Wednesday, 2 September 2015

The TDS 2015 - aka The Hike from Hell


Now if your looking forward to reading an uplifting made it through till the end post for some motivation. Stop reading.

However if you revel in others pain and disappointment please read on.

How did I get myself into this? a question I continued to ask even after the race start. Originally I entered the OCC (53K) the wee event. I knew after the Laveredo in 2014 putting myself through the rigours of over 7000m climbing and the challenges that brings was not exactly something I wanted to do, but as it came to be I did not get into my preferred race. Because I had enough points I was offered the 'opportunity'  to enter the TDS. With a 48hr time limit on the offer I mulled it over, talked to Bryan, mulled some more and was struck down with the sickness known to many as 'fear of missing out'. This sickness is not to be taken lightly as it takes over the minds of normally sane (it's relative) people.

Training for this race was a bit hit and miss. The French Alps are pretty extreme and as I had done a similar distance/height in the Dolomites I did have an idea of what I was going up against. Training was bad, motivation was nil since I got injured in December, started rehab in March and basically made it up a I went along trying to mirror my previous years training that got me through the Dolomites. The few races I did this year were pretty telling in that every race, I was running with the sweepers. My fitness per mile on Garmin seemed fine. My fitness in race reality was awful.

So with this at the back of my mind I continued onwards anyway. Training as best I could, getting my gear together and booking our holiday. We arrived in Chamonix 8 days before the race.

Our Chalet

I wanted to try and acclimatise to conditions and avoid the sickness I had suffered last year. We hiked a few days up some pretty impressive trails with equally impressive heights and views. Glacier de Bossons and Aiguille du Midi were absolutely stunning, The trails to both started at the rear of the chalet which was very handy at the end of a hard day.




Random photos

Race day was getting closer and more random Scottish punters were arriving. Sunday evening we went out for something to eat, met Ash and Richard in The Jekyll and Hyde. Lots of running chat and lots of beer. This was my first mistake. I had a terrible reaction to the beer (bad pint obviously). Two days later and I'm still off colour! I don't tend to do hangovers so this was not nice at all. Standing in the queue for registration in the heat on Tuesday afternoon was horrid. Took us ages to even find the sports centre, not a single sign, I guess you are just supposed to know! The registration is slow, very slow as they check a random list of every single persons mandatory items. I think it was 7 and it was like airport control where you put required items on a tray an move along for the inspection. Given the numbers of people and the scrutiny of gear it was pretty well run. A wee wrist band was put on and a timing tag on your rucksack. Numbers in an envelope and your drop bags within a bag. All becoming very real and very scary. 


My cut number and wrist band :-(

Tuesday night I stuck with my usual pre race food of pizza and a beer. My stomach was feeling slightly better but my beer was just out of ritual more than want and did not go down well. How I battle through!
I had set the alarm for 5am on Tuesday so that I could have an early bed. It worked, I was shattered and was in bed and asleep just after 9pm. I enjoyed a rare decent sleep before a race but woke just before 3. I had my alarm set for 3:15 so decided I'd just get up and have a more gentle start to the day. Breakfast eaten, lubed up, race gear on. The weather was threatening to be hot. Sun cream in my bag, Sunglasses on my head. We set off at 3:55 to get the bus at 4:30. 
En route a car stopped and a women shouts, bus?? we say yes.. jump in then. Wow, we got to lift to the start by random French folk. The broken English conversation was pretty funny.

There was no queue for the buses but we still had to walk up to and round a lot of barriers just to emerge at the point of joining to cross the road and into a very short well ordered line for the bus.It seemed senseless but hey, these organisers... organise to military precision and it seems a lot of common sense and understanding goes out the window with an organisers T-shirt.

We had booked a bus for 4:30 and Bryan had bought his day ticket for the Road to Hell day trip.
No one checked our names against bus times booked so we just jumped on. A wee trip through the Mont Blanc tunnel and we soon arrived in Courmayeur. The excitement was building and we followed like sheep through the small town till we reached the start area. Again everything ran smoothly. The incidental great thing about running a race dominated by men... no queue at the ladies .. hell yeah!! The men's loo was out the door.. sweet revenge!


The start


As the start loomed it was still dark, Crap, wardrobe malfunction already! Into my wee  race bag which felt it had a sack of tatties attached and I found my buff and head torch.. sorted. Bryan kept my drop bag as he was going to meet me where possible and have some goodies available at our first allowed assistance point of  Bourg Saint Maurice, 50k into the race.

The countdown begins, I can count to 10 in French no problem, not quite as simple backwards though :-) but I got the jist of it! Off we go. I walk. 1 min 54 secs I cross the line. I walk. It was just a huge amount of fun and noise and cow bells and camera flashes. We were soon running, it was light enough to run without a torch.. damn.

The pace through Courmayeur was not intense and I was jogging comfortably. No sign of what was to come, thankfully as I would just have turned back! We quickly hit a tarmac'd uphill, yep I thought, here we go. Soon turning to rocky fire path and as far as you could see, snakes of people way up ahead rocking it whilst I stumbled at the back wondering why I was blowing out my butt already.

I stopped to redo the wardrobe, torch in bag, visor and sunglasses back on head, my bag was still feeling way too heavy and my back was straining already. My nice new shiny Black Diamond light as a feather walking poles were getting a pure beating. The hill kept going and we passed through the first small water/toilet station with about 1320 meters of climbing done. I could see everyone stopped in a queue on the hill so decided I'd take the opportunity to use the loo. Good choice, the ascent was very slow due to it being a single track and the sun was coming out.



Amazing views as the sun came up

After an up, there must be a down, technical and twisty and in a queue. I told myself this was ok as it saved me trashing my legs too soon. Plenty hours and hills ahead where there would be plenty space for us all. We hit the flat and I could see the first food checkpoint. This was also a cut off. I ran almost all the fire road to get there in time. Just, 20 mins I think. I had some noodle soup and bread, refilled my water bottles and left quickly. Shortly after rejoining the queue for the next hill I heard a horn blowing and I assume it was a warning the checkpoint was closing.

This was a long hill, it was a slow hill and I was loosing all my puff, struggling to breath, sweating like I was in an overheated sauna but feeling cold. I still had my arm warmers on and the slight breeze that was blowing was making me nip. All around folk were shedding clothes and moaning about the heat.. I felt so left out of this party! I topped out eventually 1962 meters gained. When you are in a line going up, there is no stopping for a breather, it is just keep going no matter and hope you make it. I was delighted to see a water station at this point but even more delight to see Victoria O'Reilly who had been in the long line.

We decided to run together, being able to talk to someone was amazing!! We set off playing, as someone put it.. checkpoint chicken. We had a long downhill into a stunning valley. We jogged what we could to give us a chance against the foreboding checkpoints. The heat was getting intense in the valley and I was glad to at last join the party.



