Raw stunning beauty, mental madness, brill new friends and a challenging adventure.Race Across Scotland UGB

This should have been named the race that nearly wasn’t, and was and nearly never happened! It was a rollercoaster of events leading up to the race but here I was at the line, a little worse for wear due to little sleep on the Friday night and an awful two weeks at work.

i had been having Physio on my knee from  Scott Woodhead  for 5 weeks after sustaining an impact injury on the WHW on 23rd June 18. I had tripped and  fallen  9 miles into the race  and then ran/walked a further 90 miles to finish the race. I had quite a painful recovery going back to basics, strength building  and no running whilst recovering.

I had not been able to  run up until 2 weeks before the  event. I had met with my coach Ronnie Staton and he gave me some more exercises and then had planned some  minimal running as this was now my taper time.  The physio then said that he believed that my knee would now hold up and that gave me a real boost (as I know he is not keen on ultras).   I knew I was not at the peak of fitness but  had good base training that may see me through the race and the plan was to be on the start line and see how I did.

In some respects this plan worked for me as there was no pressure other than to try to finish.

Ian, my hubbie, didn’t finish work until 6pm on Friday we were late setting off and arrived at a lay-by 45 minutes from Portpatrick at 1am Saturday.  I had been catnapping on the way up and then managed to get a few hours sleep . Not ideal preparation but I was up and ready to go at 3.30am  and we  headed off to the start.

THE START PORTPATRICK

I was at the start at  4.30am  and there were a few bleary eyed helpers around. I registered, got my number and tracker but didn’t get my starting photo done  as I think it was too early. I handed in my drop bags, had breakfast  and waited for the start with nervous apprehension but excitement too. I felt ready but had no idea how I would cope or my knee would hold up. I had a chat  with Colin Green and Jane, his wife   and my coach Ronnie Staton at the start, put my finishers t shirt away.   I am not keen on getting the finishers  at the start of the race so always put them out of sight. Then I  went  down to the start line with all the other nervous and excited runners. .  There  was a 10 minute delay then we were off!

The route  swept round the coast and I loved the sea views. I tried to imagine seeing the same view on the other coast and it reminded me of setting off from Southport last year for Hornsea on the UGB200.  I was taking it easy and running  along and then we left the coast and headed in land .It was a long climb away from the coast and I was hot and took my coat off assisted by runners around me who kindly held my bag.

CP1at Castle Kennedy  seemed to come around soon. I was asked for my cup but as it was early when I registered I had not got one given with my tracker.  Another  runner gave me his spare cup which was really nice. I was still assessing my knee and a little nervous of putting too much effort in. I was taking my time maybe a little too slow. There was plenty of opportunities to run which I did and the route was good. I had my poles with me and used them as I was still a little nervous about falling but gradually used them less as I went on.

As we got further inland , the  route became more hilly which I enjoy  and I was chatting with different runners. I first met Katy McGowan before Glen Trool and it was a long haul off the route to reach the CP. It seemed to go on forever up a long road through a wooded park. I saw Colin going back to the route and Craig Edwards who was in fine spirits. I was happy to be at  the CP to replenish my water and food and then went back out on the route.

I caught  up with Katy again  and we ended up meeting up with two other runners including Jose from Spain and  running as a small crew together. I was aware that the next part of the route  was a hilly and technical as I had recee’d it  in May and knew that in the dark it  was more treacherous. We carefully picked our way over the rocks and through the long ferns trying to see the path.  We went off route once and  we backtracked to the last point we were on route and soon found the path. We had a laugh on route but were aware that we each had our own race and may not be together for long.

Just before the first main CP were my first drop bag was,  there was the awful bog that I had been dreading. . There was a note on a board before the turning,  for a route round and we attempted this but we could not find the way and realised that we had to go back and we had wasted time and added more mileage. I struggled  a bit over the bog but made it with the great support from the others, soon we were at CP4 John St Dalry .

I decided to change my shoes as I had heard that it was a boggy wet route over to Sanquar. I arranged for Ian to pick up my drop bag later on and  take my Hoka’s  over to CP7.  I had planned to get some sleep here and had some sleep but I get achy legs at times and they woke me up. I eventually decided to get up and  have  something to eat and set off again . I had redressed my feet with tape etc and felt comfortable with my Sealskin socks, injuit liners  and Salomon’s on and \I was off again.

Once I set off I was glad I had my Salomons  on as the route was muddy and boggy as predicted but I was slipping on the wet bridges as they have little grip . I was not as comfortable in my Salamons despite them coping well with the mud  and I decided I wanted my old faithful Hoka Mafate Speed 2 back so texted Ian to  arranged to have them dropped at CP5 instead of 7.

I was running and walking well and felt good. I was mainly on my own but occassionally met other runners for a chat. Then coming over the hill I spotted Sanquar. I wanted to get there so I set off running down the hill. At first it appeared the more I ran the further away the town got and it was a long way down. Finally reached the CP and could rest, fuel up and then carry on. The CP was a gazebo and I felt pretty tired. It was warm so I had something to eat and had a chat with Ian and Jane Tonge and had a sleep on some grass around the side of the leisure centre. It was nice sleeping outside  and I had about 30 minutes and felt better.

After my sleep,  I changed my trainers   and fuelled up I set off on my own again. I had a hotspot on my toe but had dealt with this and it caused me little problems. I was bit by a horsefly as I ran up the hill and although it burned and stung for a while, I didn’t get any other issues afterwards. I was again tired and I decided to have another rest by the side of the road. It was so comfy in the grass and I fell asleep easier than in the CP’s. A runner approached me to ask how I was so I was awake and set off again.

