Saturday was my second long run of my Winter Ultra Run Challenge. It was going to be 12-13 miles from Milngavie and back: 24 – 26 miles along the West Highland Way. The weather was meant to be rain all morning, 10’C ish.
Before I tell you about the run, I’m going to write down some tips / learnings I got from the day:
1. If you’re not sure of the route, check it out the night before on OS maps.
Even better, print out a copy or take a map along with you. The WHW has good sign posting, but sometimes it’s easy to miss a turn if you don’t know the route or you aren’t paying attention… (like me at 1 and 12 miles in – ahem).
I took two wrong turns, one which didn’t really matter – near the end, and one which did matter – 1 mile in I missed a turn!
These two websites are good for maps and descriptions of the WHW route:
Both websites have links to all of the sections of the WHW and you can access the OS maps (especially on the first link).
Each section is split down and has a good clear description.
If you’re on route and the signs disappear, it probably means you have gone off route.
Ask someone for directions (if they’re available) or check your pre printed map! 🙂
2. Dress for the weather.
I planned it just right. No waterproofs, but knee length trousers, a compression top, another t-shirt, hat and buff.
I also had my water pack which is small, but big enough to hold the essentials and 2 litres of water.
Mt buff was a godsend! It might not look very attractive, but it works wonders!
I was able to leave it around my neck when I felt ok, and lift it up over my mouth when the wind and rain was in my face or my face was feeling cold. I had my gloves in my bag and could have used them, but didn’t.
The weather wasn’t actually too bad in some sections where it was sheltered – just drizzly rain or no rain at all.
But in others where it was exposed, it was pretty tough.
3. Take enough water, energy, and your mobile phone.
I took 4 energy gels, a spare energy just in case. I took a gel about every 5 miles.
I didn’t use my phone (apart from when I missed the turn at the start and ended up lost..ahem…) I nearly ‘phoned a friend’ – lol, but a man walked past with his dog and I asked him instead. Phew. The phone is just an extra security when you’re out there on your own, or even with someone else.
4. If it’s getting hard, walk up the hills instead of running.
By mile 21-22, it was tough. It was on the most exposed bit, and I knew what was coming as I’d already run through it on the way out. I had enough energy, and had taken in enough water, but there were some bits I was just better off walking. They say that when you do ultras you should opt for walking when you need to. I needed to, and it worked. 🙂
(See the elevation chart for 21-22 miles – no wonder!)
It only added about 1-2 minutes per mile onto my splits for those miles, but was well worth it and allowed me to finish comfortably and strongly. I also took on a gel as I walked on that section.
5. When you get back to the car (soaking?) make sure the first thing you do is dry off an change into dry, warm clothes.
I and my clothes were soaking wet when I got back to the car.
About 4.5 hours out in that wilderness had left me soaked through to the skin.
I was ok when I was running as I was staying warm, but it was imperative that I got dry and warm as soon as possible.
I got back into the car and had left a towel, some baby wipes, a change of clothes and a milkshake, water and food in the back.
Once I sat down I text some people to let them know I was safe and back to the car.
In the meantime, the car conveniently steamed up – so no one could see in. 😉
I cleaned my very dirty legs with the baby wipes, took off my dirty trainers and socks and managed to change into a warm pair of trousers.
Then I stripped off my top half and put on some warm layers on top. Simple. 🙂
6. Start your recovery as soon as you stop
When I stopped running I was keen to start my recovery.
Mars bar milkshake as I changed. Water. Food: peanut butter m and ms. Not ideal, but they would do.
After 25 miles on my feet, I was getting clear hunger pangs and the milkshake and m and ms helped stave it off.
After I got changed into warm clothes, I got out of the car and did some stretches.
Then drove home, showered and had lunch of sirloin steak with a poached egg on top, and veg. Yum.
I also made sure to drink lots of water through out the day.
It’s Sunday morning now and I don’t have too many aches and pains. 😀
The top of my feet are oddly sore though.
So here goes, back to the run:
Saturday 29th October: 26.8M, Milngavie to just past Drymen and back
I left Glasgow at the crack of dawn – 7:30am. It was still dark, but I knew it was about to be light at around 8am. There was no way I was running any of the WHW in the dark (at least not yet!), so I had to wait for the sun to come up. The clocks hadn’t gone back yet, so it was still dark til 8.
For the first 3 miles it was pretty sheltered, through forrest and trails. After only a mile in I managed to miss a right turn up a hill and ended up trying to figure out where to go from there. Doh! I’d done that part of the route before as well! I obviously wasn’t paying attention or it was too early. 😉 I’d taken two pro plus again with breakfast of porridge, so you would have thought I’d be woken up… nevermind.
