Monday, 23 June 2008

Job done!

Well I have come to the end of this particular journey - and what a journey. As I sit here 36 hours later, I am only just beginning to feel a broad smile creep warmly across my face!

Here are some photos and some words about my adventure.

On the Friday I had to work until 3.15pm which although less than ideal, did keep me distracted for the day. We set off North towards Hexham to pick up Craig and drop off Beth and Izzy with Rachel.20 minutes sleep on the way up to Milngavie, legs uncomfortable and already on paracetomol to take the edge of the cold which I had woken up with.

At 9.15pm I went to register and weigh in then we went for a quick meal down the road at the hotel. Leon phoned, surprised to hear that I was in a pub, with two suggestions: 1. Why not try to run bare-foot? It had worked for Zola Budd. 2: Since I was running 95 miles, surely it would be better to round it up to an even 100 at the end? Thanks Leon!

Time went quickly between then and 1a.m (the start). I said goodbye to Briony and Craig and we were off. A really surreal feeling as we made our way out of Milngavie and through the woods. It was a beautiful night -clear, still and cool. I wasn't sure how I would feel here as I had developed a cold that morning and had had a sore knee intermittently throughout the week. The cold seemed to clear as quick as it came and soon I had settled into the race, chatting with Paul Tranter along the way for 4 miles or so. I let Paul trot on ahead as I was determined to run my own race and not get caught up in anything too pacey.

When I met the team at The Beech Tree, my knee had begun to ache a little and I was having a few early doubts (89 miles still to go!!) I carried on thinking “let's just get to Drymen” which seemed to arrive in no time. Refuelled here and set off for Balmaha, over Conic Hill. The last time I had run this it was windy and minimal visibility but this time the views were amazing. A good chat with an American lady on the way up and before I knew it I had descended into Balmaha.

Now the loch was here! This section had really taken its toll during the Fling, so I was ready to treat it with the respect it deserved this time. Kept a steady pace going and met with the team again briefly at Sallochy, before a bit of a climb into Rowardennan. I have experienced midges in huge numbers before, but never have I seen anything like the scene at Rowardennan or Inversnaid – the air was thick with them! Luckily we had our trusty nets. Some less well prepared teams struggled here and I imagine will be still fairly itchy today! This was the first official checkpoint and I went through here in 5h 24 mins (55th place)

Good refuel at Rowardennan and from here I took my ipod with and listened to some music as I climbed along the banks of Loch Lomond. This was a really good section for me and it was helped by good conversation with two other runners: Alyson Macpherson and Neil MacRitchie (thanks!). Seemed like no time at all until we arrived at Inversnaid. From the Fling, I knew that this next section would be my nemesis. My pre-race plan was to proceed with caution over this stage and that’s exactly what I did, listening to the brilliant English Passengers audiobook en route!!

With this part of the loch beaten, I ploughed on to Beinglas farm and was pleased to see my support here. The landscape really opens up here and the mountain ranges start to come into view. From Beinglas, I trotted on to Derrydarroch and Carmyle Cottage, where my third support member Iain arrived. At this point (48 miles), I was beginning to feel the strain a little and Iain’s arrival proved to be timely, shouting down the road “Get a %$£&** move on!!”
I did and carried on towards CP2 at Auchtertyre Farm. I found this section really hard and it was a definite low point. At Auctertyre, I had a superb massage and refueled for the next section to CP3 at Bridge of Orchy (60m). Another tough section and when I couldn’t immediately see my team at the CP, I had a bit of a whine (sorry!) but they were soon back in position. Iain cooked up a delicious pasta meal which hit the spot and gave me a bit of renewed energy for the next section.

The next section is all a bit hazy until I met The team again at Victoria Bridge, the start of Rannoch Moor. I had persuaded iain to do this section with me and I was so glad as this was a new low! Ba Bridge seemed to take forever to get to and on the descent, kingshouse seemed to get further away rather than nearer! Iain kept the banter up though and I reached Kingshouse having lost a bit of time in 18 hours 16 mins. Another fantastic massage here (thanks!) really helped to reinvigorate the legs as the weather that had been threatening for a while started to move in. Briony ran the next little bit with me to Altnafeadh, the foot of the Devil’s Staircase.

