Gleniffer Braes Run

I run a lot on the Gleniffer Braes especially when I’m building up to a big race and every now and then I like to really push as hard as I can and see where my fitness is. With the Hardmoors 110 three weeks today I decided to go for it from the start today and see how I got on.

Last year three weeks before the West Highland Way Race I ran my 9 mile loop at a pace of 9.07.  Today for the same loop I ran it at 8.48 pace so I’m really happy with that.  I was breathing hard at various times but my legs felt good.

I was especially pleased with my down hill running as my quads felt strong so hopefully all those runs up and down Ben Lomond are paying off.  The track was very dry which made it a lot easier to run on.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to our planned run tomorrow. I’m running from Glencoe to Fort William with Steven, David and Norman who have entered the Midsummer Highland Relay (42miles from Tyndrum to Fort William) which is being run alongside the West Highland Way Race on Saturday 21st June.

It will be my last long run (over 20miles) before the Hardmoors 110 race and with some good long downhill runs as part of the route it will give my quads some more quality trashing!

I have really enjoyed reading lots of race reports from last Saturday’s Hoka Highland Fling. Two in particular stood out to me for the way both runners paced their runs.

  • Heather Calderwood-Orr had a very interesting build up with injury and not as much training as she’d hoped but she paced it very well indeed.
  • Robert Osfield had a definite game plan which had all to do with running to heart rate. His race report is well worth reading as he writes about his plan and how the race went.

I’ve been in touch with Robert to congratulate him and I’m sure he won’t mind if I copy some of his reply …

Thanks. I had been struggling with bouts of cramp between Rowardennan and Inversnaid so had to ease off a little, but thankfully was still able to move along comfortably - so you actually saw me at one of lower points, but it’s all relative, my highs and lows were small deviation from things moving along consistently and comfortably. It’s funny seeing the photo of runners having a picnic around the table at Inversnaid, such a contrast to my own approach of grab my drop bag as quick as possible and unpack it and stow everything while jogging/walking.

Thanks for spreadsheet. I’ve added a couple of extra columns to just see how runners 1st and 2nd halves compared (taking Rowardennan as half way.) My second half/first half ratio came in 4th fastest with a ratio of 1.078, with Heather Calderwood running the strongest second half compared to first half with a ratio of 1.035. My last three miles were pretty close in pace to my first 12 so I believe I paced about as evenly as one can. I’m sure practising race pace and using a HR monitor for pacing were a big factor in this, as was setting a reasonable target HR range - if I had targeted a higher HR range early in the race I would have crashed and burned in the second half and would have been unable to maintain the target HR and pace.

I am left wondering how much faster or slower I would have gone if I had been more aggressive with my pacing at different points. I don’t think there will have been much leeway though, pushing too hard on a single hill can push you into cramp if you are already sitting right below your limit.

Curiously this year the winner bucked the trend of previous years and ran a much weaker second half than any of the previous male winners.

It seems despite having the biggest field the depth in the talent at the front just wasn’t there.

Another thing that surprised me was just how many runners were around me in the last three miles, I had expected to spend long stretches on my own during the last few miles, especially in doing a decent time, but instead there were plenty of runners strung out in front of me to catch - for the whole race I had almost always had someone ahead. I suspect come 21st of June it’ll back to needing to enjoy my own company a bit more!

It is interesting to compare the splits of Heather and Robert …

fling comparison

The figures that stand out to me are their positions at Drymen, Robert 259th and Heather 493rd and their finishing positions, Robert 64th and Heather 201st. So Robert went past 195 runners and Heather overtook 292!!

It’s certainly given me plenty to think about as I approach the HM110 race!


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3 Responses to Gleniffer Braes Run

  1. HI John,

    I’m still writing up my Fling report, been doing a little bit each day whilst juggling other stuff and still haven’t completed it. What I wrote on my blog about splits for the Fling is something I posted a couple of days before the Fling. Alas it only got a serious number of hits once you posted a link to it after the Fling so I’m not sure it’ll of helped too many apart from perpetuating the post race gossip 🙂

    One problem that I hadn’t properly anticipated with running a roughly even intensity through the race is the effect of needing to overtake so many runners who are slowing drastically. On all the tracks where you could get by easy it wasn’t a problem, but the narrow parts around Inversnaid it slowed me down. In all the previous ultras I’ve run the field has been so much smaller that once you get into the second half of the race it’s really spaced out so congestion isn’t a problem, but now the Fling is such a big race it feels quite different.

    As for trying out different pacing techniques, if you do want to dabble with pacing by heart rate then I’d recommend practising using your heart rate in training, in particular on hilly routes. Find a HR range that you feel comfortable running at and try to stick with it whether you are on the flat, going uphill or downhill. For instance set an average HR target of 130 and try to keep with a zone of +-3 around it, so 127 to 133. If you find yourself heading above the HR zone then immediately back off or walk till you get back into the zone.

    Even if you don’t use HR for pacing during your race I still think it’s worthwhile practising pacing within a HR zone when training of hilly terrain as it can be such a strong indication that you pushing on too hard or taking it too easy. To know whether your are pacing with even intensity is really difficult to do by feel. Cross referencing what your HR monitor is telling you to how your own senses make of the intensity is worthwhile, perhaps with practice you’ll be able to calibrate your own perception to the reality of how hard you are working.

    I believe for most ultra runners perception of intensity and reality are quite different, at start of races too great an intensity feels too easy and late in the race even a low intensity can feel too hard. The more you respond to adrenalin and the buzz off other runners starting fast the greater the disparity between perception and reality. I believe the so few at the Fling paced like Heather and myself is largely because of this difficultly calibrating perception to reality rather than ignorance of what might constituent sensible pacing. Most people know it’s sensible to start off easy, but almost everybody fails to do it.

  2. Hi John/Robert,

    These are great stats - thank you very much! I have only completed the race once before (2011) and following this post, I did the same calculations for 2011. If they are correct, it appears I ran the strongest second half then as well! A ratio of 1.031. Interesting as my finishing time was quicker (9.42), and I spent more (too much) time at checkpoints but I still ran a similar ratio…

    I also struggled around Inversnaid with passing people - a downside to the slower start. Most moved out the way but I had to say excuse me or when that did not work, ask people if I could get by, quite a lot. It definitely slowed me down in sections.

    HR is something I would like to look at, Robert. I feel in both races I started too slow, so using HR would be a good way to see if I am pushing myself too much. I have never looked at HR so I think a lot of practice would be required before I used it in a race… something to consider anyway!

    I met David Hanna during the race, his tactic was to make sure his watch never dropped below 10 min miles - one of the better pacing strategies, I think!


    • HI Heather,

      I spotted that your splits in 2011 and this year where very close in percentage terms which is quite remarkable given differences in fitness and approach to the race. I guess it’ll be as much co-incidence than judgement but there has to be a strong element of that’s how you naturally pace your race effort.

      Given now much difficult terrain and ascent there is in the second half I suspect a ratio of 1.031 is a bit low and that you are probably going out a bit too slow. I can’t see any reason why the penalty for going out too slow be more than going out too fast - it’s very likely to be less costly, so going out a few % too slow is unlikely to radically alter your finishing time. What you loose in slow start you should get back with a stronger finish.

      Small deviations for ideal pacing are likely to have a small penalty, while big deviations I’d expect to see significant penalty. Previous race winners have typically won with a ratio of around 1.10 to 1.15, so assuming this as idea might not be too far off. However, I suspect my own ratio of 1.078 based on an even effort level is more likely to be nearer to the ideal - the winners are typically racing each other rather than running as team to break a record. A ratio in the range 1.02 to 1.14 is probably a sweet spot for the Fling pacing.

      Above or below this I expect runners to be loosing time, with the exponentially increasing penalty see by those with ratios of 1.2 and above. Which is most of the field as the average is 1.32 for this years race.

      Looking at the stats David Hanna didn’t manage to maintain the 10 min/miles, but did mange a ratio of 1.15 and was in the top 2% of strong finishers so pretty good going and is unlikely to paid too much of a penalty for going out a tad bit fast.

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