At the bottom before our climb to Col du Petite St- Bernard

By this point all the queuing was over, we had space to just keep going. Another long meandering climb into the checkpoint 2602 meters climbed. Bryan was waiting there. He was not allowed to give assistance but I could chat to him over the tape!! We got food/drink/loo etc, I left to speak with Bryan and Vic was a few minutes behind. I had got cold yet again and decided to put my T shirt back over my vest, I started walking out waiting on Vic. It seemed strange to me but I completely did not want to go on alone. I almost had a feeling of dread at the thought of going into the night (when it came) on my own!! I stopped walking!

We were now about 30 mins inside the checkpoint cut off. Off we plodded, 14 km with a approx 3 hours to get to Bourg Saint-Maurice. This was mainly a downhill section and we managed fine for most of it. Vic is not so good with the rocky technical downhill, almost like Bambi on ice ;-) Suddenly the cut off was getting close and we were still a good bit out. We stopped relying n the Garmin km to the race km as one of them was def out of sync. We were soon racing downhill into town to make the 5pm cut off. I had pulled a bit ahead of Vic getting there about 16:45 and Vic coming in about 16:50. We were allowed assistance at this point and Bryan and Marianne got to work getting food and clean clothes sorted. Then at 16:55 without the food even leaving our hands we were told the checkpoint was closing in 5 mins and if we wanted to continue we would have to leave now as there was a kit check when exiting the point. 

Disbelief lead to mad panic, there was lots of folk going through the Abandon tent, we were asked if we were sure we wanted to continue. Our next stop was 1100 meters uphill and even though 3 hours sounds plenty time... you never know till you go. Vic tried to get her water refilled to be told she could do it at the next checkpoint.. re read last sentence. This lack of understanding was shocking. They mailed us about having extra water, they questioned us about being fit enough for the climb yet they tried to put a runner out without water so they were not late closing a point!! What was annoying was it was a public tap which they had cordoned into their checkpoint!!

We left the checkpoint a bit rattled with not enough time to feel satisfied we had done what we needed to make the next checkpoint. Can't go back so forward it was. We were very quickly into the climb, and it was amazing, meandering single track through forest and hillside. We were making plans for the next checkpoint and beyond.




Then it happened. One minute I'm feeling fine, blethering away, plodding slowly upwards but all is good. Then a switch was pressed. I felt dizzy, told Vicky I'd have to sit down, my HR was racing and I duly lost all the food and water I had taken on at the checkpoint. I've not had such projectile vomiting since my last bout of what appears to be 'mountain sickness'. As always it is case of, yep feel better for that, lets go. I soon realised I was kidding myself. I had no energy and I was simply running out of puff requiring to sit down, let my HR settle, stomach settle, light head settle before making another effort. I told Vic to go on but she wouldn't. Not when your in 'that nic' .. cheers ;-) We were soon caught by others, including the sweepers .. oh wtf? No way. We kept going passing the dead and dying and lucky for us the sweepers had to pick them up.. reprieve.
I was still well out of sorts but we were getting there, I insisted Vic went on so that she wasn't timed out. No point the two of us being disappointed and I was not enjoying holding her back. She told she would wait at the checkpoint to see if I made it through, if not she would go on. I had met a French guy on and off throughout the last 20k. He now passed me as I chucked my poles away in disgust and sat down yet again. He was trying to get me to follow him, now, come, we sprint. Oh ok I might as well eh. I got up and plodded after him. 
We soon topped out and he sprints to the checkpoint table. I follow and get my number scanned, I'm still in :D he then gets his number cut and says I have 2, and waves in my direction to bring me towards the marshals, I'm pretty confused and asking for Aqua in bloody France!! They then try to cut my number, I'm, non non continue continue. Then this complete stranger has huge rant in French with broken English about out in hills alone. Sorry pal, but where I come from we do not pull form races if we can go forward. 

I'm out the checkpoint as quick as possible, no food just a water refill. I couldn't eat anyway. I did have gels and jellies in my bag. I had managed to keep a gel down since being sick so I was ok.
Vic was waiting 100m up the hill, trying to call Marianne. I join her then walked on but things are getting a bit much. I'm ill, I know I'm ill, I have 4 hours to cover 10K to the next checkpoint. My mind crashes and I tell Vic I am turning back. I can't go another 10k in these mountains in this state. She reckons I'm doing the right thing so I turn back, walk 20mtrs. Nope, if I can walk back I can still walk forward. I catch Vic, she is on the phone, I decide I'm keeping going and walk ahead. Then I get dizzy and nauseated, I'm hanging over my poles for balance.. oh F this, I'm through. So I tell Vic again I'm going back, 10mtrs this time, no can't do it. I'll just keep going :-) Hhmmm, pattern emerging here, within 2 minutes I can't see beyond the hopelessness I'm feeling and I don't want to hold Vic back anymore. I make that decision.. again. See you at the other side, take care and I'm away, stumbling down the hill towards the checkpoint I have just left. 

I stared ahead at the tent, the lights were now on and I was hoping to get back before needing my torch. Oh, yeah, who an I kidding, there is not a hope in hell I am walking back down that hill into the checkpoint, and anyway, Bryan is still at the next checkpoint waiting for me, me stopping here would blow our logistics to pot. I pull out my jacket, buff and torch. I tuck the jacket into the bungy straps for easy access, stick my buff and head torch on. I turn around and move forward. It's only 10k, I mean how hard can it be... remind me to never listen to the wee voices in my head again!!

Onwards I plodded, passing people, sipping water and keeping it down. I even managed a couple of jellie sweets. I was stopping and starting, it was hard, it was dark and I was crawling round the side of a gully. My torch only showed me darkness where the path at my side disappeared. I could hear water roaring somewhere. I found this quite exciting and it gave me a boost of adrenaline. I eventually reached Passeur de Pralognan where they had a first aid box and quite a few medics. Turns out this is where we have to sclimb down the rocks hanging onto ropes. I try to march past the medics, giving a smile and a squeak of fine thanks. Then duly fell down the first bloody step. I got tugged up and made to have a break. Lots of questions, dizzy? eaten? when? drink? etc etc. I mostly told the truth and they gave me a sugar sachet. Don't swallow, just put the sugar under the tongue and let it dissolve into the blood stream, bypassing the dodgy stomach. 

I was allowed to continue on my own. There were guys leading you down the worst of the roped section, then you were on your own. There was 2 females in front of me making a much better go of it than me!! After the mega steep bit it was so slippy, mud on rocks and small stones just rolling me along. I took a few tumbles, one hurting my elbow pretty badly. Oh FFS!!. I checked my watch, I could see head torches miles ahead snaking up yet another hill. I wasn't timed out yet but soon would be and I was still at least 2 very hard miles away from the checkpoint. 

