Everyone has different hopes & dreams. For me this year it was to finish the race running, to run every step I could and not get injured in the process. Sounds simple.
But anyone who has followed my progress knows it's a bit of a different story but we wont go there again. This year my training was turned on its head. Ian sat me down in January with the calendar and we pencilled in all the long runs. I was also ordered to take 2 full weeks off before it all kicked in. Other different thing I did was take on Donny Campbell as my PT. He sat me down and asked what I needed from him and from then on proceeded to destroy me week on week.
But hey, you know all that.
As normal, I'd booked a room at Premier Inn for us all to chill out in. We arrived around 3pm with Susan & Howard not far behind. They went off for a run and Ian went off to do what Race Directors do whilst I had a bath and a snooze. We headed to dinner around 6ish, very poor service meant Ian ended up only eating half his before heading off to registration, not great. Couple glasses of red wine calmed me down a bit and it was 9pm before we got back to room. Nick arrived soon after followed by Stephen & Gillian. Team Santababy was complete. Car was packed and bit of race talk ensued. Stephen & Gill went off for ice cream and we all tried to get bit of sleep, not forgetting to set alarm for 12midnight.
I got up around 11.40 and got lycra on, pigtailed up and chanel ribbons and a quick squirt of no 5 and I was ready. We piled into car and headed to start. Ian phoned just as we arrived, after sleeping in the first year and missing half the race briefing he was making sure I was there this time lol.
It's difficult to put into words the atmosphere at the start. A mix of excitement and nerves is palpable. And its same again. Squashy hugs aplenty to all and sundry, good luck wishes and nervous laughter filled the air. I said my goodbyes to Ian and positioned myself beside 183 others awaiting the 95mile adventure ahead. I felt quite emotional, I'd felt that way all week and when I said this to Andrew Murray on Thursday he told me it was because I knew in my heart I'd finish, that I'd worked hard and nothing would stop me. He was right.
1am- we're off. Running through the town centre is quite surreal, lots of cheers, lots of flashes going off and people calling your name. But soon enough we're into the trails and it all goes quiet. The headtorches all bobbing around. There's the occasional chatter but people I suspect are quite reflective for first few miles till we're proper into the trail and onto the first hill. I ran a fair bit of the first section with John K. I let him do the talking mainly remembering the time he had headcam on during Glenmore! The miles ticked by really quickly and I had to stop and take my jacket off, it was bit drizzly but very warm and clammy and I soon down to my vest. We ran through the Beech Tree together and had people shouting our names, it's almost impossible to see who it is in the glare of the headtorches but I spotted Ian in nick of time and gave him wave. John joked that I won that section on the shouts, think it was 3-2 :)
After crossing road and back onto trail my shoes started giving me bit of nip, I decided that once I was on the hills that climb towards Drymen I'd call my crew and get a change of shoe. Blisters at this stage would not be good. Called Nick and think he got bit of shock wondering why I was calling him so early in race, I could hear his relief when I told him I just needed change shoe.
Arrived at Drymen pretty much on schedule and probably wasted couple minutes changing shoes but was not in slightest bit worried. There were still lots of runners around so you never felt quite alone but it had spread out compared to the first 12 miles. it was very misty on approach to Conic Hill and I decided to put jacket back on in case it was bit chilly up there. Didn't think we'd see much of the views but as soon as we crested the hill we were greeted with the breath taking view of Loch Lomond. Passed a few scouts and got lots of encouragement from them as they headed up the hill for their annual longest day trip up there.
As much as the path has been improved coming off conic I still took it very easy, no point trashing my quads now when we're not even at first checkpoint. And the steps are still as steep/high as ever, for my wee legs anyway. There is no easy down and jumping down each one I was aware of my ankles and taking it easy. Howard had run out to see if I wanted anything, I said I was going straight to oak tree to toilet and i'd see them there. Got inside, quick hug to Lucy (owner of Oak tree who kindly opened up again for us lot) and my crew sat me down, shoved a roll in my hand and a cup of tea. Lucy came through and asked if I needed anything but I was eager to get off. She told me she'd left something for me at Rowardennan and off went.
Said to my crew *see in hour and half* and I did. Still on schedule I arrived in Rowardennan through a mist of midgies.
