Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Supporting two blokes on a wet and windy West Highland Way

I will get round to penning my thoughts (and findings) soon but as the challenge was deeply rooted as a pair I need to wait for Rob to get back to me – which I am assured will be soon.

In the mean time, what follows is our challenge from the perspective of our fantastic support crew. The plan was to meet Paul Houston, a guy I had never met before, at Milngavie train station just after 10am on Friday 25th Nov. Paul would look after us until Rowardennan and then meet up with the support crew, Alan and Alison Kerr from my work, at Bein Glas Farm to hand over to them.

Paul was then going to drive to Tyndrum and run with Rob and I from there as he hadn’t done the Devil section before.

Paul Houston’s words:
Unfortunately, due to logistics, I wasn’t able to join Dale and Rob for their full WHW challenge on foot, but I was able to offer my services as support for the first 53 miles to Tyndrum, and the plan was for me to switch from crew to runner at that point, for the final 42 miles to Fort William.

I met up with the guys at Milngavie train station and after a brief few moments to hand over bags and have a picture taken beside the WHW map, they were off. Literally seconds after they climbed the steps into Milngavie High Street, the heavens opened for the first time and part of me felt a little bit of relief that I could run back to my car, while part of me also wished to be out there cursing the elements.

The first meetup point was Drymen and I arrived there about an hour before the guys were expecting to pass through, so I sat and read a book. I’ve never crewed before and to be honest, I didn’t think it would be for me. I’ve had lots of people support me in previous ultras and I’ve always been grateful that they have given up their free time for what I thought must have been a tedious day on the road.

As it turns out, I loved it! There were long periods of waiting, but it wasn’t boring at all. I had to be alert at all times due to the fact that there was no way to find out the guys’ position. They could have blasted a section and could have been well ahead of schedule. I had to make sure I was prepared and ready to help out whenever they arrived to make the stop as quick as possible.  As soon as they came into view through the rain and grey, the long periods of waiting changed to 2 or 3 minutes of frantic door-opening, unpacking, photo taking, refuelling, restocking, well-wishing and repacking! Then came a short drive up the road to do the same thing all over again.

After Drymen, I drove up to Balmaha. I had decided to run part way up Conic Hill to cheer the guys on and take some good action shots of them descending into the forest and into the car park. I made it onto the hillside 10 minutes before I expected them to get there. 30 minutes passed and still no sign of them. I got a bit worried because I had left my phone in the car, but I was sure I would see them any moment. Then came a full on hail shower. As I wasn’t running, I was soaked through and freezing instantly! Still, for the brief moments that the sun came out, the views were spectacular across Loch Lomond. They guys came into view 10 minutes later. Turns out they had taken a slight detour through Garadhban Forest, hence the late arrival!

From Balmaha, the next stop was Rowardennan and the 26 mile mark. I waited there for about 45 minutes but the view at the side of the loch was spectacular with the mountains in the distance covered in recent snowfall. Here I realised one of the perks of crewing: the chance to experience the spectacular scenery that comes with most ultras, without the pain and discomfort that you usually have to go through to get to those viewpoints!

I was delighted to see the guys still in good spirits at mile 26. Dale had gone through a bad patch but was now over it and was enjoying the run. Rob was talking and acting like he had just been out for a jog, and made the previous marathon distance look pretty effortless.

Then came the long drive right around Loch Lomond to get from Rowardennan to Bein Glas farm for the next support point. Here I met up with Alan and Alison who would go on to crew for the guys throughout the night. In a stroke of pure genius, they had brought along a horsebox to give the guys shelter and provide a perfect space to change and refuel, what a brilliant idea! We chatted for about an hour until the guys arrived at Bein Glas. They took on some hot drinks and headed on their way again. Both guys admitted to having bad patches and concerns about what they were going to face during the night, but both were still in great spirits and looked strong. I didn’t have any concerns whatsoever that they weren’t going to make it to Fort William.

