Ladies Ramsay Record
31st May 2014
After successfully taking the Bob Graham record in 2012 (18 hours 12 minutes) and then the Paddy Buckley Record in 2013 (19 hours and 2 minutes) I obviously couldn't let the third record sit there unchallenged. So during the summer and autumn of 2013 I made many trips to Scotland reccying before the snows came. On asking advice and from my previous experience I decided on clockwise being my preferred way to go with an early morning start to use up dark and slow me down up the Ben. I reccied the 1st leg to Fersit three times then concentrated on the 2nd and 3rd legs paying special attention to the "valley run" as I called it. The splits on this section varied immensely but a lot of reports showed that this was where people had suffered whereas on my first round in 2008 I had enjoyed this section. I was determined not to let that happen to me and changed my usual 6 mile training route at home to include lots of uphill tracks (something I hate) and ran them like speed sessions much to the surprise of my dogs !
While I was reccying I was collating schedules and reports and timing splits to work out how and where I could knock over two hours off my previous time of 22.32 in 2008 to beat the current record of 20.24 held by Helene Whittaker. The valley run was hit the hardest with me knocking a whopping 40 minutes off the split from Beinn na Lap to Sgurr Eilde Mor reducing it from 3.45 hours to 3.05 hours. I knew that eating was going to be hard and wanted more support points so planned for this by having extra pacers meet me at the railway bridge and also at the col between Binnein Beag and Binnein Mor with meals from Expedition Foods
So armed with a 20.15 schedule ("Yes I tried to get it under 20"! but didn't know where else could I find the time so rather than get it wrong planned to get ahead) and after much help from Jon Gay; an army of supporters from Yorkshire and Scotland I set the date of 31st May 2014. Weather being the next problem; could not be decided upon until the week before. And then snow of which there was a lot; but a final recce at the end of April of Legs 2 and 3 in which everything was passable reassured me that I could get across or round any snow issues on the day. In the week before the 31st May the weather seemed ok; maybe a passing shower but no wind and quite warm so everything was on Go! I had worked with James Thurlow testing trackers and I was keen to try one out on my actual attempt. It would be hard to keep the tracker on my person if I changed tops so I opted for my Raidlight shorts pocket which worked very well. I also wore my Raidlight top (like the one I used to have in pink).
Driving up with Charmian Heaton I was calm; packing having been done a week prior. We arrived at Roy Bridge at Bunroy Camping , set up then saw John and Nancy Kennedy. I was immediately reassured by Nancy's organised and calm presence that I would be well catered for at Loch Eilde Mor; my second major rest stop. After distributing supporters bags we drove to Fort William for a last recce of the forest track and paths as forestry work was currently being carried out. Another meal and to bed at 8pm with the Ben overlooking us in clag.
At 1am the clag had lifted and I was eager to be off. We ate breakfast and drove to the YHA to be met by head torched supporters (Konrad Rawlik, Jasmin Paris, Spyke, Alex McVey, Mark Hartree and for the best lines up the Ben I was introduced to John Binnie). Setting off at 2am the weather was perfect; clear skies, no wind and cool. I tried to keep calm but it was hard so I chatted to Mark and Alex. The Ben seemed to go very quickly and as it's not a mountain I like I was pleased to reach the top. It was getting light but I was careful to find the path off through the rocks as I hate the unstable rocks on the descent to Carn Mor Dearg arete. The rocks though were dry and sticky- nice I thought! Finding the "chicken run" to the right of the arete was nice and I skipped along there eating whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it. Another top over and across to the Aonachs we went. We descended too far right though to the col and when I realised I backtracked not wanting to climb without the path. At the top of Aonach Mor I had lost 2 minutes so that was a wake up call that no more navigation errors were to be allowed. The sunrise was incredible and everyone was enjoying the views.
It was stunning to be there at 5am in the morning; a real privilege. Heading down towards the Grey Corries and off at the cairn for Spinks Ridge - so nick-named after my 2008 descent of it by Digby Harris when snow had filled the usual way down. And to my pleasure it has become known as that ever since. Spyke led the way and we met Neil Arnott at the base with Custard and Berries. Jasmin had decided that as she was having so much fun she would carry on which was nice for me; she was great company. Across the Grey Corries we jumped onto snow ramps and they were lovely and cool, plus soft underfoot. Really a lot of fun. Dropping to the loch before Stob Ban Jasmin and Conrad said they were off back to FW. I requested food I needed to be passed over and dropped off the summit into the only cloud we had all day. Running down the path I looked back and couldn't see anyone. I stopped for a loo break, ate my banana and carried on. Further down I could just see Spyke catching me so I waited not wanting to do the Easains on my own. The cloud lifted and I told Spyke where we were heading on my well reccied line up Stob Coire Easain. I like Easain but it still dragged a little and I had run out of fruit salads, bananas and didn't really fancy a rice pud however at the top I got one down as I didn't want to arrive at Fersit too hungry. The descent was pleasant and quick too and we soon arrived at Fersit surprising the support there.
