Here were my plans for the training for the Highland Fling as at the end of February, but a lot has changed since then.
This might be a long one… so hold onto your seats… 😉 And before you say it, no this isn’t an April Fool…. 😀
The fact is, that in the last 4 years I’ve progressed from strength to strength with my running…pushing myself and my body to run further and further.
My running progress since October 2008
1. My first 5k in Oct 08 (The Big Fun Run in Bellahouston Park)
2. To the 5k Santa Dash Dec 08, Women’s 10k May 09 and the Wick Triathlon in Aug 09.
3. Then on to running Half Marathons in 10 and 11.
4. And running my first marathon distance in November 10.
5. It gave me the confidence to run the Lochaber Marathon in Apr 11.
6. Entered the Clyde Stride for July 11, did training runs up to 31 miles.
7. Had to pull out of the Clyde Stride due to an overtraining / IT band injury.
8. Recce’d the Highland Fling route in Winter 11, then entered it in November 11.
9. Ran the D33 by heart rate, met lots of people and did a really good run… I’m an Ultramarathoner now!
I’ve had good reasons behind each challenge and goal I set myself, but recently I’ve been wondering if these goals and challenges are the best for me.
The Marathon and beyond
I completed the marathon distance in November 10, and knew I could do the Lochaber Marathon, my first official marathon, in April 11. It was a great achievement, and I raised a lot for Breast Cancer Care. I finished within my goal time and felt brilliant after it.
It was after the first 26.2 miles I did, that I noticed I got blurry vision after I pushed my body for that long (more than 3 hours). It didn’t seem right, but I got my eyes checked and my vision was ok. The optician put it down to being out in the daylight for so long, and my body being tired so my eyes weren’t able to focus like they should be able to.
Even after experiencing blurry vision after long runs, the Lochaber Marathon, wasn’t enough and I knew I could do more. I knew I could probably run further. Some people said I was mad, but I just saw it as the next step. I knew I could do marathons, and any distance below this…but I didn’t know if I could do ultramarathons. It was the ideal challenge for me.
So after much deliberation, in May 11, I decided I’d aim to try and become an Ultramarathoner and entered the Clyde Stride: a well organised 40 mile run along the Clyde. I figured out a 40 mile training plan, which perhaps ended up being a bit too ambitious, and three weeks before the event I had to pull out due to a resurfaced IT band injury.
I mixed things about and cross trained for a month or so, let my IT band recover. I learned how to overcome the injury and then over Winter of 2011, I looked around for other possible events I could do.
The challenge of the 53 miles Highland Fling
Then I came across the Highland Fling: 53 miles of trail running along the West Highland Way.
It seemed like the ideal challenge for me. Putting my outside my comfort zone of road running up to marathon distances. And I really saw it as being the ultimate challenge for me. However, although it seemed like a natural progression for me, I had a lot of deliberation about whether I should enter it.
The deliberation points included these concerns:
1. Will my training take up too much of mine and Fit Girl’s ‘us time’?
2. Will the WHW / trail running be too hard for me?
3. Will I be able to run for 30, 40, 50, 53 miles of trails?? (in training and in the event)
4. Will I be able to recover during my training time?
5. Will I get injured in training for and running 53 miles on the WHW?
6. I didn’t know anyone else who would run with me on the WHW, could I train for it on my own over all those long distances on the WHW?
7. Is it worth it?
8. Could I do it?
9. Was I crazy? 😉
I decided that 2012 would be my year to become an Ultramarathoner. I had run 31 and 33 miles in the last 6 months and wanted to now put my knowledge and experience of running to the test in an Ultramarathon event.
Training for the Highland Fling
For my training for the Highland Fling, I learned from my injury in training for the Clyde Stride and amended my training so that I would have a two week alternating training plan.
1 week of lots of running and lots of miles (including a long run at the weekend), then 1 week of easy and limited running. I was training to walk the West Highland Way (3rd April 2012), so I put in a recovery walk on the weekend of my recovery week.
All was going well. I was able to run up to 26.8 miles on the West Highland Way, and ran my longest ever distance (33.33 miles) around Glasgow ok. But the training time on every second Saturday was getting in the way a bit in my life, and I was taking some time to recover after some runs. I updated my training plan to see if it would help. I also got knocked for six with a bad cold which kept me down for an unusually long 2 weeks.
Effects of running long
It just seemed that my vision deteriorated after I pushed myself for long periods of time and there wasn’t much I could do apart from rest, eat and hydrate well after it, to avoid it.
