Red Wine Runner

A Scottish Running Blog

Tag: training (page 2 of 13)

West Highland Way Training Weekend

Last weekend I took my first trip back to the Southern half of the West Highland Way, since the West Highland Way Race in June 2015. The annual January training weekend was taking place once more at The Oak Tree Inn, and despite not running the race this year, to miss the annual January get-together was unthinkable.

 

After a hairy drive across Scotland going head-on into Storm Gertrude, we arrived at the Oak Tree around gin o’clock. Thankfully, despite passing one car accident and three over-turned lorries on the way, we achieved safe passage without incident. After a couple of drinks and a substantial meal to fuel the next day’s efforts, we retired to bed as the wind screamed through the trees around us creating ominous noises.

west highland way race training weekend

The next morning we awoke to a scattering of snow on the ground and continuing relentless wind. There was no two ways about it – the forecast was extremely poor…

balmaha weather

The wind was pushing off Loch Lomond from the West in huge gusts and creating big waves on the water. It seemed like the weather was changing every five minutes – when I sat down to breakfast the sun was shining, but by the time I’d ordered my coffee it was hammering down with hail.

Somewhat reluctantly I swallowed some cement and hardened myself up, and turned out for the start of the run at 9:50. There was a huge turnout, with many more people arriving on the morning than had stayed the night before. After a brief introduction from Ian we set off en masse at 10am, being battered from all sides by the wind.

west highland way craigie fort

I had given some consideration as to how far I wanted to run, but after the weather forecast veered into dangerous territory, I decided to call it on the day. I knew at a minimum I wanted to run to Rowardennan and back (around 16 miles) which would be a sensible distance for my first ‘long run’ of the year; if I was enjoying myself more then I would continue.

Ben Lomond west highland way

Ben Lomond in the snow

Either way my priority was to socialise and enjoy myself, which is why I was disappointed to find myself running alone for the first 8 miles. As usual – too fast to be slow and too slow to be fast. I am also a pig for sticking at exactly my own pace,  so unless someone else is running at exactly that on a group run, I rarely end up with close company on long runs.

Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Scuplture

Loch Lomond National Park Memorial Scuplture

The weather was very changeable, but careful dressing meant I was able to regulate my temperature well. On the sections away from the Lochside it was quite calm and snowy, but on the more exposed sections you really had to get your head down and shield your face from the hail. I’ve never seen the Loch look so rough as it did on Saturday!

Milarochy Bay west highland way

Milarochy Bay

I stopped at the war memorial at Rowardennan when I hit 8 miles and decided I would make my way back after a snack. As I wandered around eating some biscuits, I bumped into Fiona and Pauline who were heading back too, so I stuck with them on the return journey. It was the right decision to make as the intervals of sun became more and more infrequent and the wind and hail increasingly more violent! Violent is the right word; the pea-sized hail really stung your bare skin as it flew in sideways at speed. It got so bad it was fun – at least it wasn’t rain and we stayed mostly dry!

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

photo by Fiona

(link to video – click)

We made it back to base about three and a half hours after starting, just in time to get the last of the lunchtime soup at the Oak Tree. After defrosting and enjoying a couple of beers, I headed back for a lovely hot shower and a snooze before the evening’s festivities began.

The next morning, Kynon and I blew the cobwebs away with an ascent and descent of Conic Hill. I’d love to share some photos, but the cloud was so thick and low that you couldn’t see a thing. Here’s one of my favourites from last year instead…

whw training 7

It was interesting to be back on the West Highland Way for the first time since the race. I had a few flashback memories along the way of things that I’d forgotten about from the race, and as ever, the trail didn’t fail to shine despite the changeable weather. I’d forgotten how beautiful some of the forest sections near Rowardennan are.

After a few weeks of speed training I was satisfied with my first ‘Long’ run in a while and am looking forward to increasing my mileage in preparation for the Sri Chinmoy 50k at the end of March. Next up – 18 miles on the road, tomorrow!

