Taking in Keswick Mountain Festival

As a result of being a patreon of Tough Girl Challenges (https://www.toughgirlchallenges.com/ ), a podcast that highlights female sporting enthusiasts from a multitude of backgrounds and abilities, I was seriously chuffed to be offered complimentary tickets to Keswick Mountain Festival ( https://www.keswickmountainfestival.co.uk/ ). As soon as I had a wee look at what this was, I knew I’d be going, whether that was on my own or with a friend.

That quick peek revealed to me, a kids playground of activities and possibilities. Having had a bit of a setback to my training for the West Highland Way Race, I suddenly had the opportunity to get a confidence builder in the tank before the race at the end of June. Little did I know I would have yet another setback that would restrict my activities further.

Having reached the stage of my late thirties, I am not sure how I have never made it to the Lake District, considering it is the ideal place for me to visit. Mind you, you would have to rule out two awful visits up Scafell Pike (2 x 3 peak challenges = nuff said!).

Let the Games Commence

Here’s what I learnt . . . .

Top Tip No. 1: Scope out all the activities on the website, plan to your hearts content.

I didn’t do this so well, I was distracted by the disappointment of injuries and being ruled out of running. Thankfully, Karen, my best mate is waaay more prepared and a better organiser compared to myself, at least one of us had some inkling of what was happening.

There was a wealth of activities for everyone to choose from to fully appreciate where you were. I quickly realised, that despite being ruled out of running, there was still so much I could do and wanted to do. To me, it’s the being outdoors, being around likeminded people, appreciating the scenery.

Some examples were canoeing, kayaking, or a mini 3 peaks walking challenge, running events from 5km to ultra distance, a cycling sportive and triathlon. Now I haven’t even mentioned the taster sessions or led sessions! So let’s see, we have outdoor rock climbing, try your first outdoor swim (for those that know me, I was tempted by this BUT, you needed to swim a certain distance), nordic walking, ghyll scrambling to name a few.

If you wanted to do the actual events, there was a deadline on getting in there and naturally the number of people meant things could potentially sell out.

Top Tip No. 2: Go from Thursday to Sunday. . . . . . . . if you can wangle it

Having experienced the whole festival for the first time this year, I would definitely take the time out to take in the whole weekends experience. There just wasn’t enough time to fit everything in, and that was with an injury ruling me out of my first choice activities.

However, that is also a great way to entice you back, cheeeeky 😉 but I love it!

Top Tip No. 3: To camp or not to camp?

I didn’t start camping until laterally, mainly all Karen’s fault. She really enjoys it and to be honest, despite my occasional moan I love the freedom it gives and naturally the feeling of being right in amongst the hills and mountains. The campsite did not disappoint, literally wherever you turned there were hills. Locating the campsite was very easy with all the directions given, between the website info and signage enroute. The only confusing part initially was actually whether we drove our car to the entrance or had to ditch the car elsewhere.

At the registration tent we presented our tickets to the very cheery guys manning the tent and were given our very

bright ‘Summit to Eat’ bag with dehydrated food giveaways inside (handy for any upcoming camping or running races), as well as our event map and gold wristbands. We promptly set up tent, parked the car, although I do think Karen timed her escape break with actually unpacking and setting up sleeping bags etc for the ‘right’ moment. It’s okay though – all under control here.

And we’re in

Ooooft, by THE way, the showers! All that needs to be said about the showers provided is: hot, strong and room to get dressed/ changed.

Plenty of port-a-loos, I don’t think either of us had to queue for any real length of time to be honest. They were always stocked with toilet roll and hand sanitiser.

An area we did not use was the ‘quiet’ camping section, I’m impressed there was a section such as this but can’t really comment. We were both more than happy with our section, lots of room, varying sizes of tents, there were kids having a ball and of course lots of our furry friends.

Friday night view

Top Tip No. 4: Feedback on the 25km trail race (Karen B)

Fingers crossed she doesn’t get lost

The booking of the actual event on the website was straight forward, as I mentioned, when we arrived we chose to scope out where everything was.

The registration tent was pretty much next to the start line, there were no queues so I’m thinking we were lucky. Maps for each event were around the tent, there was a changing tent and bag drop tent next door. Karen highlighted that the organisation was good, the race had fantastic views, marshalls were good. Now Karen is partial to a medal but she still enjoyed it, I think she did awesome.

