Thursday, 20 September 2012

WHW challenge

Apologies as this is really long. Best get a coffee.

A while back, probably sometime between breaking my leg and coming to my senses I decided I wanted to spend a few days on the WHW route.

I had missed the race although I did do marshalling at Glencoe. Still not quite the same as taking part though. I booked myself into the Inversnaid hostel, then, was planning to get to Kingshouse and finally reaching the campsite at the Ben Nevis where Bryan would have arrived and pitched our tent. My plan was to have one of the baggage companies carry clean clothing to the different hostels.

Ha, the best laid plans. How it panned out was Bryan offered to meet me on day 2 bringing my bag with him then me carrying on with the dog on the last day. Our night in the campsite got cancelled as Bryan had a morning at Uni next day. We also changed our stay at Kingshouse to Tyndrum. I would stop at Victoria Bridge and Bryan would drive us back to Tyndrum as I thought it would be just too far for me to manage.
So overall, approx 30 miles per day carrying my full rucksack on days 1 & 2.

Day 1. The weather forecast was rubbish. I dilly dallied about the house packing/emptying my bags etc. Bryan drove me to Milngavie with a plan to set off just after 10am. Ok, we got to Milngavie about 10:45 the rain was bouncing and I was in a pretty low mood with the thought of 30 odd miles in the rain. I have never made any secret of hating the rain, there is just nothing fun about being cold, wet and chaffing for miles and hours on end. As we sat waiting on the rain to go off (no chance) ok lighten a little the time ticked by. I then realised I didn’t have a head torch and with time passing I was not going to make it to Inversnaid in daylight. I expected to cover about 4 miles an hour so time was now getting tight.
I then realised this was my run and I made the rules. So I promptly decided I would start at Drymen and miss out that puddle soaked path also the part on the road. I really don’t enjoy that part and was glad I was going to miss it!

We drove to Drymen and I quickly got out the car into the rain and started my wee adventure. I plodded slowly trying to make sure I kept an easy pace, I wasn’t too fussed as I knew I only had 20 miles to run, cool, a nice short day. There was a diversion for logging through what used to be a forest just outside Drymen. I duly followed the signs, sliding through mud and slime up past my ankles, lovely, barely started and my nice gore-Tex shoes are soaked! The rain poured the rain went off, the rain poured the rain went off, just that kind of day. My only slight fear for today was the Conic hill. I was glad I still had fresh legs as it was a bit slippy with all the rain, it was also a bit busy with charity walkers. This was a perfect reason to just slip in behind them and take my time.

Seemed like it took an age but I finally got off THAT hill, in one piece and no broken bones. The rest of my day went well, plenty food stops, eating as I walked up the hills. My mind had rerouted some parts and I surprised to reach this part so soon or wondering where that part had went. Seems it’s been a while since I covered any real distance on The Way. I finally got to Inversnaid Hotel. I was struggling, a lot more than I thought I would, it was after all only 20 miles!! I hadn’t really researched where the hostel was but had heard many people say it was up the hill. So off I set, what felt like a lifetime later with legs hinging off I finally see the old church. 

Oh so glad to be there. I had carried clean tights and 2 tops in my bag minimum toiletries and was planning on sticking my wet clothes in the drying room. All goes to plan, I get me wee room I have THE best hot shower, get my wet clothes hung up then head upstairs for food. Excellent wee dinner couple of beers chat with some other walkers. I would recommend staying at this friendly wee place any chance you get. Off to bed before 10pm. Day 1 approx 20miles 6hrs 23.

