Monday, 28 June 2010

Sunny Pentlands

Pentlands again, but they were spectacular. Both of us had tired legs from last week's racing and it was hot and windy up there so pretty soon we were dehydrated. I wanted a Scotch egg for some reason. Mmmm, salty sausage, eggy egg and all in a crispy crumb coating! Didn't have anything of the kind however.
Very gentle paced run/walk from Bonaly going anti-clockwise round the Skyline route, skipping South Black Hill and dropping down to the road after Carnethy to head back across to Bonaly. A little under 13 miles and 3hrs 20 mins or so. Surprisingly few people up there but then maybe that's because we never got there til after 3pm.
Rest day today and just as well.

Photos stolen from Peter.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Sandy Slither (Deli Belly)

It was the Sandy Slither last night. Brilliant Fife AC beach and trail race. It took me a while to get my head round the idea of having a Friday evening race but I'm there. It means you can push the boat out on Friday night and still recover enough to do something on Sunday.
The sun was beating down but there was a stiff headwind, so running along the beach was coolish. Peter and Amanda indulged me with a long warm up because I had achilles twinges on Wednesday and also I want to beef up my mileage for the week any way I can, so we ran a mile of the course and then ran back. We tried to figure out the relative merits of the various running surfaces; surprisingly the green weed was not a bad option!

Pretty soon we were back at the start though and getting set off. Everyone went off too fast. "Hang on", I wanted to tell them, "there's a long way to go."
Soon we were on the beach and all our planning about where to run went out the window. I couldn't even remember what we'd decided except further onto the beach seemed a bit better than the soft, deep angled shale at the top. Heading out on to the open beach I could see far too far ahead and felt myself cringe inside. There's something about running over a flat space when you can see where you need to get to that is almost unbearable. Especially when the wind is pushing back against you and the sand is sinking under your feet.
A couple of Carnegies drew even so I slipped in behind them for a rest and then went ahead with the intention of letting them draft behind me with the thought that maybe teamwork would serve to break up the desert-like expanse ahead. I think they thought I was racing them though and they surged to pass me again right away.

At that point Debbie MacDonald went past to my right, carrying a purple rucksack and making good pace over the sand. I tucked in behind her but her pace was too quick for me, so I dropped off into no man's land. About this time Jocelyn Scott also came past. I knew neither of us would be liking this much being more at home on the hills, and right enough as soon as we were over the stream both Jocelyn and myself moved up through the field a bit. I passed her on the tarmac which she wasn't liking as she was in Walshes - and then she passed me on the small hill up to the radio mast.

The minute we started up the hill I could feel my quads complaining from Wednesday night. I still passed a few people on the path however - including Debbie MacDonald and her purple rucksack. Running down the other side was good fun and I made a fair job of it. Then the flat bit through the thick dune grass. Running on this little path takes a good leap of faith because you can't see your feet and so just have to hope there're no rabbit holes. I could feel myself slowing however. All my last few races have been like this. I seem to have a leak. I did my best to keep the pressure up to run round the headland and briefly into town before we were back on the sinking sands again, but being back on the beach, running into the wind and seeing the finish in the distance across an eternity of uncaring space my moral fibres started to unweave, my pace became shambolic, people started to pass me, - 1st a few men and then the quicker step of one Debbie MacDonald.

How the hell other people get any purchase on that surface is beyond me. Grant Laycock, (who has been sharing the photo on the Slither page on the Fife AC web-site with me for the past year) (I tell people I'm the face of slither.) went by and tried to encourage me by saying "We're nearly there!". I tried to imitate the way he was running to see if I could somehow pick it up, but got nowhere with this and dropped considerably behind even in the last few hundred yards. At least I managed not to let anyone else past before the finish. Just after I arrived in two men barrelled in, hot in pursuit of one another and I stepped aside just in time.

