Thursday, 3 January 2013

It gets easier after 60 miles! (honest)

2012 started with the conditional offer to be an Olympic Torch Bearer for the 2012 London Olympics pending security checks and final approval which arrived via e-mail in March. It  all began in the summer of 2011 when some of the service users and colleagues at my work asked if I wanted to carry the Olympic Torch. I replied 'yea sure' but wasn't really sure what it entailed or how it would come about. It was explained to me that it was a nomination process and that they were looking for individuals who had made a difference to their local community. I work as a Mental Health Social Worker and had raised money for the Bute Link Club by running the West Highland Way Race (WHW) in 2011 and the lovely people at work, Christine, Lynda, and Tracey wanted to nominate me for my work and of course my running. I remember going onto the web site and looking at other nominations and thinking, there's no way I'll get picked. The other nominations came from  people who had achieved great things both in charity work and running and I remember thinking I wouldn't get a look in.

Towards the end of March I did my first Ultra of the year the D33 in Aberdeen. 33 miles which seemed like it should be OK given that it was only 33 miles (only haha). Well it was pretty tough and I put this down to lack of training. I had great company for the race and buddied Julie Taylor to Aberdeen and met Wee Grumpy Runners Fiona McDonald and Andy O'Grady at the start line. Fiona and I ran together although Julie being about 10 years younger, a much lighter on her feet, ran way out in front and finished the race in 5 hrs. Fioan and I caught up David Ross and his 'munckin friends' who were running in their first Ultra. Fiona and I finished together in 6hrs 20.

It was around this time that I received the conformation email that my place as a Olympic Torch Bearer had been confirmed. I was proud as could be and very excited to be interviewed by the local newspaper the, Buteman. I love talking about all my running exploits and had a wee chuckle to myself as I imagined, Craig Borland the journalist, ushering me out the door of his office hours later!!

April brought about the, Highland Fling, a 53 mile race from Milngavie to Tyndrum. This would be my third Fling and provide me with important training for the WHW race which was to take place in June. I met up again with my wee pal from Skye Fiona McDonald and had a wee bleather with the Magnificent Colin Knox at the start line.  We had both entered the WHW race and planned to run together in the Fling to see how we would match up over a longer distance. I'm glad I did because in keeping up with Fiona meant that I was about 30 minutes faster than the previous year. It was a great day with lovely weather  and we met Robert Kinnaird for the first time along Loch Lomond side. We chatted about running and stuff as we scrambled over rocks and tree roots. We ran past Colin a few times but somehow he managed to finish ahead of us and that's why he is called the Magnificent.

Around 40 miles we met up with Marianne Murphy and Rachel MacRrae who ran in to meet us just above Benglas. After the race we went to the Fling Ceilidh. I was pretty gubbed and the feelings of post race nausea quite intense but I managed a pint and a bit of a curry. Hats off to Fiona though as she jigged away to the Military Two Step with Rachel. Marianne and I headed back to Glasgow leaving Rachel and Fiona to share a freezing log cabin with Bill Heirs who entertained them with his stories of the Gobi Desert challenge which he did in 2009.

I had entered the Cateran Trail race which was to take place in May, however, I had convinced myself that I had a knee injury picked up on the Fling so I postponed my entry to 2013. I went to a physiotherapist but she couldn't find anything wrong with my knee and the pain just stopped as quick as it started. I put this down to pre WHW race nerves!! Anyway it seemed serious enough to cancel the Cateran.

The big day came on the 8th of June to carry the Olympic Flame. There has been another local girl, Jenna Speirs, who had also been nominated to carry the torch through her charity work to raise money for Calum's Cabin in memory of her twin brother Calum who sadly died of a brain tumour aged 12 in 2007. Calum's Cabin is a purpose built cottage in one of the local beaches where families of terminally ill children can go for some time away to have some away.

I  watched David Beckham and Princess Anne on TV who travelled with the Flame and brought it off the plane from Athens. It really hit me then the significance of what I was about to be doing. We travelled from Bute to Kilmarnock where I was to meet the bus that would take me and 24 other torch bearers along the route and drop us off at each of our starting points. I was number 75 and second last of the bus so I got to witness the whole route and see all the cheering crowds through the small towns of Aryshire.