Have you trained through the nasty weather recently?
What’s your favourite part of the West Highland Way?

West Highland Way Race – 2 Weeks to Go

West Highland Way Race 2015
Two Weeks To Go!

west highland way race red wine runner

Support Crew Information and Q+A

 

As it is the 5th of June today, we’re now almost into the two week countdown until The Race. My feelings about this change on not just a day to day basis, but almost by the hour. One moment I’m imagining running the final mile with my crew, running towards the Leisure Centre doors, and find myself overtaken by a wave of happy emotion…the next, I’m dreading the first sections of the race; the flat first 12 miles in the dark, and the long and lonely first 12 hours of the course which I’ve covered so many times I know it in my sleep.

This week I’ve focussed on getting my support crew arrangements tightened up and my race plans drafted for kit, fuel and support. Not working at the moment means I have rather a lot of time on my hands which is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I would really like a break from thinking about all of this, but I think that’s how it’s going to be for me now until the 22nd of June – eating, breathing, sleeping and living the West Highland Way Race.

Dario Melaragni's memorial post

Today I’m going to introduce my support crew, and answer the questions about the race and my training which were sent my way after last week’s post. When selecting my support crew it was of the utmost importance that I had the right team on my side, as a good, experienced crew can make a world of difference when you’re deep in the pain hole. That’s not to say you can’t crew for someone if you’re not experienced, but some knowledge of what goes on inside the mind of an ultrarunner and what they need to do to perform at their best is an obvious benefit.

rhona and kynon

Heading up the team is Captain Kynon. As my husband, Kynon is best placed to know exactly what is going on in my head during good times and bad, and in theory knows the right things to say and do to get me to do what I’m told. That said, he won’t be doing any actual running with me. His job will be to drive the van and be in charge of feeding me and making sure I’m wearing the right kit. There is a school of thought in these races that having your partner closely involved in either your crew or your pacing is not a good plan, as they know you and love you too much. It can be very hard to see your loved ones put yourself through tremendous amounts of pain and be helpless to relieve it. My Mum finds this particularly difficult to bear, which is why my parents aren’t involved in the race at all, as much as I’d like them to be. Kynon is a fantastic organiser though which is why he is Mr Boss Man, and the support running will be left in the charge of two good chums.

Kynon

Ali will be my first support runner, who will join me from Auchtertyre (50mi) to Glencoe (71mi). I should still be running well at this point and will be really looking forward to having someone to talk to! Ali is a fellow Stonehaven Running Club member and was on the WHW Race Sweep Team last year. He came into running from an orienteering background, but dipped his toe into ultramarathons at the Speyside Way Ultra a couple of years ago.

Ali Robertson

Mike will be my second support runner, taking over from Ali at Glencoe and running with me until the finish. I crewed for Mike for his first West Highland Way Race in 2011, which I widely credit as being the catalyst to my involvement in the sport of ultrarunning. With his strict, no-nonsense approach to running, I can think of no better individual to make sure I’m on track in the last 20 miles of the race, which will be into my second night of running and uncharted territory in terms of distance for me. Mike’s reputation in ultrarunning now frequently preceeds him; in 2014 he won and set new course records for the Double Cateran 110 mile race, the 73 mile Great Glen Ultra, and the fearsome and notorious 160 mile The Hill Ultra. With that in addition to three West Highland Way Races and one UTMB finish under his belt, he knows what he’s doing and I’m not going to argue with him.

 

Mike Raffan D33

picture by Ryan Roberts

 

Questions and Answers

 

Amanda asked: What, if anything, is the best thing you’ve learnt on your journey to WHW race? And do you think once is enough?

