Friday, 29 June 2012

West Highland Way Race


I was meant to enter next year’s race. I’m young and I wanted more experience. They were solid excuses and I repeated them like a mantra until I watched the Commonwealth 24-hour Championships in Wales. November came and I pumped my entry form in so quickly that I entered as a male.  I didn’t need a cheque written so Scott didn’t find out about the entry until it came up in a conversation at the pub a few weeks later… 

Phantom injuries and list-writing consumed my thoughts for the entire week pre-race.  The overwhelming joy of being allowed to sort my spare running kit into labelled snap-lock bags had me packed the weekend before. I lovingly squashed the air out of each bag and placed them into one of my newly acquired clear boxes; complete with a list of the boxes’ contents in a plastic sleeve attached to the lid. I began to get a bit competitive; what happens if someone else has better lists and boxes than I do?

Michael, Olivia, myself and Scott
My sister Olivia and brother-in-law Michael flew up from Brighton on Friday morning having studied my crew ‘instruction manual’ on the plane. They joined my partner Scott to complete the crew A-team. Friday trundled by. I finally accepted that I was going to get wet. I had originally planned to run in a crop top and pants telling myself that I was out for a tanning session rather than a long trot. Instead I started (and finished) in the same heavy rain jacket and hoped that the broken zip would hold out. I must ask Santa for a proper waterproof running jacket this year. 

I’m the youngest runner in the race and plan on taunting any old men with that fact if they decide to get too cheeky!  

Milngavie - Rowardennan

A good luck from mum and dad
The race started and I wasn’t on the start line. I pulled up the rear with the sweepers and waved to all my fans as I ran through Milngavie centre. A few miles in I had a bit of banter with my running mentor/bad influence Keith. I wish it had lasted longer but he needed to stop and fluff about with his clown shoes. Big Dave (Lee Maclean’s runner) declined to fireman-lift me to the finish so I trundled onto Drymen where my dedicated A-team stood in the pissing rain.

Down the road I had a wee chat with running legend and ultra-nice guy Adrian Stott. It was pretty neat to be running with a man who first ran this race when I was just four! Going up Conic Hill was like going up a waterfall (or so I have been bragging to my workmates) and I enjoyed the cheeky company of John Duncan and Bill Heirs. We traded ideas on diva requests that we were going to shout at our crew. I walked down Conic Hill claiming to be saving my quads but I was really just pissing about. 

John racing me into Balmaha
I don't feel as bad as I look!
Balmaha to Rowardennan is probably my favourite section of the race. A man named Steve has some good smelling coffee that he offers me but I’m saving myself for later. By Rowardennan I have taken five trips to the ladies room and drank less than 500ml of water. In the Glenmore 12hour race last year I didn’t go for ten hours so I’m a wee bit concerned. It must be the rain seeping through my skin… I call my number as I come in and someone says ‘ohhh she’s a fast number.’ Checking out the splits I was in 135th place in Balmaha so I am not sure that I was living up to 41’s speedy reputation! I eat some glorious porridge (thanks A-team) and down a vanilla milkshake. 

Rowardennan – Bein Glas

It was probably time to start running. I’d basically just jumped in puddles and chatted up men so far.  I walk strongly up the long gradual inclines, gaining on people that are running. I have a nice chat with a man about New Zealand farming. My bladder is going haywire and there are numerous stops before Inversnaid. Previously, having to stop on a run would have caused me anxiety and I would have put it off for hours. I’m clearly far too relaxed today and this is reflected in some of the places I choose to use as a ladies’ room! 

Inversnaid - photo from Karin!
At Inversnaid I see Karin who I have just met the week before. Serious commitment to stand in the rain with all those midgies! I head out by myself to scramble over the rocks to Bein Glas. I’m relieved when I come across chatty Alan and patient Jason. I’ve had a bounce in my step the entire run so far but am eating nothing between checkpoints despite the selection of sweeties in my front pocket. I bonk a couple of miles before Bein Glas and pull up the rear of the wee running group that has formed. I leave a full packet of crisps for another runner but demolish my ham and mustard sandwich. My crew will be so proud. I make the mistake of using the bathroom and catching sight of my hair in the mirror. My braids have gone well frizzy at the top and I make a note to myself to ask Olivia for hair ties to fix the problem at Auchentyre (I forget). I hug my first coke of the day and walk out of the check point with chatty Alan. He suggests we run the downhill but I claim that I am still saving my quads. 

Bein Glas - Tyndrum

I’m back on a high and bouncing my  way up and down the undulations to Auchentyre. I chat to another man about New Zealand’s environmental assets. He’s in fabulous spirits as he phones his wife and I consider trying to skype the folks at home. Unfortunately my phone is of the low-income variety and isn’t fabulously reliable. I start eating my sweeties regularly and my stomach feels good for the first time all day/morning. I come across Paul who is having a tough time. I want to pick him up and give him a giant hug. I was delighted to see him at prize giving and see that he had picked up and finished extremely well. I fly into Auchentyre to consume my M&S pasta and a mocha. I’m feeling pretty posh about myself until a man in the van behind me spots me applying copious amounts of Vaseline down my pants and asks if I need any help! A couple of miles further and I probably will! 

