It’s been a while since my last post here on The Running Bug, coming up for a month now – a veritable drought!
That’s not to say that nothing has been going on. Quite the opposite in fact!
Since my last post, I have run 2 different ultramarathons, The 40 mile Clyde Stride, and the 43 mile Devil O’ The Highlands, and I am now just one race finish away from completing my goal of 7 ultras in 2012. Technically one more than in 2011 but, given that the ‘one’ was a 95 mile race, I feel like it counts for a whole lot more!
On 21st July, exactly 4 weeks on from The West Highland Way Race, I took part in the Clyde Stride. Starting in Partick, the route takes runners along the Clyde (funnily enough!) out towards the finish in historic New Lanark. It’s an excellent race, well organised and a great option for anyone looking to step up to ultra distance, which is reflected in the large number of first time ultra runners in amongst all the ‘usual faces’.
I thought that a month would be sufficient time to recover from the 95 miles of The West Highland Way Race, even though there were many runners who suggested otherwise. The lack of West Highland Way Race runners in the starting list for The Clyde Stride should also have served as an indication that this was a commonly held view. Turns out I should have listened more carefully!
I don’t know if it was the lack of running in the interim (I could count the number of runs on one hand!) or that the body was still fatigued. Whatever it was, it made for an uncomfortable race, with a feeling of running on empty accompanying me over the last 22 miles, and that’s a long way to go on an empty tank!
I contemplated a DNF – briefly – but I just couldn’t bring myself to pull out. If I could make it through the apocalyptic weather and the projectile vomiting of The West Highland Way Race, I could surely make it to the end of The Clyde Stride. What’s more, I had left my wife back home as she was attending a wedding and I should have been accompanying her. I had also disrupted the weekend of Sandra and John (part of my West Highland Way support crew). I had impacted on enough people’s lives this weekend. Stubbornness kicked in and I told myself to “quit whining and finish!”
And I did, but with my first non PB of the year, missing my previous years time by some 12 minutes. I was gutted, albeit temporarily, before appreciating that I had ground out a finish, something that had not been assured just 20 miles earlier.
At the end of the race I saw fellow ultra runner Colin Knox. “See you in 2 weeks at The Devil” he said.
2 weeks? 2 weeks??? 2 weeks!
I thought that I had 3 weeks to recover before The Devil. Turns out I should have checked on the dates just a little bit more carefully.
Bugger! I had just experienced one of my toughest races and was going to have to do it all over again in just 2 weeks. 43 miles, with a LOT of ascent!
So, a different approach to recovery this time. I did run, although still not as much as I normally would. I cross trained and, mostly, spent time on the spin bike.
The night before The Devil, I did not sleep. I can only assume it was nerves. Whatever it was, it wasn’t exactly conducive to a good race performance. And then, at 4am, it was time to rise and prepare for the 6am start.
Even at 6am it was apparent that the forecast of rain, possibly even hail, was some way short of the mark (or at least was some way off!). It was already hot and the dreader midges were out in force. Their breakfast – some 130 runners waiting for the start of the race. ‘Fortunately’, it later got so hot that even the midges sought shelter, providing some relief for the runners, marshals, support and spectators.
This race, over the top 43 miles of The West Highland Way, is a glorious, scenic run at the best of times. With the sun shining, it showed our surroundings at their very best.
From that initial climb out of Tyndrum, on to Bridge of Orchy and the 1000ft climb up on to Mam Carraigh, through the stunning Rannoch Moor, down through Glencoe with the imposing Buachaille Etive Mòr in the background, up over The Devil’s Staircase, at 1798ft the highest point of the route, down into and back up out of Kinlochleven onto the Lairig Mor and finally down towards the finish at Fort William, it truly is an epic race.
Despite the heat, I did not experience any real lows. I had put any notion of a PB out of my head, based on my experience at The Clyde Stride. However, realising in the latter stages of the race that there was the potential for a PB, I pushed particularly hard in the last 7 miles, hoping to reverse my fortunes from the previous race.
And I did – by 12 minutes! (What’s with the 12 minutes!)
In finishing, I completed not only The Devil O’ The Highlands and race number 6 for 2012. I also completed ‘The Triple Crown’, a finish at The Highland Fling, The West Highland Way Race, and The Devil O’ The Highlands, in a single year. I hadn’t given much thought to this until some Facebook posts over the past couple of days.
I have Iain Wallace to thank for considering The Triple Crown as follows:
- 3 races
- 190 miles
- 29,520ft ascent (Everest is 29,029ft!)
- 55 hours, 27 minutes and 18 seconds of running!
None too shabby!
I have John Kynaston to thank for the following statistics: In completing the Triple Crown, I am one of 13 to have completed the Triple Crown in 2012. Since 2007, when runners first completed all 3 races, some 60 people have completed the Triple Crown.
So, 6 down, one to go – the 37.5 mile Speyside Way Race, 2 weeks from now.
Before (finally!) finishing, it’s worth considering the following:
- I am still struggling to get the weight down, ideally by another 2 stone
- I am still far from being fast, although have now started to incorporate speed work into training, or at least, the training that takes place when I am not in recovery or taper mode!
- I still have a lot to improve on overall
However, hopefully my experience this year demonstrates that ‘Aim high, anything is possible’ is a good strategy. You don’t have to be the fastest or the fittest. What I will say however, is that stubborn goes a long way!