Day 2. Up for 8 dressed and back upstairs for breakfast. No full brekkie here but flakes, porage, toast, yogurt and fruit. Tea/coffee. A bacon roll was £1.50 extra.
I left for my planned run to Victoria Bridge at 9. I let Bryan know my expected arrival time as he was planning on being at BoO for me. Weather today was so much better, all my clothes had dried fine except my shoes. After a couple of minutes I’d forgotten they were wet but it did allow me just to run through today’s selection of mud and puddles with no worries.  
My first day had past with no more pains than the usual heavy tired legs and strangely weird sore heels. Today however my right leg started to really hurt. My calf/ankle and sole were aching. I plodded on determined not to take pain killers as these were one of the many things that had possibly caused my sickness at the Glenmore. Ahh suck it up I thought. Once past the mucky farm I could not move without limping so I stopped got the shoe off took off my support bandage loosely tied the lace and carried on.
Not sure how much better it felt but was enough to give me a boost and get my head down for the climbs through the forest. I do like this part and it is hard not to enjoy it.
I plodded to Auchtertyre, now out of water but in no more pain I stopped for a nice cold can of 7 UP. A Mars Bar found its way into my hand too so I had  a seat outside in the sun. Finished I refilled my water bottle in the wee kitchen and carried on.
Along here I managed to get a signal on my phone, called Bryan and told him I would just be stopping at Tyndrum. 

Funnily enough the sugar did what I would normally have taken painkillers for, my leg was feeling a whole lot better and I was running comfortably into Tyndrum. Had a natter with Kirsty, made our plans for day 3 and I made my way to the wee Hobbit house. I was again cold and sore. These wee houses have fantastic heaters and the place was toasting in no time. Would have to recommend a stay at The By The Way Hostel. The Hobbit house was cool and shower block very clean. I admit to this being my first ever getting out there and staying at hostel type trip. The places I picked were on others recommendations and I was very glad I listended :-)

Bryan arrived on Q and I had my holdall with proper toiletries and clean clothes. Bliss.
We went up to the Green Welly for pizza then a long walk (in the rain) with Munro. Bed time again. Day 2 Approx 20 miles 6hrs 20.

Day 3. We planned to leave at 9 and Kirsty appeared with Milo (her gorgeous Vizsla dog). Munro had an ohh who are you  moment before deciding Milo was ok and we all set off for BoO. This being my 3rd day my legs were kind of sore but I seemed not to notice and we struck out at a decent pace. A few times I had to ask Kirsty to walk as I was just running out of puff, but moments later I was ok and we were off again chatting away and the time passed quickly. Lots of sheep and cows on the first part of the route. Milo was very well behaved and never gave them more than a look, Munro on the other hand I had to keep shouting back to keep him in check. At one point a big coo looked too easy as he ran at it, naturally it duly kicked him and he was very well behaved after that!!
Kirsty had to turn round at BoO as she had to get back to the hostel. I carried on in a real good mood and full of energy. Stopped for a moment at the foot of the climb as Bryan was waiting there to make sure I was ok. He was going to drive to Victoria Bridge. I was up and over the hill in good time, down onto the road and again met Bryan. Still on a high but asked for a wee banana as I knew the moor could very easily stop me in my tracks. The rain had been on and off so far, nothing too bad but I had my full waterproofs with me. I have learned never to underestimate the Rannoch Moor.
It had been decided before I left that I would run to Glencoe and that would be the end of my wee adventure. In a way I was sad this was my last leg but also very relieved as I was starting to feel I was on my last legs!!
I plodded with determination, not only was I not going to let the moor beat me, I was going to enjoy it. Ok maybe enjoy is the wrong word but I jog/walked comfortably. Reaching the cairn I knew I didn’t have far to go. I would have whooped my way down but my legs were aching and I was almost in survival mode. It is what it is and it’ll stay what it is till the end so get on with it!! Day 3. Approx 17 miles 4hrs 30.

 A nice shower in the new shower block at Glencoe (£1:00 10 mins) then into the cafe for a bacon roll and coffee. Perfect end.
Huge thanks to long suffering Bryan, couldn't have done it without you and to Kirsty and Milo for the much needed company on day 3.

I dropped approx 10 miles per day and at no point did I feel I could have done them. Perhaps next year if I manage to train right through I’ll have another wee shot at it.

So what did I learn? Lots, but most of all… it was fun :-)

Happy running

Karen & Munro

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