For 2009 Pauline and I are going to run together, it was the plan in 2005 but it never happened. This year with Pauline running the 24 hour for GB in May and with focusing on another 24 hour race in September this year's WHW was not going to be a race, it was just purely for the fun. I'd written an optimistic PB schedule based on my previous best, my training had gone well and I was raring to go. Support was organised, then there was a wee change and a further reshuffle as Team Carnegie had eight runners and we were pooling our resources. So finally Pauline and I had Val and Sue with one vehicle until Auchtertyre where Lesley and Gillian would arrive bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after the luxury of a night's sleep.
We arrived at Milngavie in good time, it was busy but would get busier, Pauline and I registered, got weighed, gave a blood and urine sample for a research study also gave an interview for the BBC's Adventure Show amid the hugs and best wishes for the race. Changed days from when all you did was sign a disclaimer and shake hands with Jim Robertson in the railway station! Just before the start Val was trying to round up Carnegie Harriers for a team photo with the success of a cat herder! Oh well, one short, we'll just have a photo of the Magnificent Seven. 1.00am. We're off, at last, on our adventure, my first laugh was the look on the faces of local revelers wondering if they've been caught up in the Milngavie version of the Pamplona Bull Run, all they were missing was their wee red neckerchiefs as mad runners charged at them. Pauline and I settled into our pace, chatting to everyone especially Debz and Jean, it was a lovely night for running apart from having to keep wiping the midges of my face. Along the path of a thousand gates I said to Pauline that this tapering stuff of piddly wee runs for a fortnight, nae caffeine for a month and even worse nae alcohol from the 1st June must be working my legs feel fresh and bouncy.
We bounced along quite happily; at Drymen I swapped my backpack for my bumbag and trotted onwards and upwards, the view from Conic hill was its usual inspiring self and headed downwards. Two girls came bounding down through the woods flying past us, my knees cringed watching them, I thought "Look after your legs girls, you're gonna need them later!" At Balmaha Val and Sue had our rice pudding and coffee ready which I was really looking forward to but I had a mug malfunction, I had two thermal mugs, one for coffee and hot chocolate, the other for soup and pasta so it wouldn't matter if they never got rinsed properly between courses but they had the wrong lid on and I ended up wearing more of my coffee than drinking it as it leaked out, and there was me thinking my mouth wasn't big enough.
Another slight wee problem; I was carrying one of the GPS trackers with a battery life of 24 hours so I was just going to pick it up after around four or five hours running. When Dario asked me if I'd like to be a guinea pig for one and that it'll weight about 100g, I said yes, thinking it'll be about the size of a big greedy bugger Mars Bar, well, in its waterproof bag it was closer to the size of a half brick! (Maybe a wee exaggeration), but my bumbag was stuffed already before squashing it in so decided I didn't need to carry a rainjacket between Balmaha and Rowardennan so hauled it out of my bag and shoved in the tracker which incidentally stopped working somewhere after Bridge of Orchy giving concern to family following our progress. A half brick might have been more useful, I could've used it later for lobbing at support in petulant huff (more about that at Lundavra).
I enjoyed the run to Rowardennan with its scenic ups and downs and a few blethers with other runners on the way. Rowardennan was a big test for our support, Val has done WHW support for the last eight years and Sue supported Pauline last year and at Perth, they're both experienced but can they cope with two demanding runners wanting a sock and shoe change at the same time? When we arrived the two chairs were waiting with fresh socks and shoes at the ready. Val asked me what I wanted, just my body glide and fresh socks and shoes I said, then I looked at Pauline beside me, and she was getting nice cold wet wipes round her tootsies first! Time for a twinny whinge. "Aw! She's getting wet wipes, why didn't I get wet wipes!" Val's reply was "You didn't ask for wet wipes" "Ok but I want them next time" I was ready before Pauline so set off without her, I knew she'd catch me up soon. I hurled abuse at the pirate as I went by, he was lying on a comfy massage table having his legs rubbed, "Aye, yer legs will still be sore when you stand up!" probably a wee tinge of jealousy there, I don't plan to lie down until the Leisure Centre. Pauline caught me up pretty quickly and we covered a fair bit of ground with Chris Moon, what I love about this family is that you may never have met before but conversation is easy and varied, from land-mines to how to make a teenager tidy her room to there's not much eating on a squirrel!
