22 June 2010

west highland way race

it's time for some honesty folks. i'm a bit rubbish when it comes to sticking to a plan. i'd hoped that setting goals so high, i could change a habit of a life time. i'm not just talking about running here but life in general. for me this 'race' was more about the challenge of preparation, remaining focused and motivated. obviously i failed massively in this respect. so plan b was actioned, race as road trip and have a laugh along the way.

like all good road trips, it starts with cramming the car full lucozade, jelly babies and proclaimers cd's. to scotland! and the small matter of a 95mile running race...

for the purpose of this post, 'jaki' is in reference to jane and vikki. possibly the best support team a trainer wearing shuffler can have....except that time in tyndrum but we'll discuss that later. also, the word 'running' can be frequently substituted for, shuffling, hobbling, walking, standing still and sniffling and hyperventilating.

chatting to others on the start line, i was nervously trying to find people to stick with, who's pace wouldn't rip my legs off after 20miles. i got talking to an american woman. she was aiming for a sub 19 hour, i edged away from her. not before asking what the ultra scene was like in the states. she explained that's it's much more popular but the problem's that more people enter without having done the right training are trying to get to 'just get round', rather than actually race. yeh, i also hate that attitude, i slipped away, heading to the back of the pack.

01:00 and we're off. dodging revellers in the street and heading to the twisty singletrack of mugdock country park. the soundtrack of nervous chatter and garmin beeps punctuate the night silence. but by the time i reach jaki, 13m in, the field has already spread out.

my pace is a plod but i'm actually enjoying the feeling of freedom that night running gives. the sky is so clear that i switch the head torch off. running towards conic hill with the sun rising behind me, this is it, this is why.

the ground is hard and dry, making an easy descent. into balmaha, 20m, and jaki is there waiting. i'm packed off with encouragement and stale marmite sandwiches. some more running. the water is still on the loch side and it's already starting to warm up. my only thought is to get to tyndrum (the finish of the fling) and still be able to move.

next stop, rowardennan, 27m. the car park is full of sleep deprived support crews. despite the heat everyone is wearing full body cover and midge nets. everyone looks the same and i can't see jaki. thankfully jane emerges from a cloud of midges and directs me to our pit stop. sat down, my shoes are changed and legs covered in deet, i'm not quite sure who was doing what but i was very grateful. some muesli shoveled down and i'm sent on my way.

along the loch side, nemisis country. head down, keep on moving, don't think about speed or distance. i don't even look at the view, i've seen it before. it's lovely and remains so for a very long time. at inversnaid, 35m, i've a drop bag waiting. again, it's contents are uninspiring. oh, more lucazade and some jelly babies.

on my own i plug in the headphones and let the tunes carry me forward. a combination of early nineties rave, dolly parton and some dodgy 'rockapella' sees the loch soon disappear. jaki are waiting for me at beinglass, 41m, and i can't wait to see a friendly face. so far it's felt like a very lonely race.

another change of shoes, application of suncream and pot noodle inhaling. but all i want was some plan water. apparently i hadn't put that on my spreadsheet. i was also told i was well behind the 24hr schedule. despite looking forward to seeing jaki, i left feeling pretty fed up. i managed to work myself up into a bit of state. shuffling along i was blaming jaki for everything.

i then had a thought. maybe i should try actually running rather than this shuffling i'd been doing. my next revelation was that if i could keep this up i could get back on schedule. feeling better and wanting to share the news i called jaki. jane answered, listened to me rambling on. she said 'yes', 'keep it up' in all the right places. little did i know that i'd just woken them both up. if i had, i think that might have made me feel even better!

by auchentyre, 50m, i'd made some time up and the mountain views were starting to fuel me again. jaki directed me to the official weigh-in. all ok. a jacket potatoe donated by some lovely marshals was a welcome respite from the sugary treats. not wanting to waste time i pushed on, knowing that i'd be seeing jaki again in just another 3m.

the potatoe must have been laced with EPO or speed. i arrived at the point of bag exchange and planned pot noodle consumption, only jaki wasn't there. i plodded on whilst making a few phone calls. soon jane comes running up the trail with my bag and a pot noodle in the other hand. no real time lost but jaki have slight indigestion.