She’s ready to go


The festival site itself was brilliant, a multitude of vendors from informational based companies or organisations to those selling products we’d find on the high street (loads of great discounts for the festival – I bought my first tent) to a variety of food vendors. We had our own food with us but, again if you know me, I was still hungry – oops – I just had to try the food, it was great.

The music entertainment in the evenings was also really good listening, headliner on the Saturday was Mel C!! Listening to everyone, folks were excited to hear her sing, but I have to say the guys that were on the Friday night were really good as well.

Will I be Back?

Hell Yeah!

To finish, I had the most awesome time and am definitely waiting for next years tickets to become available. This year I was never out my shorts and shirt, but I know the weather can really make or break something like this. I’m hoping I don’t have to find out, hears hoping for awesome weather in 2019 – see you all there.

Deadwater . . . . unfinished business!!




I write this blog the day after it all finished. A massive congrats to the 12 finishers of Deadwater! Gutted I could not be amongst you.

What is Deadwater?

Run by the company Beyond Marathon – Deadwater by race director Richard, this is a 6 day, multi-stage event.  You begin by running from a place called Deadwater, yep it exists on the Scottish/English border, it is an old dis-used railway station, to 1.5 miles shy of the Welsh border in Chester.  It is all of 225 miles, each day is an A to B route,  all of which are ultra-marathons. Relatively self-sufficient, you carry the majority of your kit with hot water, drinking water and tents all supplied, as are maps (GPX as well).

Copied from Beyond Marathon website

It is a race description that draws in any runner that thrives on challenge, adventure, seeing the English countryside and being surrounded by like-minded individuals who get it! We get why we put ourselves at what can be described as misery at times, you question yourself, you question whether your mind and body can take anymore and then you keep going.  Who on earth does that?  Ultra-runners!

My Experience – Albeit a brief one:
Could I be less Prepared?

Registration was on Friday 28th July 2017 in Keilder Forest at the campsite. I headed down from sunny Dundee, relatively lovely morning to get me started and I thought, “yasss this is a great start”. Easy train rides got me all the way to Hexham train station and there the comfort stopped. Enroute to Hexham train station I realised I had left practically all my rations for the week at home!!! I mean how stupid could you get?! I would normally panic in this situation but I stayed calm, how could I rectify this, what options were available to me right now?IMG_2869

Hexham was probably too small to be off any use

Google maps outdoor stores

I needed dehydrated food for 6 days and snacks for daytime.

Back to Newcastle it was, so I basically walked straight over to the other side of the station and jumped on the next train to Newcastle. I would have been in dire straights if we had not been approximately 20 mins out.  But I knew that I had until 7pm (last pick-up to the campsite) and I was there in plenty time for first pick-up.

Go Outdoors was the main store in the town centre, straight there and practically cleared them out of specific dehydrated foods, unfortunately it was a make I had never used before but it was the only viable one I had from their store. Next up I needed a Tesco or supermarket to get the rest of my snacks/food. Luckily I had brought my food lists with me and used this to whiz around the store picking up a second batch of food, I only needed minimal adjustments due to specific items being unavailable.

Can you believe I made it back to Hexham in time for the first pick-up? No me either! Owen, Patrick (a fellow OCR racer) and Ivan shared the taxi to the registration campsite.


This was the most impressive kit-check I have ever had! Is that because I haven’t done enough races of this size? I don’t know but nevertheless, Tom and Darren were thorough and checked EVERY item on the mandatory kit list and informed us waterproof trousers,

due to conditions, had been changed from optional to mandatory, as well as a second long-sleeved layer. This would prove essential in the conditions we were facing.

Then into the hut, we met Janet, we registered our names, received our trackers, ordered food for the meal at the end and received a map protector and Day 1 map.

We were the first few to arrive and register, others started to trickle in. At this point I found out that only 18 people were making the start line if they all arrived! OMG! That was scary, I love the smaller races but this scared me as it reinforced that I was likely to be on my own a lot and I am not the most confident at navigation.  I need to sort this out! But I felt better that we had trackers on constantly and would be contacted if we went off route or we could phone Rich if needed to get us back on track.

(From 45 possible entries down to what I thought was 28 in the final few weeks and is small enough as it was, it had apparently fallen further.)

I was relatively quiet at this point, just observing, taking it all in.

Again, that fear that everyone is more experienced than I, that they all sound like they’ve managed to recce the route, they have prepped better than me.  All these are simply magnified concerns and based on fear, not reality.

