Highland Fling 2018

Before the race report here’s what I’ve been doing so far this year. Just scroll down for the race report. Another long overdue blog update. The resolutions actually went quite well! Heres a recap:

  1. Cross train – I never actually used it as a way to increase mileage. I did however get on it once a week early in the year to increase training time and as a strength building exercise through the use of isolated leg cycling.
  2. Foam Roll/Stretch – Very much and big tick, made a conserted effort to roll more and also to self massage and I’m sure it helped keep the legs fresh. Used the tens machine as a self massage tool to loosen off quads and calves too.
  3. Make a plan – I made my own plan but ended up not using it as Mike Jones got back in touch and we started a training plan, this made a massive difference. He had me running terrain specific sessions working on my speed, endurance and technique. I’m planning a post on what things have changed in my training. Expect that in 2019!
  4. Be more consistent – We had a very busy start to the year in the workshop so some weeks I had to sacrifice a few sessions, however, with a plan to follow and having someone to alter my plan to suit what I could manage on a week by week basis meant I got what I could out of each week.
  5. Get more sleep – FAIL.

 

2018 so far

January – Inskip Half Marathon – Ran in driving sleet and snow, shielding my eyes with my hand during first 3 miles was grim and eyeballs felt frozen. Pretty happy with 1:19, wasn’t expecting much more.

February – Dalemain Trail 10km – First time I’d run this race around Dalemain Estate, Penrith. Total sufferfest, decided to attack the hills. Managed to get a lead on first long drag and ran scared from there to the finish. 1st place and won a rather nice running pack.

March – Edale Skyline Fell Race (English Champs Counter) – An addition by Mike to my plan and my first 20 miler of the year. The goal wasn’t to go eyeballs out, but a more steady/tempo effort. Felt bloody hard if you ask me, but was still running well at the finish. 100th place, more than happy.

 

Highland Fling 53 miles

This post is going to follow the same format as last year, purely because I copied and pasted it. If you want to have a look at that, you can read it here

Fling Eve

Exactly the same as last year, drove up Friday post work, registered in Milngavie, back to Glasgow and out for pizza in the same place again. A rather tasty veg pizza served up by a waiter with the tightest white shirt I’d ever seen. Then back to sort my kit, take a pre race pic of my kit, like a loser, and into bed for 10.30pm. Last year my alarm went off at 4.30am and we were in a bit of a rush. This year it was 3.50am, so I could get some food into me (porridge and banana) 2 hours before race start. I had another 15 minutes of lying in bed fully dressed before we headed to the start. Again, the same as last year, drop bags into the correct vehicles, I only had 2 this time (Rowardennan and Inversnaid) as Rosie was going to be at the other two check points. A loooong queue for the bog for my PMT and it was almost start time.

Milngavie – Drymen 

More nerves on the start line this year, probably due to my higher expectations. I was thinking I could manage around 8:10 if I had a good day and also hoped that I might be able to sneak into the top 10, this would depend on who else was running of course. The 5 minute count down disappeared insanely quickly and the hooter/siren/gun went off (not sure what noise it was).  I set off at a fairly steady pace, and running up the first hill out of the woods my legs felt fresh and strong, good signs.

Having discussed a race strategy with Mike of running a similar pace to last year to Drymen (1:35) and then with the extra work I’d done on running gradual hills and a bit more strength work we were then aiming to pic up the effort a little bit more along Loch Lomond to arrive at Beinglas in Mikes rather poetic term “95% fooked” with that in mind I kept telling myself to go easy and not to worry where in the field I was this early. I passed a runner from the larger quicker moving group in front who had stopped for a run off and he soon caught up, he wanted away from the fast pace and we started chatting for 30 mins, he was the guy who face planted a tree (Gary House), just for the crack I think. He was telling me about his running group, runSTRONG, and if you want a few entertaining videos, I would suggest giving him a follow on Instagram. Before I knew it we’d knocked in a 7:20 6:50 and 7:00 miles, taking my leave I also pulled over for a pit stop and resumed at a more leisurely pace along the road to Drymen.

