Spidey – The Way of The Crystal Goblet & The Gruffalo!?!

“What makes life valuable, is that it doesn’t last forever. What makes it precious is that it ends. I know that now more than ever. And I say it today of all days, to remind us that time is luck. So don’t waste it living someone else’s life, make yours count for something, fight for what matters to you, no matter what. Cause even if we fall short, what better way is there to live…”
The Amazing Spider-Man – 2014
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Ronhill West Highland Way Race 2015
This race, as it does for most, began back in November 2014, where all approved applicants have their names placed within a ballot and wait for fate to decide…Confirmation came this year from Race Director Ian Beattie, posting all successful runners online – I was there!!!!! ๐Ÿ™‚ nothing ever beats the feeling of excitement as well as responsibility that comes with being part of this infamous ‘Race Start List’. I was thrilled once more at being part of this epic race! This coupled with the sobering realisation of what it actually meant to train physically and mentally, with a dedicated focus on the hard months ahead. It was a fixation of mine to yet again achieve the goal of collecting that acclaimed Glen Cairn Crystal Goblet!
Having been successfully selected from the ballot and confirmed as one of the honoured runners, for what was now my third consecutive year, I was enjoying the ‘announcement week’, telling family, friends and work colleagues of what lay ahead. This is a week that I find similar to the final taper week, where there are moments you have to yourself, reliving flashbacks of the 95 mile journey, as well as the dedication, aches and pains of the previous yearsย of training. What lay ahead for me this year though, was a whole lot different…
This is my fourth year running ultras and I’ve been fortunate to have enjoyed a lot of amazing races, along with making a heck of a lot of amazing trail running pals. Running has always been a passion of mine, a place where I can escape the daily routines of life and simply hit the trails, taking myself to places where I can find some form of peace and relaxation. Following on from last year’s UTMB, I was still suffering from a niggle in my right knee and my spirit had been slightly broken from my first unexpected DNF. I guess you could say that going into the New Year, I was still to find my ‘mojo’, having never managed to experience that ‘flow’ that I often enjoy. This year though I had decided not to focus too much on my own personal quests and instead, try to expand the joy of others with my running antics. Yup, this year I had decided, was to be the year I would run as Spider-Man for a charity that I hold close to my heart – CHAS Children’s Hospice Association Scotland.

For those of you that know me, you’ll be aware of my voluntary charitable work, making various appearances as Spider-Man or as a Star Wars Stormtrooper for sick kids charities such as CHAS and Make A Wish Foundation. I have seen firsthand the delight and inspiration that childhood characters can have on poorly kids and have always loved being part of it and supporting in my own little way. My time dedicated to this though had diminished a little though due to my passion found within the ultra running circuit. I had been three years without doing a major personal charity event of my own and people were again asking if they could perhaps sponsor me for my third WHW attempt. It was then that I had the idea of running the WHW Race as The Ultra Amazing Spider-Man! I knew that with the right focus and training, through my close friend and personal trainer Donnie Campbell, I could possibly achieve this epic challenge and help again with raising much needed funds and awareness for supporting terminally ill children. The easy and fun stuff would be the amount of online ‘noise’ I could make, throughout my training. Documenting the months of training with funny graphics, animations, photography and videos. This was something I excelled in and my goal would be to make as big a ripple as possible online to start things trending and going viral, or as much as possible! ๐Ÿ˜‰2011-06-07-Meadowbank-063-01

The first thing though that I needed to do was approach Race Director Ian Beattie and see if this was going to be acceptable, for the race, it’s reputation and integrity. I have a huge amount of respect for the race and it’s history and my intentions would never be to tarnish this. I nervously waited for Ian and the committee’s response. This was a huge gamble for me personally, as I had built a small but personal relationship with many of the people within the ranks of this race, over my past two successful years and I hold each and everyone of them in very high regard. I hold this race second to none and I felt as though I may appear as ‘the clown’ that would bring it down a notch or two. To discredit this race in any way, along with personal views of myself within ‘The Family’ slightly diminished, would have devastated me. To come to them with his announcement, that might be seen as a crazy guy’s daft intentions worried me a lot – a heck of a lot!