Jo and I headed for the females tent, getting in was like the Krypton factor, this did not change and would prove to be a huge source of amusement (it’s the small things).


Pre-run Feast

The weather we received on this day was to prove an indicator of things to come, wet, wet, wet, winds, did I say wet? As evening came in the sun did emerge and we managed to enjoy a sliver of sunshine and a break in the clouds around mealtime.




Day 1 – The Forest20641397_10210530313962204_1939068621_o

Expected: 29 miles

Actual: 33.7 miles

Time taken: 7 hours 08 mins

We were ferried to the start area, where we could take the obligatory photos of the border. We then moved to the actual start line a short walk away. We had to run back along a trail that was the old Deadwater railway line to the campsite we had just left. It’s always good to hear some cheers, these came from other campers and of course the old cow bell is just brilliant!

We were following a trail sign posted by bananas – yes you really did read that correctly. How awesome and novel haha.  I was pretty pleased each time I came upon a banana excitedly announcing “there’s the banana”. (It’s definitely the small things)

We followed the lakeside for several miles, viewing some pretty awesome views to be honest but it was just too wet to pull out my mobile or my camera. They are forever consigned to my memory.

It was at a point alongside the reservoir, I saw some of the other runners going over a road crossing which seemed to contradict my direction of movement.  I backtracked until I bumped into Charl and a few others who said that I was in fact on the correct path.  Together we carried on and got directly onto the right track, each key point brought back a recollection from the race briefing. It was nice moving forward with others, I tended to be with Charl for a lot of the next section before breaking off a little.

This section was mainly track up to checkpoint 2 at 19 miles before it turned into road. We had a route change due to forestry works, which meant a long section on road, it hurt the feet and the legs.  These roads were incredibly quiet but had water running down a lot of them with the rain we were getting.  I thought I’d had my fill of weather at the West Highland Way race. Heading into Gilsland, we were getting a lift 6 miles along Hadrian Wall to the point we would have come out on the original track to cover the last 1 mile to camp. It was not far.

My aches and pains were in full flow when I reached Gilsland, it really was affecting how I was feeling about my capabilities in the race. I questioned myself and whether I had been stupid to start this race. I ached from head to toe, a lot of it featured around the niggles I had had in the West Highland Way. The pack was heavy as day 1 was fullest it was going to be and Day 4.  I was warm enough but definitely soaked through. On reflection I don’t know if this is just a rite of passage I have to endure on multi-stage events – day one aches/ adjustments to the pack, it has been the same on others.

Something to consider both from a mental and physical perspective. My lower back was covered in welts, from my bag we think – the medics were great: Jono and Sue from Trailmed.  Not just looking at what was bothering us but how to reduce the impact moving forwards for the week.

The campsite had a great drying room, this was brilliant to get our kit dried of for Day 2. I was shattered, not hungry, this could be a problem for my energy levels but I had a


Day 1 Camp

quick kip which was miraculous in its powers! I woke up after my kip and was able to move, deep squat, move around camp = I felt great. . . .  well nearly haha.






Day 2 – The Pennine Way


Day 2 – Partial Recording

Expected: 36 miles

Actual: 37 miles

Time Taken: 11hours 28 mins

This was a tough day at the office, we knew we would be hitting the highest point of the course, the previous evening we had been told there may be a route change due to weather conditions. There was predicted thunder and lightening for the top of Cross Fell, fortunately this changed and we could stay on the designated route. It just seemed like “oh more rain – fabulous”.

We started in sunshine, it was so nice, we headed across the the fields, we hit the dreaded ‘field of cows’. After the first half of the group crossed the fields, the cows decided to thunder straight across between us. They got to the other side, great we started nervously forward but then they decided to head back, none of us wanted to get 20629991_10210530328282562_1807931261_oin the way. We got a teeny tiny bit lost but not lost haha.  Anyway, we got out of that situation, always good to be with others in this scenario. We were quickly on track, but not before I got my first warning – rolled that right ankle slightly in the field but easily ran this off.  But as in the MDS it set my nerve off for the next 15 miles or so.  It was in these stages that I realised Jo was really struggling with her knee, it looked really sore.