I took part in the West Highland Way Training weekend at the end of January 12. I ran from Rowardennan to Balmaha and met lots of other runners. Eventually running around 15 miles in 3 hours along the West Highland Way. I could do the run, and I could probably have run for twice that distance / time, but I stopped after 3 hours as part of my progressive training plan.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t prepared enough food/carb wise the week before, and the week after the run I bombed. Sunday was ok, but on Monday I was so rough I needed to take a day off work and sleep. Not ideal. I knew what I’d done wrong, and learned from it, but it did make me think.
I knew that I could run long (even up to the 53 miles on the WHW), but I was beginning to wonder whether I should?
The following things were all seeming to take their toll:
• The increasing training time,
• Time on my own (not socially running with friends anymore as they wouldn’t do the distances I was doing on the WHW),
• How I was feeling after long runs if I wasn’t really careful (blurry vision, sometimes I was buzzing so much I felt I was unable to sleep and unable to recover properly)
It all left me questioning, whether it was worth it.
The D33: the deciding point
I still did my training runs and walks along the WHW, and with 6 weeks to go until the Fling, I did the D33 in Aberdeen: a very well organised Ultramarathon along the Deesideway.
I thought that I would use the D33 as a check point to see whether I wanted to go on and do the Highland Fling or not. Before I ran the D33 I was 95% sure that I would still do the Highland Fling.
I just needed to maybe take a step back from my training, believe in myself and perhaps get to know some runners who were doing the D33 that day, and who would also being doing the Fling. I also wanted to test out a method of running to my Heart Rate so that I didn’t push it.
All of these things worked on the day. I kept my heart rate below 85%, which led to me hopefully not over doing it, and prevented DOMS the next day. It also allowed me to do a good negative split (one of only a few to get a negative split in the hot conditions) and finish strongly believing I could definitely run longer. I ran well and felt good right the way until the end.
Over the course of the run I confidently and happily spoke to about 20 people on the day. Around 2 or 4 of them I could really see myself training with or running with for the Fling in April. There were lots of other very nice ‘crazy’ people, just like me. We gelled together well. 😉 I could see us all getting on well on the day of the Fling.
The other factor to make me 95% sure that I was going to run the Highland Fling was that I’d committed to it. I’d challenged myself to do it, told everyone I knew that I was doing it, and had blazoned it all over here (my blog).
Of course I was going to do it? Right?
The decision after the D33
Well. After I did so well at the D33, something occurred to me. Lying there in bed trying to sleep after completing the run, I thought it all through and thought to myself:
Just because you know you can do it, and you know others can do it too; it doesn’t mean that you should do it.
Since I began running in October 08, I’ve achieved great things, I’ve:
• Completed many distances and events and had fun along the way.
• Learned to adjust goals from aiming to get the fastest time to having a good time and doing my best.
• Stopped drinking alcohol (reasons: health, fitness, money, risks)
• Lost 27lbs, down to my ideal racing weight and become the fittest I’ve ever been.
• Learned lots about cross training / strength training and bike work.
• Met lots of new friends, and cemented older relationships through exercise.
• Achieved all of the goals I’ve set myself.
• Become really really happy and settled with life.
What I know about myself is:
I know that if I set my mind to do something, I’ll learn how to do it and train myself to be able to do it. I know that if I choose to do something, I’m more than likely be able to do it. I set goals, research how to achieve them, and usually accomplish great things. It’s who I am, and what I do. I know that I could more than likely run the Highland Fling in April. But does that mean I should do the Highland Fling?
So what now?
Lying in bed after the D33, unable to sleep because I was thinking about things. I’d achieved my goal of becoming an ultra marathoner in 2012, and I was really questioning my reasons for wanting to go even further and do the 53 miles of trails on the WHW for the Fling.
After the D33, although my recovery was good: no delayed onset muscle soreness and took a very comfortable 5 days out after it… it really did make me wonder why I was doing this?
Why keep on challenging myself to push the distance (and terrain) I do, further and further?
So lying in my bed on the Saturday I completed the D33, I decided that I wasn’t going to run the Highland Fling in April.
And I felt a big weight off my shoulders. I felt like I’ve made a really sensible decision and can really see a better way forward for me. Instead of always pushing myself to extremes, I thought I could:
1. Reassess my training goals.
2. Look at why I train and what I want to get from my training so that I can exercise healthily and not push my body to extremes.
3. Look to helping others complete their goals instead of pushing myself further and further to achieve. (From running 5k to a marathon, to helping them complete the last 2-3 hour section of the Highland Fling)
4. Compete over shorter distances, but make sure I had fun doing it (no undue pressure).
I am an Ultramarathoner, and I’m happy and proud; and I’d like to be able to help anyone else get running and achieve their goals.
Maybe it would be different if my other half was able to run kong distances and train with me, but it all seems to be taking too much time out of my life and I’m glad I’ve made this decision.
Now I just need to pull out from the Highland Fling and the Clyde Stride this year. :-S