Wednesday, 23 June 2010

WHW Race 2010

Photo by Davie Hall

What can I say?! Thomas finally achieved his dream and conquered the WHW Race – a dream that started over 3 years ago and got him into ultra-running. A dream that had turned into a nightmare in the past 2 years with his 2 DNFs. I am so happy for him to have finally done it and I am so proud of him.

It was a very emotional weekend for me. He started well running his pace and none of the injuries he had dealt with over the past 4 weeks seemed to cause any problems until Rowardennan. So we left for our journey round the loch to Beinglas. I was on tender hooks the whole night and day as I knew anything could happen anytime and threaten his run. When we were waiting for him at Beinglas Marco’s support team called over that they had got a message that Thomas had hurt his shin again and he would be arriving a bit later! I could not believe it! I ran to the car to get the 1st Aid Box and when he arrived we iced his leg, gave him some painkillers and he ran on. 4 weeks ago this shin problem had halted our run and I knew it was very sore on the downhills. I felt completely deflated after he had left and did not think he would be able to finish this race. From then on Nancy had to support the runner and the other half of the support team! I was tense the whole time waiting for his call to be picked up somewhere along the route.

At Auchtertyre he arrived but did not mention pulling out and we did not ask! After being weighed he just kept running on. At Tyndrum he looked very sore going up the hill and again I was getting even more concerned. He ran into Bridge of Orchy and the plan was for me to meet him at the support stop, change his bottle, gels and find out if he needed anything else. But I felt I did not make a good job out of it and we changed tactics after that. Nancy would meet him, do all the talking and supply him with what he needed – and she did great. She cheered him up, he even joked and carried on without questioning anything. I think in my mind I was getting more worked up and was already thinking about Glencoe where he dropped out twice before and I so wanted him to get past there. So when we left the Bridge of Orchy car park I drove along the A82 until Nancy said, are we not supposed to turn left here towards Victoria Bridge? In my mind I was already heading to Glencoe! So I turned the car and Nancy waited for Thomas at Inverornan and I kept in the background.

Change of socks and shoes at Victoria Bridge and a backpack with a bladder to get him across Rannoch. The fact that he decided to cross Rannoch was a good sign for me as I knew then that he felt he had a chance to keep going. So now we were ready to head to the Ski Centre. The weather was fantastic (for supporters as the wind kept the midges away and the sun was shining), the views absolutely amazing. So we sat at the ski centre car park waiting for him. Marco’s support team was there again and once again they sent me into a panic. Nancy was looking out for Thomas on the path while I was in the car park. Suddenly Marco’ supporter shouted and waved at me to come down – and I thought, OMG what’s wrong now? Nancy is already there so why do they need me? But he hadn’t realized that Nancy was there for Thomas and just let me know he was in sight! Pheww! Not again at exactly the same spot 3 years in a row!
I had just had a phone call from Jens Lukas (winner in 2008). He and Maya kept phoning and texting during the day to support Thomas and wish him well. Thanks guys. That was great. He had just said to me, you have to get him past Kingshouse. He cannot stop there. Yes, that was our mission. He actually was not too bad and ran on. When he had left the car park Nancy and I cheered and hugged as we felt one mission was accomplished! Off to Altnafeadh – new territory for us!

When we sent him on his way up the Devil’s staircase to Kinlochleven I was still scared that his injury could get worse on the steep downhill into KLL. I was relieved he was running towards KLL though but I still did not think about a finish. I was looking forward to KLL where I knew Caroline, her dad and Neal would be waiting (and marshalling). They would help us to spur him on if there was any problem. He arrived about 30min later than expected, it didn’t help to calm my nerves but again I tried to stay in the background until he freely shared his anxieties about a possible fractured leg with Caroline, Neal and the race doctor! It did not help that Nancy handed him his painkiller (Diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory at the recommended daily dose!) right under the eyes of the race doctor (to her defence she did not know who he was). From his medical briefings I know that he is not keen on the use of these anti-inflammatories in ultra races. And I guess people do abuse them and take a dose that is too high and are not aware of the risks. But both Nancy and I knew very well what we were doing and kept a record of times and doses given to not exceed the daily dose. So I quickly tried to guide him away from the scales and the doctor to the car to get him sorted for his final leg into FW.

He left and I decided that NOW a finish seemed possible even to me and we stopped at the co-op to buy some sparkling wine for the finish! I sent a few texts to people who had been sending messages of support, especially the club was keen to find out how he got on. They were all at Glen Massan for the annual BBQ. Off to Lundavra to see him for the final time, last remote chance for dropping out though that was now highly unlikely! But no! we arrived with 5 min to spare to the earliest expected time of arrival, thinking he will have slowed down by now. Before we were able to unload, a guy came up and said, I would not carry all this up to the checkpoint. You have missed your runner! What? Yes he ran through 6 min ago, looking strong and running fast. What? I asked him twice if he did not mix us up and made Nancy go up the hill (sorry!) to check with the marshals as I did not believe him. But it was true. How can that happen? Well, now it was sure that he would finish. No doubt left even in me! So we better get a move on so we won’t miss his finish!

