. Can this be topped?!
There are so many fantastic memories from all these races, encounters with fellow runners and fellow supporters, the changing scenery, from the heat of the Devils to the pouring rain of the WHW Race.
But in my mind I often go back to the WHW Race. Strangely I seem to have forgotten that it poured non-stop for the first 14 hours! I remember how focused I was and how I knew it was “now or never”. How high my spirits were for most of the time and how my support crew did their best to keep them up. How I ticked off one milestone after the other, looking forward to the next meeting point. I remember my lengthy stop at Auchtertyre and my only little tantrum when my support crew could not find the exact shirt I wanted. The hike across the Devil’s staircase with Thomas when it was getting dark and he thought it was so romantic! The arrival at Kinlochleven in the middle of the night when all of a sudden you were in a buzzing place, lights, people, chatter before climbing up to the Lairig Mor. This is where my high spirits left me for a bit as the pain in my feet was pretty terrible. But Lundavra came and my whole support crew joined in for the last few miles. There was laughter, singing, chatting, hallucinations (only me) and a great sense of achievement from everyone! And I think this will be my lasting memory, how we all covered the last few miles together to get me to the finish.
And finally Thomas also managed to get the video clips from my finish uploaded. So here it is: My WHW Race Finish - my biggest sporting achievement in 2012. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A Devil and a Crown

11 days ago I ran the Devil o The Highlands 43M Race from Tyndrum to Fort William. What a glorious day we had with fantastic views!
(Photo by Fiona Rennie)
I had been looking forward to this race for a long time for various reasons. It is my favourite part of the WHW, it was my very first ultra race in 2009 and this year it would be the grand finale of my ultra season and complete my Triple Crown Challenge.

As an added bonus my brother and his family would be there to get a taste of supporting an ultra race. So I picked them up from the airport a few days before the race. That did not leave me with much time to think about my own race so while Thomas was spending hours to make up his plan for Yvonne he got one for me too. It was a sub-9 hour plan and I really thought this was possible, given the fact that my previous Devil was 9:22 and 3 years had passed with much more running and training. On our way up to Kingshouse on Friday my brother got a crash course in driving a right-hand car, getting to support stops including Victoria Bridge and Altnafeadh, refilling bladders etc.

Race day came and I was overdressed with a rain jacket in my backpack and 2 layers on. Because I had put the number on my long sleeved HH top I kept this on in the end, to give me some protection from the sun (!) and the midges too, but in hindsight I should have probably changed it. I also forgot to cool myself down in between as I did not want to get wet feet and blisters.
(Photo by John Kynaston)

I started off with Katrina, but only for a few seconds as she was soon off into the distance. My plan was to try and run more of the inclines and when Victoria caught up with me on the way to BoO we both encouraged each other to do just that. We chatted about the WHWR and other things and we got into BoO right on schedule, 1:10. 
(Photo by Fiona Rennie)

Quick gel from my brother who had found a prime parking spot and quickly learned the benefits of the midge net. Change of backpacks at Victoria Bridge and off we went onto Rannoch Moor. We continued our journey together across the Moor trying to run more than ever before. Somehow though I was already off schedule by 10min by the time I got to Glencoe. Into Kingshouse where I knew my sister-in-law and 2 nephews would be waiting for me. 

As a surprise Lorna from the club and Bruce were there too and after a comfortable toilet stop in the hotel we had our photos taken. I got told off for that at the end by my coach who could not believe that I would pose for a photo in a race! I was also told that Thomas had come through in 2nd place and the guy in front was about “20 years younger” and “looked very fit” according to my sister-in-law!

I left Kingshouse on my own, it was very hot by now and I managed to run out of drinks on the stretch to Altnafeadh. I knew it wasn’t too far and I was looking forward to my first sip of coke there. Again my brother had parked right next to the way and my nephews were running out to me and enjoying themselves. 

High5s, lots of coke which my 6-year-old nephew John watched with envy. They were after the left-overs in my backpack that I had not touched, Jaffa cakes, nuts, brioche, snickers, anything really that was still eadible. New backpack on and up the staircase. By now I was 20min down on the schedule and really stopped even looking at my watch. It was a great day, the views were amazing and we were all enjoying ourselves. It took me 25min to get to the top of the staircase but I noticed that my usual fast power walking had slowed down. I think I was walking up faster in the WHWR! It was very hot on that stretch and half way up Fiona and Pauline were a welcome sight. I paused for a few seconds on the top to take in the views and enjoy the breeze. Down the other side and it was not long before I got a  text from Yvonne saying that Thomas had come through Lundavra in 1st place. I nearly cried. I was so excited and just wished him to keep going and win this race. I would have to wait and keep going myself before I would find out. I caught up Jonathan Mackintosh, also out on his quest for the triple crown and we ran into KLL together. Just before the pipelines another text and I stopped to get out my phone. YES! He won! I was so excited. Not sure what Jonathan thought about it but I managed not to cry there and then.

Into KLL where time didn’t really matter any more and I shouted to my brother that Thomas had won! Cheers all around. Bill Heirs made the mistake to wave at me and again I shouted “Thomas won”! Sue came down from Lairig Moor and she had to hear the news too. Though she thought it was slightly disheartening given the fact that I was still so far away! I did not really think so. I tagged on to 3 guys going up onto the Lairig Moor, again it was very hot. The water from Jeff Smith at the Wilderness Rescue Point was very welcome. He reminded me of the WHWR when I saw him and his dogs during the night.

Eventually Lundavra came into view, nearly an hour later than expected on the plan! Suddenly I saw Yvonne coming towards me, what a welcome surprise! She had come back from the finish together with Thomas to check up on my progress – or the lack of it! As I was told I was “strolling” into Lundavra rather then power walking, well that might explain my time. 

My nephew was there too running back with me to the car and enjoying the puddles and stones. Thomas couldn’t quite keep up, I wonder why! It was 2:20pm and Thomas was getting concerned that I would not make it to the prizegiving in time to see him receive his winner’s prize. It was at 4pm he said, I thought it was at 4:30 but he insisted it was 4pm. Well I better hurry then!

Off I went and pushed hard, as fast as I could I power walked and ran wherever possible. I caught up with Rob just before the last steep incline (sorry Rob, but this has become a tradition) and then ran down the road to Braveheart. I wasn’t able to run this in the WHWR due to my very sore feet so running down was a delight – although a never-ending one it seemed. Close to Braveheart I phoned my brother to make sure he had found the finish, then Thomas to say I was going to make it. He was surprised when I said that I was nearly at Braveheart and quickly made his way over from the Leisure Centre, but missed my finish! So much for telling me to hurry! I arrived at 3:47pm, 13min to spare until the prizegiving! I had done the last bit in 1:25.

The very slight disappointment about my time of 9:47 was due to the fact that I felt I had ran more and worked harder, I only had 1 longer stop at KH, but the times were still slower. So I don’t really know what happened there, I’m thinking that maybe my legs aren’t capable of going much faster, they are happy at a certain pace and that’s it. 

Anyway, the overall feeling on the day was happiness, joy and pride! I have completed the Triple Crown – what a challenge. My ultra season has come to a great end, I have become an official WHW Family member, have enjoyed 3 great races in the company of so many friends, supporters, marshals, organisers.

Chart by John Kynaston
Only 13 people completed the Triple Crown this year and I was 9th. On the way I raised £1163 for Ardgowan Hospice. Thank you so much to all of you who donated.

And of course I was so proud of Thomas to be the winner! He had promised his nephews to get a trophy and he did! Yvonne did an excellent job at supporting him to his first win!     

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Life in-between a Champion and a Devil

After last weekend’s excitement I am now only days away from the finale of my ultra season, the 43M Devil of the Highland Race.

Enough has been said and written about my fantastic husband who is now Mr Scottish 100K Champion! Though maybe just a few more words … As it really was a great performance… :-)

I was very happy to be back on support duty and was looking forward to the whole weekend. Well, apart from one tiny detail that had me rather worried. Debbie had suggested we should do a last long run together on the Saturday before the race, 20 Miles. Now while that was a good idea in general, I have never ran with a Scottish record holder, winner of the Grand-Union-Canal Race and now also GB 24h-team member! We started in Redwick where the 100K race would take place the next day and we managed to find the path to the coast with the help of a friendly villager. Out and back and onto the roads around Redwick. Eventually Debbie decided we would shorten the run to 18M. I guess she realized that our time on feet was already much more than she had planned and we were nowhere near 20M! :-) Well, that was fine by me and I think we both had a good time. Not sure if I will be asked again to join a long slow run though …

(Photo by Gail Murdoch)

