Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Memory - a Sureal Moment!

Neil and I were just having a laugh about a "moment". After we had finished the WHW (almost 32 hours out there!) we checked into our accommodation which was about 40 minutes away at the "Abbey" in Fort Augustus. We had booked the flat for 4 nights - Sat - Tuesday. We arrived Sunday AM just after 9AM and the lady who greeted us said" I was expecting you last night!" were we somewhere in the early AM but here we are now!!!We had not changed our clothes or anything. Mrs. Canning proceeds to take us to show us the flat. It just happens to be at the top of the abbey...5 floors up as we hobble up the stairs to find our flat. Once in the flat Mrs. Canning was very kind to show us the details of the flat. I recall "swaying" in the kitchen as she was showing me how to operate the dishwasher, washing machine/dryer. I was doing my best to be polite but all I could think about was how much I must smell and all I wanted to do was put my feet up and have a bath. I noted that Neil was not in sight...later I asked where he was and he said sleeping on top of the bed! The flat slept 6 and proved very helpful as once we were done our crew could come and go as required. The next day when we were all cleaned up we asked Mrs. Canning a question and she did not recognize us and asked us for the ID of our flat!
Confirmation that check-in was a bit of a blurr for all of us!!

We really enjoyed our stay!!
Carolyn and Neil

A Pleasant Upgrade

Last night when we checked in for our BA flight home we were presently surprised to learn we had been upgraded to Business Class. This meant we had a "sleeper" unit for the journey home. Just what every runner who has completed the WHW needs after 1 week out from the event when they are faced with a 10 hour flight. It was great! A very nice way to end the journey. Today we were up too early (jet lag!) and spent the morning unpacking, doing laundry and of course we went for a 45 minute run to help shake the terrible groggy feeling of jet lag. We enjoyed following the Western States 100 miler updates and were pleased to see that Jezz Bragg did so well placing 3rd. There were quite a few BC runners participating so it has been fun to follow. Back to work this week...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Run in Hyde Park

I have hobbled around London for the past few days but I am very pleased that I managed a run in Hyde Park this morning. The knee was stiff but I love running in Hyde Park and really wanted to do this before we depart. It was a beautiful morning, the gardens are looking fantastic! We are packing up and making sure our WHW goblets are safe to travel back to Canada.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Photos from West Highland Way!

The Awards Ceremony! Mission Accomplished! The Leaning Tower of Carolyn...just a bit more to go!!!

Neil...forcing out a smile at Lundavra

Neil coming into Carmyle

The Start!
Neil, Carolyn and David Crerar at the start.

Big Brother Charles, with final words of encouragement...

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Journey of the West Highland Way Run - 95 miles

Warning...this is a long blog...after all it was 95 miles! 60 hours with no sleep. 2 Sunrises, 1 Sunset. Put your feet up with a cup of tea!

This tunnel at the Milngavie Rail Station is the official starting place of the event.

Graeme, Neil's brother and crew member helping me prepare for the journey.
The journey began when we left the flat in Edinburgh at 9:30pm on the Friday night after enjoying a pasta dinner (no Wine!) in the Grassmarket. The skies were grey and it was raining on the drive to Milngavie. We arrived at the starting point to a buzz of activity in the parking lot. I recognized many runners whom I had come to know in the past few months by way of WHW blogs, and forums. I tried to greet as many of them as I could and was particularly pleased to meet John Kynaston an experienced WHW runner who through his blog provided great information, insight and enthusiasm about the event which really helped prepare us. At check in we were greeted by Dario (race director) who provided us with the goodie bag and the "sports tracker" which was supposed to allow GPS tracking of us throughout the event. When giving it to us he suggested we not turn it on for a few hours as it had limited battery power. Neil and I looked at each other and confirmed our concerns that this device may not work! We were very impressed by the detailed instructions and safety measures we were given. They weighed us at the check-in and gave this information to our crew to present at other weighing stations along the journey. This was my first experience with being weighed (I didn't look!) in an Ultra event. One thing I noticed at the start was there didn't appear to be that many females in the starting line-up! Back to the car to say good-bye to the crew (Graeme, Fiona and Charles) until our first stop.
At 1AM Sat June 20th we were off! The headlamps were on as we left the train station to be greeted by the local late night Pub patrons who graciously left their beer to come out to give us a big cheer as we ran by! We ran through a dark woodland park and found a nice comfortable pace. One thing that I really noticed and appreciated was the silence from the runners. Everyone was focused on the task and what lay ahead. My experience with runs in North America is that the starts are full of chatter about what people have accomplished, how their training has gone, their race expectations, that they are not feeling well, they weren't racing today, their injuries etc...I really appreciated the focused silence. We found a comfortable pace and I felt my lungs were good and the asthma meds were working. We were running on a path that took us through beautiful pastoral country side. We had perfect conditions, the temperature was aprox 10 degrees, I was really enjoying the night running and the picture perfect scenes. At one point we were running along and Neil started pointing to the right, I looked and there appeared the glowing lights of Glengoyne Distillery in the field. They were one of the sponsors of the event. We were appreciative of the runners around us who knew their way as there was great potential for us to make a wrong turn in this section.

