Support Crew: William Crichton, my Father, one of my best friends and biggest supporters. John Strachan, a great mate who I have met through the running club Ayr Seaforth, John has now got the ultra bug after doing his first last year, he will be in Tyndrum for the Devil o the highlands in August! Greg Beattie, a funnier, down to earth and more loyal chap you couldn’t meet! A 2014 WHWR race finisher a great man to have on the crew at the last minute. Glenn Gemmell, a 5 yes 5 times WHWR finisher, what a wealth of knowledge and a cool calm and collective head to have on the team and last but not least Bobby Miller, a very experienced runner having run countless ultras across Scotland before he had a massive part to play in the race as did the rest of the crew…also other runners, other crews, friends seen on route and friendly strangers…I cannot stress enough the support and warmth I felt from everyone on Saturday when the going got tough.
Time to get Into registration and Race experienced now here goes…
My Dad and I drive upto Milngavie Train station arriving for roughly 11pm, on the way up there wasn’t much convo in the car a few bits back and forth. I did however speak to my dad about feeling a lack of emotion towards the race this year, which isn’t like me I am normally an emotional charges person particularly with things I am passionate about…ultra running especially an iconic race such as the WHWR should certainly get my juices flowing! I had put it down to swallowing a couple of sleeping sedatives that afternoon to try and get a sleep, which didn’t work too great I only managed a couple of hours, I was still sure I felt drowsy. On arriving at Milngavie and walking over to registration, that lack of emotion I was feeling towards the race….quickly changed and I was feeling the excited and butterfly feeling, in fact in the course of registration and the race starting at 1am I’d say I was more nervous than I had been my previous and first year running it! so it was satisfying for me to feel this way…my soul, heart and passion hadn’t deserted me, yay! which I would say are some of my biggest attributes for ultras :-). A lot of chat and people met at the registration, weigh in and around the start etc. motivational chat, humour and best wishes etc. Shout outs to chats at the start I remember…Debbie Consani when getting my timing chip on, I disclosed my target time and Debbie told me she would be watching! (No pressure there with one of the UKs best ultra runners!) Gerry Craig at the weigh in station (where I covered my eyes and didn’t look), Kristy and Keith Wise…lovely people and would be seeing them a few time on route. Graeme Connolly who was up supporting other people on route, he would have a part to play in my belief pre and post race…All the runners that I know on the start line far too many to name but you know who you are…a lot of you will get a mention in the action part. The race brief…then race start 1am…lets go.
Milngavie – Balmaha 19.5 miles
The race start through Milngavie town where atticipation, excitement and fear can all be felt in equal measures! the supports cheer you off onto the trail and onto the start of the WHW. My dad and Greg had left 10-15 minutes before the start to get to Drumgoyne 7 miles in to meet me at the first bit. Not too much to talk about here, settling into the race and leeching head torch light off of others by turning mine off a lot as I was paranoid about the battery life. I had a good chat with Stephen Schofield and Graham MacBroom along sections here, both in there first WHWR and would go on for some great performances! Arriving at Drumgoyne I grabbed a change of water bottle off Greg and a packet of space raiders and granola bar. Yes the eating and started already! I was feeling fine and settled, it was a beatiful clear night. In fact the sky hadn’t got completely dark atall due to the summer solstice fast approaching. Heading north even at the start of 1am you could see on the horizon sky line a line of daylight with the dark sky above it…amazing place that Scotland is! making my way to just a couple miles before drymen I caught back up with my man Graham MacBroom, we chatted up the inclines and easily ran the downs and arrived in Drymen on 2hrs…now a bit fast I think…I wanted 2:05-2:10. I find it hard to judge pace with the head torch on and especially given that I don’t use a garmin I’m just running in feel, but I normally am a very good pacer. Graham and I both decided to take the foot off the gas a little bit here after to Balmaha 7 miles away, gradual climbing and a few rolling bits after drymen then the climb and descent off of Conic hill down to Balmaha Check Point at 19.5 miles. I had wanted to be here in 3hrs 35, we dos take it easy with a very leisurely easy approach gabbing a lot apt life and the day ahead. We sauntered up conic hill, only getting a wee run on near the top as we seen the cameras were there for the adventure show haha! The sun was newly up and the view off the top of conic hill which looks down over Loch Lomand as I’ve seen many times was beautiful…but at that time of the morning and in such a race it feels even better! The descent off of conic was handled with care to avoid trashing the legs. Graham and I arrived in Conic together at 3hr 25mins…about 10 minutes ahead for me. Seen Rob Souter here, who shouted a bit of support, Top Guy! and for cheers and claps from a lot of others, I remember saying to friends that said ‘looking good Andy’ as Ijogged by to my support car ‘thanks but it’s been too fast so far’ Maybe so but I was running on feel so just had to see how it goes. I ate a quiche in this CP, babybel, crisps, ambrosia rice and was off within 3/4 minutes. The midges were a wee bit annoying here…but I set off for Rowerdenan 8 miles north along the banks of loch lomand…
