Tuesday, 23 June 2009

WHW 2009

Well, I did it but boy was it hard. Incredibly hard.
Lets go back to Friday. I had decided to pick my sister, Elizabeth (Liz to harriers) up from Glasgow airport which meant a 4am rise. My logic was that I would have had some sleep and could pick her up, go shoping for last minute supplies then go back to bed for several more hours sleep. Sadly it didnt work out that well and I probably dosed 2hrs in the afternoon but spent several hours horizontal.
I tried for sleep again at 8pm but no chance, I was far too tense.
Phil arrived at 10.30 and we were on our way to Milngavie by 11 and there by 12.
The registration was straightforward and then I gave blood for some research that was being done. There were lots of cameras around as well. The adventure show were covering the race this year.
After Dario's preamble we were ready for the off.
I lined up next to Ian who seemed more than a little tense and off we went into the night.
Our first 100yds were along the High St and several worse for wear youths tried to get involved in the race but gave up fairly soon.
The 1st section to Drymen was OK. I ran most of it with Ian and chatting helped pass the time. I had a mild Achilles pain but it wasnt to prove to be a problem. I couldnt decide wether it was drizzling or not and after a while and a few bites it became obvious that the midges were out in force. They were to be constant companions for the 1st 50miles!
Drymen was reached in 2hrs and I jogged up through the forest to meet Phil at Garadhan carpark. Poor chap was trying to fend midges off and help me at he same time. I had something to eat and headed off again after a few mins.
The section over Conic Hill to Balmaha was a real low point for me. I just couldnt get going at all. I gave an interview to a media type whilst ascending Conic Hill. Surely a surreal moment at 4am. The views were very good at the top and I did stop to take it in. I knew I was going to struggle down. I had my usual slip and fell on my arse. I then realised I was very wet and it became clear the end of my water pipe had come off in my fall. If I lost that I didnt have a spare. So I spent several mins looking and did find it. The run off the hill was dire and slow and I got into Balmaha at 3hr 40min. Phil was there but I didnt stop.
Things did pick up after that. The section to Rowardennan went well. I stopped to have some soup and picked up some supplies. Phil was very good telling me I was doing fine but I just didn't feel it was going as it should.
After that I knew I had 18miles before I next saw my support.
At this stage I had given up worrying about the midges.My legs and arms were covered in bites. Phil had tried to scrape some out of my eyes but it was all rather futile.
Again, the next bit to Inversnaid Hotel was OK. I reached it in reasonable time and was probably 30min behind schedule.No big deal.
However the next bit was not good. It was with great relief that I got north of the worst 3m of the course. Going over to Glen Falloch there was another film crew. I had nothing very original for the camera and dare say I will end up on the cutting room floor.
Getting through Beinn Glas was good. I knew I was only 4m from the 2 Lizs. I really needed to see some friendly faces and was feeling very low. To be honest I was tearful which sounds pathetic now. I just felt so sorry for myself and I wasn't even halfway.
It's at these points in the race it all comes home just what a completely brutal race this is. I was covered in midge bites, sleep deprived, very tired and still had 50m to go. Not a good prospect.
Eventually I reached Carmyle cottage where there was a great welcome from the crowd and my long awaited support team.
I wasnt really eating much now and hadnt since I last saw Phil. I really tried to force some soup down but and I tried a sandwich but it just wasnt happening.
After 25min Liz (sis) chucked me out and I crawled over the hill to Glen Dochart. It was here I had the bad fall in the Fling so I was being v careful.
I ran into Auchtertyre pretty well probably because it was flat and a decent surface (a rare combination).
This was the 1st weigh in and I had lost over 4kg !! I was over what I was allowed to lose for the whole race so that was a real worry.
On to Tyndrum (hi Kaz and Al) then on to Bridge of Orchy. I quite enjoyed the approach to B.O.O. After that I was allowed a support runner which was fantastic. Liz(sis) accompanied me to Blackrock cottage. It was such a help having someone fresh and chatty to be with and I was very grateful. Rannoch Moor was largely unremarkable. We kept getting passed by the same chap who we never seemed to pass ourselves (strange).
