This is the fourth time I’ve done this training run from Tyndrum to Fort William as part of my build up to the Highland Fling and whw races. This year was slightly different in that I was doing it 6 weeks earlier than normal and we didn’t have any support so had to carry everything we needed for the run.
I’d been looking forward to this run all week and even though the weather forecast was for heavy rain I couldn’t wait to get going. David picked me up at 7am and we drove to Tyndrum, arriving at 8.05am just behind Sharon.
A few minutes to get ready, take a few photos and we were off just before 8.30am. David was driving up to Bridge of Orchy and starting from there. He had struggled a bit on our last run 3 weeks ago and rightly decided to tackle 35miles rather than the 42miles. The plan was to catch him up at some point but we did wonder whether we would.
Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy (6.62miles)
This is a very runnable section and a really good warm up. The weather was misty but it wasn’t raining and suprisingly warm. Well not warm but not cold if you know what I mean. I didn’t need gloves anyway.
We spent the hour or so to Bridge of Orchy chatting away. I asked Sharon how she got into running and it was really interesting to hear how running helped her through a really tough time in her life after she lost both her brother and dad. When you run with someone for miles and miles you cover a lot of varied topics. It does make the time fly.
We also had a long chat about our training plans and how we both feel that a gradual build up over the months is really important. The building blocks of a long run once a month increasing the mileage by 10miles or so is vital.
The only incident of note in this section was Sharon’s bladder problem …. her camal bak was leaking. She checked it but couldn’t see a leak so carried on.
Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Ski Lodge (10.75miles)
We went straight through Bridge of Orchy but had a to stop half way up the hill as Sharon’s bladder was definitely leaking. She had a large wet patch over her lower back. She discovered the valve was leaking. I have never been a fan of camal baks. I think they are a real pain and seeing the hassle this caused Sharon confirms that you’ll never see me with one! Give me a bottle anyday. You can see how much you’ve got left. You can refill it in seconds and it doesn’t leak all over your back! I have a feeling Sharon won’t be using it again either.
We had a great section up and over the hill to Inveroran and then onto Rannoch Moor. I was expecting to get really wet but the weather was great. The cloud base was pretty low so we couldn’t see the tops but perfect for running and run we did. Again we chatted away. This time Sharon asked me how I met Katrina and wanted all the details. So that took up a mile or two.
I think it was along this section that Sharon started referring to me as her father figure. I’m not quite old enough to be her dad! We were both running well and kept a good pace going along the rannoch Moor.
For the whw race this year the checkpoint at Kinghouse has been moved to the Glencoe Ski Lodge so I was keen to go through that way to see what difference it will make. This will be my last run on this section before the race so this was only chance. I took a video of the path but it is impossible to miss. I’m not sure if the path to the ski centre has always been there or has been laid out recently.
When we got to Ski Centre Sharon went into the cafe to buy a drink …. as she’d lost all her camal bak contents!! I rang Tim who was at Kingshouse with Thomas and Silke. Tim was about to set off with Muriel and a friend and Thomas was going to wait for us.
Glencoe Ski Lodge to Kinlochleven (10.49miles)
After an 8min stop we ran down the road to Kingshouse where Silke had a cup of tea waiting for us. A quick stop and we were off. Silke was taking the car to Altnafeadh where she was going to join us.
We had warned Thomas not to go too quick and that he had to run at our pace etc etc. In the end it was Sharon setting the pace as she was ready for a sandwich and always speeds up when she’s ready to eat?!?
I had my annual conversation with Thomas about what his plans are between now and the whw race. I was very glad to hear that he is not doing the Edinburgh Marathon this year and has a 3 day run on the whw instead in May. I know I say this every year but I really think this is Thomas’ year!!
We caught up with Tim’s party at the bottom of the hill. Time for a quick group photo and then I was off up the hill. Thomas was going to run up the Devil’s Stircase and wait for us at the top. Sharon, Silke and Tim were behind but I knew that Sharon would catch me on the way down so I pushed up the hill as hard as I could.
There was some snow and ice on this section and you had to be careful to avoid the ice. Thomas took this photo of me at the top ….