Diva request
I see Norm and Ian K who inform me that Keith is ahead of his schedule. The A-team tell me that they saw Sandra at Rowardennan who sends on words of encouragement and that Carrie flew through on her lovely long legs and is looking amazing.  I see Lorna who informs me that cheeky John is still in good spirits. Delighted, I continue along to Tyndrum declaring that I was still taking it easy so that I wouldn’t feel immensely rubbish in the last few sections. Brilliant call. 

I’m pretty excited about what happens next. I’m plodding along and towards me comes Sharon and Debbie. Now, I know who they are because they are superstars (I’ve been trying to think of a simile for them for days but nothing cool enough came to mind). However, I didn’t realise that they knew my name! They gave me big cheers and I probably replied with something horrendously embarrassing because I’m such a tit. It’s like being in high school and a famous band comes to play. You so desperately want to have a camera on you and a permanent marker so they can sign your t-shirt. You never wash the t-shirt afterwards and instead hang it on the wall of your bedroom to show anyone who might come to visit.  

Coming out of Tyndrum
I meet the A-team at Tyndrum to brush my teeth. I think that the weather starts to get a bit rough here because I start to have a hard time. For a long time. 

Tyndrum – Glencoe

I have a breakdown for the next 17 miles. I’m walking better than I am running which is good because I’m not running much. I meet Terry Addison and we have a wee chat but I can’t keep up with him. I don’t feel like I get passed much, it’s just that I feel mentally miserable. Everyone else seems to be feeling miserable too. We’re all on the death march together. I meet Colin who I have heard about through a mutual friend. We take turns passing each other for the next few miles. A song by wannabe New Zealand rapper Scribe keeps rotating it’s nonsense chorus in my head. I blame Scott who pumped this tune in the car on the way to Milngavie to get a laugh out of Olivia and Mike. ‘East Canterbury…’ Climbing stiles are easy so I know that it’s my brain shutting down not my leg muscles. 

Where's my mummy?
Coming into Bridge of Orchy I see Donald with his crew. I’m so happy to see him and his tartan pants. I give him a huge hug and carry on to the check point. I’ve already decided that I want more layers on and this pleases Sean Stone. I tell the A-team that I’ve had a pretty tough section. Olivia lies brilliantly and tells me that I was here much faster than they expected. I have no watch on, nor a finishing time in mind so my crew don’t have any times to go on. I printed the entire splits spread sheet that John K has made and told them to work it out themselves as I was going! But also not to tell me what the time was! I try to exit the wrong way but get back on course without having gone too far. 

I’ve requested a mocha and banana at Victoria Bridge. Mostly I just want to see them again. I’m still bonking and by the time I get there I don’t want my mocha anymore. Sorry team :) They were so awesome to get it ready in time as they went the wrong way getting there. My crew never let me down. 

I’m still walking on my death march. Some Django Django tunes are merging together in my head. My bladder is still completely out of control and I’m getting really careless with my choice of bathroom spot. It’s all exposed and I don’t care. Apologies to all the runners, walkers, supporters and astronauts that had to witness my white Beyoncé. It’s been a while since I went on a summer holiday and sunbathed in a thong. I’ve come across Terry and he now has a support runner. I’m walking up the hills faster than him but he’s running faster and more often than me so we keep passing one another. I’m probably at my lowest point in the race but running with these two is one of my favourite memories. I was never going to quit and this kept making my eyes well up because I was so proud of myself. At one point I declared that I wanted my mummy only to be told by Terry’s support runner that my mammy wasn’t here and unless I hauled arse to Glencoe I wouldn’t be seeing her! As my mammy lives in New Zealand I’ve still not seen her! I guess I didn’t haul arse enough :) I joined the Terry train and we both sulked our way into Glencoe. 

Glencoe – Kinlochleven 

At the check point I put my head in my hands to have a wee cry. I wasn’t quitting. I just felt sorry for myself for having such a long down spell. Another runner sees this and tells me to leave the checkpoint immediately. He informs me that I have seven hours to run the 25 miles to Fort William in under 24 hours. I walk out of the check point to hear him tell me even old women can run marathons in seven hours. I leave my crew to figure out where I am. My tummy didn’t want anything but I knew I had to request something or I would get in trouble. I decided to go for some crisps (which I barely ate) and a red bull. Olivia gives me a bit of smack-talk that New Zealand runner Matt Bixley has told her to pass on! 

Scott walks me across the busy road and gives me a hug goodbye. I don’t expect my mood to pick up in the slightest but when I open the gate I attempt a jog and find that I start flying. My leg muscles have felt absolutely fine so far and it’s time to stop being lazy. It’s a brisk walk to the top of Devil’s Staircase. I declare that I’ve found my ‘happy place’ to some blue boys I pass on the way up. I’m not a strong downhill runner so I take it easy down into Kinlochleven. I think I’m lost but I’m not. Olivia has come out to meet me; relieved when I give her the thumbs up and tell her that I’ve had a cracking section. I miss Julie at the check point because she’s off getting a chippie!   


