Well, what a fun three weekends I’ve had. The first two I’ve already written up in my last entry, and the last one was spent up in Scotland as I had my first introduction to the Highland Fling. This is a 53 miler that starts in Milngavie and follows the West Highland Way to Tyndrum. Due to my busy weekends, I hadn’t really researched it at all. The week running up to it I popped into the map shop and bought a Harveys map of the whole WHW with the intention of looking over the route to check it out. As the week progressed I got more and more excited about it, but neglected to actually look at the map! The plan was to catch a train to Birmingham early on the Friday (Bank holiday due to the Royal wedding), where Drew would pick me up before the long drive up to Scotland. I kind of enjoyed the journey as it seemed to be pretty close to the JOGLE route of a year previously. I was hooked on the blog that was following this years event, but by the time Drew and I were travelling up, there was only one remaining runner with over a week remaining. To run so much of it on your own like that would be so incredibly difficult mentally. We finally arrived at our hotel about a 20 minute drive from the start, after a stop off in Glasgow, where we ended up popping in about four running shops! We pottered round in our room while we waited for Richie Cunningham to arrive. Richie is a friend of Drews he met at UTMB. He also happens to be one of the fastest men on the West Highland Way! We eventually went into a standard chain pub next door for dinner. As long as they had pasta we’d be happy. The meal was ok and it was nice to meet Richie and his girlfriend. We didn’t hang around too long as Drew wanted to get back to our room to watch some more of the Royal wedding coverage. We’d set the alarm for 0530 so to give us pleanty of time to prepare.

I had a predictably bad nights sleep before the long day ahead. The weather was looking to be glorious out with fairly high temperatures forecast and strong Easterly winds. This would normally be good for the cooling effect, but we’d be in the shelter of mountains and woodlands for a great deal of the day. So, yet again hydration was going to be top of the agenda again. All good practice for Spartathlon I suppose!

We met up with Richie downstairs then followed him to the start in Milngavie. Drew parked up somewhere that would be safe for over 24hrs. The start is outside the train station in the car park which was a hive of activity. I dumped my main bag off at a transit van so that it would get taken to the end for me. There was the option to have around four dropbags at some of the check points. I’d decided that with the distance, I wasn’t going to bother. Most people seemed to be which made me wonder whether I’d made a wise decision. I’d never had dropbags before at a 50 and seemed to get around ok. Yes, I’d be fine!

The ladies had started at 0600, the vets had started at 0700 and we were due to be off at 0800. Shortly after the briefing, it was time and we were off!
I took off at a fairly steady pace and watched as a large number went off at the front like a rocket. I was expecting this as this was a seriously stacked field and I was not expectng any high placing here. The talent had all signed up as this was doubling up as the national trail championships and GB team selection for something else.
As we made our way through the park like area then onto open moorland I managed to remain sensible with my pace and heart rate. I’m sure if I didn’t blow, I’d see many of the people who were ahead as I passed them… maybe.

We soon hit a rather large climb, which I managed to run a great deal of, before settling into a speed march. Just as I went over the shoulder of this hill, I was rewarded with a beautiful view that continued to open up as you rounded the corner, of Loch Lomond and the surrounding mountains. The Lock was sparkling in the increasingly powerful sun light. A runner who was near me remarked on the beauty. Absolutely breathtaking! We soon begun a large rather steep descent, which eventually led into the first checkpoint. I planned, as usual, to get through the cp’s as quick as possible. I would only stop to top up my drinks bladder. By the next cp just before you get to the shore of Loch Lomond there were many people sat around, eating and drinking. I stuck to the plan and topped up the bladder before moving on. I know that doing this pushes you up the placement ladder the odd few places. Of course if you stop for too long then getting started again can be pretty difficult, though if I’m pretty bad then a short stop can be essential! The route followed alongside Lock Lomond for around 20 miles. It started off being pretty flattish with good footing. It was just fantastic running, and I was catching up with a steady flow of ladies and vets now too which is good fun. Everyone was very gracious in pulling aside to let me past with a smile. So far the going was testing but nothing to difficult. I had been told that the first half was easy, but the second half was really tough, so I was anticipating a ramp fairly soon in the level of exertion.

