First run since whw & feedback from whwrunner

Time: 11.55am
Route: Dykebar
Distance: 5miles
Time Run: 38mins 37secs

I went out for my first run since the whw race. It was good to get out running again. I made sure I didn’t take mile splits. I just wanted to run and see how I felt. My left knee was a little sore so the IT band hasn’t quite cleared up but as I type this an hour later it feels all right so we’ll see how that develops. I also felt my right groin which is interesting as it was the left one that has been sore. But that eased off before the end so hopefully that will be fine. I plan to run again on Thursday.

Last week Donald sent me an email with really helpful and thoughtful comments about my whw run and I asked for any comments. whwrunner responded with more helpful comments and is happy for me to share them so here they are.

My comments are in white. Donald’s comments are in yellow and whwrunner in green.

As promised, I’ve put my thoughts down about the WHW Race 2007. Please note that I am not a coach, doctor, physio, nutritionist, etc, nor have I ever done the WHW race, so anything I say should be checked with someone who actually knows what they’re talking about! These comments are based on what I saw and experienced during the WHW 2007 race and are only suggestions about possible areas to look at to improve your time, or if you aren’t interested in your time, then at least to make the next race a bit easier.The time you ran the 2007 race in is absolutely superb and really exceed what everyone, including you, though you would manage. It will be difficult to better this, but certainly possible. You will gain in experience the more ultra races you run in.

I agree entirely with this. It was a great performance.

Thanks – I was very happy with my time and performance. I ran it differently to my plan being an hour up at Kingshouse but overall I was so pleased to break 23hours. Given that in the few weeks before the race I did fear not being able to finish I am so pleased with the run. I also feel I gained a massive amount of experience through the run.

I was surprised at how little running you do. I run about 50 miles a week, and I’m training for a much shorter distance than you. I try and run 2,500 miles a year. I think you should aim to increase your general mileage by running more times a week to build up a good base of miles.

I don’t think you need to build up your mileage by much. You and I are both running around the same mileage, which will work out at about 2,000 for the full year. There is a fine line between increasing your mileage and staying fit and healthy – I’ve seen a lot of people who do too much, then injure themselves before the race. There is also the issue of other commitments – to run 2,500 miles a year is a very big ask, and could lead to problems keeping things balanced, such as family and work. So, in summary, I don’t think you need to do much more at all.

This is an interesting one. In the past I’ve been happy to run 1,000 miles a year so I’ve increased a fair bit but realise that I have run less than a lot of other whw runners. I felt my 40 miles a week was about right for me but I will think about increasing that for next year. One thing I am planing to do is to have a monthly cycle. Week 1 – recovery week 30-35miles. Week 2 & 3 – more miles 45-50 and week 4 – hardest week – 50-60miles including a long run on the whw.

I think you have to find a middle pace for the WHW race. whwrunner has this sorted. He has a nice middle pace which he can keep going for a long time which covers the ground fast and doesn’t seem to tire him out too much. As you mention in your report, you have 2 paces, one fast and one slow. I think the Monday nights at the club teach you to run fast for a short distance and are not the best preparation for the WHW race. Perhaps you should think about changing to a Wednesday night at the club where they run a steady 10 miles on the road, and possibly think about running over and back from your house to the club to increase the distances you run to give you more background mileage.

I agree with this, but think it will come with experience. I tend to adopt a “shuffle” approach, which I think is very efficient for long distance running – I have hardly any lift at all in my stride. With the benefit of hindsight, I think you might have been better trying to run at my pace up to Bridge of Orchy, and going over Rannoch Moor, rather than push on as hard as you did. I think that took a lot out of you. I’m sure that a more conservative approach at that stage would have left you with more in the tank once you reached the last 20 miles, and would have resulted in a faster time.

I think there is a lot of benefit to be gained by doing a regular road run of about 10 miles, at close to half marathon pace. I have done a lot more of this type of running this year – often on a Wednesday night I go out and do between 8 and 14 miles at about 7.15 pace. I think it has helped bring my times down. Like Donald, I am not convinced that there is any real benefit in doing interval type training if you are wanting to improve your ultra times. Far better (in my view) doing the 10 mile ‘tempo’ run.