At the finish Shery told me that Gareth had won the race outright which provided a welcome distraction from feeling frustrated with myself. He seemed so pleased and excited it was infectious.
Porty runners had done very well it turned out, at prize-giving taking 1st, 2nd MV, !st lady, 2nd FV and 1st FSV - these runners being Gareth, Peter, Amanda, Shery and Gillian. There was much cake and wine flying about.

Peter and I, being aware that the Tour of Fife is liable to include a fair amount of beach running, have resolved to go and do some dedicated beach training before then.
Looking back on 2008 which was the last time I did the Red Moss Revolution and the last time I ran this course of the Slither, I was a minute quicker for each - so maybe I'll have a peep back if I can find a running diary for then and see what I was doing that was different.

So, not entirely happy with my performance in the races this week but what has been achieved are too good hard sessions.
Next week its back to the Hebs, this time Barra, to see what short off-road races have done for my road half-marathoning.

Group shots - Ian Brodie, other photos - Peter

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Red Moss Revolution

My debut race as a full-time professional athlete didn't go all that well. Okay that's an exaggeration but I DID finish up at my much complained about job yesterday so was looking forwards to this great little hill race to celebrate. Some basic school boy errors - I didn't warm up really so my achilles, which are grumbly at the moment were very sore at the outset on the tarmac sections. I was going quite well uphill so probably over-egged this as its a strength and by the top of the hill never really got my breath back smoothly. And I got a sore tummy, whether from over-exertion or the half a punnet of strawberries which I ate at my going-away lunch at work I do not know. I ran the hilly bits quite well but having to slow on the way down the road because I had an iron-bar across my mid-drift. The flat road section into the wind scunnered me entirely and I was hardly dipping under 9 minute miles. I can see from my finishing shot that I was barely lifting my legs. (And I was modelling a greetin' face.) Its still a great race and can't recommend it highly enough.

There was a great turn out of Porties as it was a championship race. There were also runners from so far west as Helensburgh (Paul Thomson) and quite a turn out of Westerlands runners (I don't really know where they are based - I'm guessing the West.) It was good to catch up with old hill rival Brian Brennan who two years ago doing the Scottish Hill Running Championship Series I could catch on the uphills but would always get me back on the downhills, except sometimes on the longer stuff. Brian is a V50 but has taken early retirement, lost a stone and been doing all the Bog and Burn races and looks younger than when I last saw him. Tellingly I never caught him even on the uphill.

Up the sharp end people were running fast and did well. I don't know the details of that. Monica from club took a right flyer on the path down the side of black hill but was up and on her feet and then beat me on that long miserable stretch back into the wind. Good on her.

Came home, ate tea at 11.30pm - had a glass of wine to "celebrate" but it made me feel sick and dizzy so went to bed instead and got some ZZZs in. Friday night Sandy Slither. That's the long stretch into the wind without the benefit of the hills. I can hardly wait.

Monday, 21 June 2010

WHW crew (Long night's journey into day and back into night again...)

Just back from supporting Den boy on his epic West Highland Way race. For his support crew it has been a sleep deprivation derby. Setting out on Friday night could have been special and mysterious but I was already tired and hadn't taken enough clothes as it had been hot during the day. It was cold at night and I had to wrap up in an old fleece of Peter's so I was looking pretty weird in a great big coat with a midge net on my head but I cared nothing. Getting out the van seemed like an effort. At Rowardennan (26 miles in) it was pretty much light again, but midgy. I made a cup of tea on my camping stove and felt a bit better. Peter was doing the active work of going to meet Richard. We stumbled around cursing each other and getting lost in car-parks.

As the sun came up and we made our way round Loch Lomond to meet Richard at Beinn Glass farm campsite it was undeniably pretty, even to our jaded eyes. I started having waves of tiredness however so we pulled over in an unromantic parking spot at the side of the road and I had a semi-sleep with my head on the steering wheel, worried that the police might see us and think we were a (tidy) crash.

