West Highland Way Race – time for reflection

The dust has settled, the West Highland Way Race report has been written and the 2013 WHW Race consigned to history.

Living inside the intense race bubble was an incredible experience and I found it difficult to give up the adrenaline and support network which existed in that bubble and return to real life.

Physically I am pretty well healed. I have run a few times since the race and while I am still a little tired I don’t have any race related niggles. I have picked up a bit of an achilles injury which didn’t come from the race itself but may be an indicator of trying to do a wee bit too much too soon. Or it could just be bad luck.

Some random thoughts on my race

Feet – My feet were great,  I had no issues at all. The taping I used over potential hot spots worked well and despite being on my feet for 27 hours I had only one small blister and a bashed toe but nothing which affected my ability to run.

Toilet –  unlike some others, I had no bother with toilet issues. In fact I didnt need to poo all the time I was running.

Sleep – doing without sleep wasn’t a huge problem. It was a bit of a struggle the first night, especially the half light in the early hours when I would fall asleep while running through the woods. Once the sun came up I seemed to get past being sleepy and although I had an unplanned sleep of an hour at Kinlochleven, I wasn’t unduly tired on the second night.

Shoes –  my shoes worked well for me. I ran the first section in Brooks Pure Grits. I changed into Inov-8 Roclite 365’s to take me from Balmaha to Bein Glas and ran the remainder of the Way in Brooks Cascadias. The Cascadias in particular did a good job over the stoney trails of the second half of the Way.

Gear –  I had posted about all the gear I had prepared for the race. In the end I used quite a bit of it.  The only gear surprise was that I wore compression shorts and calf guards over the first half of the race and discarded them for the second half which is the opposite of what I was expecting to happen. I had a bit of a wardrobe failure when my 2XU shorts and X-bionic pants got soaked and the seams caused some nasty chaffing.

My headtorches worked well. The Tikkina torch gave plenty light and the battery life meant no issues with batteries. Wearing a second torch on my wrist was genius as the ability to target light made a massive difference.

My OMM Kamleika smock was awesome. Despite some horrendous rain, it kept me dry and the ability to vent using the large zip helped keep me cool as well.

Food –  on the whole my food worked reasonably well. I probably didn’t eat enough in the middle section of the race which may have contributed to my big slump and subsequent vomitting on the Devil’s Staircase.  My breakfast of yoghurt and muesli at Balmaha worked well and I should perhaps have eaten some more of this at later checkpoints. Cheese rolls were tasty.  Soup was quite good,  but I struggled with the texture of real chicken. I had asked for baked potato and haggis at Glencoe but it didn’t really work – it was too difficult to eat at that stage which meant I probably had less of it than I should have.  Despite having trained with trail mix as my snack of choice for eating on the go, on the day I couldn’t face it which was doubly unfortunate because Helen had spent ages preparing lots of little bags of it for me!

Overall I was pretty happy with my first West Highland Way Race. I was disappointed that I got delayed at Kinlochleven and lost lots of time there, but equally I was pleased that I managed to get going again and finish well. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the actual running parts of the race went.  Lots of lessons were learned.  With a wee bit more experience I think I could shave a few hours off my time and I can’t wait to have another go at it.

Even if I am not running next year, I will definitely be somewhere between Milngavie and Fort William on West Highland Way weekend.

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