Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Highland Fling 2012 – my 2nd affair

It had been 2 years since my last Fling and in fact my last ultra race (this being only my 3rd), but I was very excited about this year. This had more to do with the fact that I knew a number of people running it for the 1st time including Katrina and Lesley, but also Jude, Thomas’ friend. And then there were 3 Glenpark relay teams entered! I could not wait to see how they would all get on.
For me the Fling was part of a bigger plan this year, it was a milestone in my preparation for the WHW race in June. And to be honest I had not looked beyond this.

So with 10 days to go severe taperitis started, something new for me. I suddenly had a severe stiff neck and could hardly move. My calf was suddenly tight and uncomfortable with 1 week to go, also something new. It all eased off in the last 2 days. My training had gone very well with a couple of long runs up to 30-32M on my own on the WHW with the last one 2 weeks before the race when I finished really strong. On that day I had also discovered the power of coke! In fact my training had gone so well that I was waiting for something to go wrong, reading other people’s tales.
I had briefly looked at my times from my 1st Fling but did not make up any splits or schedules. I will include these in my report though as Saturday’s splits and the comparison with my previous ones have given me a lot of information and were really interesting if not spooky! 

So off we went on Saturday at 6am. I ran with Nina from Manchester first, on her 1st outing over this distance, chatted to Lesley, also on her 1st attempt at this distance. I had done a long training run with Lesley last year and it was great chatting to her. In fact I caught up with her another 2 times later on which was really good. Before Drymen I noticed that I wasn’t really very relaxed, I felt some nausea starting and thought about the things I had already eaten (nothing I had not tried before), a toilet stop was required and I continued on my own into Drymen. Where the Garabandhan forest used to be Thomas came storming past, which gave me a huge boost and I caught up with Fiona, Pauline and Sue. I then noticed my right shoe was not laced up tight enough, my feet were wet from all the puddles and I noticed a small blister starting. Not good so early on! I walked up Conic Hill chatting to Fiona and tapping into her enormous experience. The views were fantastic, so clear! 

Arrived into Balmaha and met Helen and little Daniel for the 1st time – so cute – got a little cuddle! Got my dropbag, it was opened for me and Janet Cornall was going to help me refill my bladder. Only we could not unscrew the top so had to zap into one runner’s energy and with all his strength he eventually got it open! Thank you! Bladder refilled I left the carpark only to notice all my energy drink was running down my bottom! O no, my race is over, a hole in my bladder. I stopped and must have looked around me in panic, a girl went past me while I blurted out my bladder is broken, but luckily Robin Wombill came to the rescue. He stopped, helped me get it out to inspect it and it turned out I had not screwed the top on tight enough. Phew!
By now I could feel a blister on my right foot and I thought, well then, this is turning into an equipment test and could hear others saying to sort out problems when they appear. So I decided to stop at the public toilets to inspect and put Vaseline on. My feet looked like trench feet and I applied plenty of Vaseline. Paul Giblin’s support were there and they made the mistake to ask how I was and I told them my latest problems. I am sure they did not want any details but I did feel better once it was out. I went on my way again but felt that I somehow was not getting into the run. My thoughts were occupied with these problems and in particular went to June and I started to ask myself what I had let myself into! If there are issues like these so early on, what will it be like in June? Do I really want to put myself through all of this? Running along the road section I suddenly heard cheers from a car and it was the Glenpark men’s team on their way to Rowardennan. That picked me up. Soon after I was overtaken by David Gardiner and we exchanged a quick hello. A while later Richie came past. Then back on another road section I caught up with Victoria and Fiona. And then Debbie and Marco waved from the car already returning from Rowardennan on support duties for Thomas today. This all distracted me nicely and the miles passed. 

Shortly before Rowardennan I came across the injured Ellen and stopped to see what I could do. Nothing much really as there was no way she could be moved without “gas&air” but at least I was able to give her the strong painkiller Sandra had and wasn’t allowed to by the 1st aider. Best wishes for a speedy and full recovery Ellen!