Here, Craig was ready to plough up with me and we did it remarkably quickly, only stopping to nearly bring the mars bar back up that Briony had stuffed in my mouth several minutes earlier. The weather was now turning pretty nasty as we began the descent into Kinlochleven. Before the race, I had noted the devil’s Staircase as a possible difficulty, but it was actually the descent that proved most problematic. It takes forever! And with the light fading, my mind was then next thing to go…

The first point I realized that I was not completely ‘all there’, was when the following conversation took place:
Me: “Oh look! Three cyclists. We must be near Kinlochleven. They’ll be here to meet their runner.”
Craig: “There are no cyclists there Phil”
Me: “Yes there are, at the end of the track – one of them is bending down to pick up his helmet”
Craig: “No Phil, they are trees mate”

I could have touched those cyclists I was so sure they were there. But Craig was right. Tiredness was taking over.

We eventually arrived at Kinlochleven and found the medical centre where Dario and his team were waiting to weigh me. There were some concerns here that I might be retaining fluid (a sign of kindney problems) as I had gained some weight, but Dario said that I was lucid and could carry on (thanks!). Briony said that I was whispering (loudly!) “Just don’t mention the hallucinations!”

I would have probably given up here without the support team but at 80 miles, we were so close. Briony convinced me (not for the first time) to keep going and so I plodded on up the climb out of Kinlochleven and onto the Lairig Mor. Iain and I have walked this section before which was helpful and he kept up the good conversation throughout. Hallucinations were coming thick and fast now and included: small people waving at me (ferns blowing in the wind), sheep (rocks), a combine harvester (some logs) and the lights at Lundavra (not the lights at Lundavra!).

It seemed to take forever, but eventually the blazing fire at Lundavra did come into view. Briony came to meet me and in her excitement trod on my toe! After yelping a bit, I sat down out of the wind and rain (which were now quite fierce) and prepared for the final section. I would have so gladly given up here, a mere 7 miles from the end, but my brilliant support team kept me going. I don’t really know how they put up with me because to be honest I was a gibbering mess.

Iain and I carried on though through the forest and remarkably quickly Fort William came into view. We followed the track down and came out onto the road. This seemed to take FOREVER, but after a lot of whinging and a lot of coaxing from Iain, the roundabout came into view and then the Leisure Centre. I managed the slightest of jogs to the finish, where I signed in at 27 hours 56 minutes and 42 seconds. Total joy. Total amazement!

I have understated in this report the momentous job done by my support team. They did a perfect job and never let me give up hope. Thank you to Craig (the trip down the from the staircase was memorable!), to Iain (for the hugs and the coaxing through the Lairig Mor) and to Briony for never giving up on me. You were the only person who could have persuaded me to run that final section. The three of you were the best support team I could have hoped for. Thank you SO much. That goblet is ours not mine.

Thank you to Dario and his team, the marshalls, the wonderful masseurs, the runners good enough to have chat, and the friendly support teams who clapped at each point along the way. What a wonderful experience!
Thanks also to my mum for making the 5 hour round trip from North of Inverness to come and see the prizegiving. Thanks Mum x


27 hours 56 minutes and 48 seconds

Will write more when everything doesn't ache quite so much!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Last run

Route: 4m, undulating, road
Weather: Light rain, 16C

Well that's it! 10 months of training and dedication to one run and now it's all over. Whatever happens at the weekend, the training has pushed me to the limit. I have found out a lot about myself during this time and I have enjoyed it immensely (well most of it!).

So now all I can do is wait and try and keep out of trouble until Friday night. I might go for a walk tomorrow night and then total rest on Thursday and Friday.

I will try to post some words and pictures throughout the race, but until then, thanks for tuning in!

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Penultimate run, panic attacks and other musings

Route: 5m, undulating, road and trail
Weather: perfect running weather (16C, still, dry)

Today I had the pleasure of accompanying several children at my school to a chess tournament in Leeds. The plan was to cycle in this morning and back this afternoon resulting in a nice 26m round trip cycle. This didn't quite work out!

Had a really bad night's sleep last night. I had fallen asleep early on after feling a bit unwell - tight wheezy chest, indigestion, bit of a headache etc. I woke up at 10pm and had trouble getting back to sleep. I then lay in bed thinking about Friday's journey up to Glasgow and feeling generally panicky. It then dawned on me that what I was experiencing was not the beginning of a cold but the symptoms of anxiety! I have never ever suffered from anxiety or panic related things before, but that was definitely what I was experiencing last night. Not nice.

