Friday, 29 May 2009

Last run on the Way

Last Thursday night saw me line up for the Helensburgh 10k. Conditions were perfect with clear skies, a light breeze and a flat course. I was feeling pretty good and looking to get under 42 mins. In the back of my mind however was the prospect of an early start the next morning for my last long training run on the West Highland Way. Is a 10k race the best preparation for a 40 mile trail run?
I decided I would try and hold a bit back in the race so that I wouldn't be completely done in for the next morning so I joined the 1,000 other runners on the start line nervously jumping up and down and doing last minute stretches. Bang! - as soon as the gun went off, the red mist descended and any thoughts of holding back went out the window. I weaved my way through the slow runners who always manage to start too near the fron and eventually found some clear ground and settled into a surprisingly comfortable 6:30 pace which I managed to hold onto uncannily accurately the whole way round finishing in 40:24 and 110th place.
I stretched out, had a gentle jog back to the car and relived some childhood memories by calling into The Palace chippy for a fish supper before heading home.
I got home at about 9:45pm and after running around sorting my stuff out for the next morning, I was showered and in bed by 11:00am.
6:00am the next morning, the alarm woke me from a fitfull sleep and it was off to Tyndrum to meet up with Mark Hamilton and Ellen McVey. I was running from Tyndrum to Kingshouse and back and they were running straight through to Fort William. My legs felt OK considering the previous night's efforts and we set off at a nice steady pace jst after 9:00am.
The weather had looked a bit ominous with black clouds up ahead over Glen Coe but other than a light shower as we passed Bridge of Orchy, we stayed dry. Running the flats and downs and walking the hills we made steady progress, reaching Kinshouse in 3hours 40mins. After a quick scoff, I turned around and left Mark and Ellen for my journey back to Tyndrum.
It is the first time I've run over Rannoch Moor in that direction and it's only then that I realised just how much of a climb it is as I managed to run the whole way across back to Victoria Bridge with a steady descent the whole way.
By this time the clouds had gone and it was a glorious sunny afternoon. I pressed on passed Bridge of Orchy and reach my car in Tyndrum 7hours 30mins after I left it.
On the whole, the run went well especially after racng a 10k the night before. I had to work pretty hard from B of O back to Tyndrum but the coffee in the Real Food Cafe in my Highland Fling mug made up for it!
So, this week is a bit of a recovery and I've got 70 Wild Miles next Saturday, the Milngavie 10K, the following Saturday and then WHW the next one - Bring it on!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009


Well Sunday morning's run broke new ground once more and I managed 18 miles through some very attractive scenery. Looking at the map, I had anticipated more of it being on rough ground and so I wore my trail shoes. Unfortunately, the disused railway line which is now a cycle path had been tarmaced and so by the time I got home my feet were pretty sore.

The photos below are taken en-route to give you an idea of what it looks like

Tomorrow night sees me running in the Helensburgh 10K which, many many year ago, was the sight of my PB. Those days are sadly long gone but never the less it is still a fairly fast, flat route so i would like to sneak in somewhere under 42 mins. Unfortunately, my timing is somewhat lousy as I have also planned my last long training run on the WHW for the following day! So it will be an early start, up to Tyndrum to run the 40 miles from there to the Kingshouse Hotel and back.
I hope to run the outward leg with a few others who are carrying on up to Fort William so it will be nice to have some company for a change.
I'll let you know how I get on.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

