I took the Friday before off so I could prepare the camper van. A stop off for fuel (for the camper van and me) was in order before making my way to Tyndrum. It took a while to pack and I still had my drop bags to do so I stopped off at Loch Dochart to boil some eggs and pack food. It was a beautiful late afternoon which gave a good sign of nice weather for the race ahead.
With Tyndrum camp sites full I had previously requested an overnight stop in the Green Welly Car Park. A quick response said this would be fine, however there were plenty of spaces to stop in the tourist car park where I stayed for the duration of the race. A fish supper was consumed while watching a film before I turned in for the night, I had an early bus to catch.
I do like a bus ride before a race, this was another stroke of genius from the race organisers. Camp at the finish and then jump on the 0345 bus to Milngavie, just in time to start the race at 0600. The railway station car park was a hive of activity, it also had the aroma of deep heat mixed with tiger balm. Drop bags were dropped, registration was done, number pinned on which left only one thing, the usual long queue for the loo, only this time there were no queues. Race organisers had supplied enough portaloos to service a music festival, something I'm sure most ultra runners are grateful for before a big race.
0600 and we were off, cheered through the streets and onto the West Highland Way once more. The morning was cool but it didn't take long to warm up. I took things real easy, good chat with Norrie made the miles fly by before he ran ahead then it was time to pack away my jacket, the rest of the race would be tee shirt weather. With snow experienced only days earlier, I had full waterproofs in my rucksack, needless to say all stayed packed away for the duration of the race.
I took a refill of water at Drymen and headed for the first hill of the day, the iconic Conic. I felt okay going through the forest, chatting to Ian and some others before going up hill. Half way up I suddenly realised, apart from my two Cateran outings, I had hardly completed any hill work during 2016. This was going to be a big factor in my PW fling, I was going to struggle. Of course, on such a sunny day the view over Loch Lomond was at it's best with snow capped mountains in the distance. I descended as quick as possible to the checkpoint at Balmaha.
With not being in great shape I packed more food than usual in each of my drop bags. There would be no run through strategy today, I just wasn't fit enough. I chatted to Angela for a while before departing around 20 minutes later having consumed most of my food.
The short steep climb out of Balmaha was a wake up call, my legs were feeling weak already, I began to doubt I would see this race through to the end. Up and down I went with my heart rate all over the place, I just couldn't get into any rhythm. It was between Balmaha and Rowardennan I spotted Fiona ahead. Right, I thought. I'll tag along behind Fiona knowing a good steady pace will be run which was just what I needed. Like a stalker I followed or ran beside Fiona all the way to Rowardennan which did indeed sort out my pace. A runner who was following me said thanks for keeping a good steady pace, I was quick to shift the praise over to Fiona.
Rowardennan was a long pit stop where I had to use the facilities, I estimate about half an hour here before leaving for Inversnaid.
This section now has a choice of two routes, the Fling required the traditional forest track but the full WHW in June will take the lochside track. I tried to look out for the lower track but didn't see where to turn off, I'll need to do some homework before June.
In years gone by I have used my run 30 walk 30 method for the long uphill land rover track but not this year, I settled for walking all the uphill sections. On the loch side path to Inversnaid I seemed to have a bit of a headache, I just couldn't put a finger on it. It may have been dehydration on such a fine day but I was drinking to thirst. I gave myself a reminder to take a couple of paracetamol at the checkpoint.
Inversnaid was another 20 minute stop before hitting the technical trail. I usually relish this section but not today, it seemed to go on for miles. It was a long time before I reached Darios post and left the loch behind. Bienglas Farm couldn't come quick enough where I needed another long stop.
The last section and home straight, I knew I would finish the race, I also knew I would get in well after 13 hours. As I walked the uphill parts of the trail, I was passed by countless runners, there was nothing I could do but concentrate on my own pace to get in. The last of the up hills at the roller coaster section completely wiped me out although I was able to let go going downhill and made up a few places. Once on the flat and with three miles to go I was able to keep running, something I was most surprised at given the struggle so far. Once at the river section and approaching the piper I tried to resist the urge to walk, unsuccessfully. I walked at the barrier section before being encouraged to run then entered the best finish straight in ultra running. The red carpet led the way home and across the line to complete my fifth Highland Fling.
There was a lot of online praise for the Race Organiser John Duncan and his team, deservedly so. Time to add mine.
Every year some great touches and tweaks are added to this excellent race, here is my experience of Fling organisation and hospitality -
An early morning bus to the start.
Well laid out drop bag organisation.
Fast and efficient registration.
Heaps of portaloos, at the start and throughout the race.
Marshals at every road crossing on route.
Service and being waited upon at every checkpoint.
Great pictures by professional and amateur photographers.
A brilliant home straight.
A seating recovery area just over the finish line.
Tea, coffee, soup and rolls.
A dedicated shower trailer.
And that's without experiencing the ceilidh.
So thanks once again John and everyone involved for providing a top class race, the best in the country.
|Photograph by Patricia Carvalho Photography|
Wed 3, Sat 6, Sun 14. Weekly total 23 miles.