Devil O The Highlands 2015

I asked our friends Lesley & Ben if they minded getting up really early to support me on this race – They said yes! IT WAS ON!!!! The support would consist of Vicky, Lesley & Ben with Ben being a possible support runner if I came into Kinlochleven at 11.30am+.
After a run at the Whangie and a long chat I made up a nice proposal of estimated times, food & drink options etc – Laminated it, rounded the edges to stop abrasions and handed it to the crew.

The strategy for this race was to take it nice and easy, come in around 9 hours and have a good long training run in preparation for Glenmore 24, and hopefully not be too tired so I couldn’t run on the Sunday too.

On race day our initial alarm was super early! We got picked up at 3.50am, ready to be at the Green Welly, register and mingle for 5.30am – Wow!

#TeamSalomonBuff: Ben, Lesley, Me, Vicky

With Scott and Karen

With Alan

With Chen and Alan – Photo by Chen

Race

Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy (7 miles) 56th place
I love this first section!

I passed my support crew just further up the road to the left and started jumping foolishly about waving my arms, then just beyond them was Amanda waving the saltire.

While running alongside Beinn Odhar I was chatting to Alan about running to heart rate so figured I’d do that as my plan was to run by feel and remain calm and relaxed. The miles ticked by, I kept up my nutrition: eating 5 or 6 jelly babies and overall feeling really good. By the time we were coming alongside Beinn Dorain The weather had picked up now and there was no need to keep the waterproof jacket on, Scott came by and offered to hold my pack for me while I took it off which was very nice of him  🙂
After a few miles I was running down to the road crossing where Noanie and Lorna ushered me across. I was scanning the place like a hawk looking for the crew!!

This was like a formula 1 pit stop by my standards, bottle of half drunk water was changed for a bottle of electrolyte and I think I might have had some flapjack or shortcake here, I felt good but had my legs crossed “Do you need the toilet” – Vicky was saying… At the time I didn’t!

I came into this checkpoint ahead of my ‘training run’ schedule so thought it would be best to take it easier from now on.

Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe (18 miles total) 79th position

This section I think I relaxed a bit and went into more of a settled pace. Gavin and Stuart passed me going up Jelly Baby Hill, and prior to the race I had promised to give Stuart some jelly babies if I saw him here… I had eaten them all though  😦

I stopped for some photos at the top looking down at Loch Tulla before a lovely descent into Inveroran Hotel where I ran straight into the hotel and down a corridor to find the toilets. Some runners came out and said “We’re not allowed to use them”, I didn’t even question it, nor did I really want to go until a few minutes later when I got in a panic thinking “Where would I go now??”. I didn’t even need to go but the panic of not being able to put me in a bit of a worry so I found a bush.

I forgot how hard work Rannoch Moor is, it wasn’t just because of the desolate moor land and open to the elements. The weather was quite nice here actually, it was the old Drovers Road that was murder! We were running on cobbles and it was pretty slippy and hard to keep up a good pace, I found Gordon and chatted to him for a bit.

I was chatting to Alan a bit here too but let him push on during the hilly section before a quick descent into the Glencoe Ski Centre checkpoint.

This checkpoint was a more relaxed affair as I came in ahead of schedule again. I took my time to make sure I was eating enough, drinking enough and replenished properly. I even went to use the bathroom about half a mile away!!

Glencoe to Kinlochleven (28 miles total) 106th place

I was down 27 places from taking it easier and relaxing at the checkpoint, I knew by now I needed to slow down if I wanted to get into Kinclockleven for 11.30am, and let Ben run with me as a support where I’d put the foot down for the final section!

Once everything was packed and I had fueled properly I was off and looking forward to my favourite section of the WHW, I love this section because of the big climb, the lovely landscape and the fantastic descent into Kinlochleven.

I started out by chatting to a few guys and even Gordon again, I think we were yo-yoing the entire day. After ticking off some more miles I kept thinking about the pace and how I would pick Ben up and he’d love running the final section and it would be all glitter and glorious sunshine… It was sunny at the time 🙂

By the time I hit the bottom of the Devils Staircase I could just see their heads a few feet up the Staircase over some bushes so I jumped up and down again waving foolishly. When I saw them I explained my thoughts about the support runner situation, Ben seemed fine with it as were Vicky and Lesley. I left them to climb the staircase with Chris for most of the way.

Near the top I thought I could see someone in a onesie and was thinking “WTF?”- There were TWO DEVILS!!!! Hahaha, brilliant and great support!

Photo by Fiona Rennie

The descent was fantastic, I walked a fair bit of it though to take my time, I stopped twice to take my shoes off and remove hundreds of annoying wee stones that always seem to get trapped in my shoes, arghhh!!! And I spoke to a German lady who was walking the WHW for the first time and she was loving the views and the whole experience of it all.

Gordon came flying by me on the descent into Kinlochleven, I chatted to a few guys about UTMB, WHW and some other races during this section. Just before I got into the town I had about 5 minutes left and it was pouring down! “Argh, what if Ben doesn’t wanna come now?”

Kinlochleven to Lundavra (35 miles total) 88th Place

As I ran into Kinlochleven it was 11.30am and I felt great about being able to pick up Ben, I saw all the crew huddled under a huge golfing umbrella. – “Under my Umberella-ella-ella”

Vicky made sure I had all the fluids I needed at the checkpoint before giving me some food to eat and also some food for my pack. After my pack was filled I asked Ben if he was ready… He was 🙂

We ran off  through the town and past a fallen tree on the road, there was another 2 runners with 2 support runners here which we passed on the climb up. The ‘game plan’ here was to take it easy until Lundavra then apply the gas and treat it as a 11km race. The climb out of Kinlochleven is always tough but it was beautiful to see it in the day light, we passed Gordon again who was having a hard time now – He did fantastic for his first ultra though!

