Sunday, 12 August 2007
Monday, 2 July 2007
Updated to reflect change in Race day (since Cally Challenge have cocked it up again!!!) Just remember it will always be the week after the main event!
After breakfast we went up to the leisure centre to see if anyone was about. Mr Race Co-ordinator was desperately trying to find someone to pay for its use but the staff had disappeared. We spoke to a few people we knew from Central AC and congratulated The Hayman on his success.
The prizegiving is always good but was especially good this year. Despite having the use of a bigger room we still need more space! It was great to catch up with other backup teams and hear their stories. I loved hearing about The Young Man's snooze in the heather on Rannoch Moor! I loved the huge cheering for Ms Record Holder and the presentation to the Longest Serving Backup Team! And I was thrilled that The German finally made it on his third attempt. I told him at the start I thought it was his year.
After the prizegiving we loaded up our car with Mr Running Shop's boxes. We took him and his backup guy (who Doesn't Usually Drive) and dropped them off at a railway station. It wasn't until later on in the journey we heard the story about how Mr Running Shop's car died at Lundavra. Doesn't Usually Drive admitted that he hadn't driven a car since the early 1990s! He walks to work and everywhere else. Mr RS received a call in the first few minutes of the race to be asked "How do you start your car?" He didn't know about power steering or how the steering wheel locks if you nudge it before trying to start the car!!
Doesn't Usually Drive also didn't know that the little lights on your dashboard tell you if something is wrong. So by the time he found out it was already too late! The car was dead. To cut a very long complicated story short, several phone calls to Mr RS's insurance company (who's call centre is in India) resulted in the car being taken back to Auld Reekie. Apparently they couldn't understand why Doesn't Usually Drive couldn't give the street name or postcode for the Lundavra checkpoint! He did offer them the OS reference but they had no idea what that was!!
So another successful race was over for us. The midgie hoods are packed away ready for the next time. The Travel Inn is already booked for next year. The Bearded One is signed up for another go. The Railwayman will be press ganged next time we see him.
I've been asked if I'm keeping this blog going. I've run out of material for this year but I'll start again next year in the build up to the event. If anyone has any interesting stories to tell please get in touch. All names will be changed to protect the guilty (unless you're in my backup team!) I've already got a few good ones I'm saving for next year (mainly to let the dust settle first before going public!!) But I will be starting a new blog which will include my exciting life being dragged round the world accompanying The Runner in his quest to find interesting events! Watch this space!
Thursday, 28 June 2007
A wet Railwayman at Balmaha
Breakfast cooked by The Bearded One
A big hairy dug at Kingshouse
decided to nap behind our car
Uncle Dunc gets the fire started
BT falls asleep at the prizegiving
The Pastor receives his goblet
I'll blog about the prizegiving tomorrow. Today was my last day at work. Now I've got 7 weeks summer holiday. Woo hoo!
PS. If anyone has a decent a photo of The Runner during the race I'd love a copy!
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
It's always tricky getting parked here but we found a space behind the road right up near the gate (this fact will be relevant!)
The Bearded One got the wee stove going and I was having a semi- snooze. The Runner wasn't due in yet. A few runners arrived and were being looked after by their backup. But one particular runner caught my eye. He was standing at the back of his vehicle (obviously thinking it was private) when all of a sudden the woman beside him took off his shorts and underwear! If she wasn't his wife then it was a VERY good friend. Like a child, he stood and she stripped him until he was butt naked. The Bearded One had seen this too and stage whispered "Quick, get the camera out!" Sadly as I fumbled to get the camera ready he had his pants back on. I don't know who he was but he was wearing a Carnethy vest! At least runners have nice bums!
There was also a wee dog running about, getting in the way of the cars. I think it may have been with the campers. It was in serious danger of being run over. Although someone (who shall remain nameless) suggested a swift kick towards the river might be a solution!
While we waited for The Runner I chatted to The Pastor's backup crew. One of them went to school with The Runner! It's a small world indeed.
The Runner had another quick stop here and took soup with him to walk over the hill.
Parking was a bit crazy here but got a decent space. Again, I tried to snooze but it was hopeless. The Bearded One filled up the flasks as this was the last place we could do it. He runs with The Runner from here.
Again I spent a lot of time chatting to other backup crews. It amazed me how many people recognised me from the DVD and knew about The Runner.
After he left I popped into the hotel with the intention of buying some food. I didn't because of the notice on the door which basically said "Get lost if you're a camper or walker and want to use our toilets!" I always spend some money here and use the toilets with a clear conscience but that notice really annoyed me. Most of their business is generated from the Way being right on their doorstep. Sadly many other businesses on the Way seem to have the same attitude.
By this time the car has taken on a peculiar odour. I tried to wrap the wet clothes in a plastic bag and bury it deep in a backpack. It didn't work.
BT arrived on his way up to manning the Lundavra checkpoint. He saw some people eating fish suppers and wondered if it would be a good idea to take some up to The Runner and The Bearded One as they came down into the town. Short answer - NO!
After yet another brief stop, I packed up the car and BT made me a fresh coffee on his gas stove. It was brilliant! I popped into the health centre for a quick toilet stop and heard someone say "Ask The Runner's wife, she knows the way!" One of the backup crews was looking for directions to Lundavra. I told them to follow me as I was just going there.
