Tuesday, 26 June 2012

No Sleep Til Fort William*

* Sung to the tune of No Sleep til Brooklyn by the Beastie Boys
Warning: this blog contains content that some readers may find TMI, but as Mike Raffan said "We're ultrarunners, the poop is all part of it" (or something like that, I can't remember exactly). In fact there may be factual errors in this due to sleep deprivation! And it's a bit long. But then, it was a long race!

Milngavie 01:00 Sat 23rd June

Me and Dave K at the start
I was very pleased to make it to the start of this race after my ITB issues earlier in the year. I think I made the right decision to defer the Cateran Trail Ultra and instead I took it really easy and only ran 47 miles in the whole of May. I had two wonderful sports massages and did lots of foam-rolling and stretching so I was feeling good and was raring to go. My crew were ready: husband Iain (although he woke up on Thu morning with a sore knee :-(), Rhona Mitchell, and her boyfriend Graeme McKinnon. I got registered at 21:30 and then I went back to the car to try and sleep til 00:00. I managed to get some sleep despite the racket of the torrential rain on the car roof. The alarm went off and I quickly got changed and we all stood and listened to Sean (race medic) give the pre race briefing. He said I think there might be rain. At 00:30 it was warm and had stopped raining so I decided to run in shorts and pack the waterproof trews. I met up with Dave Kiddell as we had made a pre-race pact to run together at least until dawn. That turned out to be one of the best ideas I've ever had as not long in to our run the heavens opened and the deluge began. Visibility was very poor and it was a struggle to see much with the headtorch. I ran at Dave's pace and basically kept looking at the back of his legs! He really kept me going as I already felt a bit worried at times because I got drenched. We passed the Beech Tree Inn where I hadn't thought I'd see anyone but Iain had decided to go and he said hi.

Drymen 03:15 ish Sat 23rd June 12 miles

Dave's fiancee Carolyn wasn't meeting him at Drymen and I had taken enough food to last til Balmaha so it was a quick hello to shanksi and on to Conic Hill. By this time I was really desperate for the daylight to come as it was quite a struggle to run to the light of the headtorch with the weather so bad. The rain started to ease and the daylight came on the way up Conic and this lifted my spirits, although the path was like a river running downhill. I was looking forward to meeting Iain at Balmaha (Rhona and Graeme had gone straight to Tyndrum to try and get some sleep). I phoned him from the top of Conic Hill to tell him I needed a full change of clothes ready and a cup of tea. Dave said he was taking it easy coming down Conic but I couldn't keep up with him! I was being v cautious as I didn't want to fall.

Balmaha 05:03 Sat 23rd June 19 miles

At Balmaha

Got a change of clothes and a cuppa here. Saw a few familiar faces including Dave Heatherington and Darren Barnes. I took quite a long time getting changed by I'd already decided that comfort came before speed and my mission was to finish in time for a crystal goblet so it didn't bother me to take a wee while. I think I was here for 25 mins. I put on my long tights and waterproof trews and felt a lot better. Dave K was ready quicker than me so I set off on my own. Iain then drove to Tyndrum where he would try and sleep and I was now running on my own most of the time until Bein Glas.

Rowardennan 07:30 Sat 23rd June 27 miles

The rain was much lighter now but that meant the midgies were out in force. And where was my midgie net? In the car at Tyndrum... I walked the many hilly bits of this section but ran the flats and downs and I felt great. I met up with a few folk including Dave Heatherington and Louise Jones who was not too happy unfortunatley. I gave her my pep talk, told her to imagine the award ceremony and all that. She got in to Rowardennan just when I was leaving and I followed her but Loon Dod told my I was going the wrong way. I said but Louise is going that way, you're winding me up. He said no, she's pulled out :-(. Totally gutted for her. I remember speaking to Minty at Rowardennan and he said Jonathan was doing well.

Inversnaid 09:16 Sat 23rd June 34 miles

John is quite happy to be at Inversnaid!

Got my drop bag and stocked up my rucksack with the new food. I enjoyed my Irn Bru. This next section at the lochside is quite technical and not that runnable for me so I just tried to enjoy the journey. Met up with John Duncan and had a chat with him. Also chatted to a few other random folk. I could see Dave in the distance a few times and I shouted on him but he went on ahead. The Inversnaid Hotel seemed to appear quicker than expected which was nice and I got my drop bag and took it inside the hotel as it was raining. Went to the loo and saw myself in the mirror :-o shocking hair!! I definitely had the worst hair of everyone in the race!!