At Blachrock Phil rejoined us and then ran with me to the end. Kaz and Al were there again which was great. Again I rejected all food offered. I was surviving on gels and toffees from memory.
It was good to run with Phil. He chatted about the Lions game and lots of other subjects to distract me.
We headed up the Devil's staircase with me feeling not too bad but then the biggest drop in energy hit me. I felt as if every ounce of glucose in my body had run out. I had had thoughts of not finishing several times already but this really felt serious. In the end I sat down and ate something and that seemed to get me up but very slowly. The down to Kinlochleven wasnt great but at least I was making progress.
At KLL the midges were a serious menace again. I hadnt lost anymore weight so would be allowed to carry on(mixed blessing). Kaz and Al were still there although Kaz seemed intimidated by the midges and had retreated under a hood (wish I had). I wanted to push on to get as much of the Lairig Mhor done in daylight as possible and it was starting to go.
We did the 1000foot climb up pretty well. I dont understand how energy levels can fluctuate so dramatically.
The Lairig Mhor was difficult and soul destroying. You can see where you've got to go for miles.
It went dark about half an hour before we reached Lundavra. Liz(wife) was joining the run here much to her surprise but it was great to have her company.
We pushed on through the woods. I actually fell off the path at one point which was a bad moment especially when my calf cramped.
At last we emerged into Glen Nevis. 2 girls who had just passed us ran back to give us a can of Red Bull( they were to regret that).
We were able to run down quite well which was the first running I had done for a couple of hours.
As we ran down it got easier. We must have run for at least 20min at a decent jog and then we emerged through Braveheart carpark onto the road and 1mile to go.
Now something very strange happened here. I hadnt been able to run at anything like a half decent pace since B.O.O. which was 34miles back and I suddenly discovered Icould run at what felt like a decent pace. And it just got better. I shot past the Red Bull girls and sprinted for Fort William. I would say I was running 7min mile pace which doesnt seem possible but it happened. My only regret is that we left Liz behind but she soon joined us in the leisure centre.
25 hrs and 40min!
I came 64th out of 122 finishers.
So despite the fact that I had a very tough and largely unhappy run I did OK.
At the end I just felt sheer relief that is was all over.
The leisure centre was v warm and I sat down. Gus made me some tea and toast and I chatted to Amanda who was doing massages.
Then I had a shower and went back to give blood and weigh in. I hadnt lost anymore weight but after giving blood lost most of my blood pressure. I retired to the toilet and discovered that I hadnt digested much in the last 12 hours, it was still in my stomach or at least it had been. It was now in the bin. Liz tended to me.She is a very nice person.
Then we headed off to the B&B were i became unconcious until breakfast.
To anyone that reads this I want to make it perfectly clear that my support team are the best there is. I couldnt have done the race without them and I am enourmously grateful for all they did for me.


  1. Well done Phil. Sounds as though you had a tough time but you made it!

    Look forward to seeing you on Saturday.


  2. Yes, very well done. Your support team are really good, but not quite as good as mine... :)

  3. Well done. You did it. The pain will fade and you'll remember it differently in a few months.

    Liked the brief description of retiring to the toilet. Liz gave me a much more graphic account! She is indeed a VERY nice person :)

    We'd love to see you on Sat, even if it's a just a quick pop in.

    Much love

    Ali x

  4. Firstly well done Phil, since I did not finish this again I am full of admiration and envy. Not in a bad way though. I just feel having completed this is a remarkable achievement.

    And I heard that a lot that people had an unhappy race and did not really enjoy it. I hope (and I almost know) that feeling fades away eventually.


  5. well sone phil a true champion and an inspiration

    allan mooney

  6. Absolutely epic effort, Phil. Amazing to ignore the demons and carry on when you didn't think you could.

    Very well done.


  7. Hi Phill,

    I tried to post a post last week, but it appears it did not load! You did fantastically. It is truely impossible to describe the feeling in your legs after coming over those ruddy roots after Inversnaid. To keep moving relentlessly forward therarefter is tough when feeling tickety boo in yourself, but when tired and low is stoicism in the extreme!
    Rest well.