Monday, 2 May 2011

HIghland Fling 2011

On Saturday, for the first time, I finished an ultra-marathon with the same number of toenails as I had started with. This is just one of the reasons why I am pleased with how the Highland Fling went for me.

I spent the preceding week eating like a horse and not doing any running, so by Saturday morning the tanks were full (and then some) and I felt raring to go. I was out of bed just before six for a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee then left the house a bit earlier than I needed to as I wanted to stop and see my dad running somewhere near Dumgoyne as I drove over to Milngavie. Dad was starting at 6am so the timing was perfect and I saw him at the bottom of Dumgoyach just where the WHW joins the old railway. Just about everyone looked very comfortable at this stage - unfortunately Rosie Bell had fallen and cut her leg very badly so I was glad to be able to give her a lift back to Milngavie.

I started at 8am and took it very very easy through the woods. I'd started between the 10 hour and 11 hour signs in the underpass, and was probably about a third of a way down the field as we crossed the line. As soon as we started, loads of folk went running past me and by the time we were heading down the hill from Carbeth I think I was almost in last pace. I was sticking to my planned pace though and reckoned I would see most of the folk that had gone past me later in the day. I ran a short section near the start with Colin Knox - I follow his blog so it was good to meet him.

I went through Drymen at 1:57, about a minute up on my 10:15 schedule and feeling very comfortable. As we climbed onto Conic Hill I started to pass people who had started quicker than me. I felt great going up the hill - I guess that is the benefit of only really doing hilly runs when I'm training. Loch Lomond looked stunning from Conic Hill - what a day.

I got to Balmaha at 3:13, now about four minutes ahead of my 10:15 schedule and still feeling good. I saw my sister and her kids a few hundred metres before the Balmaha car park, and my three nephews ran down the track to the car park with me which was good fun. I got a text to tell me that my dad had gone through Balmaha in 3:14, so for the timebeing I was winning the family race, though only just. I reached Rowardennan in 4:37, still a few minutes up on schedule, then Inversnaid in 6:04.

Over the course of the race I was drinking a carton of Alpro UHT chocolate soya milk every hour, eating a pack of salt and vinegar ryvita minis every couple of hours, and drinking plenty water. It seemed to work well, and I had some coke or energy drink at a couple of points to give myself a boost. The soya milk cartons were really good - everytime I started to feel a bit low on energy I would have one and ten minutes later I felt much better. I reckon they are as good as any energy gel I have had.

I had been passing other runners steadily since Drymen - my main aim for the race was to get to Beinglas feeling good and not to suffer over the final 12 miles as I had done two years previously. Between Inversnaid and Beinglas I started to feel the heat a bit so slowed down, drank some more water and appreciated the view.

I reached Beinglas in 7:34, about 5 minute up on schedule. I had been feeling good up to this point and had kept telling myself not to push and to stick to the plan. I left Beinglas feeling strong and thinking that if I could go 10 minutes quicker than my schedule over the last 12 miles than I would get to the finish in under 10 hours.

Game on.

By Derrydarroch I was 5 minutes up on the JK mini-splits for the Beinglas to Tyndrum section, and I was able to run most of the section to the big gate and reached it 10 minutes up on the mini-splits. I think I'd probably over done it along the track to the big gate as I started to feel a bit rubbish going through the woods and slowed down a bit. At Auchtertyre I was 11 minutes up, and kept running (cheered on by Muriel Gray no less) as well as I could. A few hundred metres from the finish I passed Dave Troman, who unfortunately hadn't been able to run due to injury, who gave me a big cheer and that kept me going to finish in 9:53. I was delighted to get under 10 hours, and it was good to know I should have finished under 10 hours on the slightly longer old course.

I saw my dad at the finish - he'd suffered a bit in the heat later on and had finished in 10:55, which was still good enough for second over-60. He's looking good for the over-70s race in 2013 though. We left Tyndrum quite soon after I finished so that I could get home in time to give my wife a hand getting the kids into bed - it would have been nice to hang around and meet some of the people whose blogs I've been following, but I didn't want to miss the next installment of Astrosaurs.

I was really pleased with the way I'd paced myself. My placings were 187th at Drymen, 107th at Rowardennan, 65th at Beinglas then 50th at Tyndrum. I was 16th fastest over the final twelve miles, which I'm astounded by. My game plan had been to start easy and finish strong, which is pretty much what I did. The fact that in 7 weeks time I would be trying to run almost twice as far always at the back of my mind, and it was good to finish feeling like I could have gone on. I usually cope quite well running in the heat so I think that helped on Saturday.

It's been good to read other people's reports of the day, and it seems like most people enjoyed the day though they found it tough in the heat. It was a fantastic event to take part in, and I'd like to add my thanks to Murdo and Ellen and all of the helpers on the day who made it such a great event.


  1. Well done Ali. A great example of how it SHOULD be done!

  2. Hi Ali,
    yes sorry i didnt catch up with you (you where too fast lol), but well done on a great race your looking good for june....

  3. Excellent run Ali and great report to.

    A lot of people could learn from your discipline especially early on. Well done.

    I was interested to note that we were very similar time wise to Beinglas but you were almost 30mins faster than me to Tyndrum.

    If you stick to your game plan for the whw then a sub 20 is definitely possible.

    Did you get my splits for the full race?

  4. Looks like you actually ran my race better than I did here, Ali, and (believe me) that's praise! ;-)

    Have to say I also like Conic Hill, which I don't regard as a significant obstacle (always enjoying the sense of expanding freedom I see as the true 'start' as it approaches, with that long rise after Rowardennan being far more taxing in my book). And think we could see 30 runners go sub-20 in June with enough starters, but that's another story!

  5. Starting easy and finishing strong is everyone's goal, but few can actually pull it off. Congrats for sticking with your game plan!

  6. That was good going, Ali. You sounded strong through to the end and got an excellent time in the process. I'm intrigued by that soya milk fuelling.

  7. brilliant stuff ali and congrats to your dad..must run in the family (npi)