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.