I was very concerned though, about my own ability to make the 42 miles in the conditions that were forecast. The weather improved when we arrived in Tyndrum and the stars were out, but my head told me that it wouldn’t last and compared to the preparation that Dale and Rob had done in the months leading up to the attempt, I was grossly under-prepared for a long run in such extreme conditions and exposed terrain. I decided at Tyndrum that I wouldn’t be running to Fort William. I still regret the decision but I know that it was the right one to make (especially after hearing about the 15 hour ordeal from Tyndrum!).

Alan and Alison gave me updates through the night and I was delighted when I got the text saying that they had arrived just after 1pm. To run the WHW in 27 hours is an achievement in itself, but in those conditions, what Dale and Rob achieved is remarkable and they showed unbelievable determination and guts to keep going. It was an absolute privilege to help them and to feel like I’ve played a (very) small part in their successful run. Well done guys!

Alan and Alison Kerr’s words:
My name is Alan Kerr and my wife is Alison. We helped Dale and Rob with support during their WHW Challenge. This is us at the West Highland Way marker post outside the Mini Mart at Tyndrum while waiting on the guys arriving.

Once the challenge was over and we were chatting on the way home, Dale asked if we had any thoughts or comments on our experiences and if we enjoyed ourselves. Alison and I have had time to reflect and discuss our time and have noted a few of our thoughts. (Alison’s pre-challenge thoughts were “they must want their heeds looked at” and “would we survive a night on Rannoch Moor” with The Hound of the Baskervilles in her thoughts, what if I get taken when I’m out having a pee : -)

When Dale first asked me if I would mind helping out with support for him and Rob I was like “yes no bother, I’ll soon do that” and my initial reaction though was to enlist the help of my wife Alison. Alison provided support for me when I done the Caledonian Challenge so knew the score.

I can tell you I would probably have struggled without Alison’s help as my nature is to do a quick assessment of what needs done and when, then leave it to the last minute anyway! Alison is a complete opposite and dot’s every ‘I‘ and crosses every ‘T’ a dozen times over. This has been handy as the past few weeks I have been busy with one thing and another and with me temporarily distracted (or as Alison would argue I was too busy surfing tractors for sale on ebay!), Alison has sorted lots of things I should have been dealing with. Support on this scale should not be taken lightly as it could affect the athlete’s outcome so the team needs to be switched on and organised.

The plans were that Paul would do the first two stops at Drymen and Rowardennan and we would take over from Beinglas Farm on Friday at 18.00ish going on to Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Kinghouse Hotel, Kinlochleven and finish at Fort William at about 08.00ish on Saturday.

Dale and Rob had all the hard work with personal training regimes etc that have been months in the planning and in comparison we have had very little to prepare. I had it all planned in my head, the perfect benign weather conditions and with a car trailer to transport the gear, a pop up gazebo to provide shelter for Rob and Dale this was all going to be a breeze!!

It was a compliment to have been asked to help provide the support and I am glad to have done it, these are the life experiences you tend to enjoy without realising it (if you know what I mean). We were in no illusions however, it would still be hard work and we had an important part to play if the day was to run smoothly.

Anyway going back a week a wee bit of panic started to creep in when it became obvious that for large spells the weather was looking like it could be wet and windy so the Gazebo was definitely a non-starter unless we fancied a spot of Para Gliding over Glencoe anyway!!. We knew we were in for some periods of bad weather but as the forecast was changing and it wasn’t clear to what extent this would be. The basic tasks we needed to provide like providing a comfortable yet quick stop, providing hot water and also keeping everything dry while still accessible to the guys was now a real concern.

We needed to find a solution and quickly. After some deliberation Alison suggested we use our Horse trailer, the trailer is in a very clean condition and it was the perfect solution, we could boil water inside it, it would offer shelter for the boy’s and all their equipment and it was tough and rugged so they didn’t need to worry about being wet and dirty while having plenty of clear space to rumble about in.

