Friday, 25 June 2010

West Highland Way 2010

For just one midnight of each year, there's no doubting that Milngavie station yard is a galvanising  place. Meet lots of people who you know and many more that you've not met before, then go off and run the best part of 100 miles together. The mixture of nervousness and excited anticipation is heady stuff. So I've picked up my bracelet with the fateful instruction "Now that stays on until Fort William  -  unless you drop out", been weighed (never knew I was that much, the scales must be wrong), and dropped the drop bags. Son John accompanies me to the start, wishes me luck, then leaves me to say hello to a few folk and get my head around what's going to happen in the next day or so. I spend my time meeting up with fit looking people in the dark and trying to forget the twinges from my right knee which hasn't been great for a week or two - it's an old injury which still complains from time to time, however this time I've strapped it up with a mixture of white and pink tape, which gets me a lot of comments over the coming hours!

Then the briefing, the shuffle up to the underpass, the countdown to 1am, the hooter, and we're away,  a hundred and fifty hopeful adventurers off into the night. Quickly through the town and into the park, find an easy pace, find myself with Fiona Rennie who I last saw at the Heart of Scotland three weeks ago, chat a bit, then I see a man with a dog.

I've run a good few miles with Graeme Morrison and his dog Penny in the last two Highland Fling races. I didn't think he had contemplated the West Highland Way until I got a message a few days ago " a late entry into the race on Saturday, see you there". But I hadn't seen him at the start, now here he was kneeling on the ground trying to put a broken head torch back together. He's had an interesting few minutes; the hooter at the start startled Penny who took off like a rocket, her lead dragging Graham's torch with it. He's managed to borrow a spare torch, catch up with dog, and is now trying to get things back in order. I hang onto Penny, he sorts out the illumination and we get on our way now firmly at the back of the field. This doesn't bother me at all, I have a plan which involves going very slowly indeed for the first 50 miles, probably slowing down a bit after that, walking all the uphills from the start, but only stopping for the bare minimum anywhere. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other in the direction of Fort William and you'll get there, I think it was Fiona who said that.

Rowardennan  -  plan 5:30 actual 5:29

It's a lovely night, clear, perfect temperature, and NO midgies. Graeme, Penny and I make our way steadily past the landmarks we know. Drymen comes up in 2:20, it gets light enough for torches off by the end of the forest, the wind gets cooler on the open stretch before Conic Hill. Graeme's a keen hillwalker and I'm not going to follow up at his likely pace, but in the end he stays down to mine. We jog down the other side though, and into Balmaha at 3:50. Graeme's support team are here so he's stopping for a bite to eat. I carry on, he'll catch me later. I've found over the years that meeting my team just at the official checkpoints suits us all fine - I'm less tempted to hang around and they get more time for sleeping and generally organising things.This year with the extra drop at Beinn Glas it's even easier to do this, I only carry a rucksack as far as Rowardennan then it's a lightweight bumbag for the rest of the way.

Just after Balmaha I'm walking to get a drink and a Mars bar and Ian Beattie comes past at a good pace, he must have stopped for some food and just got going again. It was through Ian's blog that I first found out about the WHW race (and I don't think I'm the only one so he's got a lot to answer for), it's good to see him going well. Then I'm on my own for quite a while but it doesn't matter because the loch is more beautiful than ever on this day. A figure in a pink fleece by the loch side taking photographs turns out to be Mrs Mac, I stop for long enough for us to agree that it's a fabulous day, she sends me on my way with a hug and good wishes. I'm enjoying this section, in the Fling you start to feel that you've nearly run a marathon because you feel you should be running at least the gentle uphills, but today I'm looking forward to them because I know I'm going to walk them all. A couple of miles before Rowardennan I catch Ian again, and Bob Allison catches us too, so we carry on to the checkpoint more or less together.  I'm really looking forward to that first cup of tea, and I find John and Julia in the trees behind the checkpoint, a few midgies here but still nothing like normal so they seem happy enough.