Bein Glas 11:22 Sat 23rd June 40.5 miles

The section between Inversnaid and BG is even more technical and it was the trickiest conditions I'd experienced (apart from when icy) as all the waterfalls coming off the hill were torrents. I had to hold on to the rocks quite a few times to stop myself falling in the loch.

Auchtertyre 14:20 Sat 23rd June 50 miles

Finally caught up with Dave again at the BG checkpoint and asked him if he was trying to run away from me?! He said he thought I was ahead of him so that's why he didn't think it was me calling his name! We then ran together almost as far as Auchtertyre. My ITB pain came back but it wasn't as bad as during the Fling although I didn't run that much more after BG. I could fast walk with no pain so that's what I did. I phoned Iain when I got to the main road crossing so he could get a cuppa sorted for me and some more clean, dry clothes. Was brilliant to finally see all my crew again :-). I got weighed and I ate a pot noodle and got changed including putting on sealskin socks and my hiking boots since I figured they might be best for walking in. Iain walked the next section with me to Bridge of Orchy and it was a lovely part of the race, I made good progress, although quickly decided I'd prefer to wear my roclites. Met Rhona and Graeme at Tyndrum and I changed back in to my roclites.

Bridge of Orchy 17:40 Sat 23rd June 59 miles

Was great to see The Lord of The Bridge (Sean Stone, race medic) at Bridge of Orchy. It also signified the furthest I'd ever run :-). Went to the loo at the hotel and saw that my period had started :-o. Blimmin' awful timing. I was feeling a bit bleugh about that but nothing I could do about it. Rhona and Graeme were by now wanting to stretch their legs so they walked the next section with me to Glencoe.

Glencoe 21:03 Sat 23rd June 70 miles

On the way to Glencoe we met Murdo McEwan sitting under a Scotland flag, handing out jelly babies :-). He asked me my number and I said 9, he said I must've been keen to do the race to have such a low number! I said yes, I entered on the first day entries opened. I reminded him that he'd told me to enter the race when he met me at the end of last year's when I was crewing for Mike. The sun actually came out while we were on this section. And it was a lovely surprise to see Iain. He had run up the way from the Glencoe car park and met us with about 2 miles to go. By now I was fantasising about the chips (with vinegar) that he was going to buy me :-)

Kinlochleven 01:14 Sun 24th June 81 miles

Me, Iain, Graeme, and Rhona at Kinlochleven
Glencoe was my favourite checkpoint, the chips were awesome and I had a coffee too. Minty and Jonathan were there and we walked with them to Altnafeidh. They shared my chips and we had a good laugh, took some photos which led to singing Paul Simon songs since someone mentioned a photo opportunity - "You Can Call Me Al". Things were stating to get weirder. I remember shaking the takeaway box full of chips at a few folk including Jonathan to spur him on! He told us about his tummy troubles :-(. Good to see him still in the race though. We'd heard of a few friends DNFing including Fiona MacDonald and Sandra McDougall :-(. Graeme had taken over the driving at Glencoe, Rhona had a rest with him and they met us at Altnafeidh. Saw Ada Stewart at the start of the staircase and she was in agony with her back. We offered her painkillers but she had them already. The three of us went over the Devil's Staircase and met Silke and Thomas Loehndorf so we had a chat. I also enjoyed listening to them chatting to each other in German, it was soothing for some reason. I was definitely getting more and more tired by the time we were coming over the other side of the mountain. The lights of Kinlochleven appeared and disappeared and I was hating the pointy stones on the road down. Legs were aching, and my mood was darkening and I was sure we'd gone the wrong way. Of course my sense of direction sucks on a good day so not surprisingly I was annoying Iain and Rhona at this point. It was dark again and this did not help me. Finally after what felt like 1000 miles KLL appeared and we walked in to the community centre. I got weighed by Julie and she looked all serious and said I'd gained weight :-(!! She said I should go to the toilet and see what colour my pee was. So I did and it was ok I thought. Then I remembered that I was wearing my thick hoodie and waterproof and had my phone in my pocket and I bet that added at least a couple of pounds. I went to tell Julie and she asked me the dates of birth of my children. I told her them and I think I got them right as she said I would be ok. I felt a bit dizzy though and decided to lie down on the sofa. Carolyn was there and she is a nurse and so knew what to do and got me to elevate my feet. I lay there for a while but I thought I am not sleeping! I have to finish this damn race! Part of what spurred me on was that nearly everyone in Stoney knew I was doing it and I'd had so many lovely messages of support that I didn't want to let folk down. After about 45 mins we were ready for the final push!

