Sunday, 1 April 2012

Not the Devil o the Highlands

training My long runs on WHW are planned well in advance due to logistics and of course to tie in with WHWrace training.  So 31st March was pencilled in to do 42 miles, from Tyndrum to Fort William of course. Susan kindly decided to join me and original plan was to stay over in FW bus down in morning and run back as Ian was supposed to be at Football. Susan hadnt ran much of Devil route, she ran BoO to Glencoe before supporting me  last year so was eager to see rest of course in preparation for this year.

Luckily the game was moved to Sunday (good old Sky) so we decided to head up to Faulty Towers and stay over then start out early in morning and Ian would meet us somewhere en route at some point (concrete plans then)

Of course i hadn't factored in being a bit injured. My back has been sore for nearly 2weeks now, i've ran bits here and there, but my total mles last week were 8.25, quite a bit less than my usual 45/50
I managed about 20 miles this week pootling to and from work but i could still *feel* my back. Not the greatest prep for a tough 42miler but hey ho.

Susan picked me up from Glasgow around 4ish and off we headed to Tyndrum, managing to get there without any scenic detours. We had dinner &  drinks then headed off for early night watching telly in bed and drinking  bottle wine, as you do. Alarm set 5.15 which is fairly normal for me (although not normally at weekends )so i managed to get up easily and put kettle on. Few cups tea, some instant porridge and it was time to head off. We started run just after 6, i had head torch on in case we needed it but it was soon packed away in bag. As was the jacket after a half a mile.

Still not quite light and shorts n vest were order of the day. The weather was just perfect, not a breeze in air, and at 6am all we could hear were birds chirping away. Didn't see a soul til a man appeared from his van at BoO to walk his dogs.  Off we headed up hill and coming back down other side encountered our first walker of day, who greeted us us with *weel done ladies, veeery speedy* in some broken English.  Off towards Rannoch Moor where within 5 mins we were stopped in our tracks my a family of Deer who were silently and majestically making their way through the forest. Once they spotted us the cautiously stopped and looked at us before trotting over path, reforming and then staring back at us as if to "wtf are you doing here, this is our land" and i guess it is.

First time i've come across deer there and it was really quite special.

As we headed off into Rannoch Moor we both discussed about not liking it very much, Susan perhaps more so than me. It's not my favourite place but my strategy is get head down and get it over with. Susan kept commenting on how awful the ground was and that she felt her feet were getting torn to shreds she was also a bit surprised by the hills, commenting that she couldnt remember them from year before. I'd had a fairly good run across Rannoch Moor last yr, it was before the ankles  properly caved in and Susan had kept me going at a good pace. This time it was my turn, i knew the signs and Susan negative head was started to creep on, i ignored her for most of it and shut her down when she tried the usual "i cant..."

We were both relived to spot Kingshouse Hotel, always a welcome sight when you round that corner.We didn't see a single soul on the Moor, it was bliss.
Susan said she was hungry as we headed towards Kingshouse so we decided to eat on the tarmac road behind trail. Tyndrum lodge had made us a packed lunch instead of breakfast so we had a ham & cheese sandwich each, me just because it was open really, i rarely eat much on Ultra's tbh. As we headed back onto the trail Susan pointed towards the Hill snaking up and said "are we going up there?" When i confirmed we were indeed she remarked that she thought that path was flat and it just snaked along the road. If you think about it of course it could, someone clearly had sick sense of humour making it go on that detour.

Before too long we were at Devil's Staircase,i had said it was more of snakey type of climb and just when you think "where's the frigin top" it appears. Susan said she was just about to ask me that when it appeared lol. We passed a couple walkers on way up and someone took pic of us at top. We shared a can of irn bru here too and headed off on the descent. Susan seemed much happier now and bounced down quite happily enjoying the scenery and the peacefulness. Then we got the the never ending road, and i heard a few expletives from behind more than once.