The other thing I would encourge you to do is to race a bit more. I think racing is excellent training – you get used to running flat out, even when exhausted. It’s also great fun for people who are as competitive as you and me! There are plenty of good races on Saturdays and midweek throughout the year – it’s just a matter of finding them. It’s my view that a hard half marathon race is often more beneficial than a 25 mile steady training run – it also adds some variety to the training programme.

I am going to work hard on improving my running style for longer runs. I think the problem running into Bridge of Orchy was that I got carried away. I was feeling really good after going through a tough patch and wanted to make the most of it. In hindsight it would have been better to ease off a bit and let the good patch last longer. I will definitely be working on this over the next year.

I would like to do some more races over the coming year. One of my problems is finding races on a Saturday. I’ve been looking at the Scottish Hill Runners web site and reckon I could do some hill races which would be good for my quads as well.

I think you went far too fast during the WHW race coming in to Bridge of Orchy, then really suffered immediately after that. Stevie and I were really concerned when we were waiting for you at the Inveroran Hotel. It took so long for you to get to the top of the hill we thought you’d fallen and hurt yourself. You must keep your speed under control even when you feel good.

Yes, I would agree with this. At Bridge of Orchy there is still 35 miles to go. It’s a long way. Far better just keeping a steady pace, even when you feel good.

This is the biggest lesson learnt – or that needs to be learnt. Now I have done the race once I will feel more ready mentally for knowing what is involved.

You will need to keep concentrating during next year’s race, especially when you are really tired. You must keep looking at the 100m in front of you and run (at a slow steady pace!) every time you see an opportunity, ie when the track is flat or down-hill – as we did going across Rannoch Moor.

Again I agree. Even if you run slowly, it is a lot faster than walking. I try and run for as much as I can – I only walk when I don’t really have any option.

I am going to do more runs on the section from Bridge of Orchy to Fort William next year. For my monthly long runs on the whw I thinking of doing a run on the Friday from home and then the run on the Saturday so I’ll be running with miles in my legs which is more like the real thing.

I am still concerned about the amount you ate during the race. Have a look at whwrunner’s wife’s blog and see how many calories he ate during the race, and the type of food he ate. I would like you to add up how many you ate and see what it was. I reckon you still didn’t eat nearly enough.

I’m not sure what you ate so can’t really comment. I’ve cut down on how much I eat compared to earlier years, but I do make sure I get soup, rice and so on at regular intervals. I think the secret is to eat small amounts often, even if you don’t feel like it. It’s like putting petrol in your car – if you run out then you have serious problems. Far better to keep it topped up.

I felt I did better than the Fling but still not quite got this right. So I will be working on what suits me food wise over the next year.

This point perhaps ties in with the previous point. I think you may have to think about stopping for longer at the checkpoints and get a decent amount of food on board. I know you were keen to keep going because of your knee, but perhaps you are going to have to train your body to stop for say 3 or 4 minutes to get some good food inside you, especially early on in the race. One runner mentions using liquidised food, perhaps worth thinking about? Perhaps by stopping you may give your legs a short break which will help them recover slightly before the next section.

Yes, again I agree. I was quite surprised by how little you stopped. If you think about it, it wasn’t how we trained. On the long training runs we stopped quite regularly for 5 to 10 minutes and had something to eat – so why change strategy on race day? Sure, you don’t want to stop for too long, but I think a 5 or 6 minute stop can pay great dividends over the full event. It does help freshen up your legs, and means you are stronger for the subsequent stages. Interestingly, I took about an hour off my stop times this year compared with previous years, but I still stopped in total for more than an hour.

My plan was to stop for longer but as my knee was sore and seemed to seize up when I stopped I thought it was better to keep moving so that was why I kept my stops to an absolute minimum. If I had have stopped for another hour would I have finished an hour later or would I have been able to run more over the last 20miles and caught up that time? In my mind I’m not sure to be honest. But it is an area where I need to experiment a bit more.