Balmaha to Beinglas 41 miles
Leaving Balmaha roughly at the same time as Graham we ran basically all of this 8 mile stretch to Rowerdenan together again. It was nice to pass the time with someone and chat, we were both running well and not feeling we were pushing it too hard. This is quite an underated section and gets quite undulating at parts. Arriving at Roweredenan for me bang on 5hrs was 15 minutes ahead of my planned pace. Getting to the Rowerdenan CP where my dad and Greg were waiting on me….it was undescribable how bad the midges were here, my full arms and legs were covered within seconds of stopping running to try and eat. I wanted to eat a good bit of food here but as the midges were so bad it was a rushed effort and I ate what I could and got out…taking some food with me. Leaving for Inversnaid 7 miles away the midges were relentless for the first couple of miles still, climbing up the hill after Rowerdenan it seemed to go on for longer than I remembered before we turned down to the newly reopened (low path)…this takes you back down to the loch side instead of up and down like the high path. The low path is great trails, short sharp undulations, twisty, tricky underfoot…so a good edition to the race taking you off the Land Rover track road section of the high path. Although it’s slower and probably adds 10-15 minutes into the journey. Not to worry though I ran Much of this section with Derek Fish, just taking it quite easy as I was starting to feel a Little tired…but no worries I can’t expect to feel good all day! arriving at Inversnaid at 34 miles I grabbed a quite bite out of my drop bag here, and a few things off the table. Midges were still bad here…but compared to the scenes at Roweredenan it was nothing!! leaving for Beinglas 6.5-7 miles away, this is the tough loch side section. Very hard terrain to run on, where infact a lot of it is just good clambing speed you need to have and a bit of bottle with some of the stones that look slippy to cross them and tree roots quickly etc. it’s a tough section but I always run well here and this was no exception…taking over 5-10 people here. Climbing up by Darios Post and a quick look back to see loch lomand in the opposite direction from the before mentioned view from the top of conic hill was nice…but today good riddance to the lochside and its midges! a mile or so on and I was at Beinglas…8hrs 20min and target was 8hrs 30min. I stopped for 5 here to eat with my dad and Greg and had a good uplifting chat with them and Paul McNair, that guy is the fountain of positivity and good will, Legend! and a quick chat and photo from photographer Graeme Hewitson aswell before I set off…below
Off for Auchentyre at 50 miles now and the first weigh in station…
Beinglas to Auchentyre 50 miles.
Leaving Beinglas for Auchentyre, is gradual climbing to the top of the roller coaster after crainlarich then a bit of undulating and down to Auchentyre. Running well during this section…the sun had started to split the sky which banished the midges! Good times, but it was only 10am in the morning and feeling hot enough…this was set to be a scorcher I could feel. A couple of miles after Beinglas I ran past Ally Thompson and his wife who were up to cheer on on route, great to see Ally briefly and get a quick chat, he’s a top man! Running up cow pat ally over taking a few bodies I was fast approaching 47-48 miles and Crainlarich, where it’s Half way time!! a good feeling, John, Glenn and Greg were there to meet me. My dad had no left and gone upto Inchree to check into our accommodation and for a nap. Hardcore great was up for the duration today! Once I had a quick stop and ate a quiche and a few other things I went into the start of the damn roller coaster, this is a tough stretch for a couple of miles before Auchentyre…like the name its up and down, up down…the you hear the traffic of the main road 😀 then guess what…your back up again. It’s some section! (Pictures show arrival at Crainlarich and then start of rollercoaster)
getting to Auchentyre farm I got the weigh in and was down 3.5 KG. on my frame 3.5 KG isn’t that much but a healthy weight to see coming off given the effort and heat. I fuelled with assistance from my great support crew…while sitting down briefly for the first time today. I arrived in Auchtyre at 10:31 which was bang on target of 10:30…I was stopped for 5 minutes then off again…on the way out of this CP running I had a couple of chats with people, One being Graeme Connolly who informed me how the front of the race had been panning out and how unfortunately his runner and my mate Davie Gow had to pull out with injury at Beinglas. Unfortunate as davie had been training well and would have been well up there in the race! Graeme encouraged me to keep plugging away and relax and let it take care of itseelf. I was starting to feel the race now thoug….this was the start of a major battle for me to get to Fort William for me.