Not much refreshed but able to concentrate again we set off again and went to Beinn Glass where we spent an hour waiting for breakfast as the small cafe there was way over-subscribed with other people doing the same thing. It was worth waiting  however. Who would have thought that a potato scone would be nice in a roll? Well it was. And 2 mugs of coffee vastly improved my state of mind. It was unfortunate  that as we sat there in the cafe the good little Richard galloped past unseen and unheard outside. He'd said matter of factly that he'd be 4 hours which would have meant arriving at 10.10am but he passed at 9.30am. Oh well. Beinn Glass had a drop-bag and was an optional stop. We learned not to take Richard's time predictions too seriously.

At Auchtertyre the sun was properly up and beating and there was a good breeze which was keeping the midges at bay. The day looked like it was not going to be a total nightmare after all. I saw Kate Jenkins whisk through as I was climbing out the van and shouted "Well done", but she did not even glance across - very focused.

Richard was in pretty good form. He had some worries that he was developing a blister but on a foot inspection there was nothing to see or feel - hopefully just an early warning so he re-vaselined up his feet, had some stuff to eat and then moved on. At Tyndrum, Richard was again way ahead of his schedule and we were in the shop buying lasagne (!!) pies (which I heated up to nuclear reactor melt down heat in the microwave so we had to wait ages to eat them). He phoned Peter so Peter ran out with the drop bag and met him.

At Bridge of Orchy Peter got changed into his running kit to run with Richard. Here we met Scott Ferguson, crewing for Robert Kinnaird. I think it was about 1pm by now. We were pleased that Richard was making good time and it was a lovely day so we were doing okay. Richard wanted met again just a bit further along the road at Victoria Bridge which meant diverting onto a tiny single-track road. I was temporarily stuck in the carpark as someone's BMW had broken down and was getting carted away by a big transporty thing from Lixx Toll - right behind me. It took 10 minutes to clear out the way and I was able to head off.
We'd thought that it was a bit pointless me meeting him only 3 miles down the road as Peter was now carrying enough cakes and biscuits and juice  in his rucksack to stock a small, rubbish cafe. I was glad I drove to V Bridge though as it turned out to be a lovely little road and it was nice and quiet, which I'd been missing - the whole thing having been a bit busy so far.

I had a  seat in the grass listening to the wind and the birds sing and soaking up the sun-shine and thinking very little. Nice not to be at work. The team rocked through, were there for a couple of minutes, and were gone. There was a long tail-back on the A82 due to road works and so it took me quite a while to get to the ski centre. There I had a quick bowl of soup and a cup of tea - getting stuck in the queue behind a runner, who was taking an eternity to make his order and move on. I enjoyed the woman behind the counter's brisk impatience. "Oh come on" she said, "I'm losing the will to live!". He ordered a baked potato and then asked if it would be hot. You could see she had to do considerable editing of swear words before she managed to say, "I should hope so." I got back down to the trail as quick as I could, and just as well as Richard and Peter were again ahead of schedule and looking good, although Richard was looking overly-determined. Not good to be trying too hard too early.

Next stop, the bottom of the Devil's Staircase. It wasn't so great sitting here waiting. It was busy again and right next to the road. Cars flashed past at alarming speeds. I watched the shadows deepen on the Buchaille Etive Mhor across the road and got a crick in my neck looking out for my runners, who had dropped a few places. They walked in looking a bit grim. I'd been firing  random selections from Richard's store of food into one, now rather yucky, selection bag. Richard didn't want any of the things I'd chosen, preferring a prison diet of rich teas and water. So Peter hared off to the car for them. They headed off up the hill and I went for a long drive round to Kinlochleven.

At Kinlochleven I pottered around and got some beers in case we wanted a party later and then found a wall to sit on to wait for my team. I was beyond chatting or wanting to chat with strangers, feeling tired and peaceful and glad that the day was wearing on and all was going okay. Kinlochleven was the last official check-in for runners and support teams so by being there the job was really done as far as making sure Richard's support team didn't get him disqualified. (The minimum standard I had set myself.)