Auchtertyre  -  plan 11:30  actual 11:12

John walks out of Rowardennan with me to take back my mug, I've only stopped for about three minutes but I've drunk too much - must remember that for Auchtertyre, it takes me three or four miles for me to get properly back into stride again, but I get to Inversnaid bang on schedule (7:15), pick up milkshake and ginger beer and off into the tortuous bit. Graeme and Penny and another couple of runners including Tony Thistlethwaite catch me here. I ask if they want to get past but they're happy to go at my pace for this section. We catch up Ian Rae, another runner who I have spent quite a few miles in company with in past races, and today will be no exception. Beinn Glas is reached in 8:55, just 5 minutes ahead of my plan. From here to the main road crossing before Auchtertyre is usually my least favourite part of both the WHW and the Fling - grinding uphills for the first part then the never-ending switchbacks in the forest, so I've allowed myself a fairly generous two and a half hours. But today there are a lot of people I know going at about the same speed, Graeme, Ian, then we catch Tim Downie, so it seems to fly past with very little effort. One concern is that I've told my team I won't be early, and now it looks like I will. I have no phone coverage at all on this section (good old 02 - I wonder if anyone else gets any reception?), so for the last couple of miles I slow right down, but still come in early. I check in and get weighed - still the same as at the start - get ticked off for not having a weight card with me - and thankfully find the family just getting parked up about two hundred yards beyond the checkpoint. The stove is out fast for tea, while I have a sausage roll and bananas and custard, another stop of barely five minutes. The day's really warming up now so Jan sprays me with sunscreen, I change into a short-sleeved top and put on my Foreign Legion hat.

Bridge of Orchy   -  plan 13:30  actual 13:23

A pretty uneventful section, the long climb up to the highpoint before the tunnel under the railway, then almost continuous running all the way to the station. The only slight negative is that the headwind seems to be getting stronger - we will have this directly in our faces for most of the way now, and there is little shelter from it. Again I spend time with Graeme and Penny, Ian Rae, and we catch up with Graeme Reid. Last year Graeme passed me going up the Devil's Staircase, he went on to a comfortable sub-24 and I missed by nearly 45 minutes - I'm hoping the same doesn't happen again today. Anyway, meet the team by the station for a bit more food and drink, and off again with the moor coming up.  I learn at the checkpoint that Richie Cunningham was in the lead through here, hope he keeps it up (he does, to become the most popular winner in recent years, we all knew he would do it one day!)

Glencoe  -  plan 16:00  actual 16:00

Up the first hill with Ian, and we see a Saltire on top. It has to be Murdo, and of course it is, with a greeting and a jelly baby for all. Over the top I pull away from Ian as I like downhills, then a steady run along the bit of road to the gate onto the moor. I've always had company across Rannoch Moor, but not today. Apart from passing one runner and being passed by another I see no-one for the whole crossing. But now the sun and the wind are starting to tell, for the first time I'm conscious of having come a long way. The little diversion off the track to the ski centre car park is only a couple of hundred yards, but its roughness and undulations seem unreasonable at the end of a long section and I'm not too pleased with it. Meeting the family at the checkpoint, I have my first sit-down rest of the day, about seven or eight minutes, in time for tea and soup, and back to my long-sleeved top and flat cap, the sun isn't going to be any problem from now as it's 5pm, but it's going to be a beautiful evening. I'm tired but feeling OK, and I know from here if I don't do anything daft I'll get my 24 hour finish at last.

Kinlochleven  -  plan 19:00  actual 19:00
I'm usually glad to have some company from my support runners from here to the finish. My daughter Julia usually does the stretch to Kinlochleven then my son John does the last section to Fort William.  Julia is geared up and ready to go, but just before leaving Glencoe I'm surprised to see John Kynaston at the checkpoint. I expected him to be the other side of Kinlochleven by now, but he's had a tough few hours. I call to him it's time to go, and he joins us, off down the road at a steady jog. We stay together up the frustrating little hill that you then have to come straight down from again, and along to the foot of the Devil's Staircase. I think this is actually 3 or 4 miles, and it seems to go quite quickly. When we regain the road John stops for a few minutes to pick up his own support runner David, and little way up the staircase they pass Julia and me. John really seems to have a second wind now because they move ahead quite quickly - in fact John covers the ground from here to the finish an hour and twenty minutes quicker than me. We plod steadily to the top then jog gently down the other side. A mile or so before Kinlochleven I stop for a pee then feel nauseous for a few minutes; disappointing because I've been fine up to here, but it destroys my appetite from now on. Nevertheless we keep moving down to the town and arrive on schedule, check in and I get weighed again  -  this time I'm down a couple of kilos from the start but that doesn't worry me or anyone else at this stage.

Lundavra  -  plan 21:30  actual 21:25

I decide I'm not going to stop so I just down a mug of coke and carry on, this time with John, as Julia's stint is now over, job done!

