The 2012 Highlander MM at Kinlochewe saw a good turnout of Westies, including Brian Brennan, Cameron Burt, Alan Gilkison and Susie Allison. I had originally entered with Paula, but after she injured her knee Keith Adams agreed to take her place. Surprisingly, Keith and I made up the only all-Westies team.
After an afternoon of driving through heavy downpours on Friday, we were relieved to find the weather had largely cleared by Saturday morning. The fine spell continued for the weekend, with only a few patches of sleet and the occasional snow flurry.
The C course saw us start up and over Slioch, down a steep descent to a tricky checkpoint near Loch Fada, along the side of the loch to a spur that only became obvious when we found ourselves on it. Some precise navigation by Keith brought us to the BBC cameras atop of the next crags, then, faced with a choice of route, we took the longer but faster path to another crag. Down and up again to a knoll, along to the base of a knoll behind some rocks, and then a fast descent (in a delightful snow flurry) to the final checkpoint at Furnace. After a short wait, we climbed into a jetboat for a ride across Loch Maree and the mid-camp.
Mid-camp is a distinctive feature of any Mountain Marathon, and the Highlander organisers make an effort to make theirs as comfortable as possible. They provide a large, heated marquee, hot food and drink, cash bar, and even a ceilidh band! After a feed and an afternoon nap, I managed to stumble around for a few dances and then headed off to sleep around 9.
Day 2 had Susie/Diana and Keith/Me both given a “chasing start” time, having completed the first day (just) within an hour of the first team’s time. This meant pinning on a race number, and watching the faster teams (who start progressively later) catching up and overtaking as the day progressed. Susie and Diana were 7 minutes faster on the first day, and demolished our lead by the second checkpoint. The route started with a solid climb, looking for various lochan outflows, then an exhausting haul up Druim Grudaidh, more lochans, an indistinct knoll, and finally a fast descent along good paths to the finish in Kinlochewe.
We ended the day in the same position we started (7th), as did Susie and Diana (6th, and first female team!). Cameron and Richard were briefly the leading B-team, due to a tactical early start. Brian and Julie picked up top mixed-vet prize (much to Julie’s surprise!), and Keith and I got a consolation second in the vet C class (the top vet team having won the class outright).
All up, a challenging but thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Thanks to Keith for stepping up at the last minute, for the skilled navigation, and for being such a competitive and enjoyable running partner. Hope to hear some more stories from the other competitors, once all are fully recovered!