Auchentyre to Bridge of Orchy (BOO) 60 miles.
the 3 miles from Auchentyre to Tyndrum were run slowly…I was baking in the heat but knew I would see my support crew again here and they would have an ice lolly for me…infact John had two! A sole ro and a magnum…he gave me the choice of which one to take and I took the solero even though I wanted both like lol. I crossed the road with assistance from john to make sure there was no traffic coming
At the other side of the road the rest of my support crew were there and Bobby had arrived too. Barrie Johnson and his Relay team were about too and giving me some encouragement but I wasn’t taking much on…I was being very negative about how I was feeling and the blazing midday sun wasn’t helping matters. My crew encouraged me to get going again and John walked out a bit with me…I left tyndrum feeling a major low point, infact I walked for the first 30 minutes after I left it….and this is one of the easiest sections of the route, all I could think about was how bad I was currently feeling and what still lay ahead, Rannoch moor, Devils staircase, KLL descent and ascent/larig moor. To be feeling the way I was just now and slowing down it was going to to be a long shift out there, I was also getting bitter saying to myself I’m not using a support running either feck that etc, I want to suffer myself! (I was being a blade!) I resigned myself when i crouched over on my knees looking at the ground 4 miles outside of BOO that I was stopping when I got there…I had now walked for 40 minutes since Tyndrum how could I walk the rest of it in…I was being very negative with myself, it was indeed dark times! just at that a few people passed me, one being Derek Fish…I managed to pull myself through a bit and got into a run for a few miles before BOO. I arrived in here to my support crew and they were much happier with my presentation saying I seemed much better than the way I seemed and came across at Tyndrum! I had came out of a bad spell…this was good but I had lost a lot of time on that section and had not resigned myself to not getting my goal time. I refuelled as well as I could here but couldn’t take much in…I think the sun was making harder to eat now along with the blazing sunshine! Anyway I left the CP with Bobby Miller as my support runner who would now accompany me until KLL at 81 miles! Upon leaving I got a few shout of support from Raymond and Paul in Graham MacBs support crew and spoke to Rob Souter and remembered saying I’m off for my target time now mate, his words of wisdom were strong and true…it doesn’t matter, just get it finished! that stuck with me on the Rannoch moor.
BOO to Glencoe 70 miles
leaving BOO with Bobby Miller polar oposites to my inner tantrum I was taking on the last section, I actually really really enjoyed having my support runners company. A problem shared is a problem halved as they say! We walked strongly up the hill together to the top where jelly baby hill is with the the man playing music on his flute. And I got a picture taken taking a jelly baby and got Bobby to take a picture for me. After that was the down hill of half a mile or so to inveranon hotel where we met the support crew again, only 2/3 miles since BOO but I had a shot at eating again and again I didn’t do too well…which worried me as its normally a trump card for me during ultras the ability to eat!
(First pic is getting to inveranon, Secind leaving BOO)
So Bobby and I pressed into the rannoch moor section….steady uphill here for a good 5/6 miles, I told Bobby I would just death march most of this section, as it wouldn’t be much slower than running pace for me to do a fast walk and it would save me a bit of energy for later…I hoped! We done just that here, catching upto a couple of runners and having a chat passed the time reasonably well. Due to the stones nature of the path here my ball of my left foot was feeling as though it might be developing a blister…and boy did it happen, about a mile from Glencoe I almost felt the pain going from painful to ‘fecking brutally painful’ blisters isn’t a thing I normally ever get even at long distance. But today I had my old pair of Mizuno Kuzan trails to put on at the start….but noticed a bit of a tear at the front of them so decided to not wear them incase stones went into them, so I wore my new pair I had only worn twice for a total of 10 miles….I knew it was risky for blisters but I had no other option. I had to hobble with care for the last mile off rannoch moor and down to Glencoe to get the the checkpoint and see what I could get done to the blister…on the way down I bumped into Kenny Taylor who was on the way onto rannoch moor to Look for Graeme Reid his runner, I also seen Graeme Connolly here again who was doing similar in looking for his runner…both of them have me some encouragement but I could sense there concerns. My negativity had come back a bit again aswell, no chance I could do another 26 tough trail miles with the foot like this. I got into the Check Point and John was going to try and drain the massive blister on the ball of my foot for me…3 times he went to Pearce it and me being a Jessie couldn’t face someone else putting a needle in me lol, (ironic as I do that to people on my job daily!) I ended up having to do it for myself, but didn’t get much reprieve. Oh dear…I got up and ready to go out of this check point but felt terrible about my chance now…and was very close to resigning from the race at Glencoe.
