Having spent the last week worrying about not being worried, suddenly it was time to pack. I took it down a notch this yr and only packed what I thought I'd need. still looked an awful lot for small person though. But hey, better to have stuff "just in case" eh
As we drove up to Milngavie Ian asked me again how I was feeling. Chilled I said. And I genuinely was. Got to hotel and Ian went off in search of car charger for his phone and I kicked back and read my book. Susan & Nick (my wonderful crew) had arrived earlier that day and went for run from Drymen to Balamaha and back. Very kind of them to do Conic twice so they could feel at least some of the pain I'd be feeling later in the race. They arrived back, showered & off we went for dinner. I was starving by then as had only had a ham roll all day. We all had starters & mains and me & Susan both had 2 large glasses Merlot each. Went down a treat. Ian transferred all my kit from our car into Nicks then went off to do what a Race Director does.
Back to hotel for wee nap and then it was time to go register. Arrived to find huge queue out door. I did registration last yr and folk just trickled in over a couple of hours, had never seen queues like this. I had requested number 22, this was to remind me of my goal. Would seem that people were pretty keen, good sign. Then it was back to hotel to kick back and welcome rest of my crew in form of my boy Stephen & his girlfriend Gillian. They arrived then went off to grab a coffee and rest of us grabbed a couple hrs sleep.
Alarm went off at 11.40pm - got up, dressed, brushed teeth and pigtailed up. Squirt of chanel no 5 and I was ready to race. In car I was asked again how I felt. Totally chilled was my answer. I was actually really starting to worry about how calm I felt. We arrived to find the usual electric atmosphere. Managed to catch up with quite few people and hand out hugs & good luck wishes wherever I could. After Ian & Sean did their briefing I got couple pics with my crew gave one last kiss to Ian and lined up ready to start.
Donnies training camp had given me a huge boost after a pretty bad start to year with constant niggles stopping me in my tracks, I was feeling good and feeling fit. I knew my weaknesses and had overcome them by doing training where I needed work. Ian dug out his splits from when he did similar time and we talked them over & figured out where I needed to be and what I needed to work on. Game on. I decided that like last time I ran I would leave my garmin at home and just wear a watch. no point worrying about pace when scrambling over rocks & whatnot. And its not like I don't know the route or distance.
Countdown began, hooter went off. Time to get this show on the road. The first 6 miles just ticked by nicely, I chatted occasionally to people having no clue who I was chatting to most of time (its dark!) Although Ross did pass me saying "I smell chanel" to be fair, its hard to miss someone dressed as spiderman, even in the dark. Ran few miles with Fraser McCoull & chatted away which passed the miles quickly. Got through Drymen & gave thumbs up to my crew and ran on through. I turned off my headtroch just as we went through deer gate on approach to conic and enjoyed the natural light for the climb ahead. Conic seemed to pass really quickly. Was great to see Graeme Reid and his scouts at top ready to climb to summit, an annual pilgrimage they do and they're all very encouraging.
I came off conic the way I always do, very carefully. Which meant few people passed me tearing down. I was preserving my quads for later in day, no point trashing them when race has barely begun. Into Balamaha bang of schedule. (3.26) the car park was jumping, got lots of shouts from people which was great. I ran straight to Oak Tree to meet crew as planned. Quick toilet stop and I ate whatever they gave me, rice pudding I think Nick handed me a cup of tea, I took one look at it and handed it back to him and asked him not to be on tea duties for rest of day. Got big hug from Lucy who owns Oak tree and was chatting to her & Agnes when Ian walked through door. Hello darling I said- his reply " don't go hanging around in here, you're making good time & your 5th lady" at that point Lucy & Agnes burst out laughing and I burst out the door shouting to crew I'd see them in Rowardennan.
