‘Process orientated goals’ seem to be the new buzz words in training these days. Or maybe not new, but newly internalized for me. I’ve read a lot about it and understand it in theory, but despite my efforts to incorporate it into my own life and training I haven’t, until now, understood the importance and awesomeness of it. What it really means to me now is that the results of the goal, while important for anyone with a slightly competitive streak, are the last on the priority list. The process is where the magic happens!
Building up to Glencoe Skyline started before I even knew it had started. Moving to Cape Town and making friends with one badass mountain dude – Andre Gie – was kinda the beginning I think. A run wasn’t a run without a scramble. He dragged Kane and I around Table Mountain, getting higher quicker and finding newer and possibly sketchier routes as we got into it. I loved it!
Cue James (Monty) and Mark (Mac) – equally as crazy ‘know the mountain backwards’ kinda guys who had also entered Glencoe. We teamed up and trained together for a good 6 months together and never has a ‘race build up’ been more fun. To read more about our awesome adventures, check out Monty’s blog here:
With all that preparation in mind, imagine traveling to Scotland with a 55km, 4800 m vertical race ahead. There’s plenty of room for self-doubt, nerves, ‘can I do this’s’ and ‘what if I came all the way here and don’t get it done’s’. But with the last few months of process orientated training, the actual race was relatively inconsequential. All I had to do was trust myself and consciously choose to be happy with whatever the outcome was. It resulted in total immersion in the moments during race week and the actual race. The laughter, banter and bad jokes didn’t stop until the bagpipes started on the start line, and even then, I was happily hopping from foot to foot with anticipation and suppressing a giggle at a bad joke I wanted to tell the Monty and Mac 9 hours later. And what a 9 hours it was…. Or 8.57 to be exact, because I ran my heart out for that sub 9!
The race village is set up in a tiny town called Kinlochleven. It’s home to the biggest ice climbing wall in the world and a hub of hardcore mountaineers, fell runners and crazy cool humans. I was lucky enough to share a motor home with the lovely Martinna Valmossoi who made the experience even more incredible with her fun-loving attitude. Despite the ‘midgies’, constant rain and therefore wet and smelly running gear overflowing in our van, we didn’t stop laughing all week.
The race itself begins with about 8-10km of jeep track turned single track generally flowing uphill before Curved Ridge begins. This is a grade III scramble, equivalent to something like Kloof Corner Ridge. With the valley dropping off below us and the sun starting to rise, it was a quite a breathtaking moment. After that, the ridge line running was any trail runners dream. Scree slopes, mini scrambles and slippery, gnarly descents took us to the one and only aid station at 35km. Besides for the top 3 superwomen – Emelie Forsberg, Megan Kimmel and Ragna Debats – the rest of us girls were bunched within seconds of each other up until this point. Out of the aid station is a monstrous climb which had me bear crawling on all fours for an hour of almost vertical slippery grass and scree. Apparently the Scot’s don’t believe in switch backs.
Then the fun began! Anoch Eagach ridge is a series of scrambly pinnacles with some scary downclimbs and exposed drop offs. I felt really ‘at home’ here, and managed to make up some time and essentially secure 8th place. Despite feeling pretty tired at this stage, I still couldn’t wipe the grin off my face; it was just too good to be true.
The drop off the awesome ridge line towards home was when my smile disappeared. I left my sense of humour somewhere in one of gazillions boggy, muddy falls I had. It was an unpathed, slippery, ‘fell running’ type experience of which I had no idea how to handle. By the time I reached the last checkpoint I had about 5km to go and 20 minutes to make it under 9 hours. Game on. I forgot every ache and pain, and my whole world was about getting to that finish line as quickly as possible. I made it with 2 and a half minutes to spare!
Crossing the finish line was fantastic, and I was really chuffed with the result. But, it still didn’t matter as much as the fun that had been had. The real ‘high’ came when I was able to sort run/hobble/watch Monty and Mac cross the line together. Now THAT was cool! We’d started together and finally finished together… Process orientated.
Some delicious celebratory whiskey, a forced teaspoon of haggis and a burger later we collapsed into bed, exhausted and so happy!
As always, the most massive thank you to Salomon, BOS Sport, Rush Nutrition, TomTom and Boom for helping me to achieve these goals. High fives to my patient husband and family and friends. And double high fives to Coach David for believing the heck out of me.
Next up, Otter!