With the race being my focus this year I thought it would be good to capture some of the build-up in the form of moving pictures on the old YouTuber.
Let me know what you think – this is the first episode. More on my YouTube channel. Please subscribe there if you fancy seeing some more as race day gets closer.
Join me as I meet the locals, discover unmarked trails, run some mountains, rest, recover and train again.
Taking a trip
I’d wanted my first race of the season to be a challenge and it certainly delivered. I somehow had it in my head when I entered months before that it was pretty tough – but maybe just 4,500m ascent tough (with 127KM). I hadn’t fully registered the course profile until much closer to the race – a fairly technical 8,500m of ascent (and returns). (more…)
There are loads of great blogs written already about this year’s race and hundreds more from earlier races so rather than cover most of the same I thought I’d be better just trying to answer the actual questions I’ve been asked most often since I made it to Fort William……..and…….won the WHW race (still feel slightly awkward saying that). The other bit is even more awkward! (more…)
It’s fair to say that 2013 has already been a pretty mixed bag of ups and downs. For reasons I’ll come on to later I’ve been giving much thought to why it is I continue to run and what I really get from it.
Last week I was asked to talk at a WHW race ‘inspiration’ night to offer some insight into how I train and maybe provide some words of encouragement to those attempting it for the first time. It would have been nice to talk to more people on a one-to-one basis afterwards but by the close most people were probably keen to get home. It got me really questioning why someone would want to run the best part of 100 miles. To openly accept the inevitable suffering (at several stages throughout the race) as well the necessary sacrifices required to train for it. (more…)
It made more sense for me to do it as a reverse rather than trying to sort out accommodation at the Fort William side (or worse – sit on a train back to Glasgow). I decided on a day, booked a train ticket and that was it. The Winter WHW was on.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t just doing this as it sounded like a good idea or just to see how far I could go – it wasn’t ‘spur of the moment’ – I had tailored my training for an attempt and had a target time in mind. The Jez Bragg record of 21hrs 14mins.
Thursday came around quickly and before I knew it I was heading for Queen Street Station with everything I’d need to survive the run (I hoped). It must have been the coldest day of the year to date and I was more than a little concerned about being under-dressed. With just under 2L of fluid in my pack, food and some spares I didn’t really have much room for emergency clothes. Still, no going back now. (more…)
The “beautiful” UTMB race by all accounts……
‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.‘
….sounds like a stroll. Although doesn’t look it:
BRUTAL is how I’d describe it. Don’t let the pitiful 2 qualifying points or the fact it’s ‘only 70+ miles’ give you the impression that this is the ‘easy one’. Nothing at UTMB is easy. (more…)
We’re taking this racing thing International! Plane leaves very early tomorrow morning and I’ll be on it raring to go.
The TDS is part of the UTMB event in Chamonix and is…
‘A race in open country along the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing though the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside.
A mountainous event, including numerous sections at altitude (>2,500m), in weather conditions which can be very difficult (night, wind, cold, rain or snow), requiring a very good level of fitness, the appropriate equipment and a real capacity for personal autonomy.’ (more…)
That’s what you call it right? When you’re looking to put some gloss on the latest failure?
Well, since the West Highland Way race end of June, my character has come on leaps and bounds.
First up was a Bob Graham Round attempt on the 6th July, 2 weeks after the race. So, no real time for resting, training or tapering. My fault – I knew it was tight but really wanted to try as I had the opportunity to do it with a friend and some other fantastic runners and support. For anyone not familiar with a BGR it’s pretty straightforward: you have 42 Lake District peaks to top in 24 hrs. You set out from Keswick and tackle each of the fells in a specific order, ensuring you return to Keswick not a minute over the 24hrs – doing so is classed as a success. There’s no race, no fanfare just a daunting 26,000ft of ascent along 66 miles of Lakeland terrain (amongst other things). One of those being the weather. Turns out the 6th was one of the worst days I remember from any summer. We had planned a 6pm start and looking back, the signs were all there – it was wet, it was windy and looked ominous. (more…)
Can’t believe I’m writing my report already. It’s done. It’s gone for another year and already I’m dreading the long wait for its return. I love the West Highland Way race. There, I said it. There is always a drama, there are times when you’d choose to be anywhere else in the world but for now at least, it feels like a home-race.
I won’t go in to all the details – there are a lot of other reports for you to get through and you’ve probably heard most of the same stuff from me for a while. In short, training had been good, taper was pretty straightforward and I was more organised than the year before thanks to all we had learned on my first WHW race. I arrived in Milngavie feeling good but perhaps not as confident as I had hoped having pulled out of the Cateran Ultra after 20 miles or so due to stomach problems. It was an emotional exit having won it the year before and had been extra stoked by the fantastic line-up of talent on the day. It wasn’t to be though – so had to try to put it to the back of my mind.