We were then on the cycle path all the way to Alston, we met the first checkpoint along the cycle path.  It was flat and surrounded by lovely scenery, great for distracting you.  I spoke to a lot of people along this way which was really nice after not really meeting anyone the previous day.  I was around a couple of other lads at this point but we separated into individuals as we were moving.  My nerve was still firing on all cylinders, nerve pain travelling up and down my right leg, my little ones were lumps in my shoe, I was aware they were there but that was it.  The muscles were stiffening up as I progressed but I was trying my best to stay loose. At Alston we crossed the railway line and I was again stopped and asked what wee were up to, randomly the fella had family in Glasgow, Glenrothes and the surrounding area – small world!

We were now on the Pennine Way all the way to Garrigil, this again was a lovely scenery.  The aim was to get as far as possible on this day before the weather came in. At one point I thought I had come off track, so back-tracked to the last acorn (Pennine Way symbol) but met Charl and Gaz.  I hadn’t actually gone of track, I was in the right area but with all the sheep tracks it was a case of picking the correct track to carry on.  It was nice being with the. Guys again, it always boosts the spirits. Charl can move at a cracking pace with his poles, my wee short legs had to work hard to keep up!

A good check in at checkpoint 2 for the day with Janet, Sue (medic) checking in with us all. My collarbones had started to get really sore and uncomfortable with the bag weight so I stretched off.  The medics were really good at getting you to think about what we had done previously for issues and what had worked which is important when you are tired and possibly not thinking clearly.  Charl and I headed off for the climb with Janet wishing us well and hopefully little weather on Cross Fell.

100 yards or so down the road and the rain started, that was quick.  But we had done well in terms of our progress for the day. I was keen to see Gregs Hut, Charl had described it to me the previous day and I was keen to see this fantastic place shelter from the elements. Before we even got to the shelter the weather was really coming in, we both had full waterproofs on. We were quite exposed throughout, it was windy and wet but still relatively warm.  I had my shorts on for most of this part leading up to Gregs Hut until the last little bit. We took shelter here for 5-10 mins to get out of the elements and eat something, I added another layer at this point as we were going to become more and more exposed.

If it were not for Charl I would have struggled, the path was virtually nonexistent, it was boggy and quickly your feet were soaked through, I was glad for my trail shoes choice today.  The cloud cover had come in and took away our visibility, the advice of following the cairns was impossible as you could not see the next one from the one you were at. I drove on following the shadowing of Charl disappearing in the cloud. We quickly moved over the boggy top and started heading down the other side and this is where I came a cropper – my right ankle rolled on a tuft of grass. I knew instantly this was diffferent from most of those ankle rolls that you can run off.  It hurt instantly, a sharp pain over the lateral part of my ankle.  After an instant I just kept moving, limping from one clump to another but kept having to pause due to the pain. I knew this was different but I was also aware there really wasn’t any way of the hill except on my own feet.  Charl had noticed I was struggling and stopped to wait, I have to say he was brilliant, he got me to put my ankle/ foot under a running stream and any water deep enough to cover my ankle on the way down to help keep swelling down and allow me to keep going.

As we were heading for the the masts where Richard had said he would try to get to to meet us if we needed any spare water. As we moved across Little Dun Fell and up to Great Dun Fell the cloud had periods of clearing.  It was truly amazing to be up there and see it, stunning.  20641454_10210530322642421_443257698_oWe could literally lean into the wind and not fall over, it was strong and I was struggling to walk in a straight line. Since I rolled my ankle we still had approximately 7 or so miles to go to camp, I really believe getting my ankle in the stream, and having company made the difference. I had to walk the majority of the remainder miles but we got there eventually.

I was shattered and in pain but made it which is what matters, the medics apparently thought I was looking a bit grey but I think I was just tired and sore. Everyone rallied round to help, Hayley (my tent mate) got my sleeping bag out and sorted things, Jono helped me with my pack and food and Sue had a look at my ankle. Remarkably I walked into camp not too badly despite my ankle.  I had an awful nights sleep, in fact I’m not sure you could call it sleep – I was sore, both my knee and my ankle disturbing me every time I tried to turn. The rain was hammering of the tents all night.

I woke on day 3 struggling to walk properly, Anna did her best to convince me to start the day and see.  I also met Sue and realised she was right , it wasn’t going to get any better. I didn’t want to break my body down doing this race, I was risking the rest of my year. It was the right decision, but it’s not an easy decision, it seems like giving up and I don’t give up.

