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The Caledonian Challenge 54-we did it!!

Saturday 11th June saw the months of preparation, blisters, sweating and begging finally come to a conclusion as the Rubberlovers took part in the Caledonian Challenge 54.  We headed across to Fort William the day before, with hope in our hearts and enough food to satisfy Homer Simpson for a month.  The midges and the damp weather weren’t enough to dull our spirits, and by 6am we were up and getting ready.  At 8am we were cheered off at the starting line by our support crews, the sun was almost shining and Martins was driving the pace early on.  We made the first checkpoint 10 miles in a good time, but even this early on the cracks were beginning to show – literally.  Keiths wife Alison was on foot nurse duties, and we were all applying compeeds and plasters trying to stave off the inevitable blisters.  Liane had taken a box of fudge though, so it was all ok.  The next stage was 13 miles, from Glen Nevis to Kinlochleven.  This one involved hills, the feet started to hurt a little more and the pace slowed down, although this time Andy Wallace was the man in the lead, showing his youngers how real men do it.
The stop at Kinlochleven involved some slightly more serious foot care, plates of stovies were hoovered up and thoughts turned to the 5 miles of uphill struggle that the veterans knew followed this checkpoint.  Keith walked with us for this next section, and provided the kind of support and comfort that only Keith can.  The rain started falling, and once we had finally crested the top of the devils staircase we could see in the distance the next checkpoint at Glen Coe.  This checkpoint didn’t get any closer for around 3 hours, but eventually, (after Andy going down with cramp and screaming like he’d been shot) we slowly crept into the next checkpoint – now 34 miles and around 13 hours in.  This was the last checkpoint our support crews could meet us at, so we made the most of it – a warm seat in a campervan, change of clothes, gaffer tape on some feet and red cross intervention on others.  An hour after getting in, we were ready to go.  It was starting to get dark now, and we headed off thinking at least that the midges wouldn’t come out at night.  Apparently we were wrong, word must have gotten around the local midge communities and they were waiting in ambush for us – no amount of smidge or skin so soft made any difference.  They must have sucked some essential energies out of us, by the time we arrived at the next checkpoint around 2am bodies were starting to fail.  A hot meal, some fresh bandages from the red cross and the taking out of a portaloo saw us set off on the final stage, determined to cross the finish line.  This section really took some strength of character, by now our bodies really were starting to fail – Martins had a walking pole gaffer taped to his leg in true Bear Grylls style after pulling something, and the hot meal Andy had eaten at the last checkpoint made a surprising reappearance.
The last hill nearly killed one or two of us, but we drove us on, and we pulled ourselves over the finish line.  Karolina, Andrew and Alex (our rubber from another mother) finished at around 23 hours and 20 minutes, and Andy, Martins and myself crossed over at 23 hours and 43 minutes.  Job done.  88% of all participants in the walk completed it, which I think works out at around 100 who did not finish – quite a high number and it highlights just how tough it is.
We raised over £2,600 for Foundation Scotland, which is a fantastic amount of money and well over our target – thanks to all of you who contributed in any way.  Thanks as well to our support crews, Liane & her mum, Keith & Alison (without Alison not all of us would have finished!) and my folks.  We’re all on the road to recovery now, the injuries will become forgotten and at some point some idiot will suggest doing it again…

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