Thursday, July 29, 2010

Update from the WHW Race Committee

I posted this update earlier this morning on the WHW race forum, but thought it would be useful to post it here as well.

Update from the committee

The committee met recently to review the 2010 race. In general the race was considered to be a great success, with thanks due to the many helpers who played such an important part in helping things go so well. As with any event, there were undoubtedly a few areas where improvements could be made, and these have been considered for future years. The main points discussed at the meeting are outlined below.

1. The 2011 race will take place on Saturday 18 June, which is the week after the Caledonian Challenge. It is planned to open the entries on 1 October with the entry process running through to 31 October. There will be no paper entries - all entries will have to be submitted online with payments being made by credit card. The race limit will remain at 175. The criteria for entry will be the same as this year - details have already been published and appear on the website. The cost will be £80 for member of scottishathletics and £82 for all others, including overseas entrants.

2. If an entrant requires to withdraw from the race, a refund of £55 will be paid as long as the withdrawal is notified on or before 31 May 2011. No refunds will be made for withdrawals notified after this date. It will not be possible to carry forward entries to subsequent years.

3. All entrants will be given the chance at the time of entry to request a specific race number. The committee will endeavour to meet these requests on a 'best endeavours' basis, although obviously there can be no guarantees that everyone will be able to be given their number of choice.

4. The first formal checkpoint will be at Balmaha rather than Rowardennan. This change has been made to help ease some of the congestion at Rowardennan, which has a smaller car park. Other formal checkpoints will remain the same as 2010, i.e. Auchtertyre Farm, Bridge of Orchy, Glencoe Ski Centre and Kinlochleven. The same drop bag arrangements will continue to operate for Inversnaid, Beinglas Farm and Lundavra, and a drop bag option will be introduced for Rowardennan.

5. The parking arrangements at Beinglas Farm appeared to work well, although some concern was expressed about the length of time taken for food to be prepared and served. We plan to discuss this with the owners and see if a better solution can be put in place, such as a buffet type arrangement.

6. There was a bit of confusion over the weighing guidelines. It was confirmed that weight gain or loss is only one factor in assessing the fitness of a runner to continue, albeit an important one. Any runner whose weight is outwith the guidelines will be referred to Dr Chris Ellis or Sean Stone, who will take any necessary decision on whether to withdraw a runner from the race on medical grounds.

7. As in previous years, all runners will be required to have 2 support crew at all stages of the race. The committee are looking at ways of ensuring that all runners comply with this rule, such as insisting that support crew sign in at the checkpoints - further details will be provided in due course. The suggestion of allowing unsupported runners was considered, but it has been decided not to proceed with this due to the additional burden it would pass on to the race organisers in terms of participant safety.

8. No dogs will be permitted to accompany any runner at any stage in future races.

9. There was a bit of concern about the level of noise from spectators at the Beech Tree Inn. The owners of the property are happy for us to use their car park, but have asked us to ensure that there is no noise or other disruption. We will remind everyone of this in next year's instructions,and will look at putting a marshall there on the night.

10. The committee are going to look at the issue of race day and post race communication, with an objective of providing regular updates on the website of the progress of the race.

11. It has been decided to make a small donation to the WHW ranger service as a contribution to the ongoing maintenance of the West Highland Way. It has also been suggested that we could hold a 'WHW volunteer day', which would allow people associated with the race to get involved in the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the route. More details will be provided in due course.

Monday, July 19, 2010

WHW 2010 - a tale of failure, and of success

The 2010 WHW race was ages ago - more than 4 weeks now - and I'm only just getting round to writing a few words about it. Sorry for the delay - work and holidays have got in the way, as well as a lack of motivation to sit down and put together a few words.

First, my result. I didn't finish the race, pulling out after 62 miles at the Inveroran Hotel. So another DNF. That's 8 goblets and 3 DNFs in my 11 attempts.

I knew things weren't right when I arrived at registration. I wandered around a bit getting various cheques signed, and was one of the last to register. I listened to the briefing, and when I went back to the car told Alison that I wasn't up for it. She gave me one of those looks - I'm sure she knew then that it was going to be a long day.

