Totally chuffed. That's the best way of describing how I'm feeling right now. A few weeks ago I had planned to get up onto the WHW and run up from Glencoe to Fort William, but the weather was awful and I cancelled it. Afterwards all sorts of doubts started creepig about whether I could do it anyway, blah, blah, blah, but I rescheduled for this weekend, with a slight change. The change was to run from Glencoe down to Crianlarich rather than run north. The reason behind this was because the clocks had now changed and this kept me closer to 'civilisation' if anything was to happen late on.So Saturday morning came, up and out of the house about 7:15am for the drive to Crianlarich. Arrived there about 8:15, which gave me 15minutes to make final food / clothing selections before the bus arrived at 8:28. From there it was a gentle half hour bus trip up to the road crossing at Glencoe Ski Centre / Kingshouse. At 9:10 I was was off the bus and ready to start the run back. I'd tried to work out a reasonable plan for the day as Jo and the kids were going to come and meet me at Tyndrum later on and needed some sort of guide to help find me, so the key points as a guide were:-
Glencoe (start) 9:10 am
Inveronan Hotel 11:10am
Bridge of Orchy 11:35am
Tyndrum 1:05pm (with potential to call it a day there if not past by 2:30pm)
That gave either 19ish miles to Tyndrum or 25ish to Crianlarich.
So how was the running on the day? Well the weather was mild if a tad breezy as I started up the road past Blackrock Cottage.
I'm still rotten at climbing hills, but especially in the first section of a run as I'm also completely useless for the first 20-30mins, so it was a long hard slog up to the first peak beside Fleming's cairn. Once over that and heading down hill, I started to come alive and ran down past Ba Bridge in good form. I'd done most of this section a few weeks ago so I plodded along the path and down towards Forest Lodge and into virgin territory for me. On the way down past the plantation, I past two other runners walking up the way. From there on to Inveronan was nice and easy and it's an amazing place to run through. The time as I passed the hotel was 10:56am, 15mins ahead of schedule.
I knew from my prep that there was a climb up over to Bridge of Orchy, but nothing had actually prepared me for the actuality! But up I plodded and near the top was lucky enough to see that rare and mythical creature - the Gibbering Midget bounding down the way with a group of others, with a speed and ease that made me quite envious! Soon enough though I made the top and looking back down it was quite amazing just how high the climb actually was.
Then it was downhill all the way to Bridge of Orchy, a place I've only ever passed far too fast on the A82, but a stunning place to approach from the hillside forest.
It was 11:30 as I crossed the A82 and headed up towards the station, still 5 mins ahead of schedule, but I had lost 10mins on the climb over the hill, not that the schedule was ever meant to be highly accurate! I stopped for 5mins at the steps climbing up out of the station, to have a pork pie and put a blister pad on. For some reason I seem to wear through the heel padding on my Roclites after a while,and guess what - it was today that it happened again. Never mind the Compeed took care of it and stopped any blister actually getting started.
The leg up to the watershed above Tyndrum was a bit of a drag and the only real time when I was getting tired mentally. I t was a long climb up there, relieved by listening (and laughing out loud to) 'I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue' on the Ipod. I have to admit to being passed by one of the girls and her Spaniel who had passed me going the other way above Inveronan as if I was standing still (I was walking up towards the railway underpass at this point, but so what!)
That climb from the underpass up to the upper path was really hard going. Really really hard going and very glad to reach the summit, with the faintest sign of Tyndrum in the Glen below. As I broached the summit I suddenly heard "Daddy!!! Daddy" - It was Jo and the kids on the A82 beside me driving north trying to find me. We met up down at the water treatment plant and walked together down to Brodie's Store, where I topped up on water and took on some coke and generally had a 10 minute break. There was always the possibility that I might crawl into Tyndrum on my last legs, but it was 1:10pm as I arrived at Tyndrum, having dropped another 10mins behind schedule, but feeling pretty great after the first 19miles. No way was I stopping now.
So about 1:20 I headed off across the A82 and through the sodden path and across the river crossing. Funny how I had managed to have dryish feet for 19miles but got soaked in the first town I passed through! I won't mention taking a wrong turn at the caravan park and getting lost, but I have to say heading out of Tyndrum the roots, mud and polished stones made for a short hard section. So hard in fact that I started to hallucinate, believing I met some Cowboys and Indians just outside the town!
After heading past Dalrigh it was back under the A82 and up to Auchertyre where I had asked Jo to meet up again with a tad more fluid for me (should have taken more from the beginning really). Unfortunately while I was up at the farm, they were waiting down at the A82, but neither of us had phone reception to tell each other! Ah well another 10mins waiting did no real harm and off I trotted again through the green fields and down towards the river and across the A82 (yet again).
The section from there to Crianlarich is bl$%dy hard. It's a hard, hard climb up through the forest. A real hard hard slog that starts almost immediately you cross the road. As I reached the top I passed a group of other WHW runners (George Reid from Stonehaven I think - should have stopped to say more, as that's where I stay mid-week). It was good to see they were hiking it too!! At 3:05pm I came to the junction of the WHW, Bogle Glen and the path down to Crianlarich.
Just after that as I headed down the path to Crianlarich I met Jo and the kids who had driven along and walked up the path looking for me. A quick hug from the kids and I trotted off to finish at the car at 3:18pm; 6hrs and 8mins after I left and somewhere around 25.5miles (my Garmin ran out of battery in the last ten mins). So I was half an hour or so behind schedule, but when the stops were taken into account I was pretty spot on, and the fact they were so close actually surprised me, as apart from Rannoch Moor I hadn't run any of this route before so hadn't really a clue how hard/fast/slow each section was when I was estimating the times.
So overall amazingly happy with the day. 25ish miles in 6ish hrs and feeling great at the end of it. To be honest I could have kept on going for a good bit, especially downhill from the WHW junction above Crianlarich and reckon Beinglas would have been possible if i had wanted to / had time, but certainly Carmyle Cottage / A82 crossing was within a good striking distance. This run has given my confidence a big boost ahead of the 28mi Kinlochleven -> Tyndrum short ultra on the 3rd of December as well as a good bit of knowledge about the route and has added to my confidence that the Fling is realistic and that a full WHW is not un-achievable. Now I know the difference between 25milies and 95 miles is huge, but this run has proved the following
- My training is working - this was a 45mile week and the recent 35mile weeks have been sustainable
- No sign of injury or twinges (like I had at the D33 last year) and I ran comfortably the next day with no problems
- I had no serious motivation problems on the route - in fact I was pretty happy all the way round
So what next? The short ultra mentioned above, I'm going to attempt the Marcothon, the WHW training weekend in January and hopefully a 35-40mile jaunt somewhere around Xmas/new year - depending on family commitments. Possibly Bridege of Orchy to Fort William, but perhaps Milngavie/ Drymen/ Balmaha up the way would be better. Oh and I better do some more hill / speed work as well I guess.
It's good to be plodding long again :-)