After about 10 minutes of trying to figure out where I was meant to be going (searching on my phone, and checking the signs out), a man and his dog (Archie the King Charles Spaniel who decided he would jump up on me quite a lot) came past. I asked him and he explained how to get back on the route (and gave Archie a row for jumping up on me). I didn’t really mind that Archie was jumping up on me, all that mattered to me was that I was back on track… paw prints and all. 😉
It took me a while to get into the run… this time for my long run I had less excitement for it and more in-trepidation as I didn’t really know the route (see point 1 Lorn…)… and I was going to be running on my new challenge of trails (instead of easy road running). I knew the weather would be a challenge too. I was kind of up for it, but in the same way, I was thinking a little bit of … why am I doing this?
After about 3 miles I passed another runner…we were both heading for the same very large puddle which straddled the whole path. So sort out of courtesy I moved to one side, still running, and ran through the right side of the puddle: Wet feet! As she passed she said ‘Oh the joys; and we both went on our ways.
After about 5 miles I started to get into the run and started to enjoy it a bit more (perhaps it was the big down hill I’d just weeeeeeeeeee’d down 😉 ). I’d just passed a rather exposed bit (after Station Road) and was down to a flat bit along side the A81 which leads to the Beach Tree inn.
By that point I just decided the only thing for it was to just run through the puddles without a care in the world. And it worked. I was having fun!! The water was pretty damn cold, but the strange thing was that once I got out of the puddles, I actually felt my feet being warm!!
Video of me splashing through the many puddles… 😀
After about 10 miles I reached Gartness. I’d followed the route onto the small back road and was hoping I was going in the right direction.
I crossed another road where a sign for National Cycle route 7 was. I had a feeling I should be following it and ran up the steps.
After that I ended up getting to Drymen (after about 12.5 miles of running.) I ran up towards the village centre (I’d lost the sign posts again) and I suddenly realised I didn’t know where the WHW route went from where I was. I took a look around and saw a road sign for Rowardennan, so although I was pretty sure it wasn’t right, I followed the road for another mile or so until I’d made up 13.5 miles.
I think I should have kept going along the path instead of goin along Gartness Road… up towards Stirling Road, and up and over along the WHW path – but it didn’t really matter as I was just turning around and coming back at that point anyway.
At the half way mark (about 2 hours in) I got my remaining two energy gels from my bag and put them in my little nike hip bag, text Twinkle Toes to ask her about the (correct route) and took a photo of the field next to me.
I then turned around and headed back… looking forward to splashing through some more puddles, but not so much looking forward to any more wind and rain!
And wind and rain it was!! I didn’t realise it on the way out, but the wind seemed to be behind me on the way out. So on the way back… you guessed it – the wind was in my face. Hard work!
A few sheep looked at me like I was crazy too and I scared quite a few grouse away too. 🙂
Gates are a new thing to me, but one I could get used to. The positives are that they force you to slow down and get a breather… 😉 – unlike on road running where you just keep running. (See the heart rate graph below, I think the parts where it lowers are possibly at gates!)
The negatives are that sometimes there are MASSIVE puddles you have to wade through to get to them (maybe that’s another positive?!)…and that sometimes they were a bit tough to open when I was getting tired!
I had been counting my parts of the run as follows, in around about 5 mile sections:
5 miles in,
10 miles in,
13.5 miles in – turn back.
16.5 miles in – 10 to go
21.5 miles in – 5 to go.
Then after that point it started getting down to counting them down in 1s….
5 to go,
4 to go,
3 to go,
2 to go,
10 minutes to go,
1 to go…. 🙂
After meeting lots more people (the closer I got to Milngavie), walkers, cyclists, dogs and their owners, a few runners… I was finally getting closer to Milngavie. Down the steep hill (I’d missed on the way out)…and back along the river to the town centre.
I got to 26.2 miles in just under 4 hours (not counting stops – navigation issues and a pee stop etc)… and finished at Milngavie Train Station in 4:01, or 4:20 including stops. 🙂
My legs were dirty as anything, and I was keen to get dry, warm and showered. 🙂 On the way home I noticed my vision was blurry again… time for some rest and recovery again I think!
My 4th marathon distance…and as it was a little longer than a marathon – can I call it an ultra marathon distance? ;-P
Who cares.!?..it was a good run anyway.
Run: 26.8M, 4:01 (4:22 elapsed time), Pace: 9:01, Calories: 2,130.
Ave HR: 153 (81%), Max HR: 173 (94%), Garmin Training Effect: 3.6
Oh and afterward I cleaned my trainers again… sink bath thank you very much… they’re just drying out now.
They might get dirty, but that’s the proof I’ve been out on the trails and running through mud and puddles!! 😉