Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Highland Fling 2015 - Breaking the curse.

The short(ish) version.

Every time I have returned to a race (longer than a half marathon) for a second attempt I have always come away with a worse result. This has become a bit of a devil on my back, and provided extra pressure when I have gone to races (as if there wasn't already enough). So going into the Highland Fling this year I was feeling more nervous than normal.  I have been super focused with my training and committed myself to trying to break the curse.

You got to fake it to make it - pretending all is great...
The two weeks leading up to the race were far from ideal, and carrying the hamstring and shoulder injuries meant I was feeling pretty negative come race-morning.  I had put in the work and should have been brimming with confidence but the right hand side of my body was yet again letting me down.
I decided to put myself at the back of the starting pen so that I could set off on my own; try and find a comfortable pace and not get pulled or pushed along. The idea worked and I set off at what should have felt a ridiculously easy pace. It didn't.  It was hard work. Too hard.   And I just couldn't shift that feeling.

A sensible descent is not always the best choice - coming off Conic
Everything just felt wrong.  I tried to be sensible coming off Conic (not my normal way of coming downhills - I like to belt down them!) and ended up tweaking my ankle. I managed to get through the check point at Balmaha swiftly, taking the time to read the wee message I left for myself on my dropbag.  Balmaha to Rowardennan is my least favourite section of the route and inevitably I remained in my funk all the way to the halfway point of the race.

This was the turnaround part of the race for me.  I love the next sections.  They are my favourite part of the West Highland Way.  A few motivational words from fellow clubmate Craig, and meeting/chatting to some fellow runners really lifted my spirits.  Sandra's positivity was a great distraction from my pain.  Craig and Sandra then featured repeatedly in the race from thereafter and I was very glad of it.  Then Susan was marshalling at Inversnaid and again, she was full of encouragement.

Feeding frenzy at Rowardennan (with clubmate Craig in foreground)
I love the technical lochside section.  it's completely my cup of tea.  I knew even if  felt rubbish I could run well along here because of the technical nature.  Plus because you have to think about what you are doing it means you get a little distraction from whatever is going on in your head.  I knew that if I could get into Beinglas (41 miles) before 8:30 hours then even if I have a shocker over the last section I should still be on for a personal best.

Beinglas came, and I was on target.  I motored through, barely able to say hello to the DRC relay team before I headed up on the final section.  Hills were killing me because of my hamstring but I tired to run for at least half of them and only walk when I absolutely had to.  The picture of myself running along the red carpet at the finish was the only thing in my head now.  The worst was over.  I just had to knuckle down, grit my teeth and get the job done.  Again I met Craig, and again he was a real pleasure to run with.  I felt bad that he wasn't haven't the best time due to some major blister issues, but at the same time I was grateful for his company.  We finally parted ways just south of cow poo alley (which was shockingly dry!) and he told me to "Go and get that pb."  Other runners around us said that I was in with a shot of sub 11 hours if I really pushed.  I didn't believe them, but I pushed forward anyway.  Just to see.  I was constantly looking at my garmin, literally every quarter mile, trying to do the maths, and all the time thinking it's not possible.  My legs were seething in pain.  I walked a bit.  I scolded myself. "Just keep running!" I shouted.

Past the wigwams, under the road, and onto the final sections of signal track.  A troop of about 15 or 20 children were coming towards me along the track.  I don't know if they were a scout troop or something like that but they were cheering and whistling and I got loads of high-fives from them.  I hope everyone got to pass these amazing kids because they were fantastic.

I was starting to feel emotional but had to keep it together as it's impossible to run well when you're bawling your eyes out! 'Get a grip Vicky, think of the photos!'  Then just as I arrived at the gate with 500m to go, Pauline was out giving support in those final precious quiet moments before you hit all the fanfare of the finish line.  Again I checked my garmin.  "Oh geez, I could ACTUALLY do this," I finally thought!

I heard the bagpipes.  I saw the bagpipes.  I hit the road, turned the corner.  I saw Jacob (clubmate) shouting along to Paul.  I knew he was just round the corner.  I had hoped to run with both Daniel and Annabel along to the finish but it was going to be really tight so in my head I decided it was best just to take Annabel.  Round the corner and there they were.  "Annabel!" I screamed as kept running.  She saw me and started running.  "Run with mummy, run with mummy!" I called to her and she grabbed my hand and we 'sprinted' down the red carpet together.  It was utterly magical.  And as we crossed the finish line we BOTH got medals! I was absolutely buzzing.  I couldn't quite believe it.  I had surpassed my expectations. It's a long time since I have been able to say that about a race.

And I got to finish with Annabel beside me and Paul and Daniel close by.  A family finish to what has definitely been a family affair.  Without their support during my training and their belief in me, this would never have happened.  Thank you xx.

What a day!  From everything going so wrong in the first half, to everything going right in the second half, to a magical race finish.  What more could you want?

John Duncan and his team, all the marshalls, the drop bag helpers, the supporters on the route, the fellow runners, my fellow club mates, my ultra friends all helped create a truely special race for me and I have some very precious memories that I will cherish.  Thank you to you all.

The money shot!!


Rowardennan (halfway) - 5:02:41         326th position.
Tyndrum (finish)            - 10:58:52       242nd position, 32nd lady

30 minute PB!


Tailwind, naked flavour - 36oz per section.  (I drink a lot!)  This stuff is magic.
Cashew nuts and chia charge flapjack - section 1
Banana at each checkpoint.
1 High5 caffeine gel before Rowardennan, 2 in each section thereafter.

No stomach issues!  Happy days.


John Kynaston said...

Congratulations Vicky. A superb run and I really enjoyed your race report.

I hope your finishing photo will be printed out, framed and hanging somewhere prominent in your house!

See you at the Cateran?

Flip said...

An excellent run and great blog. :-)