The Olympic Creed is one of my favourites: "The most important thing is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well."
Well, my participation in the Devil o' the Highland (43 miles from Tyndrum to Fort William) was a struggle and a mini-triumph.
Despite my own mini-triumph in the WHWR seven weeks prior, I felt I had recovered well and was more than up for the race. To be honest, I was probably a little more top heavy on positive thoughts than I was on talent.
The race commenced with the usual pre-race briefing and bang on 6am we were off. The instant incline is always a bit of a lung warmer. You can tell ultra-distance running is becoming much more competitive, as the first few miles were a little more frantic than I remember.
The route to Bridge of Orchy was pretty uneventful. I'd settled into 5th/6th girl place by the time I'd reach the first back-up point. The lovely Allybea had "volunteered" to support and the aim was to pass through checkpoints as quickly as possible, so I grabbed a bottle of Lucozade and a gel and headed up the hill.
A few folks were running up the hills and although my heart was itching to follow, thankfully my legs were refusing point blank.
The highlight of the race was the views on descent into Inveronan. The sight of the mist over the water was nothing short of magical. It's just a shame that the arrival into a midge hellhole cancelled out all that beauty. Heading up the Drover's Road was pretty tortuous. The long precession of twitching, cursing runners must have been quite comical.
I was fuelling up on the mass consumption of midges, which was just as well because (as bloody usual!) I couldn't face food. All the way across Rannoch Moor, I felt really queasy and threatened to puke. There was nothing in me and was continuously overtaken, so by the time I had hit the ascent out of the Moor I had sunk back to 8th (lady) position. In my head I knew I would catch a few on the downhills, but my heart was jittery at the prospect dropping back so much.
I possibly passed five runners on the one mile descent to the ski centre, clocked in and headed off to Kingshouse to meet Allybea. I actually thought I was going to pass out en route. It was definitely one of those seeing-stars moments.
Quick fluid top and a wee cheeky caffeine shot and life was a little rosier. I still had to dig in to get to the top of Devil's Staircase. But I shouldn't have had to dig so early on. Well, 3-4 hours in. Maybe it was the comedy value of watching the gals in front tearing up the hills that cheered me up. Or the super-smiling twins cheering at the summit. Even if their kind offer of sweets and chocolate nearer sent me over.
Over the top and off I went. Within a mile or so I had passed quite and few guys and gals. The warrior within had stirred and I had moved up to third lady. I was flying. And on the final stretch going into Kinlochleven, I quite literary was. At the steep bit just by the pipeline, I tripped. Not quite sure of the sequence, but I took the knees out of my compression tights, skint my hands, rolled and banged my shoulder and hip...and ended up splat on my back on top of my bottle belt. And as if I wasn't feeling uncomfortable enough, my calf cramped. So there I was in star-shape on my back with my leg at a 90 degree angle and all I could think about was not losing any places.
I managed to pull it together, although I arrived in Kinlochleven a little shaky. Even Pete's fist shakes and shouts of "you're a warrior" seemed a bit out of context considering I was hobbling and bleeding. When I met Allybea I was wiping blood and mud of myself and cursing the "f-king road-runners" that I had to stay ahead of.
I passed another two blokes up to Lairig Mor. Instead of the notorious soul-sucking ability the Lairig Mor was array with smiling walkers, who cheered me and shouted encouragement when I passed.
I could see the Gibbering Midget (2nd lady) about a mile in front most of the way across, but I knew I'd never catch her. And I was pretty certain that nobody would catch me, so I took the foot off the gas and just concentrated on sustaining my position for the SUMS points.
I'd winded myself when I landed on my back during my fall, so I could only manage shallow breaths. My hands and knees were stinging and I was generally willing it be over. Lundarva came and went with a change of shoes and a bottle of coke. Thankfully Alison and Caroline confirmed I was third lady - as the medic on the Mor told me I was 5th!
To be honest, I don't really remember must about the final journey to Fort William. Other that hurting, moaning and generally spitting the dummy. I pretty much walked the last mile from Braveheart carpark, as - quite literally - even breathing hurt.
There was no joyous finale, I just crossed and slumped on the grass. I had kept my position and finished third lady and 19th overall in a time of 7:23. Slower than last year by about 15 minutes, but hey-ho, it was less upbeat and slightly more dramatic.
Thanks to Alison for top-notch back-up and to all those who organised the race and helped out.
Congratulations to all who conquered and all who fought well.