Our crew met us at the first stop at the Beechtree Inn, 11.8km. We refilled our water and headed out. Next stop was Drymen at 20km. The midges were starting to appear. I had heard about midges many times over the years but this was my first real experience. They are smaller than mosquitoes, and nip away at you at every angle and skin exposure. I was swallowing them by the mouthful at one point and thought oh my this may break me!!
After this we climbed up Conic Hill to be greeted by the beautiful views of Loch Lommond below us. I think this is one of the most spectacular views I have ever experienced on a run. It gave me an appreciation of the vastness of Loch Lommond and yes we were going to be going all the way along it's shore. We then joined the trail along the shores of Loch Lommond for some spectacular and varied trail running. We ran with a guy who has done the event several times and figured we were doing well and heading as predicted for a 28 hour finish. From Rowardennan to Carmyle was the longest section without seeing our crew. There was a section near the north end of Loch Lommond that was very slow due to the terrain of boulders and continual ups and downs. We reached Carmyle feeling good (70 km now completed) and were greeted by our crew with chants of "Go Team Canada Go"! We also met some familiar faces from the Carnethy Running Club and Murdo McEwan who had provided some valuable support earlier in the week. We were glad to finally get to Carmyle as we thought that somehow we had missed the meeting place for our crew and were feeling the need for more fluid and food. I had been eating and drinking well along the way. I was running with 2 bottles, one with coke (ultra runners favourite fuel!) one with water.
At the 80km check point we were weighed by the race officials and we were both maintaining our starting body weights within the limits. There were baked potatoes for the runners and wow did they taste good! We were both pleased that we had made it this far without any serious issues. Cheers from the passersby to this point were comments as "you're looking fresh as a daisy" and "you are looking good and strong". We were on our way to Tyndrum then Bridge of Orchy. I was looking forward to this section as we ran this at Christmas time when we were over. However, at this point (aprox 90km) my feet really started to hurt. They were so sore on the pads near the front. They were burning, shooting pain and throbbing all at the same time! I have never experienced such intense pain in my feet. It hurt when I ran, it hurt when I walked. Well may as well run with the sore feet then! Tried my best to keep the legs turning over with the run for this section. I must have really been compromising my gait as all of a sudden my right knee stiffened up and I couldn't bend it to run. I touched my knee and the lateral side was very tender. It really concerned me as I have never had any knee discomfort before. The leg would not bend. It was a walk into Bridge of Orchy and Neil ran ahead to inform the crew I was suffering. I got there, sat on the lawn chair and decided to change my socks and shoes. I think there may have been a few tears at this point as well! The crew were awesome and went into immediate planning mode of "now what?" Does Neil continue ahead with Graeme as his pacer at night...does Carolyn pull out because she appears to have injured her knee so she can no longer run and the feet are so sore! At this point I couldn't imagine tolerating the pain for another 10 hours or more. Big brother Charles was a saint and convinced me to forget about the next 55kms and just see how it feels for the next 5km to Victoria Bridge. Graeme has now joined us as a pacer runner and the guys were very patient as I struggled my way to Blackrock Cottage. During this section I had so many people stop and encourage me to carry on. Many told me that if I walked the entire remaining 50 something km's I would still make it under the 35 hour cut off time. Well that sounded like an option worth trying. Thank-you to all of you who took the time to encourage me at perhaps the lowest moment for me in the entire event. I still had a hard time thinking of having such intense pain in my feet for such a long time. How would I cope with the pain? I tried Advil - it didn't work. I tried the British version of Advil - Anadol - it didn't work. A runner came by me and suggested I try "strapping my feet". (We call it taping.) What a brilliant idea...too bad we didn't bring any tape! Graeme ran ahead to Blackrock Cottage and found a crew that just happened to have some gauze like bandages