Peter and Richard arrived just after 8pm, this being the earliest that I thought I could expect them. They had some chips at the chip shop - Peter's were eaten with relish but Richard's were just picked at. Richard was weighed and off they went again.

I set off to see if I could find the road to Lundavra. My directions were a bit hazy. Take a road right up the hill as you're just coming in to Fort William and then drive 5 miles over single-track road to a bonfire. I found the road easily enough and enjoyed spectacular scenery as it wound up and down and twisted round corners for 5 miles. I was listening intently to every vibration in the van as mechanical problems at this stage would have been disastrous and the terrain was pretty taxing. At last I came to a rise and ahead I could see smoke from a bonfire. Arriving at this checkpoint was bizarre. There were a few people there wearing midge nets over their faces so they turned and looked at me with their blank faces as I approached. It seemed more like a small group of fanatics waiting for space-ships or the second coming than part of the organisation of a race. I deliberately stopped my mind from raking through its ample horror section for explanations of what was going on here. I was sleep deprived and the sun was almost down and my imagination was making a bid to take over.

The heat of the bonfire was lovely and the flames were cheering and there was enough of a breeze to still keep the midges away. The guys who had made (and were actively making) this fire were settled in for a long night. That's some dedication to keeping the runners safe through this difficult last section in the dark. One of them offered me some coffee. They couldn't have been nicer. And it was quite special to be out in the wilderness round a fire with strangers at sunset on pretty much midsummers night. There was low-key relaxed chat.

When Peter and Richard at last came into view I could see that the team were now flagging. The wind had just dropped and the midges had seized their moment so the lovely oasis of calm was turned into insect hell. We did what we could to feed Richard quickly. He stood where he stopped rather than moving closer to the fire. In 2 minutes they were out and off into the night. I tried not to think about what that might entail as there was nothing I could do. It was 7 miles max. to the end, but my experience of the end of the Highland Fling was that this could be a mighty long way if things were no longer going well. I was glad to get back down the tiny road in the dark and into Fort William.

My last agreed stop was the Braveheart Carpark in Glen Nevis. By now I was tired and muddled and I drove past it 3 times before -  4th time lucky - finding the entrance.
There was hardly anyone there and it was dead dark. By now some mild feelings of paranoia were turning into full blown Night of the Living Dead scenes. Road signs were turning into people and back into signs again. People were creeping around the back of the van. Things were flitting through the trees. Outside the midges were back in control of the world and there was no way I was stepping outside the van. After a long wait in the dark I began to question what the point of my being there was. I couldn't give them a lift. No food was going to do either of them any good. From there it was a 2 mile jog down the road to the finish and nothing I could do would hasten them. I texted Peter who phoned back and said just to get to the end. I also texted Scott Ferguson and had a quick chat with him. He was just leaving Kinlochleven with Robert. They had a good few hours ahead of them! Then I retreated to the end and sat in the van with the heater on and listening to music.

With 4 minutes to go before the 24 hour mark, at 0056 hrs Peter and Richard arrived in. I should have taken a photo just to show you how pale and pinched Richard looked but I didn't have the patience to fuss with a camera. We all jumped in the van as quick as we could and found our way to the hotel where we were staying. Peter and I were asleep pretty quickly. I think Richard lost a further night's sleep tending to his achy legs.

So by the next day at the prize-giving we had no idea what had happened out the front. Way back at Auchtertyre we'd asked the Lord of the Bridge how things were shaping up at the sharp end and he's said there were 3 men very close to each other, one of whom was Richie Cunningham. Since then we'd become too absorbed into our own micro-drama to take much note of the wider events of the day. So when we bumped into Richie Cunningham at the Sports centre and asked him how he'd done we were delighted to hear that he'd won. Good result!

