What a day.
What a year so far.
City To Summit, you rocked. I thoroughly enjoyed this event; the route, the competitors, the support, the organization, the country, the start, the run, the cycle, the second run, the mountain, the finish. Everything was spectacular.
The few days building up were not so fun. I won’t bore you with the details, but a 6hour delay on the train up to Edinburgh wasn’t the stress free journey I had hoped for. We missed out on an afternoon sight seeing and spent most of it travelling and stressing over whether we were going to get there that day or not. We eventually did, ate at a restaurant, had a beer, went to bed. A good night sleep and an early breakfast in the city centre was the start of a new day, a nervous day. I was a mess that morning. For those that have seen me before a race, know that I get very quiet, I process everythi
ng in my head, over analyse, stress, panic. I think this helps me focus and calm down by the start line. We got to registration by 1pm in North Queensferry (Transition 1), I don’t think I was talking at all by then. Trying to smile to the organizers and other competitors… I think it quite obviously was a false smile. I got myself all worked up and flustered, I guess I was just stressing they wouldn’t allow me to compete for some reason. Completely irrational thinking. As soon as I was registered and transition 1 was set up… I was fine, no stress, no anxiety, nothing. I don’t think I was ever stressed about the actual event.
A nice stroll around the city in the afternoon, spotting some of of the route, and a nice big meal and laying out my gear to start the day in with a 9.30
pm bedtime was the rest of my day. Sleeping before a big race never goes quite to plan, I got about 3 hours solid sleep then a couple of broken hours before my 2.20am alarm went off.
Shower, headphones in, porridge, banana, kit on.
Off to the Castle.
Final good lucks from the support crew and I joined the other participants at the start line. Casual chit chat helped take the focus away from the dark, cold wind and before we knew it, we were off. It’s odd starting a long endurance race, nobody goes sprinting off, with 150miles to cover in a day.. everyone carries on chatting and just kind of jogs along and slowly spreads out into their own pace. The first kilometer or so was downhill and most of the first run was flat except maybe two hills. A good warm up for the legs. Some Saturday night ravers were still out… “What the hell are you doing”, “Go to Bed!”, “Why are you running!?!?” were being shouted at us through the city. We all found this slightly amusing and had a good laugh as we realised it was a bit crazy to be running at 4am through the city. If only they knew we were going to be at Fort William by the end of the day. As we neared the coast and ran over the Queensferry Bridge, the sun rose. I felt a sense of calm and relaxation and it helped me to realize that today wasn’t going to be so bad after all.
A little over 2 hours and I arrived at transition 1, pretty much on pace and I felt good. I took my time, made sure I had all essentials for the bike, used the bathroom and off I went. The best part of the first 20miles was uphill. I was looking at my average speed thinking “I have completely underestimated this route” I turned my bike computer away so I didn’t stress and push harder than I needed to this early on. After about 20miles we had a real good flat and downhill section, the average speed starting picking up. Phew. First pit stop and it was like a buffet; sandwiches, crisps, nuts, fruit, sweets, energy bars, energy drinks, salts, tea, coffee, soup. I grabbed a sandwich and some sweets, refilled my water bottle and was on my way. The next section was fast, I was at the next check point in no time. A coffee, sandwich and a banana and back in the saddle. The rain started just over halfway on the bike, it wasn’t heavy but I eventually ended up getting pretty wet and my hands were pretty cold. A small price to pay for the beautiful scenery we had. I was told at the start line by a fellow competitor that there was a lovely 15km downhill to finish the bike heading into Glen Coe. Great, that means that I only have to really cycle 160km instead of 185km. It suddenly dawned on me that for this to happen, we would have to go up first. The long climb seemed to never end but was managable, I sat in a low gear and span my legs out. My tactic for the day was to always be at a pace where I could still talk. As I was cycling alone, I sang instead. I could not tell you what I was singing, but it got me to the top. I felt a slight drop in my glucose levels at the top, so decided to stop and have my emergency jam sandwich which sorted me right out. If it wasn’t so wet, I could have put down a bit more pace on the downhill and taken in the scenery a bit more. I chose to focus more on the road and not falling off. The sights that I did see were stunning.
If you have never been on the A82 into Glen Coe valley, I highly recommend it… what a road!
Changing into my running gear after the bike was harder than I thought, my glutes wouldn’t let me squat down so I had to mostly roll around on the floor. Due to the rain for the last couple of hours on the bike, my gloves had soaked through and my hands were pretty cold, I spent a good while warming my hands up and taking in some needed calories. As I started to leave transition 2, I didn’t think my glutes were going to let me run, they were so tight! I had never felt them like that before. I had a little walk and a slow jog and within a kilometer they were feeling normal again.
