Wednesday, 15 April 2009
(The Morning After) The First Big Weekend of the Summer
4 Days, 180 miles, approx 26 000' ascent/descent and a few calories consumed
Bleary-eyed I looked out from under the bedcovers. Clothes lay in a heap where they'd fallen as I'd chucked them off and staggered into bed. A top with jam stains and chocolate milk spilt all down the front, snot stains on the sleeves. Trousers too with chocolate milk dribbled down a leg. A long dead camel-bak with all the life sooked out of it peaking out from under cover of a rucksack. A pair of tatty looking shoes betraying my route home. I staggered out of bed, still feeling the effects in my legs and the memories of what I'd been doing slowly started to come back to me. I'd sunk a whole lot of miles far too quickly and on an empty stomach, but no it wasn't that... it was that last mile that did it... it was a bad one, I'm sure of it.
This is what a Big Weekend is, no peering out to look at an old pizza box and inspecting my muddy shoes to try and work out how I got home... oh no! A Big Weekend is something completely different now. The morning after is now about mouldy camel-baks and congealed fruit pastilles in a stinky bum-bag. About being woken up not by a thumping head but a rumbling tummy and running, not to the bathroom to puke, but to the kitchen to get some food in before I start to feel rough.
Milngavie's got a lot to answer for I thought as I jogged through the pedestrian shopping area at about 10.30am on a Saturday morning. I looked pretty mad, like some sort of MDS reject who got lost on the way, but I'm used to it so I barely noticed the stares and the old wifies running for cover. I had a plan. Problem was I hadn't stuck to it. I was about 2 1/2 hours late in leaving the car but I just put that to the back of my mind and adopted my usual attitude of "it'll all work out in the end" anyway I'm sure I'd packed my torch.
My legs were stiff and sore because I'd had a hard session the day before, so it was all pain and rubbish running all the way to the top of Loch Lomond. I had arranged to meet Lucy in Tyndrum at about 6pm because she was also up training in the area, and there was no way I was going to make it so I thought I'd better phone and let her know. The conversation went roughly as follows...
"I'm at the top of the Loch and its going to be about 2 1/2 hours before I make Tyndrum"
"Oh, ok. I could come and give you a lift if you like?"
" No, I couldn't do that... I have to do the whole thing"
"Ok, so you think about 2 1/2 hours?"
"Are you sure you don't want a lift?"
"Ok, when can you get here??"
Yes, Mr Weakwilled bailed out 10 miles short! Ah well, the guy at the bothy cheered me up as I passed when he asked me if I could spare him a cigarette!! I know I wasn't looking too healthy at the time but what the...!
Day 2 was going to be different though because I was meeting up with the WHW training group to run up to Fort William. This meant I'd have some company and they would also pull me a long a bit. It didn't really work out that way because I was just too slow, they were looking for a good fast training run and I had the next two days on my mind so it was a bit of a mis-match. It was good to chat with the guys for the first few miles and also to meet some of them for the first time, but for most of the run I was chasing dots in the distance. It was great to finally get into Fort Bill though, I'd had a list of things I was going to eat lined up so I made my way straight to Tesco on the High Street... and you guessed it, they closed 5 minutes before I got there along with just about everywhere else. I was saved by the Chinese though, where I unwrapped my curried chips as soon as I was outside and ate them walking along the road to the B&B. Once I was in and showered I then ordered a delivery, a 12" pizza, chips and pakora, inhaled the lot and was soon off to sleep... only to wake up in the night and eat all the biscuits I had left. What a night of debauchery!
