Route: Kingshouse to Fort William
Time Run: 3hr 57mins 25secs (10.10 pace)
With two weeks to go to the Devil O’ the Highlands race I was keen to have a run on the route. Even though I’ve run the Tyndrum to Fort William section a number of times in training I’ve never done the race before.
I was keen to try and run the section Kingshouse to Fort William and aim for my race pace. I reckon that a sub 7hr run is realistic yet challenging so according to my schedule I’d need to run this section in 4hr 15mins. I was keen to see how that felt and whether it was reasonable.
I had posted the plan for this run on the whw forum and three others joined me. Debs, who is also running the race, was keen to do a final training run. Stevie, who is a good friend from Kilbarchan and part of my support team and Chris, also from Kilbarchan (and also a good friend!) was hoping to run the Devil’s race but had pulled out due perceived to lack of training.
Stevie was a little apprenshive about the run as this would be the longest he’d run in over 5yrs. He prefers the half marathon distance! Chris was saying that he hasn’t been able to get many miles in recently so that just left Debs & I ready for the run without excuses!!
We travelled up in Chris’s car picking up Debs on the way. We arrived at Kingshouse just after 9am on a gloriously sunny day. The plan was to get the bus back from Fort William so we needed to be there by 2.30pm for the 3pm bus. That gave us over 5hrs, hopefully plenty of time.
Section 1: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven (9.04miles)
Aim: 1hr 40mins
Actual: 1hr 40mins 13secs (11.06 pace)
As we set off I commented to Debs that I’ve never run this section (Kingshouse to Fort William) on its own and was looking forward to running it with fresh legs rather than after 72miles.
We ran at a steady pace to the bottom of the hill and then strode out on the way up Devil’s Staircase. Debs, with her shorter legs!, was at a disadvantge here and the three guys arrived at the top together but within a minute Debs arrived looking strong.
We ran together all the way down into Kinlochleven. I had three of my mini-markers for this section. We were 3mins fast to the first one and then 3mins slow to the second so overall bang on schedule. This gave us 30mins to do the 3.41miles into Kinlochleven at an average pace of 8.48.
I wasn’t really sure if that was feasible but that was one of the aims of today’s run so we pushed on. As we came to the wider road heading down Stevie and Chris were leading the way and so I tried to stay with them. After the whw race this year I reskon that I do lose time on the downhills and need to work on my technique. Chris commented that I was leaning back and breaking so I was trying to lean forward and flow. Hopefully it worked as I stayed with them.
On the way down Debs stopped to tie her shoelace but must have ran really well as by the time we got the bottom she had caught us. It was obvious she was running well just 6months after Cairn’s birth.
We were passing walkers all day and as as we ran into Kinlochleven we went past a big group. I was telling the others about the filming the Adventure show did of me on the little bridge coming into Kinlochleven and how I hope they use that bit when Debs informed me they did the same intro with loads of others!
We arrived into Kinlochleven bang on 1hr 40mins and we had run that last mini-section in 30mins 09secs at a pace of 8.54.
We didn’t stop and set off for the hill out of Kinlochleven.
Section 2: Kinlochleven to Lundavra (7.59miles)
Aim: 1hr 25mins
Actual: 1hr 15mins 51secs (10.00 pace)
As we set off up the hill Debs said that she was happy to run at her own pace and if we pushed on up the hill to carry on and we’d meet at the official whw end which is the finish of the Devil’s race.
I was hoping to be able to run my 4hr 15mins target and so pushed on striding up the hill. I’d been grazing all morning so far on sweets, a gell and a nutri-bar. On the way out of Kinlochleven I drank a lucozade sports drink. For the Devil’s race I’m aiing to run without stopping at all. Just grab some food on the way.
On Thursday at Dario’s service I had a good chat with Jez and he was asking me how do I plan to go faster in the whw race next year. I said that I had 38mins of stops in total this year and he said cut those out. You’re wasting time, eat on the run and keep going. So I am going to work on that for next year starting with the Devils race.
Anyway Chris, Stevie and I pushed on up the hill with me leading the way. It was getting hotter but the views as you get out of the town are really good and we were all going well.
When we reached the top I said to Stevie & Chris my aim is to run as far as I can towards Lundavra without stopping. Little did I realise that the next time I would walk was at Lundavra!
