Lessons learnt from the Highland Fling

One of the reasons for running the Highland Fling was to learn as much as I could for the main whw race which is now less than 8 weeks away. So having set this blog up to record my thoughts and training I thought it would be good to write down the lessons I learnt from Saturday. So here goes …

1. PACE JUDGEMENT
I’ve put this first because this is the key one for me. When I finished at Tyndrum I knew I couldn’t have run another 42 miles at that pace. But I set out to run 53 miles in under 11hrs and achieved it. For the whw race my projected tme for Tyndrum is 11hr 45mins to do a sub 24hr. So I have just over an hour to play with. BUT the key thing will be to reach Drymen no faster than 2hrs.

On Saturday I felt I ran comfortably but still got there in 1hr 50mins which will be too quick on the whw race. There are one or two places where I will walk on that first section that I ran this time. Overall I felt I didn’t get sucked along with others and settled into a nice rythym running with Ian and Allan to Balmaha. So I felt for this race I got it about right.

Lesson learnt – MAKE SURE I VIEW THE FIRST 20MILES TO BALMAHA AS A WARM UP.

2. BACK-UP TEAM
Katrina, Emma & Hollie were superb! Katrina will be doing up to Rowardennan on the whw race and so wanted to make sure she knew the way and what to do. There are a number of things we got right on the day. I’d given a list of what I wanted at each checkpoint and when I arrived at Drymen I was greeted by Hollie holding out my fruit bread & honey sandwich and banana and Emma ready with my electrolyte drink and water.

This was repeated at each checkpoint and it was great. It meant I was able to get in and out of each checkpoint in about 4-5mins. Having a towel ready to have a quick rub down was really good and at each checkpoint I changed my top. I started with a long sleeved top, changed to a short sleeved one at Balmaha, and vests at Rowardennan & Derrydaroch. Again this felt great.

At Balmaha Emma had laid out all the options on the car so I could choose which one I wanted. This saved time and hastle. I asked Katrina what she learnt from being involved in the back up and she mentioned a few things including have some wet wipes available, take some coffee (for her!), have some reading material and puzzles as there is a bit of waiting around, have everything ready and waiting.

Stevie and Donald will be doing the section from Beinglas Farm and running with me from Kingshouse and I know I’m going to be relying on them in a big way. It was great having Stevie along on Saturday as he will have got an idea of my pace and progress.

So lesson learnt – BACK-UP TEAM ARE VITAL FOR A GOOD RUN AND I’M SO GLAD KATRINA IS WILLING TO HELP AGAIN.


3. FOOD
This was a big lesson. Basically I don’t think I ate enough. Stevie who has been back-up to other runners in the past made this comment to Katrina when he heard what I’d taken and I think he is right. I had a fruit bread & honey sandwich at Drymen & Balmaha, a small amount of Pasta at Rowardennan, a rice pudding at Inversnaid, nothing at Derrydarroch. Plus fruit at each stop, 2 energy gels, a small amount of an energy bar and 15 small fried eggs (the sweets!).

I just about got away with it for 53miles but I suspect I won’t for 95miles. So I need to find food I can eat easily. Early on in the run its okay but as the time goes on I feel less like eating. The best thing was the energy gels. At one point going through the forest before crossing the A82 I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run much more. I had a honey stinger and 15 mins later found myself running a lot easier.

So I think they are key. On the water side I felt I got that about right. At each checkpoint I took a bottle of water (kept in a cool box) and an electrolyte drink. I made sure I was drinking regularly and before I felt thirsty. I tried to keep to the rule of whether you can spit. If you can’t you need to drink. I also took a Buffer/Electrolyte supplement capsule every hour or so to replace the Sodium and Potassium. I didn’t have any cramps so assume they worked. Thanks to Mark Hamilton for putting me on to those.

Lesson learnt: I MUST EAT MORE AND MY BACK-UP TEAM WILL NEED TO NAG ME TO EAT ENOUGH.

3. PSYCHOLOGICALLY
I had to check the spelling on my spell checker for that one! Dean Karnazes says in his book that in a 100mile race you run the first 50miles with your legs and the second 50 with your head. I understand a bit more about that now.

Having a positive outlook throughout the run was so important. A few things helped me on Saturday. I had encouraged people to text me and those texts were so encouraging. Here are a few examples:

This one is from friends at church Hi John run the race with perseverance.’ Two from my golfing partner ‘Don’t forget to look at the scenery. Remember one step at a time.’ and ‘How many feet does it take feet does it take to complete a 53mile run???? 2!!! and they better be yours!!!’ and this one from a friend at Kilbarchan AAC ‘A little thought for you – the most important part of an athlete’s body is above his shoulders.’

