When we set out the horizontal hailstones were pelting us with a fierce force. I was thankful I was wearing my cap. And my buff was great for protecting my ears. When we reached the bottom of the Devil's Staircase, the weather had calmed and we were pretty much lucky from then on in - apart from a few blustery sections. The outlook from the top was picture perfect. Crisp, blue and clear with amazing snow-clad mountains. I had to excuse myself for my first comfort stop of the day. Talk about room with a view!
Alyson and I gibbered the whole way. She has completed the race four times, so she instantly became my hero. Last year she was pulled at Lundavra. I'm starting to think that Lundavra is the Bermuda Triangle of the WHW. Being a race virgin, I can't get my head round finishing seven miles from the end. I would fall apart, but she's over it and looking forward to breaking 24 hours this year. She finished in 24:03 in 2006!
Alyson was a delight to run with. We both ran half-marathon in 1:42 a few weeks ago, so we were the perfect pacing match. And we both have the same aspirations for London.
I wasn't really paying much attention to my watch, but I know it was bang on 2 hours when we started on the ascent out of Kinlochleven. We passed lots of walkers on the way up. What a bunch of grumpy gits they were. As we greeted them cheerily, the most we got was a few grunts. We came to the conclusion they must be English ;-) Or maybe, given the toxic fumes, there was a hangover or two involved. After a few miles a pair of Americans walker saved the day by clapping and cheering us on, then stopped and shouted: "you're not running because it's a emergency are you?".
I told Alyson to cover her eyes and ears as we passed through Lundavra. We were both still full of beans and even picked up the pace. I remember running this route before the Devil's last year and I died at this point. But to be fair, that was the only training run I did for the race. This year, given all the speed/hill work I've been doing, I feel a lot fitter and much stronger.
Usually the section from Lundavra to Fort William is torturous and endless, but I was still in good form. We ended in a sprint (or as sprinty as sprinting can be after 23 killer miles) towards to gorgeous end of Way sign - which, incidentally, has been broken :-( I doubt I'll finish in 7.20m/m - unless I'm being transported courtesy of the NHS.
Shortly after we finished, the ray of sunshine that is Silke appeared with our food and clean clothes. After a much needed coffee, we headed along to the Braveheart carpark with Caroline and Peter to cheer in some of the guys. After a short while of shivering in the rain, Marco and Thomas appeared. Marco was running on empty (and raiding the boot of the car for foot) but Thomas looked fighting fit. Tim followed closely behind and they all headed off towards the end of the Way. As we followed them in the car, Silke was driving alongside Thomas, hanging out the window and screaming "watch your hamstrings". Who says the WHW family is a disfunctional?
Thomas had a storming finish. He looked like he was simply polishing off a 10K. Apparently the key was in his food consumption. Check out Thomas' blog for his top 'nutrition' tips.
By late afternoon most folks had finished and we all regrouped in the leisure centre. John Kynaston was his usually super positive and thoroughly delightful self - I'm sure little birds dress him in the morning. Neal smiling as always. And Davie being the wee monkey that he is. So all was good in team WHW camp.
Marco, Alyson and I headed back with Silke and Thomas. Marco had introduced Thomas to the term "bonking", which he found highly entertaining and tried to use it in as many sentences as possible. Thomas, word of warning: Bonking is not a word you should use outwith the running circle. Telling your IBM colleagues that "Marco bonked on the WHW" would tarnish my reputation. However, since the journey home, I have learned that Thomas is the only German man I know with a sense of humour, so maybe...
I wore my Injini socks. They are ankle cut length, which is great as I often get water retention and a heat rash if I've been on my feet for a long time. The downside is when they get wet, they slip down your heel. So, all though I didn't have any bother with feet, my heels rubbed and were a bleeding mess at the end.
Took on lots of advice on food and hydration. I know I couldn't handle soup and pasta, like some folks do. Cereal bars, peanut butter and jam pieces, bananas, honey, dates, yoghurt coated raisons and jelly babies are on my list so far.