Glencoe to Kinlochleven (KLL) 81 miles.
Leaving Glencoe with Bobby starting the down hill towards Kingshouse on the road…I fast walked/shuffled a hundred feet or so from the checkpoint and said…’nope’ I can’t go on with the blister as bad as this (knowing the terrain that was to come) I asked Bobby if he could run back to re CP and try and get some sort of kit or dressing to cover it for me…the legend ran back and checked for me. While I was sat down on the grass at the side of the road with my face in my hands…I really wanted a way out of this race, but something wouldn’t let me at the same time…if I could get this blister even feeling half better I could maybe mount something I thought. Bobby arrived back with Greg who had a kit with some compeed dressings, i got Greg to stick two over my blistered area and got my sock and shoe on to try again. Just before Bobby and I went to run off i remember Kristy and Keith Wise driving slowly past me in in their car and I could see the worry in their face for how i was was looking I just shock my head as a sign to them things hadn’t been going to great. Then Martin Kelly drove by me after that with his window down and asked how I was doing. ‘I’m in a bad way’ Was met with a very encouraging vote of confidence from Him that I’m strong and could do it! Bobby and I left for the road down to kings house, after walking the first 50 feet again I tried into a slow jog…and from Somewhere I maintained it…all the way to the bottom of the Devils staircase 4 miles away which some of is climbing and on rough terrain. I had a very strong 4 miles here, the blister felt much better and my spirits were lifted…back from the doldrums…again!! just before the stair case climb I got a quick bite to eat from My support crew and then started the ascent at a low but steady and uninterrupted walk! my crew came up part of the staircase to take pics of Bobby and I…
After we reached the top of the Devils staircase it was time for the 6 mile descent in KLL, or the most brutal part in the race in my opinion. I’m never very good at this descent with 75 miles already in my legs so just took it easy…runners were flying past me, Graham MacB first I’d seen him since Inversnaid which felt like a lifetime ago came screaming past me (literally) as him and his support runners on Raymond, Paul and his bro were all singing…they all encouraged me to come with them but I didn’t have the legs for the pace they were doing and declined and wishes them luck, it was great to see Graham moving so well! Graeme Reid And Kenny past me…Stephen Schofield and his crew which included Rob Souter passed me…I couldn’t keep up with any of them! it was a souls destroying descent for me with Bobby trying to encourage me and keep my head from going down…but it was again tbh. But Eventually we got to the bottom of the descent and into the town, a half mile run or so seen me into the KLL Checkpoint. Feeling hellish and looking it after hearing from people who seen me here after the race…I went into get weighed, after a great motivational hug From Sarah first! when I went outside i seen GC again about to head off with Karen Walace for her last 15 mile, she’d had a great run! Graham MacB also gave me a shout S he left as did Graeme Reid! but I was just happy to get a seat for 10 minutes and eat some (very little) food and try and get myself a bit more comfortable and motivated for the last stage…saying that with 15 miles to go I now knew I was definitely finishing! I just at this point couldn’t care less what the time was…I was under motivated and just wanted to be at fort William now. Getting ready to leave for the glory leg with John as my new support runner Bobby Miller started getting prepared again, John had talked him into seeing it out until the end aswell! I good touch for Bobby to see me to the end aswell as he had done a great job with me thus far! I hadn’t been N easy customer to support run for today I knew that lol…so we left, 15 miles away from a goblet and finish.
KLL to Fort William 96miles, FINISH!!