and tape. (I actually met this hero at the celebration dinner). Charles had my socks and shoes off and was taping the pads of my feet like he knew what he was doing. It helped a lot...for awhile! At this stop we put on a few more layers of clothing in preparation for nightfall. The decision was made that Charles was now going to join in to be my pacer for the night and Graeme would keep an eye on Neil. We were all staying together (it was a family journey!) Fiona was now going to be alone in the car driving from point to point. It was not ideal but what appeared to be necessary at the time. As we headed into Glencoe to approach the Devil's Staircase Graeme commented that he never thought he would be going up into this area on a Saturday night in the dark! Something most people would only attempt during daylight. I managed the climb no problem as it wasn't too sore to go up and my strength was still there. Once on the top I stopped for a pee and had the most amazing view of the silhouettes of the mountains from the squat position. Red sky at night Shepherd's delight! We crossed over some really rough terrain on this section. Neil's feet start to hurt. The pain was in his heels and he became very quiet. The down hill into Kinlochleven was very dark and quite steep, killer on our feet. Graeme had gone ahead and Charles, Neil and I were uncertain if we were on the route. Finally we see a WHW post...what a relief! As Neil described going down into this area was like going into the bowels of the earth! From here on the journey becomes a bit of a blur. At Kinlochleven we hear there is a Dr. there and perhaps he could re-tape my feet and do Neil's. Unfortunately there was a bit of a wait for the Dr. so we decided to carry on. I must mention another runner who was suffering from feet problems. I'm not sure of his name, I heard he was from Ireland, we were travelling close throughout the journey and wow he was a trooper! We shared pain stories each time we met out there. His humour was getting him through and it was helping me too! I passed him on the decent into the finish and I said to Charles that if I see him at the party I am going to buy him a drink!
Some other moments I recall are coming across the Mountain Rescue folks in the middle of the night offering us chocolate, crisps or fluid! I asked for pain meds but they didn't have any of those! Comments now were "you are one determined soldier" longer was I looking fresh as a daisy! I have heard of ultra runners experiencing "hallucinations". I had a few. A few times I said to that Fiona's car over there? (hopeful for some food and a rest!) On the descent into the finish Neil was stumbling along ahead of me and I thought he was wearing a kilt! Apparently he had his light jacket tied around his waist so it looked longer on his legs than his shorts. I also recall the feeling of incredible plaque build up on my teeth on both buccal and lingual surfaces. Being a Dental Hygienist this was a concern for me. I was also cognisant of the fact that I had been sipping on coke for about 20 hours...not a recommended habit! The last check point seemed to take forever to get there, the rough rocky road was endless. Charles heard some choice words from me and tolerated my crabby disposition. I can't thank him enough for how he got me to the end by breaking it down section by section when I was in such pain. When the finish line was in sight I dug very deep as Neil grabbed my hand and we ran in together. Dario greeted us at the door of the Leisure Center and offered us a drink of Glengoyne Whiskey from a quiach (a cup of friendship). I usually can't drink Whiskey but I sure managed to gulp it down with no hesitation. We were finished! A bit longer (31:59:45) than we thought but that didn't matter. I can definitely say with confidence that "Pain is temporary and Pride is forever." An amazing discovery of my personal determination to succeed and complete the task. Of course I could not have done it without the amazing support of our crew; Fiona, Charles and Graeme. And a huge thanks to my loving husband Neil for believing in me that I could accomplish this and hanging in there with me for all the training and events leading up to this event. It has been a great journey! Thank-you to Dario and team for such a great event. You do a fantastic job with the organizing the race, the prize giving and after party. Looking forward to having a drink out of my crystal goblet. What's next...well as I was reminded by a friend's email today STORMY 100 is only 6 weeks away!! Will I do WHW again...yes! But next time I will bring some tape! ;-)