Kinlochleven – Lundavra

Somewhere warm for the honeymoon?
I prance up the hill out of Kinlochleven with Scott joining me as a support runner and photographer. He hasn’t run for months but I figure that since I’ve been running for 81 miles we are on even ground. We discuss honeymoon options. I think I can see butterflies coming out of waterfalls and lambs frolicking beside the track so I guess it’s an appropriately romantic thing to discuss. I drink some Irn Bru and have my picture taken for the Mountain Rescue fellas before carrying on solidly to Lundavra. Olivia’s ready to run but she’s in her jeans and I’m about to power the last seven-ish miles home so I tell her to meet us at Braveheart car park. Eighty-eight miles in and it’s time for a sprint finish!  

I don’t know what the time is but it’s not dark yet. The wee legs have been running well since Glencoe so I fancy that I might be on for a sub-24 if I can push it to Fort William. My conservative start means there’s plenty of gas in the legs. I see Carrie’s long legs and stop for a hug. It’s awesome to be this far along the course together. It’s a shame no one had an ale on them or we could have trotted to the finish drinking! It’s a rollercoaster of ups and downs and I’m running them both. I pass some boys on my way down the forest road and they give me a big cheer. Convinced that they are going to try and chase me I switch my mechanical legs up a notch and think of Braveheart car park. My knees hurt but to be honest they’ve probably been hurting the whole way and that hasn’t bothered me too much so far. I’ll confess that this road felt very long and some naughty words may have come out of my mouth a few times. I’m not sure that we are going the right way so I ask Scott to run ahead and check. He’s not happy and literally runs a few paces ahead! 
We meet the A-team for a final cheer and I encourage Scott to run in with me. Unfortunately after 13 miles, he’s in agony and there’s a tense moment where I want to shove the 94 miles I’ve run up his arse. For the first time I ask for the time. I’m moving well and want to see if I am going to make sub-24. Despite having a statistics degree I incorrectly work out that I am going to finish about 20 minutes under 24 hours. Beyond expectations! I leave him for dust at the 30-sign and zoom towards the finish. I see a runner and his support ahead and I know I’ll catch them as I reach the centre. Unfortunately they start walking. I’m past the round-about and refuse to pass them before the finish so I yell ‘get running’ and run behind the guy’s back clapping and telling him to go faster until we reach the finish. He probably just wishes I flew past him! Ian sees my wee head bob up from behind the guy in front and times me at 22:31. What?!

No whisky left?
Finish

Anxious to see Carrie finish, I hover near the doors shivering. I get covered in blankets and doze off whilst getting a massage. I wake up to find my crush Andy on the massage bed next to me. Another hallucination? I dribble out some congratulations and wear the same dorky grin that’s on my face in the pre-race photo. Davie Gow has finished too so it’s nice to see him. On arrival at our B&B I see a person’s head hanging on the porch which I quickly rediscover as a hanging flower basket. Apparently I’m in the shower for half an hour trying to get the knots out of my hair. I suspect that I dozed off because it seems a bit silly to stand up for half an hour after finishing. 



My ego gets a crushing at breakfast the next morning when I find out that my father has sprinted the Wellington Marathon faster than when I ran it as my first marathon a few years ago. Nothing quite like a father-daughter competition :)

At prize giving I get to stand next to Murdo which makes me feel like a winner. I’ve got some funny bruising at the bottom of my shins which he tells me are shin splints. I’ve never had them before so didn’t recognise the pain when I was running. Nae bother though. I asked for a painkiller somewhere for the first time in a run but didn’t tell my support crew why. I’m pleased that they didn’t ask because it’s best not talking about these things while you’re out on the course J Even though I’m the youngest runner, I collect my goblet with a walking style that is anything but young! I come 27th out of 119 finishers and 172 starters. There are a few people I didn’t see in the run at all and am pleased to see them collect their goblets. One beer later and I’m rosy-cheeked and cheery. 
Carrie, Keith and I
 
Now my feet are huge making me walk like a toddler trying to get to a plate of potatoes faster than their legs will allow. I’ve gained 7kgs which means I should probably stop eating left-over Snickers bars for breakfast. Leg muscles are fine and I was powering up and down the stairs on Monday. I have midgie bites everywhere so didn’t look too hot in my swimsuit at the pool yesterday. Finishing strong has one downside; it tricks the mind into thinking that the race wasn’t that hard! And we all know that’s a load of rubbish :) 
Scott and I celebrate

Just thinking of the organisers and other runners makes me smile. Fantastic, flawless event. Scott, Olivia and Michael were superb. The latter two do have international crewing experience and should probably start charging for their services! 

95 miles (152km) in 22 hours 31 minutes

4 comments:

  1. Great run...... you make it look easy! Kind of.

    Hope those shin splints are mending okay

    MtM

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Murdo! My green jelly baby was the best one I've ever eaten :)

      Delete
  2. So eloquently written too Antonia............I need to continue re reading it to appreciate just what you achieved.......amazing....what a girl.....xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. Fantastic run!

    Hope you're still on a high and have recovered well.

    Well done - amazing effort.

    Paul

    ReplyDelete

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