I was dropped off in a small town of Beith and to start my 300 meter dash with the flame. The crowds in the street were amazing. I was snapped and photographed like never before. People shouting to get my attention for a photo, I felt like a real celebrity! All my family, Tommy's family, Marianne, Brendan and Lewis and people from work were all there as I waited my turn to run with the Flame.  I waited to light my torch  from the last runner, I went off to fast with all the excitement and it was all over in a few moments. I regret not taking things a bit slower. In the months afterwards I took the torch round some of the schools on Bute, attended Arran's sports day and was a guest of Honour at the Bute Highland Games with Jenna Speirs, Rhona Simpson Olympic Hockey Player, and Jane Ross Female Olympic Football Player.

My next race was the Jewel in the Crown of the Scottish Ultra Marathon Series, the almighty West Highland Way Race which is a 95mile footrace along the West Highland Way with a 35hr cut off time. This was my second time doing the race, the first being 2011. We started at Milngavie at 01.00 on the 23rd of June along with Fiona McDonald and around 175 others crazies.

 It was a hellish night and rained from the minute we set off and we had to endure heavy freezing cold down pours. Poor Fiona went over on her ankle just 2 miles in and had to pull out at the first check point at 12miles. She was gutted and I really felt for her as she has trained so hard. Fiona's disappointment combined with the teeming rain put me on a bit of a low mood and when I arrived at Balmaha to meet Tommy (hubby) and Rachel McRae my support crew I remember saying to them 'this is bloody hellish'. The midgies were intolerable and I was freezing cold and it was still raining. I changed my shoes, no point really as after 5 minutes my feet were soaking wet again. I was really feeling the cold, chaffing was becoming a major problem, I was at the back of the field and really struggled for the next 40 miles!I learned that around 50 runners so far had dropped out and that made me realise just how tough this race really was.

I met up with David Hetherington at Rowerdennan with his support crew Darren Barnes. He had dropped out due to an injury. If I had know him better I would have tried to encourage him to stay in the race a bit longer to see if he could shake of his injury, however, I stopped for a chat instead and pinched one of their chocolate biscuits.  At Inversnaid I met David Ross and his friend which I was pleased about as I realised that I was not on my own anymore at the back of the field. I arrived at Auchtertyre farm which is around 50 miles with only 10 mins to spare. With Fiona having to pull out there were plenty of support crew at hand to help. I was so cold everything ached and my legs had turned to led. I knew the rain had taken its toll, however, it eventually stopped by this stage only 14 hrs later!!I was weighed, fed and had complete change of clothes with the help of Rachel and my good friend Elaine who had been looking after Arran the previous night.

Despite the change of clothes and feeling a bit warmer  I couldn't pick up my pace. Poor Karen O'Grady who was running with me to Bridge of Orchy had to work really hard in keeping me moving. I had secretly been hoping that I would be timed out of the race as there were times when I didn't feel that I could keep going, however, deep down I knew was not going to give in! We met Andy O'Grady who had run in to meet us and literally pulled me along to keep me running for last mile to the check point to ensure that I made the cut off time of 7pm. Luckily Shaun Stone, AKA Lord of the Bridge, let me through!! What a relief to make it to Bridge of Orchy, despite the horrific midges and chaffing I was totally elated. I met the rest of the support crew and Arran who gave me a little lucky lady bird for my pocket. (its still there) I was utterly moved by everyone eagerness and enthusiasm to help me succeed and their commitment to my cause really helped to lift my spirits. A quick bite to eat, more Vaseline applied and I was good to go again. It was Rachel's turn to be my support runner over the Rannoch Moor. She was brilliant. She made me eat every mile and we 'jiggy joggied ' all they way to the Ski Centre. It got easier at this point. Funny to say that it got easier after 60 miles but it did, because that this point, I knew that I would complete my second WHW race.

Andy joined us at the Glencoe Ski Centre so after this is was just up the Devils Stair Case, where we met Robin Wombill, along the Larig Moor and down through the forest into Fort William!! I finished the race in 32hrs and 32 minutes which was 1hr 27mins faster than last year and my second Crystal Goblet!

On the Monday after the race I had my appointment with the Torch at, St Andrews Primary Sports Day, which of course was had an Olympic Games theme. I cheered on Arran in his running event, he was competing for India!!  He was third and I was so proud of him and hoped that some day he would take up running like his mum! 