Lundavra God Knows What Time Sun 24th June 88 ish miles

Now the climb out of KLL was hellish. I remember saying it was like a mountain of rubble. It was still dark and it was very wet and midgie infested. Was better when we got to the Lairig Mor section. Although I was getting so hacked off by then it wasn't pretty. One low point was coming to a gate with a stile that must've been 2 foot off the ground, it was agony to climb over. Then Sue Walker strolled up to the gate and opened it... I was fuming with Iain, why didn't he open the gate for me? Was quite pissed off but tired as well. Sue came to everyone's rescue with pro plus caffeine tablets. Iain forced them down my gob and I perked up :-). Sue meanwhile waltzed passed looking great and smiling away! Where the hell was Lundavra? Where was the lovely bonfire and the blokes from the Wilderness Support Team? I could see orange lights in the distance and it turned out to be some of those nice guys but not Lundavra yet. I was desperate for the loo again which was also making me miserable, and it makes it hard to walk fast, don't know if you've ever tried it? Of course they've only gone and cut the trees down just to annoy me ;-). I waited ages for one and eventually did it outside (which I absolutely hate) and I couldn't even do it right as I peed on my trousers and the poop did not come :-( :-(. Cue lots of crying and shouting, asking for it all to END NOW!!! Rhona looked upset. Thankfully Lundavra came and she saw Graeme and made a swift exit ;-). Bonfire was a bit puny when I got there but I couldn't see very well for the tears. Sniff sniff ;-)

Fort William 08:06 Sun 24th June 95 miles - 31 hours 6 mins 55 secs later

Finally at the finish in FW Leisure Centre

Final, final push just me and Iain now, him almost dragging me at times. I didn't want him to let go of my hand. I was hallucinating that the stones had writing on them. It wasn't saying anything, just a mixture of letters and numbers. Finally managed to poop but there were no trees and I saw folk in the disance but I had to go :-(. Felt better after that :-). The folk in the distance were Minty and Jonathan and I asked later if they saw me and they said no but they might just be being kind! I remember telling Iain I was just going to lie down in the woods and have a sleep. He didn't let me and he also remembered he had more pro plus tabs so he gave me some and I perked up again. Turned a corner and saw Fort William and burst in to tears! Then Iain burst in to tears and he wouldn't stop crying! Now I had switched back to being in control and took his arm and we slowly walked the last three miles down the hill to Fort William. Minty and Jonathan overtook us along the way. The about fifteen minutes later they overtook us again?! Turned out they'd taken a wrong turn off. Saw Nick Dunk and Susan Gallagher near the finish :-). I felt like a sprint finish but Iain was not feeling up to it, he said his feet were sore and he was still all emotional. After what seemed like an age we saw Rhona and Graeme and held hands and made our way to the Leisure Centre door to be met by Ian Beattie. Huge smile from me, I did it!!!!!!! Thank goodness that it was over!!!!

Aftermath

Rhona, Graeme, Me, and Iain with the goblet

The folk at the Leisure Centre were stars and brought us tea and toast and cake. Sean the medic thought Iain was looking a bit pale and thought he should have a lie down so he ended up under a foil blanket for 45 mins :-(. It turns out he had let his body temp drop and he was going in to shock and that's why he was crying. I felt really guilty as he hadn't meant to walk over 40 miles with me but I really needed him. After getting his pulse taken a lot and having tea and toast he felt better. We all got showers and changed and saw a few more folk coming in. Then it was time for the awards ceremony at the Nevis Centre. There were many hugs and much clapping :-)

The crystal goblet and the race garment
It was all very emotional. I loved seeing everyone get their goblets, everyone did so well, especially with the terrible weather conditions. I couldn't believe that the course record had been broken too! Mike came 8th with a huge PB and so many friends finished for the first time :-). I have been saying it was my first and last time and I am taking a break from ultramarathons. At least til next year anyway! The after-effects were not too bad, my feet and ankles have been swollen but I can walk fine and the ITB is not too sore now. I'm looking forward to another massage then I will take it easy for a wee while. This race was the toughest thing I've done in my life, it was more painful than childbirth and lasted longer than all three labours added together! But I'm glad I did it.
Thanks to Rhona, Carolyn, and Karin McKendrick for the photos

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