I had two objectives for this end of season event, 1st to complete it and 2nd to enjoy it. I reckon if I'm going to have any chance at the WHW race distance I have to try to enjoy these longer events, take in more of the company and scenery rather than just relying on the challenge and satisfaction of completion.
In a valiant attempt to achieve the former I spent the Friday evening at The Inn at Strathyre meeting fellow competitors, marshalls and supporters, Oh and did I mention the Guinness? Yes I failed again and spent the night before a race consuming more of the black gold than was good for me. Well at least this time I hadn't had an epic week with work in the lead-up, wrong I'd been away from home since the previous Monday and checked into The Inn with enough luggage for a football team.
Bang on 8am and we were off, its a steady climb for the first 2 miles, and I covered this at a nice steady 12 minute mile pace. I wasn't really bothering about racing others just trying to take in the view and ENJOY!, the next 5 miles are broadly downhill to Lochearnhead and the field spread out surprisingly quickly, there is a horrid switchback climb up to the old railway line above Lochearnhead followed by a fairly steady 2 mile slope to the head of Glen Ogle, I really enjoyed this section, felt really strong and ran 8:20 - 8:35 miles up this section, I passed 11 runners on this part and thereafter I was only passed by two runners, I hoped this burst of speed and enthusiasm wasn't going to have horrible consequences later on.
Taking time to top up my bottles at the water station at the valley head I crossed the A85, a quick hello to Donald Sandeman and then it was downhill towards Killin, amazingly still with dry feet!
Near Killin, the route doubles back through the forest and then climbs steadily for 750 feet for just over 4 miles, I walked the steep bits and ran the slopes passing 2 or 3 people and still feeling really strong. Then its back over the A85 again, bottles topped up, rice pudding consumed, gels re-stocked and off down Glen Ogle. Having really enjoyed the run up the Glen I hated the run down, in fact I was slower going down than I was going up!
Having high fived a party of Scouts just after the viaduct, I gave my self a stern talking to, forced down another gel (my 4th of the day) and took a good gulp of isotonic, this seemed to do the trick and my last mile on this section was at 8:05 pace.
I ran the next 2.5 miles to checkpoint 3 without seeing another runner and despite the very clear direction arrows, I suffered the inevitable qualms of doubt about being on track, but never fear, checkpoint 3 hove into view and the very helpful ladies topped up my bottles, cleared out my gel empties and sent me on my way.
I went through marathon distance in a respectable 4hours 10 minutes on the leg towards Balquidder and I confess I was starting to feel "heavy legs", however I still passed three runners in the next 3 miles (OK one of them had run the Jedburgh Ultra the previous weekend). With under 29 miles showing on my Garmin, I met two gents who shouted "you've only got 2.8 miles to go", part of me wanted to believe them, whilst the other part resolved to return and do them some harm if they were fibbing.
This race has a sting in the tail at mile 30, with a roller coaster up and down on-road section for about a mile, I could see Derek Hill ahead of me and although we were both walking the steeper bits, every time we walked I closed the distance down, "I can take you" thinks I.... wrong on the downhills Derek pulled away every time, then we'd hit an uphill and I close the distance, but it wasn't to be, despite an 8:03 last mile. The final marshal guided me towards the shoogly bridge and I let fly the traditional Ainslie sprint finish, sadly I forgot to look at the camera, so once again another finish line photo where I'm "blowing out my hoop".
I finished 44th overall in 4:58:28, well chuffed to sneak in under 5 hours.
A quick change in the car, than it was back to The Inn for a bowl of soup and a cup of tea, I hadn't been able to book a room for the Saturday so I decided to head straight back to Dumfries, so was back home just after 4 o'clock, mission accomplished.
I thoroughly enjoyed the race, I'll definitely be back, but I enjoyed my post race bottle of Malbec even more.