Poor John, he always gets me at this stage when I'm pretty tired and not too talkative, but he always sees me through to Fort William. At least today we've got beautiful weather for it. I'm very slow up the first hill up to the jeep track but then we stride out along the Lairig Mor, remembering the times we've come this way in previous years, in the wind, rain and darkness with the path so running with water that keeping dry feet was an impossibility. Today we don't even have to use the bridges across the bigger streams, there's not enough water left to worry about. The false summits come and go. Somewhere along here Graeme and Penny catch us again and then go past. "How did you get to here?" he asks. For the first time in 2 Highland Flings and most of the West Highland Way, I see Penny looking tired - though she's still trotting along gamely without complaint - I guess at 2 years old she has still plenty of miles more to do. I don't see Graeme again but he gets home just 8 or 9 minutes ahead of me. Then at last we can see the trees and I know it's just a mile to the checkpoint.

Fort William   -  plan 23:30  actual 23:34:37

We don't stop at Lundavra, just call out my number and carry on through. Now I've never left here in daylight before so it's quite daunting to see the series of steep little hills leading away to the final bit of forest. I'm getting really tired now and each one seems harder than the last, but we don't stop, and are rewarded by the views across to Ben Nevis, still set against a clear blue sky. Then into the forest and after about a quarter of a mile we finally have to put the torches on. But I know it's going to be OK now, plenty of time, no need to rush. A runner comes storming past in the darkness, it's Tim Downie, we encourage him on his way. Then at last, the hill with the zig-zags, the final up, and out onto the final broad track to the finish. Could I run now, maybe, but I settle for a steady four miles an hour walk, taking about three paces to John's two. We debate the road at the end, it's nearly two miles he says, no it's barely one say I. Another team come past "Run Andy, it's downhill now"  - it's Graeme Reid, he's recognised my pink strapping even in the dark. No, I'll get there, I tell him. And we do. As we hit the road John calls the ladies but they're already there at the finish, expecting us. Savour the road, it's over now, reach the carpark, through the door, check in, whisky, hugs all round. 23hrs 34mins 37 secs.  An hour and ten minutes better than I've done before.

It was a great day, the new organisers did a superb job, and my family support team knew what I wanted every step of the way, even though I sometimes didn't. Thanks guys, couldn't do it without you.

When I first got involved with the West Highland Way race, I read that "An average runner can expect to finish in 24 hours". Well, it's taken this average runner four finishes to get there, but it was worth waiting for. And naturally I'm already thinking how that 26 minutes can't be too difficult to work at (who am I kidding, of course it will be difficult, but I'll still have a try....)

But the numbers are really just there because they have to be, to get us out of bed in February and drive us into the summer; in the grand scheme of things in themselves they're not so important. Those of us who ran the 2010 West Highland Way will remember it for the clear midgeless night, the perfect glassy calm of the loch in the early morning, the sunny skies and the green hills, the startling blue of the lochans across the moor, and the views along the way that if we run it another ten times we may never see again. Someone must have put in a good word for us up there. Thanks, Dario.



Sunday, 13 June 2010

To the Tarmac and the Short Guy

French alpinists have an expression "retour au pays des vaches". After the adventure, when you step off the last bit of glacier or dangerous ground onto the easy hillside below, you've returned to the land of the cows  -  you're safe, you've survived the trip. And as you wander down for maybe an hour or two through the high meadows and pinewoods, no more stress involved, no more decisions to make, tired but somehow no longer tired, it's a short but precious time to contemplate and savour what you've just achieved, before you have to face the music and return to the real world outside the game you've been playing.

There is a mile of tarmac at the end of the West Highland Way; you come out of the Glen Nevis forest at the Braveheart carpark then follow the road along to the finish. I know it's despised or hated by some, I've heard it often complained about and sometimes roundly abused, but for me this bit of the journey is the "pays des vaches". Job done, whatever pain you have is going to stop soon, time to enjoy the last bit before it's all over and you get to the bright lights, the congratulations, the shuffle off to a well-earned rest. So if you run the West Highland Way Race, when you reach and travel this last mile, whether it takes you seven minutes or half an hour, just take a moment or two to reflect on how you came to be here, Glasgow to Fort William on foot, not a bad effort, you don't do that sort of thing every day.

