Tuesday, 21 June 2011


What can I say to sum up the disappointment? I am finding it very hard to even write down the ups and downs I’m going through.
Did I try hard enough? Could I have pulled something out the hat?
Good questions.

Back to the start. I was so excited about this race. I had been planning it for a year. I had put the training in. All my slow long runs, all my other ultra races everything was leading to this night/day/night. I had planned my food, my clothes; my pace everything I possibly could. The weather was out of my control and as it turned out so was my body.

The Start

I tried for a sleep on Friday afternoon but gave up twice so no sleep since 9am. I reckoned the adrenalin would carry me through.
We arrived at Milngavie in plenty time. Registered, I got my lucky number 13. A few people commented on my choice of numbers but I’m not superstitious and me and 13 have always been good together. So off we go to wander the car park, I met a few folks and chatted but my mind was elsewhere. I just wanted to get going.

The race

I started of near the back of the pack, trudging my way along the first few miles. I was feeling good and relaxed and was pleased as the nerves now started to settle. I’m not sure of all the place names but the miles were ticking past, I was occasionally catching folks then others passing me. Got into Drymen in 2hrs 45 right on target.

 I had 2 weetabix here and a small coffee. I wanted to eat from early on to maintain my energy, I found this to work in my training. Onto the Conic hill and I was feeling good, walking at a nice brisk pace. Took my time on the descent and into Balmaha a few minutes ahead of my schedule. Here I took a banana and slice of bread and kept walking.


Now somewhere between here and Rowardennan I said goodbye to my race. I can’t for the life of me pinpoint the moment it went wrong or why it went wrong. All I remember is starting to feel icky sicky. Nothing too bad but enough for me to have no food at Rowardennan. I did take a small piece of crystallised ginger to help settle my stomach and a bottle of Perpetuem. I had brought this along for later in the race when I expected to be struggling to eat solids.

I set off running slowly and found myself looking forward to the hills as even slow running was making me feel sick. I walked the ups ran the downs. Soon I was retching and boaking, but as you do kept going thinking it’ll pass. By the time I reached my drop bag at Inversnaid I was feeling really quite ill. Had a yumyum in my bag and this put a smile on my face, till I tried to eat it. Nothing was going down and the yumyum went to the birds.

Bein Glas

Unfortunately that is how my run continued, into Bein Glas and I was so thirsty but within a mile I was slumped at the side of the track. Projectile vomit. Gadz. I had also put a bag of salted crisps in my bag here but they just glubbed to my teeth and I couldn’t even chew them. WTF? I continued to carry this bag of crisps all the way to Achtertyre with a faint hope that I might be able to get one or two down. Didn’t happen.

Off course I tried to replace the water but nothing stayed down and I yet again ran out of water. I called my support to meet me at the bottom of the Bogle, walked most of the way there but surprisingly I was still feeling able. Met Tim who had brought some other goodies with him but I could take nothing. Tablet, glucose tablets, jelly babies my usual sugar goodies turned my stomach and I couldn’t even imagine putting them in my mouth.
We arranged for some lentil soup to be ready for me at Auchertyre and I started looking forward to this.
I struggled over the Bogle and could barely run a step on the way down but my mind was set with one foot in front of the other will get me there. Once across the A82 I rallied a bit and managed to run almost the whole way to the checkpoint. There was lots of support along this stretch and it was so good to see people and be cheered on.


Weigh in at Auchertyre -7lbs. Not good. We made our plan. I would try eating my soup then walk to Tyndrum to make sure it stayed in my stomach. Plan was good. Leaving Tyndrum I could feel some energy coming back. A long walk/shuffle towards Bridge of Orchy but I’m still confident. I’m still retching and boaking and had again stopped drinking (cos I couldn’t) but I’m moving forward and making plans for rice and irn bru at the checkpoint.

Bridge of Orchy

Bryan had run out to meet me and again was good to have company. Into the checkpoint and I managed my small rice pot and a few sips from my irn bru. Tim set of with me here and I was very glad of the company. The rain had started. I have no idea where but it seemed to be getting heavier and more persistent. We walked over the hill and I’m not actually sure if I ran any of the downhill. We met Muriel and Bryan at Victoria Bridge, by now I’m soaked through and shivering. Unfortunately Bryan had left my rain jacket in the other car at Tyndrum so Muriel gave me hers. I also had on waterproof trousers again Muriel’s as I would have had to take of my shoes to get my own on, and no one thought I was quite able of that.

