Wednesday, 30 June 2010

West Highland Way Race 2010


The West Highland Way Race was to be my big event this year and it didn’t disappoint. This race is a monster, 95 miles with 15,000ft of ascent between Milngavie in Glasgow and Fort William in the Highlands. I was coming into this race with some doubts having had a DNF at this years Highland Fling (53miles) which covers the first half of the West Highland Way to Tyndrum.
Its only 8 weeks between the Highland Fling and the West Highland Way Race so not a lot of time to try , test and change anything that might get you over the finishing line of the West Highland Way Race.
I had previously completed the Highland Fling so when you pull out of a race that you are running for a second time you must ask “what did I change” on looking back my nutrition/fluids were all wrong during the Highland Fling.
Having met up with some friends after the Highland Fling more experienced and better ultra runners than me. I was able to get some pointers in how I might be able to complete the West Highland Way Race. It was suggested to me to use Succeed Capsules a bit of advice that I have found priceless and secondly Perinon trail food shakes. I continued my training for the West Highland Way Race and introduced the Succeed Capsules and Perinon into my long runs and found an instant benefit. Now with 6weeks to the West Highland Way Race I was feeling a lot more confident that if I stick with my game plan and the nutrition works as tested I would have a chance of completing the race.

Registration opened at 9pm with the race starting at 1am it was my intention to get there early register and head home again as I only stay 15mins from the start so as to stay as relaxed as possible.
I returned at 12.15am for pre-race briefing at 12.30am. This year’s race was to be special for a few reasons. The race is now in it 25th year and the two men Bobby Shields and Duncan Watson who first ran between Milngavie and Fort William were returning to take there place at the start line and most notably the race was in memory of Dario Melaragni who was the race director for many years and who past away 2 weeks after 2009 race aged 46.

There was 164 starters in this years race and at 1am with the shout of “GO” by Dario wife Gillian we were off. I was running the first 27mile to Rowardennan unsupported and carried everything that I need in a small back pack and bun bag. The sight of 164 runners heading into the night with head torches on was an amazing thing to see and with the pubs and bars emptying in Milngavie we were meet with “your feckin running to where” “feckin loonies”. Having already run the Highland Fling I know were I should be and at what time. I made sure that I was eating every 7 miles and snacking in between with trail food. On reaching Balmaha in 4hrs everything was feeling good I was at 19mile with my target of covering 4mph going well so I was 45mins up. Balmaha to Rowardennan is a real roller coaster section and I began running with some old faces that I have come to know in doing ultra running which help with this section of the route. I checked in at Rowardennan in 6hrs still ahead of time. I was met be my support crew who were a bit rough looking having spent the night there and watched the England-Algeria game in the pub but they carried out the job very well and sent me on my way to Auchtertyre which is the official 2nd checkpoint.

There are 2 unofficial stops along this part of the route were drop bags can be used at Inversnaid and Beinn Ghlas. I arranged a drop bag for each which meant my support crew had plenty of time for the long 2hrs drive to check point 2. On reaching Inversnaid I was still feeling very good and that the Succeed capsule and Perinon were doing there job very well as the sun was up and very hot. Taking a couple of minutes to refuel, I notice Bobby Shields seating and nursing a badly cut hand, turned out that he and Duncan Watson had taken a tumble in the dark at different stages with Duncan pulling out at Drymen and later been told he had broken 2 ribs after falling into a ditch in the dark. Bobby was not as bad but took the decision to pull out at Beinn Ghlas (41miles). On arriving at Beinn Ghlas I was met by 2 friends from my running club who had come along to offer some moral support. Once again I refuelled and set off for Auctertyre this part of the route is very open with no shade from the mid day sun but still feeling strong with the big climb at Crainlarich I was still walking the hills and running the flats and downhill sections if it was not to steep. I arrived at the crossing of the A82 which was very busy to which point I had to wait 10mins for a break in the traffic to cross the road. I arrive at 49miles a little over 13hrs. I took the opportunity to have a massage to loosen off the legs for the next section which was great and has a great ice cream cone also…mmmmm. I once again refuelled and set off for Bridge of Orchy at 60miles.

On leaving Auchtertyre I was told there were already 18 people that had pulled out. I had allocated 3hrs for this section a section which is also a very exposed with no cover from the sun. All along the route there was very little water coming off the hills to which you would normally wet your buff to keep you cool. Having climbed out of Tyndrum I began with a run/walk down the hill trying to save my quads from any more damage than necessary on arriving at the bottom of the hill I was met by Ada and Shirley from my running club who ran with me for the 3miles into Bridge of Orchy . The most notable thing was that I was there in 2hrs40 some 20mins quicker than I had allowed. Bridge o Orchy was busy with runners take on food and changing clothes for the next section across Rannoch Moor which can be very harsh if weather was bad but not today there was a cooling northly wind blowing but the sun was still warm which made for a pleasant evenings running.

Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe.
As I was leaving Bridge of Orchy word came through that Ritchie Cunningham had win in a time of 16hrs 44mins not bad I said to myself I am only 35mile behind.. I was still moving well and still doing more running than walking and once again began play cat and mouse with runners that I had past all day with them passing me at checkpoints. I passed another 6 runners going over Rannoch Moor some were down to a slow walk but still making progress. I had allowed 3hr30min for this section but once again arrived in Glencoe ahead of time in 2hrs50mins. I now had been on the go for over 20hrs and with the last 25miles to come I know it was going to be hard. I changed clothes with the knowledge that it would be dark by the time I got to Kinlochleven.

There’s a 3mile flattish section before the climb up the Devils Staircase by this time I was joined by my support runner as you are not allowed to be out for a second night without been paired up with someone maybe a follow runner. We arrive at the bottom of the Devil Staircase as the sun was dipping down behind the mountains and with that the temperature drop from a pleasant +18c to a barmy +5c. I had now been on the go for 44hrs with been at work and starting the race and in that time I had managed 2hrs sleep pre-race. Now in the dark a very tired the my eye began to play tricks from seen people sitting around the hill to seeing ice cream vans, am also sure I had 2 pairs of feet. The incredible need to sleep at this stage is very difficult to fight off and on one occasion my support runner Jamie turned I find my curled up sleeping on the track. The section down the off the Devil Staircase it is very steep in places a puts a lot of pressure on already painful and tired legs with this my right knee began to hurt like hell and became very swollen. On arriving at the Kinlochleven checkpoint I thought it would be a good idea to see the race Doc. after a quick check and 20min icing he said I was ok to carry on but was still having great pain in bending my knee. I took the decision to withdraw from the race with still 10hrs on the clock and 13miles to the finish line.


This is a monster of a race and one I would recommend it to anyone looking for a real challenge. Having introduced Succeed Capsules and Perinon into my running I would say that these 2 things help me get to 82mile of this race.


Not a lot. I would take the day off before the race to ensure plenty of sleep. Maybe look at something like Pro+ or some other caffine drink to ward off the sleep demons.


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