So Day 3, and with a belly full of porridge, toast and tea I walked into town to meet Victor who was going to run to Tyndrum with me. We got to Morrisons and surprise surprise, I was starving so I nipped in and bought four cakes, a bar of chocolate, some chocolate milk and one of these canned latte drinks. I had scoffed the lot by the time Victor had parked the car and so fuelled up again we headed to the start of the way. We soon got going at a good pace and in no time we were in Kinlochleven and down to the Co-Op for supplies. A couple of bags of crisps, chocolate bar, chocolate milk and 2 bottles of Coke later (Victor had some food too!) we were off again on the big climb out. I felt great at this point and ran the whole climb, getting to the top and keeping the pace going but it wasn't to last, by the time I reached Kingshouse the wheels were off and I had to go into the hotel for some more crisps and coke. The weather had turned a bit crappy by the time I left and it was a drizzly mist blowing in my face all the way over Rannoch Moor that really got me down. With about 36 miles down I plodded into Bridge of Orchy station and sheltered in the underpass guzzling the last of the biscuits, Victor appeared having come back to look for me and we set off again. I was determined to keep a meaningful pace going because this was the whole point of the run, to train myself to really keep it going when my body was in bits. So I was quite pleased to maintain the pace all the way to Tyndrum being mindful that I still had 53 miles to go the next day so I had to keep something in reserve. So, like all true Scottish athletes the only thing left to do was get to the chippy before it shut, and we only just made it, getting a fishcake supper to go and then it was off to the bunkhouse for food and sleep.
Day 4 started in the Green Welly stocking up on biscuits and Coke then Victor headed north back to Fort Bill and I started on the 53 mile run south to Milngavie. After about 6 miles or so I reached the hilly section near Crianlarich and the miles really started to take their toll, the climbs seemed to go on forever and the boggy section higher up was a real pain (literally!). As I came past Derrydarroch Farm my thoughts started to drift towards the shop at Beinglas and Snickers bars, coffee, maybe even ice cream... not far now. So as I rounded the building and saw the shop all closed up you can imagine my disappointment! I consoled myself with some now broken and bashed biscuits and some watery coke mixture and started to dream of the Inversnaid Hotel a good 8 or so very rough and rugged miles away. The weather was very nice now with the sunshine quite warm, I passed by the bothy again, had a look inside and who should be sitting there but the cigarette man from the other day! We had a short chat then I carried on dreaming of refreshments at Inversnaid. By the time I got there it was quite busy with a coach load of oldies milling around and the sound of Pandrops being munched was definitely to be heard... I pushed my way into the bar to be kept waiting for ages before getting just as awful service as on the way up (at least they're consistent) but I was happy to be leaving with my supplies. I quickly inhaled a sandwich, then was off down the loch again. It's really surprising how different it all looks going the other way and also with such tired legs, the endless boulders, tree-roots and undulating trail kept me well entertained (!) all the way to my next pit stop at Rowardennon, where I stopped briefly for a fill up of the camel-bak and a couple of bags of crisps then it was off on the final 27 miles. I tried not to think about it but I'd been going for a very long time and 27 miles was still a long way, just keep moving forward and keep the pace "meaningful" that was my mantra. The rugged outcrops just before Balmaha weren't as bad as I'd built them up to be in my mind and I was soon on Conic Hill in the warm evening sun. That was tough. It was a real slog on tired legs all the way up but it was nice to chat to a couple of walkers who cheered me up and had me running down the other side and into the forest with renewed energy, and down to Drymen.
This was where the real training would begin. The road. I'd thought about it all day how I was going to reach this point, the most runnable of the day yet I was going to be knackered... and I was. This was where it counted, the part where I had to show my head that the body could do it, the pain was just something to be overcome not to be given in to. Also I knew it was going to get dark before I finished so I had to get as much ground covered in the light as possible because with my tiny torch held together with elastic bands I wouldn't be moving very fast (it was very lightweight though!) So, I dug into the depths of my reserves and started to run as even a pace as I could. After a few miles some cyclists whizzed past and then turned round and came back. " Are you the guy we saw today near Inversnaid?" they asked. When I told them I was and then after they asked me where I'd come from etc, they shook their heads and spun off down the road again. Strange chaps.
I kept my pace going nice and evenly all the way to Milngavie, except to stop for a few minutes at a bench looking over the park just to have a wee thought to myself about my journey, and at around 9.15pm, 12 1/2 hours after leaving Tyndrum I reached the door of the Milngavie chippy. Single fish, lightly salted and vinegared in hand, I walked back to my car. Mission accomplished.