Seeing the distance I still had to go, the conditions under foot, the hills still to climb, self pity came calling. Mind games again. I quickly kicked it out. I mean I entered, I paid, I trained. This was all my own doing and I was going to enjoy it, no matter what. I took my rucksack off, with everything wet with sweat it was now mega heavy or maybe I was just getting weaker. I just lay down on a rock and stared at the stars. It was an amazing clear night with a huge bright moon. My mood lifted and I soon got up and got myself sorted for the final push to the checkpoint. My stomach had settled to just nausea and my head and HR seemed back to normal. My legs though were truly gubbed.

Then I got lost !! well I wasn't really, it was just that I could not see any markers on the fire road, so after 2 corners and no flags I turned back. I got back to the river crossing where the last flag was turned and started walking back the way I came making sure I had not missed a flag. There were more torches coming down the hill so I knew even if I couldn't find the path this time I could at least come back to them. There was no other flags I had missed so I just continued on the fire path. Eventually I came across a flag. I relaxed a bit, I could also see torches heading uphill.

My race was almost over it was 0015 and I still had a bit to go. I wasn't too disappointed at that moment. Maybe because I was so tired. I then heard a vehicle at my back. The Medics were taking the folks from the first aid station to the checkpoint. He stopped and asked if I was ok. I was and I was walking well. His car was full but asked if I wanted him to return for me. I said yes please. The sudden happiness knowing I didn't have to crawl up that last hill to the checkpoint was a great feeling. I was soon sitting in a warm 4x4 with a really nice French Anton Krupicka lookalike :-)

Thankfully when I got to the checkpoint the bus was still there and Bryan was still on it!  Sadly Vic was also on it. She made it into the CP with 1 min to go but no time to gather breath/food or water.


Final checkpoint 3841 meters climbed

And that as they say is that.

A huge thank you to Bryan for your support all through training and the race.
And Victoria who stayed with me when I was so sick. I am so sorry it was to the detriment of your own race.

Huge congratulations to those who finished their chosen race. You are all legends. Commiserations to those who like myself did not come home with a Gilet. Disappointed but no doubt determined to have another go.
Also all those random mental Scots and honorary English/Indian folks, who cheered supported listened and made it such a great event. I had decided as this was probably the hardest race/effort I have ever had to make that I would not be putting my name in the hat for next year. Suddenly I feel beaten and I hate being beaten.. it would seem sleeping at altitude is the way to go .....




TDS video
















Monday, 23 March 2015

Return from injury

Well I've not written much since last year. The Lavaredo trail was a magnificent experience but left me pretty burned out. An appalling showing at the G24 where I thought I was just going to chitter myself to death and had to head for an early shower just to stop me turning blue.

All in the past and I took a few weeks off from doing the long stuff to have some fun in the hills, Pentlands, Alva Glen and Tinto hill races were great fun but fair showed up how unfit I was.

With no plans until the Fling I was quite happy to plod out along the River Ayr Way or down to Straiton for some steep hill reps. Then it all went wrong.

December 3rd a planned 7 mile jog from Catrine towards Ayr, turning and back to the car, I mean what can go wrong? Knee pain, from nothing to hopping within a mile. I had no idea what happened, all I knew was I could not walk on it let alone run.

I quickly got an appointment at Hampden sports injury clinic and after a couple of sessions, massages and planning I was back out starting at 2k on the treadmill. No cycling, no road running. I could swim. I don't like swimming so gave it a miss. Lots of muscle building in the gym. It seems I overloaded my knee, no cartilage or ligament damage thankfully.

Now more than 3 months on I'm back running almost without pain. There is a stiffness which I worry about and I can't yet get back into the hills as this is when the pain is at it's worse. I just have to build it up a bit before I can get back to belting down the Cobbler. Going up seems ok though so I'm half way there :-)

I have decided I want to keep a diary as I try to get back to fitness and under 11 minute miles.
My first big step was to go around to the local track. Kilmarnock Harriers train here and I know a few of the runners, I've been made very welcome so I'm just turning up and joining in. The structured interval training at the track and round one of the local parks is mind boggling. 25x400m .. what? in the one day? it's actually not that far but I'm totally out of my comfort zone. I have also found out just what a plodder I am. 500m same pace as 300m. 400m same pace as 200m. I think my pace needs quite a bit of work!!

Mon 23 - 10 mile @ Whitelees (no garmin) struggled, mostly in my head although my legs hurt and I felt tired. I was hoping to stay out for 2 hours but with no watch I listened to my body.. creak/groan/ouch. was disappointed when I saw it was only 1hr 40.

Knee and calf pretty sore today. Had a good stretch before driving home.

I have had to pull out The Fling. I'm really disappointed as I had taken holidays but I know only to well how hard those 53 miles can be. I don't want to break a shoogly peg. The following week I am off to Italy to run the Mugello trail (60K) so all is not lost.

Here's to a happy healthy week of running :-)

Karen

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Lavaredo Trail 2014

Now where do I begin? I found this race through an internet search. It was a small entry (max 800) trail run through the Dolomites. I decided after the WHW 2013 this would be my focus for 2014. I waited patiently on entry opening in February, in between which it had been named as an Ultra-Trail World Tour race. Oh no, panic now begins about getting an entry!! No worries, got my entry in, bib secured and it was all systems go. Then I got injured, (already in previous Fling blog) after which my training was a bit stop start, my calf's never really fully recovering, always a niggle.
I was not particularly confident I was fully prepared, more hills could have been done, perhaps more weights or should I have done a bit more speed? Suddenly it was upon us. Bryan and me set of to Glasgow Airport , packing light and almost pretending it was a 'holiday'. A small mishap with a delay/missed connection and we didn't arrive in our hotel till the early hours of Friday morning.. the day of the race. I slept till 11am though then we set about getting registered. 3 times I had to go back to the hotel to collect things, yes they tell me they need to see the clothes I am running in? seems you have to have capri tights and long sleeve top. I do so all is fine. 50% of others don't on race night and I wonder what use these checks are when folk just show one thing and wear another?

Time for our last meal, I was a bit edgy and couldn't even decide where to eat let alone what to eat. in & out of restaurants we went, a study of the menu and another.. nope. Ended up having a slice of take away pizza and sprite. We went back to the hotel and I tried to sleep, no chance but I did get a couple of hours rest.

Then it was time to go for the 2300hrs start.


We walked the mile or so to the start. The weather was looking ok. Bit damp but no wind or rain and it was warm enough just for a light wool top. We lingered around at the back waiting for the off  (too many folk to get through to get a glimpse of Tony Krupicka but I did hear his short interview ;-). At this point I wasn't too nervous, for something I had taken a great deal of time planning I realised I has no real idea of the route the checkpoints etc. I had emailed asking about backup and food to be told back up was not encouraged and food including soup would be available at checkpoints.