I've done this section probably more than any other given that we stay at Oak Tree so often and I love it. I was swapping places with Charlie Lees occasionally here and at one point he was ahead on hill and I saw him chatting to another girl. I thought it looked like Rosie but put that thought out my head, why would she be so far back. 2 times winner & sub20 runner, this wasn't right. Alas it was, I caught up and she told me she'd fallen but was continuing , that time didn't matter anymore. Kudos to her and her courage.
Got to Rowardennan (5.06)feeling good. no idea what I ate & drank here. just did what was told by crew. Didn't hang around too long and set off knowing I'd not see them again till Beinglas. Lucy (who owns oak tree) lives in ben Lomond cottage which is last one you'll see about mile out of rowardennan. She told me she'd left something for me at gate so I trotted up there and there was a bag of chocolate hearts and a good luck card :) really put a spring in my step. thank you Lucy x
Got to Inversnaid, ate few spoonfuls of rice, got water bottle topped up and headed off as quickly as I could. I knew there was at least a mile I could actually run here before scrambling started. The lochside was fairly slippy and being so wee I was struggling to get up &over some of the rocks. getting pretty muddy in process. But, I still felt pretty good. It passed over quicker than expected and soon enough I was trudging up Darios hill. I stopped briefly to touch the post and say goodbye to Loch Lomond.
Off again with spring in step knowing my crew would be at next CP. Arrived & found crew quickly. Stephen & Gill had rejoined and everyone was busy looking after me, again I've no idea what I ate or drank, just took what was given & got going again. Almost forgot I had to scan my chip but Tim grabbed me on way past. (8.38) and off I went up hill. Sun was out, the day was panning out nicely and I was in a wee happy place. Cow poo alley was pretty dry and soon enough I was at Crianlarich. There was few people there supporting and I joked with them saying "hurrah, official halfway point, just need to do this all again!" I had a down point of rollercoaster during fling but I didn't this time. Still no downs, still felt great. Caught up with Leon Provis just before road crossing & he was struggling a bit there. Got into Auchtertyre and couldn't find my crew. I got weighed and scanned chip (10.43)saying I'd send crew back with card.
Got further up and suddenly crew all burst out car at once, made me laugh, comedy moment. They told me I was still *too close* to Paul to get support runner but I was cool with that. Took something off them, cant recall what and off I went saying I'd see them up in Tyndrum. This section passed very quickly. I was passing by the way and was thinking about last time I raced and Kirsty had come out to hug me and lo & behold it happened again! :) I didn't think I'd see her as I knew she was supporting Carole. lovely wee boost. I then came through gate and was crossing river when I spotted Ian coming towards me! I shouted out and ran across water to give him a kiss, at that moment a lady had just climbed up hill to left on her horse and said "aww, what a lovely moment, you've made my day, I hope she belongs to you!" I assured her I did. Ian told me not to dally and get running to go meet my crew so I did. Don't argue with the RD
I stopped at road and suddenly clocked my fabulous crew jumping up & down, waving pom poms and singing " give me an S, give me an A ..." lol just brilliant. Everyone was looking at us as if we were nuts.
Think I might've changed shoes here but cant remember. Ate and drank something, dunno what and off I set on my most favourite part of course. I just love this section.
About half a mile away from BoO I spotted 2 familiar faces running towards me, it was only the fab Fionna Ross & Debs M-C - proper love this pic.
Arrived at Bridge of Orchy (12.44-pos 38 in great spirits.Ian was here too so got another quick kiss before being sent on way Singing and knowing that I'd broken back of race. Nick Susan both joined me up & over JBH, what a great sight to see Murdos flags and hear Pete Duggan playing his whistle. We came into there singing at top of our voices, got hugs from Bob & Gayle Allison and left singing all way down. Just brilliant. I love my crew. .
