The Road is Always Long

My journey through the world of ultra marathons.

Monthly Archives: August 2017

Will Power Isn’t Enough

That’s a negative title for a blog post, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) proposes to avoid using words like isn’t, not, can’t etc.  I have no experience of NLP, I read an article once and remembered that single point. I suspect the premise is not to use negative words in normal conversation or written word in the hope it promotes positivity.  It probably doesn’t scratch the surface on the subject to be fair.  However, this will be a positive post despite the title as it will delve into my recent chapter of the world of ultra trail running.  

The Devil O’ the Highlands is an iconic 42 mile (6000ft of ascent) Scottish ultra that covers the top ‘half’ of the West Highland Way.  99% off road across some of the more rough sections of the whole 95 mile route with, arguably, the toughest climbs and challenging underfoot conditions.  It is a fantastic race organised by the fantastic John Duncan and team.  His races, which also includes the Highland Fling, have a European feel to them, fabulous finishes, pristine organisation and well supported.  They are probably the best ultra’s in the UK (personal opinion).

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On the start line with Gerry.  Thanks to Graeme at Monument Photos

 Those who know me, will have noticed a severe lack of racing this year.  A groin injury that first appeared at the River Ayr Race last year came to a head in the wonderful Jedburgh 3 Peaks Ultra  (I must go back to that one) last October and that kept me out on the injury bench for around 3 months.  A return in the new year only replaced the groin injury with plantar fasciitis.  Man, that is one tough injury to shift, but shift it I did with the help of Ross from Space Clinics in Edinburgh and Lesley, a podiatrist and old school chum at JW Physiotherapy in South Queensferry and I started my come back, ahem, late April only for a slight relapse and some more down time before getting going in May.  Looking back I had about 10 weeks to get ready for the Devil, from zero!  It was only around 3-4 weeks from the Devil that I started to feel a familiar bounce return to my running, the previous 6 weeks being dogged by severe sluggishness.

Preparation could have been better.  Two weeks in the Majorcan sun, eating my own body weight in food, daily, and consuming gallons of local beer had me return to Edinburgh with a small food baby and the running was very sluggish for a couple of weeks.  In the 10 weeks I had built up my long (**actually laughs out loud**) runs to 16 miles and managed one 18 mile run and two 20 mile runs.  It wasn’t enough, but I thought what the heck, let’s do it anyway, even if I have to walk large sections I will push on to the end.

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Coming into Bridge of Orchy with Davie Gow. Davie goes on to taking 5th place in the race.  Thanks to Graeme from Monument Photos

For most who blog, it will be natural to post when inspired or happy, maybe less so when things are not going so well.  It is how social media works, endless posts of wonderful people having wonderful lives.  It can be difficult for most to admit that they were wrong privately, let alone publicise it.  I’m not immune to that, Mrs T can testify!  The truth is, I shouldn’t have toed the line in this race.  Vastly under trained, hugely under prepared and foolish to think that will power, with a little bit of ego mixed in, would get me to the end.  It didn’t and I bailed out at Kinlochleven, 28 miles into the race.  I had problems on the way there, stomach issues at 15 miles meant I spent 10 minutes in the Glencoe checkpoint toilet, my nutritional, sleep and taper approaches to the race should have been different, but at the end of the day, it came down to bad organisation and nowhere near being race primed!

 It wasn’t all bad.  My kit was superb, I don’t have to say that, the ashmei 2 in 1 shorts, classic short sleeve and socks all performed above and beyond, drying out super quickly when I was slowing down or walking and starting to feel a chill.  The zipped neck of the classic short sleeve was a welcome feature for getting a little air in when I heated up and zipping it up when I didn’t, or being attacked by midges!  A number of people complimented how good the kit looks again, which always makes me smile.  Then there was meeting Norrie, a good runner having similar problems to myself on the day.  The chat with Norrie on the way into Kinlochleven, when we were both questioning our running, our motivations, our training, is partly the catylist for this blog post.  I hope it helped Norrie as it certainly helped me.  Also, the 15 miles or so that I ran with Davie Gow, a really top chap and great runner, who went on to finish 5th.  I admired his race planning the preparation and I piggy backed onto his pacing strategy for those miles.  

After 11-12 years of running (as an adult) I love that I am still a student of the sport, I learned some valuable lessons from those guys, from myself and I suspect that will only continue.

A new chapter to my running is coming.  At 45 years old (well in a few weeks anyway) I feel excited about the future as I hook up with someone who really knows their stuff, has a wealth of experience and who I hope can tease out of me the best my body can provide.

Exciting times ahead.

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Coming over the top of the Devil’s Staircase.  Lastly, a huge thanks to Graeme at Monument Photos