By the top of the climb we were steadily going by people and I was conscious about going too fast too soon, it was much easier to run with a friend because we just chatted and took turns leading. Not long after though we had to put on our waterproofs because the heavens opened and it started to POUR, just at the start of Larig Mor it got really heavy. The rain was stinging our faces because it was so windy too, argh!

I kept playing leapfrog with a guy called Dave I’d seen at numerous races in the past, we weren’t running on paths anymore, it was more like running in a stream, my feet we soaked and so were Ben’s, there was no point in avoiding the puddles this late in the game – might as well just keep ploughing through them.

I was fueling well, taking plenty of jelly babies and Honey Stringer blocks, along with drinking my electrolyte. I thought it would be best to save the coke for after Lundavra, but I started sipping it so I would be ready to turn on the accelerator.

We passed 18 people before seeing the marshals at Lundavra, which provided a welcome stop as I had ‘Hannah Montana – He Could Be the One’ stuck in my head.

Lundavra to Fort William (42 miles total) 77th place

I had never ran this section of the WHW before after doing all the others multiple times, I hadn’t even walked it before so this was all unknown to me but I knew there was a little climb to start out then mainly all downhill before the lovely hill a mile from the finish.

Anyway, the rain had died off a bit now so we packed our waterproofs in our bags, downed a cup of flat coke, thanked the marshals and went on our merry way.

Now it was time to start running fast, but first… I think I needed the loo again which turned out to be a false alarm and cost us some time. My goal was to run this slow and as a training run and I felt great so thought it would be fun to race this last section with Ben to push me.

I ran really fast through a forest which was beautiful, I tried to get a photo but it turned out all blurred.

There was actually another climb I forgot about! But it wasn’t too bad, there was lots of Americans walking this section who offered some encouragement to us as we hiked by.

Once we hit the open road type section it was all runnable from there. Ben suggested we both take a gel to fuel us to the end, I had almost finished my coke but it was sloshing around in my stomach and causing a feeling like I had a stitch(?). Ben had a GU – Root Beer and I had a GU – Chocolate Outrage – Yumm! I finally got to see Ben Nevis which was was awesome to finally see for the first time ever, I loved it.

Ben said to me “We’re going at my 10km PB pace, if we don’t slow down”, I hadn’t realised how fast we were going and really did want to slow down but thought it would be best to keep quiet about that lol.

The last climb is a bugger up Cow Hill, but it was great to take a rest and hike it as I still had a damn stitch feeling. I knew there was only 1 mile left roughly from now, Ben ran on ahead to see how much was left of it. As we crested the top I ran down so fast I thought I was going to fall over!

Still more… I had to keep running hard for more than I thought as it carried on for a while, when we went by a fence area I saw a big red thing (the finish arch), and almost slipped down a grassy slope before entering the park, there was 1 runner in front of me here, and Ben said “Go for it” and ran off to the side. I sprinted so damn hard to catch up to Alan and we finished together at the same time, what a way to finish!
Photo by Vicky

Photo by Vicky

Photo by Clark Hamilton – Sprint finish fun with Alan

8:29:54

At least I didn’t fall this time, and Alan gave me a big hug! I met up with Vicky, Lesley and then Ben and we just stood chatting for a while and I half hardheartedly stretched a little as I’d promised Ben I would stretch. This section I did 35th fastest which was a surprise and in doing it so fast managed to pass another 11 people finishing in 77th pace.

I was happy to be under 8:30 which was 30 minutes faster than my goal training pace!

After a few minutes Scott came over for a chat, he did really well too! I went in the tent and got my T shirt and goody bag, some chilli and a lovely cold beer to drink 🙂

Outside I gave a lot of the chilli to Ben as he pushed really hard too and hadn’t told me he was cramping, and he had a nose bleed at the end! After some rest and chatting to Alan, Ross, Gavin, Scott, Karen and asking Amanda about a massage, we went off to have a ‘wee wet wipe shower’ in the Lochaber Leisure Centre.

Neither one of us had brought bloody towels so this was the best we had to do, luckily I did have a change of clothes, some lovely summer swimming shorts I hadn’t had a chance to wear this year!! After making sure my legs were super clean for a massage off we went to watch the prizegiving.

After the prizegiving I got a massage on both my calves by Kirsty Wright based in Aviemore, she was great but it was hard going on my left calf, it was super tight and wouldn’t work properly when walking.

After milling around the chatting some more, the rain came on and we decided to head home. Lesley and Ben had got some Kirspy Kremes which were delicious and a real treat! We chatted all about our day and the drive seemed to fly by, when they dropped us off back in Anniesland and agreed to meet up for another trail hill session in a few weeks with the guys 🙂

Post Race thoughts

I loved this race – John organising it was a real treat! Its a shame we can’t do it next year because we have our best friends wedding to attend.
The liquid nutrition worked a treat, I never got cramps or felt dehydrated at any time, so will use this for Glenmore 24.
I think I ate a little too much oats, more than my body is used to, hence why I needed the toilet.
The shorts/Compression/Fanny Pack isn’t the best idea for me in future as it causes some irritation which could probably be avoided.
Also my Suunto heart rate monitor caused some bad chafing on my back.
I developed 2 blood blisters on my feet which I tried to pick but I think that now their worse than before so I’ll leave them in future.
My support crew were amazing! They went above and beyond the call of duty and were more than I could have asked for!! – Couldn’t have done it that well without them 🙂
The recovery run on Sunday (8 miles) with Vicky, Sandra, MJ and John Lai was fantastic!!
Training seems to be going well for Glenmore 24!

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