It depends when one deems the journey to have started I suppose… I have learned a lot of things since I decided I wanted to do it back in 2011, but in recent months I’ve learned that in training, sometimes less is more. Churning out high mileage month after month does not necessarily make a better runner.
Right now, I don’t want to do it again any time soon! I would like to do it again in a few years, but I am not enjoying how much it has loomed over life in the last few months and I’m looking forward to having a break from thinking about it. I will definitely continue to be involved in the race though!

Jenny asked: What does your strength training normally look like and has it changed in training for this event?

My strength training consists of Body Pump classes, Power Yoga, and weights circuits which I do at home. I’ve wanted to incorporate Olympic lifting as part of it as well, but I don’t have decent facilities nearby. I have done more core work in preparation for this event – your core is extremely important in ultras!

Erin asked: What are you looking forward to the most about the race (other than finishing!) and what is the scariest bit? Also, I know nothing about ultra running apart from what I read on this blog but I know that this race is A Big Deal and very popular – what is it about it that makes it special?

I’m looking forward to running into and leaving Lundavra, the last check point. I know when I’m through there that I’m home safe and nothing will stop me from getting the goblet. The scariest bit for me thinking about it right now, is the last few hours leading up to the start. I am dreading those hours as the ticking of the clock gets louder and louder…
The special part of this race is the people. We talk about the West Highland Way Race Family and mean it; over the years people have built very special bonds being involved with this event and there is no better way to describe it other than a family. The journeys people have been on to reach the start line are phenomenal, and then you have the journeys within the race itself. When you get a bunch of people together who are that passionate and that committed to an event and its success (either runner, support, marshal or other) you create a very special atmosphere. It is a privilege to call myself part of it.

My Mum asked: How are you going to sustain yourself over the 95 miles?

I plan to eat my usual running snacks (crisps, cake bars, cheese, cereal bars, etc.) punctuated with larger snacks at checkpoints such as tubs of custard, Mullerrice, quorn sausages, butteries, sandwiches, and pizza slices. There are also instructions in my crew briefing for an ice lolly at Tyndrum and an order of salty chips at Glencoe!

CJ asked lots of questions:

I’m a balls out omnomnomivore, eating everything in my path: As a vegetarian endurance athlete, do you ever struggle to fuel up? I would also like to know more about your hydration regime.

In a word; no. Not eating meat has never been a concern of mine. Many of the top ultra runners follow various forms of meat-free, vegetarian, vegan, or plant based diets, including Paul Giblin, who holds the West Highland Way Race course record.
As for hydration; I wear a backpack with bladders or soft-flasks filled with water treated with High5 electrolyte tablets. I probably drink less than average as I don’t sweat very much, so I would go through about 500ml in two hours maybe? It depends on heat, of course.

Injuries, you seem to get them (ITB? Ankles? Etc) and just run through them…. How much attention do you pay to your injuries? (I remember one of your blog posts you smooshed your ankle but still had a lot of miles to go?) how did you get through that?

There’s injuries and there’s stuff that hurts. After a while you learn the difference between injury pain and just normal pain. I have had issues with tightness in my ITBs in the past but I manage that through foam rolling and stretching. I’m lucky to have not ever had to recover from a long term injury which has stopped me from running. I rolled my ankle about 23 miles into the Highland Fling once, but I just walked it off once I realised it wasn’t serious; sooner or later everything starts hurting so much that any peripheral pains like that just blend into the background.

What goes through your mind on the starting line? Do you have any quirky rituals?

I’m usually a bit of a nervous runner at the start of an ultra; you try to relax, but like doing anything that’s important to you, there are still butterflies in your stomach. The night before, I like to visualise the course in my mind and run through what I’ll be doing at each checkpoint when I’m lying in bed – that puts my mind to rest so I can get some decent sleep.

Women in ultras all seem to be total badasses, tell me more about the support/lack thereof, camaraderie/competitive edge, sisterly/rivalry from your fellow ultra runners? (Read also: “are the burds decent crek?”)