Off I went again. About another half mile up road I got to Lucy's house which is last house you see for a while. She'd made a sign up and stuck it to gate saying Go Sandra Go! :) brilliant. She'd also stuck a hug bag of goodies for me. This posed a bit of problem for me. My crew had filled up my bag before leaving Rowardennan as they knew I'd not see them til Beinglas. I tried calling Nick to come get it but it went straight to answerphone so I just had to shove it all inside my bag. I threw the apple to the birds (sorry Lucy!) and squeezed everything else in. There was a pack of tissues which I delighted to find as my nose seemed to be streaming.
Off I trotted towards Inverersnaid where I caught up with Rab and ran with him for about 4 miles. As it got a bit more rocky he took off and I let him, he was just leaving inversnaid as I arrived. Wonderful surprise there was Karin McKendrick and her sister Brenda. great to see a friendly face and get hugs. She said I was looking ,much better than I had last yr at this stage, I couldn't have agreed more.
But I knew what lay ahead, my Achilles heel. The dreaded loch side. the first mile out there is totally runnable so I ran and vowed to run as much of this section as I could. During the fling I got passed by lots folk here but caught them after beinglas so I just decided to try do same. Guess the good thing about this section is you get chance to have odd chat with folk, its not easy climbing up and over rocks but at least it slows us down enough for chat! Had lovely chat with Graeme McClymont here but he was soon off into the distance. Another guy asked me if my name was Sandra and when I said yes, he told me it was like meeting a celebrity. lol Really sorry if I was disappointment and I've forgotten your name, sorry!
I had to stop somewhere here and fix my compeed, as soon as sat down the migdies started dive bombing me. Everyone who passed asked I was ok, that's what makes this race special, I told them was just fixing compeed and was fine. this was result of that little stop though.
I was so relieved to leave that section behind even if mean a big climb to Darios Hill. I knew I was within couple miles of seeing crew, had chat with another runner on approach to Beinglas about it being the longest 2 miles ever.
Got into Beinglas and was delighted to see Ian. My crew as per usual were on ball and went to work on me, changing tops,giving new dry hat and jacket- socks, feeding me etc. I took a red bull here, I'd been avoiding caffeine expect for odd cup tea here and there so far and this worked a treat during fling. I lost about 1/2 hour on schedule over this section but wasn't too worried, we weren't even at half way after all.
I left there in high spirits.
I'd done pretty well during fling on this section so just tried to do same. Crew said they'd see me at Auchtertyre which was 50miles in and next checkpoint.
I took off my pink jacket not long after leaving checkpoint and was back to my vest again. On climb to cow poo alley the heavens opened and it rained pretty heavily. I knew putting on pink jacket meant it would just stick to me and make me colder so I stuck to my vest, and it stuck to me! I passed few walkers here who looked at me as if I was nuts running along in a vest soaked to skin, they all said good luck to me though. As I approached Crianlarich a spotted the familiar cheery face of Nick ahead. Susan knew the jacket I had on wouldn't do much good n this rain and dispatched him with my thicket rain jacket. this is where good crew comes in, thinking ahead when your runner cant. Priceless. Nick gave me jacket and ran back to gate, I thought maybe there would be people there as there usually is but he was only one there when I arrived. We said our goodbyes and I headed off up the hill for the rollercoaster section before the road crossing.
I ran all of this section with Ross Moreland and his buddy. It took away the relentless grind of the up and down chatting away and we all ran into Auchertyre together. 50miles done and dusted!
I'd told crew I didn't want to stop here and i'd rather have break at Tyndrum so I ran in, got weighed and ran out again. Luckily because Paul Giblin had been tearing up the course and throwing the rule book away I was allowed buddy runner here so Susan & Howard joined me. It was bloody fantastic to keep getting updates on people throughout race. I nearly peed myself when they told me how well Lorna was doing, this kind of thing is a real boost. loved it.
Before too long we arrived in Tyndrum, got big shout out from Kirsty as we passed by the way and arrived at car park to find my friend Jules who'd come up specially, was expecting a bottle of champagne but all I got was Chicken soup, a roll and another red bull and I was off up the road past the village hall where many a good night has been had and a special engagement party no less.
I do love the section towards Bridge of Orchy, I love the way it opens up ahead of you with the spectacular surroundings. We ran with a spring in our step and Howard ran on ahead to let crew know I'd not be stopping here and to be ready. Stephen, my boy was going to run to Inveronan hotel from here and I was excited to be sharing this with him. I came into checkpoint singing 35 miles to go and doing a wee dance. Someone asked wtf I'd been getting fed on that last section!