We set of and I was told by a sweeper he would be following me!! must know me then! As I was at the back I enjoyed taking it all in, the whole way through the town was lined with people clapping, cheering, ringing cow bells. Great start, a gentle uphill out the town for a mile or so then a left onto a rocky trail and the first hill. ok... well let me say OMFG, never been on hills like these, they just went on & on & on. Our Alpine friends with their poles power yomp, huge steps lots of force through the poles into the ground, glad I didn't connect with any!! I was tiddling up with my tiny wee steps and wondering what the hell I had let myself in for. Eventually we top out, oh thank god thinks me, then it seems the other part of Alpine racing is bouncing as fast as you can down windy ,slippy, technical terrain in the pitch black, poles with pointy bits out the back ready to pierce any unfortunate runner. A few times I stood to the side, partly not to trash my quads (we are still on the first hill) and partly I was having a feeling of self preservation and had no wish to be stabbed with the points or taken out by out of control runners. Into the first checkpoint, I met Sharon Law who was with other Brits crewing, she was following Scott Bradley who was well through at this point and running well, Sharon looked after me, getting my water etc I tried to get some food in and had a small bit of a jam tart, everything was sweet, no soup or bread. I took coke in 2 of my small bottles and water in the other 2. I think I also tried a small biscuit which I ate while walking.

I quickly got the idea of the race. Huge uphill (walk) Huge downhill (take time) Little flat (run what I can).
I settled in as it got light. There was still very little room to run at your own pace. Narrow paths, runners with elbows at right angles, poles stabbing or dangerously skiteing backwards of rock. I'd ban the bloody things but hey, when in Rome and all that.
Once daylight came, wow, this place was just simply stunning. I stopped to take a few photo's but my camera card was full!! We came to the gorgeous Misurina, a stunning lake with equally stunning trails.

At ground level
From the checkpoint

We ran round the far side before starting the climb up to the 48km (2300m) checkpoint. The second part of this climb for me was a death march, it was soo long and soo steep, scrambling at points. On the other hand the Milka coo's were wandering around ringing their bells and making me stop and look back down the valley towards them :-)  I finally got something to eat, noodle soup and bread. This is also where our drop bags were, I had clean tops, buffs and gloves, shoe change and a couple of treats with more tablet and caffeine gels. In good Italian way, there was one dressing room and you just got on with it!! Quickly deleting some disturbing scenes from my retina!!


After my break and food I walked out the Refuge towards the Tre Cime Lavaredo at 2400m, my fingers had gone numb (white & tingling) I was feeling a bit rattled but stopped again to get my dry gloves on. The only thing on my mind was to remain comfortable, not only in pace & energy but my general well being.




It is a nice wide path along here and I now had plenty space to do my own thing. Plenty snow too but it wasn't too cold and no sign of the rain that had been forecast. I put my wee shuffle on at this point, there was really no one to speak with. I looked at most folks bibs which had our country on them and did find a few Brits. The Killers and others kept me company along what felt like a very long 15km. I was told by one Italian to relax.. we don't run the flat, keep it for the hills, a different take on it but I can see why you would plan to race like that.
I got to Cimabanch in good fettle 65K and again met Sharon, again I was looked after well, Sharon was trying to get me to eat something, anything, I knew I needed to but my stomach was having none the super sweet foods on offer. I had eaten a few gels and one bit of tablet, along with the soup. I knew it wasn't enough but thought if I could just get the gels to stay down I'd be ok. I took a couple of small biscuits and tried to eat them but with no saliva I had a mouth of glub... yeuck. Birdies got the biscuits.

I was still plodding along happy. I had no real pains I was still walking very well even if my running legs were not as strong. Thankfully, as I was to really need those walking legs later.
I think Malga Ra Stua was where Bryan had waited hours on me but missed me. I met a lovely family from Helensburgh who were supporting their Italian son in law. I also had soup, which turned out to be water with stock. No veg, noodles or anything. I had a small bit of bread and took advantage of real toilets. Leaving the checkpoint was a pretty technical downhill, slippy, steep & rooted and I was having to be very careful. My legs were getting tired and my shoes were not exactly gripping the terrain. I plodded on waiting on the next uphill, a few false starts and we were away again. Steep and never ending, I was starting to overheat and managed to get my buff soaked in some ice cold water.


It was a long slog & I remember feeling ok, then we came to the part with water. Here there were no paths, just flags between the rocks, 4 river crossings, each step carefully placed as the water was running fast. Bloody freezing it was too! Some folks were taking there shoes and socks off, not for me,straight through and man up. I wondered if any of them had put there pretty matching gear and feet through such extremes as a Scottish hill run or English Fell, actually think not. After topping out there was a very steep downhill on a nice wide track, you could see the runners below going round the hairpin bends towards a tunnel. Below the tunnel you could see the refuge and I along with many others stupidly thought that was the checkpoint, and technically it was, only after the tunnel a marshal pointed us back uphill, more hairpin bends, never as much fun going up them though, then eventually a steep descent holding onto trees and bushes to stop myself falling.
Crossing the bridge coming out of the hill the Helensburgh family were there and I got the loudest cheer.. so put a smile on my face and a wee bounce in my step. I ran into the checkpoint with a runner form England who had been just in front of me at the bridge when he heard the accents, we had a wee blether about our joint tiredness and misery but both of us still smiling & determined.
As I ran into the food station Lucy, who had been with Sharon for the early part of the day came over and took control. Sharon had went on to be at the finish for Scott and asked Lucy to look out for me. I really can't say what a huge difference these small gestures make. Thanks so much Sharon, Lucy and the others who looked after me. I had soup here again and was offered chips! but tummy was having none of it. Soup was all I could manage.
Meanwhile Bryan was still trying to find me :-) I think he almost blew the engine out the wee 1ltr panda hire car trying to get round the course and up the hills!