Pauline and I caught up with the Morley gang at Inversnaid and we more or less stayed together until the easy ground where at last I could go to the "wee girls room". Along the rough path along the shore of the loch there is literally nowhere to "go" I was relieved when we saw the flat grassy stretch and was able to take a wee detour, running is so much more easier and relaxed without buttocks clenched and knees tied together! After my pit-stop, I was starting to feel a bit warm and wabbit so just kept an easy running pace, I was a bit down on my schedule but not too far adrift, it wasn't worth worrying about, going past Beinn Glas I was remembering last month's three day run over the WHW with the club and our first day stopped here, I recalled feeling tired and I was glad to call it a day, but now I was trotting past not even half way into my run and felt fine, it just goes to show it's not your body that decides you're tired but your mind. It was a long haul to Carmyle Cottage where Sue and Val had more coffee and rice pudding ready. I perked up after this caffeine hit and enjoyed the run through the rollercoaster and down to Auchtertyre where Lesley and Gillian were joining us. We headed straight to the weigh-in, great, just us, no queue this year, I was asked for my card, oh yeah, where is it? More importantly where's our support? They've got our weight cards and they are nowhere to be seen. A girl shot off, she'd seen them and knew where they were. A few bellows of "COME ON!" and they appeared not knowing how they missed us going by. Gillian handed me my baked tattie, it was on a plate with a fork, but table manners are hard when you're eating on the hoof, so just grabbed my tattie and handed Gillian the plate and cutlery. Gillian was coming with us to Bridge of Orchy, not that Pauline and I had run out of conversation but it was nice for a fresh face to join in, at Tyndrum, we were lucky enough to cross the road without any delay from the traffic, walked up the hill with a mug of soup and a roll, I felt a bit full afterwards since it wasn't that long since we had our tatties but it soon went down, we had a nice steady pace along with Gillian scooting around taking photos.
At Bridge of Orchy we had our final shoe change, the team had to lug all the stuff from the car park up at the hotel down to the checkpoint and Lesley had to sprint back to the car for Pauline's arm-warmers before accompanying us over Rannoch Moor. Pauline and I sat down and I was handed a rice pudding and a spoon, I noticed it was Pauline's spoon but I didn't say anything, had a wee smile to myself and waited… Val started on my feet, Pauline was handed her rice pudding and my spoon while Sue did her feet. Pauline had one spoonful then said "Why have I got Fiona's spoon, I want my own spoon!" I joined in, "Yeah! I want my spoon!" Sue's reply was class, "Will you pair behave! Besides I licked them both clean after the last time!" (Pauline's has had spoon issues since a 24 hour race in 2006) My mug of hot chocolate had the right lid so I didn't have to wear most of it this time.
We were getting updates on the rest of Team Carnegie at the checkpoints; it was quite exciting as we knew Richie and Scott were in the mix for the top places and everyone else were still going fine apart for Iain who has had to call it a day at Bridge of Orchy. As we just cleared the trees on the climb over the hill out of Bridge of Orchy, Pauline jumped as her phone rang, it was Tim at home. "Had we heard the news?" "Scott's WON!" There were big cheers from Pauline, Lesley and myself. About 100 yards ahead were a couple of guys, I'm not sure what they thought of our song and dance, but Pauline soon put them in the picture. "The first runner has just finished and he's one of ours!" They didn't reply and were too far away to see the look on their faces; maybe just as well, because without the euphoria and pride I felt for Scott, I probably would be thinking "Bastard! He's now off to the chippy and the pub, finishing the whole race in a time close to what it's going to take me to cover the last thirty odd miles!" (Scott, I'm going to "out" you as a top tough dude, you've never mentioned your past adventures but your Dad did! Type Scott Bradley into the search box on www.crazyguyonabike.com). The next call was to say Richie was third, brilliant news that put a spring in our step for a fair bit, Rannoch Moor was uneventful after that, just kept a "get on with it" pace while eating my nice new potatoes tossed in butter, sea salt, ground pepper and fresh mint and parsley (from my garden) no manky pot noodles or synthetic mash for me, I'd made some for Pauline too but did hers separate as Miss Pickypants likes less butter, but she forgot to lift them when we left the checkpoint. (She can make her own next time.)
Heading down to Kingshouse I could feel a couple of hot spots on my feet but I didn't expect anything less from the rough rocky descent. Pauline and I spent a few minutes at Kingshouse, I put on my blue fleece and saltire buff, now a tradition for my climb up the Devil's staircase, Val was coming with us now into Kinlochleven, at Altnafeadh the rest of the team had pulled in just to take some photos and for Lesley and Gillian to give a "for one night only, live performance of Is this the way to Amarillo" I don't know how you're going to top that next year, you'd better start rehearsing now! It certainly lifts the spirits of a tired runner to see support enjoying themselves and giving us a good laugh too.