The road up to Lundavra is dreadful. Single track, passing places, hills, corners and nutters coming towards you at 50 mph thinking they won't meet anyone cos it's a quiet road! About a mile and a half before you get to the checkpoint, I came over a hill and saw a plume of smoke rising into the sky. Uncle Dunc had lit his beacon to guide us in! BT's photo on the forum sums it up beautifully!
When The Runner arrived at Lundavra he was feeling really good. The end was in sight. He felt so much better than The Bearded One who was feeling so sick he dropped out. I've known The Bearded One for 17 years and I've never seen him look so bad at any race. The Runner did the last 7 miles on his own.
The Bearded One and I quickly checked into the Travel Inn (separate rooms although one year we all shared a family room and pretended that The Hippy Chick was my mum!) We then drove up to car park outside the town to see The Runner coming. I'd never been up there before.
The Bearded One managed to run with The Runner to the leisure centre where a crowd (including The Pastor's Wife) cheered him in. He smashed his PB by a staggering 28 mins! I was so proud. I still didn't give him a kiss tho! That was left to another good friend.
After his shower he had a post race massage by the aptly named Angels. It was painful but made a huge difference to his legs the next day.
We made it back to the hotel room and were about to have a coffee when we realised the bar was open until midnight. We dragged ourselves next door and ordered a pint of lager and a G&T. We were so tired we almost nodded off stitting at the table. We didn't finish our drinks but congratulated ourselves on making last orders!
We got back to the room and I went straight to bed. I was in such a deep sleep I didn't hear The Runner get back up, have a bath, go for a walk or go back up to the leisure centre at 5 o'clock to see more runners come in!
Next installment - full Scottish breakfast, prizegiving, boxes, broken down cars and Indian call centres!
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
Ok, down to business.
As usual, we parked in the Inverarnan Hotel car park and walk up to the farm. As usual, there were many WHW backup crews parked there. You are not supposed to be there! And it was people who've been doing this for years! Ok, I'm getting down from my high horse now.
The midgies were awful as usual but there were a few souls who had decided to brave it without their midgie nets. I kindly shared my nuke-em spray since clearly the Skin So Soft was not working this year.
I did a lot of listening here. It was clear that there were a few newbies who still didn't really know what to expect. Lots of people were on their mobiles obviously relaying info back to relatives. I overheard one English guy saying "I'm at Ben-gallus farm now." If you're not familiar with Weegie patter you won't understand why that's funny!
Beinglas is the end of The Runner's worst part of the race. Every year he looks dreadful and I feel really emotional when I see him in such pain. But we had to stick to the schedule and get him out as quick as possible.
I didn't go there, but the Bearded One ran down to check The Runner was ok. Maybe if I had gone, I'd have seen the Mad Aussie go for his skinny dip!
We have used this checkpoint a few times now so I know where the entrance is. It was a bit of a shocker to see roadworks and traffic lights covering the entrance. It didn't help that a plonker going the other way had stopped right in front of it. (I thought the Highway Code said you shouldn't stop in front of entrances!) So I held up the traffic behind me trying to turn right. The lights changed to green but the cars couldn't go cos there was a queue behind me. But I remained calm and resisted the temptation to yell $%&£! at him.
When we eventually got in, it was a bit of a squeeze to get parked. It was only when one runner came in that I realised that 4 (FOUR!) cars were the backup for this runner. Who needs 4 backup vehicles?! *gets back up on to high horse again*
Since this is no longer a checkpoint it was blissfully quiet and easy to park. We met a backup crew who had completely missed the Auchtertyre entrance and had to go back. I think a few crews had to do the same. The Runner didn't stop here but took soup and coffee with him to walk up the hill. Tiredness was setting in for me and I completely misjudged pouring water into the bottle The Bearded One was holding. Let's just say he got a bit wet! At least it wasn't hot coffee.
Next stop, Bridge of Orchy.
Monday, 25 June 2007
It was news to me that registration would be taking place in the church hall. The Runner forgot to mention this! We arrived at the car park around 11.30pm. It was an amazing sight. I love the bewilderment on the faces of the locals as they stagger home from the pub and wonder what they've stumbled into! I loved seeing old friends again and meeting new ones. The atmosphere is just electric.
After registering we chatted to friends, took photos and double checked the equipment. We were chatting to our friend The Pastor who gets my award for being the most excited runner at the start. He was like a little boy waiting for a trip to Disney World! I must confess I thought it would wear off by the time he reached Rowardennan. The Bearded One arrived and came to join us but The Railwayman disappeared. He decided he wanted some chips and went off to search for a takeaway! He returned empty handed and hungry.
As the time drew closer to the start, the noise level began to drop. The serious business was about to begin. The runners gathered at the entrance to the underpass and waited. I wished The Runner good luck and asked how he was feeling. His answer was "I'd feel a lot better if I could do a good poo!" What's the difference between a good poo and a bad one? Sounds like a bad joke!
The runners set off to a huge cheer from all the backup teams. There was then a mad rush back to their vehicles. Like a scene from Wacky Races they set off in convoy. However, we waited a few minutes while I showed The Railwayman how to operate the handbrake, lights etc in our car. Maybe Mr Running Shop should have done the same for his backup guy (more on his car trouble later!)
First stop for us was Drymen. We were there quite early as we hadn't stopped at Carbeth or The Beech Tree and found a good place to park. The Bearded One and The Railwayman disappeared up the track and left me to try and get 40 winks. I didn't get any. The Runner made a very brief stop here as his plan was to keep stopping time to a bare minimum.
At Balmaha we got the stove going and heated up some soup. A lady approached us and asked us to show her how to work her wee stove. Fortunately her midgie net hid her embarassed face.