I arrived in 1:31, 4 minutes up on last year and on the race plan. The pace didn’t feel difficult and I felt like I was holding back still to run 1:31, I also ran straight through as I had plenty of energy drink to get to Balmaha, this may have been an error. I should really have stopped for a bit of water and a salt tab.

12 miles | 1hr 31m

Drymen – Balmaha 

This section again, went better than last year, 8 minutes better. I slurped a load of fluids into me and got some walking in as I made my way through the forestry and up onto Conic Hill. The descent off Conic was a bity dicey as I opted for road shoes this year, trying to avoid the greasy wet patches slowed me down a bit but I wasn’t too fussed as I was well up on where I had planned to be by this stage. I passed a couple of runners on this section and was feeling optimistic about the rest of the race. Spirits were high. I saved time on last year in the checkpoint too as I just did a swap of empty bottles for full ones and grabbed a few gels from Rosie.

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sticking to the dry stuff down Conic Hill

19.2 miles | 2hrs 36m

Balmaha – Rowardennan

Again, as last year I had bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond stuck in my head. Grrrr.

Nothing much to note in this section, was running pretty well, walking any hills I found and making good progress on the flats. Got into a group with a couple other runners who caught me just after Balmaha and we were moving well. Passed the leading lady at mile 22 and was rather enjoying myself at this point. Legs were still good, and no complaints from glutes, groins or quads. I ran into the checkpoint 3rd in a line of 4 and as the marshalls called out our numbers mine was read incorrectly, it was my own fault, I had my number slightly around the side of my shorts and my 342 got called as 842. I hollered my correct number out but as the marshalls were gathering the other drop bags I wasn’t heard. I got my water filled up, but had to wait for my drop bag. I tipped a sachet of energy powder into my bottle and set off after the other three, who had made a minute or so on me. I wouldn’t see 2 of them again. I learned a lesson from this too, don’t try and drink out of a bottle with powder sat at the top. A mouth full of sherbert, a blocked bottle nossle and a sticky hand after using a finger to mix the contents up. 7 minutes quicker than last year.

26.4 miles | 3hrs 41mins

Rowardennan – Inversnaid

Legs certainly started to feel like they’d run a fair distance already. My longest run of the year had been 26 miles and I began to feel the first signs of tiredness. I was still plugging away at a good pace, but I was aware that the climbs and descents weren’t as easy on my body anymore. As it began to warm up, my arm sleeves came off and I instantly felt better with some fresh air against my skin. Had a good spell along some single track into Inversnaid checkpoint, fully aware that it was going to get a whole lot harder from this point onwards. I was now 33 minutes ahead of last years splits and I felt like I had conserved plenty of energy to expend in the last 10 miles. All I had to do was maintain what I was doing, staying within myself and then work hard from Beinglas to the finish, hopefully picking off a few runners in the process.

 

33.7 miles | 4hrs 48m

Inversnaid – Beinglas

This tactic started well, I passed a couple of runners in the slow technical section after Inversnaid, I also passed a large number of cyclists pushing their bikes (fully weighed down with paniers and the works) along a path that it was hard enough to travel along with just your feet. Wouldn’t have fancied hauling them up and over the 8 foot high foot bridges. With the increasingly rough terrain, I was doing a lot more stepping over things, this seemed to kick start a few twinges of cramp that would soon escalate into full leg shakes. I was now taking S!Caps every 30 mins and trying to drink a bit more in a bid to stave off any issues later on. But I rather think it was down to the duration and level of effort that my legs weren’t accustomed to. Blissfully unaware that the worst was yet to come I was still having spells where I was moving well and as soon as I emerged from the lake shore, I thought I was home and hosed. Incorrect. 500m after that, in pretty much the same place as last years bad patch I got a big old dose of cramps up the inside of my left leg, I had to stop and give it a rub then walk for a minute or two. I was passed on the next climb a couple of miles from Beinglas and I was very much desperate for the checkpoint to appear, it did. Eventually. I fannied around too much here but I wanted to get some calories in and some water. I lost the gap I had made earlier on another couple of runners but I was in self preservation mode, certainly not looking to push hard for the next 12 miles. 5 mins quicker than last year (with massive room for improvement).

