Saturday, 16 May 2015

Highland Fling : Race Report 2015

The 53 mile Highland Fling has become quite a UK ultramarathon phenomena, year after year it gets bigger and better.  After having a great Fling race in April 2014 I just had to run it again in 2015, and only just made it in with the frenzy of online entry as soon as the event opened for entries back in the October 2014. 

Like last year I'm again using the Fling as build up to full West Highland Way Race (WHWR) in June, but the Fling in it's own right is an A race for me, one to put my all in and not just use it as a training run for the WHWR. I wanted another Personal Best, and not content with just beating last years time of 9:43 by a small amount and set my heart on sub 9hr time.

Training since October has gone really well, running everyday since the end of October seems to suit my body and mind.  My training logs have shown great progression, with Heart Rate for a given pace around 10bpm lower this April compared to last April.  My training log spreadsheet also has columns that project my possible finishing time at different races, with the average projection for the Fling at a HR of 150 was sub 8:50. Last year I did 9:43 at an average HR of 154.  These projected figures seemed crazy, a minute mile faster at a lower HR?  Surely too good to be true?

Spanner in the works

Two weeks before the Fling I ran a new ultra event, the 31 mile Great Trossachs Skidaddle, doing an ultra so close to an A race is not something I would normally do but it's a local event so didn't want to miss it. The date of the race was constrained by the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park authority opening of the Great Trosshachs Path that goes from Inversnaid to my home town of Callander.  The route is very much like a mini Fling race, with a similar elevation per mile, with plenty of ups and downs.

The route is stunning and my plan of using as a training run went really well, I got to mile 23 running well within myself, really enjoying the run and feeling fresh for the final 8 miles.  I was quite happy in second and hadn't seen 1st for several hours and so was content to just follow the plan.  Then I caught sight of first place and feeling so great decided to throw the sensible plan out of the window and go for my first race win since I was a spotty teenager.  I picked up pace and romped home with a 9 minute lead.  At the end I was racing the clock, putting in a 6:40 minute last mile to get my average pace under 9 min/mile pace, first time I've ever done this in a ultra, let alone such a hilly one.  Finishing so strongly and in 1st place was another great indicator that training had gone really well.

There is a big but though, running the race far harder than I had intended meant that my legs had taken more of hammering.  I was able to run every day the week after, but they all had to been really slow recovery runs to help over stressing fatigued legs.  Recovery was much slower than it had been after the Loch Katrine marathon that I ran far more sensibly.  In the second week of recovery and final week before the Fling my legs still weren't 100% but were steadily improving.

Rather than risk injury and didn't do my planned final 15 miler race pace test run that I did last year just four days before the Fling, instead on the Tuesday just opting for a ultra race pace (averaging around 9min/mile pace) on a local hilly 6 route just 6 miles long.  This run went well everything looked to be shaping up well.  The next day I did a less hilly 6 miler again at ultra race pace and felt fine all the way round, till 100 metres from my house, when out of nowhere, my right knee suddenly screamed at me.  I stopped walked and hobbled back to the house.

I was completely thrown my this new injury.  I hadn't picked up any warning signs in any of my runs, my quads had been rock solid during my race and the recovery, it was only my calves and Achilles that had needed recovery.  I had a hot bath and massaged my quads and around my knee.  I couldn't find any obvious cause right away.  When reaching down to pick anything up or walking down the stairs my right knee was really painful.  Three sleeps till the Fling. Argg!!!

On the Thursday and Friday I did a 4 mile and then a 2 mile recovery run at 11 min/mile pace.  My knee ached but didn't have the intense pain that occurred on the Wednesday, bending down and going down strairs was still painful though.  My knee was on the mend but would it mend in time?  Should I pull out?

With some deep massage of my quad I finally isolated the likely cause of the knee pain, a bundle of fibres in my quad were painful and tight, which in turn would in balance the tracking of the knee joint and cause the pain.  The tightness will have been part of the immune response to protect damaged fibres, isolating from being stretched and loaded, allowing them to heal.  I clung on this as good news - muscle fibres heal much quicker than ligaments, tendons and bones.  If the muscle fibres could heal then they'd relax and the knee pain would disappear.