With everything in place we set of from home at midday on Friday so we could travel up in day light. Beinglas Farm was our destination and Alison had phoned ahead so the owner knew we were coming. We arrived at the Drovers Inn at about 4.30 and waited on Paul before making our way up to Beinglas Farm, the night was clear with very little wind and the stars were starting to come out. This looked perfect and all we needed to do now was wait on the runners to appear. We weren’t sure when that would be, all we knew was that because of an additional unplanned detour through the woods earlier in the day that they were now running about 45minutes behind their planned schedule. When they did arrive they took us slightly by surprise.

Everything was sorted in the horse box, camping chairs ready, all Dale and Robs provisions to hand and water freshly boiled ready for their arrival. It was just as well as they appeared from the darkness without any warning at about 6.40 p.m.  They were both in good spirits and quite fresh considering how far they had already ran.  Warm coffee and a few wee snacks later and they were off again into the darkness at 7.05 p.m.  The stars didn’t last long though and the rain started around then, just as the forecast had predicted.

We set off to Tyndrum to wait on them. We parked at the Green Welly Shop as planned but then decided to move along to the car park outside the shut mini-marked as the WHW passed right past. As I boiled the water and prepared the box for their arrival and Paul and Alison went a quick wander down to the village to try and find some hot food. At this point we were already being hit with heavy showers and wind was starting to get up with some sleet thrown in for good measure. The original plan was for Paul to join them at Tyndrum for the second half of the run but as he hadn’t done any training in these sort of conditions, he started to rethink what was ahead of him and he was probably wise to decide this night wasn’t the night to make his debut running in the dark in this kind of weather.  Alison said she realised he had made his mind up when he tucked into a portion of chips from the local pub and was toying with the idea of a pint to wash them down.

The guy’s arrived at approx 10.15 p.m. and despite the changing weather were still in good spirits. With a 30minute stop to change and re-fuel they again went on their way into the darkness.

By now we were into a nice routine, after Dale and Rob left we quickly moved on to the next stop, which was Bridge of Orchy. As soon as we arrived we got on with the preparations for their arrival. This involved a quick sort out of the Horse Box, boiling water and filling the flask and generally preparing the hot drinks for the guy’s arriving. We were joined at the Bridge of Orchy for a short time by some of the locals from the hotel bar who briskly followed Alison back out when she went in to check which direction the WHW passed through.  They braved the weather stayed outside to keep us company……for as long as it took to smoke a cigarette anyway : -) By now the weather was really bad, heavy rain and strong winds were constant with no respite, with the preparations done we wrapped up against the cold and our thoughts were with the guys out on the hills.

The guy’s came in at about 12.20 a.m. and despite the terrible weather conditions were still in a reasonable moral. Most of our work was in the preparation so during the stops didn’t we have much to do. As the guys were experienced at this sort of thing, they were pretty much self-sufficient and once Alison had added the water to the prepared coffee and soup our jobs were done apart from trying to keep some positive conversation going. Not easy and if you have ever tried to make small talk in this situation before you’d know what I mean. Alison’s jokes about axe murderers and psychopaths were probably wasted as I don’t think anyone was in the mood for humour : -)

Below shows the guy’s taking on some food in the shelter of the horse trailer at the Bridge of Orchy Stop.

After Bridge of Orchy, we moved on to the car park at Kinghouse Hotel. The weather was terrible (that is a sever understatement!), rain was torrential with gale force winds. Rannoch Moor offers no protection and it felt like the car was going to take off with the constant battering from the wind. By now things were getting serious and as the wind driven torrential rain was bound to mean that visibility was very low we were starting to worry about the guy’s out on the Moor. We boiled the water, made our preparations and headed into the Jeep to attempt to catch some sleep. No surprise though that with a mix of noise from the weather and our thoughts of the guys suffering out on the Moor didn’t manage to get any sleep whatsoever. The guy’s arrived at about 04.20am and to be honest we were glad to see them both safe and sound. Neither Alison nor I would have blamed either of them if they decided to call it a day but weren’t surprised that this was not even mentioned and I am pretty sure it wouldn’t even have been considered. And the fact that Alison had to keep Rob awake by keeping talking to him as he nearly slipped into his coffee twice didn’t help our worries.

