... And they do! In every respect, and even a pb every year for me, what more could you want?!
As I said in my preview post I wasn't sure if I was going to suffer because of all the big mileage I've been putting in and in the end I don't think I did, but I don't think it's improved me much either... yet, it's all miles in the bank for the West Highland Way race in June, that's the plan.
The Highland Fling has got to be the best value race in the calender. It is superbly organised and is run over a course which tests a whole range of skills, with the flat and fast 13 miles to Drymen, the very technical sections up Loch Lomond and the hilly miles at the end. This means that judging your pace is really important and also a bit tricky. Go out too fast and you'll pay dearly later on, as I found out. I think if I'd dropped my pace a fraction up to Drymen I'd have been much stronger on the Loch-side, something to remember for WHW.
The new system of staggered starts was implemented this year with the Ladies and Super-Vets going out an hour earlier which meant we got to hunt down women and old people to get to the beer and stovies first at the finish. This turned out to be really good with loads of encouragement from everyone I passed and seeing friendly faces gave a real boost at some of the low points.
For me, there was a few of those.
My stomach was bad from the start, and just got worse as the race went on, with numerous pit stops in the woods giving temporary respite, but the worst thing was I just couldn't eat. I think I ate about 6 gels and some sweets on the 53 miles along with my energy drinks which sloshed around in my stomach like a washing machine on full spin cycle, all I could think about for most of the race was crossing the finish line and having a real good spew!
That wasn't to be though.
The Crazy German had other ideas as, with about 5 miles to go he overtook looking fresh as a gänseblümchen. I already had swapped places with Iain R about 20 times in the race and he wasn't for letting go so potentially I could drop another place and who knows, were the cavalry fast approaching from behind? So, I decided it was now or never, let go on the descent to the A82, passed the Crazy German, and hoped I could keep the pace going to the finish. I never saw anyone behind me after that, and believe me I had a few glances over my shoulder, and managed to hang on until the river just before the end where I started to cramp up quite badly but the sight of the bouncy castle spurred me on and by the time I realised it wasn't a bouncy castle I was finished. The energetic finish had, ironically, sorted my stomach out so it wasn't long before I was enjoying the complimentary stovies and beer. A pb of 8:18 and 1st team prize rounded off a great day.
Thanks to Murdo, Ellen all involved in the organisation, to Debbie and Silke for the encouragement and to all the other runners and supporters for making it a great day on the trails, also to the club who generously put me up in the bunkhouse and provided a great feed as well!
Report on Scottish Athletics Website