The UTMB Although I have not entered I will try to follow the event online. The UTMB is HUGE. World Class field and loads of family members participating. I cannot wait!
The Great Scottish Run, Half Marathon, 7th September This one I have actually entered. I am not much of a racer but I do this race every year since 1998 (I think). I don't think I have ever entered any other Half Marathon (apart from the GSR) so my fastest time for this event 1:22:06 is also my Half Marathon PB. I hope to get close to 1:20 although there is little reason for such optimism. My legs feel quite vulnerable after this years long runs and I still feel the recent Devil o' the Highlands in my quads. Silke will run this too and she will try to break the 2 hours for a new PB (piece of cake, but don't tell her I said that ;-)).
The Cologne Marathon, 5th October This is a fantastic event, probably my favourite marathon. Zigzagging through the city and expect a million of spectators cheering you on like mad. Good food and freshly brewed beer and shopping sums it up. I have done this one a few times. It's almost flat apart from a few bridges and tunnels and therefore quite fast. It's still a more than a month from now so I am optimistic and hope for a PB that is breaking the 2:50 and getting a 2:4*.
Just before the start: Me, Marco (last years No 4) and Brian.
I could not hide that I was looking forward to this race (sorry for the Lycra again ;-))
Plan C: No DNF! Plan B: Beat Marco Consani's 7:04 from last year Plan A: John Kynastons prediction: 6:38 (no way!)
Check your watches before you go!
Tyndrum - Bridge of Orchy: 48 Minutes (according to my own watch)
Someone counted down and off we went up the hill. Very fast. Too fast, but I did not care. I noticed that today it was all different. My legs felt as they should feel. Responsive and full of running. No comparison to the WHW Race. I found myself running next to Brian McIntosh and counted nine runners ahead. I overtook Brian and told him "I am now in the top 10". Then I slowed down and told him "now you are". The pace is really high and I do not want to lose contact to the leaders too early. Brian decides to take a more moderate approach. He wishes me luck and slows down. So I am in the “Top 10”… Before the race when I checked the race history and previous results I thought with a time under 7 hours I would surely make the top 10. Frankly I could even hope for a top 5 finish. I did expect Jez Bragg to pull away (who didn't?) and I also expected a few runners to stick with him. I also hoped that a few of those runners going way too fast would slow down eventually. It turned out the only runner who was going too fast was me. Soon George Cairns catches up with me (that seems to become a tradition ;-) ). Nothing to worry about.
Above: Benjamin Kemp and Jez Bragg leading into Bridge of Orchy.
Below: Together with George Cairns and Graham Harcus we run into Bridge of Orchy a few minutes behind the leaders.
My watch tells me in 48 minutes. Very fast. Although the rest of the leaders had already left even faster. It is getting wet and I put my rain jacket on. For the rest of the race that is.
George has a short stop only and flies up the hill. He obviously decided to chase the leaders. I am way ahead of my schedule so I decide to take it slower but still steady. I am telling myself if I want to survive this I have to slow down. With only 50 miles a week and most of that on the flat I knew I had to come to my senses. I felt great though. Running was easy and fun. I meet my support team at the Inveroran Hotel and take my new Nathan Rucksack filled with 1 litre of fluids. I went towards and into the Rannoch Moor enjoying the run. Hardly anyone ahead or behind. Half way through the Moor I spot a runner behind me approaching quickly. Either was I slowing down or this was a fast runner. I hoped for the second option. It turned out to be John Kennedy (= second option). We chatted for a while (he reckoned Jez to win in 5:45) and off he went trying to catch any of the leading runners and a gap opened quickly. I overtake another runner who seems to struggle with injury. He just wants to make it to the next check point and then retire. I reach the Black Rock Cottage after 2:21. Almost 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I know that Silke wanted me to have a good race, but how good was that? I am over the moon!
I cannot spot anyone behind me and the blue vest of John Kennedy is already far ahead.
Kinlochleven 4:06 I ran into Kingshouse after 2:32 (according to JK) and meet teams Consani and Beattie cheering me on. I feel great. I admit that I am too fast, but I do not care. Running the flat bits and downhill is still very easy. I am neither surprised nor disappointed that the climb up the Staircase is slow. I have not trained much uphill running since the WHW Race. Just about half way up I look down and see another runner jogging up the staircase. It is Graham Harcus. I make no effort to run away from him because that would have killed my legs. On the other hand Graham had no plans to overtake me either. We are both in the Top 10 so I have no worries. We start chatting and as it turns out we will run the rest of the race together. I was leading the downhills and he the uphills.
We reach Kinlochleven and Mike Thomson greets us. We hear about the battle between Jez Bragg and Marcus Scotney and are amazed by that. Who would be able to challenge Britain's No 1 ultra distance runner?
