Thursday, 18 June 2015

50 weeks ago...

At 1am on Saturday 5 July I lined up in the dark for my longest race to date, the Great Glen Ultra - 72 (3?) undulating and stunning miles from Fort William to Inverness.  John's parting words were 'be good if you could get home before it gets dark'.
21hours and 51minutes later - before it got dark, I crossed the finish line in the Bught Park to the most amazing welcome from a surprisingly large crowd of fellow runners and supporters.  I will never forget it, not least because I managed to run all the way around the track, but mainly because I didn't expect so many people to be there.  I had been at the back of the pack for most of the duration - criss crossing with the legend that is Ray for a fair bit of the course from Laggan to Drumnadrochit.  Then after a wee strop at the checkpoint, thanks in the main, to the amazing George Reid, I made it up that feckin great hill and then plodded my way home.
When I finished John said to me 'could you do another 20 miles?'  I nodded and said I think so but slowly, 'that's ok' says he 'you'd have another 13 hours'.
I had always thought that the West Highland Way race was beyond the grasp of an ageing and decrepit - ok not quite, but rapidly falling to bits, wummin of a certain age and whilst I loved being part of the crew last year and supporting John the year before, I'd never thought of giving it a go.  Not seriously.
Long story short, I thought about it a lot over the next few months - mainly in the why not vein, and the if you don't do it now, you're not getting any younger vein.. Come November I filled in my details and submitted my application for WHW 2015!
8 December I'd just got into work when my phone buzzed, a very excited David Meldrum "You might want to go check FB" it said, followed shortly thereafter by one from Amanda Hamilton - yep I'd been one of the lucky ones, I'd got a coveted place, as had David and Amanda.
Fast Forward Fifty weeks and I will be on the start line at Milngavie station tomorrow night (another 1am start) There have been a fair few miles, in all sorts of weather - well you have to train for all eventualities and "there will be weather" on all sorts of terrain in some beautiful parts of Scotland, a fair few tears and a couple of health scares along the way, but my stuff is almost packed, my plan is almost complete and I am looking forward to crawling/stumbling that last mile of tarmac from Braveheart carpark to the Leisure Centre sometime on Sunday morning.
Thank you all for the messages of support, encouragement and Good Luck in the past few days and indeed over the course of this year, I hope to see most of you over the weekend. 
To those of you who are also running, Good Luck, have a great race. 
To those who are marshalling - thank you - we couldn't do it without you. 
To those whose journey to the start line was thwarted by illness or injury - commiserations, the trails will be there for you another year. 
To the Committee who gave me this chance by putting my name into the ballot so it could be drawn out - thank you.  Also for the hours of time you put into the organisation of the race each year...
To those who have inspired me and supported me in countless ways - HUGE thanks you really are the best.
God I know, it sounds like an Oscar speech :-)
The inimitable George posted something on facebook which I hope he doesn't mind me borrowing as it sums the whole thing up perfectly:
"Looking forward to seeing the family and biggest support crew I have ever known."

Wednesday, 3 June 2015


Still running...
(you probably need to be over 50 to get the reference in the title but never mind!)

I always wanted the luxury of having a week to train and not have to worry about anything else, and last week I was lucky enough to realise that ambition.  We had volunteered to help at the inaugural Skye Trail Ultra and decided to take a week's holiday beforehand so that we could run and run and run.  Unfortunately John had 'tweaked' his calf again but I was able to run - every day, twice a day on all but 2 days!  I am very proud of my longest ever training week and my stats:
Distance: 74.64 mi
Elevation Gain: 2,578 m
And I'm not broken either!  Tired, but not broken :-)

On Saturday 24th May we headed up to Skye, the weather wasn't great, rainy and windy.  This set the tone for the week, rain, occasional sunshine and gales.  Add in the sleet, snow and hailstones and you get the gist - character building, challenging, (hellish!)  I soon discovered that there are no flat bits on Skye, every single run I did was hilly!  We managed to catch up with some friends while we were there, had a lovely curry with Andy and Karen O'Grady in their house and then I met up with Fiona, Rachel and Andy again on the Thursday evening for a run.  We also managed to explore a fair bit, I ran around the North of the island on Sunday, we went to the Quiraing on Monday as John had hoped he be able to run but unfortunately his leg wasn't as strong as he'd thought so instead, I ran home.  Tuesday we went to Broadford and I ran on the marble line to Kilbride, this is a beautiful trail and is also the last 10 miles of the Ultra race.  The trail is beautiful it has hard packed trail, heather and peat bogs, grassy headlands and scrambling up rocks add in the path along the beach where the cliff has fallen down and it's got something for everyone!  The views when the sun comes out are spectacular, you pass through Boreraig and Suisnish - villages cleared during the Highland Clearances - strangely eerie and emotional places with a single solitary headstone in the clearing.
I ran five evenings as well, a different session each time, whatever my coach decided I should do.
We also managed to catch up with some much needed restorative sleep, including a few afternoon naps.
On Wednesday I set my alarm and got up to run early in the morning (in the rain), with good reason.  It was Amanda's birthday and we had arranged with her husband Clark to meet them in Plockton for lunch.  The Plockton Inn is one of her favourite spots for food and it didn't disappoint!  Beautiful seafood and great to catch up with them, Amanda didn't know we were going to be there and I think she enjoyed the surprise (and the gin)!  Wednesday evening I went out to do intervals and it was the worst weather of the whole week, it nearly reduced me to tears on rep 5!  However I toughed it out and did more than the previous time!

Waternish trail
Thursday dawned a bit brighter and we headed to Waternish - there was mud, lots of it but there was more sunshine than we'd seen all week and only a couple of heavy downpours.  We visited the old church at Trumpan and  John walked up to see the Brochs.  On the way he tried to rescue a sheep who'd got stuck in a ditch but unfortunately she died :-(
Clark had told us they'd done this route a few years ago and it was muddy, he wasn't wrong!
The trail did get grassier and less mucky and more runnable later on and on the way back I managed to run through some puddles to try to clean off my shoes a bit, they still had to get a proper rinse under the tap and they've still got some peaty brown bits ingrained into them - as have my toes!  We stopped off in Dunvegan for lunch and by the time we got home, I'd half an hour on the couch with my feet up then it was time to get changed again and go meet some fellow Grumpies for the second run of the day!  The weather was getting wild again and we headed off to the Quiraing where Fiona, Rachel and Andy were going to take me up the hill that I'd chickened out of on Monday.  Suffice to say it was scary!  Gale force winds, hailstones, beautiful rainbows, mud and my legs were pretty dead before I started - I found it really tough and Fiona took pity on me and we stayed on the 'low' bits!  Thanks Chiefy xxx
Friday was my last training day as we were marshalling the race Saturday and Sunday, so  we headed back to Kilbride and I ran the marble line again in the 'right' direction this time ie the same way as it would be for the racers.  Thursday night's rain was torrential and the difference on the trail from Tuesday to Friday was huge, it had been fairly dry on Tuesday and it was a complete mudfest on Friday.  I was very tired on Friday morning and found it hard going at the beginning, however the sun came out and the views were fantastic.  Then the hail came!  Then the sun came back out, then the hail, this was to be the pattern of the afternoon, sunshine and showers.  John met me at the end of my run and we headed to the Broadford hotel to meet up with the competitors and Jeff the Race Director.  More friends, Donald and Elaine were staying overnight in Uig on their way to Harris, so we met them in the pub for a drink and a catch up then we went 'home' to get packed up and ready to leave the cottage on the Saturday morning.   4am Saturday and the alarm went off, time to go to Duntulm for the start of the race - but that's another story...

home for the week