Run on whw – Sunday 25th March 2012

At the beginning of the year I sat down with Katrina and we planned out a training plan for the Fling. The key element was our long runs once a month on the route. Katrina had run around 20 miles in November and December so had a good base to start from.

In January we ran 30miles as part of the whw training weekend. In February we ran 35miles which included 2 out and backs which was tough mentally. Then this run was the next step in the training – 41miles from Drymen to Tyndrum.

Katrina had found the 35miles pretty tough and to say she wasn’t really looking forward to this run would be an understatement! But she ran a pb in the Alloa Half Marathon last week and despite suffering a cold this week I knew she’d be fine.

Ryan and Becki were keen to join us again for this long run. They live in Inverness so had some logistics to sort out. They drove to Tyndrum on Saturday, left their car there and Ryan’s parents gave them a lift to Drymen where they stayed in a b&b for the night.

We also had some logistics to work out. Ours involved calling in some favours from our girls! Josh and Laura picked us up at 7.30am and drove us to Drymen. They were then going off for a walk over Conic Hill.

Ryan & Becki were waiting for us and the four of us set off just after 8.30am after the traditional photo ….

It was quite misty/foggy as we set off but you could see it was going to be a warm day. Katrina & I both opted for a short sleeved top. We were carrying all we needed. This was Katrina’s last chance to practise food and gear.

I was interested to see how Katrina would pace herself over her longest ever run. I kept these splits to myself but here is how we got on …

Leg 1 Drymen to Balmaha (8.18miles in 1hr 50mins)
We set off nice and comfortable, chatting away. It soon warmed up and I felt I was sweating quite a lot as it felt so close and clammy.

I was interested to see what had become of the Garadhban Forest as I’d not been this way for a while and I knew a lot of the trees had been felled. It all looked so different with big open spaces where once there were trees.

After 3miles or so we came to a junction and we just carried straight on. There was a whw sign but it was just propped up and we couldn’t really see which was it pointed. I didn’t really think too much and we just carried on.

After half a mile or so I suddenly realised this didn’t look right! Ryan also was having doubts. Initially I thought we could carry on and then take a right somewhere and end up back on the track but Katrina rightly suggested turning round and going back!

Here is the junction we missed. We went straight on instead of going right …

You can see from my garmin picture our mistake!!

So not a good start and a bit embarrassing for me. I must have run this section over 20times. In my defence it looked very different with all the trees gone. At least it was early in the run and it was only a training run. Far better to do it in training than the race!

When we got to the bridge at the bottom of Conic I was able to work out that we’d run an extra 1.3miles …. about 15mins.

It was getting warmer by the minute but the mist/fog was still hanging around. We had a good climb up Conic Hill. We were all keen to eat early and often and we used the climb to eat some food.

I tucked into a peanut butter and jam sandwich. Katrina was trying a marmite sandwich which went down well. I was wearing my Hoka’s again and was looking forward to trying them out over familiar ground. I’ll be writing a full report soon but they were very comfortable coming down Conic.

Leg 2 Balmaha to Rowardennan (7.93miles in 1hr 49mins)
We ran straight through Balmaha and set off on the leg to Rowardennan. We were running together and enjoying chatting about various things. Ryan & Becki are getting married in the summer and have decided to have the service at the top of the climb just after Balmaha.

They have asked me to marry them!! So it’s all very exciting. It will be really special to marry them on the whw route.

My next food was my mashed potato. This time I made it with an ordinary spud plus a sweet potato with cheese and it tasted great, Definitely a winner. I’m finding that I can eat anything on these runs because I’m going a bit slower than my normal ultra pace.

Running with Katrina has been so good for me though as this is the pace I’ll need to do for the Lakeland 100 so it’s all great preparation.

Just before we reached Sallochy we met Susan, Caroline’s sister-in-law. Susan is training for the Edinburgh Marathon (which will be her first). She was running from Balmaha to Rowardennan and back. Her husband Christopher and friend Keir were running Rowardennan to Inversnaid and back but we missed them somehow.

As we ran into Rowardennan it was getting hot and I knew the next few hours were going to be very warm.

Leg 3 Rowardennan to Inversnaid (7.16miles in 1hr 41mins)
We stopped for 3mins to refill our water and grab some food to eat on the next leg. Katrina & I both had a pot of fruit in juice which was very refreshing. I also had some raisins coated in youghat which were lovely.

Over the next 2 legs we definitely had some couple time! Katrina & I led the way up the hill and soon opened a gap on Ryan & Becki. We knew they’d catch us later so we kept going enjoying the downhill bits when they came.

Once we reached the single track we slowed down a bit and soon enough Ryan & Becki caught us and we ran the last mile or two together into Inversnaid. It seems Becki had had some cramp in her calves. She did really well to keep going and sort it out.

Thankfully there is plenty of shade on that section so we were spared the full glare of the sun. We were drinking a fair amount. It ws just as well there was plenty of water coming off the mountain.

Leg 4 Inversnaid to Beinglas Farm (6.50miles in 2hrs 4mins)
Again we went straight through. Katrina has decided she doesn’t like to stop much. She’d rather eat and walk as stopping causes her to seize up a bit. So as we left Inversnaid I ate my pot of beans. Katrina was enjoying her pancakes. Another success on the food stuff.

Now it was Ryan & Becki’s turn to push ahead. Becki loves this section and is far happier on the technical trail than the road coming from a hill running background. They disappeared into the distance and Katrina & I concentrated on running our own pace.

Every stream I was pouring water all over my head. I don’t enjoy running in the heat and have to work hard to keep myself as cool as possible.

This the second time Katrina has been on this section. Last month it was at the start of the run. This time it was after almost 5hrs of running so more realistic to the race situation. But she took it in her stride and we kept moving at a decent pace.

Once we out of the harder stuff and across the open field we were off running again and we could see Ryan & Becki ahead. We were slowly catching them as we climbed up the hill to Dario’s post.

They stopped there for us as they suspected, quite rightly, that I’d want a photo or two …

From then on we stayed together and ran the rest of the way into Beinglas.

Leg 5 Beinglas Farm to Tyndrum (11.93miles in 3hrs 7mins)
I suspected that we won’t be able to get as much natural water over this last section so we stopped for a few minutes to visit the loo and refill our water bottles. I had my milk shake here which tasted so good. I’d frozen it over night and it still cool.

As we left Beinglas I encouraged Katrina to break the last section into four mini-sections and just concentrate on getting to each one. I was really pleased to see she was still running well and had plenty of energy.

It was after 5pm by now and thankfully the temperature dropped a few degrees which made it so much more comfortable. We kept a good steady pace going running all the flat and downhill and walking the hills.

Derrydarouch came and went as did Carmyle Cottage. Becki had a little wobble passing the cows at poo corner as she’d not very happy with them!

In Ben Fogle Forest Ryan & I were chatting and without realising ran ahead a bit but once we got down to the road we slowed a bit and very soon the girls came running along. We spent time talking about Ryan’s DNF from the whw race last year and the lessons he learnt from that.

I’ve ever confidence he is going to finish and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is well inside his 24hr goal.

It took a minute or two to cross the A82. We were definitely on the home leg now and once on the road Katrina, with the bit between her teeth, led the way.

We ran into Auchtertyre imagining what it will feel like in under 5weeks time in the Fling race. Once we’d crossed under the road again Ryan pushed on and I assumed we’d see him at Tyndrum but he waited for us half a mile or so go and we ran in together.

We crossed the finish line four abreast! A group hug and photo to finish a great day out.

Ryan & Becki got their car and headed back up to Inverness. We’d given Kirsty a bag with a chance of gear when we ran together a month ago. Kirsty very kindly let us have a shower at her ‘By the Way’ hostel.

Emma & Hollie had driven up to take us home. Thanks girls! We called in to the Real Food Cafe for a plate of chips. We couldn’t manage a fish as well!

So a great day out and a real confidence booster for Katrina & Becki in particular. Becki finished the Fling last year but struggled over the last 12miles or so. She’s going to do so much better this year.

That was Katrina’s longest run ever and she found it easier than last month’s 35miles. As we approached Tyndrum she said I could run another 12miles so we’re all set for the Fling on Saturday 28th April.

As for me I felt comfortable all day and these slower training runs are doing me a lot of good. If I could run at a similar pace in the Lakeland 100 I’d be looking at a decent time.

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4 Responses to Run on whw – Sunday 25th March 2012

  1. Silke says:

    Very well done to all of you! The forest behind Drymen looks really different. Hopefully in the Fling there will be lots of extra markers and maybe marshalls to guide the way as I would not be surprised if a few people got lost/took a wrong turn! Silke

  2. Caroline says:

    I'd better that clarify that Susan was running back to Balmaha too! Well done all of you, what an amazing day you had for it. Katrina is certainly ready for the fling now!

  3. Robert says:

    Great job Katrina! Longest run ever and still finishing with more in the tank. Five weeks to go and already in the shape to complete it just shoes how well training has gone.

    I also think the slow running is probably good for you too John. Not having to dig so deep to complete the long runs will mean that you won't be overusing stress hormones. I suspect this scrapping of the barrel may well have been hampering aerobic fitness and recovery last year.

    Best of luck to Ryan, Becki, Katrina and yourself with recovery this week, lots of pampering of partners with lots of delicious meals required!

  4. Thomas says:

    Katrina's progress is quite remarkable. There will be no doubt that she will finish the Fling. And she is certainly capable of running all the way to for Fort Bill (no I do not want to put ideas into anyone's head ;-))!

    Thanks for the photo and gps documentation of the forest!
    That turn is certainly “missable” considering the missing trees.


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