So we left walkinh through KLL to the start of the big ascent out of KLL onto the larig moor…I walked all this ascent in an uninspiring way and just wanted it to be over! when we got out of the ascent and onto the larig moor I was still acting very uninspired…as I say it was just a finish I was interested in now time was irrelevant at this point! John and Bobby tries hard to motivate me into a run but I tried (didn’t give much effort) And then stopped to a walk again…3/4 miles or so onto the moor, I did however get another wind and started running…just after I did I said to the guys not to mention it as I didn’t want them to make a fuss over me running and I wanted to focus, they laughed at me saying this but it sounded ok in my tired head lol. I kept this light and slog jog up…we reached the mountain rescue area where the lovely Patricia was helping out at as she was last year, Patricia is a fabulous photographer and took a snap of John, Bobby And myself approaching…I knew it was coming so got those two to run in good alignment for a photo lol. stopper here quickly for a cup of irn bru and. Couple of hugs from Patricia and we were off again…I was still running, I had a bit of grit and fight back in me again! I knew Landavra wasn’t a million miles away, and looking at my watch…I now decided I could push and get a sub 24hr time, which given the way I had felt for a lot of the last 35-40 miles would be a great consolation! so we got going running at a decent clip…John Spotted the smoke from the fire at Landavra a mile or so away so that motivates things further! when we eventually reached the campfire and music of lundavra my dad and Glenn were there cheering us on. We didn’t stop and run straight through though for the last 6/7 miles for the goal time! coming out after lundavra is hilly and undulating into the Forrest. We kept a good shuffle up going up the gradients for the first few and then started to walk…I seen a random white board in the middle of one of the fields with the dark shadow of a man standing In front of it…spooky. Although upon getting closer I seen it was a rotten tree stump, I never disclosed this to the guys at the time lol too focused on runnin, but on that note, Time for the guys to get the head torches on and one to go in front of me and one behind through the forest section! We battled our way through the Forrest…and arrived at the most beautiful site on the whole WHWR…the sight of the last gradient in the race!! after the 14,000ft +\- that had already come before it, it was sure welcome :-). We made our way up here and onto the road into fort William! 3/3.5 miles from here and a lot of time to do it in for sub 24…it was in the bag but I still ran this anyway, only reaching about 12 minute miles on the downhill it felt a lot faster…but it was plenty at this stage to get me home and dry. getting nearer for William it felt like the turning for Braveheart car park (1 mile to go) was never coming!! when it eventually did with about 27 minutes left for the last mile for a sub 24 I knew the job was done…but still kept a jog up along the main road into fort William and thanked the guys John and Bobby for helping me to get to this stage and to a sub 24! as we were 0.25 of a mile from the finish I instructed the guys to run on to the finish so they could watch me come in if they liked…I took the foot off the glass and once I seen they had turned into the leisure centre…I started running with a bit more vigour again! into the leisure centre car park 10 yards from the finish i slowed right down and enjoyed the applause from everyone to cross the line with my arms raised! 23:43:29 seconds
…I am damn pleased with that after the way the day played out after Tyndrum. I showed some heart and grit where some would drop out if they weren’t making goal times. But there is something powerful about that Goblet…any finish is a good one for one of those to add to the collection! I was met by my dad, Greg and Glenn at the finish. For handshakes hugs and congratulations…I thanked them all too Defo not possible without them!!
The next day the the goblet ceremony it was great to see everyone and have a chat to some about there journeys, everyone had done great who had finished and even those who didn’t had the courage to try it!! a couple of shout outs…firstly to a guy I have been praising non stop since it and he might want a restraining order on me soon lol James Stewart…what a hero, James won the race in 15:15, logging the 3rd fastest time of all time on the course…a truly spectacular run, a great guy who full deserved the glory!! Also to my team Mate Mark Caldwell, Mark is a quite character and let’s his running do the talking…a 18:15 run which was an 1hr 20 minute PB is absolutely colossal!! and to get 7th place is pretty special aswell In a very high quality field this year! I was 70th/160 finishers (198 starters) I have had a lot of encouraging and thoughtful messages after the race telling me not to be disappointed in not making my 21:30 target…but to take great pleasure and pride in the fact that I pushed through on a lot of very dark stages..where many would have fell by the DNF side. So I’m trying to do that, and to be honest il loving my 2016 goblet…I’m remembering the bad times of the race when I look at it then remembering I still got a very respectable time…there is plenty more to come from me for the race in the future I also rest easy knowing that!! At 27 years old I have a bit of time left :-).
Thanks for reading guys, a truly magical race and weekend from everyone involved. Runners, marshals, walkers on route, support crews….everyone, thank you and much love xx
Andy Stag C x