Now to the main event of last weekend: Thomas had given me a plan, he had made up most of his drinks and I had clear instructions of what to give him when, and what to replace it with in case it did not agree with him. We had worked out and practised (much to the amusement of the others!) the best handover technique of 2 bottles at the same time without him having to slow down and without me running alongside as this was not allowed. Water (to cool himself) left hand, drink bottle right hand. If he needed an extra gel it had to be taped to the water bottle. We had bought 2 huge buckets for the Scottish team, one for sponges for cooling, the other one to keep the drinks cool with ice cubes in it. He actually never used the sponges himself but they came in very handy for every one else in the team. And a few other runners after looking at them enviously lap after lap plucked up the courage to ask for one themselves. We ended up having to collect the sponges from the road, clean them and use them again.
I still managed to give him the wrong gel at the wrong time and should have persisted in him wearing a hat. But there is always room for improvement …
(Photo by Debs M-C)
I knew he was feeling in good shape, he was in good spirit the day before and doing his Usain Bolt impressions. He went off fast, and Adrian told me to tell him to slow down after the first couple of laps. Now that was something I did not dare to do. I believed he knew what he was doing and must have been feeling good. So I left it to Adrian to tell him. When Thomas came round the next lap he told me to tell Adrian everything was under control! He managed to pull off a great race and I was so proud of him and am still so excited about it.

But enough now as promised!

Onto the Devil. This was my very first Ultra back in 2009 and this one is going to be my 2nd time running it. It is my favourite part of the WHW and I am really looking forward to it. We will have my brother and his family here to visit us so they will be part of the support teams. My coach tells me I should “risk something”. Now that translates into “run faster woman and walk less”! Maybe he still thinks there is a fast runner in me – he can always dream I guess. Seriously I would like to get under 9 hours (my previous time is 9:22). Theoretically that should be possible but you never know. My main goal is to finish the Devils and complete the Triple Crown. I will be so happy when I cross that finish line as I would have never thought that one year I would rise to this challenge.
In the process I have raised nearly £1000 for Ardgowan Hospice, mainly with the WHWR. But I will leave the sponsorship open until after the Devils.

So Devil here I come.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Goblet – I got you!

On the Wednesday before the race I went down to the Esplanade for my last run, 30min with a few strides. I came back home and said to Thomas I think I could run a 10K PB now. His face lit up and I could see that he was very pleased. I guess he realized then that his training and tapering plan for me had been spot on. I was ready to face the biggest endurance test of my life so far.

I had taken a few days off before to make sure I was well rested. Nerves were kicking in but I still slept very well right until Friday. The house looked like I was going on an expedition, boxes of gear everywhere, labelled bags, one of which was called “extreme weather bag” which came in very handy early on! Thomas was spending hours over my food and drink strategy, working out when I could be expected at support stops. Though I was certainly not chasing any time, he felt my support needed to have some idea of when they should start to get worried if I did not arrive. A finish and a goblet was all I was looking for, anything more would be a huge bonus.


When we arrived at Milngavie the place was buzzing, supporters, runners, marshals. I wished then that I was “on the other side” supporting as usual, but before I knew it I had been weighed and a number tag round my wrist. No turning back now!
I had stopped looking at the weather forecast by Thursday when I realised it was going to be wet. Armed with Thomas’ Montane jacket I lined the start. A few moments to gather myself and I thought, this is it. Here we go. And we were off and as if on cue, the heavy rain started!
And would not really stop until I reached Auchtertyre after 14hours!

I could not make out any individuals lining the High Street of Milngavie but it was great running past them cheering and clapping. Turning left into the park I saw headlights coming towards me, ah, some had already missed a turn and were backtracking! My legs were feeling fresh, as they should do, and I was easing into the run, being passed by a few people I know, exchanging a few hellos with Tim and Keith. Going through Mugdock I walked a couple of times as planned and it was then that I was passed by most folk. Suddenly I was on my own with only a few headlights in the distance. Coming out of the park over the small road and round the corner I saw a group in the middle of the path. It was Victoria O’Reilly and her friend Fiona with 2 other runners. Fiona had gone over her ankle and it did not look good. As there were enough people there I carried on and thought how unlucky this was for her! Then I was on my own again and I stayed on my own until coming down from Conic Hill.

I have very clear memories of this. Running on my own in the dark with only my headlight leading the way and a kind of tunnel vision, the rain lashing into my face. It was so eery. I love the section between the Carbeth huts and the railway path but really don’t like the flat railway path. Certainly not in heavy rain when there was no way avoiding the deep ice cold puddles. It was head down, hood up and follow the head light. I was meeting Katrina and Nancy at the Beechtree Inn, my first milestone. They looked rather uncomfortable in the pouring rain themselves but a quick exchange of Nathan backpacks and I continued. The plan was to have a quick exchange of Nathans at support stops, they were packed identical with emergency kit in both so that only my phone had to be changed over. They would prepare the next one according to the plan Thomas had prepared. I was using Nuun electrolyte drinks and Thomas had worked out how much I needed for each section so I was not carrying any excess weight. I was going to eat something every 30min as well as 1 SIS gel at every support stop. I then had to take between 3 or 4 items with me depending how long it was until the next support stop. I had gels and jelly babies with me all the time in case I did not feel like eating any solids. My Garmin (and later on my support runners) reminded me every 30min about eating and I faithfully stuck with it until the end! The only disappointment was that my beloved cheese mayo sandwich tasted awful and I had to spit it out as soon as I tried it.


