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 café 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!



Santababy said...

i love that Thoams left you messages on bottle!:)and you made the climb up the devil romantic, i'm guessing you will be only one saying those words! great report Silke, you were heading for that goblet and nothing was stopping you. well done

Marco Consani said...

Well done Silke. I had more tears when you finished than my first finish. Fantastic effort in the worst conditions. You did so well and I am so pleased for you.
Marco x

Vicky said...

What a wonderful report Silke. I'm so pleased for you. Love the photo of you with YOUR goblet! Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

Fantastic and truly inspirational Silke. I'm a blubbering mess just from reading it. Very, very well done. Lesley x

Kimbles67 said...

Congratulations and well done Silke. Like Lesley, I am a blubbering mess reading that. You are one inspirational woman. Kimberley (GGH)

Kaz said...

Awesome job, lady! Well done a zillion times!

Rhona @ said...

What a wonderful, positive race report! I especially like the messages on the bottles and how you thought about running in Thomas' footsteps, but that's because I'm a big softie ;)
Congratulations on your goblet :)

Debs M-C said...

Personally I thought the biggest endurance test of your life was being married to the CG...but then I read about the messages on the bottle. What a lovely gesture!!

Very well done, Silke. I was in tears watching your final sprint and I was in tears reading your report.

I don't think you will ever know how many people were so happy to see you finish! Although your entorage could rival Lady GaGa's.

Hope you're recovering well...because the Devils only a few weeks away ;-)

See you soon, Superstar. xxx

Julie said...

Fabulous Queen Silke!

PS You need to update your profile now.... :-)

Karl said...

Great report Silke. I wasn't the only one who noticed the boats patrolling Loch Lomond and wondering why.

Congratulations on a great achievement.

Peter Duggan said...

Aye, Silke, you got it and it was great to see you looking so good at Kinlochleven (NB fully expected you to go sub-30 after that)!
Love P X

John Kynaston said...

Congratulations again Silke.

Your preparation and execution were second to none..

Loved your report.

See your soon.

Ali Bryan-Jones said...

Well done Silke! You more than deserved your goblet after all the training you have done in an the great effort on the day in the less than perfect conditions. Brilliant report too.

Neil Scott said...

Congratulation to you Silke a fantastic report really enjoyed it. You passed me (Support for Paddy McDonald) just before Kinlochleven. I'll always remeber your words of encouragement, "This way to the Goblet gentlemen" Sadly Paddy dropped out at Kinlochleven. Gutted but crocked.
So pleased for you, well done.

_andy said...

Simply fabulous - well done on such a wonderful achievement Silke.

Billy said...

Superb report Silke. Congratulations on achieving your well-deserved goblet!