I knew I was down on my schedule but by how much I didn't know, it was not important, I'd written it as a guide only to be paid attention to if a PB was on the cards, I just wanted to be heading into Kinlochleven before it got dark, it's a tough path to find your footing with just a head torch to pick out the easiest route, we managed to get most of the way down the steep track before I had to get out my torch, in the dimming light I thought there was a black trainer lace hanging from the head band on my torch, but there was nothing there, not very exciting I know but it's my hallucination and going on past experience the only one I'm gonna have! My feet were sore and nippy I could feel a few blisters and my quads weren't as supple as I would've liked but I was still moving fine. At the weigh in I'd put on a kilo but what do you expect after eating some crystallized ginger, five bars of chocolate, three rice puddings, loads of tatties, some soup, pasta, three jam rolls, a handfull of cereal bars and fun size Mars bars, a couple of bags of Mini Chedders and a milkshake! And I wasn't finished yet! At the car we stood still while I drank my mug of oxo, Pauline said she wanted to change from coffee to hot chocolate which was on the list of requirements for at Lundavra. "Oh yeah, that sounds nice I'll have hot chocolate too!" (I think I said it out loud!) Sue was coming with us now, and we started walking up the path but "OUCH!" with standing still, a mistake I won't make next year! My feet went into shock getting moving again, I had considered changing socks and putting on some Compeed but with only just fourteen miles to go any treatment won't make much difference they'd still be sore anyway so didn't bother wasting time poking at my feet. I had a cheese and ham roll which took me ages to eat; I was still nibbling at it long after the steep climb up onto the Lairig Mor. Once we'd cleared the trees we looked back down at the streetlights in Kinlochleven and over to the hill, we could see a few twinkling head torches coming down the thigh killing descent. Right, turn round and get on with it, I wasn't going to managed to run the Lairig Mor so just kept plodding on with nothing to focus on but the boulders in the circle of light from my head torch. I spent most of it on my own about fifty paces behind Pauline and Sue, I thought it was their wee ploy to keep me moving, they would turn round and wait for me, both of them giving me some chocolate or crystallized ginger to eat, I felt a bit sick but managed to eat all the stuff they handed to me. I did a lot of thinking along this section, my feet were nippy but not as mushed as my first WHW, my legs were tight and sore but still not as concrete and immobile as my second WHW, the weather was fine, just a bit of a cool breeze I didn't have to fight for survival against hypothermia inducing rain and gale force winds like last year's Lairig Mor. So why wasn't I moving better when I've had Lairig Mor loads harder? I was concerned that I'd lost the fight in me. I have never considered life after the WHW until it just happens naturally but this year I have another race to think about and going along Lairig Mor I thought this next one is going to be so easy, a mere 24 hours on the flat with no boulders, the other difference will be is I'll be wearing a blue and white Scotland vest and fighting with every ounce of my eight and a half stone. Ah! Eureka moment! I realised fighting wasn't necessary for the WHW, I was doing it for the love of the race, the scenery and the camaraderie of the family. So I relaxed back into my plod pace and eventually reached Lundavra, Sue had gone on to make sure Gillian and Lesley were ready for us and she handed me my mug. Yuch! Coffee! I'd asked for hot chocolate! Just handed it back, I didn't want coffee. But hang on, Pauline's got hot chocolate! That's not fair! I wouldn't really lob a half brick at support (I didn't have the energy) for messing up my demands but I certainly whinged on for an inappropriate length of time! Just ate my shortbread with my bottom lip sticking out. Kept plodding on, it was now daylight again but still fairly dark in the spooky woods with the cruel steps and stiles. With every step Fort William was getting closer even though we tend to measure the final section in life times or eternities and not miles. Once on the wide forest track Pauline and Sue were breaking up the walk down with little runs, I think they thought I'd join in but I was having none of it, two figures were walking up the hill, it was Lesley and Gillian coming to escort us in. Once on to road out of the Braveheart car park I did pick it up and managed to run all the way in, both doors of the Leisure Centre were held open so we could finish shoulder to shoulder. A very special finish, Pauline and I shared hugs with Dario and support, sharing the Quaich was a bit special too.
A shower, more blood and urine samples, a massage then a lie down! Bliss, the back of Lesley's estate felt like a king size four poster. But in no time at all, they opened the door, "Right you two, its breakfast time!" Wriggled forward and dangled my sleeping bag clad body out of the back of the car, trying to gather myself together. Ahh! Horror! There's the guy from the BBC and he's coming straight at us. Over 29 hours of running, a couple of hours kip and bed hair, is Sunday night telly ready for this? This Adventure Show might need a PG rating!
At the prize giving, another endurance event and rightly so as every finisher is awarded their goblet. It was a proud moment to receive my goblet with Pauline at my side and good to catch up with other runners, nice to see Iain Thomson looking well, I hope he'll be back next year for his goblet, but Carnegie Harriers going home with seven goblets for this year is great success for the club. The most poignant moment being a minute of applause for Stan Milne who passed away last year, he was the first WHW nutter I ever met, and at that time I never ever imagined I'd follow in his footsteps.
It is always hard to put into words the gratitude felt for support. Val, Sue, Gillian and Lesley Team Twinnies would not have been successful or so much fun without you.
This is not the end of the story; the next chapter begins on 19th June 2010.