Highland Fling – 28 April 2012

OK the pain is starting to fade so I suppose it would be rude not to rustle up a little race report from last weeks 53mile Highland Fling race. I’ve been struggling to put this race into words but fellow Bella Chris Brotherston once told me the best way to write a race report is to pour yourself a glass of red wine and stick on some Elbow in the background. however it is 9 o’clock in the morning on a bank holiday monday so I am going with a bowl of muesli and Radio 4 as an alternative.

So the race:
The fling always seems to be ran in amazing weather and despite the rest of the country being drowned in rain conditions in Milngavie for the start of the race were perfect- sunny and cool and aside from the runners, not much wind. Davie, Brendon and Tommy had kindly offered to join Elsie on support duties. They dropped me at Milngavie for registration and headed off to plan how many cake shops they could visit on route to Tyndrum.

After a one line briefing from the race director we were off. The first section to Drymen is fairly flat and uneventful, these early miles flew by and before I knew it I was in Drymen to see the happy faces of the support crew. Brendon had them drilled like a well oiled F1 pit crew, water and unwrapped clif bars were thrust into my hand without me having to break my stride. As I left Drymen a fellow runner mournfully looked back at them and commented “my crew haven’t turned up today” I was about to feel sorry for him and offer him a bar when he sped off into the distance and I didn’t see him again.

The next big obstacle in the race is Conic hill, given that I faceplanted 3 times coming of Conic Hill in a hill race a few weeks ago I was a bit nervous coming down in road shoes. However this time I stayed on my feet and made it down to the 20mile checkpoint at Balmaha in one piece. Here more food and water was thrust in my hand and I set of for Rowardennan. I had been keeping up a decent pace till this point however my stomach was starting to gurgle a bit and I had to slow the pace a bit over the next section to avoid a bottom explosion. Unfortunately on the descent into Rowardennan a runner had fallen and broken an arm, Davie Weatherhead had sprung into action and was diverting runners around the fallen runner while she was attended to. I continued on and pushed through the checkpoint grabbing some food from Elsie and Tommy without stopping. There is some lovely hilly but runnable forest track coming out of Rowardenan I tried to keep the pace up here knowing the dreaded rough section out of Inversnaid was still to come.

The checkpoint at Inversnaid is too difficult to get to by car so I had no cheery support team here and for the 1st time I was on my own at a checkpoint. So instead of breezing through in seconds I lost minutes fumbling about changing water bottles and grabbing some food. It’s amazing how easily little things can bother you at this stage in a race. I knocked my bottle of coke over and am pretty sure I stamped my foot in a childlike tantrum and nearly burst into tears.

Up until now I had been on target for an 8:45 finish. But as I left Inversnaid my body felt like it was falling apart and the next 4 miles over the rooty, rocky, scrambly section were hell. The main problem was my stomach which had been an issue since Balmaha. I was really struggling to get down any solid food, so I just resorted to flat coke, unfortunately most of that was on the ground back at Inversnaid. I thought I had lost so much time over this section that all thoughts about finishing in a particular time went out the window and it was just about making it to Bein Glas. However as I finished the lochside section some life started to come back to my legs and for the first time in a couple of hours I felt like I could run freely.

I came into Bein Glas suddenly feeling ok, looked at my watch and realised despite the struggles from Inversnaid I was still only a few minutes down on my target time. As long as I didn’t fall apart in the last 12 miles I should be ok for a sub 9hr finish.

Elsie and Tommy joined me to run with me on this last section, it was a big lift to see them and I tried to put on a little spurt on the hill as we left Bein Glas. Running fast was clearly too much for me as I promptly tripped over my feet gashing my knee in the process- maybe this wouldn’t be so straightforward after all. There were to be more surprises on this last section, I’m pretty sure I saw Davie and Brendon in a dress as I passed the A82 but he claims this was just a hallucination brought on by exhaustion. Hallucinations and bleeding knees aside, I actually felt reasonably ok on the last 12 miles, maybe feeling terrible at Inversnaid was a blessing, it may have just slowed me down enough so that I had enough in the tank to get me to Tyndrum.

I was very happy to cross the finish line in 8hrs46minutes. A big chunk of that time is thanks to the help of Elsie, Brendon, Davie and Tommy. They did such a good job I may have to come calling on them for the full West Highland Way race next year…

Report from Grant