18/06/2022 – Race write up for the West Highland Way 95 mile ultra. Well, what can I say? It’s been emotional, a once in a lifetime experience (I’m not doing it again unless I’m a support runner) and utterly amazing. The race started at 1am on Sat 18th June from Milngavie.I’d planned a nice relaxing day before to just chill and get rest before the event but Tilly (the stupid dog) had other ideas. Kit all sorted (I definitely packed for a week) and everything laid out in the living room ready for the event. Everything in the house is a bit too quiet so go to investigate and find Tilly finishing off my packed of Salt Sticks. Call to vet, then poisons unit to end up £35 lighter and she will be fine. Now off to buy more .

Registration and the buzz is starting, lots of nervous faces and I got another wrist band to add to my Highland Fling Race one. Luckily I only stay 800m for the start so back home for one last snooze on the sofa.

Start was emotional, so many faces, the look of nervousness and excitement. What lay ahead no-one really knew. Horn goes and we are off. Great to see so many people cheering through Milngavie as we started.

The first few hours were quiet, everyone in their own little world, just running along in the darkness. For me the sun was rising over Conic Hill but cloud was down so no spectacular sun rise. First checkpoint and food eaten. The next part from Balmaha to Rowardennan was hard mentally and on the body, tiredness has set in but I knew it would pass and it did once the sun was up. We took the low road to Inversnaid and it was lovely. I just love the trail along the loch side, especially with the mountain goats. At Inversnaid I was met by my support crew no. 1 in the form on Vic and Suzy. They set a high standard with lavender face cloth, china mug with tea and an array of food.

I was feeling good by now so off along the technical section to Beinglas farm. No support crew here but the volunteers were great at looking after us and another cup of tea. Not long after the weather turned and it became sun/rain/cloud/wind with jacket on/off/on/off… We soon went over John’s bridge. Both here and at Dario’s post I took a few moments to remember them.

Bogle Glen was next and into the rollercoaster. I usually love this but my back went into spasm and every step was like someone was squeezing my size. I knew I needed to lie down to stretch it out and my support team no 2. did a great job in having a mat out ready for me to lie down on. Food in, shoes and socks changed and support runner Lynz ready to go. Back eased and we had a lovely run/chat all the way to Bridge of Orchy. Support team ready with chair and food, new support runner in the form of Beardy took over. At the top of Jellybaby hill we found the 100km marker. On the way to Rannoch moor we needed to do some plastering of my back as my bra was rubbing. We got some strange looks from the walkers as I was getting fixed. The weather was really changing as we got on the moor and made our way into Glencoe. Here I got a lovely surprise to see my girls and hubby waiting for me and cheering me in. With the weather turning it was time for the layers and waterproofs to go on.

Off along to the Devils Staircase and it was a hard slog. Even longer and more painful was the downhill into Kinlochleven. I said many a time ‘are we nearly there yet?’. Coming into Kinlochleven I knew I wasn’t in a good way, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and was stumbling about. I needed sleep! I was shown to a gym mat and given 20mins to sleep. I so needed it! Support team stuffed as much food into me as I could stomach and layered me up for the next stage. By now solids couldn’t be eaten but custard, milk, porridge could so had to switch to that type of food. Coming out of Kinlochleven Fiona took over from Beardy. She thought I was hallucinating when I saw a deer until it lifted his head and a magnificent stag was there. Head torches on as we made our way up and up and up, at least being dark we couldn’t see how much further we had to climb. We had great chat, Fi force fed me and when we got to Lundavra checkpoint we found a camp fire, lights, music and hilarity. We so needed it.

Final stretch upon us and I knew there was no stopping me now. The final zig zag forestry track was painful but I was running (actual running and not a shuffle). The sun was rising and emotions growing. Fi kept me focused but pointing out all the markers and keeping me on track. She then had to listen to the ‘are we nearly there, how much further….’ From me. She keep saying that it wasn’t far and only a kilometre to go but I knew she was lying each time my watch buzzed as another km was hit so I asked the question again and again and again. We stopped for a pic at the old WHW finish and I did wonder why it couldn’t be the finish still but new we had to make the Nevis Centre. We kept going and round the train station to see the Nevis Centre. Even my family were there despite it being 4am! I starting blubbering but with a hug from Fi I pulled myself together for the final run into the hall and under the finish banner. Job done!!!! 155km covered in 27hrs 5mins. When my youngest was asked if she was proud of her mummy she simply said “she’s a crazy lady!” and then asked if we could leave so she could go back to bed.

4hrs sleep and back up so I didn’t miss breakfast. Going down the stairs was an effort. The staff were great and got the hot tub all ready for me to use straight after breakfast. It overlooked Ben Nevis and was luxurious.

Final part of the journey was the presentation. Every runner went up one by one to collect their goblet. The standard of hobbling was immense and my struggle was coming down form the 2nd back row where my children thought it would be a great place to sit for a good view. It was lovely seeing all the runners I’d chatted to during the race collecting their goblets. Well done everyone, be proud of your achievement, thank you to all the support crews getting their runners to the end or being there for them if they DNF’d, of the 193 that started only 155 made it to the end. I couldn’t have got there without Vic, Suzy, David , Alicia, Fi, Lynz, Beardy, my family and all my friends for supporting me and putting up with my run chat.

For me it’s time for take 2 in the hot tub, get the massage gun out and spend a few days recovering before I even think of any type of exercise (I need to master walking first).

Advice I gave to those supporting me:

For support crew:

  • Make sure you are drinking and eating
  • Take a book and maybe something to listen to whilst waiting for me
  • Keep warm or cool depending on weather
  • Take a change of clothes and shoes for yourself, in case you are standing out in the rain for long periods waiting
  • Remember midge nets
  • Sorry for all my rubbish chat, excuses, crying etc – just drag me along.
  • I don’t know what I will want at checkpoints yet – main things I do want are Coke, tea (milk), I will have a stash of food so will think as I run and let you know as I’m coming into the checkpoint. If I don’t want something just force me. I do like porridge so please bring hot water to make up the pots.
  • To help, I’ve put all my kit into bags with labels on the front so you know what is in each bag. I’ve got something of everything.

David’s advice for supporting me:

  • At pit stops:
    • Camping chair set up
    • Table set up – with all the stuff Nic may need laid out (Food, Fluid, Clothes, Trainers, damp cloth/wet wipes to wipe away the sweat & grime)
    • Walk up the path towards the runners to ask Nic what she needs at the support point, and then let the crew know what to get ready
  • When Nic comes into the aid station:
    • Take Nic’s back pack off her and check food and fluids – top up both as required
    • Put food and drink into her hand
    • Think about having warm soup, or hot tea available in a flask – anything savoury that’s a bit different from what she’s eating out on the trail.
    • Have a big umbrella for Nic as either shade or dry
  • Check Nic for:
    • Is she eating enough
    • Is she drinking enough
    • Are her feet okay – any running repairs on blisters & toe nails
    • Does she need new socks or new trainers
    • Is anything starting to rub – tape it up early
    • Is her back pack fitting okay, or starting to rub
    • Have lots of sudocrem available for chaffing and bits getting sore (and something like toilet paper to put it on)
    • How is her head? Does she need some moral support? Would it help to walk or run the next few meters or kilometres with her (even 5 mins company can help).
    • Remember, if her head isn’t in a good place then she is either dehydrated or under fuelled – even if she doesn’t feel like eating, you have to make her eat!
  • Call ahead or Whatsapp to let the next aid station crew know how she is doing, and when to expect her at the next aid station.