Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Highland Fling 2 - the actual running bit

Yes, there was running involved, lots of it, although more by some than by others.

There was a good atmosphere at Milngavie as 6am approached with everyone arriving and getting ready to set off. mrs s managed to miss the Fetch photo call and Murdo's briefing while in the loo, but other than that, everything was fine and we headed towards the tunnel. Almost before I knew what was going on, the whistle went and all the runners streamed up the steps and away.

I was planning to go back to the hotel to finish packing but ended up blethering to M1nty and Mrs Minty, Llamadance, flip, and Dave K so before I knew it, it was approaching 7, Murdo was giving another briefing and we were heading for the underpass again. I went up the steps to get a couple of photos and then saw MikeR and _andy so said hello to them as the whistle went and the next lot of runners set off. I was determined to get back to the hotel this time, but stopped to wish Simon good luck and then met Dogtanian before I got away. It was great to see everyone, but I really wanted to get the hotel sorted out and get up to Drymen to see how things were going up there.

At Drymen, we found the first problem with the new chip timing system. Basically, you can't look over the marshalls' shoulders to figure out who has been and gone and who is still coming, but I was fairly sure nobody I knew would have been there before me, so I took a stroll down across the field, and saw Robbo7777 (joking about his best side as usual) and then santababy who gave me a great big hug. It was great to see Sophster, supernormal, and bouncytime all looking happy and running well. I got all the way across the field and then spotted Dod and Lintie coming down the road which got me slightly worried as I expected mrs s to be with them. But she wasn't far behind and had made two new friends (what are the chances?), so I ran back over the field with mrs s, Anna, and Denise, stepped right in the muddy bit, then waved them off at the checkpoint and jumped back in the car, so I could get down to Milngavie for the 9am relay start. Yes, my morning was all a bit mad and involved far too much rushing around.

Thankfully, Ann had registered for the team and was ready with timing chip and sash, and as a bonus I was able to hang out with the Twa Drams & A Piece of Cake team after our first leg runners set off. We went to Costa No-Coffee-For-Another-Ten-Minutes, drank tea, ate croissants, and had a nice wee blether. A little bit of me was starting to worry because their whole team was there and mine wasn't, but I knew I could rely on Andrinne to get run2thehills from Stonehaven to Rowardennan in time. So then back to Drymen, parked in the car park (without sliding around like a mad thing this time), changed into running gear, and up to the check point. Ann arrived just after 11 as expected, and I finally had to do some running. Yep, a page and a half of nonsense bloggage, and I've finally started to run.

As I ran along the road and turned onto the trail, I could just make out a couple of runners up ahead, but no sign of anyone behind. I wondered if I might catch up, but was well prepared for a steady solo run with just nature and my own thoughts for company. As it happened, there were quite a few walkers on the route who were friendly and wished me luck. The last time I'd been on that path, it was covered in snow - not as scenic this time, but much easier going and I was able to follow the proper path so no dodgy river crossings this time. As I reached the bridge that marks the start of Conic Hill, I heard my phone and smiled, knowing that would be mrs s at Rowardennan. I checked while I walked and sure enough, Rowardennan and a smiley face. I sent a quick text to my team to let them know I was on the hill, then got down to the serious business of marching up the hill and enjoying the views When I reached the top of the path, I could see that I'd gained on the runners in front (still no sign of anyone behind) and that they were very tentatively making their way down and I decided to go for a fairly quick descent. The spirit of Dod reminded me that the grassy surface to the right of the path would be my friend here, and so it was, up to the point where my foot slid in the mud and I had to put my hand down to avert disaster. I passed the two other runners (and a dozen or so walkers) with a cheery smile - I was really enjoying myself and in what felt like no time at all, I was passing another runner and heading in to the car park at Balmaha to see Ann with her camera and the Donoghues having a picnic.

At this point, I was feeling pretty good and felt my pace had been OK so I was happy just to keep on plodding away on my own, past the beach etc. Then when I reached Cashel, a woman in a Harmeny vest passed me - I've no idea how long she'd been tailing me, but it was the first sign that my pace was probably slipping. Just before I hit the next hill, my phone went again and I thought "that'll be mrs s at Inversnaid. Good stuff" but then it went again which confused me. Turned out the first one was a message of support from josieT which was nice to receive. I looked back along the path, I noticed that the two ladies I'd passed on Conic Hill were not far behind. I had slowed down a fair bit, so tried to push on a bit for a couple of miles. The two women caught me up and spoke for a wee bit and then IanS joined us and we exchanged a few words before he moved on ahead. My legs were hurting by this point so it was with relief that I saw the 2km to Rowardennan sign. It felt like a long 2km but it wasn't too long before I was past the hotel (the beer and food being consumed in the beer garden looked great) and heading towards the changeover at the entrance to the car park (and realising I was a little outside my hoped for 3 hours). Except it wasn't there. It was at the far end of the car park this year, but run2thehills was there and ready to go. I passed over the sash and the chip and wished him luck.
"2 hours 15? 2 and a half?" he said.
"I had you down for about 3", I replied.
"Seriously?"
"Seriously. But go prove me wrong!"
I'd warned him about how difficult that section gets, but at that point, I don't think he'd fully appreciated what he was facing.

Andrinne drove me back to Drymen to pick up my car (I felt like being sick but managed to keep it together), then we headed in convoy up the other side of the Loch. I was really pleased that I saw Johnny "Sticky" Budden (Link (roll over me to see where I go)), but I'm not sure if he appreciated a strange bloke yelling encouragement out of a car, and I think Andrinne must have wondered what the hell was going on. It was decided that Andrinne was going to go to Bein Glas and see halfpint and get ready for her final leg while I went on to the finish to see what was happening there. Meanwhile Ann was getting mobile on her bike and checking out where people were on the course.

There's more drama and high emotion to come, but I'll leave that for another post because I've rambled on longer than intended again. Succinctness is not my forte, it would seem. Running's not really my forte either, but I'm reasonably pleased with my efforts on Saturday and I enjoyed it, especially the descent of Conic Hill (even though I probably should have taken it a bit easier).
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