My plan was to treat this attempt as much like a race as I could.
Using a 5l pack with everything I needed for the duration apart from water that I intended to refill only from clean looking water sources on route. Swapping between 2x 500ml bottles and fueling with powdered 33fuel energy blend.
Additional nutrition used was 10x veloforte gels, 2x gu roctane gels, 4x lucho dillitos energy blocks, 1x hard boiled egg, 1x whole earth flapjack.
Touched marker stone at Inverness Castle marking start of GGW at 12:01 am. Conditions where cool, dry and light wind. Moved with purpose through the dark navigating the usual folk that are around a city at that time.
No need for a map on this trail as its very clearly marked with the blue signs and post markers all the way. I did have a backup gpx file on watch that gave me updates on my estimated finish and if I did ever go wildly off coarse. I did have the splits with me of David and Javiers run as a good target.
So well hydrated and fuelled up I entered the night with my headtorch focusing the way and some trance inducing beats on my earphones.
Hit Drumnadrochit at 2:55 am feeling good and approx 20 mins up on schedule. Tiny nav error leaving Drum and missing a marker made for only a couple hundred yards the wrong way. Back on track and long climbing towards Invermoriston.
Decended into Invermoriston for 5:29am split making me just over 30 mins up and still feeling good. Took a few mins swapping over some food from back of bag to front before setting off on the steepest part of the route.
Some high and open terrain between Invermoriston and Fort Augustus. Wind picked up and temps dropped. Time for the wind/rain jacket and just in time as the rain came in. Fun descend dodging what I assume were deers eyes reflecting from my torch. Into Fort Augustus and the Christmas lights for 7:08 am and 40 mins up on schedule.
The long canal path..
Light came and headtorch finally off. Now it was all about trying to keep to a consistent yet easy pace all the way. With the hard climbing all gone the goal was 9min miles or as close as I could. But around like 47 I stopped for water and my right leg told me it had had enough. Excruciating pain from the knee downwards feeling like tendons. I thought it was game over there and then so shouted a couple of expletives.
Could only manage a walk with what felt like a knife in my leg. Gritted my teeth and pushed a bit harder, told myself pain is just a feeling and I should get the hell on with it. Pushed harder still and got myself to a run, pain was subsiding and got pace to around 9:30min miles.
Laggan lochs for 9:16 am and 25 mins up. I was losing time and was convinced I couldnt maintain the pace. Concentrated on hydration intake and continuous movement. Anytime I stopped for water, a gate or a vehicle on the road sections my leg seized and the pain returned and it felt more painful than the last time. Pushing through the pain and slowly increasing speed I was able to get to between 9 and 11min miles.
Gairlochy lochs for 11:25 am and approx 30mins up. I was gaining time and actually started to feel good. All I needed to do was not stop.
I had a live tracker on so my amazing wife was now on her way to meet me at the end and tell me how amazing I was..
The canal seemed to never end but finally Fort William was in sight and I started getting a bit excited and knew it was nearly over. Leaving the end of the canal and heading towards town and past shipwrecks and over bridges and roads, i wondered if I'd ever reach the end. Finally the old fort and the marker stone were in sight. Shuffling around the roundabout I let out a whoop whoop and bounded to the stone. Touching it at 13:26! 💪 I had got approx 55 mins up on schedule and couldn't believe it. Boom!
Added bonus is I managed to beat my wife to the finish by about 5 mins. She didn't tell me how amazing I was.. But she did bring me a fantastic thermos of tea and a warm passenger seat for the journey back to Inverness. Couldn't have done it without her. Thanks babe!
This is a great route and would definitely do again. I feel I could get under 13hrs and I'm sure someone could go under 12.
There is the Great Glen Ultra race that have some quick times. But it goes in the opposite direction with the hard climbs in the last quarter, starts at the canal and finishes at the running track so a bit shorter than the full route.
One of the great Scottish trails.
Get out there and smash it! 👊