I ran out the checkpoint feeling ok. I was still eating so in my mind I was getting it right. I wouldn't say my energy was high but I was still running the flats etc. Feeling a bit sick but the soup remained in my stomach. After this point though, I ran very little more. Looking at the figures I only had 24km to go. I was well up on the cut off times and I think in front of my hoped for 24-26hrs.  My Garmin had packed in somewhere here I think, probably gave up waiting on me completing a km as it seemed to take a lifetime to cover any distance at all!
I started noticing things go wrong pretty soon onto the climb up to Rif Averau. The road map looks like the 2nd half of the race is short uphills and downhills. I had checked previous times and noticed that 6 and 7 hours was normal for this final part of the race. I wondered why, well wonder no more. It is brutal. When you start passing chair lift stations and snow is all around you know your high. The view was gone as I was now in swirling mist and it was getting cold. Ahh well, tough it out, how hard can it be. Looking desperately at my road map, I'm kidding myself on that it can't be too bad. I soon started wheezing and coughing, I was now pushing hands on knees and if my memory serves me right it wasn't the steepest I'd been on. Eventually I topped out, mountain rescue at the top. They gave me a wee cup of something, lost in translation for a while till I worked out it was tea :-) didn't taste or look like tea!! Leaving this wee rest stop I went round the side of the building into a freezing wind. I put my thick wool top on here before continuing. Here was a nice runnable twisty downhill, then onto another single track that was crossing the hill slightly on an incline. I was running/fast walking as much as I could but feeling more and more nauseated. As the time and little distance passed I was feeling awful. I had started wretching but holding on to my tummy contents at all costs.

Eventually I reached Passo Giau and I knew I needed to regroup. I was totally rattling, shaking, dizzy feeling sick. I sat myself down inside the tent. Took some water and they had fruit cocktail here. It was cold and yummy. I only had one cup. I tried to work up to eating some thing from the table but simply couldn't face anything. 10 mins passed and I was starting to get cold. Ok lady off you go only two short hills.. aye right. I somehow conveniently managed to forget I was in amongst mountains, not hills. A 3000ft Munro barely gets you off the ground around here. In my mind I was still in the Munro range though, keeps it doable if slightly unreal.

On exiting the checkpoint I pass the last pull out bus. Didn't give it a 2nd glance, within 50meters I was doubled over throwing up my much prized tummy contents. A quick look back at the bus, it's still there.. not a chance. I pulled myself up tucked in my petted lip and started walking towards wee hill Forc Giau. To get to this hill I had to slide down a mountainside, scramble over rocks perched on the side of said mountainside before crossing yet more snow fields which had slides cut into them on the downhill, haha just balance yourself and slide, scary fun and slightly mad. I started the scramble up the hill in not to bad a shape but before long I was struggling like never before, only managing 5 or 6 steps before having to stop for a breather. Eventually I could take no more, put my jacket on, zipped it up, kept my rucksack off and and lay down on a large rock for a sleep. I felt warm enough to begin with but soon cooled down. I knew I could recover from this blip, I just needed time. I was soo tired and had no breath but dragged myself back up thinking I'll get to the top then rest. I caught up with a guy from Denmark, he was struggling with his breathing too, hanging over his poles unable to get another step. Eventually we both managed to get moving, the mountain rescue guy came down the last 20-30ft, took my elbow and practically dragged me up... humph, I was managing fine you know!!!

I sat myself down sheltering at the same large rock as the rescue guys. They brought me water and bread sticks but again I couldn't manage. Food and fluids were a thing of the past. I'm now at 105km according to the road map, I now believed nothing that was on this damn useless piece of paper. 10mins later and I'm on my way. New rules though. I was going to walk it out. Swing your arms get some air in your lungs. Last noticeable hill. I'm not prepared to do a carbon copy of previous hill, also I think my fat stores were starting to utilise into energy, my legs were moving, 'Left foot, Right foot what way are we going? Forward... yeah' I turned this into a little chant. This hill went by in no time, I'm well chuffed, there is a downhill, I'm running.

Less than 100m I'm chucking up. Ok. I'm not quite recovered but I am moving. And that is how I finished the race. My stomach didn't recover although my legs did. I walked a very long slow death march through the Dolomites. I could not even walk fast as it made me sick so I picked a pace where I was coping. I was sick many times during the last 20km I rested many times and I got a lot of support from fellow runners. All asking after my welfare and could they do anything to help. What can I say, when the chips were down all those pole carrying, matching expensive clothed runners were only too happy and quick to offer help and support. Thanks.

On the final 5km into Cortina the route takes you down but then back up again, moving away from the town, WTF I can't do this.. but off course I could, I eventually entered the town, right at the top where we had begun our journey on the trails. I was now walking faster, I was heaving constantly but the need to finish was stronger. I passed a marshal.. how far I ask , 1km in distance he tells me, I will share with you all right now just in case you ever go to Europe to run... they have no F***ing idea how far a km is!!!! So 1 mile later and I've taken a tour of the town, I now turn into the finish. Bryan appears, he's been there since 5pm it's now after 11. I try to run to finish line and I manage it without being sick... it's over. 24hrs 18mins. I would have been delighted with that beforehand and I still am delighted. No point asking what if. I have learnt yet more lessons that will help me in the future. It also made me realise the real meaning of single mindedness.
The Helensburgh couple appear and congratulate me, son in law is still out there, I thanked them for their support, it truly meant a lot.

It was a quick drive back to our hotel and I was so glad to get a shower. I was really hungry and tired so bed first. I was up early and took the lift to the hotel restaurant for breakfast before heading back into Cortina for the prizegiving.


All in all, it was a great experience. Not one I'm in too much of a hurry to repeat though. The route was tough and in parts mental with snow, melting snow, rocks, land slides etc. If you want a challenge def give this one a look. Thanks to everyone who organised and helped out and to Sharon for making sure I was looked after.

Then it was tourist holiday time :-)



Well if you have got this far, you'll be needing a wee coffee... enjoy

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Highland Fling 2014

Well it seems I haven't blogged since September 2013!!

Lost the bug I think, but after having an amazing day yesterday I feel the need to have a wee short record of it.
Now I know I moan a lot, I greet and gurn and mump like a madam and I certainly was vocal about a calf injury I had, a mere nothing in real terms but for me at the time of year when I was putting down my big training months into the summer it was huge. Short story, it was a calf spasm which no amount of resting was going to fix (4 weeks) eventually parted with the cash and went to Hampden Sports Clinic, one session of acupuncture, I'm on the road to recovery and wondering why I hadn't just gone right at the start!! I was told 10 days of strengthening then I could try run 1 mile.. so that was about 2 weeks ago or so.

This didn't put me off running the Fling, just made me reassess my race plan. So it was turn up, start then finish, simples.

The Start

I wasn't nervous, I hadn't tapered, I felt under trained and was a bit feart for myself (am I going to make it? will the calf  hold?) I was going to find out!!
I started slow at the back and slowed down. I was feeling pretty rough and considering pulling out at Drymen.. all the nasty negative thoughts going through my head, heavy legs, heavy breathing, heavy heart..

