Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Highland Fling

"Ding, ding, the Highland Fling,
The Highland Fling, the Highland Fling
Ding ding, the Highland Fling
The Highland Fling for me"

Yesterday I took part in 'The Highland Fling', a 53 mile trail race on the southern section of the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Tyndrum. With the benefit of hindsight I think I ran well, finishing 17th in a time of 10 hours 39 minutes. That was my fastest time ever for that section. Below I've jotted down the key highlights of the day.

3.30am - alarm went off and I got up. Spent next hour rushing around checking I had everything I needed. Decided to have a boiled egg for breakfast, but ran out of time and didn't get a chance to have it.

4.30am - Liz and Phil picked me up.

5.30am - we arrived at Milngavie station. It was a lot busier than last year, when only 17 people took part in the inaugural event - this year there were more than 70.

6.00am - race started. Still quite cool. Ran most of the first section with John K and Allan M. Reached Drymen in 1 hour 50 minutes, which was fast.

9.10am - arrived at the first checkpoint at Balmaha. Time was 3 hours 10 minutes - my fastest ever time to reach there. John kept saying how good he felt. I was a bit worried it was too fast, but felt ok so decided not to panic.

10.42 am - reached Rowardennan in 4 hours 42 minutes, which was fast. I had fallen a bit behind John on this section, but was quite pleased about that as I felt he was going a touch faster than I wanted to run. I forced down a rice pudding and banana, although my stomach didn't feel great - no surprise there. Liz did a superb job as support person, towelling me down and spraying on my suntan lotion. It was starting to get hot.

12.13pm - arrived at Inversnaid (6 hours 13 mins), having had a very good section. Tim, who was taking the times, made me a coffee. However I had to rush off when 4 other runners arrived, including Rosie Bell from Strathaven and Hugh Kerr from Central, as I didn't want them to get in front of me.

1.57pm - reached Beinglas Farm (7 hours 57 mins). Before the race I reckoned if I was away from Beinglas in 8 hours I would be doing well, so I was still very much on schedule. I had passed a couple of people on the difficult section north of Inversnaid, including Erwin from Helensburgh. At Beinglas it was about 3 more miles to the next checkpoint at Derrydarroch. I covered that part really well and passed another couple of runners who were struggling. As I arrived at the checkpoint at Derrydarroch I was surprised to see John K, as I thought he would be much further in front. I think he was surprised to see me too. He left the checkpoint 4 minutes in front of me - not an insurmountable gap at that stage, particularly as everyone would be starting to tire.

2.54pm (8 hours 54 mins) - went through the A82 underpass feeling good, and came out the other side feeling terrible. For the next 45 minutes or so I had terrible cramp. At one stage I could not move at all as my legs seized up in about 5 places at the same time. I tried to eat and drink as much as possible: 2 gels, a scone, some Lucozade sport, some water and some jelly babies, but despite my best efforts I couldn't get rid of the cramp. I even had cramp in my arms. At least 2 other runners passed me, which was irritating, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. After what seemed like hours of suffering I met a support person for another runner who gave me some crisps. I don't know whether the crisps made a difference, or whether it was the other food kicking in, but eventually the cramp went away just before I crossed the A82 for the second time. What a relief to be able to run again.

4.03pm (10 hours 3 minutes) - crossed A82 for the 2nd time. As the cramp had gone, and I had walked so much of the previous section, I felt really fresh and strong. I fairly motored passed Auchentyre wigwams and up towards Tyndrum. I passed the 2 people who had overtaken me on the previous section - one of the girls had a really sore knee, but she had kept going well, even though she was found the downhill sections really painful. Just after coming into the forest before Tyndrum I passed someone else, then managed to trip and had my first fall of the day. I shouted a few well chosen words, picked myself up, and powered towards the finish, determined to stay in front of the person I had just passed. I succeeded, but only just. I'm not sure I needed a sprint finish at that stage.

4.39 (10 hours 39 minutes) - finished. I felt really good at the end - seemed to have got over the cramp and was running strongly. I found out that Debbie C had finished 6 minutes earlier (in a time of 10.33) and John K was only 3 minutes in front (10.36). I congratulated both of them, although felt a bit gutted as I reckon the cramp had cost me at least 10 minutes on the section above Crianlarich. Still, that's life, and overall I can't really complain about my time.

Phil finished in 12 hours 24 minutes. He felt he ran the first 20 miles too fast, but overall was quite pleased with his performance.

Anyone interested in reading more about this fantastic event, and looking at some photos, should have a look at John K's blog:

Race results can be found here:

Many thanks to Murdo, Ellen and all the other helpers for putting on such a high quality event.

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