Monday, 16 June 2014

Panic training for the WHW Race

Thankfully it is not me I am referring to. It is Brother Calderwood.

The Highland Fling was somewhat of a wake up call on how his minimal training might have been enough to get him through the Fling, but not the West Highland Way Race.

So, did he then sensibly devise a training plan and pace himself? Pffft, did he heck. Panic training is what us Calderwoods do best!

So when he asked a couple of weeks ago if I fancied a long run on the West Highland Way. I, still high from finishing The Highland Fling, responded "sure, why not?".

That "long run" was 37 miles. Since it took me 2 weeks to be able to walk properly after the fling and 3 sports massages, I was a little dubious about knocking out that kind of mileage again. Especially when the only training I have done was bicep curls with a large glass of wine.

Our estimated time to complete was longer than our fling times. The train fare was double the cost of our fling entries; without any bottles of wine, t-shirts or baked potatoes. All in all it was not looking to be as much fun.

And it wasn't.

On race day adrenaline and sheer mental strength can get you through 53 miles. On a training run, you are relying on bullying from your brother, jelly beans and piri piri humus wraps. Wraps that you told your brother (who is completely adverse to any spices what-so-ever) were normal humus wraps, resulting in him nearly punching you in the face at the top of the devils staircase.

We got through it (Bridge Of Orchy to Fort William), but I feel this picture on the train home really summed me up at the end.

I need to seriously start thinking about doing some proper training if I am intending on running any 53 miles races or 37 mile training runs any time soon...ohh wait...I am my Brothers support runner for the WHW race.

Anyone up for a 37 mile training run and some piri piri humus wraps this weekend?

Looking strong...3 miles in.

Brother Calderwood looking strong coming out of Kinlochleven, post can of Irn Bru and packet of Salt and Vinegar Golden Wonders - food of champions.

Selfie - cos we are cool.


Thursday, 1 May 2014

Highland Fling: Get to Beinglas!

After a knee operation, my wedding and too many weekends away I REALLY struggled to do much running in the last 6 months. It could have been the knee operation, may have been the wedding planning or even the donuts and red wine - I guess I will never know. But it was safe to say I was nervous about even starting this year’s Highland Fling.

I was still arguing with the squirrels in my head the week before the race, you see they felt that ONE 22 mile training run and some other 12 and 15 mile runs were not sufficient training. I on the other hand felt that I had paid my entry fee and was therefore getting that bottle of wine and t-shirt one way or another.

So, the week before the race my plan was adjusted…. again:

Get a PB
Get under 10hrs
Get under 11 hours
Get under 12 hours
Get under 14 hours
Get under cut off time (15 hours)

Basically I had one goal. Get to Beinglas Farm before the cut off. Then they HAD to let me finish, even if I walked/crawled the last 12 miles. You hear me Johnny Fling? You HAD to let me finish. I’m sure it is in the rules…even if it was my version of rules.


To many peoples surprise, I showed up on Saturday am – peeing my panties. I was terrified. It didn’t help that I had not registered and that I only got my clothes sorted at midnight on the Friday and packed and cellotaped my drop bags at 4.30am on the Saturday morning, whilst my poor husband got roped into making my sandwiches. Thankfully registration was pain free. I walked up, said my number, was handed an envelope and some pins. Task 1 - Done.

Now it is time for Task 2: Get to Beinglas. Get to Beinglas. Get to Beinglas.


Annnd we are off. In Glasgow, if a large group wearing sports gear and ankle chips ran by you, your first thought would be that there had been a prison escape at Barlinnie Prison. I see a few police officers and think that the local residents may have come to the same conclusion and called them in - turns out they are only helping us to cross the roads!

Slowly I trundle on – soooo many people compared to 2011. Yet, it is not until the gate with the violin player before I make any friends. The last time I took part (2011) I spoke to 3 people. Two in the first 15 miles (Lucy and a guy (sorry never caught your name)) and then was on my own for the remainder of the race until the very end with George Cairns. This year I was determined to make more than 3 friends. My first two are Norrie and Adrian.

My new friends and I

We chat and have some banter. After two lace ties and a toilet stop we lose each other and I’m on my own again, until...guess who I meet…LUCY, one of only three runners I really spoke to in 2011. A year later we met in a pub over red wine and then we meet again, right where it all started – destiny. You will be my friend Lucy. Like it or not. 

Lucy and I chat and meet another two guys (who I had briefly had t-shirt and toilet discussions with earlier) Mark and Martin. We have some good old banter, Mark sprints down and takes a tumble on Conic Hill – he is not hurt, therefore it is HILARIOUS, we all run into the checkpoint together. 

John Kennedy pops up – telling me I am enjoying myself too much. I pretend to run. 


I am hungry. I’ve only had Cliff blocks and some gums. A super-efficient marshal hands me my Asda bag, I tear it open like a savage and eat my roll in one gulp like a duck. No real food until Balmaha - I won’t make that mistake again. 

My parents and husband are there – my mother hands me a bottle and says David left it for Craig and then Craig left it for me. I say I don’t want it, and then just as I am leaving I quickly take a gulp in case it is magic juice. Imagine being the girl who did not drink the magic juice? Turns out it was a salt tablet in water… I have enough salt and vinegar discos to feed the entire race. I do not need any more salt! 

The chat is so good that I make a conscious effort to stick with the banter gang when we leave the checkpoint, but after a while, altering your natural pace can become tiring, so Lucy and I gently push on. We indulge in some nonsense girl talk which ensures that no-one else decides to join us. 