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Last Post - Pre - Event!

The support crew has arrived and the vehicles are stocked with hopefully everything we shall need! The weather forecast is mixed so we have packed all the recommended gear. Tonight we will have a pasta dinner and then head out to Glasgow to arrive there by 11pm for check - in and a race briefing. Today I am feeling more confident and calm about the undertaking. As Neil often reminds me...just keep moving forward! ;-) I am really looking forward to the journey and seeing all the places we have read about. Thank-you to everyone for their best has been fun receiving them while we have been here!


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

More from Edinburgh

We have a had some great days here in Edinburgh. Yesterday we were a bit lazy. We joined up with Neil's Dad for coffee at Waterstone's Book Shop in the morning, had a nap in the afternoon and went to our nephew Jack's play Jesus Christ Superstar at his school in the evening. Today we were a bit more ambitious and went for a run up Arthur's Seat, down and around the bottom. Tonight was a beautiful clear evening and we walked the Royal Mile and went out for Indian Food at the family's favourite! Lots of walking tonight which felt great. Tomorrow we plan to do a flat run around the base of Arthur's Seat and that will be it for running before WHW. We have some excellent photos and a video clip but the internet is not working well at the flat here so we might have to wait until later to post photos etc...Tomorrow we are meeting some WHW runners for lunch in St. Andrews Square which will be great!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Day in Edinburgh - Sun to Thunderstorms!

We woke up at a decent time despite staying up until 1AM. Thankfully the flat had some breakfast goodies to get us going! Neil connected with his brother Graeme who will be coming here on Thursday and his Dad regarding dinner reservations for tonight. We walked through the Princes Street Gardens and they were lovely in bloom. Despite the construction for the tram we managed to get to Marks & Spencer for a food shop to stock the flat with a few essentials. We were like kids in a candy shop! Ultra runners in M & S!! We will be going back for some food for the run!! Fiona has a cold cooler which will hold many of those great items we saw on the shelf from sandwiches to sausage rolls! An Ultra Runners Dream Food! We came back to the flat and enjoyed fresh Strawberries and Cheese from M & S. After a cup of tea I felt my eyes fading and I managed to shut them for about 10 minutes before Neil had us heading to the Pentlands for a run. Just when we got there the storm rolled in. Black skieswith thunder and lightning. We decided to try and wait out the storm in the Torduff Reservoir Car luck it wasn't passing! Since we promised Dad a 5pm visit we better get going! Hats on we headed out and up the reservoir road to Sanctuary Wood across to White Hill. We were having conversations such as is it better to go out on the Moor or stay in the woods during a thunder/lightning storm? We opted for the woods for a bit of shelter from the rain but I must say the Pine trees at this time of year don't give one a lot of shelter from the torrential down pour! I feel somewhat weather ready! At Christmas one of our outings on the Pentlands was very severe with ice rain and wind. I thought it was the end! Today I was a bit nervous with the thunder and lightning that took place almost simultaneously indicating we were in the storm!! So I have had some extreme Scottish weather training! Weather forecast looks like we might need it. ;-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The flights to London Heathrow and Edinburgh were quite uneventful with the exception of the elderly gentleman across from me on the Vancouver - London flight who was vomiting! On our Christmas trip to Edinburgh there was another medical emergency right behind us! Neil is a Dr. of Veterinary Medicine (not human!) but somehow British Airways have him down as "Dr" on his ticket. Well they manage to find him at times like this! Neil always manages to get a smile out of the patient when he says he is a Board Certified Poultry Specialist! So in other words...if you were a chicken I would have this taken care of! It all turned out fine and we think the man had a serious case of food poisoning and hopefully not H1N1 ;) Our flat in the Grassmarket area is fantastic. We had lots of fun tonight walking around watching the crowds and we enjoyed dinner in a quaint Italian Restaurant. I have been very fortunate to come to Edinburgh probably 15 times now but we have never stayed in the heart of the city. We always stay out in the Colinton area where Neil's family live. So we feel like real tourists. It is going to be a great week! Graeme and Fiona (our crew...Neil's brother and wife) join us on Thursday. Tomorrow we will go to Colinton to visit Neil's Dad and do a run in the Pentlands. Monday night we are attending our nephew's school play. Great to be here! The legs are feeling stiff from the flights! 10:50pm Edinburgh time and we are still awake!!!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Finished the Packing!

Well the bags are packed, the house/cat sitter and the gardener are all organized! We arrive in Scotland Sat evening and will be staying in a flat in Edinburgh for the week prior to the race. We will be visiting with family/friends and of course running on the Pentlands, the hills that border Edinburgh to the South. Tomorrow first thing we will head out for a 2 hour run knowing that we are going to be sitting for a long time on the journey! We are flying British Airways and went with seats one upgrade from the "back of the plane" called World Traveller Plus - a little more space and comforts. We were both really tired this week after the 80km's we have put in since Saturday. Training is done! Perhaps the best part of training is all the issues you face along the way and working through them. From sore feet to chaffing, food issues, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, equipment issues, too hot, too cold and getting lost all make the Ultra Runner "Perform in the Storm". This week many people have been sending us best wishes and I thought I would share this one we received tonight! I have also tucked into my running pack a 10 pound note I was given to buy our first celebration pint! See many of you at the start line...and the post race party! I will try to keep up with the blog pre and post race! Cheers!

Hi Carolyn and Neil,

I know this is Irish but what the hey....

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Have fun !

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wildlife on the Run!