I have unfinished business with Deadwater and in true Arnie style, Ill be back! This was my first race with Richard at Beyond Marathin and I would not hesitate to recommend his events based on this very short experience. The marshalls, medics and attention to detail by Richard made this race. A thought has to go to the marshalls who have the raw end of the deal with the weather, they have to stand out there while we at least are moving. Yet they never fail to stay positive, cheer you on, give you tips, ask the right questions. It makes the difference.

I feel a bit of a con even writing a blog on a def but it was truly an experience as wanted others to hear about and highly recommend. As I say at the start of this blog, it is the people you meet, like-minded people are incredibly energising by their very nature. You spend perhaps part of day, a run with these guys but they nevertheless impact on you, you have a shared experience and it is always interesting.  I always come away from these races so chuffed with who I meet, the memories created and experience.  More and more it reinforces the importance of appreciating the journey.



Finish Line on Day 2 Photo Credit: Jonny Davies

Ninja in Training

I don’t actually remember a starting point for sport and fitness and that’s possibly because I was an active child and being sporty simply continued into my adult life.  When I was born my dad delivered me – I didn’t wait for the midwife and my dad laughs when he tells me that I entered this world with speed and purpose and haven’t stopped since.

I know I used to run everywhere and as a child I had skinned knees frequently, I climbed on things and recall feeling excited the first time I saw a rope swing in a woodland near to our home.  The earliest I recall anything about fitness being ‘a thing’ was in primary 7 when I was awarded sports champion. I didn’t even know such a thing existed and suddenly I was given an award for doing something I loved. I recall my gran being very pleased as she had been sports champion in her day and was delighted that the sporty gene had been carried forward.

High school offered lots of sporting opportunities and I tried them all – the only ones I didn’t connect with were racquet sports but otherwise I embraced every opportunity. I am sure I paint a picture when I say that running shoes and sportswear were the main items on my Christmas list each year.

In my adult life I experienced the evolution of lycra and aerobics – it was good at the time but the classes weren’t quite ‘me’. On the basis that it wasn’t the done thing for girls to go to a traditional gym, along with the idea that lifting weights would give me muscles I didn’t want, it was 1996 before I discovered that weight related fitness was the key to remaining strong and in good shape.  It’s bizarre looking back as I can’t imagine following a fitness programme today that doesn’t involve weight related routines.  Thank heavens fitness evolves the way it does or I would still be in a leotard and tights !

Running and general fitness moved into triathlon and triathlon moved into adventure racing then obstacle course racing and now I enjoy different events wherever I go.

I like to have a solid fitness foundation so that I can train up relatively quickly for any event that takes my interest.  Over the years that has included hundreds of events from 5k runs to longer distances, the London Marathon was very memorable. I have enjoyed fell races, kayaking, cycling and pretty much anything that creates enthusiasm when I read about it.


Last year I applied for Ninja Warrior UK …. Well why not!! I went through the application process, the audition and in August made it to the filming stage in Manchester. While I was fit and strong enough I lacked skill between transition and splashed down on 4th obstacle.  With a bit of luck I will be back there this year but with over 30 000 applicants I know the odds are against me.  Making it up that warped wall would place me as the oldest female ever to have completed that stage of Ninja Warrior anywhere in the world so I am training hard …. and keeping my fingers crossed.


While 50 seems old at times, (there are certainly days when I ache a lot and I recently noticed my knees are sagging ….. truly what on earth is that about 😀) I also feel young, energised and entirely ‘alive’ when I am training.

This weekend I completed Tough Mudder with a fabulous group of ladies from our amazing gym — Good Health and Fitness

IMG_3854(Dundee’s best kept secret when it comes to gyms that make a positive difference!!) It was a fun event and we laughed, helped each other, shared moments, and felt very accomplished by the end. Friendship through fitness is something special and I value that as much as fitness itself.



So the future …. I cannot imagine ever being inactive so enjoying sport and fitness will continue to be part of me, hopefully when my time is up I will eventually leave this earth in a similar way to my arrival – with energy and a bit of a sparkle.  In the meantime I am truly thankful for the active life I have, those that are part of it, and for the opportunities that are out there just waiting to be grabbed and embraced.




Rat Race Coast to Coast – Scotland in ALL her Glory!

The first question I had to face from friends – ‘Did I enjoy myself?’ For once this was a tough one, I was and still am, in that phase of, ‘ehhhhhh, yes of course’.  I know I did enjoy myself, most physical challenges I face I do enjoy, even if it takes me a while to realise it.  Rising to the challenge, personal, is what it is all about!  Even a week later, I hesitate when asked this question.  But I am not slow to talk of the fantastic moments along way as well as the traumatic ones . . . . .  yes you will find them out also!