I did eventually fall asleep only to be woken at 7 by the alarm clock to get up and cycle to Leeds. I shot our of bed, still half asleep and raced around trying to sort my journey. I got it into my head that the tournament started at 8:45 and not 9:45, so decided I couldn;t possibly make it on the bike and instead got Briony to drive me in. I then had over an hour to kill in a very quiet suburb of Leeds early on a Sunday morning! It wasn't too bad as I found a nice cafe and partook in a bacon roll and a smoothie :) This also seemed to do the trick of calming me down!

I spent a really cool day with the children playing brilliant chess which also took my mind off things.

Finally got out for some exercise this evening. Ran a 5m route through the woods. No 'taper niggles' at all and feeling a whole lot better about it all!

What a load of rambling nonsense!

The other thing that's keeping me going this week are the posts on Patti's Site. Such a cool lady and very, very funny. Check it out!

So now my week's regime of early nights begins in earnest. What this means is that I go to bed early, lie in bed for hours and eventually fall asleep later than I ordinarilly would have! It's all mind games!

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Well done Craig!

Well done to my Support Team member Craig who finished a challenging 62 mile cycle course today in 4h 54m. Glad to see he's uninjured as he's got a little work to do on the Devil's Staircase next weekend ;) Although maybe I'm speaking to soon judging by the photo of the beer festival I've also just received from him!


Normally I hate shopping with a passion, but am going shopping today to get a few last minute items for the race :)

Thursday, 12 June 2008

late 6m taper run

Route: 6m, Pool, Old Pool bank, Leeds Road
Weather: Dark!

Ran a reasonably pacey 6m tonight. Ever so slight twinge behind my right knee so took it easy after 4m or so. Not really worried, but have iced it anyway to be cautious. Have revised my last few days training:

Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest:
Sunday: 2 X 13m bike rides
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 4m
Wednesday 2m

Not thinking about much else at the moment besides the big race!!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Last few runs

Have been thinking about what runs I still have to do between now and the big day. Here are my decisions:

Thur: 6m
Fri: Rest
Sat: 4m (pace)
Sun: 6m (easy)
Mon: Rest
Tue: 3m
Wed: Rest
Thur: Rest
Fri: Rest
Sat/Sun: 95 miles (hopefully!)

Otley 10

Cycled out to Lindley Bridge to Marshall for the Otley 10 tonight. I love marshalling - the first 10% of people don't even make eye contact. The next 50% usually utter some form of acknowledgement, "thanks", or "cheers" etc. The next 30% are just so pleased to see you! And the final 10% seem just glad to be alive!!

Well done to Alison, who although last and struggling, kept up some good banter for the last 4 miles!

Waiting for the first runners to come through:

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Dusk 9m

Route: 9m, hilly, roand and trail
Weather: Perfect, 16C light breeze

Had a nice 9m run along the old railway track parallel to Bradford Road, up Ellar Ghyll to the footpath, across to West Chevin Road, up Windmill Lane etc to the top, through the Chevin and up to Surprise View, across East Chevin Road, over Danefield and down to Pool bank, finally decending Leeds Road. A lovely run!

Monday, 9 June 2008

5m with Jane

Route: 5m, hilly
Weather: 19C

Ran a pleasant 5m run with my Mother-in-law tonight. She cycled and I ran up Leeds Road, up the steps at Pool Bank, along the boardwalk and through Danefield to East Chevin Road.

Nice gentle pace - just what I needed.

Thanks Jane!

Saturday, 7 June 2008

5m taper

Route: 5m, road and trail, hilly
Weather: Really muggy

Not been feeling myself today and yesterday so went for a run to see if that would sort me out. Ran a short 5m taper up to the Bar House and back through the Chevin. Felt ok but not 100%. Went out for a meal at the excellent Cheerful Chilli and ate about a gazillion calories.

Still feeling a bit less than 100%, but an early night should sort things.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Perfect run

Route: 9.5m, road and trail, hilly
Weather: Stunning evening, 14C

I felt like tonight was the first time I felt confident enough in my knee to push myself on a run since the Fling last month. Perhaps not the best idea as I am supposed to be tapering and being ultra careful, but it felt so good!

Ran a 9m route up Bradford Road and Ellar Ghyll, across the footpaths to West Chevin Road, up Windmill Lane to the top, over and down to East Chevin Road, through Danefiled, along to Pool Bank and back down Leeds Road.