Also at the sports centre we saw Robert Kinnaird and John Pickard both of whom had finished just a few hours before so were  wide-eyed and stary! Scott Ferguson was in fine form and he and Peter shared supporters tales.

Niall Dinwoodie, also Portie, had started the race but we saw him in a car at Beinn Glass farm so his race went wrong quite early on.

The prize-giving was mercifully short. The woman's prize went to Kate Jenkins who was also 7th overall.
And then the challenge of driving home safely with a still very tired brain. Nearly had a couple of bumps as we got into Edinburgh but we didn't -we made it. Peter was in bed by 7.30pm and I was in bed by 9.30pm and we slept 12 hours each. I think it'll be a few days before we're recovered.
Richard was last seen disappearing into his house in the carpet slippers he was also wearing at the prize-giving. I hope his recovery is swift and complete.

Monday, 7 June 2010

The coach is a fool

Ambition overtook sense today - and not for the first time! First of all I thought I needed to go to the Pentlands to run the Skyline, but giving Peter a lift to a new job with his ladders I realised it really was pretty wet and dismal out there so I decided to modify my plans and do something in town. First of all it was going to be 19 miles round the airport route with the 2nd half done at tempo pace. Then I thought its a while since I've done a long run, maybe it would be wise to just run 17 so I planned to go up the Water of Leith, back down via the canal, round the back of Arthur's Seat and home. With the 2nd half at tempo. So the first half was quite pleasant and then I moved up through the gears and ran a painful 3 further miles as someone filled my legs with concrete. I then hurpled sorrowfully home the shortest way I could think of. 14.5 miles with 3 at "pace" (wasn't even that fast). Maybe a little longer recovery after the last half marathon would be an idea.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

The watery, windy world of Benbecula (half marathon)

We hadn't done the Benbecula half since 2006 and decided to include it as one of our Heb 3 races in the hope that the weather would be kind and the attendance would be poor. Not very sporting I know but pot-hunters everywhere will know just what I mean. It entails a long drive to Uig (about 250 miles from Edinburgh, or a bit longer if you're chatting in the car and miss the Dalwhinnie turn off) to catch the ferry to Lochmaddy (macaroni cheese and chips on the boat or "pasta of the day" as they're calling it now). At Lochmaddy there's a bus to take you to the campsite or wherever you're staying. The driver's a bit hassled and maybe a bit deaf which makes him kind of difficult. He is reluctant to reveal once and for all whether he is the bus for the Benbecula half marathoners and prefers to equivocate. I  know he is as I remember him from 2006, and I remember the same sense of frustration because it was hard to get anything clear out of him. Pretty soon we were hammering across the weird and watery world of Benbecula.

The landscape is difficult too, its hard to understand, its very flat, but has lots of small bodies of water, like the tarns you find up the hills in the Lake District (they probably have a name but I don't know it). Someone on the bus is telling the story of doing a race that requires orienteering (might have been the Hebridean Challenge) and heading for the only mountain around, but constantly getting stuck amongst all these tiny bodies of water, making it impossible to go in a straight line. In frustration at constantly getting stuck and having to backtrack he swam across one of them, giving himself hypothermia. It sounded similar to leads in the ice for arctic explorers. Because of the flatness of the terrain its impossible to get an overview and a sense of the organisation of the place. Houses seem scattered around at random.

At the campsite we pay our £14 for the night which irks Peter because there are quite good and completely free sand-dunes just yards away to camp in. I want the ease of having pre-race toilet facilities so push for camping. The ground is flat and comfortable and the facilities are fine. We're both a bit irked because we have heard several stories of people coming for the race last year and coming to the campsite to be turned away because they were too busy. Not that the campsite has any duty to rescue fools who come from far away to run around the island, but they didn't even suggest an alternative...Its a bit hard.
We go for a stroll in the sand-dunes and find a piece of coastline which provides some relief as this gives some definite shape to the island.