This was where we got our first heavy rain. The Bearded One had the great idea of setting up our stuff in the bus shelter so The Runner wouldn't get cold from sitting in the rain. By the time he arrived it had stopped. He had another very quick stop but still had enough time to moan about the diversion and how The Pastor had overtaken him on Conic Hill. I wasn't very happy about the quick stops. He runs very conservatively in the early stages because he feels better later on in the race. I felt we didn't have enough time to boost him up and tell him he was going well. But it was his race so we had to go along with it.
At least the toilets were open this year but they had no lights. Peeing in the dark is quite an adventure. Let's just say I'm glad I had my wellies on!
By the time we got to Rowardennan the steam was pouring out our ears as we passed several runners who were running along the road. We (and other backup teams) reported it to the marshals who then reported it to Mr Race Co-ordinator. Appropriate action was taken so everyone was appeased. However, when it was discovered that the toilets were locked the steam reappeared!
This is where we have our rolls and bacon. The Railwayman was starving (since he was deprived of his chips) so he had a couple of rolls and sausage as well. The midgies were especially fierce this year. By the time we fed The Runner and got the car packed up again, I had 12 bites on my hands and wrists and 2 on my face! I honestly never get bitten so was a bit annoyed.
Between Rowardennan and Beinglas I managed to get 30 minutes sleep. We dropped The Railwayman off at Ardlui where he was getting picked up by Mad Jim's backup guy. Mad Jim had hurt his ankle and dropped out so The Railwayman was able to get a lift all the way home instead of waiting for a bus. I promised to text him with regular updates on The Runner but sadly my phone failed to get a signal at many of the stopping points.
Next post will be from Beinglas to Kingshouse.
Amount of food consumed by The Runner during the race
6 Mullerice, 2 hot cross buns with butter and jam, 3 slices fruit loaf, 1 packet of Jelly Babies, 1 smoothie, 4 cups of Magic soup, a couple of spoonfuls of tuna pasta salad, 5 gels, 4 Lucozade sport drinks, 2 litres of flat Coke and many cups of coffee
Just under 7000 cals
Calories burned (according to gizmo thingy)
Over 15,000 calories
Number of times The Runner said yesterday:
"My legs are really sore/stiff" - 23
"My whole body aches/hurts" - 17
"I'm so tired" - 9
"That was a long way to run" - 4
"Why do I do this?" - 4
"Look at my toenails" - 2
Number of alcoholic drinks he consumed last night:
Dunno, but how many units are in a bottle of wine and 2 very large G&Ts?
Number of minutes it took for him to fall asleep once he got into bed:
1, then he snored like a pig all night!
Sunday, 24 June 2007
During the race I made a few notes so I wouldn't forget anything. So far I have 5 pages! The Bearded One and The Railwayman were on their best behaviour. Despite that, I still have a few stories! I'll do a fuller blog over the next few days. But here are some quick highs and lows from the weekend in order of them happening.
One of the best bits was definitely seeing old friends and meeting lots of people that I previously 'knew' online. Thanks to everyone who came and said Hello. It was fantastic to hear that you have enjoyed reading my blog. Everyone wanted to know if I was going to keep it going after the race. The short answer is yes and no. I'll explain later!
Another highlight was an incident that I'll describe in fuller detail tomorrow but be warned it involves some nudity! It's a bit cheeky!!
I had the best cup of coffee all day made just for me at Kinlochleven by Backwards Tim (so called because he thought it would be a great idea to run the WHW backwards from FW to Milngavie on the shortest day of the year!) He came to cheer The Runner before going on to man the Lundavra checkpoint. Thanks BT!
The bonfire at Lundavra was brilliant. The backup teams gathered round to listen to Uncle Dunc's fireside stories. Some newbies were asking him why he started the event. They were hanging on every word.
Absolutely the best bit was The Runner finishing in a personal best. He bettered his previous PB by an astonishing 28 minutes. I am so proud of him. He still didn't get a kiss from me before his shower but amazingly he scored one from a good friend.
The final highlight was the prizegiving. Mr Race Co-ordinator knows every runner and tries to say something about each one before giving them their goblet. I loved it when Mr Running Shop said WHW runners are just normal ordinary people who do an extraordinary thing. Depends on your definition of ordinary I guess!
Lack of sleep is a dreadful thing. Driving after being awake for 39 hours is not good.
Inconsiderate parking at the checkpoints drives me nuts. We all want good access to our runners but it shouldn't inconvience other backup teams.
Smelly wet running kit plus warm car equals one almighty pong! Our car smelled like a boy Scouts tent after a meal of baked beans!
Well done to everyone who finished. Your backup teams did a fantastic job getting you there. Thanks to The Bearded One and The Railwayman for your help. You are my heroes (but I'm still gonna tell stories about you!)
Thursday, 21 June 2007
Even the back up teams get nervous. I hope The Hippy Chick doesn't mind me sharing this. The Bearded One takes his role very seriously and spends a lot of time early Friday evening checking and double checking the equipment. The Hippy Chick says she could dance about wearing fishnet stockings and a basque with tassels on her boobs and he wouldn't even notice! That's real dedication to the race especially since The Hippy Chick is amply blessed in the cleavage department!