I was so glad when I reached the tarmac road towards Drymen. At one point I let out a scream when suddenly my feet were immersed in ankle deep cold water as the road was flooded but with the darkness I had not noticed it. I looked up and saw 2 guys at the roadside peeing and wondered if they thought I had screamed because of them. I had my first toilet stop at the campsite before Drymen and it was so good to get out of the rain for a few minutes. I knew N+K were waiting for me along this road so I was looking forward to that. They were in the car but jumped out when they saw me coming and we exchanged Nathans, I ate a gel and onwards I went. I had feared the muddy field but it was not too bad considering.

Into the forest above Drymen now, I briefly met a runner whose name I have now forgotten and we exchanged a few words and on I went. As the rain was relentless I remembered what a club mate had written on facebook, God sends rain so that Glenpark Harriers can perform well. As we live and train in rain we also race best in rain. I had to smile and continued on my journey.

I reached what used to be the Garabandhan forest. Loch Lomond was in front of me. Suddenly it was light enough to switch the head torch off and like a miracle the rain stopped and birds started to sing. And my spirits were immediately lifted and I felt so good. The rain came on again 5 minutes later but it had given me a great boost. On to Conic Hill now which was treacherous and the uphill resembled a river walk as the water came running down the path. Coming down the other side I saw Fiona Rennie, Sue Walker and Robin Wombill negotiating the steep steps. I was so glad to see familiar faces that I shouted towards them, hello, so good to see you! They probably thought I was mad but after being on my own for the last 4.5 hours I was so relieved to meet them. It was Sue and Robin’s 1st attempt too but Fiona had already 8 finishes under her belt! I asked them what they were going to do in Balmaha regarding shoe and sock change as I was not too sure myself if I should do it here or in Rowardennan. They were planning on a change in Rowardennan, but when I met up with N+K in the car park they had already prepared the chair and mat and Nancy said, you need to look after your feet, lets dry them and have a look. And I was quite glad as it felt so much better afterwards. The only problem was I was already on my 2nd pair of trail shoes in Balmaha (and I only brought 2 and 2 pairs of road running shoes) and on my 2nd pair of Drymax socks. Thomas had sourced them for me in the US and I do think they are great but I guess with the weather as it was there was no way avoiding blisters really. Although I found out afterwards that you should use NO lubricant with them at all!


It was here in Balmaha where I started with hot drinks. Hot (herbal) tea had never felt so good. I left the car park and knew that it would not be too far to Anchorage Cottage where I would see N+K again. Met a few guys along that stretch, 2 going the whole way together, Steve and Angus and we chatted while I was falling in with their pace matching mine nicely. At Anchorage I got my 1st protein drink, vanilla flavour, very nice. On my way to Rowardennan I met up with Robin again who was having a difficult time and I felt helpless not being able to cheer him up. But he battled through and it was great seeing him collect his goblet in his kilt on Sunday! I remembered the Fling and thought of those who had passed me on this section including Richie and hoped he was doing well today.


I knew that at Rowardennan I would see N+K for the last time as my support team was changing over at Auchtertyre. So I prepared myself for our last meeting, they had done a fantastic job so far and I wanted to make sure they knew it. I had asked for soup and luckily the toilets had just been opened so I went in there to eat it. I was given my 1st caffeine gel of the day and took another one a bit further along. I also changed into a new top, thought of putting my rain trousers into my backpack but Nancy told me to put them on – which turned out to be a great idea. I was now using a bigger pack for the long stretch to Auchtertyre, another Marathon away!  I had in it an extra layer, socks and I took gloves. I had got sticks from Thomas for thinking about taking gloves but I knew myself that on a day like this they would be needed. N+K were impressed with how positive I was. I was just so glad to see them. I said good-bye to them and took on the loch side!

