On April 27th I am participating in the Hoka Highland Fling. This will be the first time that I have taken part in an event on the West Highland Way. At 53 miles it will also be the longest ultra that I will have attempted.
I have spent time on the WHW over the years criss-crossing it on various outings, walking sections of it and training on sections. It is a thing of beauty and a trail that has to be treated with respect. I have no idea if I will be up to the task on the 27th, and am probably a bit under trained. I certainly do not seem to have done the mileage that some other participants have done. Nevertheless, I feel that it is a challenge worth attempting and I am up for the challenge. I am also managing my expectations: it will be wonderful to complete it and I am going for completion not time; and I also know that there is a fair to middling chance that I may miss a cut off and get pulled from the event.
This event,as with most of the events that I am doing this year is a key part of preparation for Antarctica. If I can do 53 miles on the WHW in April, then there a good chance I will be ready and able to tackle 88 miles (albeit split over 2 events of 26.2 and 62.2 miles) in Antarctica in November.
A large chunk of my weekends are spent out on my own training. Sometimes my husband will be my vehicle based wing man, bunny hopping along my route, or simply hanging about a tearoom somewhere waiting on me to appear. We each recognise that we have our own interests and activities, and that is a healthy thing, but sometimes it is good to participate in some joint activities.
Saturday was one of those days. My daughter, inspired by the lovely spell of dry sunny weather had said she wanted to get out for a hike. So, a family outing was planned that could combine my need for a training run with her need for a hike and my husbands need for a more gentle ‘donder’. We headed of to Inverarnan and the short 7 mile section of the WHW between Beinglas Farm to Crianlarich. Fourteen miles was a fair hike for the walkers and there was the incentive of the tearoom at Crianlarich. Fourteen miles perhaps a bit short for me, but a plan was devised.
We set out and after a short distance I headed off to run. It was lovely bright day with some good sunny spells and not too cold. The path was dry and easily navigated. There was a scattering of snow of the surrounding hills. I relaxed into the run and kept the pace at a level where I could still observe what was around me. Spring is definitely here. I saw lambs and calves, frogs and frog spawn and even the first few primroses.
When I reached the signpost for Crainlarich, I did an about turn and headed back to find my husband and daughter. They had made good time and were not too far behind. I then walked with them and when we got back to the signpost headed into the village. Quite coincidentally we bumped into some friends from home as we arrived at the train station ( the location of the tearoom), each as surprised as the other to meet so randomly. Tea and scones and then back to the task in hand.
On the return trip I decided to enjoy the company of my family and did bursts of walking and running which worked well since my daughter powered on ahead and I was able to run back and forth between them and walk for short periods with them. So, maybe not as much running as I should have done, but hiking is still beneficial as is the time spent with my family. In total I covered 18 miles. Not a bad days work really.
Happy and tired we arrived back at the car which was conveniently parked at the Drovers Inn. Now the inn is a bit of an institution, and an experience. It has been many years since we had been there and our daughter had never been in. Things had not changed: it is still chokablock with an astounding number and bizarre variety of dead animals, and covered in dust. It still serves a decent pint and decent grub just what you want after a day out in the fresh air.
The day worked well for all concerned and it is something we will look to do again. It just shows that with a bit of planning and imagination you can combine training with leisure and time with family. Not only that but you can all feel that you have earned that pint and the fish and chips.
We headed home, my daughter then headed out to a party while old ‘Derby & Joan’ snoozed in front of the TV.