Monday, 2 July 2012

Digging Deep WHW Race 2012

The Race

Midnight in Milngavie and I'm actually here. It's been journey to come this far and another begins in an hours time. I'm not nervous, I'm genuinely excited and grounded enough to accept that what will be will be, whether that's the weather, the conditions or me I'm ready.

Preparation has been difficult both physically and mentally. I've struggled with a calf problem and a degree of self-doubt that my training has been insufficient but we've had all the support team meetings, got a (very) rough plan in place, a guess on timings and nutrition and an idea of who will run with me in the later stages. They've been instructed to make sure I eat, not doing so has caught me out before, and this would prove to save me later in the race.

I get checked in, have a moment of panic when I learn that I meet the minimum weight limit by not much and spend some time in the car drinking tea, eating biscuits and getting a musical cuddle courtesy of Damien Jurado. I only get nervous as we approach race brief at 12.30am and as we excitedly huddle to hear of 'weather' it's just about time to go.

At the start
The start is immense and leaves a lump in my throat. I didn't appreciate the number of people out in force lining the start and it brings me tears of joy. I'm actually doing this! I start conservatively and plan to continue doing so. The rain also starts conservatively but it has a different agenda. However, it's Scotland we're running in not the sunshine coast and whatever happens, happens.

The miles tick by with ease and after wading to Drymen I meet Chris and pick up a new juice bottle and put in a request for dry socks at Balmaha. Daylight starts to break going through Garibaldi forest and Conic Hill emerges as an uphill river. Downhill fares no better with mud and slippy rocks and steps but I take my time to remain upright.

Chris meets me and sorts me some tea and porridge while I change my socks. Louise strolls over looking a bit down, She was about to withdraw but Ian has persuaded her to continue and I agree she should and happily watch her set off again.

I find the section between Balmaha and Rowardenen comfortable and maintain a good pace, passing lots of people in the process and as I run in with John cawing to his support, Chris is there with another cuppa. I reluctantly eat my pancakes because I know I have to and make my way to Inversnaid. I'm amazed at how comfortable I feel and although I'm utterly drenched I'm loving the moments and chuffed that I've been given the opportunity to do this race.
Tea & pancakes at Rowardenen
At Inversnaid I see Karin and her sister and get a hug. It's great she's here, especially as I know only too well the road there is hell. I munch a pork pie and a sandwich and set off for the gruelling lochside section. My right foot is really uncomfortable. I've already loosened my lace thinking it's my shoe so I do so again. It makes little difference but the paracetamol takes the edge off. I don't often enjoy this section and today is no exception. It's torture but I get past slowly but intact. Moments later while passing a walker I face-plant in the mud and emerge like a creature from the deep head to toe in mud and sporting a bashed hand and knee. I spend the next few miles spitting grit and enjoying being cleaned by the rain. It's a blow though and I have a low point heading towards Bein Glas until Ada passes by and cheers me up.

I try to eat my muller rice sitting down but the midges want some too and I'm not sharing so I walk in circles like a loon greedily eating so I can continue. I spoke to several people along this section, the majority of who I don't know but thank you for your company. I like to run alone and in silence but today the company was embraced. I text my team to tell them of my fall and that I need a complete change of clothes at Auchtertyre. I'm starting to get cold and my right foot is throbbing but I'm still smiling like a nutter and focussed on the job in hand.

Going through the rollercoaster that is Ewich forest brings fond memories of my last journey along there when Colin and I ran the fling route 2 years ago. Then it was dark and we had one crappy headtorch between us. Good times! Near the bottom Fabienne comes bounding along. She's come up to cheer people on and get a nice run in at the same time. She keeps me company to Auchtertyre where I alarm my team by being early.

Tea at Auchtertyre
It's all systems go as they organise food, clean clothes and shoes, while I get weighed. I'm surprised to see I've put on 2kg then the marshall spots my camelbak and without it my weight has maintained. Phew! Julie helps me get changed and I enjoy clean, dry warm clothes and shoes, have another cuppa and start walking with my soup towards Tyndrum chatting merrily with my support crew. Soup done I journey on feeling recharged. Fabienne catches up and runs along with me and in what seems like no time we reach Tyndrum and pass through. We enjoy a good blether and catch up with Kieran, who's maintaining a great walking pace, and talk kids, injuries and keeping moving forward. Fabienne soon turns back and feeling weary I walk for a bit. After crossing a couple of styles and then moaning about them 2 guys in a jeep assure me that the next section is all travelator. It makes me smile.

