So the 2012 Devil has come and gone with a personal performance more in line with realistic expectation (7½ to 8 hours given current shape and weight) than aspiration (sub-7 surely being possible on the right day). But how it hurt to find myself struggling desperately over my home patch (the hills either side of Kinlochleven, which I’ve run literally hundreds of times)…
Things started well enough, running as planned without a watch and purely by ‘feel’, with sub-7 still apparently very much on after an opportunistic time check (at 3 hours 20 mins in, my first of the race) from Marco on the way up the Devil’s Staircase. But then the wheels just fell off completely between the twin summit cairns and the top of the Lairig Mor at Tigh-na-sleubhaich as I started to feel quite sick (struggling to drink let alone eat!) with legs tying up badly, giving serious thought to pulling out at Kinlochleven, taking several uncharacteristic sit-down rests and losing (I’d guess) a good 10 places and 30 to 40 minutes over that spell. So thank goodness for that Irn Bru from the Wilderness Response Team at the top of the pass and flat Coke and jelly babies from Claire Rumgay at Lundavra in helping to drag me back to some kind of life, retrieving (I think) three of my lost places, finding the kick down Glen Nevis that’s never failed me yet no matter what my state on passing Dun Dearduil and finally recording 7:41:54 for 18th place.
So why was my race so effectively wrecked by such hell on home ground? For sure, it was hot and I struggle with the heat, but it was hot for everyone. Perhaps I could have been fitter and certainly could have been lighter after struggling to meet my target weight and going into the race a good two or three kilos heavier than I’d wanted (on which note, if only I could have started at the weight I find myself this morning!). Perhaps I set off too quickly when gradually winding up the tempo off a steady start is more my thing, but you’re not going to run a fast Devil by dawdling to Bridge of Orchy and over Rannoch Moor. And perhaps, as much as anything, I was handicapped by dehydration and gross underfuelling, with two gels (three if you count one at the start) and single-figure quantities of jelly beans and babies being literally all I ate between Tyndrum and the Fort. But that’s ultra racing for you (does it ever go entirely to plan?) and my own slight disappointment at ‘underperforming’ is certainly tempered by happiness for the achievements of my many friends on the course including Thomas and Debs (such popular winners of the men’s and women’s races) and a healthy Lochaber AC contingent all (or mostly?) running their first ultra.
Huge thanks also to Eileen for support before, during and (perhaps when needed most of all) after the race! :-)