Monday, 30 April 2012

Highland Fling 2012


Friday 8.30pm – Milngavie
After fajitas with a side of chips for dinner we head across the car park to the glamour of our Premier Inn standard double. Drop bag specifics are finalised with the addition of banana cake baked by Nicole.  I am number 130. The zero cancels out the bad luck that number 13 might bring so I have no concerns there. After a long discussion (and a pro and con list) I decide to shower the night before and set my alarm for five minutes later in the morning; 5.45am.

Saturday 5.20am – Milngavie
My cell phone vibrates with a text from Keith. Scott gets up to check the time. Probably should have set my alarm for 4.45am because my race starts at 6am. Rookie error. I am pretty speedy getting ready although I almost forget to fill my bladder up with water. I do have time to moisturise my legs though and I now smell of juicy mango (I know that you will appreciate this Hillary).

Saturday 5.45am – Milngavie
Registration accomplished and drop bags dropped. I do not have a paper race number which alleviates pressure regarding the number of layers I should wear as I am not going to need to worry about changing my number over. I stand in a the line for the portaloos whilst simultaneously brushing my teeth, braiding my hair and applying Vaseline in delicate areas. I use sparkling water to brush my teeth as a way of intimidating the other competitors. It’s such a good intimidation tactic that I don’t even need to mention that the bottle was originally brought for Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth's press launch. I’ll mention that to them later.

Pre-race chaos


Saturday 6.00am – Milngavie
I’m fluffing about with my bladder because I haven’t taken the drinking tube out of my pack and I’m getting tangled in my braids. The race starts. The race director John makes a cheeky comment to me as I walk under the tunnel at the back of the pack. I’ve kept my wee rain jacket on because it’s only a few degrees in warmth and I can see snow on some nearby hills. I wave to the hundreds of fans as we run through the main street in Milngavie.

I run alongside a girl running her first ultra. As I am sharing my wisdom with her another girl pops up beside me. She’s clearly a fan because she knows I am running the WHW in June. In fact she knows most of the races I’ve done in the last year including my times. She even has a photo of me at the start of a race in November and remembers what t-shirt I was wearing at another. I’m starting to think she’s a bit of a stalker and I'm delighted. Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth have already come up in a few conversations. As they do. I climb over a few fences rather than going through all the gates as they are surrounded by puddles and I don’t want me feet getting soaked. This makes competitors laugh but I’m not fast enough to sacrifice wet feet for a time. I'm having brilliant banter with Carolyn and Carol; both of whom finish in superb times. 

Saturday 7.59am – Drymen
Jacket off, lucozade slurped and banana squashed in hand. Sorry for ruining the photo opportunity Scott. A few minutes slower than last year which is perfect. Nicole recognised me coming across the bog because I have such an elegant style when approaching mud.

Saturday  – Conic Hill
Some crazy Irish guy almost takes me out as he comes flying down a hill. I catch him walking up Conic Hill because I’ve got rather large quads making me quite speedy up the hills. No hands on knees business either. That is for the weak. I catch a few people I know and we exchange compliments.

Saturday – Balmaha
I run through the check-point like a pro with the ‘crew’ running alongside me handing me custard as requested. I don’t even use a spoon as I pour the custard in. Spectators are impressed and I definitely heard gasps from the crowds. I need the bathroom but they are not conveniently located so I don’t bother.

Coming into Balmaha


I pass a girl who I recognise from the D33 in March and I wonder if I’m going a bit fast. I stop behind a fallen tree trunk as it is more conveniently located than the bathrooms in Balmaha. When I pass the girl again (she runs for Hunter’s Bog Trotters) she seems confused so we chat and I let her know about my bathroom trip. I talk to her at the finish and she says to Lorna ‘this is the polite girl I told you about who used the word bathroom!’ I want to add that I hang with Nicole Kidman and brush my teeth with sparkling water too. The first Vet man passes me (tiered start means he started an hour behind me).

Saturday 10.45am – Rowardennan
Nicole and Scott have stationed themselves strategically at the check-point and I squish in some banana cake, coke and head off with a banana leaving the crew with instructions to find more Imodium. I’ve delayered.

Coming into Rowardennan
Having a feed



There is a chunk of long gradual climbs and falls over the next four miles or so and I never know how much I should walk and run. I’ve got the song ‘Bulletproof’ shooting through my head. I pass a girl walking down a hill and I ask if she’s OK.  She says she’s fine and then says ‘Antonia from Caesars Camp, 50 miles’. Another stalker. They really need to limit the number of my fans that they let enter this race. I’ve since looked her up. She's a super fast runner so I probably should have got her autograph. 

Saturday – Inversnaid
This is one of the most stunning places on the course and a check-point which my crew cannot get to. I’m careful to call out my number as clearly as possible when I come in because otherwise the Scots don’t know what I’m saying. I turn down the offer of water because I don’t need to fill up my bladder. I guzzle a bottle of tropical lucozade and am cramming spoonful’s of creamed rice into my mouth when the second Vet man arrives into the checkpoint. He’s clearly more relaxed than I am as he’s swallowing his food before putting more into his mouth. I take off out of the check-point before him like it’s a two-man race and the finish line is in sight. He catches me about five minutes later. I think I’ve done a good job of holding him off and in my head the finish line for our wee race was 100 metres back anyway so I’ve been declared the winner.

I’m by myself for the next hour. I remember quite a few Vet men catching me at this point last year so I'm trying to listen for them so that I can move out of their way when they approach. It’s really rough underfoot for much longer than I remembered and it’s taking it out of my legs. I’m focusing on staying positive and enjoying the view. I’ve now got about four lines from two different songs running through my head; all in the wrong places and merging together. The general theme is ‘don’t stop me now, I’m having such a good time, out on a run, lady survivor, call me Mr. Farenheit, I’m running at the speed of light’. Something about me being a supersonic woman…

And wham! I’m passed by the third Vet (a guy called Andy that I know – I ran with him in the Ochil Hills) and a lady who tells me the rough stuff is nearly over. Andy says I’m having a great run. I’ve got a bit of a crush on Andy so I’m smiling like a school girl saying that I feel great, telling him that he’s doing great… The lady continues strong but Andy doesn’t get more than about 300 metres ahead of me for the rest of the race. I smack my ring on a rock but the diamond hasn’t fallen out so we’re ok. I keep checking it every few minutes because Scott will be raging if I lose it.

At the top of the hill above Ardlui I stop to admire the view. I catch Keith which surprises me and he continues to hoot long after I have passed.

Saturday – Bein Glas – about 1.15pm
I fell to pieces here last year so I am determined to kick this farm’s arse. There’s not really anyone there, just long rows of drop bags. I remember people being everywhere here last year but no relay teams have passed me yet so I guess I beat that mob. Scott and Nicole aren’t allowed in here this year due to Scott’s rowdy behaviour from the previous year :) A marshal fills up my bladder for me while I down some coke and apple liquorice. I take off with a peeled banana squashed in my hand. The leading senior male must pass me somewhere here but I cannot quite remember where it was. Scott chats to him at the pub afterwards and he compliments Scott on his choice of fiancé (ok so I didn’t hear their conversation but I’m pretty confident that was said).

The next section is exposed and undulating. I pass a man and tell him that we are nearly there. He doesn’t believe me which is probably sensible because it’s another few hours before the finish. Also, I hate it when people say that to me. Tell me I’m nearly there when I am less than one km away. Not one mile, one km. The male Hoka runner (senior, so started two hours behind me) passes me as I am walking up a hill. I then pass him on the flat (that’s right, running faster than a professional runner) and he laughs. I make chat with him but he doesn’t reply. It might be because he’s French and can’t understand me or it might just be because he is French. He soon heads off in the distance and I chuckle to myself because he’s wearing white socks and they are really muddy so he’s going to have to soak them tonight.