We set of towards the Rannoch Moor and I was ok. A good bit warmer and dryer. Before long the small amount of energy I had left… left me. I don’t know exactly where or what but the retching became awful every footstep became a mountain I still couldn’t drink and even the fruit gums I had managed earlier were now too much to contemplate.

Glencoe & the end

I now have not much to say because I don’t know what or when yet again. At some point my mind caught up with my body and realised this couldn’t go on. I told Tim I was DNF ing at Glencoe. Somehow I knew I had hit my limit. I could no longer put one foot in front of the other, I was merely lifting my foot up and staggering. I then had to hold onto Tim just to move forward. Tim, as much as he tried to motivate me onwards soon realised just how bad I was. He called ahead to Muriel to get Bryan to bring us out more clothes.
It took Bryan about 30 mins to reach us. I put on my 3rd jacket, 2 hoods, woolly hat and I was still shivering. Now I was being dragged by both Tim and Bryan, legs just moving and no more, even at this pace I had to keep stopping for a rest. It took us quite a few hours to walk of the moor. We met the safety marshal as we struggled and he gave us a bivvy shelter bag, just in case we didn’t make it!! I’m glad I had already made the decision to DNF because I know I would have been binned at this point.

I don’t think I quite knew how bad I was, but I was told to go and see the race doctor, weight loss etc. All I wanted was a hot bath! But of course we went. Everything checked out fine and I was allowed to go to my hotel. I honestly thought I would never be able to eat again. Before finally getting to bed I had a couple of strawberries. Yuck but yum. I was able to eat.

Muriel reckoned I was borderline hypothermic and I reckon they all need their eyes tested cos there was definitely a herd of Lamas at the Glencoe centre. Plain as day.

PAAHH No Photo :(

I have thought of nothing else since.. not that I’m self obsessed!! but I have came up with no clear answers or explanations. I learned a lot about myself out there. I set off confident, not of a good time but of finishing. To give it up was very very hard. I’m trying not to beat myself up about pulling out, as Bryan has told me so many times… I didn’t. There just was no other option.

I hope to be back and give it another go. Just not sure when. Well done everyone who took part. Finishing or not… brilliant effort.

A huge thank you to all the marshals and organisers involved in this race. Everyone went above and beyond. The mountain rescue teams were fab. Lots of smiles and support.
My back up team were brilliant and I know I couldn’t have got nearly that far without them.


  1. A good honest report and a great effort at the race. There are obviously no right ways for everyone to tackle the myriad problems of running the race but you can only do your best on the day and if it works great. You will be reading many reports where people have done what worked for them previously but they struggled this year. Think carefully about doing another race too soon and recover well before getting back on the trails and start preparing for your next one!

  2. I was so sorry to hear you had to stop Karen as I know just how much effort you put in.

    I spoke to Tim on Sunday and it was very clear that you made the only decision open to you.

    I'm glad you made it rather than being pulled out.

    I'm sure you'll learn from this and that goblet will be even sweeter next year.

    Great report that will help others as well.

  3. You were looking a tad delicate when you & Tim passed me on top of the hill above BoO. I reckoned that if anyone could pull you through it would be Tim after his epic turnaround performance in the Highland Fling race a couple of months ago.

    Two words spring out at me from your report. Firstly, "Weetabix". WHW race record holder Jez Bragg recommended Weetabix to me prior to my Hardmoors 110 race. I duly tucked into it @ about the 1/2 way point, then promptly projectiled it all up again. That's enough detail; it was very messy. I won't be having Weetabix again; but everyone's different. Maybe Weetabix is Jez's secret weapon. As far as I'm concerned he can keep it.
    Secondly, "llamas". There is actually a farm about 3 miles before Tyndrum that has llamas. Perhaps they were having a day trip out to Glencoe?