….and it wasn’t even Highland Fling Day!
Had a cracking run last Friday. Weather (from nowhere) turned, and it was a fantastic blue-sky day for running across some familiar but inspiring trails.
I parked up in Drymen, and took the WHW over Conic Hill to Balmaha. From there it was on to my most dreaded section of WHW to Rowardennan. I don’t really know why – the trail itself is good, the views are great. It just always feels much longer than it is whenever I’ve run it (and particularly in a race).
At Rowardennan there was something missing (other than the wee toilets – what happened to them?). Took me a while to work it out…..Midges! No midges and the sun was out – all very strange. From there I headed up Ben Lomond.
Being a Friday the Ben wasn’t too busy, passing only a few walkers on the way up. Being the closest Munro to Glasgow it does get it’s fair share of visitors ‘fae the toon’. On a clear day though it does have some spectacular views from the top. (more…)
After the River Ayr Way race, it was home for a bath and some food, then pack some stuff for a few days in the Lake District with family.
We were so lucky with the weather and managed a few decent walks as well as some time relaxing and reading.
I also managed to get few runs in. The Coledale Horseshoe looked good on paper and didn’t disappoint. The route starts in Braithwaite. You can park beside the school easy enough (particularly if it’s before sun-up!).
Follow the road towards Cockermouth, passing a couple of paths both sides of the road to a small car park on the left (I guess you might be able to park there – it’s small though and probably fills up quick). The Grisedale path is marked and immediately starts with some fairly steep steps. Me being me, I blindly took the other path for a mile until I realised I’d gone the wrong way. Turns out it was worth it anyway as the sun delivered a morning treat.
Grisedale Pike is pretty runnable although steep in parts and rocky underfoot, making a mis-judged step a potential sore-one. Near the top it’s hands on thighs stuff for a while.
From there I headed on over an ‘unamed peak’ (according to the guidebook) to Hopegill Head – again all runnable.
Then a quick left over Sand Hill and onto the saddle of Coledale Hause. From there it’s a really pleasant trail until you reach a junction. I chose to go right first and head up onto Grassmoor for some amazing views over Loweswater, Crummock Water and Buttermere. (more…)
I’ll keep it short.
Weather turned out pretty decent following the heavy rain on the Friday. Arrived at Glenbuck in plenty of time, registered and chatted to some friendly faces. Got ready to race – warmed up, then just hung about until they finally managed to gather everyone and start the race around 20mins late.
I was supposed to race the Devil ‘o the Highlands a few weeks before this but stomach problems meant that I couldn’t start. Was pretty gutted. Felt like I’d run out of luck as I’d had gastroenteritis just before GEDM earlier in the year.
So, next thing to focus on was the Speyside Ultra (part of the SUMS series). My folks had booked a cottage up in Buckie so we were all looking forward to a mini-break. My training since missing the Devil had gone pretty well and into race week I tapered and increased the carb intake from the middle of the week. On Thursday it appeared to strike again and I had the worst stomach (I won’t go into details) and the realisation that as well as an underlying issue I must be doing this to myself. I think I know what it is now so if anything, that’s a step forward (and another post). I couldn’t drive up on the Thursday as planned as I needed to be near a toilet so I set out on the 4.5hr drive on Friday with a decent supply of immodium.
The rest of the day was spent trying to get sorted – boiled rice, bananas, trip to the chemist. It wasn’t great and the stress of trying to get myself fit for the race probably wasn’t helping. (more…)
Thought it about time I actually posted something. Been keeping my head down after the WHW race. It’s been a strange month and I’ve had a few injury concerns, but building back up to peak training weeks.
First things first – a question!
Post race blues – is this a recognised condition?
It doesn’t seem to be talked about much. Maybe it isn’t real? Or maybe it doesn’t affect the full-time athletes as much as there is no ‘normal’ to return to after the event. Most of us anyway have to return to our normal day-to-day working lives only days after a lengthy physical event like the West Highland Way race. I was back in work a couple of days after and whilst I expected it to be ok (at least for the first few hours) I wasn’t really prepared for the slump that followed.
I know it was only a race but I did learn a lot about myself and where I want to head. (more…)
Where to start? It’s such a long race, and so much happens over 95 miles (or more). This was my first long ultra in my first season racing. It wasn’t in the plan for this year but I couldn’t resist when the opportunity arose.
Anyway – get on with it.
We arrived at Milngavie just after 11.00pm and the car-park was almost full. It had rained in Glasgow all day. Heavily. But as we walked up to register in the church hall it stopped and almost felt warm. There was an atmosphere around the place of nervousness, excitement and anticipation – what would lie ahead for all runners and support teams?
