Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Fling...

Saturday 27 April 2013 6am
This date has been indelibly stamped on my brain since one evening last September, the eve of the Toronto waterfront marathon to be exact.  I was sitting in our rented apartment in Toronto, idly browsing facebook and keeping up with friends back here at home when up popped the notification that "The Fling" was open...
The Fling or to give it it's Sunday name, the Hoka Highland Fling 53 Mile Ultra Race is a well respected ultra race held on the last Saturday in April, following the first 'half' of the West Highland Way.  John was meant to run this in 2011 but got injured and so we were asked to help out marshalling at one of the checkpoints, we had a great day and I got the ultra bug that day.  Even though I never really believed that I was capable of running those sorts of distances on that kind of terrain, a wee fire had been kindled deep down inside.
2012 John entered again and had a great race finishing in just over 12hrs, I took part in the relay race with my fellow Runtime Error friends and then spent the next few months wondering if, just if, just maybe, I could do it.  I hadn't actually got round to thinking about it seriously until that night in Toronto and then it was all done in seconds.  Went something like this:  Me - "John do you think I could do The Fling?"
John - "Yes"
Me - "are you sure"
John - "Yes don't see why not"
then the curse that is Entry Central - akin to Amazon one-click shopping, the deed was done, the entry is processed before you have time to change your mind!
The rest as they say is history - most of you will know of the runs we did in training some good, some not so good, some awesome, but all completed, good hard, tough training miles into our legs, our lungs, and most importantly for me, our heads.
By the time we left for Boston 2 weeks ago, I was ready for my biggest challenge to date, I was confident I could do the miles, my only concern was that I might not be fast enough to make the cutoff at Beinglas Farm in time to be allowed to continue.  However I was determined I was going to give it my all and I was going to get to that gate on time.
It was unfortunately not to be :-(
John has blogged about his race in Boston and how he didn't get the time he was after and indeed didn't feel 100%, it now seems that he was brewing the lurgy, some kind soul passed on their bugs to us and by the Wednesday after Boston he had a horrid cough which then developed into a full blown sinus/chest thing :-(  I started feeling grotty on the Friday we got home but put it down to jetlag and travelling and getting over the trauma of the bombings, however by Tuesday afternoon I knew it was the same thing and subsequently have been off work since Wednesday.
Ever hopeful John kept trying to hold on to the tenuous hope that he might be better by Saturday, by Thursday evening I knew that my race was scuppered and yes I was devastated, I went to bed feeling very sorry for myself and just wanting to cry and moan that it was SO UNFAIR!!  The biggest race of my life to date, all the hard work I'd put in to get fit for it and now it wasn't going to happen!  All because somebody gave us a bug :-(   As I said in a recent post - I know that in the light of the atrocities we witnessed in Boston, this is not really a big deal, but yes at that moment in time and to me it was the biggest deal and it hurt like hell!
Friday morning John conceded that nope he wasn't well enough either and so the decision was made we would both be a DNS.
I really wanted to go through to registration on Friday evening to say hi to friends and to pick up my car pass which you pay for over and above your entry and which allows entry to the Beinglas checkpoint.  I wanted to go out on Saturday and support our friends and it's a good place to see people, so we went through to Milngavie on Friday evening, caught up with some friends, got some much appreciated hugs and words of sympathy then came home to get ready for an early start.
Saturday dawned bright and fair, yet again it was perfect Fling weather, bright and sunny, not too warm, and not too windy.  A quick coffee and pack some stuff and we were ready to head out, first stop Balmaha.  We got to Balmaha just as the first runners were passing through, as always, the checkpoints run like clockwork, runners arrive, get their drop bags, get their water topped up if required, some stop for a chat with their support crews, others just fly on through.  Our friend Sarah was in full flow calling out the runner's numbers to the bag crew, so much so that she didn't even see us there :-)  We waited for our friends to all get through then headed to the Oak Tree inn for breakfast.  After our own refuelling stop it was on up the road to Rowardennan, this is the end of the road and also the busiest checkpoint in terms of traffic as it's a relay changeover point as well.  Another friend Alan was working the bag crew here under the experienced and watchful eye of Mrs Mac :-)
Caught up with 'our team' again, saw them all through, and then we drove up to Beinglas.  This is a really interesting place to see the runners as it's after the most technical and demanding stage of the course, it's 40miles in and it's the toughest clamberiest (I know I made it up) part of the route, but what a sense of achievement when you do it!  Listening to the comments of runners coming in was at times highly amusing as there are many who run this race who have no idea of the route, and there were a lot of folk who seemed to be at the end of their reserves and were mentally fatigued by what they'd just been through.  Again there's an opportunity for runners to rest, feed, or pick up and go whatever suits them, the team who mans this checkpoint is great, they are all very experienced and they know to watch for wobbly runners or those who are a bit green around the edges, making sure they sit down, get a drink, food etc.  Here too the guys from the Wilderness Response Team offer their assistance.
Next stop for John and I was Tyndrum - the end of the line, we knew when we were at Beinglas that the leaders had finished and that new course records had been set - perhaps in some part due to the new paths that have been laid this Spring, perhaps just due to faster runners...
We got the last parking spot in the carpark at the Real Food Cafe, wandered down to the finish line - it wasn't there??? Spotted a sign and followed it round and there was a fantastic finish chute and marquees for runners to get massages, hot soup, shelter, warm showers - Wow!  The old finish was ace but this was Awesome!  It was busy and we caught up with Sarah and David Ross who had been bag man at Inversnaid and was now at finish helping out.  More welcome hugs :-)  All of 'our team' finished with spectacular times, all smiling and it was great to be there to cheer them in.  
There is no denying that it was the absolute pits not being able to run yesterday but being there and seeing our friends achieve the dream we had all shared and trained hard for over the winter helped to ease the pain a little.  I'm not going to list them all here, they  know who they are, and if you follow us on facebook there's a fair chance you know who they are too - suffice to say they are all Awesome!! Absolutely amazing and each with their own stories to tell.  There will be other Flings and we will run them, but 2013 wasn't to be for us but I am so happy for those it happened for.
Lastly, events like this don't happen by magic, Johnny Fling puts in a power of work organising this event every year, ably assisted by a great team of 80 volunteers.  To all of them thank you xxx


  1. I know how you feel Helen. It was meant to be my first ultra race too but loosing two months at the back end of last year scuppered any chance of getting my mileage high enough even if I wasn't injured on the day as well. The great thing is though the pay off for all the training I have done is to meet some fantastic new friends such as you and John, Noanie and all the other Dafties, so I think all in all I'm a winner.

  2. Ocht...I'm going to cry again.....

  3. Aw such a shame, what a disappointment! Know exactly how you feel, I was disappointed not doing New York, but that's less distance to train! Still it won't go away! Always next year Helen. Great post! :-)