Just back from the Highlander Mountain Marathon at ‘Ullapool’ (the true centre given away by the T-shirts as Dundonell), where Jon and I came a slightly disappointing 15th from 22 starters in the A Class but still had a cracking (= hard!) weekend’s running in stunning surroundings…
Saturday’s course took us from Druim nam Fuath above Little Loch Broom back past Shenavall Bothy to Dundonell, although the optimum route (missed by half the class) on a day when we were permitted to visit the checkpoints in any order apparently skirted An Teallach to the north rather than south. But our real disaster came much earlier than that when taking completely the wrong line between our first and second checkpoints then compounding the error by making things ‘fit’ cost us about two miles of extra ground including some thigh-deep bog swimming! So that was us playing ‘catch up’ almost from the start, with a pretty decent run over the later stages sadly being more about damage limitation (lying 16th overnight but closing on those immediately above) than any kind of glory and my subsequent quick/crude calculation of our track (drawn from memory in the appropriately-named Memory-Map) suggesting about 38.6km/2,000m against the route planner’s ‘optimum’ 33.0km/1,540m.
Sunday was better, with the linear course (no choice of order) giving us a grand tour of the peninsula north of Dundonell before a final 40-knot RIB trip across Loch Broom back to Ullapool. But, despite a cracking start, we still surely lost time dropping too low too soon while skirting Beinn Ghobhlach to the north en route to a sea-level checkpoint at Camas a’ Mhaoraich, finishing 12th for the day (calculating 25.1km/1,300m against the nominal 23.8km/1,400m) and 15th overall. Physically a very hard weekend in increasingly bright conditions (NB arrived home 3kg lighter last night than I weighed on Friday morning), although both thankful for the good visibility when some of the controls could otherwise have been pretty tricky to locate and hampered by more muddy slips, slides and falls than I can ever remember while running! Also no question that Jon was dragging me round and, despite sometimes getting the better of him on training/fun runs (especially uphill), I’m not really fast enough to be competing with him at this level. But then again, neither of us are even on the same planet as the top guys, with the times recorded by the likes of Tim Higginbottom and Chris Near doubtless registering the same mixture of disbelief, awe and respect with most of the other also-rans as they do with me!
Think that’s most of what I really wanted to say said now, but mustn’t forget the number of mashed/bruised toenails (a regular problem with my truly weird feet) plaguing me today. Or the super-light, not-even-full, 20-litre weekend sacks that at least let us start feeling (and looking?) like elite athletes even if we didn’t/couldn’t behave as such in the end!