The next CP was the highest village on the route and I flew through Wanlochhead and straight past the CP and up the hill. I had my eyes on a runner in front with a red top and continued up the hill for another 3 miles until I realised something was wrong. Another runner was coming up the hill and I asked about the CP and they said it was down in the village.  The harsh reality struck me that I had missed the CP. I rang in and was informed I would need to go back.   I knew it was a long stint to the next CP and I also needed food and water.  I was gutted but headed off back.

I got to the main road and was told by another two runners that I could go down the road and back to the CP so I ran fast downhill but saw no sign of the CP. I realised I was well off course and no other runners around me so back tracked to the course and headed down the track through the lead mine again. I was not looking forward to this as there were a few tricky bits I had passed on the way up that I had mentally made a note would be awful coming down the other way especially in the dark.

I got coffee and sympathy from the CP staff and  then decided to try and sleep. It was a separate room with airbeds and I slept a little but the delay in returning to the CP played on my mind as I lied down.  I got up and chatted to the CP staff then decided to  set off in the early hours of the morning. I was on my own but at  least I knew the route back up in the dark. The night sky  was beautiful and the  stars were spectacular. I saw a couple of shooting stars and I made my wishes,  one of which was to get over the route safely overnight and second I wanted happiness and health for all my family and friends .

On the second night  it became very cold as it was a clear night and very remote.   I was on my own and could feel my  temperature dropping and had thoughts to lie down but knew I was too cold to stop. I eventually got my bivi bag out and wrapped myself in it. I continued to feel the  cold and was becoming a little  disoriented but knew I needed to keep moving and only stop if I found shelter. There were no other runners in sight and no shelter. I saw a building near a dam and thought if I got there I could get out of the cold but the route did not go near it.  I kept moving forward and this helped keep me a bit warmer. I was worried that I may be developing hyperthermia so put all my clothing on and kept moving looking for some shelter and wishing for the sun to come up. I was a little worried but managed well and I love being out at night and the seeing the stars and that kept me focused.

At last the sun came up and began to warm the air and I was so glad to see the sun rise. 2 runners passed me and asked how I was. They suggested I keep moving and eat – yes i think I knew that and  had managed to keep going. One of the runners suggested removing a layer and it worked and in the sun I started to warm up. He kept an eye on me over the next few miles which I greatly appreciated. I thanked him for his support and when I stopped to readjust my shoes he went off. Instantly I stopped to sit and adjust my trainers, I was surrounded by the dreaded midgies so I made quick adjustments and moved on. The midgie attack  did not happen very often on route so that is why this was so noticeable! I did not experience tar midges with big boots on which was a real pleasure !

The route from here was incredible with beautiful lakes still and serene with incredible reflections, small paths on the edge of hills with massive drops, scaling hills and downhills. It was fantastic and awe inspiring too. I went through a huge forest and headed to CP7 where the next dropbag was.

The plan at BEATTOCK was to have a sleep and despite my best efforts, sleep eluded me in the CP’s. So I thought I had better keep moving. I had some food including 3 rounds of toast as I was hungry and porridge too. I was chatting with other runners and we were all sharing our stories and a few were dropping out which was sad.

It was beautiful over the next part of the route and soon I was dropping down to the Bothy on route. I met up with Elaine here and we both rested on leather chairs in the bothy. I decided not to stay too long and set off but was soon tired again so as it was warm, I laid down on a banking at the side of a small lane and had a sleep. It was lovely laying in the sun and I slept better than at any CP.

Elaine caught me up and we ended up sticking together over the next few miles to St Mary’s Loch and we had both been experiencing some side effects of sleep deprivation and exchanged stories. We met Katy’s support again on route and could see Katy in the distance as this was a long boring lane. I was happy to see the route turn off up the hill and then running over small paths on the side of the hills overlooking a huge ravine. Scary but exhilarating too. We climbed many hills until eventually St Marys Loch came into view. Wow what a view but then it became clear that we were climbing again apparently away from then loch and over  the hills to descend a long and winding  path.

I loved this run down into the CP and felt strong. I had even taught a sheep to baa properly on the way in for a laugh and was in fine spirits. The CP was just a gazebo and they only had soup with beans in and bread so I had that and got ready to head out into the dusk.

 

Elaine set off but I caught up with her and we decided to stay together over night, It was difficult to navigate and we were climbing up for what seemed an age and as it was raining and there was low cloud, on the top of the hill so there was minimal vision in the night.

The tiredness and the subsequent weirdness was manageable  but before Lauder I had a strange  experience. I was thankful that Elaine was around. We were climbing up out of Tranquair and it was raining hard and low cloud which impacted on the use of the headtorch. We had no vision around us at all and was relying on following the trail made by others and the GPS.  The whispering was loud and I was exhausted although still moving forward. Then suddenly I felt that I had shifted my conciousness and felt this in a physical sense. I suddenly thought “what am I doing in Spain?” I have never been to Spain. I had no idea for about 30 seconds  where I was and I thought I was in Saddleworth moor and wondered why I was there in this weather.

Then  I felt like I was sliding between 2 worlds. I was suddenly in the light at home briefly talking to my son and then back on the moor in the torrential rain and mist in the dark.   I was falling asleep and waking but then not sure when I was awake or asleep. I questioned Elaine where we were and did not believe her she said I was in a race. It was a strange experience .

I think I was experiencing  microsleeps which I had no control over and I was  going straight into vivid dreams and waking and not knowing what was a dream or reality.  I became disorientated for a short time but quickly realised what was happening. Elaine went in front of me for a short time and all I focused on was a bright shiny imp jumping in front of me guiding the way. At a gate on the top, despite the rain, I took control and decided to lie down on the moor and sleep to regain my composure as clearly I was mentally fatigued. I had full waterproof kit on and was warm so not worried about losing body heat. The 20 minute nap worked and I got control back and the dreaded microsleeps stopped although I was left with a strange feeling of dejavu which persisted on and off for the rest of the race.

