Pauline is doing the Great Glen Ultra in July this year and wants to cover most of it before hand. I’m happy to go along with that and it’s lovely to go and run somewhere new. So plans were made and perfect weather booked.
We drove up to Inverness Sunday afternoon. We did budget hostel instead of our usual B&B we stay in for the Loch Ness Marathon since it’s just training, only slight problem, they have no car park but for the princely sum of £3 for twenty-four hours we left the car in the car park above the Market Brae Steps which wasn’t too far away. We then wandered down to the Bus Station to buy our tickets for the following morning, and it was lovely to have a wee blether with Robert Kinnaird who had ran the Half Marathon in the morning before he headed home on the train. Then back to the hostel for some pasta, we pushed the boat out and had a couple of pints in the pub before heading to bed.
Breakfast on Monday morning was porridge at a civilised hour then we headed for the 8.45am Fort William bus with a wee detour to the car park to pay for the parking. The bus driver took the ticket from Pauline and said “The Youth Hostel, are you sure? There’s nothing there.” Then he looked at us dressed in tights with back packs and stated the obvious, “Ah, you’re runners!” Glad he didn’t just think we had a lycra fetish! I asked him to give us a shout when we got there, I didn’t want to miss the stop, the run was going to be around twenty seven/twenty eight miles and that was long enough!
Once we got off the bus, there was no obvious sign to the Great Glen Way but it wasn’t hard to find, with the loch at our backs, we walked towards a house over the road with a track leading up, and tad-ah, a blue marker post! Yaay! Now just a wee run back to Inverness!
The weather was perfect, no wind and wall to wall sunshine, I even took my gloves off just after we got going. It was fairly steep from the start, so we walked and jogged our way up watching a helicopter that was buzzing back and forward trailing a big bucket, not realising as we climbed, we were going to come face to face with it. We had to wait a few minutes as it was parked on the path to refuel. We were quite happy to have a wee breather even though we’d just started, that first climb was a steep two miles long!
The path under-foot varied from wide forest track to soft woodland path, and a fair bit of tarmac and pavement, Pauline was wearing trail shoes, I had on road shoes, we were both happy with our choice of footwear. We carried a map with us but never felt the need to bring it out, the blue marker posts were well placed and sufficient. There was a long road section where we didn’t see a marker for ages, although there was nowhere else to go it was reassuring to finally see a blue post.
After Drumnadrochit we’d been stomping up a steep, twisty path in the woods, every bend I’d look up and it got steeper, we’d go round another bend and it got even steeper, Pauline said “What are you laughing at?” Oops, I didn’t realise I laughed out loud, this hill is ridiculously steep and I’m daft enough to find it funny. I think I covered it when I answered “This hill… come race day, I’ll be one of BaM’s lovely assistants and I won’t have to come up here again!” Pauline wasn’t exaggerating when she said, “This is like climbing out of Kinlochleven but twice as long!”
|Profile for the last 30 miles of the GGW|
There’s a long section on road through open moorland where you can see the path for miles which was fine in the sunshine, but come race day, if your head isn’t in a happy place it could be soul destroying, especially if the weather is foul.
|Don’t know what these padlocks were meant to keep locked in (or out) but the gate was wide open!|
|Eventually we were back on meandering forest tracks and paths|
Finally we could see Inverness which was probably about four miles away, we plodded on, looking at the Garmin, our run was going to be closer to twenty nine miles, the race finishes in the stadium at Bught Park but we decided we would stop at the bouncy bridge which is just past the park, but the GGW path takes you over the river before that so we just followed the markers, I then suggested we finish at the Castle which would round up our run to thirty miles, I knew Pauline wouldn’t want to log twenty-nine and a half miles We needed to burl round a bucket right beside the Castle and back down to the traffic lights before the Garmin beeped, a tad OCD but always good to push on further than you plan. I was tired, my feet were a bit achy but nothing hurt, I was moving easily albeit slowly. I was really pleased with how I felt, going from my last long run of sixteen miles to almost double is quite a big jump in mileage but I didn’t think the sensible rule of increasing training by ten percent applies to old warhorses!
After a lovely hot shower followed by pasta and beer at the hostel, we thought a brisk walk would do us good. We took some of our gear back to the car so we weren’t too laden in the morning and bought some more beer, well, we had earned it.
Tuesday morning saw us heading towards Fort Augustus, we weren’t finished with the GGW yet, a wee out and back run with a max of ten miles was the plan, we parked at the wee forestry commission car park at Allt na Criche about a mile outside Fort Augustus. We managed a gentle pace along the Caledonian Canal and turned back after five miles out, if either of us was struggling we would’ve turned earlier but I’m happy to say all I felt was tired.
Next was the decision of which way to go home, I suggested the A82 and a call into the Woolly Mill at Fort William for a cup of tea and a scone first, then we changed our minds to a bowl of soup but when we got there we changed our minds again, a baked tattie with haggis, when it arrived it was served with salad which I punted onto Pauline’s plate, as much as I’d love to eat salad it’s just not worth the time or effort but I did manage to eat all my tattie and haggis even though Pauline had to twiddle her thumbs for a bit and it was cold when I finished.
We ended up having to go down the A9, as the A82 was closed, I later found out it was due to a lorry spilling its load of hydrogen peroxide, hopefully it was just a clean up and no one was hurt. I was a bit disappointed not to go through Glencoe it would’ve been stunning with snow on the hills in the sunshine but the view at the Commando Memorial didn’t disappoint.
Now a few days later, I’m still not suffering any after effects other than tiredness and I’m not sure whether it was running on new trails or the sunshine but I feel as if I’ve had a holiday, plans are for more of the same and hopefully soon.