On Friday evening follow Callander runner, and First timer, Athnony Philips and were dropped off by my wife to stay overnight at Jamie Aaron's guest house, along with four other Fling racers.  We were well looked after, taken to registration, fed dinner and lots of topical ultra race chat all got down to sleep not long after 9pm.

As there was no longer time for much more healing of my leg I popped a couple of ibuprofen to try and switch off the remaining inflammation, with the hope that it'll relax the muscles and would at least give some respite even if wouldn't be 100%.  I didn't expect to get much sleep as I rarely do before big races, but actually got around 4 hours sleep.  I woke around 3am but was nice and relaxed for when we finally all got up at 4am.

We were treated to range of breakfast options, I opted for scrabbled eggs and porridge, chased down with beetroot juice. We all then pilled into the mini bus and were delivered to race start.   The heavy rain overnight had cleared through and turn to just drizzle.  At the start it was cool, but it was already clear that the bad weather forecast days before wasn't going to materialize, but I we still had no inkling of how gorgeous the weather would be.

Ready for battle
After putting drop bags in the appropriate vehicles I spoke to caught up with a few friends, then it was time to line up for briefing and then to join the sub 10hr pen. 

Race briefing by Race Directory John Duncan, photo courtesy of MonumentPhotos

Race begins : Milngavie to Drymen 

Shortly after 6am our sub 10hr pen was set off, with a couple of minutes before the next wave would be set on their way.  In total there was 647 finishers, I'm not sure how many dropped out, but alas there were a few so I'm not sure how many starters we had.  I'd guess there was 150 to 200 in the first pen.

The atmosphere was great amongst runners and the crowds, but once the horn went off the start was actually surprisingly restrained, we all just got on our way.

My plan was to pace by heart rate, aiming for 140 to 150 range to Drymen, an intensity that in theory should get me to Drymen in a sub 1:50 time. At had started near the back of the pen, but sticking to my easy pace by half way through Mugdock park I had been left with only Paul Brown for company.  Paul wasn't planning for a sub 10hr time but had popped into the sub 10hr on a whim. We ran together for a while during this stage of the 2014 Fling so it was good to catch up.

We had peace and quiet for a mile which was really nice, such a contrast to being swamped by runners going out too fast last year, the pen system had obviously worked well.  The tranquillity was finally broken when the front runners from the next wave caught us up just before Craigallian Loch.  They bounced past like over excited puppies.  At the Loch Paul chose to ease off, his goal for the day was 10:15 and I moved on, but still being overtaken.

Once out of Mugdock part and along the road my pace finally began to match the front of the second wave, heading up the inclines it was really apparent that some of the runners were pushing themselves way too hard so early in the race, with heavy breathing more akin to a 10k than a 53 mile ultra.

Once off the road and back onto the trail I started catching runners, the sky was clearing to the north, and the Fiddler and drummer were back again, so life as a ultra runner was looking good. Once we hit the descent I relaxed and let gravity accelerate me and I started rapidly passing runners.  Runners were often four abreast on the trail so had to jump off the trail and pass.

I had to finally put the breaks on when caught up the Lorna McMillian "fan club" - a solid mass of around 10+ runners that were all trying to catch up oblivious to what was going on around them.  I couldn't pass so just had to wait.  Once we the next short ascent came the group opened up and finally it was possible to run at your own pace once more.

One the flat narrow trail heading past Dungone I caught up and chatted with Stuart Charlmers.  We ran together till the Beach Tree where I moved on, and on the narrow trails found myself over taking runners pretty consistently, if a bit awkwardly.  My heart rate was staying comfortably in my target zone and my right knee was feeling fine. However, I didn't feel my running was smooth and effortless as it usual is though, there was a bit of dead feeling to my stride.

With my improved aerobic fitness I found the ascents less taxing than in previous years, I was able to keep running albeit slowing where previous I would have to walk to just keep my heart rate in the zone.  My pace on the flats was a little brisker too as I arrived at the field before Drymen, ascended through the field and went over the timing mat in 1:47:44, nearly 10 minutes faster than 2014.

Drymen CP: Time 1:47:44, Position overall 164th

Drymen to Balmaha

Within 10 meters of leaving the check point I spotted Steven Hill ahead, I caught up and we chatted for the next few minutes.  I got out my splits to see what schedule I was closest too - 1:48 for a 9hr finishing time if I could manage the same strong finish splits as I ran in 2014.  Steven's goal for the day was a sub 10hr so it was clear he was probably going out too fast, but he still sounded pretty comfortable at this point, he did the sensible thing though and backed off and I moved ahead.