I can’t recall how long I waited for Ian’s response but rest assured it was more nerve wracking than waiting for the ballot result! Thankfully, Ian welcomed my intentions and he and the committee wished me all the very best. I couldn’t believe it! The relief I felt here was huge!!!! Now all I had to do was place a post online, again detailing my intentions and see how it went down with the greater community… :0/

Many of you might not believe it but I am a traditionalist at heart and love supporting and maintaining heritage and traditions and fully understood the views of some runners that thought I was more placed for a “10k fun run”, than the challenges of the Ronhill West Highland Way Race. “A race that was for serious runners, looking for serious results.” I expected a few of these comments, and for me running is serious but also a celebration. I’m not the competitive type and love nothing more than finding myself, out on the trails enjoying and celebrating life, amongst Mother Nature. One thing though that I do undertake, is the seriousness of this race, and the challenge that lay ahead. Like the other runners, I had earned my spot, within the start list of this race. I had done this twice before, one a sub 24hr result and knew exactly the amount of dedication and hard training that would be needed to accomplish this challenge and with it, would dismiss any negativity and possible expectation of my failure. Pressure was definitely on but I’m pretty bloody minded when I get going and it takes a lot to break my mental focus.

A few comments came back on Facebook. I’m sure the first was from Sandra McDougall. She gave me such a personal boost with her comment, again someone I respect immensely and I was very grateful of her online support. I was anxiously waiting for the first negative comment, and right enough a couple soon appeared but I was overwhelmed with the immediate response of others, that quickly came back and challenged the negativity. Special thanks and acknowledgement goes to Keziah Higgins and Noanie Heffron for their very kind words of support and encouragement. These are two other runners that I have come respect a lot, through my time of knowing them and was also aware of how highly respected they were amongst the ultra running community. By now the majority of comments were all positive and most understood my genuine intentions, and that I wasn’t just some silly 10k runner, dressed up in a Bananaman costume for some cheap laughs. I knew that I had the tools at my disposal to set a physical challenge for myself and at the same time, raise awareness and some much needed charitable funds for families with terminally ill kids in need of support. The coverage I could gain from various media channels for this cause, through the use of my ‘suit’ could be awesome!

As well all know, “With great power, comes great responsibility!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Winter training, was more a case of recovery and rehab on my knee, from the injury I picked up from the UTMB, so going for the D33 as a test run was out. Not a great way to start a season, where I was now making as much noise as possible for CHAS. Myself and Eil were then hit with some devastating news in February regarding our pup Turry. She’d been suffering for a few weeks now with a bad leg, which we thought was just a jarred shoulder from running on frozen ground. After a few trips to the vet and a MRI scan later, we were told the shattering news that my trail running companion and kindred soul of eight years was suffering from an aggressive cancerous tumour. With only just hearing this news and without it even sinking in, they wanted to act as soon as possible. As they put it, it was amputation or euthanasia. We took her home that night, to be operated on the following morning.

The beginning of this year was one of the worst for myself and Eil and any sign of my running mojo coming back was nowhere to be seen. In all honesty, I think I may have thrown in the towel, to my year’s running, if it were not for the fact that I had committed to running for CHAS. A lot of ‘selfish’ time is needed when dedicating and training yourself for the WHW Race and I found it hard to take myself away from the simple daily pleasures of spending time with Turry and Eil. My focus now was on maintaining the online campaign of my charity run, alongside supporting and reassuring Turry, through the next few months of her chemotherapy. Finding myself in some tough, hard and lonely times on the hills, I was surprised to find that I was not ‘healing’ myself on the trails as I thought I would and just wanted to be home. Realising that ‘time’ there was more precious than being outdoors. Physically, I knew I was in shape, of sorts, to complete the WHW but complacency is NOT the attitude that would get you through this 95 mile challenge. I knew for me that I also needed mental strength and this had to come from spending time at home.

With three weeks to go before the race, we got the great news that Turry’s recent scan was clear and her cancer was into remission! That’s all myself and Eil had been focused on hearing for some time and this was the huge boost I needed to celebrate with a few miles on the trails once more… As everyday passed, Turry was getting stronger and was back to running and swimming in her favourite spots! ๐Ÿ˜€

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My online campaign had continued throughout this period and I was revitalized once more to give this a boost, as well as my training.

The support I got from my good buddy and personal trainerย Donnie, was second to none. He knew what to say and how… “MTFU Brother!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

Donnie had the knack of installing self-belief when I wasn’t so sure I had any and he also saw the charitable benefit, as well as novelty in me attempting this challenge not only for the WHW Race but also the SUMS Triple Crown.