Here is a pic of the get-a-long gang leaving Balmaha, it’s really hard to see me, but I am the giant blob in the middle with the luminous yellow t-shirt on…

Stuart MacFarlane photo


I’ve lost Lucy. I think it was just before the checkpoint, she mentioned something about not liking my pace but I am certain it is because I started eating her nuts and dried fruit! I then mentioned her sports beans and she promptly ditched me. I never got any sports beans. 

Action shot...before I lost Lucy 
(Edinburgh Sports Photography)

Marshal and my husband perform a tag team effort. She helps me with some food whilst husband helps with some water. She gives me a smile and tells me I am looking great. Liar.

Husband tells me I am half way – not in my head darling, I’ve only got 14 miles to go ;o) REMEMBER, GET TO BEINGLAS!!!

John Kennedy pops up – I pretend to run.

I have a low point here. I am determined that since I am walking every single incline that is more than 1cm that I absolutely must run the flats and down hills. A guy attempts to talk to me, he is very nice but when I am having my low points this is a battle between me and the squirrels in my head, not something a stranger can partake in. THIS IS NOT FUN. Please accept my apology if this was you. This was not a good time for me.


I run into the checkpoint, the awesome bag person hands me my goodies without me saying a word – HOW ARE THEY DOING THIS?!?! All Marshalls are preoccupied with other runners, so I have to deal with the dilemma of whether I take the new LARGE bag of sweeties or I stick with the small bag of sweeties on my own. GOSH, THIS IS HARD. I opt for the larger bag – you can never have too many sweeties. Phew. Crisis averted. I refill my water bottle and I’m off…

I pass my Clydesdale and training buddies Fiona, Anne and Stuart. I do not hang around, though. This is the ground where I excel. Perhaps it is because I am stupid and careless or perhaps my hobbit legs just work better over tree trunks but I really feel comfortable so I decide to push on and cover as much ground whilst I am feeling good.

John Kennedy pops up – I pretend to run. HOW IS HE DOING THIS?!?!


Bugger. I’m at Beinglas – what now? I originally planned to change my t-shirt (luminous yellow is NOT good for discreet toilet stops) and socks and trainers. This should have bought me some time to decide on a new plan. But by now, I want this over with. So I pop a painkiller and I’m off. My dad and husband only let me have one instead of the 3 I had planned. Later on, whilst my quads are in agony, I curse them both.

The crowds and marshals are fantastic here. I feel like I am in 1st place and not 200th. Maybe it is when I am really low I realise it, but, the shouts of positivity from so many people almost make me want to cry. Thank you so much everyone. It really did help.

I am flying solo here, I pass people, they pass me, it is constant for the whole section. Although, the stats say I moved up 39 places, so there must have been some drop outs? I want to drop out – what excuse have I got? The knee operation is a pretty good one, but I don’t want to tempt fate. I could be sick? But then I won’t get the baked potato and beer at the end. Hmmmm. I’ll keep running.

John Kennedy pops up – I pretend to run. Does he have a teleporter? I say I’m not feeling great, he tells me I am fine and to overtake the man ahead of me. Thanks for the pep talk!

I am ready to step into the bushes and go for a sleep when a guy says it is about ½ a mile to the end – I WANT TO HUG THE STRANGER – but my mum taught me not to talk (or hug) strange men, I ignore her teachings and manage to get out the words “Ohh my goodness, thank you” without crying.

I hear the piper – ohhhh my gaaaawwwwd. Get. To. The. End.

I hear a boy behind me. If he sprints past I have nothing. Thankfully he decides that he doesn’t want to, or, that he can’t. Either way it FEELS like we are both sprinting flat out, but I imagine what we REALLY look like is the 90 years olds doing the 100 meter sprint. Don’t know what I am talking about? Watch it here:

Usain Bolt vs Yohan Blake reenactment
Stuart MacFarlane photo

Music, cheers, this is AMAZING! Boooooo, hisssss, boooo, hisssss… wait a minute? My brother and his mate, Del, are in the crowd. People look at him then he explains he is my brother. Ahhhhhh makes sense. Siblings. He has finished 30 min before me. Bugger! 

I did it! My dad and husband come and take my goodies off me so I can wolf down some soup and baked potato. Beer has never tasted so good. Once my mum arrives we do not hang around. For starters I don’t know if I can stand much longer. We head to the car then straight home. 

One minute I am at Tyndrum the next I am home. Magic :o) My Husband has to help me into the house – don’t think he knew what he was signing up for in February. Sucker!



Official time of 11 hrs and 2 mins. I am absolutely delighted. From not knowing if I would even finish to a time of 11 hours makes me very very happy. It is 1 hour 20 min slower than my last time, but I’ve just had a knee operation and got married 2 months ago! So who cares!!! I am ecstatic that I finish injury free (aside from the overall agony of my body - even my ears are sore!?!).

To top things off - the ladies (Fiona, Anne and I) managed to win the first female team prize (Yes - FIRST)!!!

Team Clydesdale and our motivational speaker John Kennedy on the 22 mile training run


I probably started a tad too slow. My rough calculations show that I overtook 290 people from Drymen to the end, obviously some people drop out but I do remember overtaking A LOT of people after Balmaha! Pace yourself, people. PACE YOURSELF. I did one 22 mile training run, had 3.5 hours sleep and packed my stuff at 4.30am the morning of the race so I think my result is a testament to pacing and not training and preparation. I wonder what I could do If I got all 3 in the correct proportions? Well trained, prepared and a well-paced race. Something to aim for, I suppose…

Thanks to everyone single person who cheered, helped or spoke to me on Saturday. It was appreciated more than you will ever know.

Huge thanks to my ever suffering Mum, Dad and Husband. Not only do they have me doing this – they have my brother doing it too. Supporting not 1 but 2 divas? Amazing!!! 

Scrubbed up runner and support team