So here is a more detailed version of my Highland Fling race. My previous post was about the last 300 yards.
This post is about the rest of the race.
The weather was perfect on race day. Just what I hoped for. "Be careful what you wish for" they say and to be honest the weather was a bit too sunny and too warm as it turned out.
That was a bit of a problem for a couple of reasons. Firstly the West Highland Way was crowded in places. Secondly I did sweat a bit more than usual...
Arriving in Milngavie at 7:15 it was rather cool though. But sunny it already was. And it was getting warmer by the minute!
I lined up near the front row. I was hoping to witness another spectacular fast start as I had seen in 2009 when Stuart Mills shot off like a rocket going 5:30 minute/mile pace. But it was not to be today.
Stuart did not quite follow his own "Run as fast as you can, while you can!" pacing strategy today. I was disappointed because of that for a variety of reasons.
I found that runasfastasyoucanwhileyoucan strategy spectacular. And even if it was "wrong" in respect of achieving the fastest end result I considered it as "human" and brave. And I expected Stuart to make his point today that for some that strategy even works for the best end result.
But again, it was not to be. Not for him that is. As you can see from the picture of the start, Stuart (in orange) is holding back.
Thankfully there was another runner though who spiced the race up:
A guy with a white cap and a map storming up the stairs behind the underpass. Yes, a map. Someone who did not know the route. A new guy. A dark horse. Andrew James. Storming into the lead. Jezz and Stuart and a couple of other runners join the leaders. Going not quite 10k pace. But very fast.
I could not help it and followed that pace. Almost that is. Keeping the leading pack in sight for as long as I could afford it. My legs were extremely responsive. I was enjoying the fast pace. Soon I get the first splits from my Garmin and notice that I am going too fast. What the heck with sensible pacing. I am enjoying this. The second half will be a punishment. A hangover. But I do not care.
I am running with Dan Gay who for some reason did not seem to breathe much. He was chatting as if he was on a casual Sunday stroll. Some V02 max capacity that runner. Anyway, the mood is good. And although we are in a race and going considerably fast, there was no sign of any competitiveness. It all felt like a training run.
KM KM Split Mile Split (calculated)
1 04:23 07:04
2 04:38 07:28
3 04:25 07:06
4 04:23 07:04
5 04:11 06:44
6 04:19 06:58
7 04:20 06:59
8 03:59 06:24
9 03:58 06:23
10 04:06 06:36
11 04:15 06:51
12 04:15 06:50
13 04:21 07:00
14 04:22 07:03
15 04:20 06:59
16 04:11 06:45
17 04:16 06:52
18 04:40 07:31
19 05:12 08:22
20 04:51 07:49
21 05:09 08:17
22 04:47 07:42
23 04:09 06:41
24 04:33 07:19
25 04:28 07:11
26 04:52 07:50
I decide to take the climb up Conic Hill somewhat easier. I was realising that I had wasted too much energy already. Dan was already ahead and on the climb I was passed by quite a few runners. Allen Smalls first. We chatted for a bit and then he pulled away slowly. A rather storming ascent had Julian Rendall, going almost twice as fast as I did. Equally fast was my 100k team mate David Gardiner. I had no idea that he was such a good hill runner and I frankly expected him to have a great race. Unfortunately he did not and he pulled out later at BeinGlas.
27 00:04:57 07:59
28 00:07:12 11:35
29 00:06:17 10:08
30 00:06:28 10:25
31 00:04:32 07:18
I arrive at Balmaha Car Park (~20m) in 2:26. A PB by quite a margin.
Picture: Davie Hall
I hinted to Silke who I met at the Balmaha car park that I was going too fast. I was still confident to have a reasonable race ahead. But I think I misjudged that slightly. But my mental attitude at the time was certainly not quite as bad as the physical attitude of my legs...
The "Way" was getting crowded now. Runners and walkers alike made the narrower bits of the path a challenge. Certainly for someone who was storming downhill for example.