 

We continued on and picked our way over beautiful hills, and to and down tracks and trails and the sun rose again.  The lean that Elaine had developed had been getting worse and she was clearly in pain., I decided that I needed to move forward and 1. Get some help for Elaine and 2 get to the CP or I would start to get concerned the time. I spoke to Elaine and she agreed and I ran down the hill until i got a signal and phoned for help for Elaine. Then I ran into the CP feeling strong. I met Adam and John going up the hill to support Elaine and I told them where she was and what was happening.   I met Anna at the CP for the first time in the race and had a chat.

When I got into the CP it was clear that I had wasted a lot of time and I needed to get going. I had food, got changed and although I had run/ walked all night I set off after an hour break. My plan was to get to the penultimate CP, have some sleep then to the end. I ate some food and set off in the early afternoon sun.

 

I met a few runners at the CP and had a chat with Sylvia who was supporting a couple of runners and offered support with taping feet and massages to other runners. She gave me a leg massage and I managed some sleep and then got my feet retaped and ready to go. I was feeling a little tired but pretty good .

I set off to the penultimate  CP Longforcmus and was feeling that I could do this now and just need to keep my focus. I was enjoying the time on my own and had processed all the stress from work out of my mind and was loving being outdoors and it reminded me of UGB200 in 2017 and just being at one with yourself and the great outdoors. No worries about work, bills, what was going on in the world just the aim to get from one CP to another to complete the race.

Due  to the lack of sleep I experienced hallucinations both auditory and visual but was aware of what was happening so wasn’t concerned. At times it felt like my senses were heightened and I was acutely aware of my surroundings, the beauty and the sheer awesomeness of the Southern Uplands. I wasn’t Scared when a line of bushes turned into a collection of Mexican Day of the Dead characters, large trees where massive dragons, the gaps in trees filled into faces watching me pass, some passive and some a little taunting.

I heard whispering around me although I knew nothing was there . I saw people st gates and running in the trees. The trees often tricked me into thinking that I was near a town with car noises and signs of civilisation. I berated them later on for being such cruel tricksters but they just gently swayed in the wind . The humming in the trees was probably caused by the large fields of wind turbines that were scattered across huge areas of moorland. It was a hugely impressive view!I was still experiencing thoughts that I was in Saddleworth and strong feelings of dejavu so had to keep orientating myself. This terrain was far more remote and isolating than Saddleworth so had to keep reminding myself were I was. The views were stunning and a great vista appeared over every hill but no CP. I made a right turn off the hill and started down a long track and was starting to worry that I had missed the CP. I rang John who said I was on track so carried on. It felt like hours, it was going dark, I had some almost Monty Python hallucinations which I said “ right you can pack that in!!” I continued down a dark road looking for signs of light or life which seemed to go on forever. I started to despair but finally houses stated to appear out of the darkness and before I knew it I was there.

 

Ian had arrived and said he was driving to the end and would meet me there. A few set off and I missed them so again I went out around 1am in my own. I had given my charger to Ian as I had charged my watch up and set off.

I climbed out of Longforcumus and set off over the hills. I could see some headlamps in the distance and then suddenly I had the low battery alert on my watch. This threw me and I had been utilising my watch and map to get over the terrain. I rang Ian and he agreed to meet me at a B road that crossed the trail.

But on top of the hill in the dark I lost sight of the trail and did not know which way to go. I back tracked to the last post I passed and tried to locate the route but as I was on my own and was starting to worry a bit. I checked with the guys at HQ that I was in track and they said another runner was a few miles away and would come up soon . I waited around looking for signs of a light and could see a lot in the distance.

I thought about setting out to a house I could see in the far distance but as it was dark I had no idea of the terrain in between. Suddenly I thought “Anne Marie you have got across over 200 miles mostly on your own, now get a grip and use your skills.”

I did and followed a fence before picking up the track again . I looked to my left and there were a bank of glittering eyes staring at me. I was praying that they were curious sheep not cows!! !! Then I was on track seeing the lights of Ian’s campervan to pick up the much needed charger. I had wasted nearly 1.30 hours with this but then I set off at a pace. It was a meandering route through fields mainly with some difficulty spotting the track. I climbed over fences, though fields with little signs that I was in route. I didn’t see any other runners until it became light . I met a runner who had gone the wrong way and was in a lot of pain and he intended to phone HQ when back on the track so  I got him back on track so he could get help. I carried on down the hill and saw some cars inn the darkness and they were local people helping out and was geeat reassurance that \I was on track after the winding route down the hill.

Then the final slog and I tried to follow the GPS and ended up going around in circles in a wood. I had been on track and the lack of sleep, the pain in my feet hit me and I had a cry. I had lost my common sense and should have taken out my map to follow the route.

Anyway another runner appeared and we got on track to the end. When I saw the sea it was amazing and something I had imagined when I thought about finishing the race! I was so desperate to get to the end but really pleased that I had completed my challenge although slower than I wished.

I was so glad to see the end and ran over the line with Nicola Bruce to be met by my long suffering hubbie, Ian, Anna Roberts, |Katy’s support crew and a volunteer from Wanlochhead  who met me when I had to go back. I had a well earned beer at 8am in the morning and the promptly feel asleep in the campervan.

I had learned a lot from this race —

I should not  waste time at CP’s and use the time constructively

i need to learn how to layer clothes in cold  weather

i need to get used to sleeping on races and managing pain in my legs over multiple days .