My plan of sticking to a HR of 140 to 150 from the first leg had gone well, and as my right quad was holding up so I allowed my target range to move up to the 145 to 155 range and see how things went.  I was still seeing lower HR than I had in 2014 and didn't obviously seem to be moving quicker as the effort level still felt pretty comfortable.

I was steadily moving up through the field and with a couple of miles to go before Conic hill fell in step with Karl Zeiner.  I hadn't run together with Karl before, although we've both run in the Jedburgh 3 Peaks Race in 2013 and 2014 he'd been ahead from start to finish both years.  We got chatting I exchanged ambitions for the day, Karl was aiming for 9:30 and on hearing that my goal was 9hrs Karl declared he best stick with me then.

Together we over took a few more runners before ascending up Conic hill together.  We were both moving well, walking and running at similar points, chatting away, an occasional glance at my watch confirmed I was still in HR zone.  We walked most of the ascent and just before the top Karl spotted the photographer and declared joking that we *had* to get run for the photographer so we both put in a wee sprint past.

Running with Karl Zeiner, close to the top of Conic Hill, photo courtesy of MonumentPhotos

The views from top of Conic hill were stunning, blue skies, great visibility, it's almost criminal that you don't pause to take it all in when racing. The great view is still imprinted in my mind, one of those highlights that is nice to think back to.

As soon as we started descending Karl was off, his gait was well honed for this type of descent so it was a delight to see his efficient footwork and ease of movement as he left the rest of for dead. 

Descent down Conic Hill, Karl rapidly opens up a gap by running down the grass slope, courtesy of Ian Anderson
Normally I'm strong descender as well, but my usual nibble stride, strength and sure footed had deserted me. Ever step down was a labour, with my quads feeling tight and uncomfortable, nothing flowed.

Made the mistake of trying to descent down the new stone steps, courtesy of Ian Anderson
I still passed quite a few runners, but it was a world away from my joyful and quick descent I managed in the 2014 Fling.  Clearly my legs hadn't recovered fully from the Great Tartan Skidaddle race, with 35 mile hilly miles to go it wasn't an ideal prospect for the day ahead.

However, despite the general lack of resilience and building discomfort in my quads the knee pain that had plagued from for the three previous day was gone.  By the bottom of the descent through the woodland I was still passing runners so I can't have been doing too badly.  Karl had made around a minute on me by the time we arrived at the Balmaha check point.

Balmaha to Rowardennan

I dropped my empties in a rubbish bag, picked up my drop bag, grabbed and stowed my supplies - a bottle of water+electrolyte, a bottle of cherry juice+yoghurt drink and some nuts and raisins.  It wasn't a particular efficient stop but was out in less than a minute.

As I jogged down the trail it was clear that day was warming up and now out of the wind there was no need for the jacket so I did my best to take it off and stow it whilst running.  Not sure I saved much time trying to keep moving, but it sure feels like you are racing in a committed fashion.  Once sorted I remembered to check my splits, the elapsed time was just under 3hrs as I got down to the road and path that runs besides the loch.  My splits sheet had 3hrs at Balmaha for 9hr finishing time so was now on for a sub 9hr time if I could match my split 2014 percentages.

As I left road to ascend the first hill after Balmaha I was moving well, but unknown to me I was now being pursued by Thomas Oederud and his friend Anders Lindell from Norway.  In 2014 I had run a few miles with Thomas on the Rowardennan to Inversnaid leg at last year's Fling, then it was his first big ultra. Thomas finished in 10:19, while Anders had finished in 9:06.

Just after Balamha, about to ascend the hill, Thomas (left back) and Anders (right back), photo posted to facebook by George Furmage
As we ascended the steps I heard my name called out and Thomas drew alongside me.  Last year he had full head of hear, this year he was clean shaven head so it took me a double take to recognize Thomas.  Once down the other side of the hill and back on to easy trail Thomas, Anders and I all got chatting.