They had about a 30min stop and left to conquer the Devils Staircase and to be honest we weren’t far behind them. The edge of Rannoch Moor on an exceptionally dark night with this stormy weather is not the most pleasant place to be. Alison was not alone in being glad to be on our way with Kinlochleven our next stop. Below is the guy’s leaving Kingshouse Hotel.

We arrived at Kinlochleven at about 5.35 a.m. and yes the weather was still terrible and it was as black dark. As normal we boiled the water, filled the flasks, prepared the Horse Box and waited on the guys. By now we were getting good at predicting arrival times but with the conditions being as they were we found it impossible to get any meaningful rest especially with our thoughts being drawn to the guys and their battles against the weather and also their own different stages of physical tiredness. Just as it began to get light, the guys arrived at about 08.10 a.m and to be honest had perked up from the last time we had seen them. This was nice for us to see but bearing in mind they had already covered approx 85 miles the remaining 12 or so miles must have seemed like a marathon. They left at about 08.30am with the weather still relentlessly throwing everything it could at these guys.

After they left we quickly moved on to Fort William where a nice hot tasty MacMuffin was waiting with our names on it. It was the first time I have tasted one and to be honest we have fond thoughts of sitting in Mac Donald’s watching the wind driving the rain onto the windows with the streets beyond deserted, that is apart from the odd hard-core individuals out for a stroll. Personally I could have stayed there all day but we decided we’d better find a nice spot in the Lochaber Sports Centre close to the end of the WHW to park up. This time apparently I managed to get some sleep, which for some reason Alison decided to record on her i-pod.

At 1.17pm on Saturday 26th Nov Dale and Rob appeared round the corner soaked through and their epic challenge not only against the rugged terrain but also all the worst weather imaginable was now over.  The wind and rain was still relentless and after a dry off and change loaded up and made our way home.

Below is Dale and Rob just finishing the challenge.

There will probably be plenty of people who either have covered the WHW from start to finish in one visit or know someone who has done so but doubt very much if there will be many who have witnessed the same journey in such extreme conditions. I cannot over state the terrible weather conditions thrown at these guy’s from 7.00pm ish on Friday till they finished on Saturday at 1.17pm they were exposed to the most horrendous weather. As if covering 97ish miles in 27 hours in near storm condition was not enough, we ended by travelling down the road so Rob could make the 18.30pm train at Lockerbie to Preston so Rob could get home! Hats off to these guys nothing seems to faze them and they will be proud of what they achieved. I know both Alison and myself are proud to have been part of something that I would assume will not be repeated for quite some time and have gathered some memories that few other people will have (and I don’t just mean Alison having to watch Dale with his hand down his pants at every stop).

My words:
the pants down was for vaseline application ;-) 

A huge vote of thanks is due to anyone who gives up there time to do this for other people. I myself am looking forward to doing the same for friends and anyone else in the ultra circuit who may ask - once I have the time i.e. after my degree is squared.

So once again, thanks to Paul, Alan and Alison.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Taper - final observations

This taper, very much like my recent training, has been very different to anything else I have ever done.

In the past a taper was all about recovery prior to the ‘big day’. For example, when I did the Bob Graham Round I didn’t do a thing for the two weeks previous as I was too tired to even try. From looking at my training programme for that (electronic excel spreadsheet) I had planned to do some stuff in the week before just to freshen up but even binned those as I was literally zonked.

It was the same story pre Highlander Mountain Marathon this year – nothing for two weeks beforehand. And yip you’ve guessed it, two weeks after that and carrying three injuries for the Highland Fling, I had amassed no training during the ‘taper’.

In reality those examples were recovery, not taper.