I ran on into the carpark and was met by Alan from Glenpark who ran in with me to the checkpoint while Stephen, also in Glenpark’s relay team got my dropbag, refilled my bladder and off I went. That must have been my quickest turnaround! A quick word to Hazel, Jude’s wife, who unfortunately later pulled out at Rowardennan due to a pre-race groin/hip problem that played up.
I left Rowardennan and realized I had passed the half way point! I also started to realize that I have had no further food problems, I had forgotten my blister (for a while) and was admiring the views across the Loch. And I was still feeling fairly strong. In fact I told myself to just pretend I had started my run in Rowardennan. I caught up with Jon Cornall who unfortunately struggled and he waved me on after a few words. I then caught up with Lesley again which I was really pleased about and we chatted for a while. She also told me to keep going as she had a difficult patch. Then Stephen from Glenpark came zooming past us up a very steep hill! Fantastic! His speedy legs helped to get 2nd place for the men’s relay. Superb! I realized that I was still going well and had to chuckle to myself at the thought that it had taken me 26M to settle into a run! How crazy is this?

On my way to Inversnaid I met Norrie from Falkirk on his 1st Fling. He had never done a marathon before, had longstanding foot problems and when I looked down to see his shoes he wore the oldest pair of trainers with big holes at the sides! But he said these were the most comfortable ones. His family were in fact waiting to see him at Inversnaid and they were so proud of him when he got there. He did finish and they were even prouder! Well done!
In Inversnaid my 1st coke was waiting for me and some caffeine gels. I applied more Vaseline to my blisters, saw Victoria and Fiona and Colin Knox coming in and set off. I again caught up with Lesley who was now running well following her husband who had started 1 hour later. So we “skipped” over the bolders together for a while until he set off and I later on passed Lesley for the last time. She also finished her 1st ultra on Saturday! Well done!

I stopped at Darios post and had my picture taken and admired the views across the Loch. Then I was on my way to Beinglas looking forward to meeting all the Glenpark relay girls and guys and getting another coke and some peanuts. The cheers were huge and I became emotional. I told myself this was not the finish yet and to get a grip. They were waiting for the 3rd leg girls to come in. And I was excited as I thought the 4th leg girls would catch up with me and drag me with them to the finish. They never did though as they had to wait for another while and I was still going well myself. At Carmyle Cottage Andreas, a friend who I had run my 1st ultra with (the Devil) was waiting for me with more coke. Another Vaseline application to my sore and blistered right foot and off I went. 

In the forest above Crianlarich I started to overtake a number of men including some that had started at 6am with me! I was still stomping up the hills and in fact thought I could get in under 13hours. But my Garmin had given me a wrong distance and in reality I knew it was further than it was showing but I still kept up my pace. Just before the A82 crossing I caught up with Fiona, Pauline and Sue again and we ran together into Auchtertyre. On the very last section now and I was still running and passing people who were walking. I could hear the piper and was filling up, got myself together and could hear cheers from Thomas on the bridge, Glenparkers near the gate and so many others I could not make out. And there I was at the finish! 13H:01Min:45Sec Brilliant!

Here are my splits from my 2 Fling races and a few key points:


                                 2010         2012
Drymen                    2:16            2:19
Rowardennan          5:52            6:06
BeinGlas                  10:02          10:02
Tyndrum                  13:23          13:01

How spooky is it that I arrived in Beinglas at exactly the same time, after 10:02 hours?!
I knew I was going slower in my first 26M on Saturday, I did not feel I had settled into the race until Rowardennan for various reasons, I could hear people before the race saying I’d be faster this time as I had done much more training etc but somehow it did not feel that way. And I had discussed this with Fiona going up Conic Hill earlier in the day.

So looking at my times from Rowardennan is really interesting for me as it shows that in fact I had become “faster” and had a really strong 2nd half. It took me 14min less for the section to Beinglas and another 22min less to reach Tyndrum than in 2010. I was feeling better and stronger than 2 years ago and I would go as far as saying my last leg from Beinglas was the best. If you look at my positions for the individual legs I was in position 202 for my last leg compared to 338 in the 1st, then 341, then 282 to Beinglas. So I was working my way up the field! :-)
So a real confidence booster for the WHW race you would think? Well my initial reaction after the finish was I am not sure about it any more. I think the enormity of it all had hit me. I had not looked past the Fling before but as the Fling was done & dusted now, the WHW was right there now. And I got scared!
But having had a couple of days and having looked at how I did the Fling, it really is a confidence booster and I am well on course for my attempt of the WHW Race. So yes, of course I will do it!

A huge thank you to all who made this race possible! You were all brilliant!