Tonight was a beautiful evening for a run...24 degrees and the air felt fresh. We did the same 10km loop as Sunday. We were the only car in the parking lot and it felt like we were alone in the forest. The trail takes a sharp climb up for 5km. As we were climbing the 5km up I looked up at one point and saw a Bobcat coming down the forest road toward us. I tried to get Neil's attention by calling his name...Neil, Neil...look...look...a cat...we stopped running and it stopped as well. We had a brief stare at each other before it headed into the woods. We were able to have a good look at it's features. Very similar to our domestic cat at home just larger and pointed ears. We identified it right away as a Bobcat but then started thinking maybe it was a baby cougar and mother cougar was close by. Neil started running and I was close behind!
Beautiful sighting! I hear there are some wild cats in Scotland too!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

10 km Recovery Run and West Highland Way News!

Today Neil and I woke early as is often the case after an Ultra. We went for a 10km run - 5km up, 5km down! It was great to feel good after yesterday's outing. We were feeling a bit dehydrated today as it was quite warm yesterday and at a bit of higher elevation. After the run we went for a final shop prior to WHW to Mountain Equipment Coop to purchase the recommended rain/wind pants. We have jackets but have never required the outer pant layer. We can get away with long running tights here but thought it would be wise to bring what the race director recommended. We also bought "bug jackets" to protect us from the midges. Oh my! I feel like I am heading out on an extreme journey through the wilds! Perhaps I am...I will soon find out!
Dario the race director has arranged for a test of some transponders on the course this year. Neil and I get to have one of the 5! So this means all you Canadians out there can follow our progress along the way on Google Earth. The race number is #105 and on June 19th (BC Time) @ 5pm we will be starting 1AM (Scottish time). The details can be found at Enjoy!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Scorched Sole 50km - 24th Ultra!

On Friday afternoon the fun car with Neil, Andy and myself set off for Kelowna to participate in the Sorched Sole Ultras. Neil and I were signed up for the 50km event and Andy the 50 miler. The journey went well with a stop for Frapuccino's for the boys and a Latte for me. We arrived in Kelowna around 6pm, found the hotel and headed out for dinner downtown. It was a beautiful summer evening in Kelowna and we found an excellent outdoor patio on a roof top with a fabulous view. Dinner was good and what a treat for us - dining over looking Okanagan Lake!Back to the hotel and lights out by 9pm. Alarm went at 4AM and we were on our way to the start by 5AM. The sun was up and feeling warm already - high of 25 degrees forecasted. Andy left with the 50 mile pack at 6AM and we started at 7AM. The route headed straight up hill and climbed for most of the first 25km. We came out into Myra Canyon and ran the trestle bridges for 10km. We were on this exact same stretch last year so I was glad that we were familiar with this section. I came upon 3 runners on this section and passed them all! Back onto the rough trails and after a couple of kms we both realized that we had not seen a course marker for awhile. We pull out a map and try to figure it out. I think we missed a turn further back, Neil thinks we should carry on down the unmarked trail. Oh my...we are feeling lost! We make the decision to go back up the 2km we have just come down, we wasted time looking at the map, going back and we come upon one of the runners I had passed. She too is noticing no markers and feels unsure of our location. At that moment Andy appears and he is on his final decent of his 50 mile event and reassures us yes we are on the route, it just isn't marked! Down we continue and then Neil and I realize Andy is winning the 50 mile event!! Awesome!! Although I had really hoped we would have been done before him considering we were doing the 50km distance and he had an hour start on us. Near the finish we come upon Reg from Chilliwack. Reg is hurting and walking now. I almost catch him but with me on his butt he started running again! He finished less than a minute ahead. Once we were done we were looking for Andy to congratulate him. No Andy at the finish line. No Andy at the car. No Andy in the toilet. Oh no...the guy who was in 2nd place appears to have won. 20 minutes later Andy appears he made a wrong turn a couple of km's from the finish and lost his first place standing. I felt his pain! Getting lost is a bad scenario when it happens but when you are winning it must really hurt! I was so impressed with Andy's response to the is what it is, I can't do anything about it now! He was gracious to the winner, although he knows he can take him :)! That is the great thing about Ultra running. Every outing is character building. We can never take anything for granted out there. Stuff happens...some times when we least expect it. Great training for life!

Well today was the last long run (6:49...pleased with my time!) prior to West Highland Way. Of course my mind is full of concerns...can I do it? Are we ready? Should we have done more? Should we have done less? The new medication for the asthma, is it working? Etc...Etc...All part of the mental preparation!