I can't remember if it was Julie or Paul who met me first just short of Bridge of Orchy but again I'm ahead of schedule and when we reach the checkpoint I almost enjoy my pasta and soldier on upwards with Paul keeping me company to Glencoe. Initially it's all good and we enjoy a run down to the Inveroran Hotel but it doesn't last. I start to feel fatigued and then nauseous and dizzy. I wretch a few times but nothing appears. I turn grey and start getting Paul worried. I'm aware of him texting back and forth to the support at Glencoe and the journey is taking too long. Adrian passes and we have a cuddle and talk chips. Colin, Chris and Julie all appear to meet me and force me to take a few sips of soup. It helps momentarily but with my calf in agony now as well as my foot I'm that close to throwing in the towel.

My team force me to take a break at the checkpoint to get myself together and get some food in me. Colin massages voltarol gel into my foot and calf. It's agony and really hard to get back on my feet but once I do I feel almost human again and Chris takes over running support duties. Julie joins us to Alnafedah and arms linked we start towards Kingshouse Hotel singing "We're off to see the wizard...." Wait, was that just me??

Just past the hotel, Colin comes running along with a package. It's toast!! With butter!!!! It's like a gift from the gods. I'm ordered to eat 2 slices and happily oblige, especially as he's had to trade the dog for it.

At Altnafedah I'm given the option of choose 2 things to eat or we give you 4 so I grumpily choose a muller rice and a bar of chocolate and start the climb up the Devil's Staircase. I keep a hold of Chris's arm and head up and up and up. It's actually easier going up and I enjoy the change in muscle use. But when we reach the top and have to descent it's a long long way down and darkness descends both literally and metaphorically. It's hard. I'm in good spirits despite the pain and discomfort and seeing Kinlochleven in the distance assures me I can finish.

Fiona and Silke pass moving well. Fiona offers me yucky things I don't like and I gratefully decline and then they're away into the distance in no time. Paul appears and he phones ahead to tell Colin I need a change of shoes. I've saved my biggest sized shoes til last and boy do I need them. We get into the community centre, I get weighed and sit down to change my shoes. The pain is horrific so I take a few moments to gather myself together, enjoy yet another cup of tea before we hobble out towards the climb back out. Colin has been roped in to endure this last section. If anyone can help me make it to the end then it's him.

Once I'm moving it's not so bad, though my left foot is also agony too now and my right knee and hip are going too. What a wreck! I hold Colin's hand and don't let go until we reach the Nevis Bank and I'm thankful that the climb out of KLL isn't as bad as I remembered but with the terrain on the section following towards Lundavra every step is a struggle. Victoria passes and remembering I saw her with Louise earlier I ask after her. She's pulled out. I'm gutted for her. She's worked harder than me for this but she'll do it next year I know!

I start seeing dead bodies, some of them naked, and animal carcusses including a woolly mammoth. I don't say because I know my mind is playing games but it still freaks me and I wonder if someone is doing a sweep of bodies at the end. I have another hard patch and Colin forces a glucose gel into me. It's disgusting but I do as I'm told. I imagine Lundavra is just around the corner. An hour later it is. I don't stop though, worried that if I do I won't ever move again so I soldier on while Colin collects my final cup of tea. Coming through the forest I'm so tired I stop in my tracks and close my eyes. I just need a wee sleep even if it's standing up.

I don't know what got me moving, pro plus possibly, but I did and after what seemed like an eternity we emerged from the darkness of the forest to daylight and the fire road towards Braveheart car park. I can see Fort William in the distance and shed a few tears knowing that I've almost made it. Local knowledge keeps me going as I'm able to identify landmarks and their distance from the town centre. Chris comes up to meet us and we soon reach the road. I know this road well and it's just a short shuffle now. Paul comes to meet us and we stop for pictures at the old finish post. We reach the corner of the road to turn into the leisure centre and I can barely believe I'm here. I stifle tears as the boys get their cameras out and break into a run, up the stairs and into Ian's arms sobbing. The emotion gets the better of me and I hug everyone who will allow it. I did it!!
Trying to keep it together...