Also on a positive

i am not scared to be alone even at night.

i am good at navigation in the day and at night

i am still scared of cows! A kind farmer drove at the side of me past a herd of his cows laughing at me when I said I was scared of them!

i love the outdoors, nature, the beautiful night skies, the stunning sun rises and sun sets and yes I still love hills!

I finished and received my buckle. I was shattered but waited for Katy and Martin to finish as Katy had been a great support on various points of the race and her support crew had given me coffee and melon when they saw me which was a great help with little support on route. I had planned  it this way as preparation for my next race.

It was great to see them come in and finish under the 100 hours.

Well it was a fantastic experience and I loved the remoteness and vastness of the terrain. I went up to Dovestones a couple of weeks later near where I live and it looked small which made me realise the vastness of the open spaces and moors over the Southern Upland Way. It was Brilliant and I was  glad I finished although I think I could have cut out a lot of time but you live and learn.  It was also a great adventure and this blog cannot capture all that happened on route but I don’t regret running this race as it was fantastic, Sorry no pictures but you can google  the route, watch my relive on Facebook  or perhaps try it yourself next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Raw stunning beauty, mental madness, brill new friends and a challenging adventure.Race Across Scotland UGB

This should have been named the race that nearly wasn’t, and was and nearly never happened! It was a rollercoaster of events leading up to the race but here I was at the line, a little worse for wear due to little sleep on the Friday night and an awful two weeks at work.

i had been having Physio on my knee from  Scott Woodhead  for 5 weeks after sustaining an impact injury on the WHW on 23rd June 18. I had tripped and  fallen  9 miles into the race  and then ran/walked a further 90 miles to finish the race. I had quite a painful recovery going back to basics, strength building  and no running whilst recovering.

I had not been able to  run up until 2 weeks before the  event. I had met with my coach Ronnie Staton and he gave me some more exercises and then had planned some  minimal running as this was now my taper time. I had experienced a few crisis of confidence in the last few weeks before the race  but decided that  I will just turn up to the race start  and see what happened . I knew I was not at the peak of fitness but  had good base training that may see me through the race.

In some respects this plan worked for me as there was no pressure other than to try to finish and if I didn’t, then no great surprise.

Ian, my hubbie, didn’t finish work until 6pm on Friday we were late setting off and arrived at a lay-by 45 minutes from Portpatrick at 1am Saturday.  I had been catnapping on the way up and then managed to get a few hours sleep . Not ideal preparation but I was up and ready to go at 3.30am  and we  headed off to the start.

THE START PORTPATRICK

I was at the start at  4.30am  and there were a few bleary eyed helpers around. I registered, got my number and tracker but didn’t get my starting photo done  as I think it was too early. I handed in my drop bags, had breakfast  and waited for the start with nervous apprehension but excitement too. I felt ready but had no idea how I would cope or my knee would hold up. I had a chat  with Colin Green and Jane, his wife   and my coach Ronnie Staton at the start, put my finishers t shirt away as I am not keen on getting them at the start of the race and then down to the start line.  There  was a 10 minute delay then we were off!

The route  swept round the coast and I loved the sea views. I tried to imagine seeing the same view on the other coast and it reminded me of setting off from Southport last year for Hornsea on the UGB200.  I was taking it easy and running  along and then we left the coast and headed in land .It was a long climb away from the coast and I was hot and took my coat off assisted by runners around me who kindly held my bag.

CP1at Castle Kennedy  seemed to come around soon. I was asked for my cup but as it was early when I registered I had not got one given with my tracker.  Another  runner gave me his spare cup which was really nice. I was still assessing my knee and a little nervous of putting too much effort in. I was taking my time maybe a little too slow. There was plenty of opportunities to run and the route was good.

As we got further inland , the  route became more hilly which I enjoy  and I was chatting with different runners. I first met Katy McGowan before Glen Trool and it was a long haul off the route to reach the CP. It seemed to go on forever up a long road through a wooded park. I saw Colin going back to the route and Craig Edwards who was in fine spirits. I was happy to be at  the CP to replenish my water and food and then went back out on the route.

I caught  up with Katy again  and we ended up meeting up with two other runners including Jose from Spain and  running as a small crew together. I was aware that the next part of the route  was a hilly and technical as I had recee’d it  in May and knew that in the dark it  was more treacherous. We carefully picked our way over the rocks and through the long ferns trying to see the path.  We went off route once and  we backtracked to the last point we were on route and soon found the path. We had a laugh on route but were aware that we each had our own race and may not be together for long.

Just before the first main CP were my first drop bag was,  there was the awful bog that I had been dreading. . There was a note on a board before the turning,  for a route round and we attempted this but we could not find the way and realised that we had to go back and we had wasted time and added more mileage. I struggled  a bit over the bog but made it with the great support from the others, soon we were at CP4 John St Dalry .

I decided to change my shoes as I had heard that it was a boggy wet route over to Sanquar. I arranged for Ian to pick up my drop bag later on and  take my Hoka’s  over to CP7.  I had planned to get some sleep here but once I lied down, the familiar aching legs began and interrupted any sleep. . I eventually gave up had something to eat and set off again . I had redressed my feet with tape etc and felt comfortable with my Sealskin socks, injuit liners  and Salomon’s on .

Once I set off I was glad I had my Salomons  on as the route was muddy and boggy as predicted but I was slipping on the wet bridges as they have little grip . I was not as comfortable in my Salamons despite them coping well with the mud  and I decided I wanted my old faithful Hoka Mafate Speed 2 back so texted Ian to  arranged to have them dropped at CP5 instead of 7.