So what are today's plans? I've already got a big pot of Magic soup on the aga. There's a jug of coke on the table getting the occasional stir to de-fizz it. Only 6 more litres to get flat! The hall is full of 5l bottles of water and Lucozade sports. There are bags with hot cross buns, nutrigrains, fruit loaf etc. There's running gear hanging up inside cos it's flipping raining and I can't dry it outside! The freezer is full of ice packs for the cool bags. I've got lists everywhere, not because I'm an organised person. It's because I'm not and I'm scared I'll forget something. But it's always like this so I know we'll be ready in time.
The M&M Man sent this to The Runner. It's a quote from an ultra event in the States.
"My wife, trainer, chef, motivational coach, cheerleader, drill sergeant, knee doctor, blister popper, foot doctor, sunstroke preventer, anti-dehydration specialist, friction-rash preventer, calorie intake captain, equipment manager, transportation coordinator, lodging manager, wardrobe coordinator, anti-sunburn specialist and trip-to-Hawaii-forfeiture-for-what-this-run-cost-our-family financial manager showed up on race day ready to do her job."
I think this sums up my role perfectly!
To all the backup crews I wish you good luck. May you have what your runner needs ready at each checkpoint and keep them healthy and motivated throughout. You are special people who do it for the love of running.
To all the runners I wish you a safe race. May your feet be blister free and your muscles remain strong. It's your day to challenge yourself beyond all physical and mental boundaries. Good luck x
Wednesday, 20 June 2007
They gather near Midsummer’s night,
Their spirits high, their faces bright,
To run the ancient highland route,
So bold, so brave, we must salute
Their guts, their nerve, their mental strength,
To run The Way the entire length,
Of near enough a hundred mile,
They laugh and joke and crack a smile,
As if it were a simple stroll,
And not a lifetime’s aim or goal.
The starter sends them on their way,
As night begins to fade to day,
The sleeping town is left behind,
The well trod path they seek and find.
Our convoy follows through the night,
As tiredness we try to fight,
We wait as they climb over hills,
Attacked by cramp and other ills,
Scenery they scarcely notice,
Running is the only focus.
We wait and ponder on their progress,
Are they free from pain and anguish?
Muscles aching, stomachs heaving,
Taking food on board, then leaving,
Forging onwards, ever anxious,
Fighting tiredness, feeling nauseous,
By Lomond’s famous rocky banks,
We quietly offer up our thanks,
For safe arrival to each place,
Our runners in this awesome race.
O’er hills and glens and moors they pass,
A story in each blade of grass,
Where deer and feral creatures roam,
Where drovers walked their kyloes home,
Where clansmen died by fire and sword,
They run and run for small reward,
As day and race both come to end,
The runners and their new found friends,
All pledge to meet again next year,
Despite the blood, the sweat, the tears.
Tuesday, 19 June 2007
I thought I'd give my thoughts on the checkpoints in the race based on past experiences. Some aren't official checkpoints any more but are still used by a lot of backup teams. Remember they are probably completely different from a runner's point of view.
Milngavie Railway Station
Ok not a checkpoint but the start has a few things to note.
Car parking - plenty of space
Toilets - 2, bring your own toilet paper and a clothes peg (you'll literally smell the fear!)
Refreshments/Facilities - none but I'm pretty sure there is a 24 hour Asda nearby. If it's not 24 hour then it's open late cos I've definitely been in it one year we forgot something.
Not an official checkpoint but well used. Doesn't have much going for it so no idea why it's popular. Must be something to do with runners needing water!
Car parking - limited
Toilets - none
Refreshments/Facilities - none
Official checkpoint, marshalls are usually at the far end of the car park
Car parking - huge space. My tip would be park in the middle to avoid midgies and not near anyone who looks like they've had a drinking session the night before and slept in their car/van before planning to go fishing. You are likely to be greeted with "What the f**k are you lot doing here?"
Toilets - basic. Usually opened specially for us but sometimes they forget!
Refreshments/Facilities - none that are open at this time
Watch out for the steep hill coming out of Balmaha up towards Rowardennan!
Car parking - plenty of space
Toilets - much better now they've built new ones but still carry TP and soap!
Refreshments/Facilities - bring your own breakfast!
Hardly anyone drives to there but if you've got 2 cars doing backup it would work. If you go, watch out. It's a VERY narrow road and if you meet a tour bus.... Let's just say it's scary!!
Car parking- decent car park
Toilets - in hotel
Refreshments/Facilities - in hotel but don't fall over the pile of zimmers at the door!
Not an official checkpoint but well used. Many runners are desperate to see their backup as they've been on their own since Rowardennan. This is where The Railwayman leaves us and it's back to driving on my own.
Car parking - Mr Race Co-ordinator asks you don't park at the farm as the owners (quite rightly) don't want people who are not paying customers. You need to park at the Inverarnan Hotel (also known as the Drovers Inn) and walk along the road (takes about 10 mins)
Toilets - nice and clean but there is usually a notice saying for Campers Only. One year I tried to use the toilets at the hotel instead but the vomit, blood and broken glass put me off. And that was the Ladies!
Refreshments/Facilities - a wee shop that sells food suitable for camping but has drinks, crisps, ice lollies, sweets etc and a pub that does fab home made soup at lunchtime
Official checkpoint but has no car parking (you need to park on the A82!), no toilets and no facilities. Lots of backup teams park further up on the A82 to service their runner.
Auchtertyre Farm (aka Strathfillan Wigwams)
A new checkpoint this year but we've used it in the past.
Car parking - you can park up near the shop and toilet block. If that's too full there is extra parking back down the wee road a bit.
