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!