Monday, 1 July 2013

West Highland Way Race 2013

I've been a bit lazy here and just reposted my club report with a few edits (different audience and  i'm not allowed to swear  on  club reports (i save that for the e-mail ;-)  )

I could go on about the hills and terrain but suffice is to say it has a lot of it !  Last time I did the race in 2010 I’d broken my foot on the 28th of January and had only nine weeks back running before the race. 

However on a beautiful day I had a sublime run, smiling & laughing all the way, downing a quick pint at Kingshouse Hotel (72 Miles) in Glencoe and a very acceptable finish in 26 hours something. So you’d think given I had trained and probably wouldn’t stop for a beer I’d be able to knock an hour or more from that time. I want be making that mistake again!
Finish Goblet back in 2010./ Oh what a jolly little run out it was.......

At 1am after the usual talk we were set off from Milngavie train station. It always makes me chuckle that such a beautiful route starts at a train station and down Milngavie high street. By the first CP at Drymen, a mere 12 miles in I was feeling slightly uncomfortable and hot. The weather had promised torrential rain and possible thunder storms but the storm failed to break leaving us with an oppressive heat. I climbed the the iconic Conic hill where for me the race starts and into the 2nd CP at Balmaha.

I remember here I was still fine but saying the heat was getting to me a bit. It was one of the days where it was too hot for a jacket but every now and then we’d get a sudden heavy downpour. You just wanted it to do one or the other. In the end i ran without a jacket and chose to get soaked. This caused its own problems as i got chaffing below my armpits. Something else that has never happened before.

By the way i actually lost my jacket (i had spares) when i didn't do my bag up properly and it flew out. However Vicky (i think ) made a call to the brilliant stonehaven sweepers and it was not only found but returned. A quick word on the sweepers. The idea of a team of sweepers and reverse sweepers was brilliant and worked really well. Geogre and karen kept popping up all ove the place neglecting their duties and not taking me out he race and home for a beer ! 

From Balmaha past Rowardednen forest  & Ben Lomond we followed Loch Lomond to Inversanid where I had a drop bag. I was still fighting this overheating, occasionally dipping my head under waterfalls and drinking the cool water from the streams but I just could seem to get cool.

Met Gavin running up and down the trails and her really gave me a boast -as wel as half his clothes ! Thanks Gavin , you were a star :-)

Had a bit of a torrid time all the way to the halfway point at Auchentyre farm.  Really not feeling well and was astonished to find out I had lost 4% body weight. This is right on the limit of being pulled out and would mean I was being watched. 

Still the good thing was my first support runner, Anna could join me here and I perked up a bit passing through Tyndrum onto the bridge of Ochy and even started to enjoy myself over the big climb from B’ochy to Victoria Bridge. That all changed on the Rannoch though. Rannoch moor is the highest Moorland in the UK and the climb to it seems to go on forever. This was where I really started to feel poorly and quite honestly had someone offered me an open grave at this point I’d have jumped right in and laid down. I was almost certainly feeling the effects of dehydration, shortage of electrolytes and probably drinking too much to compensate. My body was fine but my head was another matter. I can only liken it to being punch drunk! I was completely spaced out, dizzy, nauseous and unbalanced at times.

I have to say i was feeling the worst i've ever felt and still been standing up. At this point i knew for sure that to finish would be a huge struggle.

Into Glencoe and David took over from Anna. We both knew that this was now a war of attrition but David was adamant he would get me home. Past Kingshouse where last time I had a lovely pint and onto the devils staircase. I usually love this climb but now I was struggling big time. I was terribly unbalanced and thought i would topple over at times. At the top I sat for a minute and a good friend John Vernon came past with words of encouragement. Jon was doing his 10th consecutive whw race and I assured him I’d be at the ceremony to pick my goblet up with him. We overtook John as a managed a good run down the 4.5 miles of rocky switch backs and into Kinglochleven.

From Glencoe onward I'd more or less become monosyllabic and talking Jon briefly was one of my few  conversations. Apart form that i only said , Yes , wait , no Ok and shite.

Yes- i can run.
Wait -I can't run.
Ok ,- lets run
Shite-how you feeling?

That was apar from apparently asking if Sandra had got in OK and the time she wanted. I do remember looking at my watch at the 23 hour mark and hoping. I think it was soon after that that i was told she's done it :-) x

My head felt like it was in a cloud, i was dizzy and my balance impaired. I did remember thinking , fuck it will take all day to get down to kinglochleven at this rate and from being dead on my feet i asked the to pass and followed David down at a reasonable pace,with David waiting occasionally and say OK ? which of course meant run.

top of the Devils staircase on another day.

I love down hill and this is one of my favourite runs but doing it with your head seemingly detached from your body is an interesting way to descend.

Last of the 3 weigh ins and luckily I had gained a little and the Doctor took little notice of me! (hello !!! ;-) ) .. A bemused look form Julie Clark , (shut up and do what you're told ! ) yet again doing an excellent job at the medical centre, a bit of food all ate in silence and we were off out the do. 