40.5 miles | 6hrs 16m

Beinglas – Tyndrum

The encouragement I received from everyone at the checkpoint and from Rosie made a massive difference, I was still struggling but I was determined to fight it as much as I could and to keep pushing hard when my legs allowed it. In my tired state I forgot to pick up any gels here and was left with a squeezable baby yoghurt and two gels to get me to the finish line, probably a gel or two short when I was needing to put more energy in all the time. I’d have preferred to get calories in every 20 mins at this stage but 30 would have to do. The rolling hills for the first 3 miles out of Beinglas are a real bitch IMO and I was suffering enough to put music on for the first time ever in a race. It certainly helped. Although I was passed by 2 runners in the 2 miles after Beinglas, I repassed them either side of crossing under the road.

Coming up to Cow Poo Alley, I could see it was a different ball game to last year, this time around it was deep and sloppy and with no routes around it, it was head down and bash on. Having worked on a farm for several years in my youth, cow poo doesn’t really bother me, kicking a stone lurking under the surface, like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and crashing down on my side certainly did bother me. My right arm was submerged to my shoulder and my left to the wrist. To make things worse I got a spasm of cramps at the same time so I was thrashing around like a beached whale in 6 inches of skitter. Annoyed and stinking, I actually managed to pass the guy in front who was also getting a lot of cramps. I quickly pulled over, washed my arms and t shirt sleeve in a stream and pressed on to Crianlarich where Rosie was waiting, with her cheer squad April and Kellie, whom she met at last years Fling. Getting shouts and cheers from people you have met through the same race and from running other ultras is ace, and very much appreciated! Taking a drink here and quickly getting told to stop farting about and get moving as 14th place was about to catch you I set off into the hilly forest section looking over my shoulder.

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minutes after coo poo alley

I thought I was improving on the cramp front when another bout would bring me to a standstill in a 20m stretch. This continued all the way to the finish, but I actually ran the downhill pretty comfortably. As comfortably as you can with 49 miles in your legs. Crossing the main road without breaking stride I thought I might have put some time into the runner behind me. I hadn’t. After half a mile I had a glance back and the first female, Rachel Normand, was 50 yards behind me, I got to a gate, opened it and immediately cramped up. As a result I just held it open and cheered her through. I actually picked up running behind Rachel, I offered some words of encouragement as she was worried she would be caught. As we got into the last couple of miles she started to pull away but kept having a look back, I assured her there was nobody catching her (especially not me) and she went on to win in an impressive 8:22:23, I snuck into the finish line photo in the distance as I ran down the red carpet to finish in 8:22:47, well happy but also a little frustrated I was held back by cramps, but it’s part of it and getting my nutrition and legs in order is something I can try to improve on heading towards the Lakeland 50. 3 mins quicker than last year, and 42 minutes overall.

53 miles | 8hrs 23m| 14th place

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Happy

The usual first class treatment post finish line, a cup of tea, a catch up with Gary who was sporting a fat lip and a bloody shirt, a hot shower and a massage with a hot water bottle and blankets. Amazing. I was moving pretty well and my legs felt ok. We were staying in Glasgow on the Saturday night too, so we hung around to watch the other finishers come in and the prize ceremony. Several cups of tea and coffee and again, some of the best soup I’ve ever had, and I was starting to feel normal. We saw Rich finish, a fellow DH Runner, who had to battle with a sore leg and pretty much walked the entire last 20 miles to get home in 13:07.

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DH Runners! Rich, looking grey after sticking it out for 20 miles!

I’ve recovered from this race better than any other ultra I’ve run so far. I walked on Sunday and Monday, managed easy runs on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Not sure if its because I’ve a done a few now and so my body is adapting to it, or because my legs were better conditioned for the distance. Next up is The Lakeland 50, with a couple of smaller races in there as a build up. I’m feeling optimistic, as long as I can improve my down hill running and not get lost I hope I can have another similar result to this.

 

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