Toilets - basic but clean toilet/shower/laundry block
Refreshments/Facilities - shop selling camping basics and hot drinks (the coffee was good). Since this is the first time the owner (he is a runner himself) has allowed us to officially use his facilities it would be nice if you bought something from the shop, even if it was only a packet of gum.
No longer an official checkpoint but still good to see your runner here.
Car parking- plenty of space in the Green Welly car park. Limited space in the Brodies car park (where the Way actually passes) and the owner can be a bit(!) touchy. I always made a point of going in, buying a few things and chatting to whoever is behind the counter.
Toilets - excellent facilities in the Green Welly, although if a bus tour has just arrived there will be a long queue for the Ladies
Refreshments/Facilities - restaurant, take away sandwiches/ice cream, gift shop and outdoor shop at Green Welly; Brodies General Store; award winning fish and chip shop on main road. Last year a runner actually had a fish supper at Tyndrum!
Bridge of Orchy
Hooray! No Cally Challenge folk there this year, so no getting run over by invalid cars or poked by the Pr**ks with Sticks!
Car parking - limited space but ok without the Cally Challenge lot
Toilets - none (but I have used the bushes in an emergency!) or run back up to the hotel. They don't like it and one year put mops across the doors and said they were being cleaned!
Refreshments/Facilities - none unless you go back up to the hotel
This is where The Runner starts running with The Bearded One so I'm usually on my own from here.
Car parking - decent size but gets full quickly
Toilets - in hotel but they don't like you using them. You can buy a coffee for £1.25 and sit in the lounge. Then you can use the toilets guilt free!
Refreshments/Facilities - restaurant and pub. Food has always been good in the past but don't expect fast service
Car parking - plenty of room on road
Toilets - in the medical centre (opened for us)
Refreshments/Facilities - The Tail Race Inn and a fish and chip shop are beside the checkpoint; Co-op and paper shop as you enter the village
I've always hated going up there. Narrow single track roads are not great when you're sleep deprived.
Car parking - none. You dump your car as best you can without blocking the road. If you can't turn at the bottom of the track you have to walk up, there is a turning bit a few 100 yards further down the road.
Toilets - none and you can't even go in the trees now cos they've been cut down
Refreshments/Facilities - none unless you count Big Dunc's bonfire last year. And he promised a BBQ this year but I don't know if it's BYO!
After Lundavra I usually have time to check into the hotel, have a quick shower and then make my way up to the leisure centre. There are plenty of folk about if you want to chat and catch up with the gossip. Please come and say Hi to me. I promise not to throw my car keys at you and tell you my room number!
These observations are completely personal and based on what has happened to us in previous years. Feel free to correct anything if I've missed it out. I was going to put a midgie rating at each checkpoint but every one can be a midgie hell, depending on the weather!
Monday, 18 June 2007
Over the weekend we have already had a serious viral threat. He woke up on Saturday with a sore throat. Now the boys and I have already had a bit of a sore throat and a few sniffles at some point over the previous week, so it really shouldn't have been a surprise to him. The conversation went a bit like this:
Him: I've got a really sore throat. What will I do if it gets worse before Friday?
Me: Drink plenty of hot drinks, take your multi-vitamin tablets and 2 paracetamol. Don't worry, it'll be fine by Friday.
He complained on Sunday that he could feel a bit of a niggle in his hamstring.
Him: This is quite sore. What will I do if it gets worse before Friday?
Me: Do your stretches, make an appointment with your Crazy Physio and take 2 paracetamol. Don't worry, it'll be fine by Friday!
Last night he complained he was feeling really tired and sluggish.
Him: I'm feeling awful. What if I still feel like this on Friday?
Me: Have an early night and take 2 paracetamol. Don't worry, you'll be fine by Friday (said through gritted teeth)
He came home from work tonight with a bit of a runny nose.
Him: I think this could be developing into something serious. What if it's worse by Friday?
Me: Phone Mr Race Co-ordinator, tell him you're too ill to run and I'll get a good night's sleep on Friday!!!
Him: Well, maybe it's not that bad.......
And I've still got 4 more days of this!
Sunday, 17 June 2007
When most people meet The Runner for the first time they often think he's a fairly quiet guy, a typical Bean Counter (I'm not being derogatory, that's his profession). Sometimes I think his first impressions can be quite dour. But once you get to know him you find out that is so far from the truth it's like saying Mad Jim sounded reasonable in The Herald article.
So when we found out someone wanted to make a film about the Race it was no surprise (at least to me) that The Runner wanted to be in it. I'm not sure how much Mr Race Co-ordinator needed to be persuaded but The Film Guys duly turned up at our house to interview The Runner. Early on I decided I didn't want to be filmed. I think I've got a great face for radio and a better voice for the written word.
Anyway, The Film Guys promised they wouldn't be intrusive. The cameraman in our car would just film events as they happened. Yeah, right!
We met The Cameraman at Milngavie station an hour before the start. He had a very small bagpack with him. I think it had a rain jacket, a small bottle of water and a sandwich in it. He cheerfully admitted he had very little sleep the previous night and was suffering badly from hayfever. I really don't think he had a clue what was involved!