Susan handed over the reins to Nick here and after quick hug to Jane at BoO, scanned in by Tim & Muriel we stomped off up hill. Nick was singing killers songs at top of his voice going up here and I turned to runner behind me and apologised for the noise, I didn't get much response, so I let him past and he caught up with Nick who was still singing. Nick tried to engage him but he wasn't having it, guessing he just wanted peace and quiet! sorry if you're reading this...
Stopped off at Murdo's hill for obligatory pic (to follow) and off we went on the lovely downhill towards the hotel.
Quick stop at bottom and I changed into road shoes for the bumpy ride across Rannoch Moor, not my favourite section. Elaine Sandemon drove past here telling me Donald was about 10mins ahead. I said to her "I'll catch him!"
Nick was coming across Rannoch Moor with me, it was his first time on that section and was excited. He loved it, every minute. We passed few folk here and kept setting wee targets of people in distance, Nick was surprised at how much climbing there was though and asked if it ever had a downhill. There are a few of course but it does seem like a never ending albeit gentle climb. I was still running pretty well here and as Howard ran out to meet us about mile out he remarked how "unrunable" it was back in and to watch my feet.
I decided not to stop at Glencoe so it was quick scan and off again down road. Susan & Howard rejoined me here and Nick took over the driving again. We passed few people on section towards devil and soon enough we were at bottom and ready to climb. After doing that section 4 times in one day I said I had no fear of it. Hmm, my legs had different ideas and it felt like a long slog. We could see people dotted around all way up and just kept focusing on that til we got to top.
I remember getting to the bridge and saying to Susan and Howard that it was only 3 miles til Kinlochleven, Howard asked if he should run ahead now and get ready but I said wait till we were closer. As usual the road went on and on but we eventually saw the pipes and crossed Pete's bouncy bridge and ran into Kinlochleven.
Ian was here again which was lovely surprise. Julie was in full control here and popped me on scales with supreme efficiency after giving me hug. I spent bit too long here as Stephen had to keep running out to car to get stuff, Ian said I was grumpy here but I genuinely don't think I was, think Susan was more grumpy than me cause stuff wasn't ready.
Every so often Nick would turn round, look at me and started laughing manically. I asked what he was laughing at? He said "when does it stop going up, every time I think we're at top there's another fuckin climb?"
Lol. It was while.
But get to the top we did. I wasn't sure how my legs would be and if they were willing to run again, but run they did. I'd kept my road shoes on and I'm glad I did here as it gave a little more cushioning, mind you it was a bit like the princess and the pea, nothing was going to help after 80+ miles, lets face it.
We passed by Jeff and I kindly thanked him for being there but declined any drinks etc, he did take this great picture of us though.
Picked off a few people here but always trying to give words of encouragement as we did. About half mile from Lundavra I spotted bright yellow jacket ahead, it was same one id seen at top of Devil as I slogged up at bottom. It turned out to be Keith Ainslie, he said his legs were hurting, I said mine too! He asked how far lundavra was from there and I told him it was just over the hill. "oh, another hill, great stuff" he replied.
We ran into Lundavra in great spirits singing at tops of our voices and missing out on the rocky theme as we drowned it out! Hugs from Caroline & high five from Neil and almost ran out without realising Ian was there! haha. Again a great surprise. He told me that Ross & Donnie were ahead and that I had 1hr 29mins to get under 23hrs from here! aaargh
Nick took off up hill like rocket and I tried best to follow. We soon caught Ross & Donnie. Donnie asked how many times I'd fell. NONE! don't jinx me now I said!
Off we went on a mission and set out to pass anyone we saw. And we did. Had to put head torches on as we entered forest which slowed us down but we kept the momentum up. As we approached the decimated forest before the fire road we pass 3 guys we'd been chasing for a while. As we got onto fire road Stephen & Howard appeared from nowhere. It was bit lighter now that we were out forest but not enough for no head torches. Off we went down that fire road like people possessed.
I think I stopped for few walking steps every mile or so. Keziah from our club passed us going up to support a dutch runner she'd never met before today and wished me luck saying I had 2 miles to go.
As ever Braveheart just seemed to never arrive. When I saw the gates I choked up a bit and Susan was there to meet us. Team Santa were once again all together and would finish this journey together. We passed 2 more runners on the last mile towards Leisure centre somehow and I ran every last step to finish line and into Ian's arms.
I have video of finish but don't know how to post it here. Here I am with my boy
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