The first section to Drymen was ok. I managed to avoid falling - one of my main objectives on this section after a heavy fall a few weeks before - and my body felt fine as I arrived at Drymen after just over 2 hours. Despite that, I was already having thoughts of pulling out. As I told George, my legs were fine but my head wasn't in it. The backup team told me I'd be fine, I felt a bit better, and I headed off towards Balmaha having had my first Complan.

The next bit was ok too. The sun rose really early, and the views from the top of Conic Hill were wonderful. A quick stop at Balmaha and I was on my way. I met Andy Cole and chatted for a while, but I was finding it tough as we approached Rowardennan. By the time I arrived there I was feeling really low. I didn't feel like going on, but the backup team didn't give me any choice and had me back out on the course before I could think too much about it. I then struggled all the way to Inversnaid, being passed by around 20 runners. If I could have pulled out at Inversnaid I would have done so, but the only option seemed to be to head to Beinglas farm. Ellen came in to Inversnaid just as I was leaving and said she would run with me for a while; that seemed to give me a boost and I head along the tricky section feeling a lot better, expecting her to catch up with me. Around Doune Bothy she still hadn't caught me and I was surprised to see George. He had heard from a number of runners that i was struggling, and realising I was so late thought he should run in to check I wasn't injured. I was actually in good spirits then, and feeling much more positive, so had decided to keep going beyond Beinglas.

Beinglas to Auchtertyre wasn't too bad, and even though I was a lot slower than previous years I felt happy enough to be plodding on. I met George and Phil at Bogle Glen, where I was in reasonable spirits, then met them all again at the Auchtertyre checkpoint. My weight was fine and on I ran, meeting the backup team briefly again at Tyndrum. At that stage I was still doing ok. Shortly afterwards, however, the wheels feel off completely, on what is normally one of the easiest bits of the trail. I just couldn't get moving at all, and took an eternity to reach Bridge of Orchy. By the time I arrived at the checkpoint my mind had pretty much given up, although George and Alison persuaded me to try going over the hill to Inveroran and see how things were after that. It was no better. By the time I saw Murdo at the top of the hill I had decided to call it a day, and no amount of persuasion could convince me otherwise. I walked down to the Inveroran Hotel, jumped in the car, and we headed to Fort William. Race over.

So, with the benefit of hindsight, what went wrong? I don't want this to sound like a series of excuses, but I think there were a few things that affected me. It was difficult to combine being part of the organisation with running in the race. I think I was more focused on the race as a whole than I was on my own race. That doesn't really work - when things get tough during the race (as they always do) you have to have the desire to get that goblet. I was more concerned about the race as a whole being a success than I was about getting that 9th goblet. I don't think I had the necessary hunger and desire this year to complete it. A few months earlier, after my poor Fling run, I had been having serious doubts about whether I should take part. Geraldine made a very apt comment - she said that she could understand why I was struggling, as I was "covering old ground more slowly than I had covered it before". On the day it turned out she was right.

Perhaps Dario's death had more impact on my run that I thought it would. I found it very difficult at the start when Adrian gave the tribute to Dario and Davie, both of whom were very good friends. I know others were affected in a similar way.

So from a personal running perspective, it was a failure. From an organisational perspective, it was a big success. I was delighted with the way it all went, and believe we managed to put on a race of which Dario would have been proud. Certainly the feedback so far has been very positive; most importantly, the camaraderie that makes this race so special has continued and I'm sure will continue in future years.

What now for my running? I'm going to have a break from running ultras for a while and try and get a bit faster over some of the shorter distances, such as 10k, half marathon and even the marathon. I've done a lot of ultra running over the last few years and suspect that my body is crying out for a bit of a rest. It has been very frustrating to see my times get slower and slower, despite doing the same or similar training. It would be nice to get back below 40 minutes for a 10k and 1 hour 30 for a half marathon - these were times I achieved with relative ease up to 3 years ago, but I haven't been able to get near them recently. I am not going to enter next year's WHW race but will get more involved in the organisation side of things (assuming the rest of the committee will let me!)

Congratulations to all of those who completed this year's race - there were some fantastic performances, too many to mention individually - and better luck next time to those who didn't make it. Finally, a huge thank you to my back-up team of Alison, George and Phil. As ever, you looked after me superbly well and could have done no more. From a running perspective, it just wasn't my year.