The climb out of Kinlochleven is hard again. No surprise but I am still enjoying my running. I want to take it easy since there is still a long way to the finish to negotiate. I tell Graham Harcus to go ahead since I do not want to hold him back. But he does not. He waits at the top. I have to admit that saves me from hibernating. We manifest again that we are still in the top ten and decide to pick up the pace to defend that position. We pass dozens of walkers and half way through the Lairig More meet Murdo McEwan running the other direction. He cheers us on "you are in the top 10". Thankfully Silke and Dirk made it to Lundavra to provide support in this remote place. A chat, a new bottle and off we went.
Fort William 6:34
I feel still great. The uphills are harder now but the flats and downhills are surprisingly enjoyable. We make good progress and when we reach the fence at the end of the forest I tell Graham from now on it is all downhill. I was wrong! There is a new diversion. A roller coaster of a small track even up hill again. I am using strong language to express my disapproval of this. To hell with the organisers (but since they are the Devil anyway that would not make a difference)! Why did they not brief us on this?
Joking aside: This was a perfectly organised race! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
Back to the race: Soon we join the main track and from now on it is really downhill. We maintain a good pace and when we reach the road my legs feel still great and full of running. The last flat bit is a joy to run. Graham picks up the pace for a sprint finish but I cannot match that. He is a 33 minute 10k runner after all. And he deserved that 9th place more than I did. I finish in 6:34:51 and 10th position. I finish and still have miles in my legs. I enjoyed every minute of that run. Awesome! Thank you Silke and Dirk for the absolute flawless support. Thanks John Kynaston for the live report in the forum and the accurate prediction (6:38!).
George Cairns finishes 3rd. Again a superb result for him!
Below: John Kennedy with Mike and Ellen Thompson (no relation). He won that race twice and despite a great finish he ends up "only" in 8th position. His record has been crushed and crumbled.
Stunning performance from Sharon Law. 1st female in 7:12
The Winners: New Kids on the block: Sharon and Marcus. Jez Bragg, George Cairns and female Vet winner.
Below: me, Sharon and Davie who is one of the few who completes the "Triple Crown": WHW Race, Fling and DOTH.
The field: This is the largest and fastest field of runners the Devil has ever seen. The full capacity of 100 runners + a full reserve list. Although I do not know the majority of the runners from the starters list I have spotted a few familiar names which will (from my humble perspective) probably grab for the medals: There is John Kennedy who is holding the record with 6:08:06 (if that is indeed the same John Kennedy who won the race 2005 and 2007). There is George Cairns who is obviously in good shape after his 2nd place in the WHW Race and Richie Cunningham who came in 3rd. Since Jez Bragg (WHW Race record holder, and also Highland Fling record holder) made it from the reserve list into the starters list there is little doubt who is going to win this (no offence to the other runners). Maybe in record time? There are of course potential dark horses (and even bright ones) I do not know about who will mess up the leaders group. But this is sure: It will be a very fast race and I dare to say the fastest DOTH ever!
The Triple Crown: George Cairns and Richie Cunningham will also (most likely) end up 1st and 2nd in the race for the "Triple Crown". That is the combined results of the three races on the West Highland Way. 1) The Highland Fling (Milngavie - Tyndrym, 53 Miles) 2) The West Highland Way Race (Milngavie - Fort William, 95 Miles) 3) The Devil o' the Highlands (Tyndrum - Fort William, 43 Miles) Although it has to be said that officially there is no actual competition or prize or rules for that "Triple Crown" as far as I know.
The Weather: There will be rain. It will be wet. The question is: will it be just "wet" or "very wet"? The good news is that the chance of sunburn is quite low.
Me: Although I have gained a few pounds recently and struggled with a few injuries I am in good shape. I have trained much less but much faster. Up to 50 Miles a week. I am not overtrained and I sleep much better now. I hope I am in MUCH better shape compared to the WHW Race. If you want to hear a number from me I hope to finish in under 7 hours. I have had no luck with recent predictions but I cannot help it to be optimistic again. I am looking forward to meet other runners and spectators/supporters who will be there: Brian McIntosh, Davie Bell who I know from other races, training runs and blogs. Ian (supporting Dario) and Allybea, hopefully Marco, Debs, Pacepusher and Tim Downie.
When visiting the in- and outlaws in Germany (in scorching heat (more than 30 degrees Celsius and high humidity!)) we though it was a good idea to take the kids (my niece Lea (left flying) and my nephew Florian (sitting))) to one of those giant playgrounds. Swings and bouncy castles are massively over sized and open even for adults... Silke, as you can see, could not resist to use one of the many trampolines Florian recovered quickly after falling off that giant spider net (I reached the top as the winner though!) More climbing. As you can see there are quite some good climbing genes in our family... Florian exploring the vertical limit
I could not resist any of those attractions either. Unfortunately after overusing the trampolines and giant bouncy castles my Achilles tendons were quite sore and it was worse the next morning and is still quite bad. Also I pulled a muscle as well when kicking a ball high into the air to impress my nephew...
The good news is that I am recovering from those injuries and hope to be in good shape on Saturday for the "Devil"