My fourth running of the Montane Highland Fling and I was feeling fairly positive and determined to get under 11 hours at last. I've never had a good run in this race despite being convinced I should be able to get nearer 10 hours - maybe this year would be different.
My problem in previous years has been debilitating cramp which kicks in around 30 miles or so and sees me hobbling between bouts of muscle spasms in my hamstrings and calfs. I had a new strategy this year and had changed my drink of choice and had even put in some ready salted crisps at the Inversnaid drop bag to prevent the dreaded 30 mile threshold.
The weather was stunning and I set of feeling good and reached Drymen in about 1:55 - slightly faster than I had planned but feeling very comfortable. I trotted up through what remains of the forrest and then started the climb up Conic Hill. As I reached the top and was admiring the view, my right hamstring cramped up! - I couldn't believe it - only 20 miles in and I was suffering already.
The rest of the race kind of went downhill from there! - I was mentally defeated by the time I reached Rowardennan and for the next 25 miles I shuffled along at a snails pace. Every time I started to run at a reasonable pace, my hamstrings would cramp up and then, after a while, obviously feeling left out, my calfs and quads decided to join in.
The heat didn't help I'm sure but I don't think that was the only cause. I had one spectacular moment climbing the hill just after going under the road at Carmyle cottage when my hamstring and quad both cramped at the same time! - It was impossible to stretch either of them as the opposing muscle just screamed in objection!
Anyway, the long and short of it was that I plodded on and crossed the line in a personal worst of 12 hours 5 mins feeling pretty pissed off. The icing on the cake was that I was told that the cold bottle of Coors that was meant to be given to each finisher wasn't there as they had run out!
So what to make of all this?
I'm sure my problems come from my hydration and nutrition strategy and so with this in mind, i've booked in to see a Nutritionist next Monday to get some advice. Hopefully this will give me some confidence back for the rest of the season. Despite running more miles so far this year than in the previous two years, I haven't had many long (25mile +) runs which I think made a difference.
On the positive side, I didn't give up, despite it crossing my mind a few times and although I wasn't able to run, I could have kept walking beyond Tyndrum so, with the reduced pace of UTMB in mind, that's no bad thing. However, what is also clear is that I need to get the finger out and put in some serious hill time and long miles.
As with every year though, the Fling is a fantastic race, superbly organised by Murdo and Ellen (despite running out of beer!) and I'm sure I'll be back next year to try and rid these deamons!