Sunday, 13 January 2013

And so it's begun...

That's my training for the Highland Fling underway!

I kicked it off with a good run last Sunday on the West Highland Way, a couple of decent sessions during the week, and another awesome run on the West Highland Way yesterday then a wee recovery run today to finish the week.
Yesterday I ran 30km from Dumgoyne to the end of the Garadhban forest and back again.  We joined the WHW at the back of the bonded warehouses belonging to Glengoyne Distillery, this meant a lovely wee trudge through a very boggy (boggy in this case means a mix of sheep, cow, and other unidentified muck!!) field of sheep then onto the Way itself about 1km before the Beech Tree Inn.  This is a great spot for spectators watching the race as they open their outside 'hut' early and serve teas/coffees and rolls with sausage etc... Once across the road, off you go along an old railway embankment, towards Drymen.  I counted at least 4 different styles of gate on this section, and John said you should get a certificate in gate-opening just for completing this section :-)  I agree!
The path runs out after about 3miles and there's a couple of miles on a rather 'undulating' road - which is fortunately almost traffic free, through a wee hamlet called Gartness up another great big hill and then back into a field - also very muddy and with the biggest molehills I've ever seen!  It's a fair climb up through the field to the first relay changeover point which is just outside Drymen.  A wee trot up the road and you're back onto the Way again and heading up into the forest on an old brick road.  I don't really like this wee bit as it's one of those deceptive uphills that doesn't look like much of a climb, but saps your legs as you run along it.  It's about 1km and then you're up onto the forest road and that is a climb!  However, compared to last year it's a decent enough surface to run on, especially at the moment as there's been a lot of logging going on which means there's been a lot of heavy traffic on the road which has tamped down the surface (and left a lot of distinctive red mud!)  This time last year, which was the first time I'd ever been here, they had just laid new stones and it was hellish to run on, like really huge gravel!
There's quite a climb on this section but the view as you crest the hill makes it worthwhile, you can see down to Loch Lomond and have a perfect view of the islands in the loch which form part of the Highland Boundary Fault Line.  They reach out from Conic Hill right into the water like a wee 'Nessie'...
As always, what goes up has to come back down (to some extent) so there are some good downhill runs to reward the hard work of climbing.  I was getting a bit tired and a wee bit down at this point til it crossed my mind I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast which had been almost 3 hours ago so I nibbled on a nakd bar and felt much better almost immediately!  I'm not good at eating and drinking on a run even though I carry a drink with me in my backpack, so I do have to remind myself  to fuel, and this is going to be very very important on the Fling proper so I need to practice and get better at it.

Not the prettiest half way point but a significant marker ...

The Gate with Conic Hill in distance
When I reached the gate at the end of the forest -15km, I was quite pleased to note that it had taken 1hr 50 to get there, this time last year I couldn't run 15km on the flat in that time and that was when I was trying hard!  Yesterday I'd been trotting along quite happily just enjoying the day, the views and the lovely weather, no attention whatsoever to the time, and this was the uphill half of the route!
Some friends were also running from Drymen to Balmaha and back, and I had tentatively arranged to meet up, but we were a bit later starting than we'd planned, so we didn't meet up with them until afterwards.  John had run ahead of me on the brick road and just as I had reached the gate, he texted to say he was at the bottom of Conic hill and couldn't see them.  He then proceeded to climb the hill then turn and head back,  I thought he'd have caught up with me on the last section of the route, but he didn't so when I got back to the car I told him to stop at the Beech Tree Inn I changed into clean shoes* and drove along to wait for him.
I was really pleased with how good I felt when I finished yesterday, I am usually absolutely shattered after a long run, but yesterday was different, I don't know why, but I felt strong and quite elated :-)
I got to the pub, got changed into dry, clean clothes, downed a can of full fat coke - I only ever drink this after a long run - then John arrived, he got changed and we ordered lunch.  We both had the daily special which was Bison steak and it was delicious - they say that you should refuel as quickly as you can on completion of a long run, and should have some protein, so this fine slab of bison fitted the bill perfectly :-) 
As we were finishing, our friends turned up at the pub so we swapped tales as they ate their soup.  One of the group Emma, unfortunately went over on her ankle at the top of the hill, but still managed to run back!  She has since been to A&E and is heavily strapped with a query over a break :-(  I hope she's ok as she's a keen athlete and has a snowboard holiday coming up soon...

Today I went out and did a gentle 5mile recovery run - found it really hard not to keep trying to push on and could hear the voice of my mentor reminding me 'when you feel like you're motoring on' pull it back a bit... I didn't do that very well today, but will keep practising!
So, all in all it's been a good first 'proper week's training' and for what it's worth I don't feel any older since my birthday on Friday than I did before it :-)

* shoes after coming back through the field!   

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