Tapering is quite an individual science. In fact there is not much written about the topic. Generally, however, it is thought that for a long ultra of around 100 miles three weeks ought to be the length of time one devotes to tapering. And the taper should involve a gradual reduction in training volume but maintenance in intensity.

To emphasis the individuality of tapering take a look at Killean Jornet’s philosophy. He did three huge weeks of training this year followed by one week of recovery pre UTMB.

So I went from 77 miles in my last week of high volume to 35 miles in my first week of taper, then to 20 miles last week and around 7 or 8 this week. As mentioned elsewhere I also introduced some plyometrics - which damn near crippled me; I will never do this again i.e. introduce something new into the taper.

This last week has been quite interesting and is the bit that some others might get something from;

Caffeine cull
I love my tea; I’m a regular 5 or 6 cups a day man. But after reading John Kynaston’s training for the WHW I decided to cut it from my intake during taper.

The last two weeks have been a bit of a problem for me; let’s just say I now know why smokers put weight on when they give up smoking!

Anyway I’ve managed it so hopefully I have another string to my bow for when I start ingesting caffeine (coffee, tea, coke etc) during the latter stages of my challenge.

Beetroot juice
I’ve been taking 250ml of this twice a day for the last 7 days. God knows if it works but hopefully I will utilise my oxygen intake better than ever during the challenge.

Cherry Juice
I’ve had 30ml mixed with 250ml of water, once a day for the last 7 days in a bid to reduce the onset of muscle damage during my run.

High Intensity workouts
I’ve done two this week but nothing else. Both were very short sessions, lasting less than 20 minutes overall.

On Sunday I did 4 hill reps each last about 2 minutes and on Tuesday I did 4 intervals each lasting about 90 seconds. Each session started and finished with about a mile of a warm up and cool down.

I have also done some core workouts. The belief is that the fatigue resistance is trained for; all I need to do is keep the VO2 max ticking over. This is the thing that unless regularly trained rapidly deteriorates, certainly with me anyway.

Pack kit
Gone are the days of tipping up with a cheese sandwich wrapped in newspaper and a bottle of pop that once opened stays open.

Sadly I’ve had my stuff all sorted since Sunday (5 days early). I was going to write a post about this as it has to be done with military precision but as we all have different kit and preferences I’ll give this a miss.

A couple of things I picked up from my recce though (when I was freezing at times) I have invested in a pair of waterproof gloves and a bondear cap. I also have a pair of sealskin socks which may get used depending on how cold my feet get as we progress.

I’ve done nothing since Tuesday. In fact it feels like I’ve not done any running for a month! However, I have noted my legs beginning to feel like granite. Ha-happy days!

Carb load
I’ve never done this before either as I tend to eat what I want. That said I have increased my food intake with two portions of rice and two more portions of fruit both yesterday and today; nothing too drastic – just an increase in carbohydrates.

Tapering has been the least favourite period of my training. As soon as I did my last training run pre-taper I felt myself mentally giving up. I immediately lost my focus for training and have struggled to concentrate for prolonged periods since.

My head is all with the West Highland Way so much so, I feel as though I’m 9 years old again and waiting for Christmas day. It wouldn’t be so much of a problem had it not held me back from getting stuff done. Therefore, this is something I need to address for future challenges. Perhaps by writing about this and becoming more aware of it I will already be better prepared for the next time?

Last but not least;
the weather forecast! For those who don’t know Britain has been experiencing some fairly benign conditions lately. I had fooled myself into believing that my late November attempt of the WHW would be quite similar to a summer attempt save the lack of light (and midges).

However, it now looks as though I will have as much a struggle on my hands with the wind, rain and cold as I will with the distance. Never mind, I’m really looking forward to getting out there and seeing what it has in store for me.

When I think of horrendous conditions I think Falklands, Lake District, Highlander MM 2008, OMM 2008; and all are thought of fondly. Here’s to more thrilling stuff for the memory bank J

Friday, 18 November 2011

Time for some perspective

My big day is looming; run, walk or shuffle I’m sure the West Highland Way will teach me a thing or two.