Donnie’s a big kid at heart, a BIG BAD WOLF as well but once you get to know this guy, he’s one of the biggest kids on the block – as well as being one of the fastest! If your still unconvinced, check out the ‘guest’ that he and Rachel invited to their wedding on the Isle of Skye! ๐Ÿ˜‰
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Donnie’sย one to one support, helped get me back on track throughout this year as well as address my increased work schedule, having been placed on a shift pattern. Legs were getting strong again from his weekly sessions and my mind was also in a healthier, more focused environment around him – that’s probably down to fear! ๐Ÿ˜‰

Along with the training, I was honoured to have been approached by Ian Beattie, to help refresh the WHW race’s brand and discuss future possibilities, in developing the online presence. This race and it’s organisation is an epic one! I can’t stress enough how much respect and high regard I hold for it and to be able to contribute and volunteer in such a way is a huge honour! – this also helped lift my spirits and kept me busy.
This year’s race would see some of my artwork used for the official race t-shirts and hoodies. Again a huge honour for me!

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Spirits lifted, now it was time to suit up and run…!

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I rested well, the day of the race, this was achieved by Eil banning all forms of social media and locking me in a dark bedroom for some much needed rest. I suffered last year from not resting enough and I knew this kind of race prep would pay off.

Well fed, van packed, crew alongside me, we were off to Milngavie once more. With this being my third consecutive WHW Race, I was beginning to see this as my annual pilgrimage. Something I did actually need to celebrate, in some twisted sadistic way my dad might think! ๐Ÿ˜‰ I love nothing more than arriving in Milngavie, registering, meeting and greeting and soaking up the electric vibe in the atmosphere. Every part of you is focused, alert, heightened by the inevitable countdown that was awaiting us all by the underpass.

I did feel a little ‘over dressed’ for the occasion but as usual, I was welcomed and reassured by many a friendly face, as well as others that I was meeting for this first time but had received their support previously online. My evening made complete by bumping into Fiona Rennie, a true inspiration of mine, who asked for a quick photo opportunity! ๐Ÿ™‚ – Fiona went on to cover her 1000 WHW mile within this race. Yet another EPIC achievement! Huge congrats there Fiona! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

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With a kiss and hug from Eil, manhugs from Jimbo and Ross, my crew set off to their duties for the next 35hrs and I was left waiting for the countdown. Thoughts went to Turry, who was being well looked after this weekend by close friends and would be a lady of leisure. I was in a good place, I was in a great place and all I had to do was run, smile and enjoy the epic journey to Fort William once more…

I had decided not to focus too much on weather forecasts, this time round as they had not been too accurate of late, for earlier races this year. I knew I had ran in various conditions, wearing this suit and I was well capable of whatever came my way – or so I thought!

The race start was dark and dense with drizzle, it made for some seriously early race concentration. The kind I thought I’d only be needing during the last leg of the race, from Kinlochleven onwards. I had to ensure that I could see through the mask, not only for my benefit but at this early stage, I was aware that I must not under any circumstance be part of any runner falling fowl of an injury due to my limited vision. Some comfort and light relief was given when I realised that every runner was having to pay particular attention to their run and foot placement, as the drizzle was also limiting their vision, as it bounced of the light from the head torches.

I had designed my own suit for the race and with it, I had two running masks. One mask had metal mesh eye lenses, the other was white material. The later, I was to find, would be worn the whole length of the race due to the wet conditions. My metal lenses fogged up with any form of water vapour and blurred my vision beyond any possibility of running with it. This was a huge disappointment for me, as the metal lenses were my favoured and covered the whole of my head and neck. My substitute mask ran short of the neck in material, therefore leaving a couple of inches of my bare neck exposed. I’m a stickler to doing things right and reluctantly and as well as through necessity, I wore the shorter one.

A couple of miles in, I found a comfortable pace, again I was also to find Neil Rutherford, who I meet annually during this race. We chat like excited kids, catching up over the past year and hearing all about his epic achievement in not only competing but smashing the 268 mile single stage winter traverse of the Pennine Way – The Spine Race! A monstrous effort and achievement!!!

I ran smoothly and consistently through to Drymen, where Neil would once again power on away from me, also heading off with Charlie Lees, who has ran strong all year and looking like a beast of a result for him with this race. I was looking forward to the forest tracks that took us on towards Conic Hill. For me, I find that the WHW doesn’t begin until the trails beyond Drymen but I think that’s just the country boy in me! ๐Ÿ™‚ So far I had been running strong and relaxed but with some level of difficulty, as the constant drizzle made my breathing more laboured, as I sucked in the vapour from my soaked mask – I kind of described to some runners as it being my own level of ‘water-boarding’ torture!