The Custard and Berries tasted lovely and I got a lot down. Just a cap and sun screen, lovingly applied by Willy Kitchen - well it felt good to have a leg massage too and I was ready for off. The new support of Pete Duggan, Willy Kitchen, Dave Lund, Sarah MacKenzie and Gavin Williams were all cheery; a little too many questions as I struggled to climb with a full tummy but they soon sorted out a system and we settled down into climbing. It was a great line we took. Somehow though I knew I wasn't going fast enough but the legs would not go any faster. My breathing was laboured and I was too hot. I worried that I was slipping on the schedule and when we reached the top I was right; 5 minutes lost. Worryingly as I had done 1.03 in 2008 and now 1.00. Not a good indication for my valley run slashing of schedule still to come. I pushed on over the tops trying to get my legs to work; they weren't having it. Tripping up over small rocks and wanting to walk at the slightest incline. I had hoped to jog up Chno Dearg but had to walk. At the plateau I sprinted to the summit just to get there bang on schedule. I knew the next split had a little slack in it but was it enough? Running off I treied to get my head round what might be going wrong. Off the end we ran down into the valley; the many reccies paying off as I found grass and more grass. Then the nice ridge and sheep trod to the river. Splashing through the coolness was lovely and I filled my hat to splash it over my head. Setting off up Beinn na Lap Pete asked about the line; "up then over" I said. He understood and we went up then over a stream then up and over till we reached the plateau. Someone asked what Beinn na Lap meant in Scottish, Sarah didn't know. I got my breath back and said "It should mean "mountain of many false summits""!! However the legs were working again; we got there eventually and great "Up on schedule - 5 minutes gained back". Now the awful bit; 3 hours before the next summit; so much to go wrong and no indication of how up or down you are; just your own idea of what the pace should be. And to cap it off; in a lovely windless hot valley. Oh well; lets go. I knew the descent well to the bridge; where more Custard and Berries or Apple would be waiting. It was a lovely run down. Dave Lund; new to all this said "These are the best view I've ever seen in real life". I felt so lucky and pleased to have introduced him to the really lovely mountains of Scotland.
Reaching the bridge Ian Charlesworth handed me a packet; it was chocolate mousse and it looked like I had just sicked it up. They hadn't made the Custard and Berries up. I was really disappointed. I took some tea and carried on with Tim Rippon. "What else could I do?" I could have waited I suppose (and maybe should have; now with hindsight) but the legs keep going so I did too. "Ok what else is there?". I ate something else; I can't remember what and just carried on. The new support asked lots of questions, trying to find me something else to eat but hadn't made up any energy drink either. To be honest I thought "What have they been doing then all these hours waiting for me?" but it's not fair to complain; they are there only for me. I hate feeling like this; that it could all go wrong. The stomach was grumbling; I had let it go hungry before Fersit, overfed it; it had recovered and the legs had recovered and now it wasn't happy again. Oh well - lets just get on with the horrid valley then. The split is hard and the clock is ticking. I ran what I could, ate when I could but then opposite Staoineag Bothy, after eating a fruit salad, I was violently sick. "Are you alright Nicky" said Pete. "No", I thought but said nothing. Crossing the river was easy as the water was so low but we couldn't find any tracks to cut the corner on. It didn't matter the ground was dry. Hitting the track again Ian and Tim said they would run on. I ordered coffee and Custard and they left me. I needed to think; "Could I pull this round?" I backed off from Sarah and Pete wanting peace and quiet. Reaching the ruin I saw Charlie Ramsay leaping about all excited with his camera. That that made me smile. Of course I forget that I'm still up on schedule and that everyone thinks it's in the bag. Instead I remember my 2006 Paddy when I lost over an hour in the last 6 hours but managed to finish in a nail biting 23.55 hours.
When Charlie's photo of me drinking coffee came though on Monday morning it made me cry. And still now on Wednesday morning it makes me well up. I want to hug that lady with all those thoughts going round her head. She looks like she could cry. And then again she looks so angry. Maybe she's disappointed but then again she looks so determined.
So that was me. Thinking while feeling all those emotions.