The weather is near perfect. Its dry and the wind is only blowing slightly although always there. Its quiet and all you can hear is the slight whoosh of the wind and...birds everywhere. I don't know what they are anymore. I think I used to. Pee-wits, curlews, are they the same thing? Marsh birds and shore birds anyway. Geese go for a stroll in a gaggle.

The flatness, the airy, wateriness of it all and the slight coolness of reception we get on the island all adds to a vague sense of paranoia. There isn't much in the way of shelter anywhere and I wonder if its the sense of exposure in the landscape that creates this sense of uneasiness. There's a tremendous sunset that turns everything pink. Through this landscape there's a dead straight road and along this straight road on a Friday night, probably teenagers (can't see by now) drive their cars as fast as they can...and then slow down in the distance. I didn't like the film but there's something Mad Maxian about it all.

And so to bed under the rattling canvas.
At about 4am the birds get up and one bird sits quite near the tent and sings "I'm a cheeky wee bastard" over and over again. I lie awake from about 4am to 6am, a bit sore, but also fine. We went to bed at 10.30pm so can afford a few waking hours in the middle of the night and still be able to rise refreshed at 8am.

At 8am  my watch alarm wakes me up and I am being baked alive and can't get out the tent quickly enough. I am slightly disappointed because in my dreams I had just walked into a cafe and ordered an italian roll with ham and beetroot on it, with a cup of tea. "That'll be £3 please, says the lady who's serving me." I am trying to prop up my bike against a piece of antique looking furniture in her shop without scratching it. I am thirsty and can almost taste the beetroot...

For breakfast it is muesli however, and not beetroot. Same as we had last night. And lots of coffee which this week is good. Its a sunny morning, the START sign has been banged in across the road in the night. Peter and I are in good spirits. Camping is ever so much nicer when its dry.
There are some HBTs au camp as well. Morag McCracken and I think her boyfriend's called Peter who we have seen at the Hebs before...and some others.

At race headquarters we see Richard Dennis arrive at the gates. We'd tried to text him to encourage him as he's been running from Stornoway to here all week. We got no answer though and thought that the wee man might have been carried off by a bird of prey. He is in good shape however and has grown a beard. The rather more mundane explanation for his absence is that he's been unable to get a signal all week. His week's running seems to have gone well apart from a difficult Wednesday when he started to have ankle problems and feared that all may be lost but it had righted itself by Thursday morning.
I ask him what form he is in and he tells me he may be able to give me a race. Which means he is in good form and will leave me in the dust.

Peter and I have both been holding onto the hope that we may be better this week than the week before. We are in better spirits, that's for sure. A hard session on Wednesday may not have  been quite the tonic that we both thought it was, as we can both still feel it in our legs...
Pretty soon we're at the start and at about 11.10am, we're off. Its a long straight road and you can see who's ahead. I see Peter set off with 2 others at the head of the field. Nearer to me, Michelle Hetherington pulls away in her Helensburgh colours. Morag McC and a gang of other brown shirts work together ahead as well. I am aware of Debbie MacDonald not far behind and as I ran last week with the fear of her catching me I seem to pick up where I left off before and because I know she's just behind I set off hoping to put a bit of space between us. The joy of those 1st few miles when I can kid myself I'm a better runner than I am. I knock out a couple of 7.15 miles and am happy with this. Despite all evidence to the contrary I still think to myself that this might be fine and hold on as long as I can. I go through 4 miles in 30 mins and some seconds which means I've slowed to 7.30+ average pace. Around here a group moves through and past, containing Shona Morrison, who is a good island runner. She has a pod of men getting their pace from her and letting her work at the front. "Shame on you all" I think, already moving into a more difficult frame of mind. Setting off too fast at the start of races inevitably creates the horrible scenario where loads of people pass you. Oh it hurts. Despite being a relatively wind-free day there is still plenty of the stuff. There is no hiding from it, nor the searing sun. Well its not a searing sun because the wind is quite cool but its there none-the-less and it seems to suck the moisture out of you. My breathing is harsh because my throat is so dry. For a long long time I hold my position while fighting self-pity and fear. There's such a long way to go and already I'm slowing up and stiffening up, I am making a magnificent arse of things and all I can do now is hang in the best I can and NOT WALK, because I am hugely tempted to just throw in the towel and walk. I am hating running.

