WHW Challenge Race 2023

Good to get on the start line of the WHW Challenge Race, I wasn’t fully fit to complete the race but mentally I was motivated to finish, if my body would let me.

I registered for the race early on last year to give me the incentive to train but things didn’t go to plan over the months with different injuries.

The last 6 weeks before the race I could consistently train with minor niggles.

Mostly my training was hiking, running, spinning and some gym work. My gym has changed its times where is closes in the afternoon, so I couldn’t get my workouts that I usually do.

Also, the beginning of the year my son who is non-verbal autistic has started having seizures and had taken another one last week. The medication he was on called Lamotrigine, gave him a very bad reaction by having high fever and his whole body covered in a rash. He spent time in hospital but glad he got over that harsh time in his life.

I was very nervous leaving him with his brother, just in case he took more seizures, but I was glad the Lord answered my prayers, and he was fine.

On the day of the race my wife and I left early 7am from Helensburgh and arrived in Fort William for a toilet break in Morrisons, I knew the toilets at the registration point might be busy with cues of runners nervously waiting to pee.

Inverlochy Village Hall was the registration point and arrived at the time the bus from Milngavie arrived, so I was glad I did the toilet at Morrisons. Registration was easy, relaxed with a nervous atmosphere of runners thinking of the 95-mile journey south.

Registration was very organised from signing the race disclaimer form to getting your number, they even had label tags to mut on your drop bags in case you forgot to place them on.

After we drove down to the WHW Sign, at the mini roundabout junction of the A82, there was a table set up for runners with water, juice, and snacks.

The weather was very damp with rain through the night, and we had sprinkle of it at the start but not too heavy for a jacket, it was a good temperature to run in.

It wasn’t long till the start came around, the Ben Nevis runners were already of the mountain and heading down the WHW with the walkers leaving at 8am.

Just before 10am, Jim Drummond gave a safety talk and counted us of as we headed along the Nevis Road.

I stayed near the back and set of steady run pace for the first 3 km with running up through the Braveheart carpark. I quicky got my poles out and briskly hiked up the next 3km up the hill. It was good to chat with Jesper whose father was doing the race too but doing the walk that started at 8am.

I spoke to a girl who had done 2 100-mile ultras and she seemed motivated to enjoy the race and these wee chats took away the distraction of climbing up the hill. At the top at the 6km mark she flew of down towards Lundavra.

The descent to Lundavra was steady and a group of us made our way with not much chatting. At  Lundavra I arrived at 11:36

The rest of the run to Kinlochleven was good, and I was fueling in SIS electrolyte powder drink and the tabs, they were going down well and came into I arrived at checkpoint 1 Kinlochleven at 1331 left at 1339 and spent about 8 minutes filling my flasks with Tailwind caffeine, took a cheese and ham and jam sandwich.

Also, I took an apple with an idea for climbing out of Kinlochleven, where I slowly munched away at it as I ascended and took away the first section of the mountain that can be boring and sometimes intimidating with the steepness.

My motivation was I wanted that view of Buachaille Etive Mòr and I ascended to the top of the Devil’s Staircase, the mountain was a beauty with the grey sky background.

Descending the Devil’s Staircase was nice and easy and was happy to get a wee bit of running and felt strong hiking towards the Kingshouse hotel. At the hotel I filled up my flask at the tap outside the toilets and made my way towards the Glen Coe Chairlift.

I arrived at checkpoint 2, Glen Coe Chairlift at 17:06 and left at 17:20 making it 14 minutes, I was feeling good and positive, I got some soup and one of my Ovaltine sachets, I didn’t stay long filled my flasks and took a couple of ham sandwiches and crisps as I hiked away over Rannoch Moor.

Another strategy of mine was to eat on the move, keeping short times in checkpoints.

Over the Rannoch Moor, it was getting hot and said hello to a couple of runners but there wasn’t much chat, I was enjoying the views and we came upon a couple of deer grazing beside the trail, they were cute. I said to the other runners if it was cheating if we rode them.

The stones on the trail were bothering my feet so stayed on the left of the trail where it was less rocky, and you could use some of soft peaty heather banks for protection.

As I headed onto the tarmac section going past the Inveroran Hotel. it was a killer, watching people outside drinking beer. I don’t drink alcohol but was thinking a pint of sandy would be nice.

Ascending to the peak of Man Carraigh was nice and easy, I was running low on water and was hoping I would get some streams, but sadly they were dried up with peaty bogs which looked dodgy, and I didn’t have my water filter on me.

I arrived at checkpoint 3, Bridge of Orchy at 20:27 and left at 2056 making it 29 minutes this is where I got my drop bag. I had some chilli made by the WHW Challenge team and had my Dole Pears In Juice Fruit Snack

Also, I had another Ovaltine sachet which gave me that reviving I needed for the next section towards Tyndrum and then to checkpoint Auchtertyre.

I changed my long sleeve top and my socks Drymax Socks : Lite Trail Running – 1/4 Crew and covered my feet in 2Toms Blister Prevention Powder

My feet felt hot and sore with the stoney trail of Rannoch Moor, even with my Hoka Speedgoats 4’s 

I felt a blister coming on my outer back of my right heel which got worse heading towards Tyndrum but the sharp pain eased of after a while.

At 11pm I arrived in Tyndrum, it was a quiet village, and I made my way along to the lower station road, where I met an injured runner, her name was Michelle. She had done something to her knee, but she was determined to keep going, she had a real fighting spirit and didn’t want help or to give up. I hope she got on ok and that the knee pain eased off to finish the race.

Heading towards Auchtertyre I felt niggles in my right quad, I was thinking to myself “not this again”.  I passed Jim Drummond who was looking for Michelle, he encouraged me to get some hot soup.

I arrived at checkpoint 4, Auchtertyre at 23:57 and left at 00:25 , this is the best checkpoint with the different soups, and I went for the lentil, which was the best and lifted my spirits to carry on over Crianlarich hills and trails.

My quad was giving me pain but carried on, to hide the pain I put on my Bible mp3 of Matthew which was comforting as I made my way past Kirkton and ascended on to the trails.

Coming down on the section that crosses the A82 at the River Fillan I was going to phone for help, but I was determined to carry on towards Beinglas and get more distance.

I arrived at checkpoint 5, Beinglas at 04:05 and handed in my number and that was my race.

I would love another attempt of the race next year, but I need longer injury free training and to get back hiking in the mountains.

I was happy with nutrition this year; I wasn’t bloated like the year before.

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