I’ve never used an emergency blanket, yet yesterday I wrapped myself tightly in one, half an hour before the start of the race. No emergency as such though, just to shelter from the wind and rain, sitting in the small boat that took me to the start of the Cape Wrath Challenge 2017.
I took the 100 mile journey up to Durness on Friday afternoon, mainly in glorious weather, trough stunning landscapes, largely on empty, single track roads. While the radio received a signal that got weaker by and by, I listened to some traffic news of “long delays on the M so and so” and “traffic jams” outside this place and that one, barely able to conceal a smug face, which nobody would have seen in any case.
Once arrived, I took a stroll to “Smoo Cave” and the outskirts of Durness. Then, after a lovely Lasagne, a cheeky pint and a hot bath, bedtime was at 10pm sharp.
I woke up to the sound of light rain, the odd sheep and finally my alarm clock going off at seven. Race day had arrived. A big build up of often gruesome training sessions and much anticipation would have to be put to its ultimate test today.
Runners had to start in batches of 12, because that was the maximum capacity of above mentioned boat – I was in the last group to start and there were 13 of us, so I sat in the rubber dinghy that followed the “main boat”. The journey from Landside to Capeside took less than ten minutes, on the other side a last short briefing, some nodding heads, and off we were.
Thanks to the 150 feet ascend on the first half mile, I was sweating like a horse ten minutes into the race, instead of shivering, the rain now provided some much needed cooling. I’m glad this was not my first long run, the little routine I have gathered so far taught me to control my pace, knowing this would take a while. Every now and then I reminded myself to relax, starting by turning a grim face into a smile, loosening my shoulders and paying attention to my stride. The terrain was mainly gravel, with some deep, muddy pot-holes in between, more often than not rocks and gravel in between pot-holes.
Eighty-three minutes and 18k in, I arrived at stunning Cape Wrath Lighthouse. A photo, a quick pee and a tiny dram of Whiskey to lift the spirits and back to Capeside. Up all those hills I had just ran down, and down the bits that I had climbed. From there another boat trip, rubbing heat gel on my aching legs and wolfing down some chocolates and bananas and off to the final, painful seven kilometers.
That last bit was of course purely a mind game, legs and feet did nothing much but scream “No more!”. Again, having been in that state before was very, very helpful. More hills, this time on tarmac, with cars speeding past, occasionally sending a wave of mucky water flying from a puddle, but nothing mattered any more. Nothing but bringing this to a good end.
Not many spectators were out, but some had braved the weather and lined the final stretch before Durness village hall, clapping and cheering. I did not have much power left for those last hundred or so meters, but threw in one final, desperate, explosive sprint. I ran towards the finish line arms waving, screaming (like a madman, believe me, I think I woke up and scared some folk), shouting like a Viking on a rampage.
Every weight had fallen off me, everything had worked out, I was finished, but I had done so in a triumph, and I do not say that lightly. “That was the most impressive finish I’ve seen all day”, I heard one guy say to my delight. The winning time that day was over half an hour faster than mine (I made it into the top ten, hooray!), which I applaud with huge respect, but really, I could not be happier with how that day turned out for me.
addendum This is my final posting on this blog. I started it three years ago, just after moving to Scotland, to keep friends posted on what I am up to and also to teach myself some discipline in writing regularly. I had planned to write at least 100 blog posts (check, this is #135) while avoiding ranting randomly, thus boring my dear readers and wasting my own time. Things have changed and while I stand by every word that's written here, it's time for something new. I think I might start another blog from scratch soon-ish and will leave a link here, so watch this space; that is, if ye can be arsed. Godspeed!