Yesterday I ran the Devil O'The Highlands Footrace, a 43* mile race from Tyndrum to Fort William along the northern half of the West Highland Way. * Note: the WHW map suggests it is actually 42 miles rather than 43, a fact confirmed by my GPS. I wouldn't want anyone to think I was trying to claim an extra mile. Also, as the WHW race is 95 miles and the Highland Fling is 53, it would seem to make sense for the Devil O to be 42 rather than 43. For the record I'm putting it in my training diary and race spreadsheet as a 42.
However I don't suppose the actual distance really matters that much. It is still a long way on challenging terrain. I finished in a time of 8 hours and 2 minutes - my slowest time for this event (I have done it 3 times previously, with a best of 7.28), but all in all a reasonable result given the way I have been feeling for the last few weeks. I probably went off a bit too fast, reaching the first checkpoint at Glencoe in 2.47, and paid for that on the next bit to Kinlochleven. The section to Lundavra was long and difficult, but from there I ran quite strongly and still had an outside chance of getting under the 8 hour mark as I came out of the forest at the top of Glen Nevis. I need to do the last downhill stretch in 31 minutes to make it - not impossible, but not easy either. I gave it my best shot, but had a few twinges of cramp which forced me to walk for a couple of minutes, and meant that I was just passing the 30 mile an hour sign at Fort William as the clock turned to 8 hours.
There were a few fantastic performances. Debbie finished 2nd lady in a time not much over 7 hours, a performance which moves her up to the 'elite' level of woman's ultra running. John ran to his usual high standard and finished in 6.55, 2nd vet 50. I ran with both John and Debbie in the very early stages and was really impressed with both of their running techniques. Debbie has one of the most efficient ultra running styles of anyone I know - she looks effortless and seems able to continue for ever at the same steady pace. It is the first time I have run with John for a while and I was impressed by how much his downhill running technique had improved - he now looks like a hill runner on the stony descents. Silke completed her first ultra in not much over 9 hours, which was a brilliant time for someone who only took up ultra running a short time ago. And Richie continues to impress with a 4th place finish in a time just over 6 hours - yet another quality run. Another noteworthy performance came from Andy Cole, who I ran with into Kinlochleven, but stormed away from me after that to finish in around 7.40.
Yesterday was my 5th ultra of the year, inluding the 'Triple Crown' of the Highland Fling, West Highland Way Race, and Devil O'The Highlands Footrace. While I am delighted to have finished them all, I am a bit disappointed with my times in these races this year, all of which have been a bit slower than previous years. That may be a result of doing so many long races, but it doesn't seem to have affected Richie Cunningham, George Cairns or George Reid, so it may not be the only reason or indeed a valid reason at all. That said, I am still enjoying doing these events, which is really the main thing. It's just I would enjoy it even more if my times were a bit better :)
Finally, a big thank you to Phil and Alison for providing my backup. I am sure that the heavy rain towards the finish was much more welcome to me than it was to you.