At Drymen there was such a crowd making such a racket, no chance I'm stopping here!! On I plodded, mood slightly lightening as I plodded up toward Conic. Met the always smiling Karen D here and we plodded and blethered to the top, Karen nursing a pretty bruising fall, hand and knee all bloody and swollen but she was in good spirits and it lifted mine. Karen stopped to get some stuff form her bag so I plodded on running to get my photo taken


then promptly walking again haha. It is yet another story but Conic hill and me, we have a past. Broken bones on 2 separate occasions and I'm kind of wary of this descent. My barley breathing and taking every step with caution crawl was suddenly blown to the winds when Laura (Troon Tortoise relay runner) comes bounding down behind my.. big scream big hug dragging me down the steps in a sweaty tangle of her happiness and my fear hanging on for dear life.. OK maybe that's a slight exaggeration, well done ladies for 3rd team :-)

Into Balmaha and I get my drop bag and hug from BDTP, photo taken by wee George and I'm on my way again. I had just a few items in my bags, a caffeine gel, mini choc donuts, half mars bar, small bottle of juice and for savoury little sausage roll/sausage/chicken strip things, all fitting into my pocket so I didn't need to stop. I was feeling more like my self. Plodding slowly, well within myself now and finding the running and climbing easy. 
Onto Rowerdennan and I started noticing a rub on my back, I knew I had to get it to seen to as small niggles can become huge issues as the miles and hours pass. Strange how the mind focuses. Quickly into the checkpoint, met by the ever smiling Vicky O' but I was quickly through and looking for first aid, found Jeff of the WHW rescue, taps aff as they say as I got my back covered  in plasters and bra strap taped up!! Seems it had already rubbed through the skin. Walked out the checkpoint before noticing I hadn't refilled my water bottles, back you go lady!! 

The hills to Inversnaid went well, met Louise J here and we had a good wee natter. Unfortunately it was around this time my stomach started rebelling and it was the long jog to the checkpoint and toilet!!

The next part along the Loch side was not my best. I quickly got caught behind a snake of others. I took this as a wee chance to take a breather, at the parts where possible folks were moving over and letting you past, when they didn't a wee shout of 'can I nip through please?' was met by a 'aye nae problem, there you go' so why one ignorant little madam felt the need to push and shove and try jumping round people when there was no room is beyond me. I did mention this to her and she could get past an appropriate point. Patience and manners cost nothing. I refused to let it annoy me but did allow myself a wee smile when she was soon walking in the playground of angels and I just jogged on.

Keeping to my plan of jog easy, run within myself nae huffing or puffing I soon left wee short ass Heirs behind but do have to acknowledge he helped me immensely on the Loch side and I'm sure I wouldn't have got my PB it it hadn't been for him holding me up and conserving my energy ;-)


You may not recognise the trained elite athlete from this particular image though.

Into Beinglas, I get my bag, by this point no savoury or choc, just the tablet I had added and another gel, My gut was turning and I was on the sugar train. As it happens I had past Mr Downie just before the checkpoint, he caught up here and duly emptied a bottle of water over my back when I was bent down emptying my shoes! I am not going to repeat what I said but he was out that checkpoint faster than a rat up a drainpipe!! The pleasure was all mine when I caught him up within a mile, but as I need help with a rucksack tier I had to be nice to him!! 
I plodded on waiting on the wheels falling off, I'd been waiting for a long time to be honest but as long as I could run, I would run . I passed Amanda and Emma soon after they were chattering away and appeared in good spirits, there just seemed to be loads of people on the trail.
 I had looked at my watch leaving Beinglas, 9:15 I think. When I last ran the Fling in 2009 I was through in 9 hours and finished in 12:00:58 so I had decided a PB was not on. Then I thought, well, you know, if you just keep plodding, yadda yadda the thought was turning in my mind like a wee poisonous snake, round and round and round it went. It aint over till the fat lady sings I told myself, so up till that point it was game on. I just love the Bogle Glen, I could never be unhappy going up that hill, steep it was, knackered I was but I was still grinning like a mad yin. Even more so when I caught Knoxy picnicking at the top!

Auchertyre however for me is another matter and I knew in my mind this is where I was going to struggle and I did. Met Corned Beef here, great encouragement so on I plod. When I realised I had 2 miles to go and still had 30 mins I was like yeahhhhh in the bag... but as we all know it is never that simple. I pushed on with nothing left in the tank, I couldn't face the tablet, wished I had another gel, head down just keep going your not going to miss it.. but what if it's farther than 53? what if I run 53 in 12 hours but don't make the finish line.. that's not a PB.. oh man the pressure, past the piper (great touch) watch buzz's 53.. I'm like Oh no, it's more than 53, c'mon you daft auld cow get round that corner!!! Then I saw it... the end, then I heard it, some person at my back!! WTF?? sprint... and I beat him and I got my PB 11:53:56 :-)

I went out with a plan which I stuck with for more than 40 miles having the best time ever. Then almost killed myself leaving it all on the track on the last leg. I really need to have words with myself!!!

What a great race, great finish area, great people all round. A huge thanks to each and every person who helped out and cheered us on. Amazing!! (but never again)

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Glenmore 24 & Pentland Skyline

Two very different races with pretty much the same outcome ... pain & disappointment.

The G24 is a great race, my 3rd time aiming to stay awake and make 100 miles. Failed miserably on both counts. Felt pretty sluggish from the start, just tired. Heavy legs that I guess just hadn't recovered from the John Lucas.
I tried to stay positive and managed for a while but as the hours ticked by the wee sleep demons took over ... 3 hours later I was back out there, another 20 miles and I'm wrapped up in my sleeping bag again, oh dear! I crawled back out for the last hour on the small loop. Had myself a great time, all the support/shouting & general abuse made for a fun last hour. 84.25 miles.
I'll be back next year to try stay awake and run 100 miles :-)
Thanks to BaM & co ...great fun

Then last weekend my first ever long hill race. I recce'd the route a few weeks previous so I knew pretty much what I was letting myself for.
I think I had a few issues going on. Firstly I was bit wary of getting lost, one wee recce does not make me proficient, my plan was to keep others in sight! In the clag that was never gong to happen, I didn't get lost, but I got panicked when I could see no one in front or behind. Ran way too fast pushing as hard as I could to get clear of the mist.
Then there was the energy meltdown. Coming off Bell Hill, I'm good. Struggling up next hill and I litteraly stopped, dead. A wondering weaving wobble to the top. Oh my god what as happened to me?  I was dizzy and feeling sick. Well MTFU lady cos you still have a few wee hills to go.
Still, I'm determined if it's runnable, I'm running (probably stumbling). I finally reach some marshalls in a tent and I'm beyond all hope. I enquire about pulling out. Ok, just walk to the finish you've only just over a mile to go. Want some tea or sweets? Ha I think, guess I'll just push on then.
Off I go with a smile on my face, nothing like a reality check.
Soon it was all downhill & I'm managing to run. What a buzz to finish, I was delighted. 4:07. I'd have taken 5:07 at the start. I wasn't disappointed with my time but by blowing up so badly.