While running along I imagined I was running in Thomas footsteps. He had been there with Marco and Lucy on Friday morning running from Balmaha to Inversnaid. Sounds cheesy I know but it helped me along. I also remembered what Lesley had told me, be focussed and strong! So I kept focussing on the next bit ahead, just the next milestone to reach. When my mind wanted to wander too far ahead I tried to pull it back. Focus! The next stop is Inversnaid, not long now. Watch the path, don’t fall. Usually I like to take in the scenery but that was really not an option today as the rain kept falling and it was hood up and get on with it. I passed the ledge that frightened one of my club mates so much when we were out training for the Fling before a little further she actually fell into the waterfall! Today she would have been washed right down into Loch Lomond – even though I told her then that no-one has ever fallen into the loch. Why were there boats patrolling the loch side today though?!  I smiled to myself and waved to the guy in the boat who waved back.


Inversnaid hotel came into view! Yes! The waterfall looked spectacular and I stopped briefly next to another runner to admire it. Then I saw a friendly and familiar face, Karin, it was so unexpected but great to get a hug. I got my drop bag and sheltered in the tent that the Trossachs Mountain Rescue had put up. I opened my bag and followed the instructions Thomas had left: eat one gel, take protein drink, fill up your bladder to 1L and pick 3 items to eat out of selection. Well the cheese sandwich went straight into the bin but I had enough choices. I also noticed then that he had left a little message on the refill bottle and I nearly cried! I went into the hotel to use the toilet and it was so nice and warm in there! But I had other plans for today so I left.

On the next section along the loch I caught up with Caroline who was struggling with her breathing. I was slightly concerned and did not really want to leave her though I also know she prefers to be on her own at these times. So I stayed with her for a bit, tried my best to encourage her. And I remember breaking the next sections up for both of us really. It would be Dario’s post next, then Beinglas, then we both could be looking forward to meeting “our men” at Bogle Glen. I hoped she would tuck in behind me but she kept falling back a bit. So I decided to make sure she would get up to Dario’s post ok and then it would be an easier 2M to Beinglas where I was planning to use the toilet anyway. So I turned around at Dario’s post and as ever it was a magic view across the loch. I then run on on my own, caught a couple of guys before Beinglas, one was injured, the other one was really cold. I advised him to go into the cafĂ© right next to the path he did not know existed. I am not sure if he got going again.


I saw Rob at the checkpoint shivering badly. The marshal was going to refill my bladder up to 1L while I used the toilet but when I came back she said I still had 1.2L in it! Oops! I was obviously not drinking as much as planned but I knew I was not dehydrated as I kept using the toilet all the time. I had taken on protein shakes as well and lots of tea and soup which hadn’t been planned. So I was not too concerned. I had my first flat coke in Beinglas and it tasted great! Again Thomas had left a message on my bottle and I smiled.

I left Beinglas and was looking forward to meeting Thomas at Bogle Glen. What a milestone this would be. I was quite excited. But first to Derrydaroch Farm and Carmyle Cottage. I passed Rob who was having a hard time with the cold and wet weather draining him of all his energy. On  my way to Carmyle Cottage I saw some animal coming towards me on the path and I think it was a small otter dragging a baby otter next to it. Don’t think my hallucinations started that early!

On the steep steps up from the under path I caught up with Ivan who was impressed by my fast walking pace that left him behind! (He did finish 30min in front of me in the end though as he was still able to run when we caught up with him on Lairig Moor again so much later in the night.) And I do believe this is what got me to the finish – my very fast walking pace that I was able to keep up until later on when unfortunately putting down my sore feet onto the uneven rocks became the problem and slowed me down.

So I was looking forward to seeing Thomas. In my mind the next sections were broken into much smaller pieces as I would soon reach Auchtertyre, see my new crew of Heather and Yvonne and if required would be able to have a support runner. I knew I wanted to put in a good performance for them too, as they were giving up their time to support me. And they were excited about it too! After all N+K shouldn’t have done all the hard work only for me to falter now. And there was all the effort Thomas had put in to prepare me for this. In my mind it was now or never! I did not want to have to go through all the build up again, but wanted my goblet, so it was now!


Thomas came into view and he seemed excited to see me. Caroline’s family and support crew was also there and cheered me on. Neal said I should give Thomas a hard time which I jokingly tried. But I was far too happy to see him and too happy to have got there in one piece. And I know I have slagged him off myself in my reports but he has been incredible in getting me ready for this that I seriously think I would not have been able to do it without him. Mind you the idea would have never crossed my mind!