I did not have the best preparation in the days leading up to the race, I wasn’t mentally prepared, I hadn’t had the best physical preparation after being drop-kicked by a cold – flu bug at the end of my 100 Mile run.  So on many levels I wasnt happy with myself going into this race, I allowed other things in my life to distract me.  Yes, I make the same mistakes everyone does, its a learning curve and I am only human.  No super hero powers . . . . .  yet!Cheetara-thundercats-4597636-375-600Quite obviously, this is not me but Im a fan of thundercats 😉  Hmm what would I look like as a super hero.  Anyway, I digress!

I was taking part in this event with my best buddy Karen, she has been training ferociously to achieve her goal of completing this event.  Karen chose this event, why?  wait for it . . . its brilliant – there were sections of kayaking.  I wouldn’t recommend selecting your events in this way.  However, unique to Karen hahaha!

Analysing the route, the kit lists, the final emails was all over.  Karen and I headed up on the Friday. easy drive taking it nice and easy with plenty of stops to stretch the legs.  It was a fantastic day.  We arrived in Nairn, full of wonder at what we were getting ourselves into.  I was full of trepidation, I was woefully unprepared, or at least felt like I was.  We kept seeing the word ‘Expert’ everywhere and the burst our laughing hysterically.  ‘Expert – hahahaha’, ‘OMG expert – hahahaha’, followed by ‘maybe we should tunr up at the start line and just say we were given the wrong category’.  It was suddenly very REAL!

Registration was a very quick affair, but no kit checks.  I was suprised as this was heavily enforced leading up to the event.  It was beautiful weather and was forecast to continue over the event weekend which would place less on ??????

Once our bikes were dropped off at Cawdor Castle, literally 5 – 10 min drive away, seeing the countryside, it was going to be amazing.    We should have been in bed early for our early rise but it just wasn’t happening, we were wide awake.

The morning arrived quickly, well it would when you are getting up at 430am.  This was like a normal work day for Karen, I was hoping I wouldn’t get a crash in the afternoon, which would be well into the event.  This was relatively unknown territory for both of us.

The start line was down at the sea, set just back on the grassy area, fantastic place to start.  There was an air of excitement as everyone milled around and waited for the start talk.  We headed down to the beach to get a quick pic before starting.10671321_10202478574838056_2725662220864347802_n

Then we were off with a roar, straight toward the sea with a sharp right turn.  We had a short run through the town to get to the trail section.  I was feeling like I was adrift of the main front group but I actually made reasonable time here, making my way up the group and finally to the point where I felt like I wasnt too far away.  Underfoot it was fairly slippy with the dew of the previous night still obvious on the ground.  Tree roots and large stones meant you had to be aware of where you were placing your feet otherwise you were sent stumbling, slipping and sliding,  I very nearly went over my ankle but managed a hop, skip and jump to save myself. A bit early in the day for that!  Concentrating on trying to stay relaxed and find my rhythm, it was going well.  People were passing one gentleman who was not happy about this, ‘dont  know what you are all in a rush for, we’ve still got a hundred odd miles to go’ was his statement.  I simply said no-one was commenting on his pace/speed.  ultimately, we each have to find our own pace, otherwise the runs doesnt feel like our own and can be more detrimental.  But he wasn’t bothered about being ‘chicked’, I wasnt sure whether that was a positive statement or not.

We quickly reached the Cawdor Castle transition area with the morning mist still hanging in the air.  We had a fleeting site of Cawdor Castle as we ran past, I have borrowed my mates Karen’s photos as I was saving my phone to track my progress, with no garmin 😦10370356_10202478575438071_4956908465355902352_n140916051949_H

My timing here was 1 hour and 1 min so actually quite happy with that, it was an absolutely melting 7 miles, very close and very warm.  I took on board my first gel walking through the transition point to my bike.  I took my time here to get organised and make sure everything was where I wanted it.  I would say the only thing I hadn’t thought of was all the mildew overnight making everything wet.  Thank god it never rained!