At the end of my first trip I came to this point when the sun was well up into Sunday, thirty-odd hours after the start. There was another runner, or walker for that's what we both were by this stage, just ahead of me. Now known as the Subversive Runner or the Pirate, he had not at that time acquired either soubriquet. A hundred yards from the finish he stopped. Go on, I said, I'm not going to pass you now. It's OK, he said, I'll just wait for my mate to catch up, he's not far behind you. So my deserved seventy-first place became an undeserved seventieth and I carried on to the Leisure Centre carpark. There I was welcomed by a shortish, balding fellow with a smile as wide as his face, in spite I suspect of having not slept in the past forty-eight hours. "Really well done", he said, "you look in pretty good shape." I didn't of course, but I'm sure I grew an inch or two at that moment. I heard him greet the runner behind me "Hi Dave, well done, good to see you back", and it occurred to me that he had probably seen home every finisher before me, and would no doubt wait for the few still to come. He's been there at my subsequent completions, whatever time I arrived, with the same smile and always a word or two of encouragement.

I hope to be seeing the tarmac again soon, sometime in the darkness between next Saturday and Sunday. And as I make my way over those final few steps to the finish, I know I'll hear him again.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

In the Heart of Scotland

The rain might finally be easing a bit but it's 2am and black dark. In spite of the full waterproofs, every stitch I'm wearing is wet. Move or shiver. There is no path, no track or trace, feet stumble randomly into rough heather, knee-deep holes, bog, and a hundred icy streamlets that the past few hours have created. Through rain-distorted spectacles I can just decipher the little yellow glow of the GPS. Behind me follow five or six others with a confidence probably borne of hope or necessity that I know where I'm going. Then we see it, impossible to tell how far away but it's there, a red flashing light. As we move, it disappears behind a hillock, appears again, disappears, reappears and stays. A few minutes and we're there, the clipper dangling beneath the light on a lonely fence corner at this unmanned checkpoint miles from the nearest path and more miles from the nearest chance of getting dry. Welcome to the Heart of Scotland.

It was Richie who first told me about the event over beers in the warm Chamonix sunshine last summer, the LDWA's "Heart of Scotland 100". Not a race, as the LDWA would stress, but a "Challenge Walk"  -  the location of their annual 100 mile challenge changes every year, coming to Scotland for the first time this year. The general deal is that it's well supported with food at regular checkpoints, you can choose any of three start times on Saturday (10am, noon, or 2pm) and you have until 10am on Monday (ie 48 hours max) to finish. The Heart of Scotland would start and finish at the Drill Hall in Dunkeld and take in a lot of country that I knew about generally but had never explored in detail. The route looked interesting but not too tough (I think about 13,000ft of climbing with good tracks for most of the way) and seemed an ideal way to ease gently (remember this descriptor later) into 100 milers for 2010. It would be my first brush with the Long Distance Walkers Association, so I got on the website to stake my claim and by December the entry was confirmed.

I checked in early for the middle start then went for a final calorie-and-morale-boosting coffee and cakes with Jan in Dunkeld, returning to the start area a few minutes before noon to discover that the great majority of the 500 strong field had left at 10am; good to see some friendly faces though, George (who had already warned me that the route was tougher than it looked in places) and Karen, Phil (who I'd crossed Rannoch Moor with in last summer's DOH), and the seemingly ever-present Jim D in his usual cotton tee-shirt and tracksuit bottoms, demonstrating that modern technical gear holds no suit over the true hardman. The start briefing had its interesting points "you may well see Ospreys, don't come back and tell people where they are", then the low key countdown and we're off  -  walking. After a few yards the leaders break into a jog, allowing me to find my normal takeoff position in the last dozen or so.

The first two sections take us northward over the Clunie moors to Kirkmichael, 15 miles or so with 2000ft of climbing. The first climb is gentle but it's warm, a bit of sunshine, and I'm conscious that my rucksack weighs a ton. It's by far the heaviest bag I've ever brought on an ultra  -  compulsory kit includes full waterproofs, fleece, full-weight bivi bag, first aid kit, torch and batteries, mug, three OS maps, route description (almost a book!), compass, whistle, phone, emergency food and litre of water, to which I've added some gels and hat, gloves, GPS, and spare socks as the forecast isn't great. I keep thinking about starting the West Highland Way with a water bottle and a couple of Mars bars..............but this is here and now and I'm sure I'll get used to it in a few miles. An hour or so in we lose the sun and it starts to rain intermittently; some folk put on waterproofs but I'm happy enough so far in my windproof Montane top. In the second half of this section I catch up with George and Karen, we chat about their extremely successful Cateran Trail race (must do that one next year), our plans for the WHW, the races in Chamonix later in the year, and so on. The last few miles into Kirkmichael were highlighted as tricky in the roadbook; George and Karen reccied them earlier in the year but everything has changed for today  -  new paths cut through the heather, new marker posts, new gates in fences, they feel really cheated, they paid their dues now everyone is getting a free ride!