this next section is surrounded by munros, all tempting you to higher places. ignoring the hills and keeping my eyes on the trail stretched out before me, on i plod. suddenly i need to stop, my bowels are making a protest. there's not much cover on this stretch, so i just pull off the trail slightly. squatting down i realise that i've no toilet paper, not even a buff. what i would have given for a lost glove! i start to shuffle on but just out of curiosity look down. now, i see a lot of poo in my line of work but i have never seen a poo so black. amazed and slightly horrified i managed to resist the urge to pick it up in a sandwich bag just so i could show jaki. i think i might have been quiet tired at this point.

i hobbled into the bridge of orchy, 60m. from here onwards jaki would also be sherpa as well as roadside support. first up was vikki, leading the way over the hill to inveroran. the views across to loch tulla were stunning and hopefully making up for my lack conversation. ensuring that i kept moving and drinking vikki did a brilliant job.

down into inveroran, 62m, and jane was lycr'd up and ready. full of pace stats and schedules initially we made good progress. jane explained that if i could keep up this pace (a pitiful 13.5 minuet mile) i'd be on for a sub 25hr.

rannoch moor is a beautifully wild and desolate place. i might not have looked like it but i was pleased to be there, more so that i was getting to share this moment with my girlfriend. then something happened, something changed. i slowed right down, i was struggling to breath and felt like i'd been punched in the back. from here onwards nothing could shake me out of this state. i think i knew then that my race was over.

eventually we made it to the glencoe checkpoint, 70m. vikki was waiting to go and prepared comedy protein snacks for me. i sat in the car, had a little weep and then retired from the race. i'd been on the go for 18 and half hours, anti climax is an understatement.

jaki continued with their thankless task and took me to the hotel in fort william. jane came to collect me from the car. "good news and bad news," she said, "we're checked in, the room's on the third floor", she pause, trying not to laugh, "but there's no lift." apparently i also cried at this point.

after a shower, a slice of pizza the race dissection began. jane and vikki were brilliant. even more so that they both still agreed to support me knowing full well that my training has been, erm... 'unconventional'. so what has this experiment proved? that with a great support crew and a lot of stupidity you can wing 70m, anything more requires real dedication and training. i am in awe of all of those who have completed this race.

the drive home was full of laughter and smiles. that's the mark of a truly brilliant support crew. despite the dnf i had a lovely weekend away and maybe, just maybe i might have learned something....

31 comments:

ultra collie said...

kate..what a brilliantly written piece..you could be an author!
firstly, well done winging it..not many people could wing 70m. good or bad, finish or not, so long as we learn something and feel like it was all worthwhile then thats a job done and something to be proud of
now you'll be able to race a 50 miler too..tell that to the yanks
so whats next?

sbrt said...

well done Kate! thats a big day out.

Elizabeth A said...

well done Kate for both getting so far and also being able to see all the positive sides post event! I am also rubbish with structured training plans so can totally sympathise but try telling the majority of the population you were 'winging it' for 70miles -that's a tremendous achievement and you must be supremely fit!

Ian Charters said...

Well done, Kate! 70 miles isn't to be sneered at - further than a Bob Graham Round BTW.

Glad you found positives and don't be too hard on yourself about structured training - it doesn't suit everyone.

Well written piece, too.

Is it now unfinished business, are you going back?

John Kynaston said...

Well done Kate. I was wondering what had happened to you when I looked through the results on Sunday morning and seen that you had withdrawn.

95miles is along way and you need to be at your fittest to give yourself a chance.

I would encourage you to have another go. You will come back with far more experience and with a more realistic idea of what it involves.

Sorry I didn't get a chance to say hello at the start. There is so much going on that's it's hard to see everyone.

Hope you recover well and I look forward to following your progress on your blog.

Charlie said...

Great story,well told. Well done! Best wishes and what's next?

Ben said...

Inspiring and worrying all at the same time. Well done you did a great job considering your injuries. I would only have another go at it if it is better tan the other options out there and there are lots of options. If that makes any sense.

jumbly said...

This half of team jaki is more than happy to crew for you again. Especially if you decide to take it to the Americans and fly us all out to California for a midge free ultra?? No, oh, OK, see you in Milngavie again next year then!?

SS:Mtn Biker said...

