…and I’ll take the Low Road

On a rainy Saturday morning we took a wee trip to Rowardennan. The West Highland passes through Rowardennan before heading off into the relative wilderness of the East side of Loch Lomond.

After many years the “Low Road” has been cleared, the path upgraded and it is now open to walkers and runners once more. I was last on the low road nearly 20 years ago when I walked the West Highland Way carrying heavy rucksacks with my son Hamish who at the time was only 8 years old or so.

This time the point of the trip was to run to Inversnaid and back, carrying out a recce of the Low Road as I expect to be “racing” on it in June. I put the word racing in quotes because I always find that I am pretty wrecked by the time I get to Rowardennan about 26 miles in to the route regardless of which race I am doing. Fortunately I usually recover later on, but the prospect of actually racing at this point is unlikely!

The total distance from Rowardennan to Inversnaid is around 7.5 miles. It is described on the official WHW web site here

The first section is along a good road which works its way past the Youth Hostel until it bears right and starts to climb uphill through a gate just after Ptarmigan Lodge.

The first section can be seen in the following short video clip

About 300m after the gate the new low road drops sharply to the left at a big bend in the road. It is likely that this route will be used by the West Highland Way Race this June (2016). The Highland Fling race will continue to use the “High Road” so Fling runners will not turn on to the low road but will continue up hill for another 2.5 miles. The Fling route is easier running but not nearly as interesting as the Low Road.

The Low Road can be seen here, slightly speeded up. Apologies also for the slightly jaunty angle of the video at times. Either my camera was squint or my head was, not sure which.


The Low Road joins the High Road once more and descends to the lochside for a nice 2.5 mile run through some nice forested trail with the odd waterfall to skip through for good measure before finally arriving at Inversnaid Hotel and the spectacular waterfalls there.

Inversnaid is a pretty god forsaken place on race day. Most people arrive there feeling horrible, there are very few supporters because it is too far to get there by road. It is only 7ish miles by foot and more than 30 miles by road. When you arrive in Inversnaid on race day you usually find the midges have already eaten the contents of your drop bag, and you have only the slowest most technical part of the course still to come in the next 6 miles to Beinglas farm.

Despite the rain, I thoroughly enjoyed my wee jaunt on the new improved Low Road and I didn’t even mind the run back to Rowardennan up the hills of the high road. And anyway, all roads lead to Milngavie in June.

I have posted other videos of the route from Derrydarroch to Tyndrum on this page

and more videos of the Rollercoaster here

Don’t Panic!!!!

The plan had been to run the Boston marathon, do well, come home energised and then straight back into training for the West Highland Way race by doing the 53 mile Highland Fling race. Things didnt quite work out like that.  My race didnt go to plan, the bombs went off, and I picked up a nasty cough which has kept me from running for two weeks.

Boston, as the whole world knows, was overshadowed by the bombings, I have written about it on here already, and have been quite overwhelmed by the response I have had to my account of events.  I even had the excitement of the legend that is Hal Higdon, sharing my blog on his Facebook site. Helen also gives a good account of things here.

The investigation will go on, but it seems that it is now old news. Outside of Boston, the media hs packed up, gone home and moved on to the next story.  My own unwanted five minutes of fame arising from the newspapers picking up on something I had written on Facebook is thankfully over.  Runners are running. The city is healing. President Obama visited Boston and found the words to lead and console.  As he said so movingly “The crowds will gather and watch a parade go down Boylston Street. And this time next year on the third Monday in April, the world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon.

Bet on it.

Moving On

A race was run
A race was run

For me, I still have a few loose ends to tie up. Despite all of the bad things which happened, a race was still run.

I didn’t manage to run the race I felt I was trained for.  We went for a short run the day after we arrived and I was flying.  Yet, I missed my goal by around 15 minutes and I really struggled through the second half with cramps and vomitting.

So what went wrong? First my energy levels were just a bit off at the start. Something wasnt quite right. On a couple of occasions before the race started I tensed my legs and my quads went into cramp. My heart rate was high. I wore my HR strap precisely because I wanted to curtail my excitement and force myself to run a conservative effort for the first half.

It took me many days before I even uploaded the data from my Garmin. It confirmed what I had already guessed,  my Heart Rate shot up after 1K to about 5K effort zone and crept higher until by mile 18 it was hitting Max HR and was spiking to levels I didnt know was possible.  On average in the first half of the race, my heart rate was 15-20 beats per minute higher  than it would normally be for the pace I was running.

There are maybe three different reasons I can think of and it is quite possible that it was a combination of all three which floored me:

1. Boston. The whole thing of flying, visting expos, sleeping in a different bed, getting up early for buses, waiting around at the start. All of those things take a little out of you. My legs were a little crampy even pre race and I wonder if it was related to flying or eating different food.

2. The Heat. The sun came out, and by halfway I certainly felt I was overheating. While the temperature wasn’t desperately high, it was much hotter than the 6-10C which had been forecast, and having trained in cold, miserable grey weather all winter, the bright red sunburn I had when I finished the race was testament to the effect it had on my body.