I was running and walking well and felt good. I was mainly on my own but occassionally met other runners for a chat. Then coming over the hill I spotted Sanquar. I wanted to get there so I set off running down the hill. At first it appeared the more I ran the further away the town got and it was a long way down. Finally reached the CP and could rest, fuel up and then carry on. The CP was a gazebo and I felt pretty tired. It was warm so I had something to eat and had a chat with Ian and Jane Tonge and had a sleep on some grass around the side of the leisure centre. It was nice sleeping outside  and I had about 30 minutes and felt better.

After my sleep,  I changed my trainers   and fuelled up I set off on my own again. I had a hotspot on my toe but had dealt with this and it caused me little problems. I was bit by a horsefly as I ran up the hill and although it burned and stung for a while, I didn’t get any other issues afterwards. I was again tired and I decided to have another rest by the side of the road. It was so comfy in the grass and I fell asleep easier than in the CP’s. A runner approached me to ask how I was so I was awake and set off again.

The next CP was the highest village on the route and I flew through Wanlochhead and straight past the CP and up the hill. I had my eyes on a runner in front with a red top and continued up the hill for another 3 miles until I realised something was wrong. Another runner was coming up the hill and I asked about the CP and they said it was down in the village.  The harsh reality struck me that I had missed the CP. I rang in and was informed I would need to go back.   I knew it was a long stint to the next CP and I also needed food and water.  I was gutted but headed off back.

I got to the main road and was told by another two runners that I could go down the road and back to the CP so I ran fast downhill but saw no sign of the CP. I realised I was well off course and no other runners around me so back tracked to the course and headed down the track through the lead mine again. I was not looking forward to this as there were a few tricky bits I had passed on the way up that I had mentally made a note would be awful coming down the other way especially in the dark.

I got coffee and sympathy from the CP staff and  then decided to try and sleep. It was a separate room with airbeds but again  my legs started to ache as soon as I lied down.  I got up and chatted to the CP staff then decided to  set off in the early hours of the morning. I was on my own but at  least I knew the route back up in the dark. The night sky  was beautiful and the  stars were spectacular. I saw a couple of shooting stars and I made my wishes,  one of which was to get over the route safely overnight and second I wanted happiness and health for all my family and friends .

i did struggle a bit on the second night as it became very cold as it was a clear night and very remote.   I was on my own and could feel my  temperature dropping. I was tired and cold but kept moving and eating. I eventually got my bivi bag out and wrapped myself in it. I felt very cold and was becoming a little  disoriented but knew I needed to keep moving and only stop if I found shelter. I had thoughts of lying down for a sleep but knew I needed to keep going as  was so cold. There were no other runners in sight and no shelter. I saw a building near a dam and thought if I got there I could get out of the cold but the route did not go near it.  I kept moving forward and this helped keep me a bit warmer. I was worried that I may be developing hyperthermia so put all my clothing on and kept moving looking for some shelter but there was nothing on the route.

At last the sun came up and began to warm the air and I was so glad to see the sun rise. 2 runners passed me and asked how I was. They suggested I keep moving and eat – yes i think I knew that but had been worried that I was becoming hyperthermic but had managed to keep going. One of the runners suggested removing a layer and it worked and in the sun I started to warm up. He kept an eye on me over the next few miles which I greatly appreciated. I thanked him for his support and when I stopped to readjust my shoes he went off. Instantly I stopped to sit and adjust my trainers, I was surrounded by the dreaded midgies so I made quick adjustments and moved on. The midgie attack  did not happen very often on route so that is why this was so noticeable!

The route from here was incredible with beautiful lakes still and serene with incredible reflections, small paths on the edge of hills with massive drops, scaling hills and downhills. It was fantastic and awe inspiring too. I went through a huge forest and headed to CP7 where the next dropbag was.

The plan at BEATTOCK was to have a sleep but unfortunately my legs had other plans again and despite my best efforts, sleep eluded me. Whenever I stopped the familiar aching  started so I thought I had better keep moving. I had some food including 3 rounds of toast as I was hungry and porridge too.

It was beautiful over the next part of the route and soon I was dropping down to the Bothy on route. I met up with Elaine here and we both rested on leather chairs in the bothy. I decided not to stay too long and set off but was soon tired again so as it was warm, I laid down on a banking at the side of a small lane and had a sleep. It was lovely laying in the sun and I slept better than at any CP.

Elaine caught me up and we ended up sticking together over the next few miles to St Mary’s Loch and we had both been experiencing some side effects of sleep deprivation and exchanged stories. We met Katy’s support again on route and could see Katy in the distance as this was a long boring lane. I was happy to see the route turn off up the hill and then running over small paths on the side of the hills overlooking a huge ravine. Scary but exhilarating too. We climbed many hills until eventually St Marys Loch came into view. Wow what a view but then it became clear that we were climbing again apparently away from then loch and over  the hills to descend a long and winding  path.

I loved this run down into the CP and felt strong. I had even taught a sheep to baa properly on the way in for a laugh and was in fine spirits. The CP was just a gazebo and they only had soup with beans in and bread so I had that and got ready to head out into the dusk.

 

Elaine set off but I caught up with her and we decided to stay together over night, It was difficult to navigate and we were climbing up for what seemed an age and as it was raining and there was low cloud, on the top of the hill so there was minimal vision in the night.

The tiredness and the subsequent weirdness was manageable  but before Lauder I had a strange  experience. I was thankful that Elaine was around. We were climbing up out of Tranquair and it was raining hard and low cloud which impacted on the use of the headtorch. We had no vision around us at all and was relying on following the trail made by others and the GPS.  The whispering was loud and I was exhausted although still moving forward. Then suddenly I felt that I had shifted my conciousness and felt this in a physical sense. I suddenly thought “what am I doing in Spain?” I have never been to Spain. I had no idea for about 30 seconds  where I was and I thought I was in Saddleworth moor and wondered why I was there in this weather.