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Arriving at Balmaha, I was feeling great but I needed a pee – BUGGER! This meant I needed to pop into The Oak Tree Inn and slip out of a wet suit to relieve myself. Standing still, and wet meant that it wasn’t long for me to sense the chill, so I really needed to get going again. The struggle came trying to drag a wet Lycra suit back over your body and arms. Once in and zipped up, thanks to my crew, I wasย refuelledย and off once more.

I knew it was going to be a struggle running in this suit, so I had promised myself that I would break up the monotony of my running rhythm with the odd Spidey pose, after all, there’s a blog and video still to be made from this challenge and I wanted to celebrate this event as much as physically possible ๐Ÿ˜‰ย  So, not long past Balmaha I asked some very kind passers by if they wouldn’t mind taking a photo! ๐Ÿ™‚ Spidey pose number one bagged!!!! ๐Ÿ˜€

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I’ve always looked forward to seeing my crew at Rowardennan for breakfast (porridge and a banana) but never to the departure, as it’s the longest section without them and you miss the 10mile interval ‘pick me ups!’ – it’s one way I manage to overcome the complete distance, by micro-managing the stages with meeting my crew. One thing I had noticed though, was the large number of people battling against the mighty midge. I thankfully was ok in this department. Spidey: un point – Mother Nature: nil pointย  Bo)

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Inversnaid Hotel check point was made and I dropped a text to the guys, letting them know as well as to allow them to calculate a rough eta for Beinglas Farm. I skulled my first kick of caffeine in a month here, in the form of a Red Bull, I grabbed another bag of sweets, took some shot blocks, had another banana and was off once more. My eating was better for this race, I had experienced errors in the past and was more focused on getting this right for this year. I seem to run empty when approaching the climb out of Bridge of Orchy and was always waisted for the Rannoch Moor stretch. I wanted this year to be different, so I made sure I ate as often as possible, usually on the up hills. Drinking was also imperative this year, as my suit was unforgiving and made for hot hard work when running. My core felt as though it was a constant furnace, overheating was something I had to lookout for. Again, being a little bloody minded, similar to The Fling Race, I wanted to wear the complete suit, mask included for as much as humanly possible and this lead to some hard, tough slogs I can assure you. Unlike The Fling, there was no direct sunlight, beating down on you, this was manageable for me but the one condition I hadn’t had the opportunity to train for was today’s weather. All runners were having to run today, in a damp but exceptionally dense and close atmosphere of 90% humidity! The best way to describe this, for how I was feeling, being covered from head to toe, finger tip to finger tip was like running and breathing in a greenhouse or steam room sauna. Having ran the Transvulcania the previous year, I was aware of how quick my body would shut down if not looked after and fuelled well. Fluids and glucose levels were key. I found that water and Tesco sports drinks were going down well, along with Jelly Tots, Jelly Babies and juicy Opal Fruits.

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The technical sections, following Inversnaid were next and another opportunity for a Spidey Pose. This section is the most technical but also one of my most favourite. It reminds me of Lord of the Rings’ Middle Earth terrain and I can’t get enough of photographing it. Tree roots here were a delight! They seemed to twist, turn and meander across themselves, as well as the rocks and forest floor. It was as if you were tip toeing, light and fast across a snake pit. I had to be careful here, my concentration went into overdrive, as one false step could end the race for me.

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Visibility was at a low, in the mask but with my head and full focus down at my feet, I knew I was capable of getting through this section fairly swiftly. Not as swiftly as Sean Mcminn though! I had passed him earlier at Inversnaid, where he came across me, asking if I had any sugar or red bull left, as he was feeling a little giddy and drunk. I was a little concerned for the dude here, as he was indeed slurring his words. Sadly I had just finished mine so left him in the safe hands of the Lomond Mountainย Rescue crew. It wasn’t long after this when he came bounding past me and a few other guys, saying all was well, felt great and just loved ripping up this section!!! He was off and away…! ๐Ÿ˜€

Due to the slight remoteness and limited access, I only seem to be at this section when running races, so I guess you could say I was conditioned in taking snaps, mixed in with some short technical interval sessions! ๐Ÿ˜‰ at times I was able to keep a steady pace and eventually find my way up to Dario’s post. Undeniably one of the best views of the race. I paid my respects and was away once more. Now I just wanted to see the lads and get a hug from Eil.

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Beinglas Farm reached and my support crew looked after me well. It’s from looking at the video clips taken here, where you get the chance to sit back and see from their perspective, the amount of preparation and work that goes into your arrival, your random demands and your expected departure – fed, pampered and replenished! I remember refuelling and chatting a bit but my mind was on getting to cow poo alley, over the roller coaster and hitting the halfway marker – fresh!