"How many hours to go?" I thought. "8 on schedule". "Right, I can do that". I got some Custard and Apple down, finished my coffee and stood up.
Mary Gillie and Jon Gay were ready and off we went. I said "I'm having trouble with my stomach and need to keep this food down so please no questions till the top". They nodded and it was nice to feel that they understood. We climbed in relative silence with Jon making some navigation suggestions and Mary offering me water. At the top I was encouraged that I was up on schedule. I followed Jon and we discussed the way off. I decided to bin my original route and go with the usual walkers path; the one Yiannis was surprised I wasn't doing when we had reccied it. It wasn't too bad and led us to the stream. I was so conscious that I could not let time slip so I jogged what I could across to the Binneins. Meeting Ian Fitz, Jude Stansfield and Simon Rippon it was a shame I felt so rough. A stop would have been nice but no time and nothing wanted so I carried on. I tried a smile as they looked worried. I should have said thanks to Jude for coming in there but I wasn't even courteous to her at the time. Setting off up Binnein Beag it was now a job to be done. We reached the top; up again on schedule. That cheered me no end and I managed a proper smile to Simon Rippon while descending. Lots of memories of my 2008 round came back. I had found Binnein Mor hard. This time it seemed to drag on but it was ok and the route we took was great as it popped us out at the top which was a fantastic surprise. Up again. "Hey ho!" I thought. Looking at the spread Ian had laid out I couldn't decide between banana and sweets. I took sweets but only managed two. Gels were good though and so was water.
Off across the Mamores we went. No snow to contend with and good dry conditions underfoot. We met more supporters who had come up to run in with me; Ali Kennedy and Stevie MacDonald; they were cheery and one had a video camera which was fun. Yiannis too popped up, asking how I was going. Across to An Gearanach we all went, traversing some snow that was unpleasant. I realised that we had missed some contour paths on the outward leg and so went ahead and found them on the return; I hadn't put any slack in the schedule for missing them therefore needed to do them. I was counting down the hours to 3 hours to go. Checking both watches they seemed to be between 6pm to 7pm for ages. At 7pm I could decide to only eat gels. I was managing the odd banana now and again but getting painful stomach cramps and didn't want to be sick.
So at 7pm I said to Mary and Jon "Right, I'm just having gels and water now". Mary was fantastic; she was always there, by my side, handing me water or a gel. She scoured the support for gels and so always had one to hand. Sometimes I thought she must be running in thin air for the ridges are so narrow and I was on the path. Ian Fitz could be heard kept the route clear with authority, Simon Rippon was my lovely motivator; giving me a thumbs up and a smile with a floppy haired nod of head. Jon ran around finding all the lines, checking his schedule and taking it very seriously; much like me. Ali and Stevie floated; the camera being a welcome distraction but I haven't seen the footage yet so I might have been grimacing when I thought I was smiling.
Yiannis was given the responsibility deciding on me doing the traverse to Stob Ban or not. I trust his decision. And he had decided we were. I followed him down after Gavin Williams, who made funny comments about the "paths" that Yiannis found, that were of course no wider than a ruler. Even the deer had chosen another route higher than us - but they were a sight to see, floating effortlessly across the ground. We soon reached the path to Stob Ban and I climbed well. Making time on the summit again. Now I knew, barring a fall that it was going to happen. Sub 20 hours even. Checking and rechecking my watches as we ran across to the last summit Mullach nan Coirean. In 2008 I had celebratory photos here so it was fitting that the camera was out again. I went to kiss the cairn but then thought ... "I'm not that sentimental" and so touched it with my head ....Rather...." I need my head testing".
Running off the summit the eyes weren't working so well, I could spot the stones but I couldn't assess their stability so took my time. There was just the track to go. I had had great plans of running it all like I had in 2008 but no walking was better. And I didn't want to collapse at the finish. How embarrassing is that? Being carted off when you should be having celebratory photos! I had done that once at the end of the Grand Raid Pyrenees. I don't mind the actual fainting, but the carting off "Oh No!!". So we took it easy. Lots of smiling, feeling happy and being contented.
Running down the road I spotted the YHA and being spurred on by my support I lifted my legs and went for it. Charlie Ramsay had a tape for me to run through and so I did. "Arms up" says Charlie. What a star he is. I finished at 19 hours and 39 minutes. 45 minutes taken off the previous record. 2nd fastest time ever and now the only person to have completed all three rounds in under 20 hours.
Thank you all my support and specially to Charmian Heaton who helped before, during and afterwards. And for all the photos; now I can look at the views I was ignoring!!
Photos on the RunBG Website
Spreadsheet showing Schedule and Actual Times