After some chit chat I have came to the conclusion it was more than likely my lack of calories in the days previous to the race. Have been quite happily following a low carb type diet & think I just underestimated the amount of energy I was going to need on the day. I'll be keeping an eye on that for the Jedburgh Ultra next weekend. I never like carbo loading as it just bloats me but sensible eating for  a day or two before and should keep me right.

I may even put in a day or two training as well, legs were completely trashed after all those hills I decided they required a good week off. I'm looking forward to Jedburgh but also to the end
of  the season. I'll try fit in a few XCountry races and get back to the weights.

Safe running

Karen & Munro

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Keeping it going

I'm talking about training and dieting and in general just getting out there keeping it going.

Since finishing the Way I am glad to say I did not loose 'my way'. I rested well, over 3 weeks with nothing more than jogging with Munro.

Turned up at the odd Eglinton park run, just outside my PB, well, by a minute or so but if you consider I've been running over 5 minutes outside it you could say I'm getting there.
I entered and enjoyed a few local races. Girvan half marathon, first half since 2007, way outisde my PB time but under 2 hours so I was happy enough.





Cairn Table hill race, beat Tim, that is always worth a mention.



Then the Dundonald 10K, I love saying this... 1st FV35 haha. I think everyone was on holiday but I'll take it.


Then it was back to the Ultra world. I sort of tapered for the John Lucas Round Strathaven 50. I didn't have a clue what to expect from this race. I was worried, it was all on tarmac, it had a cut off time of 10 hours. Tried not to worry too much and was assured I wouldn't be pulled from the course if I missed the cut off. Thankfully I had a good day. As we are in Scotland we had good old Scottish weather. Wet & windy at the start with everyone huddled in the wee tent or their car. It did dry up for the start and the forecast was promising a wee bit of sun at some point through the day.






As always I was slow from the start, but I was not last, at any point. This for me is pretty unusual but it seemed I was not the only person with an old diesel engine that needed a few miles to get it going. The route itself was enjoyable, quiet back roads lovely countryside views. I didn't get bored and maybe thanks to my Hoka's or possibly all the weight training I didn't get aching quads by 20 miles either. The checkpoints in the small towns were excellent, lots of happy helpful folks offering cake and coffee, maybe what a cyclist needs but not a close to the wire runner. Made a mental note to cycle it next year.
The cyclist were great, all shouting encouragement. I fair noticed the silence once the majority of them had gone by.
I had a real struggle between miles 30 and 36, I found the constant long dragging hills, quite a drag. By the time I got to the 40 mile checkpoint I was out of sorts and feeling very sick. Helen & John were here doing a grand job, they didn't let me linger.  T'dTFU and plodded on meeting Noanie and Elspeth about mile 43 marshaling. I had a wee moan about my woes and carried on.

I soon picked up my pace when I realised I was well within the 10 hours. Not only that, if I got my finger out I'd get under 9. The gauntlet was down and I had a goal. The miles at this point seemed never to end and at one point I was awfy sick. Think I'd had too much water. Felt slightly better after that wee mishap.
I finally got back onto the roads we had earlier set out on. I knew I didn't have far to go but the clock wasn't for waiting on me. Only one more mishap when I ran straight down the hill following the cycle signs (as per route) Apparently they had a marshal here earlier but 
they had been taken off the point. A marshal who had been cycling round all day saw me and came after me, gladly I had only gone a short way but had to go back up that bloomin hill... now I was really having to fight the clock. I didn't know how far I still had to go, knew it wasn't too far as I could see the houses so just went as fast as legs with 50 miles in them could go. Wayyhay finished in 8hrs 54. After all the worrying and fretting!!

Now I'm excited about the G24. This is a great race, well for me it's a run. I can't see how it's possible to 'race' for 24hours but I will enjoy running it. It's also the start of my annual leave and our wee holiday in Aviemore. Only one more night shift and two lates to go. Wishing my life away here.

Other wee runs to finish the season, Pentland Skyline is looking good and I have entered Jedburgh for a 2nd year. Then it's Cross Country .. hell I just love Cross Country.

Winter training here I come.

Safe running
Karen & Munro


Friday, 28 June 2013

WHW 2013



WHW 2013 …. I did it

Wow, on Sunday 23rd June 2013 I joined another 148 runners collecting their well deserved crystal goblet at the presentation ceremony of the WHW race. I was to say the least a very happy person. People watching, as I do, you could see the pride and emotion on the faces of not only finishers, but crews, marshals and families.

Still grinning.

At registration I was nervous, but tried not to hit the ‘climbing the walls’ level of manic which in the past has seen my stomach in knots and race ruined before I’ve even ran a step. I managed it. I mingled about, visiting the loo too often, having a last minute snack, listening to the race briefing. By 1 o’clock I was ready.







I started off at the back of the pack but within 3 miles and even after many loo visits I was hiding in a bush with my headlight off. Geeze oh!! Catching the sweepers I
apologised for hiding, put my head down and aimed for the Carbeth huts. My crew of partner Bryan and WHW support vet George McGregor were meeting me here just to make sure all my gear was comfy and I hadn’t forgotten anything. 

 I got into my slow plodding pace and just ran happily along knowing I had a huge adventure in front of me. I started eating my wee snacks within 15 mins of the hooter going off, home made chia seed bar and protein bars. I next met my crew at the Queen Elizabeth car park, half cup of coffee & a wee bit of chicken leg. Conic hill here I come. What a difference the improvements have made to this path, I enjoyed my run to the hill, over the hill and took my time with the steps on the way down. No falls or slips. All is good.



 

Into Balmaha checkpoint in good time, yummy, more food. Porage here. I get my water sorted, restock all my snack stuff. Crumpets and golden syrup were going down a treat. I’m out the checkpoint in 5mins. I have now started catching folk. Dribs and drabs but I’m no longer last.
I have in the past heard people mention a low path to Rowerdennen, I didn’t know where it was or what folk were talking about, well I do now! I was so busy looking at the loch I ran straight past the Way marker post and onto the landrover track. After a bit I realised I wasn’t sure I had ever seen this part before. Then as I turned a corner onto a downhill 3 runners were coming uphill. Sure enough we were all on the wrong track. Ahh well. I was lucky to only have ran about ¼ -1/2 a mile, the others had ran right round till they couldn’t go any further. I ran a good bit after this with a girl from South Africa, blethering at our stupidness, mine in particular, they all had an excuse, I had none.

Into Rowerdennen and I’m feeling good. Time for more food and a change of top and shoes. I put my sticky soled LA Sportiva on here for the loch side section. I also put my heavier rain jacket on as it was really chucking it down. 10 mins later rain was off and I was roasting like a piece of meet in tinfoil at gas mark 5. My jacket was too large to carry in my small rucksack so I kept it on and stewed. My run to Inversnaid went well, had a quick seat and refresh, loved my pink custard and fruit pot. Huge thank you to the rescue team, they were very helpful and full of banter.