It was still humid and that clearly was going to stay. I was hot and a little fatigued but focused on the next section and was looking forward to some bacon sarnies! ๐Ÿ™‚ Cow poo alley came and went, I surprised and entertained a few walkers and finally approached the gate leading to the roller coaster section. I’m pretty sure the sun was now out, I was still battling the humidity in the suit and had gotten used to my general increase in core temp but there was an added dry and more direct heat now applying itself to me. I was struggling but still moving. It was then that I came across a beacon of pure ‘Westie’ spirit – Dawn Buchanan! She was giving all runners some much needed cheer and a ‘pick me up’. Here, having just set hers sights on me, she burst into an animated cheer that really brought a smile to my face. It was without a doubt the best reception I had received throughout the whole race and boy did I need it there and then! ๐Ÿ™‚ After an insisted hug, I was on my way climbing up the roller coaster section and into some shade. I had noticed that my thighs were still strong and I could hit climbs quite comfortably. Donnie’s hill sessions had certainly developed an extra gear set, for when times got tough and hills got steeper. Seems to be a strength I have, that I do have to admit to enjoying, certainly when there’s significant mileage already on your legs.

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Auchtertyre was next and I arrived, got weighed in and was then welcomed by my crew all sporting Spidey masks to welcome me in! ๐Ÿ™‚ This along with a new Spidey windscreen cover for the van and Spidey serviettes – courtesy of Noanie! ๐Ÿ™‚
From here I would now have the company of Ross Leslie and at times, James Alexander, to help shoot the breeze. As well as this, both were documenting the race with an SLR and two GoPros – let the fun and frolics commence…!
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Having only ran a few miles into Tyndrum, my feet were bad and it was suggested we take a look and see before making things worse. Thankfully I did, somehow my feet were in a right state! Blisters upon blisters!!!! I haven’t blistered in three years of running ultras and this had threw a right curve ball into the mix. Thankfully I was seen to by my crew and the generosity of others, patched up and off I hobbled. My feet were on fire but as time passed, this began to feel nothing more than pins ‘n’ needles. I was looking to run a stronger leg towards Bridge of Orchy, not sure if I did but I was also still focused on the Rannoch Moor section.

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Arrived at the Bridge of Orchy, with the delight of seeing Gay and Al there (my mother and father in-law), to greet and cheer me on. This was a big boost for me, as they had made a huge effort of traveling all the way from Dingwall to wish me well – for all 5-10 mins of me being there. From here I was now heading to one of my main mile markers of the race – Jelly Baby Hill. This was where I was looking forward at being greeted by none other than Murdo McEwan!!! We hit the top of the climb here, pleased to still have enough in the legs to run the last section towards Murdo and was welcomed with my promised ‘red’ jelly baby, a smile and some awesome scots tin whistle playing. The view from here was stunning, the sun was beating down and the day was allowing you to enjoy theย splendourย of the Scottish Highlands at its best! This with the backdrop of the tin whistle playing reallyย struck a chord with me and I was re-energized once more!

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Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 20.11.19Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 20.12.01The decent was quicker than last year, I wasn’t hurting as much in the knees and hips and enjoyed the panoramic views before hitting the tarmac and powering onto where I’d again meet Eil and Jimbo for a much needed milkshake. Arriving at the van, I removed my mask to enjoy a drink but the midge here were just crazy thick and I had to keep moving and downed my milkshake.ย  A quick kiss from Eil and this time, myself, Ross and Jimbo would run together across the Rannoch Moor section.

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Jimbo had bookmarked running this section of the route with me for a while before the race and I was soon to see why… ๐Ÿ™‚

He knew from my previous two years running the WHW that this section, for whatever reason, was always a killer. I always seemed drained by this point and he obviously was here to ‘entertain’ me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ “Bring on The Gruffalo!” ๐Ÿ˜€