They stay a bit longer in the checkpoint than me so I head out alone. On the next section which follows a flattish section of the Cateran Trail to Enochdu I catch Jim D who seems to have gone quite quickly so far. He says he has a plan for 4 miles an hour to Blair Atholl to avoid a potentially tricky section in the dark just after. Now Jim always chats away about lots of things, always interesting and often far-reaching, but every so often you get a nugget that is relevant to the event in hand and this is one of them, so I check that my own schedule matches this. I originally planned a 30 hour trip for a not-too-stressful completion, but have upped it to 31 after the organisers added a few miles on (it's now actually the Heart of Scotland 104,4) and George warned me about the tough bits. I can't remember exactly where I leave Jim but I'm soon out on my own in the long lonely valley leading to Daldhu, except that it's not so lonely now because I'm starting to catch the walkers who started two hours earlier and it's a continual stream of greetings and comments on the weather (it's now started to rain fairly steadily) all the way to the checkpoint at just under 24 miles. This one's just a small tent, but still plenty of food and welcome around it.

On the next section to Shinagag 6,6 miles further on we go further into the wild but still on a good undulating track. As from the start I'm walking all the ups but running (or rather jogging) the downs and flats and feeling pretty comfortable. We climb up over a col, then the three mile descent to the checkpoint has me in wonder yet again at the Scottish landscape; apart from a two feet wide gap cut into the heather there is no sign of the impact of humans as far as you can see in any direction. I'm not too certain of the overtaking etiquette here, I make do with coming up behind and hanging in quietly until invited to pass, it seems a bit unreasonable to ask someone to disrupt their own rhythm until they're ready to. The tent at Shinagag comes and goes, then another 6 easy miles down to Blair Atholl, back to civilisation, food and drink in a warm hall.

Some different but interesting stuff now, tracks along the river then though woods up to the Bruar Falls. I meet Mick here and we travel awhile together. Jim was right, the route here is not easy and we are happy to make it through to Calvine in daylight. I leave Calvine at about 10,30 but because of the heavy clouds it is almost dark and really starting to rain in earnest, not just continuous but heavy, so it's on with the rain gear for real this time. The next section to Dalnacardoch is the most uninteresting of the trip, following an asphalt cycleway alongside the A9. I get my head down and my hood up and plough on into the gloom, starting with a jog/walk tactic but then getting bored and jogging all the way to the checkpoint. Somewhere along here the headlamp goes on. Dalnacardoch is at 49,5 miles, almost halfway in distance, of course nowhere near that in effort, but it's a tented refuge from the elements. I'm very wet when I get there at just before midnight (12 hours from the start) but the hot tea and chicken soup does the trick and I step into the outside once again.

From Dalnacardoch we go 3 miles or so up a steady hill on a narrow lane. Three people have left the checkpoint just before me, I catch them and we go on at a fast walk. The last mile or so to the next stop at the Errocht Dam leaves the lane and crosses some vague countryside cutting across roads. I know this bit so I can lead my companions pretty quickly to the checkpoint. Inside the tent there is a random kit check  -  I have to produce my bivi bag which is of course packed right down at the bottom of my rucksac, but it is all done in good humour and and I'm impressed by the diligence and organisation of the LDWA. I have some more soup and a bit of contemplation  -  one of the toughest sections of the route comes next, rough ground, hard to navigate and a significant climb, it will be nearly three hours before we get any appreciable daylight, the rain is hammering down harder than ever, and when I'm not moving I immediately start to feel cold. But I know deep down that I can do this stuff and that it will be "retrospectively enjoyable" so there really isn't any decision. I confess to Jane, one of my companions on the last section, that I have the route in my GPS, a nearby French couple hear the conversation, we become a team and head out into the night. The first three or four miles follow a jeep track along the lochside; it is now two continuous parallel puddles with a slippery strip of grass in between them, after a while none of us is too concerned about which bit we tread in. The track ends at a footbridge waymark, from here it is cross country for three miles or so until we hit a track just above Kinloch Rannoch. We make it to the unmanned check on the fence (where I started this story) having added to our team along the way. From here we follow the fence straight up the hillside for nearly a thousand feet vertical, easy to find now but hard to do, heather and mud, two steps up and one back, my road shoes just about coping. The fence bends round to traverse the hill and so do we, less strenuous but still hard going. At last we get to the gate waypoint, then turn left through the heather up to the col. The sky starts to lighten and we can just make out a line to follow down towards Kinloch Rannoch. Job done, 30 minutes or so later we're down there.