I generally enjoy the section from Inversnaid to Beinglas as long as I take it slow. No bouncing jumping or trashing legs. Had a great run/walk here my mood was high and I was grinning from ear to ear. Still running all runable parts nice slow and steady.
At Beinglas checkpoint I had to wait for Bryan getting stuff out the car as the cars all had to be parked so far away. Not really a problem but I think I uttered my first diva cuss word here.

Onwards to the half way point. A steady jog to Derrydarroch farm? under the underpass, no dramas at cow poo alley, an excellent power walk up the Bogle Glen then good steady jog saw me into Auchtertyre. I had lost a bit too much weight here, god knows why as I had been eating like a kid in a sweetie shop all day but a note was put on my card to see the Dr at Bridge of Orchy. I had some soup and bread, went down a treat. Also a full change of clothes, feet vaselined up clean socks and new shoes. I left feeling fine but changed my rucksack to bottles as I was now starting to get cramp in my legs, one bottle of water, one bottle of isotonic, very good decision. I was still running all the way, slow but not shuffling. My dry clothes and fresh shoes gave me a great boost, then the rain started. Bryan and George had started joking I had my own rain cloud. A quick hello in Tyndrum and I was on my way to Bridge of Orchy. 



On this section I caught up with fellow Tortoise Derek Hill. Derek decided to keep up with me so we ran into Bridge of Orchy together. (quick nip into the hotel loo). Got my weight card checked, refuelled and off we went, a quick chat with MtM and a jelly baby before the descent. Another quick hello with our teams and kit check before the moor at Victoria Bridge.
If my mind serves me right this is the first real struggle and low point I had. Derek coaxing me on and me moaning my ankles were aching.
We got to Glencoe in good time and had another slightly longer break, dry top, soup and I took some painkillers for my ankles, just to dull it.







We ran out of Glencoe, I was still feeling good, positive now that I had ran past my DNF point. 2 years ago I was a mumbling ruined human being at this point, I didn’t give myself any credit for the distance I had ran or the effort I had made. Suddenly I was blinded by my stupidity and very proud of what I had achieved, even if it wasn’t to the end on that particular day. 2 years too late but I finally celebrated my 2011 WHW race.


 


A slow jog was all we could muster to Kingshouse but no point walking the flat bits, plenty walking to be done later on. We managed a pretty smart ascent of the Devil but I was worried about the downhill. My ankles were really sore and I think the thought of all the loose stones were playing on my mind. We picked our way through but I had no confidence and my mood was now starting to get low. Crabbitt is not a big enough word. I think the second half of this section I F’d & blinded with almost every step. Then I stopped for a pee. It would seem I had some chaffing!! I was almost sick with the pain WTF!! Ankles forgotten I had a new issue.



We got to Kinlochleven still running which was good. Now I had my worst diva moment when Bryan didn’t get me the savlon and Vaseline as quick I would have liked (something to do with me not packing the savlon but hey, that’s just a small point). Eventually we found some germoline and I got myself sorted. I had put on some weight by this point so all was good, I think all those sugary treats were starting to land on my hips. I had more painkillers here but think it was a nice new fresh personality I needed cos the old one was battered, rattled and in no mood to be in pain. We ate more goodies before heading out on the last section. (After grovelling apology to Bryan)



We headed up the hill, quickly getting caught by others but that was fine, we let them get past and got on with our own run. The underfoot conditions were as expected but slightly wetter. We walked the whole way and it was a long slow slog, but now days later, it was ok. We caught sight of Jeff’s camp and trudged determinedly towards it. Photo taken we plodded on. Then things got weird. George commented he thought he saw car lights on the side of the path.. eh? Quick look around, nothing. Then 5 minutes later I saw what could only be car lights lighting up the track.. Eventually we caught the full outline of the car crawling slowly along the track behind us. Unfortunately this was Jeff heading towards Lundavra as someone was in trouble. Never good to hear and makes you aware how vulnerable you are out in the hills. Huge thanks to Jeff and his team who are happy to be there and enable us to take part in our mad pastime safely.

Bryan had walked out to meet us. Oh, he says maybe 10 mins to the checkpoint. It was great to see the glow of the fire. Neal and Caroline had a great fire going, what a wonderful checkpoint. For me though I still had my minging personality onboard and just wanted to get a quick refresh and go, no standing at the fire, I wanted a bath and the only way I was going to get one was to keep going.

Leaving Lundavra we got caught up in a few others running in a line. It was good to still be running/walking at a decent pace and I think we all used one another to keep going forward. Reaching the fire path I knew it wouldn’t be long. I also knew it was still a hard downhill slog; we kept a fair pace and walked as quick as we could. I found this harder than running but I think it was more mentally doing my head in. Every turn I was looking for the old Way marker, knowing the car park wouldn’t be far. Bryan again came up to meet us with a happy oh it’s just 10 minutes. All the way I had made many markers, each not too far, and each being another tick in the very long list of boxes. Now these small markers were killing me, Fire road. Tick. Way marker. Tick. Braveheart car park. Tick. 30 sign. Tick. Arrgghh, where’s the f***ing end!!!



Needless to say as all things do, it came to an end. We ran the whole length of the hedge and across the car park. How did it feel, well, not sure. No huge elation, no great wave of happiness just a thank **** that’s finished. I barely managed to raise a smile for the photo.



I never even went into the leisure centre. I was soo tired and crabbit all I wanted was out of those stinking clothes and into a bath. Not quite the end I had been thinking about, training for and building up to for the last 3 years.

After a bath, sleep, shower I was at the presentation. Now it was sinking in, now the elation was sweeping over me, the pride in what I had achieved. I guess like any huge hard fought battle/achievement it takes time. I now have memories that will last a lifetime and I’ll probably be smirking and squirming in equal measures at my good moments and my diva moments for a long time to come.
I would say I am suitably embarrassed by my bad moods, always thinking I was quite easy going and laid back. Funny when I mentioned that to work colleagues they laughed, aye right, you? Seems I don’t see myself as others do!

I wanted to keep this short, but how do you do that when so much happened? I would just like to say a massive thank you to the organisers, what a huge amount of work went onto making sure we all could indulge in our own selfish pastime efficiently and safely. The marshals, standing for hours in midge infested checkpoints, the Dr’s the mountain rescue, Jeff’s team on the Lairig Mor and the crews. I’m not sure if any had a harder time than mine!! Well apart from Knoxy’s mum & dad. Tom Hanks wouldn’t have this much to say!!

Safe running

Karen & Munro