The women’s field is always radically smaller than the mens in ultras. There’s been a lot of discussion recently as to why, but as usual I think it boils down to  a combination of lack of representation for young girls to look up to, and the fact that if you are spending time in your athletic ‘prime’ having babies and rearing a young family, you don’t usually have the time to go and run for 20 hours each week at that time in your life. Many of the ultra ladies I know are a lot older than me and their children have grown up, but this is changing. Every year there are more ladies in their 20s starting. Anyway, I’ve never found the gender imbalance to be an issue, and everyone looks after each other regardless of age or gender. That’s the unwritten rule of ultrarunning – be autonomous, but always look after your fellow runner in need. I’m not fast enough to know about any rivalry or similar first hand, but the concept seems daft thinking of all the fast girls I know.

Do you get lonely when you’re out training? Are you ever afraid you’ll get lost? Or attacked? Or raped and murdered while you’re out there alone? Do you get scared?

This is an unusual set of questions. No, to all of them. I like being alone; I’m an only child and a massive introvert so being alone for hours in the country is what I live for. The concept of being attacked whilst out on the hills is alien to me – I’ve never even considered it. I feel safer in nature than I ever do in a town, day or night. Incidentally most rapes are committed by people who are known to the victim; the concept of a rapist being someone who lies in wait behind a bush for an unsuspecting passer by is by large incorrect. Whilst it’s important to be aware of potential threats, you can’t let fear dominate your life.

Who do you look up to / who is your hero / aspire to be like?

Women like Emelie Fosberg and Rory Bosio who are taking the ultra running world by storm are amazing; they’re beating the guys and mixing up the races which is changing our sport. But it’s normal ladies like Jo Zakrzewski and Debs Martin-Consani who balance a normal working life whilst simultaneously winning the same Scottish events I do, and then going on to representing Scotland and Great Britain in ultra world championships who inspire me the most. It gives life to my daft dreams that there’s still a possibility that one day I can be that good a runner.

14 days to go….

West Highland Way Race – 3 weeks to go

West Highland Way Race Countdown….
T minus 23 days!!

It seems that my series of weekly West Highland Way Race Training posts has come to a natural end, and now I find myself tapering as we creep towards June and the start of the latest edition of this race. I haven’t given a proper update for a little while for a couple of reasons, but mainly as the last couple of weeks of training have been somewhat disrupted.

stonehaven running club

After the Highland Fling I took a week off, apart from the customary ‘first club session after the race weekend’ where all of the people who had been racing at the weekend showed up in their shiny new race t-shirts. I hobbled around some trails for 6 miles to shake my legs out and decided some proper rest was in order. Not a problem, as my MSc Research Proposal was due in at the end of the week, so I had plenty of time sitting at a desk. Unfortunately after that weekend I was struck by a colossal bug that has been doing the rounds, and ended up totally losing my voice for three days with a horrid cough, chest infection and accompanying post-viral fatigue. After that run after the Fling on the 28th April it was another TWO WEEKS until I was able to do any exercise, and cautiously went out for a gentle jog on the 11th of May. My lungs hurt a lot and I was shattered after four miles.

The following weekend (16th-17th May) Kynon and I were marshalling at the Cateran Trail Ultramarathon, and whilst I had hoped to fit in one or two runs on the route I just accepted my body needed the rest and concentrated on having fun. Karen and her team have evolved the event to be an exciting and memorable part of the SUMS calendar, and an excellent alternative experience to the Fling at the 50 mile distance in Scotland.

cateran trail ultra 2015

 

The new  race base-camp, at Gulabin Lodge Outdoor Centre.

cateran trail ultra 2015

 

There was a lot of forestry work in Drimmy woods this year – when we were marking the course we tried to help bridge the mudbath for the runners!

cateran trail ultra 2015 cateran trail ultra 2015

Entertaining ourselves at our checkpoint, Den of Alyth at 25 miles. We definitely got the best one – sunk into a warm, sheltered, tree-lined vale and with a bonus play park!