After a few miles I see the paparazzi standing with Nicole and Scott. I learn later that the paparazzi is American which means I’m now on some guys blog post in the US.  I drink some more coke and pop some Imodium. I decline a banana as I've eaten my body weight in them already. I speed up a bit to catch Andy and his friend as we approach some cows on the track. The cows make me uncomfortable and I’m banking on the two men to save me should a cow decide to go at me. I confess my love for Andy’s bright yellow vest because it’s stopped me from feeling so alone. I'm so embarrassing. 




Saturday – Crianlarich
There’s no stop here but I recognise the turnoff and know I have about seven miles to go. I’m working on ‘maintenance’ which means that I’m walking up hills strong, jogging the flats and relaxing on the downhills.  Not going too hard out anywhere. The first relay team goes past – the only one to pass me all day. I’m dodging cows and there are big mud patches which are frustrating me. I’m pretending that they’re not frustrating me though because I’m catching blue top and orange top.

Trampers veer off the track as I plummet down hills. That’s how speedy I am. A runner coming towards me to support a friend tells me to ‘hang in there’ which is rather offensive since I’m smiling and clearly kicking arse.

Saturday – Auchentyre Farm
I’m on tarmac now and I’m guessing have less than four miles to go although it’s relatively flat and feels really long. I struggled here last year so I am now focusing on ‘running all the flat’. I pass a man in black as I cross the road. He’s eating a muesli bar which worries me because surely there’s not enough time for refuelling now? I see orange top go through a gate a few hundred metres ahead of me and see her walk on the other side. Unusual since there are no hills from here to the finish. I’m concentrating on my pace, hoping to catch her near the end but not too soon as I do not want to give her the opportunity to make a comeback.  As I go through the gate I realise why orange top was walking. She was going up a hill. The wrong way. I can’t see her anymore so unless I chase after her up the hill there’s nothing I can do. We’re not far from the finish so she won't get lost in the wilderness. Turns out that she was the lady who passed me with Andy before Bein Glas.

I don’t know how far away the finish is. I can hear people behind me. Someone encouraging someone else on.  There are a few undulations so I take the opportunity to speed walk up a few inclines. I think I hear bagpipes. Bugger, it’s just a generator I’m hearing. There’s a sheep with horns on the other side of the gate. How do I scare it without pissing it off? I walk slowly around it.

I can finally hear the bagpipes and see George and Karen. Some people are cheering for Andy who must be only a few hundred metres behind. I give George a high-five and attempt to dig it in for the finish. In my head I am doing a good job but I know that when I ask Scott about my sprint finish he’s not going to remember it. Intimidation obviously leads to memory loss.

Finish – Tyndrum
I have no idea what time I’ve run. There’s a camera crew there making me wish I’d used a spoon rather than pour custard down my face in Balmaha. I should have danced with excitement or done something to make myself stand out. A man takes my chip off me and I ask him what the time is. I think I’ve run 10hours 50-ish from his response and I was aiming for 10 hours 50 minutes. To be honest, I was a little disappointed because I thought I’d get 10 hours 40 minutes something but I didn’t let the disappointment show. I was still keeping face for the tv crew.  After a few clock checks and confirmation that it was 9 hours 50-something minutes that I had run, I immediately started charging more for the autographs that I was signing for people. Always keep a good business head even after long runs I say.

Feeling better than last year 



I scrounge my food bags for left-over crisps and am delighted every time I find some. Scott drinks half my beer but it’s a lager so I don’t mind too much. I eat fish and chips for dinner and Scott drinks too much whisky and keeps the neighbouring tents awake with his snoring. My sore leg muscles meant I cannot assist with tent pack-up in the morning but I did manage to find a chair and a bag of crisps so I was in good form to shout instructions.

Not a bad weekend all round…

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