James has a two year old son called Owen who always has a bedtime story read to him. Normally The Gruffalo wins the vote every time, so James has become a bit of an expert in the story but not just any standard Gruffalo story, nope, Owen owns the Scots version!!!! So here I was 65 miles into my run and James was reciting, word for word the complete Scots Gruffalo, as we trotted along the Rannoch Moor section! It was ace, he had managed to take my mind off any pain and allow me to transcend into a childhood trance and be passing through the terrifying territory of the mighty Gruffalo! – and would you believe it, there was even a second book that Jimbo also knew…! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Leslie had mentioned an eta that SiEntries was predicting for Glencoe but I was keen to take this section stronger than previous years and not seem too predictable by a computer. If I remember rightly and thanks to Jimbo, I did arrive quicker than expected but also with the added delight and surprise of seeing my mum and dad there, to welcome me in! ๐Ÿ™‚ It was time for some chicken noodle soup and then on towards Kingshouse Hotel for a little bag ‘n’ tag and see Eil, mum and dad once more. Obviously not until after another sneaky wee Spidey pose to celebrate getting this far! ๐Ÿ˜‰
DSC_0095-01DSC_0088-01I grabbed a Crunchie at Kingshouse and was chatting with dad, when a good buddy Mike Raffan had caught me up. He was supporting a fellow trail running sister – Rhona ‘Red Wine Runner’ that I follow on twitter, he was not impressed with my loitering about and off I was once more! No rest for the wicked!!!
I enjoyed, it has to be said, the peace of the trails once more, as James and Ross let me head off on my own for a while but soon they caught up and were ‘entertaining’ me once again! ๐Ÿ˜‰ They both seemed to have picked up on ‘the buzz’ of the race and were bursting with cheer and frolics! Sadly, I was a little low here, the humidity was back, my core still like a furnace, my hands hot and sweaty, hadn’t seen the light of day, or fresh breeze since my pee break at Balmaha – some might say I was at my ‘boiling’ point, right lads!?! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Mike and Rhona passed me as we started to climb a little. I stopped for a short pee stop and once zipped back into my suit something changed. Whether it was getting the small opportunity for my body to breath and cool down during my stop, or the sugar kicking in from my Crunchie or perhaps some ‘anger’ within me, that surprised me but also to my delight now spurred me on – I WAS RUNNING AND RUNNING FAST ONCE MORE!!!!
I allowed myself to leap and bounce as I sprinted over some of this technical section, I think to the surprise of Ross and Jimbo, as they chased on behind. I burst away, sprinting hard, to the next gate, I passed Mike and Rhona, and powered on, soon to be doubled over gasping for air, filling my lungs and waiting for Ross or Jimbo to arrive and open the gate. I didn’t wait, I was off once more, running, racing with a new found adrenaline pumping around my body, grunting and powering on to the next gate. Once through that, I was onto the home straight to the base of The Devil’s Staircase. I ran angered, hard and strong to the base, where I found to my delight Eil waiting with an espresso, also with mum and dad.
This is where Eil says that I had my first ever WHW strop, in my three year history…

…I’d had enough of the suit, it was driving me crazy! I wanted fresh air, my body was craving for the simple desire of a fresh breeze. For the first time in a race, I was angry, I was pissed off! I thought to myself Donnie would be so proud of me! ๐Ÿ˜‰ “Grrrrrrrrrrrr!”Spider-Hulk

He’s tried to make me angry in the past but I’m just not wired that way but here I had an unexplainable rush of anger and focused adrenaline that needed vented! I thanked Eil for the shot of espresso, said short goodbyes to mum and dad and hit The Devil hard!!!! Hills I knew were mine and this one was no different! I think I set some slight concern with Ross, as he wondered how hard we might continue to tackle this hill, how hard and for how long would I maintain this attack. I wasn’t sure myself but I knew I was no longer going to limp on by, with the clock ticking. Ross had mentioned that within that last few bursts of running, I had knocked 15 minutes off my expected eta for Kinlochleven. This was all I needed to hear, from this point onwards I realised that I had kept enough in the tank, to power on and keep going strong. Mike had caught Eil at the bottom of The Devil and he had thought that I would eventually blowout, as my explosion of pace and effort seemed and must have looked quite foolish but somehow I was now feeding off of another inner source and I was determined to power on! An indication of how well I went from this point onwards was that I finished an hour and a half ahead of Mike and Rhona and over the next 25 miles I was to gain about 20 places within the race. For the first time, I was finishing the race strong and passing people as I headed to Fort William.

If I was to blow out, I had decided it was going to be on my terms and at least then I’d have good reason to join some of the rest of the runners, on what’s commonly known as ‘The Death March’ through Lairig Mor.