I was hooked up, hydration pack that is, unhooking my bike from the rails, my only thought was here we go.  Well, alongside thinking about Karen, I wondered where she was for most of the day.  It was walking between the bikes that I was traumatised, yes you saw it – traumatised – I mean, you really shouldn’t see these things, not this early in the morning and not at an event.  I was exposed to a ‘willy/ tadger/ johnson’ – it was just THERE!! Nae shame, hinging oot!  Averting my eyes I shuttled past as if it was going jump out, well you know, I was traumatised haha!  I swear I kept having flashbacks throughout my race, for those that dont know me this wont have much significance but those who do, well what can I say.

Onto my first cycle section, I should have known from my attempt to get started that this wasn’t going to be my best part of the journey.  Out the gate and I had to stop with kit issues, my bike bag was rubbing on the wheel.  This hadn’t happened on any of my training runs, tried tightening it up and hoped that was all it was.  Ensured all my suspension was locked out so ensure I could use my bike as best I could.  Especially given it is a dual suspension mountain bike.  I had had slimmer tyres put on the bike to help but it has to be said I felt like an elephant on a bike:

elephant on a bike

After repeated stops to try to sort my bike bag, I was frustrated but started to look around and take in the surroundings.  It was on this section that I had many of my ‘WOW’ moments, all related to the stunning scenery we were passing.  Actually, I was the one everyone was passing, my bike was heavy in comparison.  Suprisingly, alot of folks on road bikes but simply with larger tyres, many had done the reverse to myself.  No wonder they were flying past me, any time I had gained on the run, I lost on the first cycle.  It was truly torture, my quads were burning, then they were on fire, the same thing you might say – I am no longer sure.  Then my knee was sore, my hamstrings grew tight, I lost the feeling in my toes, although this happens often in my right leg.  I tried to take in my surroundings and keep moving forwards, many guys, would check in that I was all good, chatting as they passed.  Occasionally some banter would develop if you got a back and forth moment, the guys had to and could easily stop for the toilet breaks.  It was fairly hilly and the pedals just never seemed light enough churning around, I mean I could walk faster but I chanted to myself ‘I WILL not walk, I will NOT walk’.  So I kept driving down through my legs, one after the other, concentrating on moving forward and upward little by little.  140916011958_H 10690012_10202478576078087_1107017065648108929_n  This was one looooong, big ass hill.  I think alot of folks stopped at the top to ease of the legs, I was literally quivering in my shoes hahaha, never before has this happened.  Over the top and on the other side was a fantastic downhill section, we passed by a beautiful loch, in the distance I spotted orange ‘thing’, I thought ‘oh, oh can this be the next transition point’, my eyes were deceiving me.  I thought Rat Race had changed the colours of there signage but I could see it, I mean what else could it be?!  Great big trucks/ cranes – ‘Noooooooooo’.  That was a sheer moment of torture!

A lovely gentleman passing me let me know we only had about another 5-6 miles left, ‘I could do this, I can do 5 – 6 miles.’  We climbed more hills and came to another downhill section toward the transition point in Fort Augustus.  I had let a wee camper van pass me going down this big hill, mistakenly thinking they would leave me well behind but, and this sickens me, I had to keep braking going downhill!  Can you believe that!! Braking on a downhill section!

Boom I was already in Leg 3 with a short run and a wee kayak!  Funnily enough my legs felt fine trying to run to the kayak.  I had noticed as I parked my bike at the transition point that  lots of folks were eating and taking their time getting organised heading back off on the bike for the second leg of the bike or to look at it another way Leg 4.  The kayak was quite nice actually and I just waited for a lass to come along and join me in the kayak.  Together we got round the buoys, albeit with alot of left, left, left, right, right, right . . .  ahhhh shite we need to go right again. Hahahaha!


At this point my head was down and I was concentrating on keeping moving.  Then I heard Karen shouting my name – amazing moment!  I now knew she was doing great, such a relief.  Headin gof on Leg 4 my spirits were lifted and I had just shouted to Karen, ‘Catch me up’.  I was looking forward to that.  My legs were much lighter, I am not sure how but I suddenly felt real good.  I had eaten at the checkpoint but surely that wasn’t it?!