At mile 9 there is an exact parallel to Stornoway as Bruce Walker passes me. "Well done" I tell him and he is encouraging to me. "Keep going, you're running well." Shortly after we go round a bend and I take a glance behind which I have not done until now. There's a chap in purple and a little further behind the brown vest of Debbbie McD. God in heaven above. I do not even know why I am racing Debbie, we're not in the same age category so presumably won't take any prizes away from each other, but she has become a sort of fixed point in the race from which I can measure my performance, and she is catching me! I'm doing what I can...which is hoping that the organisers have made a massive error and made the race a lot shorter than it should be because I can see the wind turbine which is placed just behind the school where we start and finish...and then, as I know really we must, we set off out on a smaller loop, away from the school.
Its more than 10 miles now, I've lost count. Up until now I've been marvelling at how the wind has conspired for a good 8 miles to always be a headwind despite many changes of direction. Now, at maybe mile 11, the wind is behind us because suddenly it feels deathly calm and hot. Debbie goes by me and I can't respond. "Well done" I tell her and mean it. I can see from the way she's moving that her legs feels stiff too and she's battling. Its a long unforgiving straight way home. On the final stretch, I can see the school. Ahead of me are Debbie McD and Jim Bruce, and the sight of the finish helps me find something... and then someone in a red shirt from the side of the road yells "Go on Mary, just relax and pick your pace up now." and I do what I'm told. "Just relax" I think, and suddenly I am running much faster than I have been all race and my breathing wheezes in and out. Its a good feeling, although painful, to really move and I'm kind of enjoying it. To my surprise I go past Debbie and catch up to the back of and then pass Jim Bruce, who then reacts with an almighty effort of his own and just pips me to the line. He then has a sit-down on the pavement and I bend over and rest on my knees for a while until my breathing starts to get back under control. I try to explain to Jim that I thought Debbie was coming back at me - that I wasn't trying to catch him. Its all a scramble of words anyway. It comes out as "I didn't want that Jim" "I didn't want it either" he tells me. It made sense at the time. This is his 50th Heb race.

And so to post-race chat, a swim, a shower and then plenty to eat. The man in red turns out to be Colin Feechan who was second overall and I thank hiim for his timely advice. He's a real running enthusiast. It bursts out of him.
Morag McC was 2nd lady and can also do tumble-turns, I discover in the pool. Respect! I try to swim a bit but am too sore. I'm much sorer than the week before, all the moisture having been sucked out of me. My muscles are super-stiff.
There is more food laid on than is going to get eaten. Brilliant soup, pizza, tons of sandwiches, home-made tablet, tea, coffee.

The bus driver has told us in no uncertain terms, the night before, that he would be leaving at quarter to 3 with whoever was there on time and its getting very close to quarter to 3. With 5 minutes to spare the prize-giving gets going, but the organiser doesn't know that quite a few of us have this deadline hanging over us and starts to make speeches. The clock is ticking. Someone goes outside to speak to the bus driver and the news back from him is that he is adamant, he needs to leave at quarter to 3, he has another job to do immediately afterwards. In the end we just have to leave. Which is a shame because it seems disrespectful to the organisers, the other competitors and we're both (me and P) thinking we might luck an age-group prize, but we can't hang around to find out. Off we set at high speed again through the strange, watery confusing landscape to the ferry terminal at Lochmaddy. On the ferry we talk about running and races and then we drive home for 5 and a half to six hours, stumbling in the door at quarter past midnight.