cateran trail ultra 2015

By last week I was back up to speed (figuratively, if not literally!) and had a strong week of training culminating in a trip to Tyndrum for the West Highland Way Race training weekend. I ran North on the Saturday to Glencoe and back to Bridge of Orchy, to cover about 28.5 miles, and then on Sunday we drove to Kinlochleven so I could run from KLL to Fort William – a distance of 14 miles. It was a great back to back and a fitting end to my training.

whw training 3

west highland way training weekend

west highland way training weekend

west highland way training weekend

west highland way training weekend

west highland way training weekend west highland way training weekend west highland way training weekend west highland way training weekend west highland way training weekend

Unfortunately one mile from Lundavra on Sunday I took a bit of a tumble, and slipped on mud landing awkwardly. I cracked the inside of my right knee off a rock and twisted my ankle. I didn’t feel the twist at the time but by the time we got home I could barely put weight on it – less of an ideal end to my training then… I was a bit worried for a couple of days early in the week, but I don’t think I’ve injured anything and that it was just a wrench. I’ve been RICE-ing and treating it with Ibuprofen cream and now it’s just a little stiff.

So what’s next?

The next three weeks will be a careful exercise in maintaining my cardiovascular fitness but not doing heavy impact training. I had planned to do some Metafit sessions this week and next to give myself a change of gear, but I don’t think the plyometric movements will benefit the recovery of my ankle. I’ll also do some swimming and continue my weights until the last week; basically, anything to distract myself from the looming deadline as long as possible! There is also plenty of planning to be done for the weekend itself, including packing and instructions for my support crew. So, who are my support crew? Well they are certainly some familiar faces – I’ll be introducing Team RedWineRunner and more details of my race plans on the blog nearer the race itself.

For now I’m enjoying a little downtime after submitting my final coursework and before starting work on my MSc project. The weather has been poor so I’m bored and bouncing off the walls already. Hopefully this isn’t a sign of things to come – I’m perfectly happy to taper whilst reading in the sun in the garden, but being cooped up in the house alone all day is working my last nerve! I’ll have lots of time to write some good posts in the next couple of weeks, so I’d like to invite you to ask any questions you have about the West Highland Way Race and my training if you have any, and I’ll try and address them in a post. Go ahead – ask me anything! There’s only so much I can to to make tapering and resting up sound exciting!

‘Til next time,
~RWR

The Hoka Highland Fling – So What Worked?

Just over a fortnight ago I ran the 53 mile Hoka Highland Fling for the third year in a row. The first year I ran it was my BSAG [big scary audacious goal], the longest race I’d ever ran, and I spent most of the first months of 2013 struggling to imagine HOW I was going to get my body to carry me 53 miles. In the end, I completed it in 13 hours and 6 minutes and that first 50+ mile finish revolutionised how I viewed myself in relation to ultra running and what I was capable of.

wpid-20130427_191140.jpg

 

The second year I ran it as part of my preparations for the 72 mile Great Glen Way Ultra in July, along with the Cateran 55 mile race three weeks later. I ran with friends, enjoyed the day out, and finished slower but stronger in 13 hours 20 minutes.

Approaching Drymen. Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

Approaching Drymen. Photo: Stuart Macfarlane

 

In 2015, my participation was also part of a larger plan which concludes with the 95 mile West Highland Way Race. I didn’t set out intending to set a personal best; I wanted a comfortable run where I could finish knowing I could continue on if I had to, and if that meant I finished quicker than in previous years then that would be merely a bonus.

So, when I crossed the line after that ‘comfortable’ run in 11 hours and 44 minutes, I found myself quite astonished. What had I done differently which allowed me to slice off 1 hour and 19 minutes off my previous best time? Was it changes in my training? My mental outlook? My race strategy? Over the last couple of weeks I’ve thought about this a lot and there definitely have been some changes which have contributed. Executing a great race is rarely just about the running, so here are my thoughts and reflections on a performance which I consider to be my strongest to date.

