Wow !! A scenic run along the West Highland way , including the full length of Loch Lomond, with Iconic views, forest paths, moorlands, great weather, and, I have never felt so trashed in my life !!
I walked (alright hobbled) away from this event with a truly amazing vision in my head. As you go over the top of Conic Hill and Loch Lomond opens out in front of you - its just outstanding - all who get to this part of Scotland should take look (not when its misty though), I don't think 'scenery running' gets much better.
Tactically, this was not a good race for me, I started too fast ( I found myself running with the runner up from 2008 - how stupid is that !!) after 20 miles I could not seem to get into a rhythm, could not seem to get my nutrition right, did not feel like eating what was in my drop bags, lacked energy even on slight inclines and seemed to spend a lot of time walking. My head seemed to be in the wrong place and the last 30 miles just seemed to be a slog - but what an event - I loved it!!
Its a gentle start to this event, good runnable tracks for the first 12 miles or so, easy route finding (Lots of gates though - don't run at the front or back of a pack or you'll feel like a doorman!), you get a false sense of security. Someone told me there was only one hill (Conic Hill at mile 19) on route and at this stage I believed them !
However, once you leave Balmaha, I can guarantee - 'undulating' it may be described as but 'hilly' is how it feels after 27 miles as the route meanders along the shores of Loch Lomond. There is a fantastic section between Inversnaid and Inverarnan (35 miles - ish) where the path becomes rocky, rooty and in some places precarious - a good 'fun section' that although hard makes you smile as you navigate it with tired legs trying not to end up on your face!!
When you reach Bein Glas Farm it does feel like you're heading for home (mainly because you believe that what is in front of you can't be as hard as whats behind you), however there are a couple of surprises on the final 'flat section', the climb up the old military road up to Crainlarach tests the resolve a bit - you can see the path ahead of you rising miles in the distance up and up and up !! The run through the forest is definitely hilly and at 47 miles, the steep descents really start to stress your quads, but once through that the final 5 miles run in is straight forward as you are 'marshalled' into Tyndrum flagged by munroes (big hills over 2000ft !) either side (some still with snow on!).
I have never tasted 'Stovies' but was really glad to get the opportunity at the finish as I was definitely on my last legs, and what a great goodie bag !!
It had been a great day out. Mesmerising views, my furthest ever ultra, great weather, and even points towards the 'Trail du Mont Blanc'. The step up to 53 miles for me had been a mix of pain, determination a inspiration - not a bad combination. I applaud everyone who makes this distance, it definitely commands respect - but achievable for all !!