Two weeks ago the West Highland Way Race took place. On the Friday night.the station car park at Milngavie was jam packed with cars and motorhomes. It was great to meet up with old friends from the West Highland Way family. At 1am we set through Mugdock Park on the way to Fort William.
My training has not gone well over the last few months. After the Highland Fling race, I didn't recover and at one point was struggling to run at all.I cut my mileage drastically which helped but as a consequence I didn't do the long runs necessary to get fit for the W.H.W. race. I seriously considered withdrawing my entry but after a lot of soul searching I decided to give it a try . I was prepared to be slow as long as I got there. Unfortunately to add to my training woes I developed a mild cold a few days before the race - just a runny nose and catarrh, it didn't seem to develop into anything so I decided to start and see how far I could get.
The forecast was fairly grim but actually the weather in the morning was perfect- not too hot nor too cold and with enough of a breeze to keep most of the midges away.The view from Conic Hill was understated and cloudy . I really enjoyed the run along Loch Lomond. I love the views and the varied terrain and I was running quite well.I was much slower than my normal pace but I felt ok despite my cold. This was the first year that I had raced on the low route- the recently upgraded lochside path which is far more scenic than the higher track.
At Beinglas I met Helen at the checkpoint and took on food and drink. I always find the next section past Falls of Falloch quite tough, the track always seems relentless. Beyond Bogle Glen the switchback through the forest never gets any less hilly .I know the forest but there always seems to be one more hill than one expects (or hopes for)
By Auchertyre Farm I was feeling a bit tired. From then on my pace dropped and people started to pass me. My lack off fitness was starting to show and my quads were really sore .At Bridge of Orchy I was pretty much done in, I took forever to climb the hill behind the hotel and was really pleased to see Murdo at the top and to take a jelly baby. The weather was now as promised, very windy cold with violent squally showers. Murdo must have been frozen standing up there for hour after hour.
My cold which I thought had dissipated now started to make itself felt , I started to cough up some quite revolting sputum and my throat felt raw. Across Rannoch Moor what had been sporadic showers became a continuous downpour.I was passed by quite a few people running at an impressive speed up the long climb up onto the Moor. I was only managing a survival shuffle. I did manage to catch one runner who was struggling with the cold, he said that his mate had gone ahead to get some extra clothing. I lingered at the ski centre putting on more clothing and trying to force down more food . Helen ran with me from then on. I tried to keep the pace going but it was very slow especially the climb up The Devil's Staircase. I didn't get much faster on the descent into Kinlochleven my quads made it too painful to run and I now had a shooting pain in my left shin which turned out to be anteror tibialis tendonitis. On the steepest sections I resorted to walking backwards.
At Kinlochleven the Leisure Centre was warm and dry . Silke the race doctor approached me and said I didn't look too good.I asked her to look at my shin which she and the physiotherapist strapped up. I was pleased to manage to eat some mashed potato, but then felt very ill . Not sure whether I was going to have diarrhoea or vomit I managed to stagger to the loo ( where fortunately I had neither.) After some time I felt a bit better and after another cup of tea decided to get going. The climb out of Kinlochleven was painfully slow. I was coughing more and more and felt dreadful.I knew I had plenty of time to get through to Fort William but gradually it began to dawn on me that carrying on might risk damaging my long term health.. So sadly I decided to retire . I think it was the right decision . Other runners said that conditions up on the Lairig Mor were savage with very high winds and heavy rain. I feel it would have been irresponsible to go there in the state I was in.
The prize giving was as emotional and uplifting as ever. We were all blown away by the new course record set by Rob Sinclair of 13 hours 41 minutes. We had thought that Paul Giblin's successive lowering of the course record to 14 hours 21 minutes was incredible, (Mind you many thought Jez Bragg's record unbeatable). I really cannot conceive how anybody could run that fast over that terrain;what a tremendous achievement! We also heard lots of other stories of endurance and fortitude. I was very disappointed to pull out but I'm happy that I made the right decision. After a few days suffering from the cold I recovered quite well. I feel that it might have been very different if I had continued.