Next race was the Devil of the Highlands in August, a 43 mile race from Tyndrum to Fort William which I managed to get a last minute place on the reserve list. The race would give me my second Tripple Crown, an unofficial title for completing the 3 WHW races. Thanks to Darren Barnes and David Hetherington who offered me to share their support team, Michelle and Andrea, a very refreshing can of beer at the end, not forgetting a much appreciated shower at their B and B before heading home.

In September I completed my second Glenmore 24 race, I love this race and had hoped to clock 100 miles after last years 92 miles. This race is informal and friendly.  Basically you run for 24hrs round a 4 mile forest trail in Aviemore.  I met for the first time Raymie Mackay from Aviemore who was running the 12hr race and we shared a few laps talking about running and House Music. All the gang were there, Fiona Rennie who was first lady with 109 miles, Pauline Walker, Colin Knox, Karen Robertson, John Duncan, Ray McCurdy, who this year totalled 100 Ultra's, Terry and Susan Addison and Shirley Colquhoun to name a few. Some of the marshals were Lee McLean and Julie Clark. The lap counter was Ada Stewart who shouted and cheered every time you completed a lap!! That’s the thing about Ultras you get to meet so many amazing people, not forgetting Bill Heirs and Mike Adams the race organisers. I arrived at the race with no support crew, as its not mandatory but recommended. I met Andy O'Grady who was running and he offered for me the share his support team who were Karen O'Grady and their son and daughter. Thank you again to you both. I didn't manage my 100 miles but was pleased with 86.4 miles. Around 3am my legs had turned to led and I had slowed down to a walk so I decided to get into the car and get under the sleeping bag for a few hours, and got back on the track again for around 7am. I was pleased for the race to end at 12pm and excited about staying on Aviemore for the night meeting up with Bill and the gang for a well earned Pizza and a few beers.

Last year I started cycling and purchased a road bike. This year I traded it in for a second had carbon framed bike which looks cool as! I  also joined the local cycling club the Bute Wheelers meeting up on a Tuesday evening for a 10m Time Trial with some of the guys Murray Doyle, Shaun Lyons and Mike Henry.  Each week  Iwas delighted to notice my times getting quicker, my fastest time being 29 mins and 40 seconds. The course has a hill and its and out and back race, so the turn and the hill slows things down a bit. On the 16th of September I competed at the Bute Race weekend competing in the 10 mile Time Trial and the Ladies 40 mile road race. I can say that there is plenty room for improvement in the old cycling, and was left for dust in the road race, however,  I did win 20 quid for being first in my age category but that's because I was the only one in my age category!! I put my winnings to a good cause and well earned curry for dinner! My interest in cycling has taken off just a tad and Fiona and I have entered the 2013 UK Ironman in Bolton which included a 112 mile cycle.

The last event of the year was to be the Glenogle 33 in November. I had entered this in 2011 and had my place deferred to this year. However this year pulled my entry again due to having a bit of a cold and my trail shoes having holes in them. I am so sorry that I did because on the Sunday after the race I got a message from Robin Wombill to contact, Bill Heirs, the race organiser which I did only to find out that I had won the Glenogle 33 Endeavour Award. Bill said that they had noticed at the races I had been at how I was always smiling, had time for others and had never give up attitude. Well you have no idea how happy I was. I called my Mum and Tommy straight away and for the rest of the day was on cloud 9. Of all the people and they chosen and they gave it to me, what a way to end 2012! The award came in the post a few days later and has pride of place next to my two Crystal Goblets! It will keep me going in 2013 when things get tough. I will just remember Bills words and the Award sitting on the shelf!!


  1. Epic Blog Post Victoria and an Epic year! Let's see more of the same in 2013 xx

  2. Great blog! I look forward to reading more and meeting you at some of the races this year!

    1. Yea thanks Amanda looking forward to meeting you too !!!

  3. Well done on a brilliant year, and your most deserved Endeavour Award, I have never see you without a smile and I'll never forget your kindness when you stopped your race to pick me up when I clattered to the ground at Glenmore24 in 2011.
    Fiona xx

    1. Thanks Fiona just saw this comment! XXXX