From here we were on alot of trail based sections, my holiday in Turkey, had fully prepped me for this type of off-road.  Dry, stony underfoot.  The fire was back in my belly, we cycled past amazing sites and simply beautiful areas.  It really was stunning and I was faced with sections that I really had to dig deep and not allow myself to take the easy option . . . walking . . . alot of the guys who had roadbased bikes were indeed walking.  No longer jesting my bike – aha!  I droppped my gears and slipped into a high peddle turnover to get myself up them thar hills, loved it.  The I would fire along the top flatter section full of achievement as it was one more section I had made.  My pace was up, my legs were firing round and round and felt like they were finally flying – as G man would say ‘AMAZEBALLS’ – I loved it.  A few fellows were sitting at the roadside eating and giving me encouragement as I drove up the hills where others couldn’t get traction, I made it, cheesing moment, hell yeah.  Now I havent even mentioned the best bit,  duh, duh, daaaaa!  Hahaha, okay I am getting excited bare with me.10689496_10202478577678127_7609302357402868460_n10622958_10202478579038161_2784033259847333800_n


The downhills, for me anyway were fantastic, right, then left, then right again with minimal room for manoeuvering , I was getting veeeery close to the bushes and I hadnt worked out if there was solid ground right under them.  Right, left, I had frequent moments of worry about Karen on this section. I really hoped she was okay! I was literally fleeing down these sections, wind in my hair, I loved it!

Finally we came out onto the road and I slowed again, very disappointing and my head went down for a bit but I laughed to myself as I recognised where I was.  This was the section that Karen and I had driven to check out the route and got lost,  It was here we learnt the true menaing of passing places and single route roads hahaha.

We came into Fort William, passing amazing scenery to have to deal with the traffic – ahhhhh – it wasnt great.  I had completed Leg 4, amazing.  I felt reasonably good I had to say but was tired and a sarcaastic comment let me know I wasnt hiding it well from a fellow racer.  At this transition point, the timer went off, we were allowed 30 minutes or less.  This allowed us to ensure our bike went to the correct point for collection post-race.  You could also go to the toilet, essential for the ladies.  Glad that I was consuming enough fluids, eat and drop off anything you didnt want to run with in your bag.  I decided to run with my cycle bottle as I could fill it with a carb mix and keep the fluid in my hydration pack as plain water.  Massive thanks to the guys at Run 4 It Dundee for their advice in using these mixes in my endurance events.  I really think consuming this regularly had made a difference to the day as it had been hot all day and I was sweating, alot!

I got myself organised, chatted with some of the other racers. Then I headed off, I was in Leg 5, give me a big ‘Hell Yeah!’  Running along the West Highland Way (WHW), it was tough, I decided my strategy had to be walk the hills, run the downhills and flats.  Underfoot was tough with rocks hurting my feet and making it really difficult to get going.  I really enjoyed this section nevertheless, I had gotten some energy back again and made what seemed like good progress. I had decided to let the competitor in me come out to encourage me to push onto the next person I saw.  This was good as it would have been easy to just settle into a walk.  Many guys were walking either because they were tired or sore, I passed many and kept going.  One foot in front of the other, the 8 mile marker was a welcome site and spurred me on even more.  We turned off the WHW at a specific point and it was one tough climb to the point where we would see the loch at Glencoe, it was right there but so far away.  The climb up to this point didn’t really look like much but it kept on going.  Then cam ethe final downhill, I knew this was coming and I cam into my own.  Downhill is where I can really open up the throttle and let go.  Letting my body fly downhill, leaning into the hill, we could hear the loudspeaker of the event but I was never getting closer to it.  It was a long downhill and I was surprised to feel my legs flag.  The undergrowth kept pulling at my feet and ankles, then we would reach flat slate-like stones which were slippy.  Other sections on the path were boggy and suctioned your feet in.10685325_10202478580518198_3736990669744429678_n


I reached the final Leg – kayak across the loch – at the same time as a gentleman called Alan.  We hopped into the kayak to head across the absolutely stunning loch.  The sun was glittering across the water, words are simply not enough to describe it.    It took us a while to get across with both of us having issues with our hip flexors at various points.  But we made it and crossed the finish line!  Amazing feeling I have to say, I was greeted with ‘ You are the freshest looking racer Ive seen crossing the line.’  Not bad, bad I was not able to relax yet, where was Karen.  I went for my bag which by the way seemed miles away and headed back to wait for Karen.  I was never so relieved to see her appear in a kayak and complete one of the most epic events ever.

140916055955_H140916055957_H140916060010_H (1)

140915225200_H                        10600378_10202478582958259_5056114014246632912_n


Simply amazing!  I will be back to improve.  A massive thanks has to go to Heal Physiotherapy (http://www.healphysiotherapy.co.uk/)  for helping to ensure I was physically fit and able to complete this event.