Thomas' goal for the day was a 9hr Fling, and Anders was aiming to beat 9hr as well so was pacing Thomas.  In the week before this years race I had posted a set of splits for a range of finishing times using my 2014 race as a guideline.  Anders had spotted these and compared them to his times for his 2014 and mention just how similar they were - pretty amazing as he paces totally by feel/experience rather than by HR like I did.  The vast majority of runners attempting to run by feel go out way too fast and really slow in the later stages, so it's quite a rare to find a runner that has the skill to pace so efficiently.

Running with two other runners with a similar finishing goal time and similar pacing approach was great news.  Thomas and Anders grasp of the English language is fantastic so it's so easy to forget it's their second language.  Occasionally when I was a little ahead or behind and they were side by side they'd chat in Norwegian, for all I know it could have easily been Elvish.  Anders is head and shoulders above Thomas and I so I couldn't help feel that Anders was Legolas accompanying two hobbits, with the quest of sub 9hr time being only slightly less epic than destroying a pesky ring...

Thomas and I took turns up at the front, there wasn't any planning behind it, it just naturally happened.  Anders seemed happy enough cruising efficiently alongside or just behind.  All the way to Rowardennan we were passing runners.  Among them was Karl Zeiner, still moving well but just not matching the consistent pace that were we doing as a unit.  We also passed Aaron Price who I had met when running the Great Tartan Skiddadle ultra two weeks before  - he was running his first Fling and aiming for a sub 10hr time.

As were neared Rowardennan the quick succession of ups and downs highlighted just how much Thomas had come on as a runner.  Last year he powered up the ascents but struggled on the descents, this year his ascending was improved further, but his descending skills were now finely honed with him really attacking them.  I couldn't match him in full flow, partly this will have been down to my quads being pre-trashed, but mostly it was down to the transformation of Thomas as an ultra runner.  Alas Anders was never completely comfortable on the descents, but always caught up shortly after starting any ascents.

All too soon we popped out on to the road before Rowardennan and as we did we caught Andy Johns, giving me an opportunity to catch up with him while Thomas and Anders pushed on to check point just before us.  I had caught Andy in the hills above Crainlarich last year, so to catch him so soon was a surprise.  Andy was pacing the race more conservatively this year, aiming for a strong finish and was feeling good.

We ran over the timing mat in 4:13, now 6 minutes up on my 9hr splits, and 27 minutes quicker than my 2014 split.  We ran through check point saying hi to several familiar faces marshalling, alas when racing no time to stop and chat.

Rowardennan CP: 4:13:11, Position overall 94th,  67th fastest for leg

Rowadennan to Inversnaid

I picked up my food, drink and walked while sorting out my rubbish and stowing food.  Once everything was stowed I got back running.  Andy was no longer with me, and Thomas and Anders were out of sigh too.  Just as I thought I was about to get to running on my own I caught up with Jamie Aarons and we headed off up the trail together.

Jamie wasn't having a great day though, she was down on her splits for 2014 and just couldn't get her head in the right place for racing, or being too chatty.  She was still moving pretty consistently though, and we yo'yed places for a mile or two as we went up and down the hills.  Eventually I caught Thomas and Anders on an ascent, and went past Joanne Thom who wasn't having a great deal either, but had a smile and words of encouragement no less.

My own race was outwardly going to plan - my HR was staying comfortably in the 150 to 155 zone for most of the time, and was able to run ascents that previously would have seen my HR shoot skywards, and I was up 10 minutes for every check point so far.  Less good was how my legs felt.  My calves had been uncomfortable and feeling a bit highly strung from not long after Drymen - they felt ripe for cramp.  I had calf cramp on the way to Inversnaid last year as was really wary of the same happening again.  My quads were still powering up the ascents, but the flats and descents I was really aware of how trashed they already felt, and it was only 30 miles in.

Once we hit the narrow paths for the last couple of miles to Inversnaid Thomas took the lead and Anders dropped in behind and I hung on to the back.  I was still moving OK overall, still catching other runners consistently, but the pace was taking it's pound of flesh.

A mile before Inversnaid I decided to take some pain killers to edge of the discomfort.  With trail being really technical I had to slow a walk to retrieve the pain killers.  I got back running pretty quickly but already Thomas and Anders were out of sight.  I just focused on moving as efficiently as I could across the twists and turns, roots and rocks, overtook a few more runners and then suddenly popped out into the sunshine at Inversnaid.