The picture below has been used to depict my ‘super’ efforts at tackling the The Devil’s Staircase and was shared on Facebook by Greg Beattie. “I was using Lego to explain to no.3 son how awesome it was to see Spidey on the Way…here’s you on top of Devil’s Staircase…even Mighty Thor (who has misplaced his hammer and a wee bit sad) is in awe!” ๐Ÿ˜€

Greg Beattie
With The Devil ahead, I took the opportunity to unmask and unzip my hands from the suit, allowing my body to breathe a little whilst I tackled it head on. Once at the top I took a well earned breather, doubled over and sucking in some fantastic energising fresh air. I was now wearing my rain jacket, as it was insisted by marshals from Bridge of Orchy onwards. I had bought a close fitting cycle jacket to fit snugly under my suit but now, I felt, was not the time to be playing and undressing.

Keeping the mask off for visibility with the technical decent towards Kinlochleven, I was to find, was a mistake! Although my vision was greatly improved, I was now suffering from the onslaught of every runner’s nightmare – the mighty midge! To say that they were thick here was an understatement. They were everywhere and simply ruled this section of the trail. As I tried to run/stumble my way through them, they simply slowed me down by hitting into my eyeballs and being inhaled, leaving me retching, coughing and spluttering. It was time to improvise with my buff and create my own ‘ninja mask’ and get through this clotted area as quick as possible.

WHW 2015 Complete_07_Kinlochleven

We entered into Kinlochleven before schedule, this lifted my spirits, as I had set a mini goal of beating the latter predicted eta’s. We were though, a little too late for my infamous annual bag of chips but I hadn’t even noticed, as I was more into enjoying my bacon sarnies ๐Ÿ™‚ I was to find out after the race that Eil and Jimbo had panicked when they found that the chip shop was shut and went about trying to find a solution. Eil had bumped into Carol Martin’s crew, who very generously donated a their bag as Carol had only a few of them. This is the kind of thing you’re unaware of at the time of running but take huge gratitude for, when you find out and realise the effort that your crew go to, to ensure that your spirits aren’t broken.ย  When you’re possibly expecting that certain ‘something’ special, such as a warm bag of salted chips! – in hindsight, and I’m sure all runners would feel the same, but that certain ‘something’ special, is actually your crew. ๐Ÿ™‚

Surprisingly, I saw Ross tucking into a cold pasta salad. He seemed on form and I was grateful to have him by my side as we tackled this final stretch. Like two old arthritic gents, we stumbled out of the van and onto the tarmac that was to lead us out of KL. Legs were stiff, feet burning but once we warmed up a bit and started the climb up towards Lairig Mor, my mind took over and we were off once more, climbing and gaining positions as we power hiked up this gruelling accent. It wasn’t long until we hit the top and celebrated by sharing a banana together, then we were off again…

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I had found a comfortable pace and rhythm by now, it was dark and getting wetter by the minute, so my concentration again was honed in on the slightly lose rocks and rubble of this wee technical section underfoot. Things felt good and Ross and I carried on. We’d spot the odd head-torch ahead and make that our next target, then the next, and the next… Ross was exceptionally patient with me and my pace. I felt I was moving well, for someone with 80+ miles on their legs but Ross seemed fresh and more importantly, he became tolerant of my ‘Captain Shpeedy’ pace! ๐Ÿ˜‰ We seemed to have set a strong steady pace that soon led us to Lundavra – at long bloody last!!! Seemed we were fooled by every false ‘final’ bend before eventually seeing the faint flicker of a drowning bonfire. Our concentration and focus to this point had paid off, as myself and Ross hadn’t suffered from kicking our tired feet and toes into too many large rocks. I remember actually saying to Ross how this had felt, in certain parts, as though we were running along an old dried out river bed. Some of this section was stupidly technical, with varying sizes of loose rock. Even for the mountain rescue 4×4, this would be no easy or enjoyable section.
Eil and Jimbo were waiting patiently in the rain, at Lundavra. This was to be a quick pass by due to the weather, so we exchanged head torch batteries and shot off before my body had any opportunity of cooling down. There was still 7 miles to go and I was keen not to suffer any early stages of hypothermia, in this suit! This had been my greatest concern and I was pleased that my body had help up well to this point through all the damp, dark, humid and drenched sections.

As we now headed off with a boost from the legs, I was now aware of the fact that this was to be my first race, where I went through a second night. I had wondered how my body would take this but surprisingly, it and my mind were feeling great. I mentioned this to Ross and how energised and surprisingly fresh I felt, he suggested that this might be due to my body clock kicking in. I hadn’t thought of that and felt that this was a valid explanation.