When I first started training 18 weeks ago this challenge wasn’t even on the radar. It was my original intention to train specifically and consistently until around the start of December this year when I would conclude it all with a medium length ultra (50 miles-ish) which would be run as hard as possible.

Even though I’ve been in the Army, have done a few mountain marathons and am a member of the Bob Graham 24 hour club, I’ve never trained like I have the past few months. And that’s not me saying I’ve been like a man possessed, ripping up the tarmac lately.

All’s I’m saying is, I have managed to run more often than at any time in the past. So in some respects I have achieved my first aim; to train specifically and consistently.

For me the WHW is now almost a side issue because I feel I have learnt so much recently. Of course I know it will teach me more, especially as I have never run for 95 miles before.

However, in terms (running) training, I have learnt that there is so much more which should be included within future training programmes. I reckon I’m a long way from where I’d ideally like to be in terms of ultra running and in some ways my run of the WHW will reinforce this. It will also benchmark my ability in the here and now i.e. 2011.

If I’ve confused anyone then what I’m trying to say is that I believe a person will get better at ultra running the more they do of it – until they peak. And as I have essentially just got into it I have much improvement to make. It is my hope that by the year 2020 I will have been in my peak for 2 or 3 years.

This can only happen with consistency in training.

Quite a few years ago, when I was training recruits, I was at the peak of my physical condition; I didn’t think it was possible to get any fitter. Nowadays, I may not be able to do 60 press-ups in a minute or 20 over-arm-wide-arm pull-ups anymore but my heart, lungs and legs have never been stronger.

Of course it hasn’t all been perfect. Has anyone embarked on a training regime where everything went to plan? I doubt it.

Less than 5 months ago I was told by an orthopaedic surgeon to give up running! In the 4 months I’ve been training since I’ve notched up a virus, a sprained ankle, a strained lateral knee ligament, a thigh strain, some weird shoulder pain when running and the occasional stomach complaint. I was also thoroughly stressed in the early stages of this training programme due to juggling family life with training, work and a distance learning honours degree. After my exams in September things gradually clicked into place.

I’m now two weeks into what is termed ‘taper’. It’s an odd one this because there really is no defined way to taper. You can choose to train all the way up until your day of reckoning but the general consensus is that it would be unwise to do so, especially for an ultra. I just don’t know. I have a feeling that I lose fitness gains pretty quickly – especially any speedwork gains. Part of becoming a consistent and hopefully one day competitive ultra runner is the practice and trial and error within the early years of training.

So as part of my new training-smart ethos I decided I’d reintroduce some high intensity plyometrics sessions to within my taper. With 6 days to go to my run I’m still in pain! Both times I’ve done the plyo’s I’ve been in pain for 4-5 days afterwards. Talk about a schoolboy error.

Anyway I can turn this around and deem it as a good thing; any running that I have done in the last 2 weeks has been with heavy and painful legs i.e. the type of pain that will be associated with (hopefully) the latter stages of my challenge.

As well as that I have a full 6 days rest coming up. I will go out for 2 lung busters but both will last no more than 20 minutes so in essence I will get some freshness into the legs in any case and hopefully retain a bit of the high end stuff.

Another aspect of tapering is the constant worry and self doubt. I’d much rather be running to be honest but with my legs being in the state they have been lately maybe it’s been a blessing.

This is the reason for my post. There’s so much worry in my head.
·         Have I done enough training?
·         What sort of time can I expect?
·         What if the weather turns nasty?
·         What if the support crew get held up somewhere?
·         What if my stomach plays up?
·         What if I’m having a great run and my mate is having a terrible time of it, or vice versa?

And so, some perspective comes into my head in attempt to rationalise everything. The truth of the matter is that I’m not as fit as I would like to be though I am fitter (as a long distance runner) than I’ve ever been, something will happen that I did not expect to happen and in the end I can definitely count on one thing – that I will have to fight to achieve my goal. Thankfully, this is something I relish so in reality the outlook has to be positive.