A right turn onto a footpath lead to a very steep hike. My legs wouldn’t have the power to run up so I marched my way up, all I could think was “if this is what the entire half marathon up to the bottom of Ben Nevis is like… I’m not going to make the cut off time”. I got myself all sorts of confused about what time I had to be at the bottom of Ben Nevis before they stopped letting you up. A bit of panic set in, there was no way I was going to get this far through and not be allowed to summit. At the top of the steep hike, the course was a bit flatter… i say that very loosely. Over 13miles it was still 2000ft of climbing, but mostly runable. I started to push my legs, open my stride up and put some kick ass 80s music on. The path was pretty rocky, up and down the whole way, but I lept over streams, pushed up the hills and rolled my legs down them. I was feeling good, didn’t feel tired, maybe I can keep this pace up? I then realised I wasn’t as close to the cutoff as I thought… but why slow down? Let’s get to that mountain. I ran the last 3km down to the last pit stop with another runner (Tom… maybe?) which was nice to have someone to chat to and we were both in good spirits still. My lovely girlfriend was bringing me a coffee and a sandwich here ready for me to go up the final hike. The car park was a little further away than she thought so I beat her there and she got a run on to meet me. I was met by a very breathless girlfriend, telling me how knackered she was whilst holding onto me for support. She has admitted how ridiculous this was for her to tell me how tired she was when I had set off from Edinburgh Castle 14hours ago.
After a quick pit stop I set off for The Ben. I ran towards the mountain at a steady pace, still feeling good, and then I hit the incline. Thud, thud, thud. My heart rate shot through the roof. I could hear my heart pounding. Maybe I was tired, maybe I was anxious, maybe it was the adrenaline. Who knows. The path is treacherous, stones, rocks and gravel have been vaguely placed to create a path so I slowed to a hike. The last thing I wanted was to sprain an ankle now. I couldn’t get my heart rate down, I had never done this hike before so I had nothing to gauge how close I was to the top. I tagged onto the back of a couple of participants who had done the whole race together (Steph and Andy) We had a chat on the way up and this took my mind off my heart rate and it slowly came back to a manageable level. It was a pretty slow slog up the mountain and the top half was in a cloud. We spent a good 60-90minutes walking through grey, nothing to look at, nothing to aim for. Just grey. I kept my eyes down and watched my footing. After a lot of swearing and questioning why I was doing this, I decided to pick the pace up and power to the top, one of the marshals said it was only about 1km to the top, so off I marched. I finally got there, touched the stone and enjoyed the view of the inside of the cloud that engulfed the mountain.
I had made the summit.
Not that I wasn’t glad to have made it up, but there was no view, it was bitterly cold and I couldn’t feel my hand on the phone, I just wanted to get down and finish. There was a huge sense of achievement, a sense of relief to have made it there, roughly 6miles to the finish and I was done.
I got a move on down the mountain, jogged where I could and walked where I had to. The grey started to lift and the view on the way down was phenomenal, this was when the realization of what I had achieved today set in, it was all worth it. I stopped and enjoyed the view for a few moments, the clock wasn’t against me anymore. I caught up and had a chat with another guy at the bottom of the mountain, we were off the mountain, 3miles to go, he rolled his ankle. I stopped to help him and luckily he was OK. After a few minutes and could still put weight on it, walk and he started to jog again. Once I knew he was alright, I ran ahead and got a good pace going again. A brutal hill in the last mile of the race was a bit harsh I felt, I plodded up and swore most of the way up then jogged my way down and entered the finishing zone in Fort William. The limited crowd was very welcoming and I was very glad to be met by everyone cheering me across the line. I was met with a beer, a medal and hugs at the finish line. I felt good, I was smiling, if they told me the finish line was another 6miles down the road… I don’t think that would have been an issue. Yet if I shifted my weight onto one of my legs, the other one was shaking uncontrollably, they weren’t hurting so I found this quite funny. I had a curry and a shower and after a small chat with some of the other finishers, headed off to our hotel for the night. I slept like a baby, a solid 8hours and woke up at 7am. Walking on the flats was fine the next couple of days… stairs, inclines and declines were not so fun as my quads and calves were in all sorts of agony. We headed home a couple of days later, had a smooth train journey back and my legs started to feel normal again.
I had completed and survived my biggest challenge to date, raised over £1800 for Children with Cancer and had a ruddy good time in the process. Thank you to everyone that supported me this year, thank you to my parents and my girlfriend for being my support crew on the day, thank you to RatRace for the smooth operations of the race and thank you to everyone that sponsored me.
Do what scares you. When I entered this challenge there was no way I was going to finish, it scared me, but after six months of planning, training and hard work, I had made it. There was no way I was going to fail this challenge once I had entered. The fact that I felt so good at the finish has made me believe there is a lot more I can achieve when it comes to my fitness abilities. There are a lot of things I am looking at doing next year but I’m not committing to anything just yet.
150miles in a day across Scotland. I feel good about that and I enjoyed the day. The training was long and hard at times. Train hard to race easy. A lot of time and effort went into making my day so enjoyable.
51 rides on the bike
112hours in the saddle
87,112ft evelation cycled
83hours in the running trainers
35,656ft evelation climbed
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; there was aching muscles, tired legs, tired mind. I saw myself throw up a few times during training. It was a cold, wet, snowy winter. It was a hot, humid, sweaty summer. I pushed through my training and I survived my challenge.