Then  I felt like I was sliding between 2 worlds. I was suddenly in the light at home briefly talking to my son and then back on the moor in the torrential rain and mist in the dark.   I was falling asleep and waking but then not sure when I was awake or asleep. I questioned Elaine where we were and did not believe her she said I was in a race. It was a strange experience .

I think I was experiencing  microsleeps which I had no control over and I was  going straight into vivid dreams and waking and not knowing what was a dream or reality.  I became disorientated for a short time but quickly realised what was happening. Elaine went in front of me for a short time and all I focused on was a bright shiny imp jumping in front of me guiding the way. At a gate on the top, despite the rain, I took control and decided to lie down on the moor and sleep to regain my composure as clearly I was mentally fatigued. I had full waterproof kit on and was warm so not worried about losing body heat. The 20 minute nap worked and I got control back and the dreaded microsleeps stopped although I was left with a strange feeling of dejavu which persisted on and off for the rest of the race.

 

We continued on and picked our way over beautiful hills, and to and down tracks and trails and the sun rose again.  The lean that Elaine had developed had been getting worse and she was clearly in pain., I decided that I needed to move forward and 1. Get some help for Elaine and 2 get to the CP or I would start to get concerned the time. I spoke to Elaine and she agreed and I ran down the hill until i got a signal and phoned for help for Elaine. Then I ran into the CP feeling strong. I met Adam and John going up the hill to support Elaine and I told them where she was and what was happening.   I met Anna at the CP for the first time in the race and had a chat.

When I got into the CP it was clear that I had wasted a lot of time and I needed to get going. I had food, got changed and although I had run/ walked all night I set off after an hour break. My plan was to get to the penultimate CP, have some sleep then to the end. I ate some food and set off in the early afternoon sun.

 

I met a few runners at the CP and had a chat with Sylvia who was supporting a couple of runners and offered support with taping feet and massages to other runners. She gave me a leg massage and I managed some sleep and then got my feet retaped and ready to go. I was feeling a little tired but pretty good .

I set off to the penultimate  CP Longforcmus and was feeling that I could do this now and just need to keep my focus. I was enjoying the time on my own and had processed all the stress from work out of my mind and was loving being outdoors and it reminded me of UGB200 in 2017 and just being at one with yourself and the great outdoors. No worries about work, bills, what was going on in the world just the aim to get from one CP to another to complete the race.

Due  to the lack of sleep I experienced hallucinations both auditory and visual but was aware of what was happening so wasn’t concerned. At times it felt like my senses were heightened and I was acutely aware of my surroundings, the beauty and the sheer awesomeness of the Southern Uplands. I wasn’t Scared when a line of bushes turned into a collection of Mexican Day of the Dead characters, large trees where massive dragons, the gaps in trees filled into faces watching me pass, some passive and some a little taunting.

I heard whispering around me although I knew nothing was there . I saw people st gates and running in the trees. The trees often tricked me into thinking that I was near a town with car noises and signs of civilisation. I berated them later on for being such cruel tricksters but they just gently swayed in the wind . The humming in the trees was probably caused by the large fields of wind turbines that were scattered across huge areas of moorland. It was a hugely impressive view!I was still experiencing thoughts that I was in Saddleworth and strong feelings of dejavu so had to keep orientating myself. This terrain was far more remote and isolating than Saddleworth so had to keep reminding myself were I was. The views were stunning and a great vista appeared over every hill but no CP. I made a right turn off the hill and started down a long track and was starting to worry that I had missed the CP. I rang John who said I was on track so carried on. It felt like hours, it was going dark, I had some almost Monty Python hallucinations which I said “ right you can pack that in!!” I continued down a dark road looking for signs of light or life which seemed to go on forever. I started to despair but finally houses stated to appear out of the darkness and before I knew it I was there.

 

Ian had arrived and said he was driving to the end and would meet me there. A few set off and I missed them so again I went out around 1am in my own. I had given my charger to Ian as I had charged my watch up and set off.

I climbed out of Longforcumus and set off over the hills. I could see some headlamps in the distance and then suddenly I had the low battery alert on my watch. This threw me and I had been utilising my watch and map to get over the terrain. I rang Ian and he agreed to meet me at a B road that crossed the trail.

But on top of the hill in the dark I lost sight of the trail and did not know which way to go. I back tracked to the last post I passed and tried to locate the route but as I was on my own and was starting to worry a bit. I checked with the guys at HQ that I was in track and they said another runner was a few miles away and would come up soon . I waited around looking for signs of a light and could see a lot in the distance.

I thought about setting out to a house I could see in the far distance but as it was dark I had no idea of the terrain in between. Suddenly I thought “Anne Marie you have got across over 200 miles mostly on your own, now get a grip and use your skills.”

I did and followed a fence before picking up the track again . I looked to my left and there were a bank of glittering eyes staring at me. I was praying that they were curious sheep not cows!! !! Then I was on track seeing the lights of Ian’s campervan to pick up the much needed charger. I had wasted nearly 1.30 hours with this but then I set off at a pace. It was a meandering route through fields mainly with some difficulty spotting the track. I climbed over fences, though fields with little signs that I was in route. I didn’t see any other runners until it became light . I met a runner who had gone the wrong way and was in a lot of pain and he intended to phone HQ when back on the track so  I got him back on track so he could get help. I carried on down the hill and saw some cars inn the darkness and they were local people helping out and was geeat reassurance that \I was on track after the winding route down the hill.

Then the final slog and I tried to follow the GPS and ended up going around in circles in a wood. I had been on track and the lack of sleep, the pain in my feet hit me and I had a cry. I had lost my common sense and should have taken out my map to follow the route.