I just got into one of those times when I felt good and was able to find a steady pace that I just kept going. So I ran all the hills and felt really strong. Stevie stayed with me until the second longer hill when he walked a bit and dropped back. Not sure when Chris slipped back but I didn’t see him until the end.
On the downhill Stevie worked hard to catch up again. We ran together for a mile or so until the next hill when the same thing happened. I carried on running and Stevie walked a bit (and had a small tumble). Again on the downhill he worked hard to catch up which he did just before the sheep pen.
We continued to pass loads of walkers so I decided to take a leaf out the ‘Billy Minto support team manual’ and say to various folks that there is a girl called Debs running in our group. When she comes can you shout, ‘Go Debs Go.’ One group of lads asked ‘is she attractive?’ when I said yes they said ‘No problem!’
Debs told me at the end that they said ‘are you Debs?’ and she was wondering how did they know her and when she replied yes they all cheered ‘Go Debs go’ so that worked!
Stevie & I pushed into Lundavra and I was really pleased to see that I’d run that section in 1hr 15mins 51secs. I thought maybe I can run under 4hrs for the run. I like to have targets to chase!
Section 3: Lundavra to Fort William (6.72miles)
Aim: 1hr 10mins
Actual: 1hr 01mins 22secs (9.08 pace)
Stevie & I set off together running as much as possible but walking the second half of the hills. After about 15mins or so I pushed ahead of Stevie but he wasn’t too far behind.
In the race this year I walked more of this first section that I’d wanted so I tried to really push as much as I could today and see what it felt like.
I knew I was going well and was feeling that if I could get to the top of the big hill down to Fort William around my scheduled time I had a good chance to run under 4hrs.
Just before I came out to the wide track there was a light change of route from the race 5weeks ago. We were back on the original route and came out at the large stile as previously.
So once there I turned right and headed down the hill determined to run until I reached the whw sign post. As I came round one of the sweeping bends I glanced round and saw Stevie so I knew he could see me and would no doubt work hard to catch up!
Even though this was a training run it was good to feel a bit of competition and I was keen to see if I could decend faster than Stevie and stay ahead.
I glanced at my garmin a few times and was encouraged to see that average pace from the top was around 7.07 which was well inside my 9.22 schedule.
Just as we reached the bottom of the hill where a path from the right joins on Stevie had almost caught me. I decided to keep the pace going and make him work for it! I ran hard for the next mile into the braveheart car park and even though I didn’t look sensed that Stevie was not with me.
I turned on to the road and continued to push hard to the end. My split of 1.10mile from the car park to the end was based on finishing at the leisure centre but we were stopping at the sign this time so I was confident of being inside the 4hrs.
I was really pleased to stop the watch on 3hrs 57mins 26secs (overall pace 10.10) and to see that I’d run from Lundavra in 1hr 01mins 22secs which is the fastest I’ve ever done that bit.
After I finished I was wondering how that pace compared to say Ritchie in the whw race this year. When I got home I had a look and was pleased to see that that section took Ritchie 4hrs 22mins so I beat him by 25mins!!! The only downside is I started at Kingshouse whereas he had already run 72miles by then!
I got the video ready to record Stevie coming in which he did 5secs inside 4hrs! He had a great run and really enjoyed it. Well he must off as he is talking about entering the Devil’s race next year!
I was thinking that Debs and Chris should be in between 4hrs 15mins and 4hrs 30mins. I was slightly out as Debs arrived looking very strong just under 4hrs 15mins and Chris a minute or so later. They both had excellent runs.
We took some photos at the post, went in to the shop to have a wash and change top, then walked to Morrison’s for a drink and ice cream and wait for the 3pm bus back to Kingshouse.
So an excellent run. It was a real confidence booster for both Debs and myself in our preparation for the Devil’s race in two weeks. I feel confident to aim for a sub 7hr run and Debs is going for a sub 7hrs 30mins which for both of us will be challenging yet realistic.
So thanks to Debs, Chris and Stevie for your company and especially to Chris for driving us there and back safely! I did do some video clips so watch out for that coming soon!
I have been asked by Murdo whether I will be running my ‘Guess my Time’ Competiton for the Devils and the answer is yes! So if you want to enter just leave a post, text, email etc with your predicted time in hrs, mins and secs. The race is 43mile long. Entries in my mid day Friday 7 August. Small prize for the closest.