Inversnaid to Beinglas

Thanks to quick response of one of the marshals handing out drop bags I was able to pick up my supplies and drop off my empties without stopping and walked straight through, packing my bottles and snack as I walked and was back running before I even had left the tarmac.

Shortly after rejoining the trail I caught up with Thomas, my efficient progress through Inversnaid had clawed back all the time I had lost.  Not long after asking where Anders had got to he popped up on my shoulder - he'd taken longer refilling his camel back.  Pretty quickly the trail gets too narrow and broken to run side by side and chat so ended up running single file, exchanging and occasional word.

At this point I was running reasonably smoothly and took the lead over most of the next 5 miles of broken trail.  We caught an occasional runner but mostly we had the trail to ourselves.  At one point we passed a corridor of wild garlic, it smelt wonderful, at home we often have wild garlic leaves in our salads so merrily suggested to Thomas and Anders that they could snack on them.  Not long after this suggestion left my mouth we passed a rank smell that I can only assume was a dead goat lying somewhere in the undergrowth. Oh how to ruin and lovely moment...

I have been over the trail between Inversnaid to Beinglas three times previously, with two Flings and a WHWR race, but still found myself a bit taken aback my just how much scrambling there was to do.  I was keeping up the pressure, running at every opportunity, moving as quick as I could over the rocks and roots.  Thomas and Anders stuck closely behind, and as we neared the end of the scrambling section Thomas took a different route up and rock scrambling them I did and bounced up looking as fresh as he did back in Balmaha.

By contrast I wasn't feel fresh, or any bounce left in my legs.  I was moving well enough considering we were 38 miles in, but my stomach was now complaining as well as my legs.  I was able to keep my HR in the 150 to 155 zone most of the time, with just an occasional excursions over, energy levels still felt good, but I couldn't get away from the legs being trashed, and the gastric stress.

With the scrambling there wasn't much opportunity to eat or drink, and when there was a chance I tried to keep drinking but found it tough as each time I drank the stomach discomfort would go up.  I hindsight it may have been the pain killers that introduced the stomach discomfort, but without them would I have had more problems with managing the leg discomfort?  There was no point pondering whilst racing, so I just tried to keep drinking a small amount often to keep my body ticking over the best I could and hope it would pass.

At the end of the Lochside section we finally glimpsed runners ahead and it looked like we'd catch them pretty soon.  We crossed the over the clearing before the heading up the hill.  As soon as started heading up the trail my left hamstring suddenly had a shot cramp.  It caught me completely by surprise as I hadn't had any discomfort from my hamstrings in the race, and never had cramp there before.  I was expecting to have a twinge of cramp in my calves given how fatigued they felt, but knew that if one part of my body was starting to cramp up then others might follow soon after, there was only one thing for it - to back off on the pace and walk up the hill.  I called to Anders and Thomas that I cramp and they shouldn't wait for me, without a minute there were out of sight.

From my average pace reported on my Pebble smart watch I knew that I was still on for sub 9hr pace, but this was based on the finishing strong like I did in 2014.  I wasn't about to give up, so I pushed on up the hill with brisk walk, forcing more drink in was required but not easy to do.

With backing off the pace I had a chance to actually to look around and soak up just what a glorious day it was.  The sun was shining and views down Loch Lomond were stunning.  I arrived at Dairo's post and not far on from it a fellow runner was sitting resting up, thoughts of racing departed for a minute, the desire to share just how wonderful the day and views were more than worth the minute it took to unpack my phone, and have my photo taken.  I didn't get the runners name, but if you're reading this now thank you, the photo came out brilliantly.

Dario's post over looking the end of Loch Lomond
The combination of backing off on pace and stopping for a photo meant there was no one in sight ahead, so I just got on my way.  When the trail levelled off a little I got back running and thankfully my hamstring cramp didn't return.  I was wary of the getting further cramp, and trying to get my stomach back in a more comfortable place so aimed for a HR range of 145 to 150.

While I was moving slower I was still running all the bits that made sense to run and arrived at Beinglas, 4 minutes ahead of my 9hr splits, and 38 minutes ahead of my time in 2014. 

