Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The West Highland Wait

Today is Tuesday, and the West Highland Way Race is now just over 3 days away. I thought a before and after post might be an idea: to record my plans and see how the actual events measure up.

The past few weeks have been busy - with a trip to Amsterdam, a work venture to London and surprise party celebrations for James' 40th, and whilst I've been organised with getting the kit I need, I haven't had time to think or obsess about the race. And maybe its due to the experience of Run Around Mull, but I haven't felt as nervous or worried as I thought I might - just the adrenalin buzz of nervous excitement at the adventure and team aspect of the race.

Final Training
A flooded Pentlands during a Friday night run
Post Highland Fling I've run several back to back training weekends, consisting of a long run of 3 hours on Friday and another on Saturday morning of 3-6 hours, combining these with two or three short, sharp, difficult hill rep sessions and the odd (not often enough) core gym session during the week. For one of the weekends I ran with the lovely Antonia from Tyndrum up to just shy of Glencoe and back (30 miles) - it was an incredibly positive experience, and I got to know and like this part of the route more. I'll be looking forward to this section after the first half of the Race, knowing the trail is more forgiving and the spectacular scenery of Glencoe is a stone's throw in the grand scheme of the WHW. I didn't find Rannoch Moor bleak and difficult as many report, but then I was running it on a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, and not setting off from Milngavie 55 miles earlier in the middle of the night.

As the race has drawn closer, I've cut the mileage back and ran my last long (ish) run on 3rd June, 16 miles back from Aberlady to Edinburgh before my own birthday picnic - it was a beautiful run and its difficulty paled in comparison to the birthday rounders and cricket my friends put me through for the rest of the afternoon, followed by a game of squash next morning. Unbelievable aches!

So, taperitis? No - I'm having a lovely time of the taper. Whilst I'm doing lots of walking every day and the odd 5km run, it's allowing me the time post-work to catch up on other preps. I think the hard part is purely psychological, with the danger of thinking you will have lost fitness and legs will be stiff at the race start, but I'm trying to rationalise my thinking that losing fitness in a few weeks is highly unlikely.

Final Prep
My plan is simple: early to bed each night this week for 8 plus hours sleep, healthy (not over-) eating,  and no coffee - though my tea intake had probably risen to equal that of a coffee! Great in theory but the increasing load of adrenalin does play havoc, and encourages the habit of waking early, whilst thinking about ridiculously mundane things like which fruit to buy, weather reports and how many times I should change toe socks during the 95 miles.

Race Plans
I'm meeting my amazing support crew - James, Julie, Gregg and Cat - on Friday for dinner and we're heading to Milngavie for 11.30pm to join the nervous crowds. They have proposed a Top Gun theme to the support, so I dread to think what kind of cheers I'll hear, and what kind of 80's running I may be tempted to try. I'm equally concerned about how tired they might be throughout the day, with only a couple of them taking Friday off work, but will try encourage them to sleep in the long break between supporting at Balmaha and Auchtertyre.

Recently in a bid to feel completely organised I devised gold, silver and bronze timing targets with corresponding split/checkpoint targets, as many WHW runners do in order to minimise disappointment if something doesn't go to plan. The bronze, of course, is to finish the course in the cut off time of under 35 hours, but really my target is to complete in under 24 hours. I cant bring myself to state the gold but it will be in the back of my mind (and perhaps on a laminated sheet in my waist bag!)

I'll be taking the excellent advice to try to relax and avoid rushing around pre-race at Milngavie, in order to channel my nervous excitement fully into where it is most needed. I'm hoping it will carry me through a good portion of the first half and as I'm looking forward to the second half so much I'm visualising a couple of race highs through that section, especially when I have the opportunity to have some of my crew run with me. Gregg, Julie and possibly James will be running, and will be fantastic company - I have warned them I might not be at my chattiest but their banter will be appreciated regardless!
The kit - this is only clothes changes!

Re kit: I have a couple of quality OMM pieces of gear, including the waist pack I tested recently and used in the Highland Fling. Its incredibly portable and light yet holds a surprising amount of supplies. If the weather brings rain, I will actually be excited to don the OMM Kamleika again - it reminds me so much of the Mull challenge and all its highs and lows, which I love.
Re fuelling, I've written a strategy for each checkpoint to help my crew, which consists of av. 260 calories an hour, mainly of Peronin - a high performance carb powder which is absorbed much quicker than food, which Andy from OMM recommended. I will combine this with small meals at checkpoints around normal meal times, supplementation with gels and of course the usual water and electrolytes. All good in theory but looking at the spreadsheet its still a hell of a lot of complex calories to get down and it may have to be a flexible plan.

So there we go....this is before, and I'll report back after! Thanks massively to all those who've given their advice, and in advance to my support crew for giving up their entire weekends and many hours of sleep to join me in the adventure.


  1. All the best for the race Caroline.

    I'll add your blog to the whw blog roll.


    1. Thanks John! And also for all your hard work to help everyone out with advice & info over the past months, invaluable.


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