As I tried to locate the source of the noise which was telling me it was time to get up, it dawned on me …ignore it and sleep in. It would give me the perfect excuse for missing the start of the 2010 Highland Fling Ultra. Sadly, by the time I found my phone I was fully awake and all there was to do was stumble through to the kitchen and kick the espresso machine into life. About two hours later, I was registered and on the start line at Milngavie with 53 miles to cover until the finish line at Tyndrum …oh dear.
Met up with Stevie Bell fairly quickly and the chat helped pass the time along under Dumgoyne and out to Drymen where the first control was located. I stopped to fill a bottle of water and Stevie drifted into the distance for a bit. I caught him up at the start of the forest and before long we caught the tail end of the women’s race who had started an hour earlier (despite rumours, this starting arrangement was not supposed to give the v40 men a reason for putting in a good effort early on).
Some folks don’t like Conic Hill – personally I love it since it gives the first real opportunity to slow down and eat. We pass Jim Drummond who was as cheery as always (he even suggested entering a new race out in the Pyrenees). Into Balmaha and it was great to see Davy Broni marshalling …bottle filled and it was time to head north again. The next section towards Rowardenan is lovely …a great wee trail through the woods with enough short hills to break things up a bit but not enough to make things difficult.
Rolled into the Rowardenan control and looked at my watch and was surprised to find I was about 20 minutes quicker than last year. Most folks would have been happy but I was concerned …very concerned indeed. In 2009, I blew up big style along the lochside and putting in an effort early on (I consider the 26 mile point early) might not have been the best idea. As such, I spent a wee bit more time than planned eating and drinking before continuing. The undulations along the forest track went ok although the heat of the day was building a bit. Met up with Kate Cheesewright who I knew from the Highlander Mountain Marathon and got her tale of how Elsie and Elizabeth opened up the awesome Day 2 lead the other week.
Felt better than I had expected at Inversnaid where it was good to find one of my neighbours and his wife marshalling. Decided not to waste any time here and after a quick bottle fill continued along the lochside. Last year I was a bit of a mess on this section but actually enjoyed the boulder / tree root avoidance this time round. Knowing that Beinn Ghlas farm was close, I resisted looking at my watch until I arrived at the control – think I might have made a wee whooping noise when I did however …another 10 minutes gained on 2009. Immediate thoughts were along the lines of "dinnae mess up and I could get in under 10 hours for the whole distance". Chatted with Strathaven runner Tony Thistlethwaite who I knew from the Marathon des Sables (he had only just returned from this years MdS !!!!).
Leaving the farm there are a succession of heart breaking hill before you are able to commence running again. I tried on a number of occasions to raise the pace to a shuffle but almost always ended up walking and decided to save what running the legs had left for the flat and downhill. Had a couple of altercations with cattle (did the farmer put them along the trail on purpose????) which was less than welcome before turning the corner above Crainlarich.
Met up with Stevie again just before the finish and it was very nice to hear the sound of the highland bagpipes about 100m from the line itself !
Was over the moon to find I had covered the distance 9 hours 51 minutes (about 40 minutes quicker than last year) – a winter of high walking and the High Peak Marathon last month were responsible I reckon.
The Fling is a great event and recommended but I think I will look for something else in 2011.