    I'm glad to hear you are recovering okay. Think through what went right, and what went wrong, for future reference. As Davie says, look at other people's reports and comments ~ both from folk who met their expectations, and from those who fell short this time. Rather than belittling your performance, I feel you should be proud of what you achieved in getting that far; very very few folk could even contemplate it. Well done!

    Murdo t M

  4. I think u done brilliant. Lesser folk would have thrown in the towel far. Ive enjoyed reading ur blogs and was hoping u'd achieve ur goal. Roll on next year, maybe I'll join u!!!! Haha aye right!

  5. Hi Karen, well done on getting so far in the circumstances, good that you were looking pretty well recovered by Saturday evening. I had a very similar experience on my first WHW and on one or two other long ultras, but I got some good (as opposed to MtM's Weetabix story!) advice from Jez Bragg at the TMB a year or two later. His opinion was that these sort of symptoms are very often an indicator of electrolyte balance getting messed up and you just need to sort it out. There is no one solution so you just have to get as much info as possible and find out what works for you - electrolyte capsules, drinks, or just lots of salty food - problem is you never run long enough in training to test anything adequately so it can be a slow process, but still well worth doing. Hope to see you back next year.

  6. i had been thinking those things, could i have made one last effort or maybe have a rest/sleep and then carry on. i called it a day at Glencoe and though it was a hard decision my crew said it was the right one. i was gutted at having to pull out but all i've had is loads of praise for getting that far and thats what you will be getting be proud of what you achieved and have a well deserved rest

  7. As I was reading your report Karen I was more and more impressed by how far you got - it's sounds like you had a really tough time. I'm amazed you did 70 miles in the circumstances! There aren't many people who can cover 70 miles non-stop in the rain and cold with hardly any food. I used to suffer bad nausea whenever I did an ultra - I haven't done since I've cut right down on the amounts of solids I take and rely more on liquids now. The other thing I do differently now is try to take in some salt little and often, whether it be crisps or soya milkshakes. Hope you have a more enjoyable time in your next race.

  8. I think you did a fantastic job to go on for as long as you did and it sounds like you had a first class crew looking after you and as disappointing as it may feel right now i think you should be proud of your will power and then making the right decision when you realized things were getting dangerous.
    So I say well done to you and your crew.

  9. Your report reminds me of my first attempt of the WestHighlandWay race. I pulled out at Blackrock Cottage, just below the Ski Centre. There was just nothing left and my legs did not move anymore. And it also reminds me of my second attempt of the race the year later. This time however I made it to Kingshouse. I was shivering although it was a warm day and I wore a thick fleece and another jacket on top. And I just could not even walk anymore. It was tough to DNF but it was even tougher to DNF again.
    So I know what you have been going through. But believe it or not these are now happy memories and I would not give them away for the world!

  10. When Tim & Muriel brought you into Kinlochleven you looked truly horrific. The fact that you made it from Rowardennan to Glencoe in the condition you were in is incredible and a testament of how tough you are. You now have time to reflect on what didn't work and how you deal remedy this.
    I've followed your progress over the last few months and would have loved to see you complete the course but the goblet will be just as beautiful next year.

  11. As Thomas said, we can imagine how you are feeling. I dragged him off Rannoch Moor once myself in slow motion. I am just reading "Wild trails to far horizons" and last night came across this: "If we must fail, let us do so reaching beyond our grasp for a dream that is worth all our striving. Then, even in our failing, even through our tears, we have won." I hope you will be back to get your goblet! Silke

  12. Thanks folks for all your comments and advice. Julie!! Horrific :-) haha
    It is such a great race to be part of.
    I will be back to try again for my elusive goblet x

  13. i think you are truly ammazing for getting as far as you did Karen, that just proves you WILL be back to kick its ass, see you next year xx

  14. Great report sweetie. I'm sure you've learned loads from the experience and will def be back stronger next time. Whenever that is!

    Ali xxx

  15. Hi Karen, I was so sorry to hear you had not made it to the finish. You looked so strong when you passed me that I really thought you were on for a great run. I'm know you'll be back to put it to bed at some point and if you want any company on training runs give me a shout! Caroline x

  16. Dear god! I can't believe how far you got feeling that bad. That must be your inner Kilbirnie burd :-) I heard the next morning that you were close to death! Hope you're feeling better. xx