My first run in February was a frosty, early (for me) morning, run up on to Killoch Hill on the Glennifer Braes. Over the last couple of years I've taken many many many photos on this regular route, so just for you here are some more taken throughout February.
Over the last couple of weeks I've been 'researching' headtorches and in that time come to the conclusion that I know squat and zippydeedooda nowt about which one is best for my needs. I've had advice and recommendations from several people, to whom I'm grateful, but the main problem being that each 'suggestion' differs in opinion from each other. So now I'm more confused than I was at the start. I've owned a Petzl Tekkina something or other for a few years now and never really used it other than during power cuts in the house or cooking while camping if required.
One of the main problems on the longer runs that I've done is eating and digesting what I eat. I've seen people eating some weird stuff during a race and thought that if it works for them then there would be no reason it shouldn't work for me. Maybe worth a try then. This normally results in me wretching in the attempt and if I do manage to swallow something 'exotic' it normally reappears ten minutes later all over my shiney shoes. During the first couple of ultras I ever ran I only managed to nibble on flapjacks and odd gel, which were like swallowing wet cement. Over the 12 ultras I've run to date I've gradually found things that work for me. Most of these things are 'normal' food rather than fancy specialist energy bars, gels and like. Rice pudding, museli bars, jelly babes, jam pieces and pasta pots are the ones I find best to eat and digest. That's the important thing, it needs to digest and get to the energy starved muscles to be of any good. I'd rather spend 20 minutes at a checkpoint refuelling properly than try and eat whilst running. I've seen some try and fail, being reminecent of the scene from 'Jim will fix it' where the kids try and eat on a rollercoaster. I'll be sitting down soon to look at my nurition for the WHW Race, using the intervening events to try some other ideas out. Anyone know a good curry house in Kinlochleven?
West Highland Way Training Run (with a twist): Bridge of Orchy-Victoria Bridge-Bridge of Orchy.
The 'twist' in question was detour at the Mam Carraigh cairn. I parked at the BoO Hotel and made my way over the stone bridge and began the climb on the rough path. Being on fresh legs I made quick progress and was soon above the treeline. The views were fantastic, with all the hills having snow covered peaks. I could see the clouds approaching from Glencoe so I knew rain would sooner, rather than later, come my way. I reached the cairn on Mam Carraigh and decided to divert to the left onto a rough track leading up onto the ridge of Ben Inverveigh, overlooking Glen Orchy. The path became very boggy but I could see the cairn on the horizon and decided to keep going. It was steep going and just as I reached the cairn the rain started. Jacket on. Despite the low cloud the views were dramatic over Loch Tulla. After a few photos I decided it was time to go, with the wind making the temperature drop. I rejoined the WHW path at Mam Carraigh and continued down to Inveroran Hotel and onto Victoria Bridge car park. On the decent I found the path spongy and bouncy. Another runner passed on his way on the road and waved as I came down the hill, I waved back. Was it you? I turned at the car park and returned to BoO on the road. By now the rain had stopped, clouds had lifted and the sun was out. Bleedin' typical!
Those who read my mutterings will be seeing some changes to my Blog recently. One of these is a page dedicated to photos from my WHW Training Runs. I hope these envoke memories and I'll add more as I run a section of the route.
Mutterings and Terminology:
Have you noticed that we no longer seem capable of speaking plainly? It used to be words such as 'gubbed', 'knackered' and many words begining with 'f' that I can't possibly repeat here. Now it's things like 'I've reached my lactic threshold', 'I've maxed my respiratory output' and 'I've hit the wall'. When someone proclaims that they hit the wall I normally reply by telling them to watch where they are going.
WHW Race Training:
It's progressing well, having had a good number of route runs in January my main concern was keeping up the momentum up until June. Although everything is geared towards the WHW race, there are 3 ultra distance events before it to deal with first. So staying focused and motivated shouldn't be a problem. I just hope I stay fit, healthy and injury free during the coming months. I won't be taking risks or 'racing' in the D33, Fling or Cateran. Finishing comfortably and injury free will suffice and making sure I fully recover between each event will be important. Last year between ultras I ran in 10K and Half Marathon events, but not this year. Another danger is overtraining, although my lazyarsed approach should prevent this!
The D33 is a couple of weeks away and this will be my 3rd time running it. I hope George will have the beer on ice at the end. I also hope that this year I finish injury free, having limped in on the two previous runs here. Touch wood, or am I tempting fate?