David ushered me up the last big climb out of Kinglochleven & onto the rolling rocky tracks heading that head north towards Ben Nevis, the wilderness road that is Lundava. 

I do remember breaking my monosyllabic spell by saying we need to do this as quick as possible to David. I was gone now , my head swooning and we both knew i had to get back quick.

The last 13 miles of I did on nothing but will power and David’s cajoling along & mind games  I could not have been gladder to see the finish. I can honestly say it was the worst run of my life. 31 hours something i believe. A 5 hour PW but i got home.

Edit: the Importance of support crews who know what they are doing. 

As i said , when i ran this in 2010 i had the most lovely run of very little training. it was all smiles and i like to think i was no bother to my crew. This was certainly true of when i supported Karen Doughnut the previous year. Karen would come into a cp and ask how WE were !

But , when things go badly and we all know it can happen having the bloke down the pub who once did a 10K as support won't do. You need folk that know. And if they have to ask know what , they don't know. .

My crew of Carolyn , David and Anna knew were superb and 'knew'. Without doubt i would not have got home without them. Thanks guys, sorry i was such a pain.

But…None of that is etched on the goblet and I was very proud to pick my 2nd Goblet so differently earned for the first. 

The West Highland Way Race is a very special race. All the talk of distance and terrain you usually get in ultras is replaced here with the people, the stories and traditions that the race is steeped in.  The ceremony is without doubt the best there is. Starting at 12 o’clock when the last finishers have come in (35 hours) each finisher is handed there goblet in order of finishing and the last runner receives their goblet by the winner. I’ll certainly be back for another goblet.  

So what when wrong. Reading up and talking to folk it would seem i got dehydrated and probably lost electrolytes. I probably caused more problems by drinking to much water from streams. I just could not get cool. Now i'm pretty good with this stuff & although it was hot , i've ran in hotter and the 2010 one was hotter as well. I possibly made up my drinks to weak but i really don't know. All i can do is take take that is does not happen again. 

So what now. I have lakeland 100 at the end of July but i really don't know if i'll do it after this took so much out of me. To put it into perspective the 31 hours something i took for this would be a top 50 finish for lakeland and the average finish is 38 hours (and that's what one of the fittest blokes i know, hardmoors Race director Jon steele took-twice) so i'm looking at 40 hours. Its a right twat is lakeland. but i know one bad race isn't indicative of others but I'll ponder lakeland.

Next year, apart form one possible mad race early in the year i'd decided i'd more or less i want to do some shorter stuff and race them. I even said to Anna i would not do any more 100's next year but she didn't get it in writing ! But there are loads of trail marathons that look fab , Hardmoors has 5 new ones, NorthEast marathon club have a fair few, the lakeland people have a few more and they seem to be popping up all over the place and all in beautiful places. I may even do the halves on Hardmoors so i'm free to help out. I've not raced the fling ,the Cateran or the Hardmoors 55 and if i can fit it  in the fellsman is waiting. 

(mind i think fellsman should be treated with  the utmost respect and in the same bracket as the Hill 100's)

But... this years whw has annoyed me and it is (if you're well ) at least one of the big three that set the standard in Hill Ultra's that can be done in a reasonable time and not take to much out of you. (Some big if's there i know.)  So i'll see how the year goes but i'm minded to be in the whw balot again next year as my only long one.

If i do, i'll stop for a pint this time!.

*March 2014 Edit *
 I've entered Hardmoors 110. West Highland Way and Lakeland 100 - The Triple Crown again .


  1. sounds a lot like lack of salts etc. but you did it. Couldnt agree more re- crew, we put ourselves in thier safekeeping for those hours and thet deliver. rest up mister, dont do Lakeland, it'll only scupper your recuperation process. Give Anna a break ffs ;) enojy the shorter stuff and i'll se you next yr at 1am (well i'll see you before then, obv) x

  2. Not sure about Anna not having it "in writing" but she certainly has witnesses! Think you'd best be *very* nice to her... Not sure I can do a pint at KLL but if you can manage to turn up looking slightly closer to human, I'll see if I can have a bottle of something waiting for you. x

  3. Well done Flip; it sounds like you had a truly hard slog but your perseverance to get there in the end shows that you're more than capable of conquering the bad days.

  4. Plenty of reflection, Phil, but try not to make too many comparisons to 2010. Your points about the value of great crew are well made - an essential component in search of a trio of goblets :)

  5. well done..very gutsy run and great crew :)

  6. Dehydration is a killer ! WEll done on toughing it out

  7. Love it - so funny. Worth paying the entrance fee alone for "it's a right twat is Lakeland"!

    Great humour and gritty run. I can imagine how tough it was for all of Team Flip. No wonder Dave got so pissed Sunday night :-)

  8. Amazing achievement and run Flip. GOes to show what the human body is capable of with training and the right mindset. Hope you have a better run with lakeland 100.