Thomas and I set off down the hill towards Kinlochleven and sure enough after about 15mins Sharon caught up with us. Her 7 stone frame is a lot quicker down these hills than my 12 stone body! From there we ran into Kinlochleven together. Thomas said his goodbyes just before we started the decent into the village.
We met a whole group of off road motor cross riders on the way down but they gave us plenty of room and it wasn’t a problem. In fact it looked really fun as they were riding up and down the hills and through the forest paths.
We arrived at Kinlochleven still feeling strong and running well. Almost 28miles gone … 15miles to go.
Kinlochleven to Lundavra (7.50miles)
I had run out of water by the time we arrived at Kinlochleven but had a yogurt drink so that kept me going. I was able to refill my bottle from a stream (another advantage of the bottle over a camal bak). I used the hill to eat a bit more. One of the things that worked really well on this run was that I took a variety of bars to eat. I had wanted to try them out but the thing that worked best was having a variety. Normally I take several of one thing and I get sick of it. Having different things to eat was definitely a good idea.
Once we got to the top of the hill and onto the Lairigmor we’d agreed that if either of us wanted to push on that was fine. Initially Sharon was ahead and setting the pace but on the second hill I continued to run and gradually pulled away. I was keen to see how far I could run without stopping. I did walk some of the hills but worked on my tactic of counting 20 breathes from the bottom of the hill before walking. Sometimes I got over the hill and other times I walked the last bit.
It started to rain over this section but as there was no wind it was no problem. I did consider putting my gloves on but decided it was more hassle getting them out of my rucksack than it was worth.
I had a couple of looks behind and could see Sharon and expected her to catch up at some point. I was really pleased with how I was running. Overall I knew my time was slightly slower than last year’s training run but I wasn’t too bothered as I left really strong. There wasn’t a point in the run where I felt I was struggling. Yes my legs were tired but I never ran out of energy.
I set myself the challenge of trying to get to Lundavra in 1hrs 30mins and then to Fort William in 1hr 10mins. I wanted to see how much I had in the tank.
I pushed it into Lundavra and was happy to see I was just 8secs over 1hr 30mins. I didn’t stop but carried on wondering where David was.
Lundavra to Fort William (6.94miles)
The first part of this last section in last year’s whw race had been tough for me. I lost time on my schedule and so I was keen to see what I had to do to make it to the top of the hill and the wide path in 40mins or so.
Again I worked hard on the hills counting breaths and trying to run as much as I could. My legs were still feeling good and it wasn’t difficult to run when the ground allowed me to. At each landmark I checked it off and thought ahead to the next time I’ll be here will be in June. I wonder how I’ll be feeling and whether another pb will be on …. or whether things will have gone badly and I’ll be just glad to finish. Only time will tell.
Once I got to the top of the hill I set off running and knew I had about 30mins of running left. I wasn’t going to stop until I reached the Leisure Centre. Half way down the hill I glanced at my watch and I saw my average pace from the top was 7.48 so I set myself another challenge to keep it under 7.50 to the Braveheart car park.
Once the path levelled out I continued to push hard and I did manage to make it. Now just over a mile to go down the road. As I ran I thought back to running down here in the 08 and 09 race with the goal of getting under 20hrs. I ran the last 1.13miles in 7.32pace so I was pleased to see I finished strongly.
My overall time for the 42.30miles was 7hrs 48mins 30secs.
I was about 17mins slower than last year’s March run but it is 6 weeks earlier and we had to carry all our stuff. But to be honest I was more interested in how I felt and I definitely felt strong right through the day and as I write this on Monday morning I can feel my legs but they are not stiff or sore.
I rang David who had finished half an hour or so before and was in Morrisons. Sharon finished a few minutes later and we wandered over to find David.
We had an hour or so before the train so went to McDonalds for a coffee/hot chocolate. The highlight was when I asked could I have a refill for my hot chocolate. The lady said no they don’t do refills but then came back a few minutes later and said she could give me another drink if I wasn’t happy with the first one! So I said it wasn’t too hot so I got another one much to Sharon’s amusement.
We caught the 17.37 train back to Bridge of Orchy, then drove back to Paisley arriving at 8.30pm. Katrina had my tea waiting for me after my shower! What a star.
So thanks to Sharon, David and everyone else for a another great day on the whw.
Video diary of the day to come!