Kate,all I can say is WOW! I'm with everyone else...70 miles is an accomplishment,my friend! And seeing nothing but positives is even better! Beautiful,awe-inspiring post =D

Steve

vdubber67 said...

I know you didn't finish, but you ran 70 miles! That's a truly awesome achievement. Well done.

:)

trio said...

Winging it for 70miles, I don't think so! That requires a lot of fitness, next year you just need a little more!

I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't follow a plan! I think only the really dedicated can and they are the ones who win races!

So what is the next event!

Davie said...

Kate, Gutted for you as I've enjoyed following your progress.Hope to see your name on next years start list.
If you look back at one of your comments, you'll see you were travelling at 13.5 miles per hour! Maybe that was the problem!

Julbags said...

Brilliant effort Kate, very few people could "wing it" for 70 miles. I tend to rebel against "plans" as well.

"a combination of early nineties rave, dolly parton.." have you stolen my Ipod? Spookily similar.

Groover said...

Far out, I can't even imagine to do that. Nobody would want to support me when I stay awake for that long, let alone run. I'd be so grumpy. I'd have that breakdown at about mile 6! LOL A big well done from here. I'm in awe, DNF and all.

But what that obsession with human waste products lately? :-)

Pedalling Polarcherry said...

as I said on Vikkis post. massive massive respect for 70 massive miles of running you did! stay proud of yourself because you really should be, x

Fiona Rennie said...

Take (Failed) from your header! You have not failed at all, just posponed your goal, it's still there. 70 miles is a flaming long way and you will have learned a lot from it. See you next year, love Fiona xx

swiss said...

70 miles! i have a stop and think before i cycle 70 miles far less run it. even thinking about it makes me want to go to a&e! (i can run about a mile before crying like a small child!)

plus, the whole of the whw? that's a kick ass challenge so i don't think 70 miles on the first go is anything to give yourself a hard time about

i crash and burn and these things all the time but each one's a learning experience in the widest possible sense. it's not the failure, or lack of finishing, that counts but how we deal with it. me, i love it, pushing myself (or not!) that wee bit further each time.

it's a shame we forgot this was on this weekend or we could've come up and cheered you on. as it is we're proud for you. well done!

Joe Newton said...

Seventy miles made me realise you are a fucking warrior.

"i managed to resist the urge to pick it up in a sandwich bag just so i could show jaki" made me snort with laughter so hard that tea came out my nose.

Yak Hunter said...

Loved your post. Well done.

lesleyh said...

as Fiona says, get that "failed" off yer header!!!! You did a fantastic job, 70 miles if no mean feat! It's a tough tough race, and next year you can try again with a fresh perspective and a heap of knowledge. Recover well, great to meet you and your crew. Take it easy eh?! x

The German said...

Evening lass !

Was good to see you again at the start even if only for a few seconds.

A few points ...HUGE respect for getting to the start line and for what you achieved. Even bigger respect for being able to write about it and share it with us. Will tell you a tale about someone who is not nearly as courageous as you next time I see you.

For what it is worth ... the WHW races scares the hell out of me. I have done the Highland Fling twice and the Devil of the Highlands once and simply cannot get my head around how the feck you add the two together (and probably never will) !!!

In terms of jaki ...compare and contrast ...at Balmaha our runner had to wake me and the other "support" team member up (we were just crashed out on the grass in sleeping bags ! BG farm at the top of the loch ...I am woken by a girl knocking the window of the van asking if I am Graham or Mark ...opps - caught sleeping on the job again. Jason did get his own back by making me run from Glen Coe to the Fort with him.

Take time ...relax and THEN look for another challenge ...there are loads out there !

