Thursday, 31 May 2012
I've only been running 'Ultras' since mid 2009 and have now chalked up 15 of them, soon to be 16 when I hopefully complete the mother and father of them all. For me completing the WHW Race will tick one of life's boxes.It was at the Highland Fling Race in 2009 that my affair with the Ultra running madness began and where I became aware of the Devil O' the Highlands Race and the full WHW Race. My first introduction to it was whilst standing in Milngavie Railway station car park at 6 in the morning, while queuing for the toilet. I overheard a conversation between 2 runners in front of me who were trying to out do each other with their tales of grandeur. I was just begining to get bored of this when one then said that he was using today's Fling race as a training run and that the next morning he was going to get up early again and run from Tyndrum (where the fling ends) to Fort William (the end of the WHW). He said he was doing this as a two day training run in preparation for the 'Big One'.
The 'Fling' in 2009 was supposed to be a 'one off' never to be repeated venture. Now look at me, 15 Ultras later. I've often wondered, normally after I've broken myself, why do I put myself through these events. What the hell is wrong with me?! Did I flick a switch in my brain marked 'stupid mode'?
I decided that I would do it. Then I changed my mind. Then I decided I would do it. Then I changed my mind. This went on for a few months and then in November last year I stupidly typed in my Visa card details and had entered the Ballot. I had 30 days in which to wise up and withdraw. But I didn't, despite having given it serious thought and then before I knew it I had been given a starting place. Oh Shit!!
It's something I want to do at least once. It's the ultimate challenge for me (unless I find something even more mental) and why not?
How will I know what I'm capable of achieving if I don't get up off my ass and try it. I'd rather fail in the attempt than fail to attempt and never know. I need to get it out of my system once and for all. I've no idea what my game plan will be, except to just finish, enjoy it (if thats possible) and say I did it and get my hands on a goblet at the end. I had my final pre-race Podcast with John the other day and there were some things I wanted to say about how I'm feeling now that it's just three weeks away. As usual I rambled on and didn't say all I wanted. I have mixed emotions about this event. Fear and excitement are there in both equal measures I guess. I know that along the way I'll have low points when I'm exhausted, knackered and just plain gubbed! But it's how I deal with these that'll get me to the end. My longest race to date has been 56 miles so I have no yardstick to measure the WHW Race against, no experience of what the brain and body go through during this distance. When I get to Auch Farm on the day that'll be the 56 mile mark and as I stumble forward from that point I'll be in new territory and the battle from there will be as much as about mental strength as it will be physical. Staying focused and moving forward sounds easy but i'm under no illusion that it WILL be tough, tougher than anything I've ever undertaken before.
So far this year I've run 3 Ultras and achieved PB's in each of them. I'm on a high at the moment as everything from fitness levels, confidence, nutrition, health and race preparation have all gone better than I could have expected. Fingers crossed that this has provided me with the momentum to do well in the WHW Race. As John says at the end of every Podcast 'Slow and Steady wins the race'. This will be the approach to the day, or in my case 'days'! Run at my own pace and not to run with others who I know can maintain a higher pace for longer. I'll be letting others bash on ahead and to not worry about anyone else in front or about how many people pass me during the weekend. If I need to walk, I will, no shame in that. I'll have my time targets as I mentioned in the last Podcast, although I'll see how it goes on the day. I've been not too far off my time splits so far this year but with this being a lot longer there may need to be some 'flexibility' in my predictions this time round. Satisfaction will be in the acomplishment of completion, afterall. Having had a single purpose this year has proved difficult as everything has been focused on this event. In previous years there hasn't been one single event that i've concentrated on fully. Each event so far this year has been a means to an end and had to be treated as 'warm up' events, training runs and an opportunity to try out new things and find out what works and what doesn't. They have given me the opportunity to identify areas for improvement and to track my progress as the year has gone on. I suppose the preparation for the WHW Race first started at the begining of December last year when my starting place was confirmed. Trying out new nutritional plans and sorting out my pacing have been my main objectives since then. Staying healthy, fit and injury free has been hugely important and now I need to maintain this between now and the start in three weeks time. Between now and then every training run, however short or long it may be, will be filled with possibilities. John asked me what my 'fears' surrounding this race were. The biggest is the thought of picking up an injury before the day. That would be too much to bear. Already there have been several people forced to withdraw through injuries or illness and I'm gutted for them. So if anyone I know has a cold or a plague related illness, stay the hell away from me!!
I know what works nutritionally for me now so I'll get my food sorted out fairly easily and there are a few places along the route to get something hot should I need a more normal meal. Although I doubt I'll be able to eat a full fish supper or a curry in a hurry. I know what kit I'll be using on the day too and will be using a mixture of trail and road shoes during the day. Some sections I know are more suited to a road shoe and having a bit of extra cushioning for a few miles will be a luxury. I'm still not convinced as regards to either the 'minamalist' or the 'hoka' approach so will stick to what I know works for me. To start changing the type of shoe I run in now would be ill advised this close to race day. I can experiment during my recovery period. I plan on changing socks a couple of times during the weekend to keep my feet feeling fresh and it'll help identify any friction points early, so I can deal with them before they develop any further into blisters. It only takes a minute to do this and will prevent problems later that could hamper my progress. I normally don't run with an MP3 player but I'll pack one in my kit bag so if I need a distraction from fatigue in the later stages I can plug myself in and hopefully with some good music playing I can give myself a boost. At check points I'll be in no rush and will take time to refuel properly. I want these checkpoints to be as stress free as possible and allow me to re-organise and re-focus for the next section. I know alot of runners arrive and grab food and eat on the run out, but I prefer to take a few moments and chill. My checkpoints will be sponsored by Zen!