My initial plan has been to do my longer training runs on the northern section of the WHW during February and March, but I've knocked that on the head. It's really down to the fuel costs of 250+ mile round trips each time. So, I'll stick to the southern 'softie' sections of the route for now and maybe just do one expedition north each month instead. I would like to do the Milngavie to Conic Hill section under 'race conditions', that is during the night to get the 'feel' for this section in the dark as it will be during the event itself. I recently floated the idea on facebook and a few others seemed interested so its something to consider in the coming months.
As you know I take the occasional photo when running and hillwalking. After running the Black Mount section of the WHW last month I sent a couple of photos into the TGO in the faint hope of getting one into their mag'. Lo and behld in the March issue one was published (P67). Infamy at last! Here it is below.
Shitting in the woods:
This is a delicate subject (potentially messy) and one not to be sniggered at. At somepoint during an ultra one must leave a 'deposit' along the route. We've all had to do it. So don't 'sit' there with your face all screwed up in disgust. Several problems arise from this. Including, where?, how? and did pack hankies or do I resort to rubbing my bum on tree bark?
As for throwing up:
Well now this can be worse than involuntary bladder movements. At least if you are taking a dump you are facing away from what is happening as it happens. Seeing last nights curry reappearing in all its horrific technicolour, whilst dislocating you jaw in the process and howling like an injured wild animal makes it all the more enjoyable. This scares the crap out of any nearby runners who up the pace, thinking they are about to be savaged by a hairy wild beast. Mind you, the dry wretch is worse. At least vomitting has a pay off, an end result. With wretching you stand there making hideously frightening noises with tears and sweat running down your face for no apparent reason, feeling like John Hurt in the Alien film. An extreme ab workout is your reward. Indeed ultra running has many many attractions to it.
By now you will have no doubt have heard my first Podcast interview on the WHW Race website. Stuff of legend! I don't recall having ever been as nervous! I think John saw I was a tad nervous and our wee chat before it helped to relax me a bit, but not much! Talking into an iphone didn't come as naturally as I had thought it would be, which was evident. I could feel my throat drying up and the heat in my face increase the more I muttered and gibbered my way through Johns questions. I could feel the 5 WHW Race goblets John has looking down on me, frowning, judging me! But it's done now, there forever for me to cringe at! Hopefully I'll be a bit more relaxed next time and and talk a bit more sense! In the meantime, I apologise for bringing shame on my family!!
West Highland Way Training Run (of sorts): Tyndrum-Auch farm-Gleann Achadh-innis Chailein-Tyndrum.
The plan had been to run all the way to the foot of Beinn a Churn, beside Loch Lyon. On the drive up all the main peaks were covered in a thick blanket of fresh snow but it seemed to be ok lowdown so hoped for no problems underfoot. In the car park at the Green Welly I saw another runner setting off in shorts and a t-shirt. Good luck to you, I muttered! Above Tyndrum the sky was blue, but it was bloody cold. Off I went. On the hill beside Brodies I could see this other runner disappearing into the distance. I passed a couple of hillwalkers as I crossed the bridge over the railway and as Beinn Dorain came into sight I saw the black clouds gathering above BoO. The further I ran, passing Beinn Odhar, the colder it got. The cloud closed in and the snow began to fall. Aided by the wind it began to sting my face. Christ knows how that runner in his shorts was feeling. I reached Auch farm and after crossing the river I turned right, off the WHW and began to follow the track towards the viaduct up Gleann Achadh-innis Chailein. The path soon vanished and it became one big bog! At one point I had to stradle and shimmy along the wire fence to keep from sinking to my knees. The cloud lifted for a wee while but didn't help my slow progress across this quagmire. When I eventually reached the viaduct I was brassed off at how long it took me to cover the short distance. Then the hail started. Fed up and with no sign of the path improving further up the route I decided to jack it in and return to Tyndrum. I passed three 'mature' ladies out running at the farm bridge and said a quick hello, they were far too cheerful for my liking!!. The hail stopped and the snow came again. It's a shame the conditions underfoot became as bad as I had been looking forward to exploring this glen. Maybe I'll come back in the summer. So instead of around 16 miles, as I had planned, I only did around 8.5 miles. There's always tomorrow I suppose.