I passed through a cp, quickly topping up my bladder and downing a litre. Soon after this cp the going got very tough with there not really being anything of a path that was runnable. It was just large boulders all the way for around three miles. This really slowed things down, and involved much clambering using hands and having to hop down large drops. Although this was a relatively short section, the focus on my footing and the extra effort really wore me down a bit. As I came out of this section and begun to move away from the Loch we were suddenly fully exposed to the sun and I really felt it. Drink, drink, drink! Must keep on top of my hydration!

As I plodded on, I started to feel more and more exhausted. I forced a 9bar down while attacking an uphill. Just a few hours left to hang on. Though once you really hit rock bottom even walking seems fast, so it isn’t over till I cross that line! I had to push hard and really take advantage of every downhill section.. I was still catching some people which is very positive. There was a chap who I passed earlier who passed me and went ahead. He certainly looked like he had more left than me I thought as I watched him moving steadily ahead of me. Not long after, I caught him pretty easily as he was walking, but as soon as I got close to him he begun running again. I later got in front of him near the end. This cat and mouse game took my mind of things a little and also helped to push me a bit more and get me to the end that little bit quicker. I couldn’t work out whether he was a veteran or not. If he was, then I was 1hr ahead of him. Since we’d left the Loch, the footing was decidedly easier, but there was still a pretty big hill to drag myself over! I knew I was closing in on the end, so I really pushed it on the down.

Just as my sparring partner finally got ahead of me, I heard the distant wonderful drone of bagpipes! This just had to be the end! As I rounded a corner the advertising flags and the finishing arch came into view. I didn’t really have a sprint for the line which is pretty unusual for me, but I just didn’t seem to be bothered about a few seconds. As I crossed the line, a young girl put a medal around my neck and I was given my goodie bag and my t-shirt. I was also offered a cold bottle of Coors light. This I didn’t want. I needed to rehydrate so downed plenty of chilled water. My finishing time was 9:29 which considering the fact I’d had a pretty dire final 13 odd miles, I was very happy about. I had come 31st overall. Not bad seeing as I’d had a busy three weekends.

I hobbled down to the B&B Drew had booked and showered and got into some fresh, warm clothes. When I got back up to the finish area, I chatted with a few people before watching Drew finish. He looked ok, but was pretty dehydrated. Overall, it was a good day at the office.
After Drew got showered we popped into town to pick up some food. We ended up with a pizza each. On the way back I also got a massive burger! Then I went back to the room to lay down. My feet and legs needed to rest!
The next day, Drew and I had trout for breakfast then went for a walk as the weather was so amazing again. We ended up at a pub that did a £6 all-you-can eat buffet stuffing our faces!
At 1120 we caught the bus to Glasgow which went down the other side of the Loch, which just happened to be the route of the JOGLE. I was surprised at just how much of it I remembered.
After two buses, three trains and a pretty long drive, I arrived home just after midnight. I was exhausted, but knew that by the Wednesday, I’d be pretty much fully recovered.

My recovery has really been getting shorter and shorter over the previous 3-4 months. This could be attributed to many things, but one factor which I am convinced is a major contributor, is the Udo’s oil I’ve now been taking for just over a year now. It’s a year of taking the oil twice daily before the ratio of Omega 3, 6 and 9 is at the correct level. I am now really starting to see the difference. As I’ve already said, I can now do a big, hard day that will leave me thoroughly exhausted and very sore the next day, happy in the knowledge that I will be fine by the Wednesday. This was taking around a full week last year. I don’t think my training has changed much. I was going to take the weekend off, but I feel so good that I will be running between 45-60 off-road miles on Saturday. This wasn’t possible last year! Other than the virus I had a couple of weeks ago, I haven’t really been ill. A couple of sniffles, but I soon shake them. My muscle soreness has also declined. Udo’s oil has now become a major part in my training regime. It is also a major player in my general well-being.

So, after my run on the Cotswold Way this Saturday, which is a trail on the Trailblaze portfolio, I will start slowing down in an effort to taper for the Grand Union Canal in a few weeks. I’m really looking forward to having another go at this beast and can’t wait to get going.

I’ll probably write again once I have ran on Saturday. I hope everyone is out enjoying the trails.


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