I registered without any hassle – “enjoy it” was the parting remark. Hmmmm. Off to be weighed and within minutes we were back in the car with almost 2 hours to kill. This was tough. I was desperate to just get going. To finally forget about the tedious planning and prep of food, drinks, times, meeting points, sleep times, clothes, blah, blah, blah. I was desperate to get on with the running bit – to finally feel my legs moving under me and some wind in my face after a week-long taper. I hadn’t run more than 5 miles at a time over the last week and wanted to be reassured that I’d still remember how!
I sat in the front seat of the car – my crew left me alone with my thoughts. They sat on some deck-chairs and drank tea in a carpark close to midnight – the whole thing was bizarre. I felt pretty confident, just ached for the clock to get closer to 12.30 and I could commence the pre-race sock / running shoe ritual.
There was a race briefing 20 mins before the start. There were so many people around I couldn’t really hear what was being said. Next thing I knew I was saying my goodbye’s to my Support and making my way to the front of the startline. It was quite a sight – 150 or so runners all ready to do battle with whatever the WHW would throw at them over the next day. (more…)
Well, can’t believe it. The #WHWrace is actually here! In about 11hours, 160 or so runners will leave Milngavie in the hope of conquering Scotland’s famous trail all the way to Fort William.
It’s looking like it’s going to be a wet race. It hasn’t really stopped all day, so another clothes change might be required! I guess that’s the beauty of a challenge like this – you could know the course like the back of your hand, have trained impeccably, prepared 15 food options but ultimately there’s a huge “Unknown” on the trail for most people……a stomach that gives up holding food, a trip and fall, blistering, a tendon snap….the “Unknown” can strike at any time – and that’s part of the buzz. Getting through it.
Despite being a very late entrant I’ve been keen to get going for the last few days. Yes, I would have changed my training, yes I could be better prepared but I’m feeling good and (so far) am glad to be part of it.
Good luck to all the runners and support teams – it’s such a commitment from everyone and I hope you find what you’re looking for from it.
My sister will be doing twitter updates as usual (@lilacswizzle). Heck, she might even pass on some messages if you keep them clean! My sister is heading up my support crew with my folks so if you see them have a chat – they like to talk!
GUEST POST by my sister Nicola!!!
A day in the life of an ultra marathon support person……
On Saturday 21st May my brother raced his third ever ultra marathon, The Cateran Trail 55 and until a few months ago I must admit I had never really heard much about ultras, SUMS, Jezz Bragg etc etc. I mean it was only last year that the boy actually starting running seriously (and did a few 10k races). (more…)
This was a race I had never planned to do. It was only a few days after the Highland Fling that my sister asked me what the next race was going to be “there’s the Cateran run but I guess it’s only a few weeks away – too soon probably.”
Without meaning it, a small seed had been planted and as I started to recover from the Fling I looked into the race details…. (more…)
Just a quick post. All settled in Hotel, about 20mins drive away. Registered already and can’t wait to get started.
My sis will be tweeting updates @lilacswizzle
Thanks for all your support.
Friday was my last opportunity for a long training run before the Cateran Trail Ultramarathon next Saturday.
I’ve started to mix up my longer runs meaning I generally now include 2 x types of long runs in my training. Both very different and both much debated / discussed by the running community. (more…)
I had run / cycled / walked quite a bit of the West Highland Way in the past and on the Saturday before the Fling I wanted to get one final long run in. As some of you will know I had to miss the GEDM race a few weeks before due to sickness and it had knocked my confidence quite a bit, especially as the training had suffered. So I decided I needed a decent long run and a week before the race seemed a good time to try out some of the course. It would hopefully (read on)
Big race tomorrow. The Montane Highland Fling. Not got a lot to say about it following the GEDM sickness fiasco. Yes, I’m nervous something happens again before the start line.
So, it’s early to bed for me. I’ll leave you with some pics of the area from last week’s training run (excuse the poor quality – rubbish camera, and I don’t like to stop for long).
I understand now. I must be a bit of a drama queen. That’s obviously the reason I haven’t written anything for a while. Last post I did was the night before my big race – the one I had put a huge amount of effort into preparing for (The GEDM). Other than a knee injury the week before the preparation had been meticulous and my training relentless. Long runs, nutrition, weights, hydration, clothing, checkpoint times, target pace….the list goes on. I was so ready for it.
Headed off to bed night before the race at 10pm, breakfast plan all sorted, clothes prepared, support bag and instructions all organised – family had been briefed (and were excited about the race). Then at about 2am I was dragged out of my running dreams into a bit of a nightmare by the pain that was building in my stomach. read on