The Montane Highland Fling 2010
Garmin Connect Details of the Race
Silke was off at 6 am with the other girls and the Super-Vets. Her first Fling and by far the toughest challenge ever. She is nervous but she was about to master this self supported challenge absolute brilliantly. I meet quite a few good friends and fellow runners before the race. Caroline tells me that she expects great things from me today. So does Mark Hamilton. I promise will try my best, but I was sure everyone of the 300+ starters and 30+ relay teams was about to give everything to complete this challenge as good as ever possible. 53 miles from Milngavie to Tyndrum over rough terrain.
Milngavie - Dymen
1:30 (planned 1:30)
I started at 7 together with the male vets 100+ runners (the younger folks started an hour later). The staggered start made this a race in its own rights if you want. Since the weather forecast was promising a dry day I thought it would be a good idea to run with road shoes. In particular for "flat" the section to Drymen it would allow for an easy start. The "flat" bits of the whole race were in deed my strength and my race tactics and strategy was build around that: Make my way over the hills as good as possible but let it flow on the even and easy bits. That strategy was relatively save (I thought) since after the Glasgow to Edinburgh Ultra (56 miles) I knew I could sustain a reasonable pace over a long distance.
This was my third Highland Fling and I had rehearsed the route many times before and that gave me a lot of confidence and I felt "at home" as we went off. With a target time of 1:30(ish) for Drymen I expected to be with the leaders in the vet's race and in deed I was soon in the lead together with Richie Cunningham. Richie had just done a 190 mile WHW back to back two weeks ago and was not sure if it would work for him or against him today. His focus was certainly on the WHW Race (in seven weeks) and the Fling more a test of his fitness. I was certain he could do a race like the Fling in sub 8 hours but maybe not today?
Once we hit the first prolonged flat sections I started to pull away from Richie and when I looked over my shoulder a few miles later I saw a group of three runners not too far behind.
Passing the BeechTree Inn as the "race leader" was a great and unique feeling. And as far as I remember I have never been leading a race. But there was a battle going on in my head between two entirely different race strategies. Stuart Mills' "Run as fast as you can, while you can!" vs Peter Duggan's more moderate (and probably wise) approach. Or was there a golden middle way?
I reached Drymen in 1:30 a PB on that section. Slighly faster than last year (1:33) but exactly as planned. I got applause from the marshalls and supporters since I was still in the lead. That felt great. Although at this stage I had to admit to myself that after 12 miles of running my legs did not feel that fresh anymore. Those 3 minutes which I was quicker this year were not worth it. Well that's what my legs were telling me. 1:35 would have been better.
Drymen - Balmaha
Overall 2:32 (planned 2:35)
I love that section. Up to the top of Conic Hill that is. I hate that descent from Conic Hill though. It's painful and dangerous. In particular in road shoes.
I started to catch up with more and more runners from the 6am start. I got a lot of encouragement from those runners which I passed and often there was a quick chat and I did in fact know quite a few of those runners which was great. At the end of the forrest I spotted Silke and she was cheerful and happy to see me in the lead. "Where is Richie" she asked and I told her the he cannot be far behind. And he was not. Half way up Conic hill I spotted Riechie's Carnegie Harriers' vest and it seemed he was flying up that hill. I have to admit I had started to dream about winning that vet's race but when Richie passed me like an avalange on the descent from Conic Hill and soon was out of sight I settled my dreams for a second place. A slightly painful experience but that was not too bad either. Was it? I was certainly pleased with my 2:32 for the Balamaha Car park. Ahead of schedule. And a split which I can be proud of. That is unless I make a mess of the rest of the race and that split would count for nothing. My legs were complaining though. 2:40 would have been fast enough. And there was still more than 50k to go. I should have listened to Peter D....
3:42 (planned 3:45)
The section to Rowardennan is a fine roller coaster. Although it takes a lot out of you I actually like all those ups and downs and that winding path and I had rehearsed it a few times only a few weeks before in both directions. First a steep climb over the viewpoint then a steep downhill. Loads of tree roots to watch out for. I had to focus and watch my feet all the time. My legs were still bruised from a fall I had here two weeks ago. So I had been warned.
I was surprised to see Richie not too far ahead and I noticed that the gap between us closed quickly. Again I was feeling good on the flat bits and after a quick chat I passed him again soon. Was I going really well or was he slowing? I could not tell but here I was in the lead again. I pushed on and reached the Rowardennan Check Point in 3:41 ish. A massive PB for that section and ahead of schedule. Phil Tipping was marshalling here and helped me refilling my bottle. But my overall state was not the best anymore. Compared to last year I was a wreck. Not even at half way point. Those fast splits count for nothing unless I can keep that effort going I kept telling myself.
There are those wide forest tracks leading towards Inversnaid and even a few nice views, some of those sections are good runnable. I am not hitting the wall yet, but I am expecting that wall to appear out of the blue any time. I am still passing runners from the 6am start. A few runners ask me "are you Richie". Actually no I have to explain. But I do understand that question. Where was he? I look back over my shoulder a few times but I cannot spot him. But even if he was miles behind that does not mean anything since the hardest and most difficult section was still ahead and a huge lead could shrink quickly.