Training

 

red wine runner 28 mile run

Mileage

I keep an online diary of my runs on Fetcheveryone.com, which allows me to easily compare what I have been doing year-to-year. At first I thought that perhaps one of the reasons I felt so strong throughout the race was actually due to running LESS. This is hard to judge however, and numerically not strictly true. I may have started training a couple of weeks later this year after a relatively easy January, but prior to the Fling in both 2013 and 2014 I had an enforced period of rest which meant I turned up at the race with fresh legs – in 2013 I was resting a knee niggle and in 2014 I’d been on a desert island enjoying my honeymoon!

What I suspect is the case however, is whilst I may be running more or less the same mileage totals, I am running smarter miles. Instead of repeating 2013 and 2014 where I spent my week day lunchtimes bashing out 8 miles a day week after week, my week day sessions are now targeted and purposeful. I’m not running just for the sake of running to build up big miles. Each day is either a hill day, a speed day, a long run day, or a recovery-pace day.

However, I’m inclined to believe that I needed those two years of consistent high effort and mileage week-in, week-out to get my body in the place it is now. It was also the only way I could fit my running around my lifestyle at the time, so in hindsight I would not change a thing. 2013 and 2014 were base building years, 2015 onwards is all about using that base to refine my strengths and build a better, more efficient runner.

Cross Training

I’ve always been a fan of cross training. It feels good to get away from running and do something different, but this year my cross training has been more consistent and more useful. Since January I have been taking a Power Yoga class on a Monday night which has really helped strengthen my core and my stability. This with regular attendance at Body Pump (I can’t lie – I haven’t been every week, more like an average of every fortnight) has really helped get the rest of my body in an improved condition. I really enjoy the Body Pump weights classes as they work muscle groups in the legs which really help when climbing hills, and I’m pushed further than I would go if I was by myself in the gym. Last year I did a weekly circuit training class and no yoga; so I’m confident to assert that my cross training this year has improved my running.

PREPARATION

 

Running in to 2015...in my new Hokas!

Running in to 2015…in my new Hokas!

Feet

My feet issues have been well-documented here. I tend to describe my foot problems as my kryptonite; it’s the one area which is guaranteed to affect all of my racing in 26.2 miles and over, and the one issue I just can’t seem to crack. Until now…?

Well not quite, but I think I’m getting there. I’ve spoken already this year about how I bought a pair of Hoka One One shoes in America in the hope that they would be the answer to my feet pain, and whilst they haven’t solved it, they have definitely fixed about 75% of it. The pain I have is in the balls of my feet and base of my big toe – basically the joint area. After about 5 hours it starts to really hurt, more on the right than the left, and it usually has me feeling like someone has hit the joint/bone of my big toe with a hammer. The thick soles of the Hokas really help with absorbing impact which in turn seems to have put a lid on how bad the pain gets. It was still definitely there at the Fling, but not to the extent that it affected my race. WIN!

Unfortunately wearing the massive shoes does make me look a bit like Koko the clown and leaves me subject to abuse from my WHW support runner/minimal footwear enthusiast, Mike, but no-one ever said ultra running was easy.

The other massive win at the Fling was my lack of blisters. Inside my Injinji socks my feet were coated in Sudocreme and preventative Savlon blister plasters were applied to my usual hot-spots, and that just seemed to work. I was worried that the Hoka toe box would be too narrow for the latter stages of the race (especially the WHW Race) but I think they are going to be ok. Snug, but ok. This was actually the first time I used Sudocreme on my feet under my socks – prior to this it had always…squicked me out a bit, for want of a better phrase. However so many people swear by it that it was worth a go, and I guess it worked. I put it all over the soles of my feet and between my toes before putting my socks on. It’s still gross though, but you forget about it after a few minutes.

