Some new experiences in WHWR 2010 (not least being overtaken by others late on when no-one’s previously threatened my sense of closing-stage control in my limited ultra career to date), with so much to ponder that all I’m trying to do by blogging it here is to record a series of ‘snapshots’ from along the way. So here we go, more or less in order but neither starting at the start nor attempting to tell the whole story…
- Conic Hill (where I caught John Kynaston and enjoyed a good chat) climbed at a good clip (though emphatically not the mad dash of three weeks ago) and descended with joyous abandon.
- Feeling strong and fresh enough to be easy about being well ahead of ‘schedule’ early on, but still aware of some unexpected niggles (the kind that could happen at any speed) that I seemed to be running off but maybe came back to haunt me in the end?
- A lengthy section in company with Dirk Verbiest, who just had to match my personalised, ‘patent’ running/walking gait up the inclines after Rowardennan when I explained what I was doing and why!
- The ‘singing’ runner, who appears to have been Marc Casey (as also noted in John Kynaston’s race report).
- The oppressive heat and trying headwinds, which appeared in that order (although I couldn’t say exactly when) to compromise the later stages of the race.
- Some sustained yo-yo swapping of places with Gavin McKinlay (of the remarkably few training miles), who managed to suggest I was a ‘machine on the hills’ and declare himself impressed with that before ultimately leaving me for dead.
- Topping out the hill beyond Bridge of Orchy to be greeted by Murdo, his Saltire and the news (which possibly just filled me with false hope when I was beginning to struggle myself) that Marco was not that far ahead and ‘looks knackered’!
- My only sit-down stop, when Angus insisted on trying to massage some life back into my ailing quads at Glencoe Ski Centre, Flora and Paul Williams turned up to encourage me and I also met John Grieve on my way out.
- Catching a last glimpse of Gavin disappearing up the Devil’s Staircase (which I normally run in training) as I limped after him in a style that just doesn’t square with my usual ‘strength’ on my home ground.
- The mystery of the disappearing vaseline and its resolution… being a gross tale of ladling dollops of the stuff into my shorts at every checkpoint since Rowardennan (or maybe even Balmaha?) to combat, um, chafe, but wondering where the hell it was all going until the removal of my sunglasses on the way into Kinlochleven revealed a hitherto invisible halo of vaseline soaking right through to outside of said shorts and looking for all the world like a beautifully symmetrical ‘pee’ job! At which point I had to request a fresh pair of shorts and hope I got the chance to change into them before any school pupils or other fellow villagers (yes, it’s where I live and work!) started asking awkward questions. Speaking of which, I must mention my strange dream (related to Angus, Jon and Eileen on the way down to Milngavie) of a night or two before, in which I’d somehow (but why?) started the race with no shorts or anything and just an overlength T-shirt for ‘cover’, and was running helplessly vulnerable in the knowledge that we had none in the support vehicle (in reality there were three spare pairs as well as the ones I was wearing) with none available until we could collect them from my house (at 82 miles into the race!). So, some kind of wacky premonition or what?
- A sense of resigned shock at seeing Debs arriving at the Kinloch checkpoint as I left when I thought I’d ‘buried’ her north of Rowardennan (so sorry for the uncharitable thought, Debs, because it’s now obvious from studying the splits that you were never really that far behind!).
- An equal sense of shock on seeing Hugh Kerr take off through the Lairigmor (after sticking to me like glue as I hobbled up the climb out of the village that I’ve run so many times) at an apparent Mach 1 with me incapable of responding in my own ‘backyard’ as I recorded two killer miles of 16:21 and 19:08 on easy ground I’m habitually ‘jogging’ at 10-minute pace.
- More resignation on confirmation that Debs was still visible close behind (stop looking, Pete, stop looking… just focus as normal on what/who’s ahead!).
- My Forerunner 310XT battery giving up after 18:50:28 (first time I’ve run it that long) and 88.2 miles, after which I chose just to run ‘blind’ despite the possibility of picking up my spare 305 or a watch from my crew at Lundavra.
- The deflating news at Lundavra that I was now entitled to a support runner with Richie having passed through the checkpoint just over four hours previously. To which I must add that (despite feeling guiltily grateful for Jon’s support all the way from Bridge of Orchy in 2007) I chose to see the thing through myself rather than take him with me now… although simultaneously happily agreeing to let the boys join me at Braveheart.
- A mad dash (probably not as fast as it felt, but still absolutely flat out) all the way down Glen Nevis from the Vitrified Fort on the assumption that Debs was still around (on which note, she later suggested that she’d have hunted me down if I’d been a girl!).
- Flora and Noel (with camera) out at Braveheart, a wheezy, ‘just can’t dig deeper’ run through to the Leisure Centre with Angus and Jon and the pleasant surprise of seeing Eppie having joined Eileen to welcome me home.
- Scaring everyone but myself by my appearance (which I couldn’t see, but was variously described as white, grey or pale) at the finish!
And that’s more or less the story of my race, but there are still some things to be said that don’t quite fit into the chronological scheme…
- My calves got badly sunburnt (like absolutely the worst sunburn I’ve had in years) because we clearly didn’t get them adequately covered when successfully applying sunscreen to the rest of me.
- Despite my quads feeling absolutely trashed for 30 miles or so and apparently holding me back on the very stages where I’d expected to be strongest, they’re almost better already and the more severe left ‘quad’ pain has now resolved itself to a minor strain at the top of the leg (probably the niggle that I thought I’d run off up Loch Lomondside!). So I’ve been jogging a little bit about the school today and expect to be running properly (but gently) again this week, suggesting a pleasingly prompt recovery from my ‘trashed’ state of Saturday night.
- My feet survived completely unmarked from 95 miles in a single pair of shoes (Asics Gel Enduros) and socks (More Mile), so I’m crediting the magic insoles with saving my soles as well as straightening my Achilles tendons and keeping my knees intact! :-)
- My time of 20:49:32 was outside my aspirational sub-20, but still 1hr 26mins quicker than my previous effort on a day when there were apparently few PBs and provisionally good enough to take me back into the all-time top 100 at #97? So perhaps the heat and headwinds just ultimately took their toll or perhaps (despite being fitter and stronger than ever after so many good hill and trail miles in training) I just wasn’t good enough, but I’m confident that (having averaged over 5 mph for the first 65 miles or so) I gave it absolutely everything on the day.
Some special mentions coming up for…
- Richie Cunningham for a well-deserved win and time of 16:36:04 which IMHO stands comparison with Jez’s 15:44:50 record given the conditions.
- Thomas Loehndorf for his 18:49:42 finish after two previous late DNFs and injury despair of just a few weeks ago.
- The four ladies (Kate, Donna, Jamie and Sharon) who beat me handsomely and one (Debs) who didn’t quite hunt me down in the end!
- Absolutely everyone involved in the organisation and running of the event, both for such a good job in its own right and honouring Dario’s memory so well.
- Angus, Jon and Eileen for being there the whole way when, as I’ve said before, thanks are not enough! :-)
The photos here are by Noel Williams, but I hope to have more soon from Angus, Eileen and Noel.