If the Whangie was the warm up …it was time for the long wan!
Friday evening saw me sorting race kit and wondering how a complete absence of "ultra" specific training was going to pan out. My longest run this year had been the Carnethy 5 Hill Race! Having said that, I did get out in the hills a fair bit over the winter and the Norway ski gig must count surely but there was no getting away from reality – the last time I did over 20 miles was at the Devil of the Highlands the previous August …oh dear. As a result, my main aim for the Fling was a finish. If things went brilliant on the day, 10 hours was the target and if I had a bit of a nightmare then anything around 12 hours was acceptable.
The alarm went off at 04:30am and I stumbled to the coffee machine and the shower in that order. Shortly after 5am I left Busby and headed north. Due to very little traffic (I wonder why???) I made it to Milngavie in time to see the start of the wimen / super vets race which went off an hour before the male / vets race. In the seconds it took to cheer folks on their way my initial worry transformed to "cannae wait" and I rushed off to finalise myself (this included a visit to Tesco’s facilities).
Getting going was good and we were soon running up through familiar ground …Mugdock, Tinkers Loan and under Dumgoyne. My drink and food strategy was clear …eating every hour on the hour and drinking 250ml every 30 minutes. Through Drymen and it was onto the forest section leading towards Conic Hill. For all the times I had been over this section, I had never headed north so it was nice to get the new views and the hill itself was fine. Dropped into Balmaha where it was good to see fellow Davy Broni on water duty. I didn’t stop long hoping to make up some easy places at each control. The sun was well up by this time so it was nice to get the shade en-route to Rowardennan. It was on this section that the pace started to suffer from walking the uphill bits (which there seemed to be a lot of). It was also busy with bemused walkers who seemed to be surprised by anyone running. The control at Rowardennan was very busy – had a brief hello with Iona Robertson before continuing north.
The east side of Loch Lomond feels a bit on the committing side – even if you had a support crew, the only practicable support point is at Inversnaid so you are pretty much on your own. If the pain was kicking in with this section then north of Inversnaid, the wheels really came off. I tripped on every available tree root and rock before spending an amount of time shouting at myself! Silly and a waste of energy but necessary at the time. Past Doune bothy I realised I was losing time big style but could not do anything to recover the situation.
Into the control at Beinglas farm and it was time to get sorted. Stevie Bell helped fill a bottle and I was very grateful to Iona (who was in the Bella relay team) for a bit of assistance with food and drink. Morale restored I continued north …only just over 12 miles to go!
I began to enjoy myself again heading up through Glen Falloch – the sub 10 target was well gone but I knew I would finish. With easy access to the race route, there was a good deal of much appreciated support over the next few miles and soon I found myself in the forest section which I knew was close to the road crossing. A nice thing about being in the forest is that it is hard to know exactly where you are …corners all look the same and it is hard to get disheartened since you cannot see very far ahead.
Over the road crossing and onto Strath Fillan …I could almost smell Tyndrum! Under the new bridge and only a few km to go …wan last effort. Again, great support helped tired legs – some young race helpers at a gate radioed ahead with race numbers …nearly there …flags and yup …it was done. Shared a congrats handshake and hug with my Dad who had come up to see what was going on before sitting down with a nice cold bottle of Coors (yes …they had kindly sponsored the race).
Some splits and stats:
- Drymen (12.6 miles) – 1 hour 54 minutes and 120th place
- Rowardennan (27.2 miles) – 4 hours 39 minutes and 96th place
- Beinglas Farm (40.9 miles) – 7 hours 52 minutes and 84th place
- Tyndrum (53 miles) – 10 hours and 34 minute and 83rd place
In total 242 runners finished the event.
How did it compare to the Devil of the Highlands? Initially, I reckoned my lack of long runs must have had a really negative impact but looking at where folks around me were placed in both races, I actually finished the Fling there or there abouts and in retrospect, I am over the moon with my times for both events. I do reckon with more specific training, a sub 10 hour finish is possible.
As always, huge thanks to all who choose to organise races. I had a brief chat with Murdo after and he commented that without the runners there would be no race but that works both ways. In these days of "sport for profit", it was very refreshing to be part of an event such as the Fling. Respect to the sponsors for helping that vision become reality
To all those who shouted support, helped along the route and to my Dad – cheers, it made the madness enjoyable.
Congrats to my fellow Westies who were running and a big well done to all finishers.