3. The Bug. It is entirely possible I was incubating a virus. The day after the race I started coughing and by the time we made it home to Scotland I was feeling awful. I was feeling so bad that not only did I have to withdraw from the Fling race, I didn’t even run at all for two weeks.

The Boston course is one of those courses which you need to run more than once.  It is very different from any other marathon I have raced. I underestimated just how much Downhill there was and more importantly how steep and prolonged those downhills were. I climbed the Newton hills pretty well, but for the next trip I will definitely include much more down hill running in my training.


don’t panic

My first source of panic has been in trying to find a race at which to try to qualify for next year’s Boston. Under normal circumstances I would have found something in May and just used my current fiitness to run. Unfortunately my current fitness involves coughing and spluttering so that is a non-starter.  I have settled on the Moray marathon on 1st September. This is cutting it fine as Boston is likely to open for registration in early September, but it is the first one I can find that works. It just means that I will need to get back into training two weeks after the WHW.

Second source of panic is of course the fact that I havent been able to train because of this bug which has laid me low and it is only 8 weeks until the West Highland Way race..  Did I mention that since Boston I have put on 10 pounds in weight!  I have had to miss out on the Fling which was hard. It was fun watching everyone race and it did help me find my mojo again, but the overwhelming feeling while watching everyone run through the finish line was one of being inadequate. I am scheduled to run the 67 mile Kintyre Way Ultra in 10 days time so I will need to make a decision about that soon.

Deep down I know that it is too early to start panicking. I have heaps of miles in my legs and all I need to do is be patient, come back slowly so that I don’t end up with any post-viral issues and get a couple of good back to back weekends done. That is what my sensible head knows.  Unfortunately patience is not my strong suit. Bull in a China Shop is my strong suit.  As Corporal Jones has been known to say Don’t Panic! Don’t Panic!

Running out of Steam

As the lovely Lili von Shtupp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” sang, I’m Tired.

I cheated today.  Fortunately the only thing I cheated on was my training plan. I was due to run 12 miles tonight and just couldn’t face it. I am too tired, both mentally and physically, so I swapped workouts around and went to the gym at lunchtime and did a short speed session instead. It wasn’t a huge session, it was hard work, it wasn’t pretty, but at least it was something worthwhile, and will hopefully give me a wee bit longer recovery before attempting the longer run tomorrow night instead.

My lunchtime run took me to 501 miles for the year so far which I am pleased with.  Last weekend was a big one, I did a really good 21 mile Fast Finish Long Run on Saturday followed by 26 miles on the West Highland Way on Sunday.  So no big surprise really that I am tired. I’v ebeen here before many times and know that I am in those last few difficult weeks before tapering starts.

There are now less than 6 weeks left until the Boston marathon.  The real trick now is to keep the training going while staying healthy. My training plan for the next few weeks looks a bit like this:

B-6 50 miles Long run 17 miles at race pace

B-5 37 miles. Alloa Half marathon aiming for PB pace

B-4 68 miles. Back to back weekend 14 miles race pace and 30 miles easy

B-3 50 miles. Last longrun 22 miles FFLR and start taper

B-2 30 miles. Tapering.

B-1 15 miles. Tapering

B+0 40 miles Race and Recover

B+1 62 miles including 53 mile Highland Fling race.

I am looking forward to my 17 mile race pace run this weekend. It will be a real test of what sort of pace I can realistically shoot for at Boston. Things have been going well so here’s hoping I get a nice surprise!

Talking of nice surprises, my new racing shoes arrived today. Brooks Racer St5. This will be my shoe for race day, so I shall run maybe 30 miles in them over the next few weeks and treat them very nicely to keep them happy for marathon day.

Brooks Racer ST5
Brooks Racer ST5

From Hero to Zero

One measly run, that’s all I missed, yet in my head I have gone from feeling good about my running to the state of panic which ensues when you discover that you can’t do it any more.

Last few weeks things have been going well. Mileage has increased nicely, but carefully. Workouts have been going well. Took a drop back week last week, cutting 40% of my mileage for the week. Then since the weekend I have struggled to get back into it. I did a short easy run on Monday, then 11 miles Tuesday, both a bit of a struggle. By Wednesday morning I had sore stiff muscles and when I headed out Wednesday evening, I got about 100 yards down the road, gave up and came home. Neither my legs nor my head wanted to play.

Now chances are I am just a wee bit run down, I have been carrying a slight cold, it has been a busy work week so far and I had spent all day yesterday sitting through a training event breathing recycled air and not drinking nearly enough. I can work out that my sore legs might simply be having run a few runs in new shoes. I can even rationalise that if I am going to get a cold it is better to get it now than in 5 weeks time when I am getting ready for Boston marathon and the Highland Fling.

I am experienced enough to know that this is just part of the cycle of training and some rest will sort it, but it still invokes the feeling of panic that you are only as good as your last run.

I shall try to get back on the horse tonight, and hopefully all will be well. If not, then it will be from zero to negative and then it will be time for some serious intervention.