So The Bearded One, The Railwayman, The Cameraman, No 3 son and I set off in our brand new shiny car (this will be relevant later!) to film the epic. We stopped briefly at Carbeth and went on to Drymen and set up our stall. The Cameraman duly filmed events as they happened. We then drove to Balmaha and parked. The Cameraman thought he could get a great shot of me driving into the carpark so I had to drive back out on to the road and he filmed me driving back in. That shot wasn't used! We set out our stuff and waited for The Runner to arrive. The Cameraman did a few test shots and was adjusting the sound when he laughed and said "Listen to this!" The occupants in one of the vans parked near us (not realising a sound boom can pick up faraway sound) were clearly discussing us. They wondered how we got to have a camera with us. Obviously they didn't know The Runner well!
The Railwayman now took over the driving so that I could get a rest. One of The Film Guys had asked The Cameraman to get some shots of the runners going up a track. So instead of driving round the bend and up the hill towards Rowardennan, we drove straight ahead and along the wee narrow road. The Bearded One disappeared up a track with The Cameraman to get some shots. They weren't used either!
We came back out towards the main road. The junction is right on the bend and at the bottom of a fairly steep hill. The Railwayman had to stop to let some cars go up. He then pulled out and tried to get up the hill. To be fair, he was driving someone else's car but pulling out on to a steep hill in 3rd gear isn't good. Neither is stalling it. And I really should have pointed out that Honda CRVs don't have their handbrake in the normal position! So it's perfectly understandable he had a bit of trouble with the hill start! But the cars immediately behind us were very understanding and didn't mind reversing back a few yards to let The Railwayman roll back down the hill and get a better run at it. At least The Cameraman didn't ask us for a re-take and I wasn't at all worried about the burning smell!!
The rest of the day passed without much incident. The Cameraman filmed it pretty much as it happened. As I mentioned earlier, he suffered from hayfever and kept taking anti-histamines. However, this made him very sleepy and we had to keep waking him up to film!
Suffering hayfever and midgies at Beinglas
Asleep at Kingshouse
Awake at Kingshouse
Saturday, 16 June 2007
A couple of years ago, a few of our friends were taking part in the Challenge. They knew The Runner would be running and worked out where and when their paths might cross. One dear friend who has a Flash Car (a Mercedes SLK convertible) knew to look out for The Runner around Kingshouse. Kingshouse is where our backup runner starts to run. The Runner arrived, filled up his bottles and set off with The Bearded One. They had just crossed the wee bridge when they bumped into Flash. Flash duly made positive comments about them looking good and wished them luck for the rest of the race.
On the Monday afterwards, Flash phoned The Runner to ask how he'd got on. He said "I was really worried about you. I thought you looked really tired and might not be able to finish. But The Bearded One looked great considering how far you'd run." Yeah, about 200 yards!!!
If you've got the DVD, have a look at the bit at Kingshouse. As The Runner crosses the bridge there are 2 wee boys. They must be brothers (as the mother of 3 boys the scenario is familiar to me). The bigger one kicks the wee one out the way and you hear him say "Ooh-yah!" He looks at The Runner then says quizically "What's he doing?" I think this is a very good question!
Friday, 15 June 2007
I can't remember which year it was but it was an early one (I was still learning!) We had parked at the Inverarnan Hotel, gathered up the stuff we thought The Runner might need and walked along the road into Beinglas Farm. I have to point out (or I'll get a row from Mr Race Co-ordinator) that Beinglas is not and never has been an official checkpoint. However, many backup teams meet their runners there mainly because it's been a while since we've seen our runners. It's physically impossible (at least for us) to go to Inversnaid and then drive round in time to the Derrydarroch checkpoint.
So we trudged up to the farm and set up our stall. We hadn't seen The Runner for about 3 hours and have no idea how he's feeling. The minutes tick by, passing the ETA on the schedule we have. The Bearded One had disappeared back along the Way (remember he does this a lot) to try and spot him. Finally The Bearded One reappears and shouts "He's just coming. He wants coffee and a jam roll."
Mistake No 1 - I didn't have a jam roll with me! I had soup, Nutrigrains, bananas, jelly babies, flat coke, water, coffee but no bloody jam roll.
Mistake No 2- The Runner arrives looking absolutely ghastly. I tell him he looks awful.
Mistake No 3- I tell him he didn't ask for a jam roll to be ready here. It wasn't on the master list!
I think we gave him some soup instead but he was not a happy chappy. We filled up his water bottles and he set off. He estimated it would take him about an hour to reach the 1st crossing of the A82 but warned us he wasn't feeling great so not to worry if it took him longer.
We trudged back to the car with all the stuff. We noticed that The Stagger Inn across the road was now open and serving breakfast. I can't remember who's great idea it was but we decided we would go for breakfast. The Hippy Chick and I went for the full Scottish. The Bearded One had clootie dumping (carbo loading for his later run). Our breakfasts came on a sizzling platter and was beautifully presented. The bacon was cut into little fat free strips, the eggs were a perfect circle. It was truly a work of art on a plate.
We ate up, made a toilet stop in a lovely clean bathroom (these things become important as the day goes on) and set off along the road to the 1st crossing. We got out the car and started to set up. We checked our timings and expected The Runner to be along in the next 5 minutes. We were approached by a Man from the Ibac Van who was someone else's back up. "You've missed your runner. We filled his water bottle and fed him."
Aaargh!!! He'd only taken 52 minutes to get there. We flung everything back in the car, yelled our embarassed thanks to the Man from the Ibac Van and set off again. We pulled in at a farm gate further up the road. The Bearded One got out his binoculars and started scanning the Way. After a few anxious minutes he finally spotted him. We started yelling and waving and jumping up and down to attract his attention. The Bearded One then did the loudest most piercing whistle I've ever heard (he is descended from a well known cattle rustling clan so it's probably genetic!) That did the trick. The Runner spotted us and waved. At least he knew we were ok and hadn't decided to go home!