He had hot tea ready for me and I decided to have a complete change in Auchtertyre. He went ahead to the checkpoint to get everything ready. To my surprise N+K were there cheering me in, delighted to see I was still going well. They had decided to see me after this long stretch on my own to see if everything was still going well. Only then did they go to the B&B in Fort William for some rest! You are stars! I got weighed, John K was also there and pleased to see me. And I disappeared into the toilet for a complete change which took about 30min! More soup/pasta mug was on order and tea. Believe it or not but I arrived at 14:00 hours into the race which was bang on my predicted arrival time. I also saw Tommy, Victoria’s husband there and got a hug. I left Auchtertyre and had put on old road shoes which immediately caused some discomfort so at Brodies Shop I switched back to my wet trail shoes. On my way out of the farm Debbie and Sharon arrived in a car and I got cheered on and hugged. Thank you guys! I was told that we should take a detour towards the road and not wade through the river after the hostel and I was rather pleased by that.

Then at last I saw my new support crew, H+Y. They were waiting at Brodies and thrilled to see me. They had to spring into action straight away as I changed back into my trail shoes. From then on I stayed in those, kept the same Drymax socks but kept emptying my shoes of gravel and to put more Vaseline onto my feet. I left Tyndrum knowing this was the furthest distance I had ever done. Yvonne was going to join me at Bridge of Orchy and stay with me until Glencoe, so that was something to look forward to. They waved at me from the road as I made my way along. I caught up with Neil MacRitchie who had done the race 8 times before. I asked him if this was the worst weather he had experienced and he said yes! In a strange way it comforted me and made me proud that I was still going!


(Photo by Shelley Marsh)

I went straight through BoO after using the toilet (of course!) and Y filled me in with all the details of her friend’s wedding she had been to on Friday! Food, dress, flowers, everything. I love hearing about weddings so the time passed quickly. Then we reached Murdo’s Mount, the 100K mark, a well-earned jelly baby, a hug and lots of encouragement! Thank you!

Near Inverornan hotel I put more Vaseline on and also saw Chris, Caroline’s support who told us she was going well now that Neal was with her and not too far behind us. Great news!

Onto the Rannoch Moor after more soup/pasta/hot tea. We later (in Lundavra) ran out of soup as we certainly did not expect me to constantly ask for this, but by then it did not matter.
In true selfless supporter style Y gave me her midge net as they were really fierce there but I could not really breathe through it so she got it back! To be honest the midges did not really bother me at all apart from that short moment. I kept thinking about the 2 times Thomas had to pull out coming off Rannoch Moor and just now my focus was to get to the next checkpoint in good shape. I did not allow myself to think too far ahead. Anything could still happen to grind me to a halt.    


Over the Rannoch Y kept me up to date with everyone’s text messages and wishes which was great. We made good progress, it was dry and Rannoch as spectacular as ever. We arrived at Glencoe just after 8pm. Heather was ready and geared up to go with me to the bottom of the Devil’s staircase. She had been injured herself so we did not really schedule her in but she felt fine. 

As the road down from the ski lift is flat and downhill I managed to run, the legs were just doing their own thing. It was the uneven surface that caused the problems with the soles of my feet and a few blisters coupled with wet feet that caused the problem. We overtook Ada here for the 1st time. The views were in fact spectacular with Buchaille Etive Mor and Heather took a few photos. 

They got sent immediately to other club mates who would update facebook and so messages of encouragement kept coming in via Heather’s phone. Fantastic! I was overtaken here by a guy and H kept encouraging me not to let him get away. But by then I really did not care. Sorry! 

 (Photo by Melanie Sinclair)

I caught up with Fiona Rennie here which was a great boost. We chatted until we got to my support stop. Thomas and Yvonne were waiting, more Vaseline and Heather even massaged my terrible feet! I felt for her but it was soo good!


Thomas was geared up and ready to go over the staircase with me. Before we reached the bottom I heard someone shouting behind us and suddenly Caroline came storming  past encouraged not to stop running by her support runner. Incredible! I was so pleased for her.

Up the staircase now and we passed Ada who was hunched over due to severe back pain. The tough girl she is she got her goblet!

 (Photo by Rhona Mitchell)

As we walked up briskly (and I was rather pleased I could do that), Thomas reminded me of our honeymoon, our WHW Walk 7 years ago. By now it was time to put the headlamps on again and he thought it was all rather romantic! We caught up with Victoria Shanks, her husband and her support runner Rhona, she was still going at a good pace and we chatted for a while. T and I stopped at the top and looked around us, it was magical in a way. On our decent into KLL we met a few others and it was great seeing lights in front of you knowing that there were others out there too, on the same quest. It is here we passed Lesley Halstead I think. I continued to eat something every 30min but by now certain things caused a bit of nausea for a few minutes afterwards and I had more gels and jelly babies when I felt I could not take anything else. Thomas had brought a Snickers though and that went down well. Then his phone rang and it was Maya Lukas from Germany who had been following my progress throughout the day. As we walked down first Thomas and then I chatted to her and before I knew it we had reached the bridge. Thanks Maya! I reached the KLL checkpoint after 24 hours. 
(Photo by Heather Kangley)


