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We came, we saw ... and ... No, we didn't conquer. But we had a great day and a great evening over on the Isle of Coll at the annual Half Marathon. What lovely people and what a well organised event.
Joanne and I picked Fifi up at about 09:45, nice and early. As I mentioned yesterday we were actually on the waiting list and I wanted to find out as soon as possible whether we would have to carry our gear on to The Clansman. As it turned out we had nothing to worry about.
Joe and Anne and their kids turned up with their vehicle, kids and gear and we loaded it into my van-cum-mpv.
All the way across I had visions of getting to camp site and finding it absolutely choc-a-bloc. But this just wasn't to be. As it turned out there were only about six tents using the field adjacent to the community hall, the site of the Race HQ.
Anne and I ran the 10k. Fifi and Joe walked it. Joanne decided to set her sights on competing next year.
We were bussed up to the 10k start point, over on the western side of the island at Totronald. All the races - the half, the 10k, the 5k and - all started from their different locations at 15:00 hours.
Do you remember that wee voice I was telling you about? You know the one that says man, you are never going to do this. Do you realise how bad you feel? It came back, as predicted and it was as powerfully persuasive as ever.
The first mile of our route was on sandy track and even though I had been doing a lot of beach running here on Tiree this mile stretch of bumpy sand and earth felt tough. Later, Anne reported that she was struggling here as well. She had her own 'wee voice' to contend with.
I was so glad when at last I gained the road at Ballyhaugh. Coll really is bafflingly different from Tiree, something I also mentioned yesterday. With it's rocky outcrops, hills, steep gradients and lochs it's as different from Tiree as you could imagine. This all made for interesting scenery and I was glad of the distraction. But I must tell you, those gradients were a challenge.
Although I was very glad that the 20 mph wind was at my back it wasn't long before I began to feel seriously hot. I remembered something Joe had told me the night before. He said that when he saw me at the last Tiree 10k he thought I was suffering from mild heat stroke and I think he was right.
Thankfully, this superbly organised race had many, many water stations. In fact, on our stretch of the route there were no less than six - one for every kilometre. Not only did I take a drink at every station - I also poured whatever was left in my cup over my head. This was always a great shock to the system but it also gave me a jolt and set me off on my weary journey again.
By the time I got to Grishipoll I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I couldn't see anyone behind me. In fact, a lady I had passed earlier in the race had left me for dead at this point. I thought I must be the last 10k runner in the race. However, I had resolved before I even got to Coll that I was going to enjoy myself and not bother about times or setting a new personal record.
I have to say something about the people at the water stations: they were so nice! Even before you got right up to them they were hooting and hollering words of encouragement. They made all the difference.
By the time I 'turned right' and started on the last leg of the race the pain in my back had gone, the 'voice' had grown still and I knew I felt strong enough to get to the end. By the time Arinigour came into site my stopwatch was confirming what I already knew: I was about seven or eight minutes behind my Tiree 10k time. Blame it on the gradients. Bah! I wasn't caring. I was 'high' by this time.
The run to the finishing line at the Doctor's surgery - strangely appropriate -was wonderful. Just like they did for every runner folks on both sides of the road were cheering me and telling me 'well done'. I felt like a real runner.
I came in at 01:11:08. Anne had come in about five minutes in front of me.
I got a great little goodie bag which contained a fabulous t-shirt (a little too small for me as it turned out), nutrition and food.
Next to come in were the real athletes: the half marathon runners. Man, they were fired up and sprinting! In a little while I found out I wasn't the last 10k runner at all. I ended up third from last. But hey, that means nothing.
Fifi and Joe walked in together at about 01:30. They agreed that had been a hot and difficult course.
What came next for me? Why, re-hydration, of course! You must, of course, ensure you replace lost fluids after doing something like this. True, this advice usually refers to water and fruit drinks, not lager and whisky ...
We had a great night. Fifi, Joanne and I headed down to the Coll Hotel for our dinner. Then it was back to the hall. We didn't actually go into to see Piperactive. The hall was jam packed for one and we could hear them clearly outside. To tell you the truth, we just wanted to be out in the fresh air.
I've been to a few events at this wee hall now, mostly with The Defenders of course. There's always a brilliant atmosphere in and outside. Last night was no exception. Kids were running about playing, there was a game of softball rugby going on at about 21:00, the burgers and kebabs were great and, of course, I was continuing to rehydrate myself with great dedication and there were loads of people milling about, talking, laughing and just having a great time.
Things settled down quite quickly though and we had a good night's sleep in our tents (except for Fifi who decided to sleep in my car. Something to do with a creepy-crawly phobia.)
Up early this morning it was down to the village and The First Port of Coll for a massive fry-up. I was starving!
Before we knew it we were down at the ferry and on our way home.
On behalf of everyone who came over from Tiree I would like to extend my thanks and congratulations to everyone on Coll who worked so hard to make this thing the brilliant success it was. We're looking forward to next year already.
The race was organised as part of the fund-raising effort for the new Coll Community Hall. I will write something about this in the course of this week.