The rain was still coming down hard and I was wet through and I had now the unpleasant need for a pee stop. I managed to hold off until we entered the woodland section but then INEEDEDTOGO!!!!! I fumbled about a bit, all fingers and thumbs in the suit, it would have been funny if it wasn’t for the desperate need, mixed with fatigue! ๐Ÿ™‚ soon I was stripped, suit rolled down to my waist and relieving myself. This was the thirdย time during the whole race that my chest was able to breath throughout the whole race – the first being at Balmaha. It wasn’t long enjoyed, because as soon as my focus went from needing to pee, I was immediately reminded of the cold, wet conditions, even under the cover of the trees. I was beginning to shake and shiver. I had to get suited up and moving and quick! This was to be a lot more tricky though as my lycra suit was not ‘playing ball’ and I struggled to slide myself back into the cold wet stretchy material. Eventually in, I needed to zip up but this too was quite the puzzle in the dark. Ross struggled with this, as he was getting cold too and struggled with his gloves. With half my zip done, I pulled on my drenched jacket and ran off. I was now frozen, teeth chattering and breathing erratically. Chilled to the core, I eagerly stumbled on into the thick of the woodland and tried my best to maintain some movement and warm up a little. Ross was patient with me here, again, as I suffered from my second strop of the race – thanks bud! ๐Ÿ˜‰ #manhug I fully appreciated the fact that Ross had accompanied me over 40 miles, through the wet and cold conditions, without out one complaint! I’ve the biggest respect to all support runners that find themselves running at a slower, colder pace, where the chance in moving and keeping warm is slim for them. Perhaps one day I’ll get to repay this debt!?! ๐Ÿ˜‰

All that stood in our way of the fire track, was a mini roller coaster and once again Ross and I were power hiking and marching our way there. This was to be my third time attempting this section of the WHW and in some frustrating circumstances, you can find yourself crippled the minute you hit this gentle downhill track. It’s so infuriating to be so close but somehow unable to allow yourself the simple pleasure of running this section. On an ordinary day, you’d power on down this and be done in minutes. Another one of my goals was to be strong enough to tackle this, this year. Thankfully my legs, hips, knees and feet had no major protest against my downhill trot, so down we headed, safe now in the knowledge that the technical sections were long behind us and I could now relax, concentrate a little less on the surface of the trail and enjoy what was ahead. Once hitting the tarmac, there was a mile or so before hitting my last major landmark, the 30mph limits of Fort William! I insisted with Ross that we needed a selfie here, he humoured me and off we set one last time towards Fort William, the delightful sight of the infamous blue and yellow ‘Run and Become’ finish line and the best slice of toast you’ll ever taste! ๐Ÿ˜€

Oh, and just enough energy in me for ‘one’ last Spidey pose!!!! #thwip ๐Ÿ˜‰

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We had made it!!!! Myself, Eilidh, Jimbo and Ross had bagged another epic Ronhill West Highland Way Race together! ๐Ÿ˜€

A huge amount of thanks goes to my crew, especially my wife Eil, who has supported me through all my daft endeavours and not once doubted my ability to accomplish these crazy goals that I set for myself.
Jimbo and Ross, I couldn’t complete the Westie without you both being by my side, supporting and entertaining me, as well as documenting it all for my blog and videos! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Donnie for his professional and personal support and guidance, generous donation and patience, through what was a tough year mentally for myself and Eil. Cheers bud! ๐Ÿ™‚

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A big thanks goes as always to Ian Beattie, Adrian, John, Murdo and the rest of the WHW committee for first of all allowing me to set this challenge, along with all other much appreciated marshals, volunteers, of which this race would not be as successful as it gets each year!

And a huge THANKS goes to everyone that supported me, with well wishes as well as the very generous donations for CHAS. From them, myself and Spidey – THANK YOU!!!!! #thwip

Ultra Amazing Spider-Man and the Challenge of The Crystal Goblet done!

“Only by pushing himself to the very limits of his endurance, for the sake of others, can a man be said to have truly lived.” ย – Ray Mears.

WHW 2015 Complete 02

– Ultra Amazing Spider-Man and The Quest for The Triple Crown tbc…! ๐Ÿ˜‰
Following the hopeful completion of the Devil o’ The Highlands and therefore the ‘Triple Crown’, I’ll have more of an idea on the total amount raised for CHAS but needless to say, I ‘think’ I have raised enough of an ‘awareness!’ ๐Ÿ˜‰ #CHAS ย #thwiphttps://www.justgiving.com/theultraamazingspiderman
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If you have lasted this far. You might be interested in viewing my collection of photos below of this year’s journey and race… Enjoy! ๐Ÿ™‚
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2 responses to “Spidey – The Way of The Crystal Goblet & The Gruffalo!?!

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