 (Photos by Shelley Marsh)

What a buzz there was in the hall! Suddenly there were so many people, marshals, runners, support crews, it was incredible. Peter Duggan was there wishing me well for my last section. It was great to see him. John K was also there and excited to see me again. Caroline’s parents and support. And of course my whole support team had gathered. After resting a bit in FW Katrina was now going to “run” the whole last section with me, and Yvonne had decided to join her! Then for Lundavra they had decided everyone was going to come, even Nancy as I wasn’t going to be running but just trying to keep a fast walk going.

I got weighed by Julie, put another pair of longer trousers on, another upper layer too and kept my proper Goretex walking jacket on (which I had not taken off since Auchtertyre). Of course there was more soup, in fact I finished it off here. Nancy had been informed my feet were “a mess” but when she looked at them here she was not that impressed! Yes, there were some blisters, yes there was some trench foot, but the skin wasn’t coming off so off you go! We left KLL and made our way up to the Lairig Mor. It is this section that I found the hardest. It was dark, the path was so uneven that it really hurt and I was finally getting tired. At times I felt a bit dizzy and was not sure if it was a lack of energy, too much caffeine or just the lack of sleep. K+Y had more coke for me, reminded me to take something every 30min and tried to take my mind of my aching feet. We bumped into Colin Knox at the Wilderness Rescue point and were all gathered for a photo. It was lovely as the flares were giving off light and warmth. We continued and it felt a long way until we passed the ruins. My toes had kicked a few stones by then and I had felt new blisters forming. Y told me that some people stamp their feet to burst them! I thought the rocks would probably take care of that and did not want to do it myself. I could not wait until it became lighter but not yet! We passed the next rescue point. Then I could make out what is left from the forest. Katrina decided to run ahead to inform them of our arrival. Then at last it got light enough for me to take the head torch off. What a relief! And I could even still see a small fire burning, the famous Lundavra fire. A great sight.


Thomas had parked the car near the path and for the last time I sat in the chair, shoes emptied of gravel, Vaseline on, hot tea and everyone was ready to take on the last section. I was going to get my goblet!

In very good spirits we all left Lundavra apart from Thomas who had to drive the car back. We joked that he was probably glad not having to spend the next 6-7M with 5 girls. In fact not soon after we set off we caught 2 guys who turned round and said they had heard us from a far distance. They let us pass very easily glad to be out of our ear shot. By then some hallucinations had set in, I saw sheep where there were rocks, male statues (from behind!) where there were trees, a football, but I could not comply with Nancy’s demand to bring about a Brad Pitt hallucination. Maybe because I don’t like him! There was some singing, lots of laughing and we reached the forest section. I had taken a craving to Fruit Pastilles and ate all of Heather’s. Luckily Nancy also had some and I kept eating those. The steep steps by then were something else as I had to lean on 2 to get down as the pressure was so sore on my feet. I was still ok walking uphill at a good pace. Time passed quickly and I could see the final climb ahead onto the forest road. This was it!

Up that hill and suddenly we are at the top of the forest road. I can’t believe it. I had paused here only a few weeks ago on our training run and imagined me standing there during the race. Here I was. I had in fact (nearly) done it. It was then that I asked what the time was for the 1st time, 5:30 am. I asked Katrina if I could get to the finish in under 30min and she said No. Don’t spoil it now by chasing a time. Just enjoy. Great advice and I continued happily along. I really could not run downhill as the pounding was too sore but I could still walk ok. We turned a corner and saw 2 others in front of us. Heather was encouraging me to keep walking fast to reel them in. We turned another corner and saw 2 more. Come on, do it for us! What choice did I have? So on we went and caught up with John Duncan who had got injured but was still in good spirits so close to the end. At 6am we were above the caravan park in Glen Nevis where I knew a friend was staying and celebrating his last Munro and birthday. I had the idea to phone him and everyone was in agreement that it was a good idea! So I woke him up and we all sang Happy Birthday to him. He decided to come out of his bed and meet us at Braveheart. We turned another corner and I saw more runners ahead and feared I was told to catch them up too. Turned out there was no-one there, just another hallucination. I had 3 pee stops on this section alone and it was difficult to ensure we weren’t suddenly caught up again in a rather embarrassing situation.


Finally there were 2 real figures ahead, turned out it was Andreas who we had just woken up and Thomas. We were close to the car park. 