I could go on but you get the message. It was great to feel that friends and family were supporting me along the way. I also got several updates of the Everton-Man U game. They were great when we were winning 1-0 and then 2-0 but not so good when United came back to win 4-2!! The other things that helped me psychologically was passing people. The lift it gave me when I saw someone ahead and then caught them was amazing.

At one point I thought I was struggling but I went past someone and they were struggling more than me. I know that doesn’t sound very gracious but it helped me at the time! Another factor was trying to stay ahead of Ian during the last 2hours. I hope he doesn’t read this but I have a feeling that our rivalry will continue into the whw race!! Ian wrote a great report of Saturdays race on his blog. Have a look at it (link on the right side). He wrote ‘As I arrived at the checkpoint at Derrydarroch I was surprised to see John K, as I thought he would be much further in front. I think he was surprised to see me too. He left the checkpoint 4 minutes in front of me – not an insurmountable gap at that stage, particularly as everyone would be starting to tire.’ He was right about me being surprised!!!

I was hoping I was further ahead! And at the end Ian wrote, ‘I felt really good at the end – seemed to have got over the cramp and was running strongly. I found out that Debbie C had finished 6 minutes earlier (in a time of 10.33) and John K was only 3 minutes in front (10.36). I congratulated both of them, although felt a bit gutted as I reckon the cramp had cost me at least 10 minutes on the section above Crianlarich. Still, that’s life, and overall I can’t really complain about my time.’

So I know that Ian will be after me and this will help in my motivation. Ian has been so helpful since I first got in touch through his blog and I look forward to future battles. Ian has completed the whw race 6 times and has a wealth of experience.

I hope he is happy to keep sharing it with me! We have a two day run planned in a few weeks so it will be good to chat about this race as we run. It may be only chance I get to beat him!
Lesson learnt: BE AS POSITIVE AS POSSIBLE THROUGHOUT THE RACE AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS TO ENCOURAGE ME!

4. RACE SCHEDULE
I know this might not work for everyone but on each training run on the whw and for the race on Saturday I’ve had a schedule I’ve tried to keep to. It really helped me on Saturday. I think the key thing is for it to be realistic and yet a challenge.

On Saturday it was about right. I set myself the goal of running under 11hrs. At each point I was just under or bang on except for the last 9miles when I was 5mins slow. The feeling of beating 11hrs was great but if I had set my goal as 10hrs 30mins and missed it by 6mins it would have felt bad especially on the route.

So for the whw race I’m going to make sure I have a realistic goal and schedule. I have run the whole route in two runs over the past two months. Put the two times together and it comes out at just under 19hrs.

So to achieve my goal of sub 24hr I have 5hrs to play with. I hope that a sub 23hrs might be possible but I’m going to stick with my original goal of sub 24hr and if I’m ahead of schedule all the way then great!
Lesson learnt: HAVE A REALISTIC YET CHALLENGING SCHEDULE

5. BUFF
Dario gave me a purple buff when I entered the whw race and initially I thought I can’t see me wearing that much but it has become an essential part of my kit. Not only do I look dashing wearing it (NOT!) but it is so practical.

On Saturday the weather was hot and I always sweat a lot anyway and prefer colder weather to run in. The buff is great at keeping me cool. Last month when I ran with Debbie she gave me this tip. When you go past a stream soak the buff in the water and use it to cool down.

On Saturday I must have done that at least 20 times. It was soooo good. The first splash I pour it over my head and then use the wet buff as a headband which keeps my head cool for a while …. until I find the next stream.
Lesson learnt: MAKE SURE I HAVE MY BUFF FOR THE WHW RACE

6. FALLING OVER
I fell twice during the run and had one other trip but didn’t fall. Plus I tripped and fell in my last easy 5mile run last week so it is obviously a bit of a problem. I don’t think I’m alone as Katrina mentioned that several runners had cut and scrapes when they went by.

Ian in his report mentioned falling as well. The problem I found is that as my legs were getting more sore it was harder to lift them and when I did trip it was difficult to react quick enough. I’m not quite sure what I can do about this but it is something I’m aware of.
Lesson learnt: TRY NOT TO TRIP AND FALL OVER!!

7. STRATEGY AT CHECKPOINTS – SIT OR STAND?
On Saturday I didn’t sit at all and felt that worked well for me. I preferred to eat and drink on the run and use the stops to towel down and change my top. So I think I will keep with that pattern for the whw.
Lesson learnt: TRY AND STOP FOR AS LITTLE TIME AS POSSIBLE

I’m sure there are other lessons I’ve learnt and I may come back to them in future posts but I think this will do for now.

If anyone has other lessons they learnt and are happy to share them please email me and I’ll post them in due course.

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