Into Glencoe (15.16 -pos 34) crew were superslick as ever and I was on my way leaving the fabulous Susan behind and Nick taking over from here. Susan met us at bottom of devil to give me long sleeved top in case it was cold up there. I'd been in vest all day and been totally find like that, I also had my jacket in bag which I'd carried all day too. We needn't have worried , weather was perfect and vest was enough. Nick has an internal jukebox and a wide array of songs to his repertoire so I got everything from Oasis to Buddy Holly blasting our way towards Kinlochleven. It was here that 2 guys passed us and one asked if my name was Sandra, he introduced himself (Dave Troman, he was lovely) and told me I he'd been watching me through out day and I was happiest cheeriest runner he'd seen! Thank you Dave, really gave me boost and lovely to meet you.
Passed a relay runner here just as Nick was belting out killers songs, he invited said relay runner to join in but she politely laughed & declined. Then she said "Sandra!" it was my fetch friend Michelle, I had no idea she was even running, Another lovely surprise. We said our farewells and ran on chasing Dave & his pal. Nick ran ahead to CP to get stuff ready and I arrived woooping and singing " last checkpoint, woohoo" only to be told off by Julie for making too much noise. lol
Chip swiped (18.07 pos 33)) weighed and off I went with Susan again, knowing the final push was on. We chatted about times and finishing times and pondered about the sub 22. Susan was confident and was constantly telling me things like "that's another 30secs gained" this was superb boost as that climb is just so unforgiving, especially on tired legs. She kept telling me that for every run it was more time in bag and I complied whenever I could. Legs were starting to tire here but hey, we'd ran over 80 miles, of curse they were! Nick had said he'd go to Fort William and run up & meet us on fire road so we could al finish this together. About a mile away from Lundavra who should appear running towards us but Ian & Nick! :) What a brilliant surprise. We all ran back in together with Ian staying with me telling me that sub22 was on, that I needed to stay focussed and that he had done it before and so could I. No pressure then. Quick hello to everyone at Lundavra but no stopping
Kissed Ian goodbye and followed my crew up hill. The race starts here. Steady progress was made all way and as we approached the forest I remember that last time we had to put head torches on as we got here. Time before was even earlier. Not this time, what a bonus. What a boost.
I was getting constant updates about mileage left and time left all way from Lundavra, Susan & Nick kept glancing at watches anxiously. I tried not to let it worry me, I tried to tell myself that even if I was over 22 that was still big PB. I tried. but my crew had other ideas. Ian had left Nick in no doubt in car that he better keep me focused on getting it. Susan just kept telling me everything was ok, we're still on for it, keep going, i'm so proud of you. (crying now, thinking about it) We hit the fire road like runners possessed. Nothing was stopping us, I just kept digging in, just kept running. At one point we came to two roads, Nick & Susan said which way. I said "that way!" and off we went. 2 mins later I started to question myself and said to them, I hope I've not took wrong road. they looked at me in horror and I just smiled and said it'll be ok, I think its right. 93 miles in everything starts to look same.
Finally got to braveheart and onwards we ran. I started to need a few steps walking here and there, Susan assured me I had time. Just walk to that tree, then we'll run again - she'd say. Like I had the whole day, I just did what I was told. Suddenly a car appears and blinds us with its lights. Its Stephen & Gillian, they shout our words of encouragement, do a quick turn and speed back off up to leisure centre.
30 mile sign, half a mile to go. Dig deep, keep going. Cant. lose .this. now.
Pass Devil finish then see sign that says 4metres to go. 4metres Sandra! both Nick & Susan shout, you can do this, its just round corner, go go! I get round corner and see finish line. Ian shuts YES! YES! pumping his fist in air. I knew I'd done it. Chip scanned. Finish time of 21hrs, 57mins. 5th Lady, 28th overall. OMG. Fell into Ian's arms crying.
Hugs & congratulations from so many people at end. Great to see Neal & Caroline who said they'd stayed to watch me finish. Massive hugs to my most fabulous crew.
I wish I could put into words just how incredibly grateful I am to them, I feel there are none that can possibly do it justice
so here's a tune. This sums it up, they can all sit back and say, I did that.
One last thank you to Ian, whose never ending belief in me pushes me on and makes me the smiley wee girl you all know.