As we drove home from this year’s West Highland Way Race Katrina said to me, ‘I’d like to run the Devil’s race.’ I assumed she meant next year but no this year. So she sent in her application and was initially about 50th on the reserve list.
Over the last few weeks she crept closer to the start list and on Tuesday her place was confirmed. Katrina had trained hard over the last 5 weeks to be ready with a couple of good long runs including Glencoe to Fort William.
We drove up on Friday night and stayed at the excellent ‘By The Way’ Hostel sharing a chalet with Clark & Amanda Hamilton, Iain Wallace and Ada Stewart. Marco and Debs called in as well so we watched the end of the Athletics before getting to bed.
The alarm went off at 4am and we were up for some breakfast before the 6am start. Katrina was a little nervous but just keen to get going. There were 131 on the start list. I felt very relaxed and enjoyed chatting about last weekend Lakeland race with those who asked me. I wore my finishers t-shirt to make sure they did ask me!!
A good number of friends were also running so time for a photo or two before the start ….
|Katrina with Debs who won the Ladies Race|
|Katrina with Silke who completed her Triple Crowd|
After wishing Katrina a great race I wandered up the path to take a video of the start. Once all the runners were past I headed off to Bridge of Orchy to watch the runners come through. I decided to go onto the path just above the Railway Station and video the runners going past.
I had purposely not given Katrina any time targets but I did have a sheet for myself. I had a sub 9hr and a sub 9hr 30mins schedule which based on her training runs I thought was reasonable.
It was great to see Thomas at the top of the field. I really hoped he’d win the race today. There was a steady stream of runners coming through. Debs was leading the Ladies and looking very comfortable.
I was caught be surprise as Katrina came through in under an hour. I had her down for 1hr 10mins so she was ahead of the schedule. So despite my encouragement to run the first section really comfortable she had pushed it a buit but she looked very happy bouncing laong in her new Hoka’s.
I videoed a few more runners and then drove along to Inveroran Hotel. The midges were out in force and I regretted not bringing my midgy net. Katrina had said to me make sure you put your net in and I’d forgotten so I only had myself to blame.
It was great to cheer the runners through. I always appreciate support teams cheering not just their own runner but everyone so I made sure I cheered everyone.
Soon enough Katrina came down the hill running strongly ….
|Katrina at Inveroran Hotel|
You can see the swarms of midgies in the picture. It certainly wasn’t fun running through them. Katrina wanted some more water so I drove to the gate at the end of the road and met her again. A quick refill of her water bladder. I also wiped her down with a wet flannel which helped a bit I was told.
Katrina set off to Glencoe still going well and I drove off as quick as I could with the windows open to get rid of the midgies!
It was such a refief to arrive at Glencoe and realise that the midgies had not followed us! But it was getting hotter by the minute. Nice for those of us supporting but really tough for the runners. I knew Katrina didn’t like running in the heat so hoped she was doing okay.
This was the first time I’d done a proper support for a whole race and one of the things I enjoyed was chatting with other support teams waiting for their runners. I had a great chat with Paul Hart and Annabel as they waited for Vicky who was running just ahead of Katrina at this point.
They came in quite close to each other. In the photo below you can see Vicky and Paul in the background.
|Katrina drinking her coke at Glencoe|
Katrina arrived at Glencoe in 3hrs so she was 15mins ahead of the sub 9hr plan. She was finding the heat hard but running well and most importantly really enjoying it.
I drove to Altnafeadh and saw Katrina through and up the Devil’s staircase where the race gets it’s name. For the first time I thought Katrina looked as though she was having to dig a bit deeper but I knew she would do so.
|Katrina approaching Altnafeadh|
I then drove around to Kinlochleven. I’d arranged with Katrina that I’d drive around the back of the town away from the checkpoint that I knew would be really busy. I parked the car at the point where the track comes down to the tarmac road.
As I watched the runners come down you could see how hot they all looked. Some were coping better than others but it was great to be able to cheer them on and encourage them to stay strong.
Vicky came down looking good and said that Katrina was coming but had had some bad cramps. I didn’t have to wait too long before she arrived looking hot…
|Arriving at Kinlochleven|
Katrina stopped for 5mins or so to eat and drink. Katrina explained that the cramps were so sore and really slowed her down. We’d tried succeed tablets on training runs but Katrina had felt sick and didn’t want to use them. I’d hoped that she’d be fine and I’m sure she would have if the weather was cooler.
Anyway she took some salted cashew nuts and set off for the climb out of Kinlochleven. I had 5hrs 35mins for Kinlochleven and Katrina was through in 5hrs 30mins so despite the problems with cramp she was still slightly ahead of a sub 9hr schedule.
I must say at this point that Katrina wasn’t too bothered with time. She thought sub 10hrs would be good so was well ahead of that.
I waited for Katrina by the school and then drove round to Lundavra. Again it was great watching all the runners come through. I heard that Thomas had won the race in 5.35 which was great news. I saw Marco heading out of Lundavra and said Debs was still leading and lookng at a time of around 6.50.
Vicky came through still going strongly and then 25mins or so later Katrina came into view. I was so pleased to see that she was still running and still smiling!
|Running into Lundavra|
Katrina was still 3mins under the sub 9hrs plan. She had 1hr 35mins to run the last 6.71miles. I knew she could do this but wouldn’t have a lot of margin for error. Again Katrina was probably oblivious to this but I knew she’d go as fast as she could.
Thankfully the weather was a bit cooler and the various things Katrina had eaten and drank seemed to help. Katrina really appreciate fellow runners and support teams who helped her with drinks and electrolyte tablets at the right time. A special mention to a support runner who really helped her with some stretches.
It’s one of the things that is so great about being involved with ultra running is the way everyone helps each other. It is a great sport!
I watched Katrina head up the hill out of Lundavra and then drove to Fort William. A couple of walkers asked he for a lift so I squashed a couple of Italian guys with their rucksacks into our corsa. They were very impressed when I told them all about the races on the West Highland Way!
I went past the finishing post and waited at Braveheart Car Park. I videoed a few people coming through and waited for Katrina to come. I had about an hour or so. I looked at my watch and thought that if Katrina was to beat 9hrs she’d have to come by 2.45pm at the latest. That would give her 15mins to run the last mile.
Right on schedule she appeared and I knew she’d make it. Katrina was still running and set off down the road. I think I told her she had 15mins to beat 9hrs but I’m not sure she heard or understood!
I took a video of Katrina finishing which I’ll post later.
Katrina finished in 59th place in a time of 8hrs 55mins 59secs. I was so pleased for her and it was such a good run. The interesting thing is that while Katrina was happy to finish felt a bit disappointed that teh cramps did slow her down.
Katrina loved running in the Hoka’s and her legs felt good right through the race.
|Katrina at the finish|
The prize giving was excellent with Thomas and Debs receiving their well deserved prizes.
So thanks to all the marshals and organisers of the race. Next year will be the 10th running of the race.