Beinglas CP : 6:52:41, Position overall 58th, 29th fastest for leg

Beinglas was

Beinglas to Tyndrum

I was still on schedule for sub 9hr time, but only if I finished strong - 5 minutes quicker than by 2:12 time for the last leg in 2014. Given I had been 10 minutes up for most of the legs this would outwardly seem to be an easy task.  My stomach protesting still so when I picked up my bottles for the next leg I emptied half the contents of my chocolate milk shake and with the assistance of marshal filled the other half with water.  My hope is that a dilute source of energy would be easier on my stomach.

I headed out from the check point knowing that the next leg would be a struggle to manage my stomach and trashed legs, my energy levels would still good and mentally I was still up for the fight.  To bring my stomach back on side I alternated sips from both my electrolyte bottle and my diluted milk shake.  Each time I drank my stomach would be worse then ease off bit.  With the sun out and a long climb ahead I knew that I needed to keep fluids and electrolyte comming in.  I also kept strickly to my HR 150 to 155 zone to try and help avoid the stomach shutting down completely.

Despite the issues I was still moving well enough and for first two miles was catching people.  Shortly after leaving the CP I had spotted Thomas a few minutes ahead and hoped to eventually catch up and be able to both finish strong at get our sub 9hr.  Initially I had been catching up but as time went on my stomach got worse, especially any time I pushed on hard.  By the time we got past the farm and running along river Falloch my stomach discomfort began to dominate my racing and my pace ebbed away, and for first time I stopped catching up runners ahead and began to drift off target pace.

Once under the main road and heading up the hill to Cow Poo ally I was caught by Robert Leonard.  He had been climbing the hills really strongly all day, and a couple of hills between Rowardennan and Inversnaid had caught and passed me and had chatted briefly each time.  The flats, descents and technical stuff I was moving much faster, but on this section it was all up and in my private internal hell there wasn't any chance of me keeping up.

Cow Poo ally was dry as bone, and the cattle were all safely away from the track so there was no excuse not to run all but the steepest inclines. My HR wasn't high, and my legs were still functioning, energy levels still felt OK, but any time I attempted to push on my stomach felt worse.  I was stuck in first gear having to just make the best of things.  The weather was great, the scenary stunning, I was well ahead of my PB still so there was still postives to occupy oneself with.

The big gates came and finally there was valid reason to walk which was welcome.  With no one in sight I headed up once the trail leveled I was back running, one one of the sections Conor Cromie was stationed taking photo's and took this great shot that realy captures the scale of views.

Amazing views above Crainlarich, photo courtesy Conor Cromie
Once past the summit I was looking forward to picking up the pace on the descents, and while I was still running my legs were just too stiff and sore to allow my usual quick descent.  I was overtaken by a relay runner and then ran and chatted briefly with a support runner who had come up the hill to give the runners some water.  At the bottom of the final descent I spotted Robert ahead and we arrived at the road crossing together.

The traffic at the road crossing was really busy and both of us just had to wait, and wait, it probably was less than a minute, but it felt like half an hour.  We were finally ushered across by the marshals and got back into running.  My guts still felt pretty ropey but with only three miles left I knew it would all be over soon.  

With majority of the road and trail only gently ascending all the way to Tyndrum and my energy levels still OK I set myself the goal of running all the way to the finish.  There were runners ahead in the distance so I was keen to try and reel them in.  Robert drifted off my pace so I was back alone in my pursuit.

Past Auchtertye farm I was still moving OK but my stomach issues were getting worse again and now just felt ill with it.  I had kept sipping my drinks and had drunk most of my two 500ml bottles by the last mile, my stomach wasn't sloshing so I presume I was digesting what I was drinking, but nothing could get rid of the ever present knawing discomfort and my pace began to fade once more.

With about a mile to go I hit an incline that intended to run but just felt too crap to resist the urge to walk.  With walking Robert soon caught up and we chatted.  When the trail falttened off we got back running and Robert was tired too and talked of pulling each other along to the finishing.  I was just feeling more ill though and my running pace wasn't much more than a shuffle and Robert steadily moved ahead.

I was still running though, and kept it going through the woods, along the river, past the Pippers that were great to see and hear and finally I was on the red carpet and running between the flags.  Or at least I tried to run between them, the wind picked up and blew the German flag right across my path and I ended up running right through it.  Clearly I must have been tangled up the flag for at least ten minutes before I could get back running as my sub 9hr time was now well out of reach.