I think the following extract sums up where I’m at right now (taken from Rocky IV);

Adrian - Before there were reasons to fight. I could understand but I don't understand this. Even if you win, what have you won. Apollo's still gone. Why can't you change your thinking? Everybody else does!
Rocky - Because I'm a fighter. That's the way I'm made Adrian. That's what you married. We can't change what we are.
Adrian - Yes you can.
Rocky - You can't change anything Adrian. All we can do is go with what we are.
Adrian - You can't go with what you are. Haven't you read the papers? Do you know what everybody says? It's suicide! You've seen him. You know how strong he is. You can't win!
Rocky - Adrian. Adrian always tells the truth. Ya know maybe I can't win. Maybe the only thing I can do is just take everything he's got. But to beat me...He's gonna have to kill me. And to kill me he's gonna have to have the heart to stand in front of me. And to do that he's gotta be willing to die himself. I don't know if he's ready to do that. I don't know...

I'm also doing this to help out a charity that many people should know about; 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

It’s all a bit easy. Is it supposed to be?

Well today is my last session prior to tapering for the West Highland Way which has been moved to the 25th November. I’ve never been a runner until recently so I’m a bit nervous about reducing my training for 3 whole weeks, especially as I feel as though I could go on indefinitely at the moment.

Take today’s run for example; 31 miles, all trail. This brings my 3 weekly total to 215miles. In that time I have also done some strength and core workouts, high intensity cross training and some road cycling. Every day I wake thinking that I couldn’t have done much the day before because I don’t feel any fatigue from it.

Normally at the end of a 3 week block I’m at deaths door. Not today. I even had a few beers last night - and I never drink. It was business as usual just another day at the office.

I had thought about doing 27miles i.e. twice the distance I nailed yesterday at high intensity – on the same trail; Mabie forest, purple route. But as I was feeling quite good I thought I’d throw in a loop of Lotus Hill i.e. an extra 4 miles with about another 100m of ascent.

So first things first; my eating routine:
Got up and had 1 scoop of neovite in 300ml of water,
Half an hour later I had my breakfast – just a couple of slices of toast and a cup of tea.
An hour after that – 250ml of beetroot juice

Ideally I then have to start training within 90mins of that beetroot juice and it’s important that I have nothing else. Essentially I have to give my stomach a chance to empty into the intestine as once it’s in there it can’t come back.

Just before I set off on my run I down about another 300ml of water and get on with it. This keeps the stomach fullish and in that state it empties a bit quicker into the intestine when running – I got this from the Lore of Running by Tim Noakes.

The run itself was just chilled. I averaged 142 bpm which for me is less than 70% of mhr. The dew from the ground took an age to lift this morning so at times I was running through it and cresting out of it. The sun was burning brightly but the air was nicely chilled.

The legs started getting a bit achy towards the last hour but I’d take this any time considering what I’ve got through over the last few weeks – the most I’ve ever done. In terms of nutrition on the run;

4 go gels,
1 mini mars bar,
3 mini sausage rolls,
1 pkt of Clif shot Blocks
1pkt mini cheddars, and
2 litres of water with 2 caps of elete.

The best bit about this is that I had no stomach issues. I really hope this works out on my WHW run.

I reckon I’m fit enough now to get a sub 9 Fling but I don’t know how to extrapolate this to a proposed WHW time. The fact that we’ll be running for nearly 16hrs in the dark also makes things difficult to predict. This will be my mission over the next three weeks no doubt.

I’ve had a few people wishing to join us which is good. Ali, if you read this I don’t know how to get in touch?

The taper is on shaky ground. The predicted pace for the challenge hasn’t been predicted and I’m quite apprehensive about pulling back now. Will my gains stay? I suppose it’s good that I’m going through all of this without the pressure of a race. It should stand me in good stead for the future.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Peaking.....................with a thigh strain!