New discoveries on my door step

Tim Downie blogged a while ago about heading off on routes close to home that you've never done before and so, in this spirit, I decided last night to head into pastures new.
On my usual run around the quite country lanes of Baldernock, I regularly pass a signpost indicating a footpath to Lennoxtown and so I decided that tonight was the night that I would investigate.
Immediately I was onto a rough Landrover track that started to head steadily up alongside a Beech Wood and after half a mile or so, another signpost took me left, through a gate and up onto the moor heading towards Lennoxtown Forrest. It was probably a combination of late evening blue skies, great running terrain and a steadily improving fitness that resulted in a fantastic run. As I reached the top of the moor just before heading into the forrest, I took a detour over a fence and up to a small cairn on the brow of the hill. From there I watched the sun set behind Ben Lomond with all the surrounding hills perfectly silhouetted as far as the eye could see. After a brief dip into the forrest (where I spotted some great tracks for possible future runs) I turned and flew back down the tracks to emerge back onto the road and the continuation of my normal route.
Envigorated by the experience I sped along the last four miles on the road at 7:00min mile pace (it's all down hill!) and arrived home with 11 brilliant miles in the tank .
I can't believe that I've lived in my present house for almost 12 years and not been up into this area before. From what I saw, and from studying the map last night, it looks as though I could link up well over 20 miles of off-road trails and track straight from my front door.
I am planning a 25 mle run on Sunday and rather than the intended trip up through Mugdock Park and the WHW, I'm heading for Lennoxtown forrest and some more new adventures!

Friday, 8 May 2009

Reflections on a far flung Fling

So it's now almost 2 weeks since I finished the Highland Fling and I've had a chance to reflect on how the race went on what lessons I can learn from it. As always, it was a superbly organised race and Murdo and Ellen are to be congratulated on a job well done.

The race didn't go exactly according to plan and my hopes for sub 11 hour time were scuppered by significant cramp. I am however, a firm believer that you gain more from a bad experience than from a good one and so what have I learned?
  1. Pacing - OK so I know this is rule nr. 1 in running ultras but I still managed to head off too fast, worrying about times and splits when I should have had the confidence to set off slow and let others go off. I'm sure I paid for this by the time I reached Rowardennan as I was already feeling tired at that point. So for the WHW race I need to set off nice and slow!
  2. Nutrition - My problem is that there is no real strategy behind what I eat and when I eat. I tend to try to fill up at check points when I think I need to nibble away at something every 15 mins or so and then top up at the check point. As the race progresses, you tend to feel less and less like eating so I need to find something that fills the tank and that I actually want to eat. I generally eat gels, dried apricots, baked beans and rice pudding which I think are all fine but it's how much and when I need to improve on. During the Fling I carried water with me and drank some coke and lucozade at the drop bag points. As it was quite warm during the race perhaps I should have drunk more which may have helped with teh cramps. I don't tend to measure how much I drink, rather doing it by thirst but I think I should try and keep tabs on how much so that I can increase if necessary.
  3. Supplements - There has been much discussion over why I cramped so badly during the Fling but one point that comes out time and time again is the issue of salt balance. I generally take Hammer Endurolyte caps but rather erratically instead of every hour. I have switched to Succeed S Caps which contain about 4 times more sodium than the endurolytes and am determined to stick to a one an hour plan so hopefully this will help.
  4. Mentality - I have run enough ultras now to know that you have periods when you are feeling pretty low and you just need to keep your head down and press on and you generally come out of it. In the Fling, I became very negative by about Rowardennan, convincing myself that I was not going well and that i might have to pull out which, as you would expect doesn't do a great deal for your motivation to keep going. I need to remain more positive and focus on the good elements at a particular time. I wrote a piece recently about "enjoying the journey" and not worrying about the destination and I think I need to practice what I preach.
  5. Perspective - when you are involved in the ultra running community you tend to loose focus on what it is you are actually achieving. Being disappointed in only running 11 hours 42 mins for a 53 mile trail race when most people shudder at the thought of running 5 miles is putting myself down.

Since running the Fling I have been back training with avengance and am now really looking forward to the WHW race which is now only 6 weeks away. My plan for the rest of May is to put in a 56, 65 and 75 mile week and then to gradually ease off from the start of June onwards. I,ve got three races before then with the Helensburgh 10k next Thursday and then 70 Wild Miles and the Milngavie 10k in the two weeks preceeding the WHW.

On a final positive note - whilst not completely gone, my Plantar Fasciitis seems to be in remission and is now only slightly tender if I have done a lot of road miles.