So what did we learn from this?
1. At every checkpoint have EVERYTHING ready and available, just in case. The jam roll incident gets cast up regularly.
2. Never tell your runner how awful they look. They already know they look and feel awful. Lie to them!
3. Allow extra time to get to the next checkpoint. You can't predict when your runner has a good spell and makes good time.
4. Be aware if a runner comes in and can't find his backup. Fill his bottles and feed him if he needs it. This is where the community of the backup teams becomes outstanding. Don't forget to let his back up know he's ok if they completely miss him.
5. Bring your own breakfast. That's how the tradition of a fry up at Rowardennan started for us.
Someone once told The Runner his backup looked very professional (remember looks can be deceptive!) We've made a lot of mistakes along the way but we've learned from each one. I'm sure this year will be no exception and something will happen. But that's part of the fun!
Thursday, 14 June 2007
The Runner's first successful race was 2000. I think the race started at 2 am that year, which meant he finished after midnight. This was too late to go to the pub. We felt the back up crew deserved a little reward at the end of a very long day.
The following year we came prepared. Knowing we wouldn't be in time for last orders we brought our own. We shared a bottle of warm bubbly after The Runner finished. Naturally he was a bit tired and not really in the mood to get merry. The atmosphere, like the bubbly, was bit flat.
The next time we came up with a plan. On arrival at Fort William, The Hippy Chick and I would check into the hotel. We would leave our bags in the room and drive up to the leisure centre. We would park the car (containing The Runner's bag of clean clothes). And here was the genius bit, we would leave the car keys and the room number with the guy on the reception desk and walk back down to the pub in time for last orders. The Runner would then drive to the hotel. It was a great plan.
On the day, we arrived at the Travel Inn at 10.20pm and checked in. We threw our bags into the room. We drove up to the leisure centre and parked as close to the door as we could. We gave the car keys to the bewildered guy at the desk (well what would you think if 2 demented women flung their car keys at you and said "We'll be in room 16!") and legged it as fast as we could back to the Travel Inn. We made it in time for last orders!
This plan worked really well for us. The only problem I hadn't foreseen was that The Runner's legs were so stiff he could barely drive. Oops! He also said it wasn't the same finishing without me being there. He had a point. I'd been there at the start, supported him throughout the day and then buggered off to the pub at the best bit. I did feel a bit guilty.
Since then, I've been at the finish every year to cheer him as he finishes. On the DVD, you'll see me kissing him at the end and then saying "Yuck!" I confess that kiss was purely for the camera. Normally I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot barge pole after a long run. At home I make him stand in the utility room and strip (and not in a sexy way!) because he's a walking waterfall of sweat. The dogs have no problem licking him though!
Now I wait until Sunday for my celebratory G&T. It's worth the wait.
Wednesday, 13 June 2007
Try to look alert and wide awake at all times especially after 40 hours without sleep
Offer your runner non-specific advice such as “Keep it steady” or “Take it nice and easy”
Tell them they look great at every checkpoint even if you’ve seen more colour in a week old corpse
Reassure them their race plan was fantastic - it was just not their year
Accept that not having a jam roll ready at Beinglas was entirely your fault
Wait until Sunday to tell them they looked dreadful the whole race, their race plan was rubbish and they didn’t ask for a bloody jam roll to be ready at Beinglas
Applaud every runner at each checkpoint because they deserve it
Practise hill starts (if you’re driving someone else’s car) before tackling the road up to Rowardennan if you’re a bit rusty
Offer up a silent thank you to your higher power for every runner who makes it to Fort William in one piece
Offer up a loud thank you for every volunteer who gives up their weekend (and more!) just because they love running and the WHW. You are all STARS!
Never discuss the possibility of being back up after a few beers because before you’ve sobered up the form’s been filled in
Don’t scoff at midge nets until you get out the car at Carbeth on your first ever race
Don’t tell your runner they’ve got the easy bit
Never mix red wine and anti-histamines
Don’t order a meal in an eatery thinking you’ve got plenty of time before your runner comes in
Don’t forget to thank the back up team who serviced your runner while you waited for your order
Never assume a camera crew will have no impact on your duties as back up
Don’t double park in lay-bys and then disappear, even if it’s only for five minutes
Don’t be tempted to tell your runner to hurry up in the shower at the finish because they just can’t!
Tuesday, 12 June 2007
This is No 3 son demonstrating how to eat an ice lolly while wearing a midgie net. This pic is at Beinglas Farm where the midgies can be vicious. Now don't hate me but I NEVER get bitten by the little blighters. I wear a net if they are annoying me but I don't even need to use the spray. Sorry! The Runner gets eaten alive by them and has to be drenched in repellent. This year he wants to try the Avon stuff, Skin so Soft as loads of people swear by it. I suppose it smells better.
The very first year of doing the back up was the first time I'd witnessed how awful midgies can be. The Runner wanted us to stop at Carbeth in case he needed something. The Bearded One got out of the car and disappeared up a track (he does this a lot) leaving me and The Hippy Chick in the car people-watching. Two guys got out of the car parked in front of us. They were wearing midgie nets and stood virtually hosing each other down with spray. The Hippy Chick and I were helpless with laughter and were making comments along the lines of "What a pair of woosies!"