Diet

I’m not going to go into great detail about this as what I eat is my own business, and for those who are looking for advice there are plenty people out there willing to offer it. It’s worth mentioning though as at the start of the year I did carefully watch what I was eating and enjoyed using MyFitnessPal to track it and record my progress. In February I was about 10lbs heavier than I had been at the same time in 2014, and I had hoped to get a little closer to that on the scale. I lost about 4lbs in the first fortnight and then didn’t shift another pound. The lack of ‘progress’ niggled at me and before I knew it I was consciously altering my consumption to constantly finish below my calorie ‘goal’ for the day in the hope of losing some more. These apps are really dangerously enabling sometimes. I don’t consider myself to have or have ever had an eating disorder, but before I knew it my thought patterns were being enabled into a new direction for me by this phone application telling me I’d eaten too much or that I hadn’t lost anything in a month. What I couldn’t tell it was that my measurements were going down but my muscle mass was increasing. I tried shouting at it when it flashed me a red message saying I was over my calorie goal for the day, and told it it wasn’t my real Mum and that I’d run 28 miles the day before. But it didn’t care. Use these tools wisely… they are not designed to support ultra endurance athletes!

RACE DAY

 

Hoka Highland Fling route profile

Course knowledge

It really helped that I now feel like I know the first half of the West Highland Way very well. Through multiple Fling finishes, West Highland Way race sweeping and training weekends, there are now no surprises. Knowing what’s ahead really helped me gauge my efforts and mentally tick off parts of the course. This really, really helped me, so it’s definitely worth considering recces for future events if possible.

Garmin

I mentioned in my report that my Garmin wasn’t working. What actually happened was that my old Forerunner 305 battery is all but dead, so I bought a new Forerunner 220 recently. The battery life on it is only 8 hours, but I thought I could run it off a portable charger like I can with the 305. Turns out I can’t, so, I had intended to turn on both Garmins at the start and wear my 220 on my wrist for the first 20 miles to make sure I wasn’t running too fast, and keep the 305 in a pocket. At Balmaha I would plug in the portable charger to the 305 in my pocket and it would record the rest of the route so I could analyse the splits later. What I hadn’t counted on was the 305 running out of battery after only 9 miles and dying without me noticing. So at Balmaha I had a dead Garmin and a charger taking up space and weight in my pack, and no way to examine my run later.

Anyway, I think that not having the pressure of a ticking race clock on my wrist really helped. Tying in with course knowledge above, knowing that it would take me 1hr 45 from Balmaha to Rowardennan really helped as well as thinking about it in terms of time rather than miles. I don’t know why that worked, but it just did. I will definitely just be wearing the Garmin 220 in ‘wristwatch mode’ for the West Highland Way race.

Food

As previously mentioned in my report, I really didn’t eat very much which is pretty weird for me. I don’t think this necessarily aided my race, but being prepared for it did. Knowing what works for your body under different circumstances (heat, faster running etc) is really valuable information to have. This will really help inform my West Highland Way race strategy, although the two races will be so different they are really impossible to compare.

CONCLUSIONS

So what can I conclude from this? To be honest I don’t think it’s anything revolutionary, as looking over my points here I’ve read them in countless other running guides from people who know far more than I do. Figuring all this out for myself is useful though, and underpins the knowledge of others through my own experience which makes me far more inclined to believe it.

So here’s the TL;DR version:

  • Target your training and don’t run junk miles for the sake of it
  • Cross training is really important, especially weight training
  • Getting problem areas (like feet) sorted before race day is essential
  • Know your enemy – familiarise yourself with the course as much as possible

Despite this not being new information, figuring all this out for myself through experience has been the most valuable lesson. If someone is reading this looking for answers on how to improve their ultra performances, I hope that their takeaway lesson is that hard work is the only way. Like most things to do with ultra running, you can’t do it, finish it, or achieve it quickly…patience, and a willingness to put the work in, is the only answer.

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