Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Highland Fling - 30th April

 This was my first time at the Highland Fling (or ‘The Fling’ as it seems to be more commonly known) and I was looking forward to spending some time running on the West Highland Way – something I’d not really done before.  The route takes in the southern 53 miles of the WHW from Milngavie to Tyndrum - the top section is another race, the ‘Devil of the Highlands’ which I might try in the future - and is regarded as being the easier ‘half’ (also on the list is the full WHW race in June).  There is a staggered start and by the time I arrived at 8am for the Senior Male/Elite start, some had been going for a full 2hours already.  We arrived far too early and with no queues, I was registered (i.e I had picked up my timing chip from a particularly chipper lady on the desk!) and had deposited my three drop bags in under 2 minutes.  After 45mins of small talk/keeping warm and the race briefing (“let someone know if you drop out – have a good day!” – brilliant!) we were gathered in an underpass awaiting the start.  The plan was to see if I could run 50+ miles comfortably.  It sounds ridiculous but I felt that given my BG training and level of fitness it should be possible, so I set off at a steady pace.  The terrain for the first 15miles of so was more rolling than highlands and it was tricky not to go too fast.  I settled into a reasonable pace and met some really nice blokes (the women all left at 6am), none of whom I met before – this was a really different crowd to the usual Runfurther races.  I passed through Drymen without making any errors in navigation (the only slight deviation from the main WHW) and was eating as much as I could before the heat burnt up my appetite.  The only significant climb of the race is over the side of Conic Hill, approaching the Balmaha CP and my legs didn’t appreciate the steep descent into the car park – I was worried I might pay for that later.  A sandwich and half a can of coke later and I was off to Rowardwenna.  I found I lost a bit of focus on this section, neglected to drink and eat as much as I should (especially as the sun was now beating down on us) and I suffered a bit with the monotony of the path.  In retrospect I should have maintained a quicker pace here as this was my worst split (compared to the rest of the field) of the whole race and I arrived at the CP in need of some reviving.  Some food and another coke did the trick and I was back on the trail towards Inversnaid.  Everyone I had met on the race so far had warned me about this section – “take it easy up to Inversnaid, there are boulders and roots, some folk find it really tough” – but it was this section that I really started to feel good.  I was passing people regularly (apart from the relay runners, although I kept pace with a few) and I felt much more at home on the technical trail.  For the first time ever during a trail/fell race I had my ipod plugged in and I was flying along!  The scenery from Inversnaid to Benin Glas was some of the best I’ve ever seen on a race in the UK, the weather was glorious (although not great from a running perspective!)  and it was difficult not to be distracted by the views across the northern tip of Loch Lomond and beyond into the Highlands.
The view over Loch Lomond from Conic Hill
 I did run out of water on this section and I was looking forward to my drop bag at Benin Glas where I had stashed another can of coke.  The only problem was, when I arrived, the can had burst and not only had the coke seeped away but my food was rendered inedible – disaster!  Fortunately, I scrounged some drinks from the ‘spares’ box and I munched on a Peperami from my rucksack.  The final 12 and a bit miles were allegedly straightforward and I cracked on hopeful of a finish as close to 10hrs as possible.  I was still passing people regularly and as far I am aware I wasn’t passed by a single runner on the full route from Inversnaid until the end.  There were some sorry sights as runners were succumbing to the heat and several looked like they were in survival mode until the finish.  I was feeling reasonably good and a mix of salt tabs, Hammer Endurolyte Fizz and Cliff Shot Bloks kept me well hydrated and I felt in surprisingly good shape.  The section did go on for an age though and after crossing the road 3 times we were eventually in sight of the end.  As I approached the finish I was greeted by a pair of pipers who got me pretty excited and sure enough, there was a crowd just around the corner and my journey on the WHW was over.  10’32” was my time in the end, pretty respectable I think given the conditions and that it was my first attempt.  I’ll be back to improve on it in the future no doubt.

Approaching the finish in Tyndrum
Thanks to all the organisers and volunteers who made the day possible. 

Recovering with some technical sports recovery drink


  1. Great read once again , and great result good luck with BG

    Richard Webster

  2. What rucksack is that?

  3. good luck with the taper and your attempt big guy, looking forward to some more chat on future ultra's.

  4. Anonymous - it's a North Face Enduro 13. I'd recommend it, I've been after a pack with easy access to 2 bottles for years.

  5. Is it comfortable and big enough? Thanks.

  6. You finished before the inevitable demise of the insufficient beer supplies? Well run.