I have just spent a couple of days at the Highland Fling training weekend in Tyndrum. Although I am not running either the Fling or the WHW this year it was good to spend time with like minded souls, enjoy some wine and some hard training.
I spent some time running with Amanda Hamilton who is building up to her first West Highland Way Race this year and we had a chat about what worked for me as well as what went wrong as I ran my first WHW race last year. I am sure that Amanda will have a strong race as she has her head screwed on the right way and is putting in the hard miles.
So what would I do differently next time?
1. I would practice running during the night. When I left Milngavie I had no problem running in the dark, but I did have a big problem with my body clock not wanting to start running at 1 am and I really struggled to maintain what would normally have been an easy pace at the start of the race.
2. I would do more long slow runs. I struggle for patience in long runs and tend to rush them to get them over and done with as soon as possible, so while I had the distance in my legs, I didn’t necessarily have the time in my head.
3. Getting carried away and charging over to Glencoe like a demented warthog may have felt great at the time, but I probably suffered for it later. Resist the temptation to rush.
4. Spend less time at checkpoints. Despite having a strict plan for my checkpoint times, time seemed to slip away, especially later in the day.
5. Don’t worry about the weigh-in. I was getting a bit light when I left Auchtertyre, even though I felt absolutely fine and it worried both me and my crew in case I would have a problem in Kinlochleven. This resulted in me spending time at our van trying to feed up before I went in to the Leisure Centre. Daft when you look back on it sitting outside in the cold and dark when I could have been inside in the warm. Kinlochleven checkpoint is a great place. If you are well, no-one will pull you from the race. Get inside and feel the tough love being dished out.
6. The haggis and beer at the ski centre probably wasn’t a great idea either even though I enjoyed them at the time. I think I would probably try to eat more real food earlier in the race and stick to softer food in the second half.
As for the things I got right there are probably a few
1. Do the training miles but don’t do them too early and try not to get mileage envy of the nutters who are knocking out 40 mile runs at christmas.
2. Know the route inside out
3. Have a training plan and trust it. Don’t chop and change just because you hear someone else threw in an extra long run and don’t get sucked into going on every social training run just to be part of the gang.
4. Get a support crew you trust absolutely. Your needs become very childlike in the race and your crew needs to know when you need and cuddle and when you need a spank.
My final tip is that there are many ways to skin a cat and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you. You need to experiment early in the year with gear, mileage and nutrition so that when it gets to the business end you are settled on the logistics and all you need to worry about is running.
And finally no matter what you get right or wrong, at times it will get horrible and dark, but if you keep going, no matter how slowly, it won’t get any worse and might even get better, but either way, you will make it to Fort William.