Anyway another runner appeared and we got on track to the end. When I saw the sea it was amazing and something I had imagined when I thought about finishing the race! I was so desperate to get to the end but really pleased that I had completed my challenge although slower than I wished.

I was so glad to see the end and ran over the line with Nicola Bruce to be met by my long suffering hubbie, Ian, Anna Roberts, |Katy’s support crew and a volunteer from Wanlochhead  who met me when I had to go back. I had a well earned beer at 8am in the morning and the promptly feel asleep in the campervan.

I had learned a lot from this race —

I should not  waste time at CP’s and use the time constructively

i need to learn how to layer clothes in cold  weather

i need to get used to sleeping on races and managing pain in my legs over multiple days .

Also on a positive

i am not scared to be alone even at night.

i am good at navigation in the day and at night

i am still scared of cows! A kind farmer drove at the side of me past a herd of his cows laughing at me when I said I was scared of them!

i love the outdoors, nature, the beautiful night skies, the stunning sun rises and sun sets and yes I still love hills!

I finished and received my buckle. I was shattered but waited for Katy and Martin to finish as Katy had been a great support on various points of the race and her support crew had given me coffee and melon when they saw me which was a great help with little support on route. I had planned  it this way as preparation for my next race.

It was great to see them come in and finish under the 100 hours.

Well it was a fantastic experience and I loved the remoteness and vastness of the terrain. I went up to Dovestones a couple of weeks later near where I live and it looked small which made me realise the vastness of the open spaces and moors over the Southern Upland Way. It was Brilliant and I was  glad I finished although I think I could have cut out a lot of time but you live and learn.  It was also a great adventure and this blog cannot capture all that happened on route but I don’t regret running this race as it was fantastic, Sorry no pictures but you can google  the route, watch my relive on Facebook  or perhaps try it yourself next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

West Highland Way No 2

Well here I was again at the start of the West Highland Way Race in Milngavie. I had swore last year never to return but after a few weeks, I decided I needed to go back and have another crack at this Iconic race.

I had been training and running well and felt prepared.  My long suffering running widower Ian had driven us up to Scotland on the Thursday. I wanted to come up the day before as part of my plan but he was also meeting his Aunty and two of his cousins for the first time so was really special. Ian was adopted at 6 weeks old and was born in  Scotland and only had a name of his mother on his original birth certificate. A few years ago whilst researching his family, I had stumbled across one of his cousins who was looking for him and that started a chain of events were we ended up in New Zealand this year (in May) in order to meet his half brother Adrian and his wife Raewyn and two children Angel and Seth for the first time! They were lovely and Ian and Adrian got on fantastically well and are two peas in a pod! Loved it there and lived the New Zealand lifestyle and some running too.

So after a lovely first meeting with his new found family, we went back to the campsite and then had a nice day in Glasgow before going to the start of the race. I met up with people I knew there including Neil Rutherford, Stephen Brown, Deborah Alum, Dominic Sexton and Vicky Wright.

Then it was to the race briefing and off. I felt pretty good but early on began kicking rocks and tripping a bit until the inevitable happened and tripped over full on to the floor. I dusted myself off and had a bloody knee and hand but felt ok. The people around me checked me out and we went off again. I had tripped a few weeks ago but had no ill effects so just carried on. I am 51 years old but forget that when I am toppling over off road. Off I went and I appeared to be tripping but not falling a lot and I was not sure what was happening. I felt like my trainers were too big ands a bit unco-ordinated. it was strange. My knees were stinging a bit and I was aware of them but were no major concern.

First CP and I couldn’t find Ian and I wandered up and down the car park getting increasingly more worried and upset for about 15 minutes but then he appeared from nowhere. I told him what had happened and he asked how I felt and I was ok. He agreed to meet me at Rowardnenn.

Off I went to Rowarndnenn  and tripped and fell again. This time I did a James Bond roll so I didn’t land on my knee again. A female runner wearing  a red tartan skirt and red top picked me up and she had blood on her leg from a fall. I thanked her for her help and we both passed comment about falling over. I saw her again at the end and thanked her and told her family how she had helped me early on. Off I went and met Ian at Rowardne.  I was passing a lot of runners which was an indication of the amount of time \I had lost at the last CP and I was really frustrated. My knee hurt a little when I stopped but when moving felt ok so off again. It hurt going over the rocky bit but I knew my knees would be hammered a little over there.

After this I did not fall again but as I reached Beinglas Farm, my knee was a little sore but again feeling ok when  moving so off again to meet the first of my support runner Linda. I was aware of the ache on my kneecap and the DNF started to creep in. “If I fall again, I am out ” I heard myself  say. I started to  think that maybe this was not meant to be. I had to talk to myself and say ” you can do this and you will have a distraction soon, just don’t trip up again!”

I arrived at Auchertyre and Ian, Linda and Wane looked at my knee and although a little red, I felt I could carry on. I arranged for some ice to be brought to the next CP at Bridge of Orchy and we set off on the magnificent route. Up the hills and on the flat I was moving fast with relatively little pain and some pain on the top of my kneecap going downhill but I was enjoying the views and sharing this experience with my support runner Linda. I knew I was in front of my time from last year so was keen to push on.

At the Bridge of Orchy, my hubbie Ian was no where to be found and I had to leave the CP and go back up to the road. He was not able to park due to the number of support vehicles in a small area and had not expected me so soon. I was losing time and this added to the little voice of doubt that this was not going to be my day. I felt upset again and then he arrived equally as frustrated as me, minus the ice that the other support said they would bring. I had thrown water from streams on my knee when it had felt hot so settled for that again. I fuelled up and got off again. I advised Ian that I would change into my night gear at Glen Coe when  I picked up my second support runner.