We passed George Reid and Karen waiting for John and were on the road. I could not and would not run but said I would run in from the roundabout. We passed the 30MPH sign. At the roundabout they all went ahead to leave me alone and I was falling into a slow jog. 

This is it. I suddenly see Marco, Debbie and Sharon running towards me and start to cry. They cheer me on, I try to keep it together a bit longer, into the car park, towards the steps, high 5 to John K, up the steps, touch the door!
FINISHED! Tears of course, lots of hugs, congratulations, last weigh-in and I sit down. I have done it! As incredible as it seems, I am here, at the finish. 29 hours and 34 minutes after setting off from Milngavie I have reached Fort William on foot.

Small video clip of my finish and prizegiving to come. So far we have raised over £500 for Ardgowan Hospice and more is coming in now that I have done it!
Thank you to everyone involved!


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Goblet – I am coming to get you!

In 2 weeks today I will be on my way to the prize-giving to collect my goblet. That’s what I dream about anyway and what I am busy visualizing! And visualizing is such an important part of preparing yourself I hear. So that’s what I am and will be doing in the next 2 weeks. I can see myself at various points of the route, the checkpoints, the meeting points with my crew, I can see myself running through Tyndrum and onwards to Bridge of Orchy. And I can see myself eventually on the last few miles down into Fort William approaching the finish …

My training has gone very well and all credit goes to Thomas. He has been a superb coach, keeping me calm when I wanted to panic, when the legs felt like lead especially during weekday runs after work or when other things got in the way of running. We had a general plan with higher mileage weeks pencilled in or scheduled around other events such as the fantastic Fling, but the motto was to listen to my body and adjust the plan accordingly, week by week to ensure enough recovery between my runs. And so most of my long runs were very enjoyable, I did quite a few on my own and then others in various company, the last one being the West Island Way on Bute last Saturday. This coincided with the Jubilee weekend, which I was using as a last high mileage weekend. It started off with 29M on Bute. These were a bit harder than expected due to the terrain so the next 2 days were changed with a rest day strewn in. Then I wanted to do Milngavie to Balmaha in WHW Race pace to ensure I was not getting too close to the cut off time at Balmaha if I took it easy. So all in all I managed to cover 85Miles in 6 days, my highest mileage yet!

And now the taper has truly started. Yeah! Long lie-ins and lazy afternoons at home to get the all important support crew lists and any other details typed up and ready for my support crew meeting next week! In fact since Thomas has been given an additional spot in my support crew he has taken it on to configure lists and schedules that previously were only in my head. I don’t think I would have bothered with too many schedules but as we kept arguing about what and when who of my support crew was doing, even though I had explained it to him, he came close to being banned! I guess he has had it really easy for the past years, just me and Nancy, if the schedule said he would arrive at 10:28, that’s when he would arrive, +/- 5min. Well, be prepared for improvising team! I am very glad though that he is not running himself as I am not sure how we would have survived race week with two of us getting ready for it. And now Thomas can concentrate 100% on me and if he thinks I am unreasonable I just need to remind him how he used to be during the weeks before the race and he keeps stumm!

I am getting excited about the race and I know I will be very nervous in the days leading up to it. My biggest worry now is to catch some stupid viral infection of a patient or anyone else for that matter and I am seriously thinking of working with a face mask and gloves, but I guess that would really scare people off! I love those kids that want to show you how bad their cough is and before you know it they have coughed right into your face and over your desk.

My crew will be briefed next week with Nancy and Katrina doing the 1st shift up to Auchtertyre. Thomas will join them on Saturday morning and meet me at Bogle Glen and will then be there until the end. From Auchtertyre or Tyndrum depending on my arrival time Yvonne and Heather will take over with Thomas as back-up as they have never supported before at the WHWR. Katrina will then join me later again for the last stages after having had a rest in the B&B in Fort William. They are all ready for it and I hope I can do them proud and put in a good performance. It feels like such a luxury to have everyone just look after me. We have the added bonus of raising money for Ardgowan Hospice, Greenock and already I have had so many people supporting this great cause! So many well-wishers and people wanting updates on the day, it is quite overwhelming but I am sure a great motivation to keep going when it gets tough! And after Debbie’s adventure in the canal even a fall into Loch Lomond would not count as an excuse to stop!

I think I am as ready as I can be. For me it is a great adventure, a bit like an expedition covering 2 nights to get to your “summit”. It will be a journey that I can’t wait to start! I will share it with some of you at some points and I am sure at other times I will be on my own, concentrating on my own pace and the way ahead. But in the end we will all meet in Fort William to collect our goblets. What a moment that will be!