Running race 8:09:19  55.0 km (8:54 / km) +4700m 6:14 / km
Glen Coe Skyline. What a rollercoaster! Apologies in advance for the gushing to follow. So happy to have made it to the start of this race after pulling out last year and even happier to make it to the finish. Not quite the race I wanted, but hard to care about that too much and I can honestly say I enjoyed it all, even the suffering. Of which there was a lot.
I started at what I felt was the right pace, letting the front pack go straight away and settling in with Pete Vale amongst others. Maybe used up a bit too much energy on Curved Ridge trying to get ahead to avoid congestion, had a few cramp warning spasms here (already!) and could feel the effort in my legs. The next section up and over a col and up the next valley went well, but I probably got a bit carried away with the running. When I hit the climb to Bidean I tucked into a peanut butter sandwich and promptly had a bit of a crash (low energy, burning quads and flashing lights - uh oh). Lost a few places here and toiled up all the climbs along the ridge. Much too early for that sort of thing!
Kept telling myself it would pass, but the bad feeling lasted through the out and back (where Emile Forsberg came powering past me making it look easy) and the horrible descent down to Loch Achtriochtan. The descent in particular was miserable; treacherous greasy slabs and irregular steps all the way - the car park at the bottom just would not get any closer! I probably haemorrhaged a good 20 minutes on this bad patch and had serious doubts about my ability to make it up the next 1000m climb!
But anything can happen in a race like this and as soon as I started the climb I found that my legs were working again. Settled into a nice rhythm here counting the double steps and promising myself incentives at round numbers: 'at 500 I will look down and see how far I have come'; 'at 1000 I will be over half way (a lie, alas).' Astonishingly the folk in front were slowly coming back to me and there was no sign of danger from behind.
Once up I knew that I would at least make it to the finish, but progress along the ridge was painfully slow with the pinnacles of Annoch Eagach to negotiate. The scrambling was a welcome distraction though and I quite enjoyed this section. The last bit was a slog with no water left and a good 15km of running back to the finish. I had a suspicion that sub-8 was out of reach, but deluded myself for as long as possible to keep up the motivation. Actually felt pretty good in the last few kms on the runnable stuff when it finally came.
Glad to get that one in the bag! Nice to see so many others hitting personal targets and just surviving to the finish line - particularly the final finisher who made it in 2 minutes inside the cutoff in the dark at 9pm. It's an audacious race, but with the risk so well managed that it really works. Was good to catch up with so many people too - the 4am start back to Edinburgh in Oleg's party wagon was almost worth it!