We crossed the top and started down. I knew it would be slow and painful.
I was now being passed by dozens (and dozens) of other runners who must have sensed things weren't looking so good for me because many of them didn't seem to believe themselves when they said, "You can make it! Almost there!"
The pain was getting quite bad and I was needing to stop every ten minutes or so for a short break. My pace was slowing to what seemed like a halt. Aaron was being a trooper trying to keep my spirits up, and I really am grateful that he was there with me during this section. I was starting to lose my marbles and I imagine that if I was trying to do this section on my own then I was have gone permanently bananas.
We finally dropped down into the trees, which felt like a small victory because we knew Kinlochleven couldn't be much further....right?
We asked one runner, "How far to the checkpoint?"
"One mile, maybe a mile and a half," he said.
A mile later we asked another runner as she zoomed by.
"Maybe two more miles," she said.
I was hallucinating signs in the trees that said, "KINLOCHLEVEN -- WELCOME."
I was hallucinating Annie running up the path to check on me.
I was hallucinating car headlights coming up behind us and kept wanting to jump out of the way for them.
I was hallucinating smiley faces on all the rocks on the trail. This hallucination was actually funny (only because I was losing my marbles I suppose).
I could barely move at this point and was getting light-headed and dizzy often.
It took me 7.5 hours to make it the roughly 9.5 miles from Glencoe to Kinlochleven. The last three of those miles surely took nearly half that time.
When we reached the streets of Kinlochleven Aaron was finally okay with leaving me alone and running ahead to get Annie (I desperately needed to see her at this point). A few minutes later she came running up and I burst into tears. I had already done the math and I knew that at my current pace I wasn't going to be able to make the final 14 miles in 12 hours. I felt like I had only one leg, and my good leg was going south fast trying to compensate.
I knew this was the end, that I was going to be 14 miles shy of my goal. I really was devastated there for a few minutes. I trained so hard, I'd been looking forward to it for so long, people I loved had traveled so far to support me, etc. etc. etc. But I had no doubts that dropping was the right decision.
Looking back, my crew wondered if I should have dropped at Glencoe in the first place, but I was grateful that they pushed me forward a few more miles, because if I had dropped at Glencoe I would have always wondered "Could I have hobbled those last 25 miles under the cutoff time?" So at the very least I don't have that regret hanging over my head; I know I went as far as I could on that particular day.
The massive disappointment remains, but that's part of running these epic races. I have no doubt that I'll use this experience to my advantage somewhere down the road.
Two weeks later, I'm at ease with not being able to finish and am now more concerned with how to deal with myself not being able to run for at least a few more weeks. I'm not walking with a limp right now, but running is still out of the question. Unfortunately, I'm not going to be able to make the White River 50 at the end of the month, and likely none of my August races either.
Will I return to Scotland to have another go at the West Highland Way Race? Sure, I'd love to, but it's a big endevour to undertake from the States. So right now it's too soon to say. Annie says our next trip has to be somewhere with no rain and warm, sandy beaches. :)
Even though I didn't finish this one, I really do feel like a part of the WHWR family.