With a start list boasting several of the strongest Scottish hill runners. including, Jasmin Paris, Tom Owens, Finlay Wild, Andy Fallas, Konrad Rawlick and Graham Kelly I knew this was going to be a tough race. I therefore decided that the best approach would be to relax and enjoy the first mountain so that when the inevitable crash came it might be late enough in the race that I could still finish. Off the start I ran with Graham and enjoyed the gentle jog along the sea front and across the bridge. It was then up through some lovely forest and into the clouds. I left Graham at the first aid station, he went to say hello to a pretty Norwegian lassy (Katie if you’re reading this, don’t worry he stayed faithful apart from that one time with Emilie).
The rest of the first climb to the summit of Bønntuva I was chatting with a group of Swedish, Polish, English, Norwegian, French and Italian. We had a good little international bunch going… Off the summit I made a bit of a nav error in the fog but it was easily corrected and we continued towards the first proper mountain of the day Tromsdalstind. The climb up this 1238 m peak was an easy gradient and I was jogging slowly up most of it. I reached the top in about 2hr30 which was ahead of my plan and I still felt really good.
In the back of my mind the whole way up was Killian’s (Mr Jornet) description of the next downhill… Very Steep… Lots of loose rock. But when we reached the top I realised I didn’t need to have worried, yes it was steep and loose but the kind of steep and loose that is awesome to run down. There were also a few big snow patches which allowed for some great bum slides too. I managed to pass loads of people who were nervous coming down but unfortunately dropped the nice international group. It took me no time to reach the forest in the valley. Along the valley was just an awesome forest to run, the ground was soft but not muddy and it was lovely to just relax and run at a comfortable pace.
The next climb was the biggy… Hamperokken (1404m). On this climb I initially stuck with a Swedish guy who is also coming over for Glencoe but could feel a little bit of cramp coming on so let him pull ahead and made sure to keep drinking my salt juice. I was caught by a very friendly girl, Katie from Leeds not long after, who was moving at about the same speed as me. The cramp sensation had gone so I tried sticking with her. When we got to the ridge we managed to catch and pass the Swedish guy who complained that he had gone too hard up the climb. I bumped in Killian who told me 15 min to the summit. I was thinking, “is that a Killian Jornet 15 min?”. Turned out it was about 15 min! At the summit the marshal shouted to Katie that she was in 6th… maybe due to the shock of this or the realisation that 5th was only 30s ahead she took off down the hill. While I stood on the top for a minute taking in the scene.
The next downhill was described as very steep! (notice the exclamation mark). It was a little steeper that the first one but still loose and fun to run down. I passed some people on the downhill again. We then dropped down to a loch and then had to cross a huge boulder field, before getting back to lovely running across alpine meadows and forest. It was then back across the valley and towards Tromsdalstind.
This was the last big climb of the day and I was surprised at how much strength I still had. I was passing people and enjoying the challenge of the very steep climb. The final stretch was the hardest and it took an age to eventually reach the summit. Running across the boulders at the top I knew that I didn’t have the coordination I had at the start but still I felt OK. There was then some steep scree and I was surprised to see Katie not far in front, the last I had seen of her she was storming up Tromsdalstind flying past everyone. I knew that I had about 12km left and I needed some food so I munched down two caffeine gels and set off after Katie determined to catch her.
Running through the alpine meadows was beautiful and for the first time in the day the sun came out. I was still catching and passing people and felt strong. At the aid station with 5 km to go I finally caught Katie and we flew down the hill through the forest together. Up the hill of the bridge was the last real challenge of the day and I was determined to run it then it was just 2km to the finish. I crossed the line in a time of 10hr14… considering the pacing plan I drew up for myself was 12 hrs… I was delighted with the time I had managed.
The evening was spent drinking in esteemed company, and I’m happy to say that Killian Jornet is now a Westie by virtue of drinking some of my bottle of whisky. Fingers crossed the GoPro evidence appears online soon.
Next up Glencoe Skyline for the eagerly awaited season decider in the Niall –V- James battle.