We arrived at the finish and I realized that only 3 people had arrived. (My race favourite had won! Richie Cunningham in 16h 36min – what an excellent performance! I was so pleased for him.) I had not paid much attention to positions at all and thought at KLL that a sub 20 finish was not possible for Thomas, but what was going on now? Again Marco’s supporters told me that he was running fast, maybe even catching Marco on the final stretch. I could hardly believe it. But I knew he would not overtake Marco on the final stretch if he did catch him. If that happened he would run in with him together. As it turned out Marco too had more in his legs at the end and sprinted to the finish in 5th place! Superb!
Then we waited for Thomas to appear. Finally the moment we had waited for for 3 years. I was in tears before he was even in sight. And that was not the first and last time of the day.

Watch the video of his finish for yourself. He ran up to me first to hug me and people shouted at him to run to the doors, the official finish. And there he was, a WHW Race Finisher! In 18H 49min and 6th place! Absolutely fantastic!

The prize giving the next day was again an emotional affair for me. Thomas was just so happy to be finally called forward to collect his goblet. And everyone involved in the race who knew him, from runner and marshal to supporter, was so happy for him. They clapped and cheered and hugged him – it was fantastic to see. Thank you all.

I know Dario would have been so happy for him. He kept encouraging him and knew that one day he would be there at the finish and one day he would collect his goblet. It is so sad though that he could not receive it from Dario himself.
I would really like to thank Gilian at this point. I think she has shown tremendous courage and strength to be there at the start, the finish and the prize giving. She knew about Thomas too and was so happy for him to finish. I personally felt it was very important to have her there, to share this moment.

And I think everyone in the committee has done a great job to continue the legacy of this race. Thank you!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Good luck

Just wanted to wish everyone involved in this year's WHW Race good luck! I hope for the runners that they'll achieve their dreams. If you were lucky enough not to have had any problems in your preparation, go for it, whatever your goal is. If you've had a few hickups, I hope that everything can come together and you will still have a good race. And if it comes to the worst and for some (unforeseen) circumstances you can't finish the race, don't despair. It's not the end of the world but only the end of your run. And there will be other runs. (I know people don't like to hear this, but given our experiences I thought I should mention it :-))
For those involved in planning, organising, marshalling, supporting. Good luck to you as well. I hope there won't be any big problems along the route. And I'm sure the commitee has been working hard to ensure that the race will start and finish in the unique spirit that Dario created. Thank you for that in advance!

See you all in Milngavie.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Polaroid 10K Series

To my own surprise I put in late entries to 2 of the 10K races of the Polaroid Series. A few girls of the club were doing them so I tagged along. Secretly hoping to better my Women’s 10K PB of 48:55. It did not happen. I am very pleased with my runs though. The Dumbarton 10K was very hard, it was hot, an evening race and my legs felt very heavy. I think I did not eat right during the day and lacked energy and had done a rollerblading session the night before. I still got a 49:06 so that was good.
Today was the Vale of Leven 10K. Apparently the hardest of them all and rather hilly. The weather was much better with a light drizzle all the time and my legs felt good. I had done a speed session in preparation this time. I actually enjoyed the race and was surprised to get 49:49. I did not think I could get under 50 due to the hills. So I am pleased to have 3 recent 10Ks all in sub-50.

I met Davie Hall out to take pictures and one of Debbie’s support runners, Jill (I think, sorry, I’m not good with names).

But don’t get me started on this year’s WHW Race preparations! The past 3 weeks have been a rollercoaster of injuries, improvements, new injuries and a “nearly-call” to withdraw from the race. I wish he just had taperitis, but there was not much to taper from as instead he had picked up tendinitis and muscle strains. After deciding it was probably not meant to be this year we emptied a bottle of the Fling’s Finest to celebrate his great performance at the Fling and toast to other challenges to come. As he could not bring himself to call it off officially he kept a glimmer of hope “just in case”. As his sport masseur is now back from his 2-week-sick leave that coincided with Tom’s injuries, he has already had a few sessions. And he has been able to run uphill. If only all the 95M were uphill! Anyway, to cut a long story short and not put you through what I had to endure, he is much better now. His “test run” yesterday went o.k., he has got some miles to taper from and the race is on again! Don’t blame me if I only believe this was a good idea when he has reached FW’s Leisure Centre on foot! How I am looking forward to a one week spell of taperitis now! At least it is only one week!