Off I went straight uphill which I loved and powered away from the CP. On the flats it was becoming a little more painful and I was more power walking but as this had been an integral part of my training I was moving well and catching runners who were run/walking or trying to run. It felt like a long haul and not as quick but I was moving forward. I was so frustrated that my knee was holding me back as I felt strong and I know I could have been running strong but accidents happen and you cannot train for that.

I saw Wane Law and Howard Dracup on the road to Glen coe which was a welcome sight. They were worried I may have fell again but I was moving forward and looking forward to getting my compression tights on to support my aching knee. Went to the CP and had food, ice and change of clothes and out.

It was clear now that running was out of the question so off I went to the Devils Staircase which I loved this year. My knee was not hurting when I was powering up the Staircase and I still felt strong although the pain in my kneecap was an irritation constantly in my mind. Then down into Kilnlochleven. It was a long downhill and I was starting to dread them as my walking was a little more difficult but then we were there and I had to make a choice about carrying on.

I iced my knee which was a little swollen now and painful and made the choice to get to the end although I knew in the back of my mind it would cause me some problems but I didn’t think they would be quite as bad as they became.

So off again and powered up the hill from Kilnlochleven and then the undulating bits were difficult and I needed to focus hard to go downhill and had to pull on all my mental resources to see the end result and that it would be worth it. We met the Bearded Scotsman on the tops where I thought we had covered around 5 miles with 9 to go but was informed it was more like 12. That was a big knock for me and I struggled to get my head in gear again and had to just refocus on getting to the next CP.

I got to Lundarvan and didn’t want to stop and saw the sign ‘it is all downhill from here’ which 1, was wrong and 2, was the worst news for me.  I struggled along the last section as the pain in my knee intensified and going downhill was becoming unbearable. I knew I was close and Howard kept giving me lots of inspiration and I tried to tie my buff around my knee but my knee was quite swollen at this stage and it wouldn’t fit!

Finally it was the long downhill that thankfully was not full of loose rocks and I rethought my strategy. If I could have found a roll of carpet , I would have asked Howard to wrap me in it and roll me down the hill and if I was at the top of a mountain I would   have considered just throwing myself down as it would have probably hurt less.

So as I knew going up hill didn’t hurt, I chose to descend the hill backwards. I was moving well with much less pain with Howard supporting me not to fall by guiding me down the hill. As we got nearer the bottom,  I tried to walk forward but was in a lot of pain. I began to feel I couldn’t make it.  At this point Stephen Brown came past. I tried to avoid his eye contact so he didn’t see me in a mess but  luckily he just sailed past me.

At last we reached the road, I knew I had it, I was happy to finish but a real nagging concern about the damage I had done to my knee. At last I was there and I passed under the finish line. . I had my knee checked by the medic and given a ice pack and told to rest and then off for something to eat in Morrison’s.

I was glad I finished and was very proud to get my second goblet and celebrate every runners success individually and I love the ceremony.

Anyway I went camping and was harassed by fellow campers to go to A+E as my knee was 3 times it size and my whole leg was swollen. I went to Fort William A+E and the staff and other patients in the waiting room and in the Department were all super impressed with my achievement and by the impressive size of my knee. Almost got a round of applause and everyone wanted to know about my journey which was really nice as I expected the a negative response but they were all ace.  No significant damage noted other than severe bruising and inflammation – severe case of runners knee and a  concern that I had a small impact point on my kneecap which could have indicated a small fracture but no x ray done so I don’t think it was. As my knee was dark red too, some concerns about the dreaded cellulitis but thankfully this didn’t materialise.

Would I go through that again, maybe not,  but I finished.  I have had to work from home this week to rest my knee as I struggled to drive.  I know I have a huge threshold for pain management and a bloody-minded stupidity to achieve my goals. But the WHW route did not disappoint and the views I absorbed into my mind will never leave me and the sheer awesomeness of the Highlands. That is what I will remember longer than the pain and that is why I run long distance too. I love seeing places on my own two feet  and absorbing the sight, sounds and experiences that are out there and it is truly a “Wonderful World”. I love that song!

 

 

 

Operation Ultra ends

Well here we are at the final stage of Operation Ultra. The last article is in Women’s Running Magazine and it s a fantastic write up for all three of us. We all got great feedback from Phoebe and her training programme ensured that we all achieved ultra running status. So now it is onwards and upwards.

Since the Round Ripon Ultra, I have ran a couple of races. I ran the Oldham Half Marathon in October and won F45 prize! Tough and Hilly course but a great day. I then ran the Leeds Abbey Dash, a 10k through the middle of Leeds. Great flat race and a club run too.

Then this weekend I| managed to get a place on the Conwy Half Marathon at short notice. This starts at Conwy castle and runs out to Llandudno and then up the Great Orme, back down the other side and back . Loved this race but thought it would be more trail like the North Wales Marathon so wore my relatively new trail shoes. It was all road and my feet suffered and had to stop twice due to burning soles of my feet. Managed to finish in 1 hour 47 mins and 33 secs so not a bad time.

My last few races of this year will be the Stockport 10 mile with its amazing and slightly eccentric goody bag full of surprises and a fantastic technical long sleeve t-shirt and the Ribble 10k on 29th of December. Hope the Daily Express dire predictions regarding the Armageddon type cold weather does not come to fruition but if it does, it is ice and snow grips to keep moving!

Anyway will keep blogging and keep up to date with my training for my new challenges next year

 

Operation Ultra

Well first rest day and feels strange not being out running. Continuous hills tomorrow and long run on sunday coming up. Operation Ultra has started now and you can follow me on twitter  #operationultra