A short time later The Bearded One tapped the window and shouted "He's just coming." We got out the car and walked into a haze of midgies. As I've already said they don't bite me but they LOVE The Hippy Chick with a passion. Within 30 seconds of leaving the car we were beating a retreat and ransacking the boxes in the back of the car for a couple of nets I'd popped in at the last minute. The Runner had been and gone before we got them on and The Hippy Chick was left covered in love bites from her miniscule admirers.
The Hippy Chick bravely continued helping with the back up for a few more years. She put up with the onslaught of the little devils and the allergic reaction got steadily worse. Anti-histamines were just not enough. The final year she helped out, she admitted she'd had a glass of red wine earlier in the evening (which was fine as she doesn't drive). She took her anti-histamine as usual and promptly had a good night's sleep in the back of the car!!
You may have seen the t-shirt with a list of Dos and Don'ts printed on it. They come from a list I made one year. One of the Don'ts is "Don't mix red wine and anti-histamines." Now you know why!
Monday, 11 June 2007
So in the absence of a camper van, this is what we bring.
1. Cooking stove. This is The Bearded One's area of expertise. He brings the gas and some folded metal thingies. Magically he puts them together and makes a little stove. Fantastic for boiling water, heating up Magic soup and cooking a full Scottish breakfast for the back up crew at Rowardennan!
2. Flasks for coffee, hot water and soup
3. Picnic set. Basically a big box containing plastic cutlery, plates and tumblers. I think it came from B&Q years ago but it all fits neatly together in the box and so saves space.
4. Several large containers of water (I think they each hold 5 litres). One year we almost ran out of water because we forgot we needed extra water to wash dirty dishes. Ever resourceful, The Bearded One found a burn to rinse out his pan!
5. Little basin with washing up stuff
6. Towels, preferably old cos they get used for a multitude of purposes.
7. Toilet rolls, poop bags and the hand washing gel that doesn't need water. No matter how you try to organise toilet stops at nice clean places you do get caught short!
8. Kitchen rolls, useful for loads of stuff
9. Golf umbrella, just in case it rains!!!!
10. Waterproof trousers and jacket, for the same reason and several changes of clothes including underwear
11. Foldable chair
12. Cool bags/boxes to keep food fresh for as long as possible
I'll have a think and add some more later.
13. First aid kit. Usual basic supplies plus Compeed in every available size, painkillers and Nux vomica.
14. Midgie nets! And repellant! How could I forget the midgies? Thanks for the reminder Tim!
Sunday, 10 June 2007
Over the years we have found the following list to be the most successful.
1. Chicken and rice soup (also known as Magic soup). This year we are going to try it blended smooth so The Runner can drink it instead of eating it with a spoon. Obviously this will save HUGE amounts of time at the checkpoints.
2. Rice pudding, the ones with apple are the best. Muller do a chilled version but you can buy Ambrosia pots with apple or strawberry that don't need to be kept cool.
3. Flat coke, the full fat version. Needs to be prepared before the race. The first year, The Hippy Chick and I stood in the pouring rain at Kingshouse stirring mugs of Coke to get rid of the fizz.
4. Coffee, the stronger the better.
5. Lucozade Sport drinks. Orange makes The Runner feel sick in the later stages. Mixed Berry is good and you can now get Raspberry flavour.
6. Hot Cross Buns spread with butter and strawberry jam.
7. Fruit loaf spread with butter.
8. Bassets Jelly babies. Supermarket own labels are not as good (apparently!)
9. Nutrigrain bars (apple flavour) and Power bars
10. Lucozade Sport gels and Honey Stingers
12. Tuna pasta salad
If I remember anything else I'll add to the list later. And if anyone has any other good ideas let us know.
We've had a few food mishaps along the way. Usually we bring too much and end up throwing away most of it on the Sunday. One year The Bearded One brought a dozen rolls. So did we! I think we used about 6 and threw the rest away. In one of the early years we thought it would be a good idea to bring chicken drumsticks. In retrospect it wasn't ideal!
Saturday, 9 June 2007
This is my 7th year of providing back up for the wonderful event known as The West Highland Way Race. Every year at the prize giving I say 'I'm not doing this again next year' (much like the runners!) But once the car's been cleaned out, the running kit sterilised and the midgie hoods put away, the Travel Inn has been booked and Dario has cashed the cheque, we're in it again.
In our vehicle there's me, the driver. If anyone has watched the DVD Closing Distance, I'm the moo who yelled at her son 'Get in the car NOW!' at Kinlochleven. In my defence I had gone 32 hours without sleep, it was raining and The Runner had asked for something I didn't have ready. And having a guy with a camera in your car is NOT fun.
Our back up runner is The Bearded One. Sadly he doesn't drive but more than makes up for this by providing the cooking facilities (and bacon butties at Rowardennan). In the early years, The Bearded One's wife also accompanied us. Known as The Hippy Chick, she has a fondness for red wine and is allergic to midgies (this fact will be relevant later!)
Sometimes we have another driver/runner with us, The Railwayman. Also known for being a fast walker. He's used to working shifts and is valued for his ability to be an alert driver in the early hours. Unfortunately he is rubbish at hill starts (more on that later!)
With only 2 weeks to go until this years race I'll try to cover such topics as food (for The Runner and for myself), equipment, timetable/race plans and anything else I remember. I'll share our disasters (there have been a few) and funny stuff. If there's anything I miss, give me a shout and I'll add it in.
Good luck to everyone taking part this year, both runners and back up crews. As the saying goes, you don't have to be mad but it helps!