Sunday, 1 May 2011

Well, I managed it. Managed is definitely the operative word! Yesterday I started the Highland Fling in Milngavie at 6am, and arrived in Tyndrum at about 6.08pm. I say "approximately" because I really didn't care much about the time towards the end, I was just happy to finish! I didn't even clock at first and had to be escorted over in that direction - I just wanted water!

I'll give a really brief summary, because unfortunately it's straight back into the studying today so I don't have much time to spare.

Luckily I got a long lie and didn't actually get up until about 5am. Richard, who was running the race too, had stayed at mine the night before so we both went to the start together. I always get really nervous at the start of races so it was great to have a friend there.

The first part to Drymen was pretty uneventful. We weren't at the start but defintely weren't at the end which was reassuring! Richard ran the race last year and said he started way too fast and suffered later, so was trying to pace himself better. I presume that made my pace the perfect one?? En route we ran alongside a guy who was running with Penny the dog. That was adorable - the dog seemed to be having so much fun! Got to Drymen about 8am.

My inner thigh was starting to hurt as we headed up towards Conic Hill. I think it was probably due to lack of training, if I'm honest. I barely did any long runs before this and really relied on that 30/20 miles back to back in March. But I ate a cereal bar and pushed on. Stayed strong going up Conic Hill but coming down was a nightmare! I remembered the previous time I slipped onto my bum going down, so I took it really slow. Richard sped off ahead...obviously a hill pro. Someone coming up told me to be careful and stick to the grass as several runners had fallen already, that was reassuring!! In Balmaha had some cashew nuts and plenty of water. It was starting to get hot. After being nagged by the marshalls to keep on moving (it was like school!) we headed off about 9.40am.

Next section to Rowardennan was alright, but my thigh was really hurting on the uphills. I kept trying to eat cereal bars and nuts. Derek came out to meet us on the way to Rowardennan which was cool. Had some full fat Coke when I arrived which was just AMAZING. I was craving it so badly. It's always Coke I crave when I'm running! Had a little pasta too. I think it was about 11.05am we took off from there.

The next part was me into fairly unknown territory. I'd only done this section once walking years ago and once cycling - not really taking account of the terrain either time. The big hills made for good cycling though and so this part was good for walking/running. I was surprised we were both still running, and together - I thought Richard would have been ahead by now. But we were both still gabbing's amazing how much you really appreciate the little things when out running...the sound of the water, birds singing, the cool breeze etc. It was really uplifting. Arrived in Inversnaid about 12.50pm.

At Inversnaid it was beginning to get really hot. I was so thirsty but conscious not to drink too much and get a stitch. I had some more pasta (and empathised with the runner complaining that he REALLY didn't want to eat his pasta!) and had some nuts. I was really wanting more Coke but unfortunately hadn't put any in my drop bag. The highlight of our "lunch" was the guy who came over complaining about electrolytes. Filling his waterbottle with Lucozade claiming that if he didn't see another isotonic drink again it would be too soon. Didn't really want to leave Inversnaid but had to. So after a relatively long break we kept plodding on.

This next section Richard was dreading, as was I, having taken AGES to do it on the bike (and stopping for a little sulk in the middle). It actually went surprisingly well considering! We were overtaken a few times by guys who looked pretty elite...and I managed to keep up with them until we got out of the scrambly bit! Felt quite pleased with myself. It wasn't as bad as either of us thought. I was conscious though that my stomach was rumbling...I really was hungry but just didn't fancy anything I had. Kept drinking water then, after many "are we there yet" style complaints to Richard we finally arrived at Bein Glas about 3pm. My parents were there with Derek which was great. They'd brought some sarnies so I had half an avocado sandwich. I forced down some nuts and lucozade and then we kept moving.

It was really this point that it all went a bit pear-shaped. We were both starting to feel really sluggish. My leg pain had gone but was replaced with a kind of tiredness. Both of our feet hurt too - I thought I was getting a blister on the inside of my right foot. We walked quite a lot of the way and I kept on thinking that our 6pm time was defintely out. Richard had finished in 12h20mins last year and I think he thought we might be slower than that. I wasn't sad at that fact, but after feeling so good up to Bein Glas I just felt that since not finishing wasn't on the cards anymore, I should really push it. Unfortunately I just had nothing left to push at that point. Annoyingly my upper arms were really sore (WHY?!?) too.

So we walked, with little spurts of running. When we reached the bridge under the road we passed a guy getting a massage...we watched enviously then plodded on. A girl who we'd seen falling at Balmaha earlier was also there...she looked really tired and covered in cuts, the poor thing. In the forest we both had a capri sun and, maybe it was the capri sun or maybe it was Derek meeting us on his bike, but we both decided that we should just go for it. I was trying to calculate how far we had to go and was disappointed when Derek shattered my dreams with his "5 miles" remark. We soon passed another runner who said it was 6km from there, and that we were doing about 8min/km at that point. I think Richard and I both thought "what the hey" at that point and just went for it. We ran pretty much the rest of the way. Apparently we passed a tv presenter - Muriel Gray - who I never recognised, but she was really cheery and encouraging!

So when we saw the piper towards the finish line we both sped up as best we could and crossed the line together at a fair old lick. About 6.08pm.

What a great feeling, I tell you. I think I felt more proud about my time at the Devil, but certainly the pride in finishing a 50+ mile race is phenomenal. My mum, dad and Derek being at the end was great and I even enjoyed a little of the beer provided - what a great idea!

Overall I thought it was a fantastic race - so well organised. A huge thanks to the marshalls at the checkpoints, en route and at the finish. What bright, kind and bubbly people. And I said a huge thanks to Richard - he kept me going when I may not have otherwise! I think running with someone defintely made that a good race...I don'd know if I would have enjoyed it doing it myself.

The one thing I will say though is that I don't know if I really liked that length of race. I really loved the Devil - it was almost the perfect challenge of distance running, beautiful country side and just manageable with my level of training. But I don't know if I liked just "doing a distance for the sake of it" kind of thing and thats what I felt I was doing towards the end of the Fling.

Anyhoo, more contemplation later. My legs are wasted today but thankfully no worse than they were after the Devil. My upper body is a lot sorer though and my heart rate is still very high. I think it will be a gentle month for me as I prepare for my exams and my wedding.

In a sentence...the Fling was the most endurance-testing thing I have done so far, but I am happy as larry that I finished and still buzzing today (: