Petestack Blog

2 May 2011

Highland Fling 2011

Filed under: Running — admin @ 10:43 pm

Have to admit I’d consciously avoided the Highland Fling before. Didn’t want to be pitted against my West Highland Way ‘peers’ over the same course earlier the same year, thought I just wouldn’t be fast enough over the shorter distance (53 miles) and didn’t want to deal with the psychology of being found wanting there! But last year’s Cateran Trail race (when I ran sub-10 over 55 miles to come 8th of 45 starters in what’s maybe still my best ultra performance to date) made a big difference and, while remaining non-committal about whether I was in it for a run or a race, thought I’d give it a go as my principal ‘tune-up’ this year. And so I did, quietly targeting a sub-10 finish as positive ‘psychology’ (went through Tyndrum in about 10:25 on last year’s WHW), thinking 9:30 might be possible given my Cateran time (so which is the harder course… who knows?), but probably never really expecting the same kind of dry, windy heat that made that WHW such an ordeal for those of us who’d have preferred to see clouds and maybe even some rain.

Not trying to write a blow-by-blow account here, so jumping to the finish now to tell you that my time of 9:53:48 for 51st place of 321 finishers (and apparently 383 starters) seems pretty well in line with my expectations/aspirations, providing a decent confidence booster for the WHW (positive psychology as above) while leaving no room for complacency, suggesting that I’ve now got the experience to pace a big trail ultra just as well without my heart rate monitor (John Kynaston’s souped-up results spreadsheet showing me moving from 204th fastest over the first ‘leg’ from Milngavie to Drymen to 23rd over the final one from Beinglas to Tyndrum), but also providing some valuable ‘last-minute’ lessons in fueling for such conditions. So perhaps it’s downright scary that I managed to eat nothing but a packet of crisps (which lasted from Rowardennan to Inversnaid) and six jelly babies after Rowardennan (just halfway on the ground), but I was by no means alone there, know how I came through it and know that my WHW support crew just have to accept that they can’t force-feed me if I can’t eat. That said, I’ve also got some new ideas and strategies to put to Angus, Jon and Eileen, see some productive discussion there and will consider anything so long as we all remember ‘the best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men’…

So what else have I got to say here just now? Some (left) ankle and (mainly right) knee niggles early on, but managed to run them off and (touch wood) seem to have developed a good feel over recent years for what’s a niggle, what means stop and what means go to the doc. Still (despite plenty food and drink later) 3.9kg lighter yesterday morning than when I set out on Saturday and 2.3kg down today, but not really wanting to see that all back again right now when calculating a good 0.5kg of it to be proper, fat-burning weight loss! Not used to the Fling’s staggered starts, so some new experiences in catching/being caught by folk from the different starts as well as placing amongst some (eg Ali Bryan-Jones, Michelle Hetherington) I never even saw despite similar splits. And just can’t say enough good about the organisation of the whole thing from morning registration through to the finish and evening buses, with (to cite just a couple of examples) the simplest, most convenient timing chip system I’ve seen (so much more user-friendly than SPORTident dibbers or things you have to lace to your shoes!), the drop-bag system under perfect control (find drop-bags so hard to get right as ‘best-laid schemes’, but their sorting and handling was exemplary here), and really just everything done well. So perhaps I was wryly amused by the marathon-style boards for ‘sub-10’, ‘sub-11’, ‘sub-12’ etc. at the start when such things seem completely at variance with my conception of trail-ultra pacing (just thought ‘no way am I standing at that ‘sub-10′ board when I’m never taking off with those who do!’), but think that was maybe just gilding the lily a touch when (sincerely hope I’m not upsetting anyone here) it was already growing beautifully as it was! :-)


ate nothing but a packet of crisps (which lasted from Rowardennan to Inversnaid) and six jelly babies after Rowardennan, felt pretty sick at (from?) Inversnaid, but kept going to record something about 9:55. And was still 3.9kg lighter this morning than yesterday!


  1. Well done Peter. Another excellent run. Enjoyed your report.

    Comment by John Kynaston — 3 May 2011 @ 11:20 am

  2. Excellent run & time Pete considering the heat and your food intake (or lack of it !), bodes well for June. Sorry I missed you but you were probably home & in bed by the time I’d finished ! Keep up the training, it seems to be working. Gav

    Comment by Gav McKinlay — 3 May 2011 @ 1:25 pm

  3. Well paced and well run Peter. And thanks for your kind words on Silke’s blog. There is not much one can do to prevent let’s call it accidents. In particular in the later stages of an ultra race. You trip and lose toenails. Or worse. But my pacing was full in my own hands and it was SILLY.
    But this race was certainly a useful lesson. Fueling in general (have you tried SIS GO Gels?), fueling in heat. Pacing, pacing, pacing…
    So which one is the easier, faster course? Cateran or Fling. I never did the Cateran.

    Comment by Thomas — 3 May 2011 @ 5:45 pm

  4. Good run Peter – it’s a shame we weren’t in the same start since it would have been nice to run with someone running the same pace. I reckon it’s a close thing between the Cateran and the Fling, but probably the Cateran is slightly easier, at least when it’s dry.

    Comment by Ali Bryan-Jones — 3 May 2011 @ 10:05 pm

  5. Hmmm, Cateran or Fling? Can’t be much in it, Thomas…

    Cateran’s a tad longer, but probably more consistently runnable, whereas the Fling has that stopper section north of Inversnaid. Think typical Cateran PBs (as well as the course records) are still slower, but will surely come down with increasing popularity, bigger/more competitive fields and more runners ‘learning’ the course through repetition. And, from my times (9:51:40 Cateran, 9:53:48 Fling), I’d probably say just toss a coin! ;-)

    Comment by admin — 3 May 2011 @ 10:16 pm

  6. Hi Ali, and congrats on your run too… knew you were on for a good finish because I was recuperating alongside your dad after he followed me in for his sub-11 and your folks were discussing your progress while waiting for you.

    Re. the Cateran/Fling thing, sorry if it looks like my reply’s just for Thomas, but only got the notification to approve your comment (blog’s set to require approval for a first posting from any source) after I’d submitted mine.

    Comment by admin — 3 May 2011 @ 10:33 pm


    53 miles in, finish in sight and making a 10mph+ ‘sprint’ for the line!

    Comment by admin — 6 May 2011 @ 9:19 pm

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