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.
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!!
Karen & Munro