My wife Julia and our three children were amongst the supporting crowd, a wave and high five as I went past then on to the glorious finish

Finish 9:10:22
I finished in 9:10:22, adrift of my sub 9hr target but I was still happy to have a 33 minute PB, and to finally able to stop.

Beinglas-Tyndrum leg : Postition overall 56th, 2:17:41 and 59th fastest for leg (5 minutes slower than in 2014)

Post race

The marshals at the finish were awesome, giving me my medal, taking the timing chip without me needing to bend over, then through to the tent to get my hard earned T-Shirt and goody bag, then a beer.

I made my way through the recovery/finishing tent to meet my family.  I tried the beer but it just didn't go down well at all, what was I thinking??  I went back for some of the homemade tomato soup and it hit the spot, very delicious and exactly what a weary runned needed.

I kept bumping into runners and marshals I knew, but with so much going on and my family to catch up with it wasn't easy, a bit like being at wedding where you never get a chance to have a proper chat.   The atmosphere was great, a really happy place to be.  I was starting to get cold though so had a look at the showers but they were full and didn't fancy waiting so I got changed into my clothes from my drop bag and finally started to feel normal once more.

At the finish I finaly tracked down Thomas and Anders, they held felt like team mates for half of the journey before we all split up around Beinglas.  Anders had had a storming last leg, from being two minutes ahead at Beinglas he did the last leg in 2:01, finishing in a 8:51:40.  On the final descents he had a bad fall but it didn't stopping putting away a great finish.  The finish photo of Anders beautifully captures the intense emotions that running an ultramarathon can put your through, months of training and then pushing your body to the limit.

Anders at the finish, 8:51 and PB in bag, deep in regret are he left his buddies behind!!
Thomas had a descent last leg, completing it in 2:11, but this wasn't quite enough to get him his sub 9hr.  This is still an amazing performance, an hour and quarter faster in just one year.  He has become a excellent alround ultra-runner.

Thomas finishing just one minute shy of 9hrs

Other runners that I had ran with got on well, Robert Leonard finished a minute ahead of me in 9:09:16, a very impressive first Fling.  Karl Zeiner comfortably got under his 9:30hr target, finishing in 9:18:18 (race report).  Andy Johns wasn't far behind in 9:21:07 (race report), a big improvement on last year.  Lorna McMillian finished in 9:30:35.  My host for Friday night Jamie Aarons finished in 9:32:26.  Steven Hill had a tough day and missed out on his 10hr target, finishing in 10:53:33 (race report). Fellow Callander runner, Athnony Philips finished in 15:04:16.

There were also runners of note that I never got to see during the race as they were all too fast! The top three men were 1st place Mathew Laye 7:04:06, 2nd Paul Nevesy 7:06:43 and 3rd Donnie Campbell  7:17:28.  The top three women were 1st Rachael Campbell 8:42:56 (surname no con-incidence as Donnie and Rachael got married this Spring! ;-), 2nd Caroline McKay 8:55:53 and 3rd Nicola Adams Hendry 8:59:34.


I would like to thank the whole Highland Fling team, from John Duncan leading the event down to all the marshals it was a brilliant, brilliant event.  What a day you all put together.

I would also like to thank the various photographers that captured myself and others on route. It's great to be able to relieve and share the moments.

Post race analysis, lessons learned...

It wouldn't be me if I didn't delve into post race analysis and lessons learned, but as this post is already waaaay too long and three weeks overdue so I'll put this in a follow up post.

Thanks for reading, and if you're addicted to the Fling like me see you next year!


  1. Excellent racing and excellent blog. Your well-honed strategy of using HR to regulate pace is working very well, despite the fade o the final leg into Tyndrum. I look forward to your post race analysis. In the end, it appears that the stomach presented the greatest problem, but I wonder how much the painkillers taken for the leg problem exacerbated the stomach issues. Your effort in the Skidaddle probably predisposed you to the leg problems, but that Skidaddle race was too good to regret

  2. A wild guess would say that your legs still felt the previous race, which is why you missed out on a sub-9. I'd add to that, however, that it was well worth it - a win is a win is a win!

    Overall, a very solid performance. If the last leg wasn't quite up to your usual high standards, that can certainly be excused!

  3. A brilliant read - and a great run too, for a big PB. There are some cracking photos in this report too. x