I’m into my second week of loading (pre taper) and have a slight niggle giving me some jip.

In the last 20mins or so within all of my long runs of the last 6 weeks I’ve experienced a mild pain in my right quad, the rectus femoris to be more precise – an area of the quadriceps which is most commonly injured among sports enthusiasts. On Sunday just gone the last 20mins were pretty sore and had I not been with my friend, Allie Wilson I’d probably have cooled the jets a little.

It’s a grade 1 strain which means I have relatively little pain with no swelling or bruising present. Like I say, the pain only comes around on my long runs. On every other session it isn’t there. However, the guidance says that a lack of care can easily result in progression to a grade 2 and/or grade 3 strain. And Grade 3 means surgery!

So with 3 more weeks of high load planned I have been a little bit apprehensive of late.

I think I have a good idea of why it has occurred. My right leg is 5mm shorter than the left. I was told by the sports injury consultant that one leg is usually shorter than the other but the average is closer to a 2mm difference. My right leg is also slightly weaker than my left.

But that is only part of the reason. In the past I cycled every day and included a lengthy bike ride on the odd weekend. I also spent a fair bit of time in the hills. Neither cycling nor the hills have featured in my training for this ultra. So I think that my quads have lacked that kind of workout whilst being subjected to the more repetitive nature of running.

It would be worse had I not trained on a variety of surfaces – at different intensities – wearing different trainers depending on the terrain i.e. if I had only run on roads.

So what am I going to do about it?

Well my attention is first drawn to our (Rob and I) West Highland Way attempt on the 9th Dec. I have thought about dropping all load and bringing the taper forward – as well as the attempt. My thinking for this is that the lack of high mileage through the taper will allow for some recovery. However, I’m keen to get through the load phase for reasons I am about to explain.

I’m in the shape of my life. Every run I go on I’m recording pb’s e.g. my recovery runs done at about 68% of maximum heart rate are now down to 7:30 minute miles! I am doing more weekly mileage than I’ve ever done and am getting through it effortlessly. I wake every morning feeling fresh and ready for the rigours of whatever training I have scheduled for the day. I’m running up hills with ease where only 3 or 4 weeks ago I’d have to break into a power walk. I don’t seem to have fatigue whatever I do. In short I’m obviously peaking. And what is more, I’ve never experienced this before. Surely this is testament to everything I have learned this year – and put into practice?

That said it may also be down to a certain supplement I have started taking; Neovite. I started taking this at the start of my load phase (last saturday). This was pure coincidence as I had just found out about it via Rob. My reason for taking it was to give my immune system a boost whilst the cold nights close in. It would appear that there is good reason for this product being used by so many athletes – worldwide. I wonder if anyone who reads this will get round to trying it for themselves? Perhaps this is the reason I feel as though I’m peaking. Put it another way, I actually think I could up my load by about a third and still be comfortable.

But then I am reminded about the thigh strain.

·         I am doing more stretching than usual.
·         I am wearing compression shorts (skins) more often.
·         I have bought a thigh strap (Mueller) which I am wearing throughout the day.
·         I use the TENS machine more often – particularly on the injured area.
·         I ice the injured area immediately after a big session – even if I haven’t felt a twinge.
·         I have upped my intake of glucosamine sulphate from 500mg to 1000mg per day.
·         I am doing a bit more strength and core work throughout the week.

I am also applying the magnesium spray every day and if I was rich I'd get myself one of those ultrasound thingies that some (vain) women use on their face. Apparently these contraptions can help heal muscle and tendon damage. Something to do with collagen production!
I am hopeful that this will just about see me through to the end of the load phase and allow me to do all the training I have planned. The litmus test will be my long run this Saturday. If it goes again I may have to bring the attempt forward.

On the good side though and as I’ve pointed out, I’m already in the shape of my life. By binning two more weeks of load I’ll probably sacrifice an hour or so from my expected time. And with no pressure in terms of being in a race, it’s not all that bad a sacrifice to have to make.