This run had everything for some reason. It has been a lovely warm day today, but 20 minutes before I went out it started raining heavily. It stopped just as I began running and everything had that amazing summer rain smell. The sky was an amazing stormy indigo colour and by the time I reached the top, the sun was just disappearing behind the hills leaving streaks of oranges and yellows in the clouds. The long wet grasses felt lovely on my legs as I ran through the fields. The view from the top of the Chevin seemed particularly clear and nice tonight, and the descent through the pines of Danefield seemed especially good. Then back down the usually annoyingly busy Leeds Road, but tonight I didn't notice the traffic, only the thin sliver of a new moon above the fields of hopping lambs. As the sky grew darker, I was even visited briefly by a bat... and the best bit was I felt like I could have run for ever. God bless endorphins!!

Happy days :)

Tuesday, 3 June 2008


Route: 7m, road and trail
Weather: Air = dry, ground = sodden

Ran a reverse route of a route I often run which was interesting. Very wet underfoot so had to resort to fell shoes for the trail sections. Was interesting putting them back on - haven't worn them for a few months to protect my
feet for the WHWR. They felt like old slippers at first - really comfy, but I wouldn't like to run further than about 8m with them on.

A nice run!

Monday, 2 June 2008


Brian Mc 'tagged' me on his blog, so here I am replying. What does this mean?

Here are the rules and my reply is just below

Tagging is easy. Just copy the following onto your post.
The rules of the game are posted at the start of your blog post.
In this case, I'm asking you 5 questions about running.
Each player answers the 5 questions on their own blog.
At the end of your post you tag 5 other people and post their names.
Go to their blogs and leave a comment on their blogs telling them they've been tagged and to look at your blog for details.
When they've answered the questions on their own blog, they come back to yours to tell you. Got that?
Here goes.

1. How would you describe your running 10 years ago?

I didn't run 10 years ago. I have always liked 'the outdoors', but running didn't feature particularly. I started running (distances) when I was 30. I used to run short distances quite well at school, but anything over 400m seemed too much like hard work. How things change!

2. What is your best and worst run/race experience?

My best run experience was probably the Lairig Ghru ultra race between Braemar and Aviemore. I loved the scenery and did ok. Rotherham 50 will always be a good race to look back on as it was my first 50+ mile race. I enjoyed both of thos races the most I think.

Worst runs...there have been a few. I think the worst race I have ever taken part in was the Thames Path Ultra this year. The course was mostly under two feet of water and the alternative was to run on busy main roads. I pulled out at 20m. Very frustrating.

3. Why do you run?

Running makes me a better person. It has made me a calmer person, a braver person, a humble person, and generally a nicer person to be around. I'm also addicted to those delicious endorphins that fly round your body after a long run.

I particularly like ultra-running because I like the idea that I can move freely and relatively quickly across difficult terrain with no need for mechanical help. I like the freedom it allows me.

4. What is the best or worst piece of advice you've been given about running?

Best piece of advice: enjoy it.
Worst piece of advice: always breathe in through your nose. What a load of *~@%!

5. Tell us something surprising about yourself that not many people would know.

Wow...I am the son of an American Marine who had a tour of duty of the UK during the Vietnam War.

All the folk on the WHW website have been tagged, so I'm branching out and cutting loose. I have tagged the following folk:

Paul Tranter
Steve Grabowski

Totally random, but might be interesting.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Last Long Run!

Route: 25m, road, flat, undulating and hilly!
Weather: 13C, very wet

Despite a complete lack of motivation, I set out on my last long run before I begin to taper down for the big event. My longest run will now be 12m.

Really didn't feel like spending close to 4 hours in the torrential rain today, but the thought of this being my last long run spurred me on. Felt uninspired about an off-road route, so decided to just do a Leeds circuit. Ran over the Chevin to Guiseley, along to Rawdon, Horsforth, Kirkstall and Leeds city. Then came home via Headingly, Lawnswood, Adel and Bramhope.

Felt good until about 18 miles, after which point I felt really tired. After counting up the miles this week, it's no wonder. This represents my toughest week to date with two 20m+ runs, a 40 mile cycle and two short sharp 5 milers. That mileage is about exactly the mileage I'll have to do in 35 hours in less than 3 weeks time - all on foot and all over rough terrain and without sleep. No panic attack though, just a feeling of determination that I can do this.