I passed quite a few runners I knew from other races, blogs and of course West Highland Way Race family members. Exchanged a few words.
At one of the steeper climbs between Balmaha and Rowardennan I was passed by Jack Brown. He looked fresh and he was flying up that climb which I had to walk.
I managed to stay behind him though since we ran into Rowardennen together. The car park was more than busy. Marhalls had all hands full to uncluster incoming and leaving cars and I was glad that I had told Silke not to come here so she drove directly to Beinglas after she met me in Balmaha. She wanted to meet our friends from Germany there (Michael, Silke (yes another Silke) and their daughter Clara).
But I made a mistake by taking only water from here on and no electrolytes. But I ran quite well on the section to Inversnaid. I do like those steady climbs and I ran all of them. Not fast but steady. But I noticed more and more that I had overcooked it with the fast start to Balamaha. The legs felt not as good as they should feel only about half way into that 53 mile race.
In Inversnaid I ignored my bottle of electrolyte which I had in my drop bag and took water again. One reason for taking water was that I could pour that over my head to cool myself. I would not do that with a sirup.
Walkers who has been shipped to Inversnaid or taken the Bus there were spreading in both directions and on the narrow path there were a few queues. It was not always easy for the walkers to just step aside and let the runners past because the path in places was steep, narrow and even exposed. So there is no question that I lost some time here. But I was not the only one losing time. But I made sure not to put any walkers under stress or shout at them or demand my space. I told whoever I met that I was not in a rush. And I thanked everyone who made space for me twice. One "thanks" and one "cheers".
I knew already that I had blown my chances for a good race. I had started to suffer to early. And although I reached Beinglas exactly after 6 hours (as planned for a PB) I kew that I would not be able to carry on fast enough.
I met Silke, Silke, Micheal and Clara but was grumpy and full of negativity. I wanted to pull out. Told them that I ruined my race. All my fault. Silly me.
Again I took only water. It was more than just warm now. I did not feel that I sweat much. But I did. I had not suffered from cramp during races EVER. And I was about to make that experience for the first time.
Usually I enjoy the undulating and steady climbing out of Beinglas towards Derridarroch. But not so much today. And when I passed one of the wooden bridges it hit me. A shooting pain up my right adductor comletely locking me to a standstill. A cramp. I though that muscle was gone and in pieces. When I stopped to find the approproate position to stretch that cramp out my left calf crampted. Then my hamstings. It was everywhere. I decided to get into a normal walk and that seem to help and the cramps settled.
George Reid and another woman came the opposite direction and offered electrolytes but I did had some salt sachets with me and I thanked them and added some of that salt to my water bottle and drank the salty substance I had mixed. Here I was passed by Richie Cunningham. He was moving very well although he was not entirely happy with his race either. But his split for the last section (1:52 I believe) was impressive and totally out of my reach today. Even without cramps.
At Carmyle Cottage I met Silke again with our friends. I wanted to pull out here. I had enough. Save myself for the WHW Race. That was a good enough excuse.
Sharon Law was there too. And she had pulled out. Another unlucky race for her. But I was not allowed to pull out. After a couple of minutes I was persuaded to continue. Marco was there too. He had to withdraw from the race because of injury. Not the luckiest day for him since he was in his best shape ever and he could have gone for the scottish title...
So I continued and to be honest I still moved reasonably well and I have had races far worse than this. Frankly it gradually got better. Maybe the salt water was doing the trick. After crossing the A82 and getting back on the flat I actually enjoyed running again. I picked up a few runners and started to look forward to the finish. I started calculating and with a few miles to the finish I noticed that a PB was probably out of my reach. Getting closer I think I was pretty certain to finish in either 8:11 or maybe 8:12. But then I fell.
Jezz broke his own record but he did not win! The race was won by Andrew James. That was a huge surprise. Allen Smalls came in 3rd. Kate Jenkins won the ladies' title with Debbie Martin Consani in 2nd place.
If you want to know the rest of my race you need to read the previous post. But it's not for the faint hearted ;-)