I was surprised your quads seized up on you and am not sure why this happened. It could be lack of food (unlikely), lack of down-hill running (maybe), lack of back-ground miles (possible), lack of fitness due to your injury forcing you to cut back on running (maybe), or perhaps running too fast over the middle part of the race. I think you will have to think about this and sound out specialists. Maybe think about strengthening exercises for your quads – but remember I am not a coach or physio so would prefer you to discuss this with specialists.

I’m about 90% sure that your quad problems were a direct result of your fast pace in sections like Tyndrum to BoO and going over Rannoch Moor. I think you just ran out of steam – the muscles had done all they could and had nothing left. It’s another good reason why you have to pace yourself a bit more steadily, and have a few breaks.

My quads have always been sore on the long runs I’ve done since January so I was not surprised they hurt. They recovered very quickly after the race which seems to indicate that I was not getting enough fuel to keep the muscles working.

You were really excited during the race enjoying every minute of it. Inevitable I guess as you had been focusing on this one day for 8 months. I was very pleasantly surprised at how you coped with the pressure you put on yourself by putting all your thoughts on your blog, expressing your thoughts to everyone at the club, having such a large team of helpers and supporters at the race.

As we have discussed, the blog has been great. I’m sure one of the reasons why I ran so well this year was because of our training (and I suppose our ‘rivalry’!). I’ve found it a great help to read your thoughts along the way, and I’m sure many others have too.

I’ve loved doing the blog and didn’t find it too much of a pressure to perform. I feel the advantages of sharing my thoughts along the way have far outweighed any disadvantage of creating pressure. So I will keep it going and will attempt to be as honest as I can along the way.

I also learnt a lot about being a support runner, although you did make it fairly easy for me and Stevie. You didn’t change your shoes or throw us any last-minute requests for things we didn’t have immediately to hand. You also have the most amazing positive attitude towards the race.

The only time you ever showed any doubts was when we were approaching Glen Nevis and you said you couldn’t go down-hill anymore.I need to buy a large bum-bag so I can get to equipment and water bottles easily. Having to take off my rucksack and open it while I was on the move and holding 2 bottles was very difficult.

I’m sure your backup team will learn a lot from the experience, and will be even better prepared in future years. I think it is a big help to have some continuity of backup. If you change then the new backup team don’t really know what has happened before, i.e. what have you been eating? When did you have problems?

I couldn’t have asked for a better backup team. Both my family and Donald & Stevie were superb and without them I know I wouldn’t have achieved my goals. Thanks again!!

I really enjoyed being a part of the team and would like to be considered as one of your support team for next year, work and other races permitting. Stevie would like to do the WHW race and is thinking about it, perhaps not next year, as is John McLaughlin. I think they will do the Highland Fling next year then think about the WHW in 2009. It will be a dilemma to know who to be a support runner for, but I would be happy to co-ordinate and advise the support teams if the 3 of your doing the race and year.May be I’ll do the race one year in the future, but as I say to everyone, I’m running really well at the moment and would like to try and perform at 10k’s etc as an M50. Maybe once my speed starts to leave me I’ll do the WHW. I suppose I did cover nearly 30 miles with you without any special training so maybe it is in me to do it. I guess the 60,000 plus miles I have run in my career will always give me a good base to train from, but time isn’t really on my side as I am getting on.

I’ll attach the spreadsheet of all my race times and splits – hopefully you might find this of some use. My first successful attempt was my 22.44 in 2000 – almost exactly the same as your time this year. I think I was probably quite a bit slower than you up to Kingshouse, but then made up more time over the last couple of stages. I guess that is consistent with my earlier comments about pacing yourself a bit more conservatively early on.

I have no doubts that you are well capable of getting your time down, and suspect we will have a few more interesting battles in the years ahead! I’m looking forward to them.

All the best


It’s great to know that others from the club are thinking of getting into ultra running. It will be fun to train and race together over the next year and beyond. I’d be surprised if Donald doesn’t have a go at the race in the next few years!

I would love to run quicker next year and my goal will definitely to beat 22hrs 45mins. Whether I’m capable of getting under 22hrs I’m not sure but I will be trying as hard as I can!!!
Watch this space!

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