WELL DONE KATE :-)

Yir pal
Graham

kate said...

uc- awh, shucks! i do sometimes worry about waffling on but it's good to look back on posts. hopefully will have another go at the fling, and next year i'm racing it ;)

sbrt- cheers, if i hadn't of retired it would have turned into two!!

elizabeth- thanks. it's amazing how much more positive i feel about this compared to the fling. maybe i need shorter term goals! good to hear that training doesn't come easy to you to!

ian- further but much flatter!!! not sure i'll be back, don't know if i 'want' it enough...

john- thank you for all your support and advice over the past months. i too, look forward to following your future plans. and maybe one day we'll actually meet on the start line!

charlie- cheers!...nurse training in january! doesn't sounds quite as fun does it ;)

ben- thanks and i think you're right. there's a lot of inspiring adventures out there to be hand. i don't think my heart was ever totally in this one. any ideas for a challenge?

jumbly- i'll start saving now. how about alaska ;)

steve- cheers! it really is something you enjoy afterward!!!

rich- thanks for your message. i was thinking about you on that last section and your piece in 'ride'. good advice, sir :)

trio- training schamaning! what's next-bivvy time! when are you free?

davie- cheers! no wonder my legs hurt ;) just had a quick look at your blog-did you run this year?

julbags- thanks mate. maybe if i'd the combination of dolly and peanut butter i'd have made it ;)

groover- haha, yeh, apparently i was a bit 'grumpy'!! i promise, no more bowel movements ;)

ppc- cheers mate! weirdly i am feeling positive about this one. but time for some biking now :)

fiona- i'm in awe of you and everyone who go round. it was lovely to meet you at the start, sorry if i was a bit 'unfriendly', i was bloody nervous!!! hope to see you on out on the trail again :)

swiss- haha! thanks. it would have been great to have a little sub support cheering me on. but apparently i wasn't very good company ;) i'm feeling strangely positive at the moment, so i guess i've not completely failed.

joe- grrrrrrr!! it's amazing how far you can go when someone else is carrying (driving) your stuff forward ;)

yak hunter- thanks!!! looks like you had a good weekend too ;) well done to you guys.

lesleyh- brilliant meeting you, really put a smile on my face, particularly at BG. i have a feeling i'll be back at some point, until then the header stays ;)

graham- you look bloody great with that beard! you always know what to say, thanks. i can't wait for the story. well done to jason and his sleepy crew ;) i am on the search for something a little different, maybe something that doesn't involve loch lommond!

Thomas said...

Kate, I have been there! Twice!
my first race ended exactly like your's (at BlackRock Cottage, right next to the Ski Centre).

I am sure you gave everything. Maybe the training was not right, maybe you were not 100% on race day. A stomach bug the week before the race can kill the race! Whatever the reason, I hope you will be back. I am sure you can do this and make it to the finish next time.

I am not the best example for you too compare youself to. Since I failed TWICE and almost the same way. The second time I made it to the Kingshouse.

The good news is I finally finished the race last weekend. Phew!

Runningbear said...

What an adventure Kate. A brilliant account; I'm in awe, of the poo tale as well as the run. You're 'ard.

Daz H said...

smiles and laughter, thats all that matters. kate good blogging x

kate said...

thomas- hi there! and a massive congratulations on reaching fort william. i'm even more impressed that you went back 3 times!

rb- thanks, that means a lot :)

daz- yeh, i think you're right :)

Simon said...

Kate - I'm bloody stunned, well done. A great account and a marvellous achievement. Good job you didn't use a sandwich bag for the poo. After 70 miles you're bound to be a bit disoriented when you're reaching into your bag for a snack...Seriously, great stuff x

Jo said...

Great write-up - all sounds completely awesome to me. And considering your injury and having been poorly just beforehand, I reckon 70 miles is a blinding achievement. You have a great support crew.

Ben said...

You asked if I had any ideas for the next challenge, so here goes.

http://www.imba.org.uk/WhereToRide/TransCambrianWay.html

Dorset Doodle http://www.btinternet.com/~hardy.annual/walk_index.htm

Coast to Coast
http://www.endurancelife.com/event.asp?series=37&location=101

These are, from the top down, DIY, low key, (over-)hyped. The only one I have experience of is the Doodle, a great run. All south of Birmingham just for a change not in a North vs South competitive way.

kate said...

simon- *shudder* that doesn't even bare thinking about!!

jo- thanks, certainly wouldn't have got that far without jakie.

ben- cheers. i really like the idea of riding across wales, that's certainly on 'the list'. also, like the sound of the doodle, mainly for its name! for some reason i'm put off the endurance life stuff, not sure why. maybe their website/branding. but you're right, maybe i should head south for a change!!! thanks.

trio said...

kate, transcambrian is on my to-do list as well!