The Fling. In 2010 this was my first ultra. Athough I didn't know what I was in for and didn't know the route, I had a pretty good day until I reached Bienglas Farm where my right knee packed up. Downhill running was out, in fact walking downhill was a struggle and I had to walk the last four miles to the finish line.
Two years on and I was back, determined to complete the run comfortably and use it as part of my build up to the full race in June.
On Friday afternoon the family drove south through the pouring rain to the Premier Inn at Bearsden. I knew the weather forecast was good for Saturday, but it was hard to believe with rain still falling in the evening.
We ate at the Burnbrae restaurant with haggis neeps and tatties being my choice of fuel.
An early night was on the cards but in the early hours of the morning I awoke feeling queasy. I thought it was pre race nerves but looking back my stomach was not right on race day.
At half five the alarm went off, it was time to get ready and try to eat breakfast. All I could manage was an Aberdeen roll, a chocolate milk shake and muller rice. Not the best way to fuel an ultra and this would be the trend for the rest of the day.
Milngavie Station at half six was busy with runners chatting, warming up, leaving drop bags and waiting for the start of the MV40 age group at seven o'clock. We put my drop bags into the respective cars and had some time for photos before the call to start.
Off we went, a glorious day for my fifth ultra race. My plan was to finish at Tyndrum feeling as fit and fresh as possible, as if I still had 42 miles to go to complete the full whw. With this in mind I started at the back and took it real easy, through Mugdock Park in the beautiful morning sun with the snow capped hills in the distance. I chatted to Bill whom I met at the D33, it was good speaking to him again, I also had the company of Charles, another whw race entrant. This passed the time and before long I found myself alone on the road section to Drymen. I was surprised at this but enjoyed the solitude all the same.
Through the checkpoint I ran, no need for water at this stage. I was eight minutes down compared to my time two years ago. If I could stay injury free till Beinglas, the last section is where I would make up time.
Onward to Conic Hill through what used to be forest, now just piles and piles of timber. Words of encouargement and clapping from foreign tourists rang out at this section, this is a great ultra. On the track to the hill is where I was passed by the Senior leaders who started an hour later. The stoney path up Conic is where I really had to think about my right ankle, one wrong step and it was all over. I was determined to clear Conic Hill with no injury so I had to take my time and be sure footed. Viewing Loch Lomond from the top of Conic Hill is breathtaking and a highlight of the race for me. Carefully I made my way down to the checkpoint at Balmaha where I met my support. All I could consume was a chocolate milk and half a muller rice, opting to carry a few gourmet mini bananas and a quick exit. I arranged to meet my family at Rowardennan, knowing I wasn't fueling up properly.
I kept a steady pace and felt okay on this section, passed by my support on the road who gave encouragement from the car. I ran alone on this leg and was passed by a lot of senior and relay runners which can be disheartening. On this section two workmates were at one of the car parks, I was so much into the zone and concentrating on checkpoint Rowardennan I didn't stop, something I regretted later as it seemed like bad manners. On approach to Rowardennan I came accross a fallen runner waiting for medical assistance. Unfortunately this can happen to any one of us and I wish the runner a speedy recovery.
Checkpoint Rowardennan was as busy as ever but I easily found my family, ate half a muller rice, took a few snaps, said goodbye till the end of the race and moved on towards Inversnaid.
Once again I was mostly alone on the forest track and being passed by quicker runners. Fatigue started to creep into my legs and I knew the lochside assault course was coming up, something I wasn't looking forward to. As the path narrowed and started twisting around trees and skirting the loch I perked up and actually enjoyed the change from running, I was passed by only one runner leading to Inversnaid.
At this checkpoint all I could take was a bottle of flat coke, I left the rest of the food but took a mars bar for the next leg to Beinglas Farm.
On this section we are still at the lochside but the trail gets even more technical where you have to scramble over rocks and tree roots. Here, rather than constantly having to step aside to let faster runners through I decided to keep pace with them. This wasn't the training run I had planned as I got embroilled with the quick pace. Ahead I could see a runner getting assistance, he had gone over his ankle and landed on the grass verge. He dusted himself down, said he was fine and ran on ahead of me for about 5 minutes before pulling up in pain. Having done exactly the same thing five weeks before I knew what he was going through. At the lochside after Inversnaid it was as remote as the Fling gets so I stopped to give assistance. I carry a knee support on ultras so this was used as an ankle support. Once going again it was plain to see he was in a lot of pain trying to run. We were quite a distance from the next checkpoint at Beinglas so I decided to stay and assist. To be honest the walk / run from lochside to Beinglas Farm gave me a chance to recover and get ready for the last 12 miles to Tyndrum. After pain killers were offered by a fellow runner the pace picked up and we both ran into the Beinglas checkpoint. Still feeling queasy, I ate an Aberdeen roll and drank another bottle of flat coke before taking a mars bar for the final leg to Tyndrum. I was thanked and shook hands with the injured runner and left the checkpoint in pretty good shape. This was not the last I saw of him, after getting strong pain killers he passed me at Crainlarich and put in a great time considering the circumstances.
In the evening sunshine the scenery was spectacular, rushing waterfalls, barren landscape and snow peaked mountains. Although my stomach was playing up, I was thankful I could still run with no joint pain whatsoever, a first for me after 40 miles in an ultra race. Two years ago the roller coaster trail through Crainlarich forest was torture for my right knee, but not this time. I relished being able to run downhill in the forest and before long crossed the A82 with four flat miles to go. I call my family from here, advising a finish of around half seven. I pass Auchtertyre where families are sitting outside enjoying the evening before crossing under the A82 once more. This is the last couple of miles, time to put on my mp3 player and play the one and only tune of the day, I usually play this tune after training, running and coming to the end of an ultra. I enter Tyndrum and finish the race with a time 12.24.06.
My family missed me finishing as I gave them a misleading time but I'm not too bothered as I know they will be there for me at Fort William in June. The bottle of beer served by George went down a treat. Thanks to John Duncan and the marshals for organising such a great race.
Mp3 tune - "An Ending" by Brian Eno.
Thurs 2 miles Sat 53 mles 12.24.06 Weekly total 55 miles.