Just before Inversnaid I spot Debs Consani. She is moving elegantly and quickly over the obstacle course. It takes a while until I manage to pass her. She seems to be in good spirit "Crazy German!!!" she commands (if you ever wonder where I got that great nickname from - she created it!). I pass Aileen Scott who was not far ahead of Debs. And Aileen tells me that John Kynaston was just ahead of her. And after a couple of miles I can see John Kynaston ahead but he was not running well I thought. I was disappointed since he seemed to have another rather difficult race today. But his spirit was certainly not broken since he cheered me on and gave me his biggest smile. I passed Helen Johnson who was also moving well over that difficult section and after a while finally reached Sharon Law who was cheerful as always and running well. "You are winning!" she shouts. But I was not that sure. I was not that fresh anymore and Richie was right surely behind me and would soon catch up.
Beinglas 6:08 (planned 6:10)
I reached BeinGlas still ahead of schedule. I find myself in between the wigwams and am a bit disorientated. Where is that checkpoint? Thankfully Jude is there and tells me in which direction to move.
I was not in a good state anymore. Not desastrous (yet). But no comparison to last year. Last year I reached Bein Glas feeling strong and running almost all the uphills and kept feeling very strong all the way to the finish. This year was less pleasant...
Tyndrum (53 miles / Finish) 8:09:05 (planned 8:05)
A PB was still in my reach. But doing the last section in under two hours seemed impossible. It is warm now. Pleasant for the walkers. A charming afternoon. A bit too warm for us runners though. Would Jude find that "hidden" junction to Karmyle Cottage? I was running out of water. If Jude is not there I am toast. But I can see him and Hazel. What a relief. I try to get out of my vest but can hardly manage to pull it over my Garmin. I drop my glasses and stand on them. The frame is totally bend. They are full of a brownish substance. What could that be? Jude offers me some crisps. I try but cannot swallow them. I spat them out again. With my bottle refilled I am off again, trying to adjust my glasses. I move up that steep uphill. I am knackered. But when I reach the top of that climb I can see a long only slightly undulating path meandering towards Crianlarich. That does not look to bad. I still manage a reasonable pace on those flatter bits. I start hitting more and more rocks and that is hellishly sore. I have to stop to clean my glasses. I reach a runner in red (or was it yellow?)(I think it was Roger Greenaway?). He tells me he is the leader of the super vets but was having a hard time. He is struggling. Are you a super vet he asks? I am 46 I respond. I started at 7. You are save I tell him there was no other Super-Vet close behind me. But Richie is probably not far. I am on my way again. A real roller coaster in the forest over Crianlarich starts here. Steep up and down and up and down again. That section is twice as long as last year. I can see a good looking blonde girl sitting on a rock cheering me on. I must be hallucinating. It is Caroline. How did she get up here??? Slowly I am beginning to believe that I can win that vets race. Where was Richie? He passed me exactly here last year and I had no chance to follow him. I did not know that he got into trouble earlier in the race and dropped out at Bein Glas...
I reach the A82. A few cars are racing past. Take no risk here! Once I had crossed the road I knew I could run this race home. All flat until the finish. I was slightly surprised when I checked my splits. I thought I was managing at least 8 minute miles but I was much slower than that. Near Auchtertyre farm I am greeted by Jude and Hazel again. And there is Stevie probably waiting for John. I get another bottle of water refill. That will bring me to the finish. The sky is bright, the weather is beautiful and it is not that far anymore. Although I almost manage to get lost when I missed that junction up to that little lake with that sword in it. But finally I reach the Tyndrum forest and now I am safe. Close to the finish I can hear bagpipes. I almost fall into that little stream just before the finish. A real bouncy castle finishing arch. I receive a massive cheer from the crowd. Murdo congratulates me as if I had won the race. Only the vet's race I try to remind him. But what the heck! I am chuffed to bits. But disorientated. The other Murdo (McEwan) congratulates me. Ivonne from my club Glenpark Harries is here. Jude and Hazel congratulate me. Photos are being taken. There is one thing I had to do though. Send Silke a txt message. She was still out there and hours away from the finish. I text her: "I won the vet's price".
But that was not all. Silke was finishing before the prize giving in very good shape. It turned out that I finished 2nd overall with my friend Marco in 3rd place. What a day! Debs 3rd woman, Sharon 2nd and Lucy 1st.
Craig Stuart won the male title with a fantastic time of 7:45 (which I incidentally predicted!).
A big thanks to Murdo, Ellen and Webmaster Tim and all the helpers for another wonderful event!
Thanks Jude and Hazel for the brilliant support.
So what about the race strategy? What about the race pace? Was it the right choice?
To be honest, I still don't know
But let me assure you. I will start the WHW Race in June slower than that. MUCH slower!