This is the drop bag "breakfast stop" at 61,7 miles from the start, so a complete change of clothes and shoes is possible and very welcome  -  dry at last, followed by a full English  -  yes I know this is an ultra but these LDWA guys can really put on a spread! During the course of the whole event I manage to get through soups, pastas, tuna sandwiches, rice puddings, bananas and custards, fruit cakes, swiss rolls, hot sausage rolls, as well as the normal crisps, Mars bars, gels, coke, and about a gallon of tea (and of course the full breakfast!)  - weight loss at the end of the trip, zero!

Jane and I decide we've still enough to talk about so we do the next section together, a 1500ft climb up a jeep track out of Kinloch Rannoch to the Tempar bothy on the slopes of Schiehallion, followed by another couple of miles of trackless heather and bog and some wide burn crossings, rising a few hundred further feet at the end to the next checkpoint at the Pheiginn bothy. The rain has now finally stopped  but the ground underfoot ensures that our newly dry shoes and socks are thoroughly soaked again. From the bothy there's a good descending track for the next three miles or so, I can't persuade Jane to run it so I say goodbye and head off down; it's good to be moving faster again after the rain and the rigours of the night. Fortingall, home of Europe's oldest tree, is the next checkpoint, then a bit of up and down through the Tay Forest, walking the ups and running the downs. A level and grassy track follows, along the bank of the Tay from the Lyon confluence all the way to Aberfeldy, I run all of it. I was over an hour down on my 31 hour schedule at the Pheiginn bothy (partly due to a 50 minute stop for breakfast!) but I've caught it all back in the space of less than 17 miles, too fast, I'll pay for this later.

Getting to Aberfeldy is psychologically good, less than 20 miles to go from here, tea and cake and off we go. But after a mile of road I get to a 1400ft climb up a relentless forest track, it's really hard. I'm almost falling asleep on my feet up here but go with the Mike Mason dictum  -  "go as slow as you like, but never, ever, stop on an uphill". Finally I reach the checkpoint by Loch Kennard and have to sit down in the tent to regroup. Coffee and banana and custard revives me after a few minutes, but I realise it's going to hurt from here to the end, another 12 miles, but thankfully with only a few hundred feet of up and a lot of down. As  I creak out of the tent I see a vaguely familiar face but recognition is dulled by tiredness and I don't say hello. A mile further on the face catches me up, of course it's Twin Fiona running as support for friend Sue  -  they'll both be there in Milngavie for the start of the WHW in less than 3 weeks time. I've woken up a bit now so jog with them for a few hundred yards, then start to feel much better so head off for a while slightly faster. The energy surge doesn't last long, by the next checkpoint I've slowed right down again but now it's only 7 miles to the finish. I manage a cheery greeting for the marshals at the final checkpoint 3 miles from the end, on what is now a beautifully sunny early evening, but I'm barely hitting 3 miles an hour and these last three miles are the hardest of the lot.  Then I'm suddenly in the outskirts of Dunkeld; not quite Chamonix but everyone on the streets knows what you've been up to and there is encouragement and congratulation from all sides. Over the bridge, into the square, and then the Drill Hall to finish, a few minutes under 31 hours  -  I don't record the exact time, it doesn't really seem all that important now, the journey was the thing, the numbers are just stamp collecting. There is a really nice touch at the end, each time a finisher comes through the door of the hall one of the marshals rings a handbell, prompting applause from everyone in the room.

I sit down for a cup of tea and reflect. It was tougher than I expected because of the rain and the trackless sections, particularly overnight, but overall a great trip. I could have pushed a bit harder near the end, you can always overcome tiredness, but I didn't want to finish in any distress. I'm in pretty reasonable shape, hobbling a bit on feet sore from being continually wet, and a stiff knee, but these will pass in a day or two. Really tired, but that will be put right by tomorrow. This first 100 of 2010 was OK. I call Jan who arrives from Perth in 20 minutes to pick me up. Our planned steak and chips doesn't happen because once back at the hotel I fall irretrievably asleep for a couple of hours and we have to make do with raiding a local petrol station for sandwiches and crisps at 11pm. It's a clear, cold night and we spare a thought for those still out on the course. Next morning, rested, breakfasted, checked out, we get in the car and head south. It's just after 9,30am, the handbell in Dunkeld Drill Hall will still be ringing  -  tough folk, these walkers.