Susan kept saying she was astounded that anyone could manage any of this decent after nearly 80miles and also said (many times) she'd NEVER run Devil o Highlands, NEVER. lol

She held off asking the immortal question until she couldn't anymore "where is this fuckin town?" i just laughed. Sorry Susan. She also asked me several times if Ian would be meeting us here, i knew what she was thinking (lift!) but i said nope, he was driving straight to Fort William and running back from there.  Susan demanded we stop here as she needed a sit down and bite to eat. So we did, well Susan did, i wandered off to pub to see if could buy water with my card. No was the answer. Never mind, plenty water in the rivers luckily. We arrived in Hellochleven  bang on 6hrs

We stopped for about 15mins and set off for the wonderful climb out. I'd warned Susan that it was worse than the devil, and steeper, less snakey. But to my surprise she thought it was easier. Maybe the reverse psychology worked then ;) I do find that climb tough but i also think it's worth it for the view. Never forget to turn around and see where you've come from, it's amazing.

Once at top Susan enquire about rest of route, I'd told her it was undulating. She took this as me lying to her and it was hilly (which it isn't, not really) We stopped on a rock for a wee rest about a mile in and i filled up the water bottles from stream. Then headed off again. I tried to stay just ahead of Susan to keep pulling her forward as i knew she was struggling by now. Again the head was firmly in negative mode and again i ignored her and talked about other random stuff. Telling her stories about when we crewed for Jen (i'd ran from Kingshouse that day) and about crewing this yr for me. I hope it took her mind of it.  About 4 miles from Lundavra, Ian appeared in distance. First thing Susan asked was where the car was, lol. It was like a repeat of my double run last year.

my blog title was going to be "we're not having this conversation again Susan"  as i tried to tell her that no, i wouldn't go on ahead, yes she could and would finish, no she wasn't slowing me down, it was only a training run and i needed time on feet too. Actually it occurred to me that I'd actually not ran that distance since the Devil race last August. Most I'd done was 30 this yr.

Ian ran off ahead about mile from Lundavra and me & Susan just stayed together, i told her it wasn't far but I'm sure she didn't believe me. But soon enough we were there. Look, Susan is smiling. Well she was for a wee while, until she spotted another hill. I hadn't lied to her, i said the last 3 were downhill but it was undulating until then. "i cant fuckin climb that" she said. Ian assured her that she could and would climb it. Again she expressed her astonishment that anyone can do this 88miles in and asked me how I'd done it with smashed ankles. I could only reply "I've no bloody idea"

The last section actually passed fairly quickly, i just love coming through the forest, and with the sun shining the way it was it was just beautiful.

Before too long we were at the decimated Forrest and we could see where we were heading and the last climb of the day.
we got to top and started on the descent, Susan was doing great and despite telling us that "no way would she be able to run down" was making good pace.
We ploughed on down the hill and reassured Susan of the exact distance left to do, nothing worse than thinking you've only got x amount then finding it's a bit more. Ian pushed on and i followed and we were in braveheart car park in no time, quick check on Susan who was just behind us and we headed out to the dreaded road. I normally stop dead here, i find it so difficult to run on after all those downhill miles to come onto tarmac for last mile. Ian wouldn't let me though and pushed me on to keep going. We finished in 9hr38. 42.45miles exactly  Susan just a min or so behind. I was immensely proud of her. Only time she has done anything of that distance is her 2 highland flings. Recently the most she's done is 20miles on road, so to complete a tough course like that is amazing. If only she'd believe that herself.

We headed into visitor centre for drink and to get changed before jumping in car and heading to Tyndrum. Good Food Cafe was order of day and baby fish n chips for me & Susan and adult one for Ian washed down with tea. Just fabulous.Susan had very long drive back to Dumfries so left us finishing ours and headed off.
Superb day all round.


  1. Top blog, looks like you guys had a great day.

  2. Very jealous. See you soon. X

  3. You're a good friend and tough taskmaster :-)



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